Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Character Creation: Ghost Dog: The RPG

Felt like making a character today, so I took to Facebook to ask for songs to inspire me. A couple of interesting songs resulted, but the one that's sticking with me is this one:

I had to think for a moment about what game would be appropriate, though. The song is about remembering where you're from, paying attention, and a generally positive philosophy. I peruse the list to find a game, and lo and behold, I have one that I think will be fun. 

The Game: Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
The Publisher: Guardians of Order, now dead
Degree of Familiarity: Some with the underlying system, none with this particular game.
Books Required: Just the one.

Ghost Dog has got to be one of the weirdest movie-based RPG choices I've ever seen, at least at face value. If you don't know, Ghost Dog is a Jim Jarmusch movie starring Forrest Whitaker (actually you can read my little mini-review here), and the opening of the book talks about how the dynamic of RPGs is changing, people who were teens when they started playing are getting older, and there needs to be more of a focus on single-player RPGs (this book was published in 2000, for reference). Now, I'm not really a fan of single-player RPGs; they kind of feel creepy and weirdly intimate to me when I've played them, and especially as shared narrative is more of a thing now, they feel unnecessary. But since I'm not going to play this game anyway, no problem.

Ghost Dog is a Tri-Stat game, so it's very much a trad, skill-list sort of game, though the movie lends itself more to an indie, micro-game sort of thing, or Fate at the very least. But, it is what it is.

Step One: GM Discussion. Here, me and my hypothetical GM would discuss what kind of game we're playing, what the violence level is, whether I'm playing Ghost Dog or someone else from that universe, and so on. Let's assume, since I don't have a GM, that I'm playing in the same world as Ghost Dog, but after the events of the movie. Louise Vargo has assumed control of the Vargo crime family, but let's also assume there's some pushback from other folks who, like Ghost Dog, operate by their own code (the RZA cameos as "Samurai in Camouflage," so clearly there's not just one samurai around).

Let's assume, too, that I have an average-level character to work with, giving me 30 points.

Step 2: Character Outline. I want to play a citizen, rather than a criminal or a cop. I want my guy to be a panhandler, a man who sleeps outside or in shelters, but who looks after Pearline and people like her. He has a past - he just doesn't remember much of it. He remembers gunfire, blood, pain, and death, and sometimes he'll perform tasks methodically and by rote, suggesting he has some military training, but he doesn't (or refuses to) remember it. Actually, I think it's a better character arc if he's well aware that he used to be something he's not, and he's actively turning his back on that part of himself. He wants to be someone kind, honest, and forthright, implying that he wasn't (or thinks he wasn't). (I feel dirty admitting this, but I'm taking some inspiration from Jim Cavezial's character in Angel Eyes, too.)

Step 3: Assign Stats. Tri-Stat, as the name would imply, has three stats: Mind, Body, and Soul. 4 is "adult human average," and they're 1 for 1. I have 30 points, so average across the board would cost me 12, less than half. Meh. I want to be better than average. I think I'll put Body at 5, Mind at 4, and Soul at 8. That's 17 points.

Step 4: Character Attributes. These are Merit-like things. I think it's interesting they're here, before Defects and Skills, but whateves. Looking at the list, I like:

Art of Distraction (allows me to distract people at a critical moment): 3 points
Combat Mastery (training, y'see): 3 (6 points)
Divine Relationship (I've worked with Tri-Stat enough to know you're silly if you don't take this): 3
Gun Master (each level gets you an ability, and there's one I want: Weapons Encyclopedia): 1
Highly Skilled (again, silly if you don't, but I don't know how much I'll need yet)

That's all I want, actually.

Step 5: Defects. It would actually make more sense to do these last, after I know how many I need. How many do I need? Well, tallying up what I've done so far, I'm at...exactly 30, not counting anything I'd need from Highly Skilled. Oy. OK, well, I'll take what Defects I think are appropriate and then add the points in somewhere.

Attack Restriction (he won't attack anyone who's not actively threatening him or someone he cares about who can't defend himself) 2BP
Recurring Nightmares (PTSD, yo) 1BP
Skeleton in the Closet (military service, probably, but I'd leave it to the GM) 2BP

I'm now up by 5 points.

