Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Prometheans in the Park with George

When I was in middle school, I had really bad insomnia and wound up going down into our basement and watching TV. Of course, late at night, pre-cable, you got PBS and then not much else of interest. I wound up watching Sunday in the Park with George late one night, and ghosts of the opening song still flit about my head from time to time.

All of which has nothing to do with Promethean, but you're here, you cope with my non sequiturs.

So! The characters go to the park, except for Grimm (who nips over to the police station) and Skip (whose player was out sick, so Skip went back to the hotel to keep an eye on things with Virgil).

Grimm fills out a form and gets the info on the accident, but doesn't learn anything new - the driver of the truck reported that he had a green light and smashed into Daley's car. That's consistent with what Grimm had learned elsewhere, and with the notion of a Frankenstein Wasteland in the area.

The others go into the park, and Enoch, Feather, and Matt look around and find Lurch's camp. Moldering blankets, some depressing Pilgrim marks carved into the trees, and a bunch of books about death, the afterlife, coping with death, and funerary practices (some of which are library books). Clearly Lurch was obsessed with death, but why? Maybe he was dying, but what kind of sense does that make? He's a Promethean.

Avalon wanders the perimeter of the Firestorm area looking for evidence, but doesn't find much; it's been too long and the Firestorm seems to have wiped away the Pyros (like it do). Grimm returns and the Prometheans figure that maybe someone could track Lurch from the campsite, so Enoch finds a bloodhound (remember they're in a dog park), pets it, and then uses this Chimera Distillation to turn into one. He follows the scent from the camp out into the city, but loses it around the library.

Feather and Avalon return the books, claiming they found them in the park, and Avalon notices an employee kind of blanch at seeing them. She gets him aside and charms him into telling her why - he gave Lurch a library card even though he knew he was homeless, using a fake address and name (Andre Holt). Avalon gets the address and the throng goes to check it out, but it's a vacant lot. There's a Pilgrim mark on the wall - "fake safe place."

Figuring that if Lurch is still in the city, he might be hiding his Azoth, Feather uses Heed the Call and amps up her own Azothic radiance to detect him. She gets a hit and the Prometheans get in the van and follow it, and wind up at an office park. They pick the lock on a door leading into a warehouse area and Grimm and Matt go in, but they don't find Lurch. They find a van similar to the one they saw at the park and then the hospital.

Checking it out, they find the back has a bunch of automatic weapons and grenades. Grimm notes that the guns have special protective technology - they won't work for anyone without an RFID chip on (or in) their person. The characters also find a bunch of photos of Lurch around town, clearly taken from security cameras, a map detailing his movements, and pictures of them outside the hospital. Feather finds mattresses and living space in the office building next door, but very little in the way of personal effects - these folks are well-trained. Avalon finds a roster, though, apparently for guarding Daley, and finds their names: Fields. Hanson. Ramirez. McKinney. Moss. The documents don't reveal what agency these folks are from, but the letters "TFV" show up occasionally. Avalon also finds a post-it note under the "HOT LEADS" section of their murder-board...with the address of the hotel where the characters are staying.

They take the time to disable the guns, and Grimm scoops up a couple of grenades. Figuring they're probably on tape here, Avalon uses Arc to short the transformer and cut power to the building, and the Prometheans take all their pictures and maps (probably they have backups, but this might slow them down). Then they figure they'd better go check the hotel, so they head out.

As they approach, they see smoke rising. So next time, we'll check in with Skip and see what happened (but next time won't be until January, because the next Monday we'd play this is Xmas day).

Monday, December 11, 2017

Some Quick Promethean Notes

I used to keep notes for all my games in notebooks. I don't do that anymore for a number of reasons (my wrist cramps when I write more than a few sentences, and my handwriting has deteriorated over the years), but sometimes I do miss it. But the only reason I miss it, really, is that taking notes right before the game leads to two blog posts in a row about the same game.

Which is, probably, a kind of neurotic thing to fret over, but hey, my brain is a fatty mystery.

Movie #437: Monty Python & The Holy Grail

Monty Python & The Holy Grail is the first feature-length movie from Monty Python, and as such stars John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman, and various other Python regulars like Carol Cleveland, Neil Innes, and Connie Booth.