Step 6: Skills. Skills cost different amounts depending on how useful they are. I have 20 points, plus I could take as many as 50 more if I wanted to dump all 5 of my remaining BP into Highly Skilled. I want:

Burglary 2 (6 BP)
Demolitions 1 (3 BP)
Gun Combat 3 (18 BP)
Interrogation 2 (6 BP)
Military Science 1 (2 BP)
Intimidation 2 (8 BP)
Stealth 3 (12 BP)
Unarmed Attack 3 (12 BP)
Urban Tracking 2 (8 BP)

That's 75 points...which means I'd need all of my extra BP plus another one. BALLS. Well, I think I'll drop Unarmed Attack down to 2 (71 points) and Interrogation down to 1 (68 points). I'd need to lose another 8, though. OK, fine, we'll drop Gun Combat to 2 (62 points) and Military Science entirely (60 points). That means I need to spend four of my points on Highly Skilled, leaving me with one lonely little BP. I'll put it into Gun Mastery and take Lightning Draw.

Step 7: Derived Values. Where they belong. At the end of chargen.

Attack Combat Value is the average of my stats, which is 17/3 round down...round down? Crap. Here, you know what, let's bump up Recurring Nightmares to 2, and then take another point in Body, which makes that total 18, which makes my ACV 6, plus the three from Combat Mastery is 9. My Defense Combat Value is therefore 7. My Health is (Body + Soul) x 5 or 50. My Energy (which I can use to bump up Stats when necessary) is (Mind + Soul) x 5, or 60. My Shock Value, which is the amount of damage it takes in one attack to stun me, is Health/10, or 5.

Step 8: Background Points. This is basically me writing up my character's history and getting a biscuit from the GM, but I've pretty much explained this guy. I haven't named him, though. He's forgotten his real name, but he goes by Jay (he wears a Blue Jays cap year-round). He's dirty, sleeps where he can, but he takes hobo showers to try and avoid being too scary to people. He panhandles and does odd jobs, but mostly he watches out for the younger folks around the park and chats with Raymond (not that he speaks French, but he listens well).

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Monsterhearts: Do You Really Want to Hurt Me

We talk in Monsterhearts about the song playing over the closing credits (the song playing over the opening credits, for the record, is probably this one). Last time, when they spent all that time getting grapevines and then discovering they didn't work, it was probably "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," though I think I'd want some weird cover. Maybe this one.

Anyway, this session we start off with everyone waking up at Briar's house. Rook and Skylar have sex in the shower, and Skylar promises Rook to save a dance for him...if Rook is there.

Dora, Skylar and Genesis walk to school, while Cassi drives Rook and Austin, and Briar drives her own self. En route, Skylar talks to Genesis: Skylar is still mad about Genesis calling down the ocean and washing Omar away during the fight yesterday, and Genesis is upset by that. During the conversation, Genesis brings up Skylar's death (asking her, I believe, if she drowned), and Skylar activates unresolved trauma. Genesis picks up the blamed condition, but Skylar picks up delusional and sees Genesis' hair floating and wet, water streaming from her, and then Dora walks up and puts her arm around Genesis and she starts exuding ocean while the sky grows dark...

Skylar, panicking a bit, grabs a street light and tries to hold steady, but fails. He sees a vision of himself in a normal-looking living room, surrounded by knicknacks he recognizes and photos of himself - and then a tidal wave crashes through the window and he starts to drown. Before he does, he sees Genesis floating there, the same "oh, shit" look on her face as yesterday.

Skylar calms down, but is drenched and the water doesn't seem to be going anyway. She does use hungry ghost and consume Genesis' conditions before they get to school.

The kids get to home room. Cassi and Rook are both depressed and wiped out from the events of yesterday. The homeroom teacher asks Dora where Omar is - this doesn't help matters. Miguel Munoz, another student, leans over and asks Dora if she knows where Omar is (maybe she was just lying to the teacher). Dora first says it's complicated, but then says he was killed by a monster to shut Miguel up. She gazes into the abyss to try and figure out which students they can trust, but fails. She zones out a bit, and when she comes to she's drawn a grid like the seating chart. Two students' squares - Kevin Gable and Omar Diaz - are crossed off, and she's in the process of crossing off a third: Rook's.

Cassi talks to Madison and Ashley and says she'd like to hang out with them again - it's been a while. They're both busy tonight, but perhaps tomorrow?

The students go about their day. Cassi grabs Austin in Biology class and tells him that she can't handle the possibility of him dying while doing monster-hunting things. He says he understands, and he's afraid, too, but he doesn't see how he can back out now - he doesn't see how any of them can. Dora, Skylar and Genesis are in art class, and Skylar does a water color (she's still drenched; the water isn't drying) of her flooded living room, signs it, and gives it to Genesis. Genesis feels a strange sense of deja vu - has she been to this house before?

They all get together in History class and, as usual, get a handful of worksheets because the teacher is the coach, and the coach is prepping for the big football game this Friday. They talk a bit - rather, Genesis talks, mostly about staying focused and getting this done before anyone else gets killed. Rook and Cassi are present, but still muted, and Skylar is still drenched. Briar goes to the books to get a bit more information; everyone helps except Cassi, who can't be fucked at this point. They research the best place to imprison the Black Tamanous, and talk about the options. The boiler room at school is good; since it burned no one goes down there. The pits at the vineyard are also good; they're isolated and surrounded by grapevines.

In gym class, Dora finds Cassi and expresses concern. Cassi bursts into tears, just wanting all of this to be over and to be able to go back to the way things were. Dora turns her on, not in a sexual way, but just to get her focused and offer support, which works - Cassi refocuses and agrees to help the group.

They all get together at lunch again, a bit more together, and try and answer a question that's been nagging at them - if they tie the Tamanous up with grapevines, what stops it hopping to a new body? They all gaze into the abyss to answer this question. Skylar sees the fight in the vineyard, the skies open, the ocean carries Omar away and drowns him, but then a black mist rises up from the water and flows up to the house and into Mrs. Diaz. Genesis sees someone - Rook? Briar? - behead the monster, but then the black mist flows up and infects the executioner. Rook sees the monster flow from Mike into the dying Principal Miles. Briar sees nothing, just blackness and hunger, and realizes that hunger is inside her. Dora sees arms trying to push their way out of Briar's clothes (they both failed the roll, by the way).

The consensus from all of this is that the monster can find a new host when its current host dies (though Rook is still concerned that if the monster kills someone, it can take their body, too). That's easy enough, then, they just won't kill Mrs. Diaz. They'll just tie her up with grapevines and let her starve to death in a pit.

They decide that Dora, Briar, Skylar, Rook, and Genesis will go out to the vineyard and gather some vines. Cassi has gym decorating to do, and Austin stays with her.

Skylar and Briar stay with the car while the other three creep down into the vineyard and gather vines. As they do, a car approaches - van with a Perdido High Football bumper sticker. The van is going too fast, but it rounds the corner and heads into the vineyard, up toward the restaurant. Apparently the Black Tamanous is calling football players to it?

At the gym, Austin finds Cassi and shows her the list of chaperones: Anna Diaz is one of them. The creature is going to be at the dance. Cassi texts a photo of this to the group, and they decide that the gym might be a better option than jumping her at the vineyard. Briar texts Cassi back and tells her that they'll need to decorate the gym with the grapevines; Austin suggests using fake cobwebs (the dance has a Halloween theme anyway). The kids grab the grapevines and go. Cassi dismisses the rest of the decoration staff and she and Austin wait for the others.

While they do, Cassi asks Austin to go to the dance with her. Austin balks, initially, saying that he thought Cassi was going with Skylar. Cassi had asked Skylar, but he'd never answered. Cassi turns Austin on, and they're snogging when the others walk in - Briar first, obviously.

Riding right past all of that, the characters talk about Homecoming. They decide to build a big effigy out of the grapevines and put a Cowboys jersey on it (that's the rival team they're playing at the football game), and then they can use the grapevines to bind the Tamanous. Dora calls up Miguel and turns him on to try and get him to go, and he's interested, but requires more convincing (she has a String on him, which she's planning to use tomorrow). Skylar asks Briar to the dance, and Briar initially balks (she wasn't planning on going to the "dance" part, just the "kill monster" part), but Skylar spends a String on Briar to offer experience if she goes. She agrees.

The characters split up for the night. Dora goes home to her family, Austin likewise. Cassi wants to go home tonight, and Genesis asks to tag along, since she wants to retrieve her pelt. Briar goes home by herself, while Rook and Skylar go back to Rook's house.

Rook and Skylar have sex, and Skylar asks Rook what he had to promise to get Omar's body cleared away. Rook holds steady and fails, and Skylar sees Rook's reflection turn around and shush him (Rook does not see that). Rook answers truthfully - he didn't promise anything for that - but makes Skylar promise never to ask him about that ever again. Rook gets up and goes to the bathroom and stand there with hands on either side of the mirror, gently tapping his head against it. Skylar lies in bed, sheet over her, and then fades away to nothing, like she does at night.