In AD 932, King Arthur (Chapman) and his faithful servant/horse Patsy (Gilliam) ride across the land, first looking for knights to join them in Camelot and then, after deciding not to go to Camelot (as it's only a model, and is also a silly place), receive a quest from God: Find the Holy Grail. What follows is them bumblefucking their way through multiple roles, trials, and tribulations until finally they discover the resting place of the Grail...and promptly get arrested by fourth-wall-breaking cops, ending the movie.

Seriously, though, if you're reading this, the odds are that you've seen this movie at least once. It's probably one of the most-quoted movies of all time in geek circles, and even if you don't know it, you know parts of it. It's spawned a hit musical and a whole bunch of other merch. But how is the movie, really?

It's actually really funny the first couple of times you see it. The problem is over-saturation, and I've been through the period in my life where I had a Grail quote for every occasion (Futurama probably takes up that position in my life now, if I'm honest). But the jokes are good; the right mix of Python-esque absurdism and enough of a story that it doesn't just feel like random craziness (which was my problem with Meaning of Life). Watching it with Teagan was fun because she hadn't seen it, just a few clips here and there, and then listening to her start to quote it with Al was like watching myself as a teenager, and it's a testament to the movie's staying power that the silliness carries through.

If I have a complaint, of course, it's that like a lot of Python things, there's nothing here for women to do. The only time in the movie we get any women of consequence is the Castle Anthrax, and then it's a bunch of teenage girls getting really worked up over Galahad the Chaste, which is funny as far as it goes, but then beyond that the only women characters are fairly inconsequential or Terry Jones in drag. So that's a bummer. Otherwise, though, it's a fun, light movie, not really parodying anything in particular.

My Grade: A-
Rewatch value: High, though higher when I was younger

Next up: Moonstruck

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Night's Black Agents: The Truth

Last night, Night's Black Agents ended an op (but by no means the game as a whole). Let's watch.

Last session, the characters broke into the Tesla Museum in Belgrade, cracked the secret vault, and stole a bunch of shit. This session, having retreated to their safe house, they watch the news and learn that the museum's first floor was heavily damaged using explosives (which was much more damage than they did). The conspiracy, it seems, is quite will to blow up the place and kill some of the security in order to increase the heat on the agents. The government is involved now, as well as Hajnal's people. They're going to have a problem getting the hell out of Belgrade.

They decide to give it a few days and look over their data. The notebooks are written in a combination of Russian, Serbian, and English (all of which Hanover reads) and a made-up code language. He and Parker get to work cracking it, and meanwhile, the agents watch some of the videos.

The notes in the notebooks appear to be experiment records corresponding to the videos, which is handy because there's no sound. In the first one, a man in a mask brings a dead body into the lab, puts it on the table, pumps some blood out with a machine that resembles a dialysis machine, and then pumps some blood back in. The body twitches and spits up a lot of blood, but then ceases to move. The notes record this as a failure.

The next few entries and videos are more of the same - failures and differing dosages and methods - but then the masked man gets it right. He moves his mask (facing away from the camera) and tentacles snap out and strike a living body, kill it, and then the blood infusion. This, based on the notes, creates what the agents have been calling a "brute." Success.

These experiments continue for a while, and then the video that really brings it home: Vilmos Hajnal enters the shot, following by the masked man...but without the mask. The man grabs Hajnal from behind and chokes him out, and then straps him to the table and sets up the machine. The machine gives Hajnal an infusion from a bottle, clearly biological but not blood. When it's done, the man unstraps Hajnal and inspects his mouth, helping him unfurl his tentacles.

The man is unquestionably Nikola Tesla. The agents have found the first vampire.

They all make some Stability rolls, and Hanover and MacAteer lose the most. The agents decide to back off a little and try and get out of town. They've digitized all of the notebooks and sent the data to Sedillo, but digitizing the VHS tapes has to happen in real time. They figure that maybe that oughta happen in not-Belgrade.