Genesis and Cassi go out to Cassi's house and search for the pelt, but can't find it. Cassi asks her mother, and her mother says that Brandon (Cassi's one-time date for Homecoming) had stopped by to get something he'd left in the pool house after her last party. Genesis holds steady - does someone on the football team have her pelt? Whoever holds her pelt can make her do things, but more to the point, without it she can't go home. Cassi reassures her, and they wind up watching The Little Mermaid together.

Dora goes home and has dinner with her family. Her parents were at the party, and she watches them as they eat...and open a bottle of wine from the vineyard. They offer her a little. She refuses, and goes upstairs, a little sick.

Briar goes home alone, picks out a dress for Homecoming, tries it on, and dances, slowly, all by herself, as the credits roll.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Movie #250: The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man is a superhero movie starring Andrew Garfield, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Denis Leary and Emma Stone. It tells the origins story of our friendly neighborhood wall-crawler.

Wait, again?

Yes, this is a reboot of Sam Raimi's trilogy (we'll get to 'S' eventually), but it's actually better than his movies. And I don't say that lightly with any disrespect; I really liked those films (well, maybe not 3), and I thought Tobey Maguire did fine as Peter Parker. But this one's better.

So, you know the story in basic, but in this version, Peter Parker (Garfield) is more hipster/awkward outcast than nerd. He's not completely dorky, he's just got no game and stands up to bullies, which results in ass-kicking. He is, however, a rather brilliant scientist, which he comes by honestly, because his parents were apparently brilliant scientists who worked for OsCorp.

That's actually the first thing we see - Richard and Mary Parker (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz) packing everything up in the middle of the night and leaving young Peter with Ben and May (Sheen and Field, respectively) because there was a break-in. We're never told exactly what's going on, here, though the rest of the movie has some clues. Anyway, teenage Peter finds a briefcase belonging to his father, which contains a photo of Dr. Curt Connors (Ifans) with Dad, which leads Peter to sneak into OsCorp, where he discovers that his kinda-crush Gwen Stacy (Stone) is research assistant to Connors, who is doing some cross-species genetics weirdness, largely in an attempt to regrow his lost arm.

Peter sneaks off and gets bitten by a spider, OK, we know this part. He goes to visit Connors and helps him solve the Magical Math MacGuffin, which pushes his research forward.

Meanwhile, Peter gets in a fight with Uncle Ben, leaves, Ben follows, Ben gets shot, dies, and Peter learns an important lesson...oh, wait, not so much. What Peter does do is go chasing off after criminals to take revenge, but it isn't until Connors, chasing after the corrupt lackey (Irrfan Khan) to Norman Osborn (Michael Massee - well, we don't know that, but it's kind of implied) to prevent him from trying out drugs on veterans, starts smashing shit up as the Lizard, that Spidey actually deliberately helps people. And in that act, he figures it out - he can help, so he has to. Great power, great responsibility.

So then there's the cat-and-mouse between Lizard and Spidey, culminating in Connors attempting to Lizard-ize New York, Spidey and Gwen's police-chief father (Leary) stopping him, Gwen being badass and making the antidote and not getting kidnapped, and the mid-credits scene with a mysterious man in the shadows.

OK, so, the action sequences, and the superhero stuff in this movie is pretty standard. It's good, but it didn't break ground that Spider-Man didn't break. But the plot and scripting sure does.

First of all, the origin is tight. We're not seeing the full scope of it yet, but it's heavily implied that Richard Parker's research led, in some way, to Peter reacting to the spider-bite the way he did. Peter has a reason to get involved with this beyond his uncle's lesson - but that doesn't invalidate the lesson. Peter only figures out what a big deal this is when he saves lives, and he sees that kindness repaid, not with gifts or anything, but with trust and assistance to save more lives. Meanwhile, Gwen's father is a hardass about Spidey, but that's when Spidey is just beating up thugs and being an arrogant ass about it. When he realizes that Spidey is Peter, and Peter is doing what he's doing out of a sense of altruism, he helps. And Gwen doesn't get kidnapped. Lizard has no interest in luring Spider-Man to a fight; he has his own agenda. He doesn't obsess over Spidey, he just tries to keep him out of the way, and Gwen is, therefore, not damsel'd.

Like I said, lots to like. I think the problem is that the action/webslinging sequences are kind of similar to Raimi's movies, and the more nuanced stuff gets missed. But I'm very much looking forward to the next movie, because I want to see where the story goes.

My Grade: A
Rewatch value: High

Next up: Argo

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Character Creation: Ghouls

I have only a few "White Wolf" games remaining on my project, so given the day of solidarity with White Wolf and Onyx Path, I'll do one of them today.

The Game: Ghouls supplement, for Vampire: The Requiem
The Publisher: White Wolf Game Studio, which has shifted to The Onyx Path
Degree of Familiarity: Very yes. I worked on Vampire and developed the Ghouls book. It may, in fact, have been the last assignment I had while still on salary?
Books Required: Ghouls, Vampire, and the World of Darkness Rulebook

A ghoul, in World of Darkness parlance, is a human being who has ingested the blood of a vampire, willingly or not, and become its servant. The blood has a strong emotional effect, twisting into a codependent need or an unhealthy hero worship or a sick version of love or lust. Ghouls are some debased fuckin' people, is what I'm saying, and the Ghouls book does a pretty good job of bringing that home. There were a few author issues on this book, as I recall, but I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out and I enjoy the NPC characters I wrote for it (a few of which have showed up in my own WoD games).

But, be that as it may, I'm gonna make my own ghoul. Blood and Smoke I'm sure has ghoul-applicable systems, but I'm gonna use the edition for which Ghouls was written (that is, pre-GMC).

Step One: Concept. The obvious question is, how much does my ghoul know? I've made characters before who know more about the occult than they think they do, and a few who think they know a lot more than they do. I think I want to make a character who's very much in the know. I was flipping through the book and there's a Merit I want, so I'm gonna build out from there. The Merit is Inherited Ghoul.

So, my character's name is Rodney Abrams. Rodney stopped aging in 1985 (fortunately he's got a haircut that isn't terrible). He was a financier, and was made into a ghoul as part of a Ventrue vampire's attempt to ride the 80s finance craziness. It worked - Rodney made his master a lot of money.

And then Rodney...wasn't useful anymore. The vampire didn't need to keep accumulating money and Rodney's tactics were reckless (also: cocaine). So his regnant pulled him off active duty, stuck him in a huge mansion somewhere with instructions to "mind" the place, and basically put him under house arrest. Fast forward 25 years. The regnant's childe unseated him (read: killed) and in going over his books, found the house and Rodney. Rodney begged for his life, and the childe, a much more modern type of guy (Embraced in 1965 and spent most his unlife abroad) figured Rodney might be useful. So he enforced the Vinculum on himself, and allowed Rodney out into the world for the first time in decades.

Step Two: Attributes. Standard 5/4/3 spread. Hrm, Mental or Social? Based on what I know about 80s high-pressure Wall Street (mostly from sources like Wolf of Wall Street and "Future Stock"), we'll go with Social. Two each into Presence and Manipulation, one into Composure. Mental's second, then. One each, and then the extra into Wits. Finally, Physical. One each across the board? Yeah, I think so.

Step Three: Skills. 11/7/4. Mental's first, then Social, then Physical.

Well, 3 into Academics, to cover math and finance and so on. Two into Computer (since being reintroduced to the world he's worked hard to get current). One into Investigation, why not. Two into Occult (lots of time, lots of books), two into Politics, one into Science.

For Social, I'll put three into Persuasion, one into Intimidation, two into Socialize (coke parties), and one into Subterfuge.

Physical: One into Athletics (you're dumb if you don't), two into Firearms (lots of time on his hands), and one into Stealth.

Step Four: Specialties. These should be easy. I want one in Academics for Finance. One in Persuasion for High-Pressure, and one in Stealth for Hiding (the mansion taught him to find hiding places quickly).

Step Five: I've already decided on my regnant's clan and covenant (Ventrue and Invictus, respectively). I get two dots of Disciplines, one of which has to be Resilience. I can take Dominate, Animalism, or a second dot of Resilience. Hmm. Well, Animalism is right out. I actually think that Resilience makes more sense than Dominate; all his interactions were over the phone.

Step Six: Merits. I get seven dots, because again, pre-GMC rules. I want Inherited Ghoul, which is two. I'll take a dot each in Regnant Favor and Regnant Trust; my regnant likes me well enough. I'll put the other three dots into Resources. I figure Rodney had some accounts that just went untouched for a while, and now he's accessed a few and has some liquid cash on hand.

Step Seven: Advantages. Willpower is 4, Health is 7, Morality starts at 6 rather than 7. Virtue and Vice, since we're going with the older rules, get chosen from the lists. I think his Vice is pretty freaking obviously Greed. But Virtue, hmm. I don't see Rodney as a good person, really. He's the embodiment of the 80s greed culture, a fiscal vampire, so hungry that even an actual vampire said, "yeah, that's enough." So what's his Virtue? Not Charity, obviously, and not Justice or Temperance. I think it's between Fortitude and Prudence, and I don't think someone who's prudent would ingest quite so much cocaine, so Fortitude it is.

Step Eight: Spark of Not-Quite-Life. So, we already figured out that Rodney's new regnant came back to the house. Did he kick him out? I think no, I figure the job hasn't really changed much, Rodney's just allowed to leave. He's doing some financial stuff for his new boss, but shit has changed in the ensuing years - if anything, the culture is more forgiving of some horrible shit that rich people do to get richer. Rodney is ready to sleaze his way to the top, 80s style.

Problem is, his regnant (Mr. Lupin) doesn't have any other ghouls, but Lupin's in the local vampire scene up to his eyeballs and needs an errand boy. So Rodney gets sent on all kinds of wacky errands (read: he's a PC), and doesn't really have time for all the blow and bimbos that he used to. That's life.

Pirates: The Devil's Skull

Sounds like a cool title, huh? New story in our Pirates of the Spanish Main game! I've been played Assassin's Creed: Black Flag, so I'm totally down for piracy. We even bought the sea shanty album!

So anyway! We open in Tortuga, with the officers from the Poseidon's Due going over the books and Maddie trying (vainly) to explain to Blaine how an abacus works. And then there's a ruckus - some of the local militia are trying to roust a fellow named One-Armed Jack (who actually does have both arms - pirate nicknames are weird and bawdy). We overhear them referring to a "proclamation" that he supposedly stole.

We have a quick conference. A "proclamation" could refer letters of marque or legal piracy, or some other valuable endeavor. Blaine makes the motion to get the proclamation and see if it's valuable; the others assent (Georgina, ever cautious, abstains). Blaine stands up and tells the guards that One-Armed Jack is under the protection of the Poseidon's Due, and if he's committed some crime he'll answer for it like a crewman. Blaine's intimidating manner (and the rounds of rum he's been buying; see earlier "abacus" issue) convince the crowd to be on his side, and the guards withdraw.

Jack joins us, and explains that he has a wanted poster for a fellow called "the Dutchman," wanted for crimes against the crown. Seems his ship, the Archangel, set upon a British ship and raided it, but some of the things he took were important to the Crown and now Jack is looking for him. He supposedly had a line on the Dutchman being here in Tortuga, but it seems he was wrong - the man is actually in Port Royal.

Blaine instructs Maddie to make whatever preparations we need to get to Port Royal. On the way out, a drunk guy draws on Morgan and challenges her to a drinking contest. She wins handily and robs him; Blaine grabs his flintlock.

We set sail at dawn, Maddie pointing out to Blaine that we're down to our last few coppers. Port Royal needs to lead to something. The Governor of Port Royal, Sir Kenneth, is happy to let pirates do more or less what they will, as long as they pay the docking tax. But Maddie is an old "friend" of his, and knows a secret way in to the city...but it involves swimming. We decide instead to have Maddie charm the pants off him (literally; this is referred to as Maddie "titting her way in"), and she talks her way to the governor and convinces him to waive the landing tax. He wants us, however, to come to dinner tonight.

We scrape together some clothes that are fit to be seen in and join Sir Kenneth at his home. There are a few awkward remarks as he assumes Francois is a servant, but this calms down and he tells us about the Dutchman. There are rumors about what was on that ship - notably a piece of the Devil's own skull that can only be retrieved by a good Christian man ("That's us out, then"), but mostly it's just about the treasure he nicked. But yes, he's supposedly in Port Royal, and Kenneth tells the crew that he's rumored to favor a tavern called the Bucket o' Blood.

Blaine stumbles a bit on the name of the place, but he's not afraid of a tavern with the word "blood" in it. No, by thunder! Next time, we go clubbing!

Tavern-ing, I guess! Yarr!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Character Creation: Psi-Run

Now that I'm done with my first draft of Idigam Chronicle and I'm on spring break, I'd like to try and do a character for my project every day. Today, however, I'm feeling weirdly tired and out of sorts (I think it's still adjustment to my new glasses as much as anything else), so I'm gonna do an easy one today. With that in mind:

The Game: Psi-Run
The Company: Night Sky Games
Degree of Familiarity: Some. I played it at Origins (I think?), really liked it, and then then bought a copy and ran it at one point.
Books Required: Just the one.

The basic premise here is that you're psychic, and you're imprisoned. There's a crash, now you're free along with some other runners, but you need to escape before the Chasers catch up with you. The game is very fast-paced and relies heavily on improvisation, and you make your character as you go by answer questions (regaining your memories). There's a lot here to like.

Assuming that I don't know my runner's name right off the bat, I'll just go for the easy stuff. I need to fill in my power. This is psychic in a broad sense; if I know I can tell what people are feeling, I should just write that down rather than speculate on the limits of the power. I think I want my character to be in his 30s, obviously a body-builder, because that's different than what I usually do. We'll say he's very muscular, got tattoos on both arms, bald head with a few days of stubble, one green eye and one blue. He's wearing an orange jumpsuit with the number "33421" on it (just made that up).

For powers, I'll avoid the obvious "super strength" route and go for Clairvoyance instead. 33421 can "see" things that aren't happening in front of him.

Sounds good. Now into the questions. You finish this game by answering all of your questions. I have to write down a question dealing with my powers. OK, that's no problem. I'll say "What triggers my visions?"

Then I write down questions dealing with my strengths and weaknesses. I'll write down "Why can't I catch my breath?" (implying some kind of pulmonary problem) and "How did I get so strong?" (implying that I'm...really strong).

I need at least one question about my current circumstances. I'll say that my character just had a vision about a family sitting down to dinner. His family? No idea. Actually, I'll make that the question: "Were the people in the vision my family?" And then I have two more question slots, but I don't necessarily need to fill them in. Kinda want to, though.

Well, I always enjoy the implication that the Chasers put some kind of controls to us. So how about "Why does the bass from that car make me sick?" And finally, I'll say my guy has a tattoo of a heart on his wrist, with the letters "JF." So "Who is JF?" is my last question?

And that's it. Simple game. Like it a lot.

Post #249: Hellboy

Hellboy is a movie based on the comic of the same name (created by Mike Mignola), directed by Guillermo del Toro and starring Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, John Hurt, Doug Jones, Karl Roden, and some bland boring nondescript POV guy (Rupert Evans).

Our story begins in the 40s, in which Grigori Rasputin (Roden) tries to unleash tentacled apocalypse upon the world for Hitler, but fails - all he manages to do is bring a little red monkey-looking baby through. Years later, that baby has grown up into Hellboy (Perlman), hugely strong and dedicated to fighting monsters that attack normal people. His adoptive father, Professor Broom (Hurt) runs the show at the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (overseen by agent Manning, played by Jeffery Tambor), and he's assisted by fish-man Abe Sapien (Jones, voiced by David Hyde Pierce) and his occasional girlfriend and pyrokinetic Liz (Blair).

Into this mix, we throw POV character John Myers (Evans), and therein lies my only real problem with this movie. But I'll come back to that. Rasputin is back, and wants to use Hellboy to open a gate to Hell and bring through Cthulhu the Seven Gods of Chaos. He tricks Hellboy into coming to the appropriate Darkened Temple, killing Broom along the way, and then takes Liz' soul to force Hellboy's hand. But Hellboy rebels, chooses humanity, kills Rasputin, scares the crap out of whatever's on the other side into letting Liz go, and the movie ends with fire and kisses.

OK, so you see how all of that had almost no mention of Myers? We could have lost him entirely. He's only there to give us a POV character, and we don't need one. Del Toro could have thrown us into this weird-ass world with no exposition. Hell, give us training day for a new group of agents, show them getting the ropes from Hellboy's handler and friend, Clay (Corey Johnson), and then take the focus off them and let us just have the relationships between Hellboy, Broom, Manning, Liz and Abe, and that would have been fine. Myers is boring, and we have to spend too much screen time with him.

Beyond that, though, I like this movie a lot. Hellboy is a weird character, and from what little I've read of the comics, Del Toro and Perlman did a great job bringing him to life (reportedly Perlman was both Mignola's and Del Toro's only choice for Hellboy). The FX haven't aged especially well, but the practical effects (including Hellboy) work just fine, and I really wish the sequel had been more interesting than it was.

My grade: B+
Rewatch value: High

Next up: The Amazing Spider-Man