They do some checking around and find a trucking depot. They figure they'll steal a truck, pack the people into the back of it, drive to Montenegro and catch a cruise liner out of Kotor. Traveling as tourists might keep them under the radar. They leave the house severally - MacAteer first, in disguise, carrying the videotapes (Disguise is his MOS, so he's safe). Then Gambone and Ess, and finally Hanover and Parker.

MacAteer enters the depot, disguised, and makes a Bureaucracy spend to get a truck without hassle. The others meet him at a truck stop and start unloading enough cargo to get into the back.

And then another truck pulls by them, turns and blocks the exit ramp. Two guys get out, holding assault rifles. Two SUVs pull into the stop. The agents are made.

They pile into the truck - Parker, Gambone, and Ess in the back, MacAteer driving, Hanover riding shotgun. MacAteer, eschewing subtlety for survival, guns it and smashes into the back end of the truck blocking them. He knocks it out of the way and keeps going, but hears metal grinding metal - this truck isn't long for the world. The SUVs are in pursuit, of course.

Hanover leans out the window and shoots the driver of one SUV, sending it off the road. MacAteer leans out the window on the other side and shoots at the other, dropping it back behind them. The agents in the back, banged up from getting jostled when the truck collided with the other truck, open the back. Parker dumps debris, forcing the SUV to swerve, and Ess shoots the driver, crashing the car. The agents are away...for now.

They pull off the highway, ditch the truck, and steal a lorry. They head for Montenegro, keeping off the main roads. It takes a while, and the stress takes a toll on their Stability, but they eventually make it to the border. Parker, using a cover, rents a car so they don't try and cross the border in a stolen vehicle, and they book passage (using their covers) on a cruise liner bound for Marseille. They leave Kotor apparently ahead of the conspiracy, but still being pursued both by Interpol and Hajnal's people. (We're also now using the extended chase mechanic, which is much less forgiving, but I think it's a good point in the game to make use of it.)

Next time, they'll watch the rest of the tapes and learn of their most recent setback. It's kind of a doozy.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Blades in the Dark: Body Un-Disposal

Monday was Blades in the Dark, as the title to this entry implies. Let's get to it.

The scoundrels have heard rumors on the streets of Doskovol. Storms are raging in the Void Sea, capsizing ships and making it hard for leviathan hunters to retrieve their cargo. Likewise, the Skoval city of Lockport is getting pounded, and that's making refining demon blood harder, which hasn't impacted Doskovol yet, but it will (imported goods are already getting expensive). A new gang called The Grinders is hitting cargo barges in the canals, which is going to be a problem at some point. Also, rumor has it that the Path of Echoes is paying for inhabited spirit bottles - if you can find one of them to sell to (Cage in particular finds this interesting, as he's been corresponding with the Path of Echoes via anonymous letter in preparation to join).

On this particular "day", Cage finds himself chatting with Flint, a spirit trafficker and friend. Flint says that he has a job that Widdershins might be interested in - he's going to transport a bunch of spirit bottles from Charterhall (the university) to Silkshore (a brothel called the Red Lamp). Really, he just needs the crew to pick up and transport - he's got access handled.

Elsewhere in the city, Siren is having a drink at the Veil after singing her little heart out. A man approaches her - Steiner, a friend and assassin. Steiner, hiding his face from the room, tells Siren that he screwed up. He took a job, killed a guy, and was supposed to retrieve the ring from his left hand, but fucked up and took the one from the right hand. Then he weighted the body down and sunk it in a canal near Six Towers, and now he's got people on his tail - probably the people who hired him. He asks Siren to retrieve the ring so he can try and fix this.

The crew convenes at the Watchtower and chats about their prospects. In addition to this gig, they also have the line on the "retrieve eggs from the Crematorium," but that job still seems a little too intense for them. That leaves retrieving a ring from a dead guy (and doing a favor for a friend in the process) or smuggling some spirit bottles.

On its face, the latter seems better - it's more profitable, sure, and it's very much in line with what the crew does. But Cage has some misgivings; stealing spirit bottles from the university might put them in conflict with Lord Penderyn, who, in addition to being someone you probably don't want mad at you, is Cage's vice purveyor and erstwhile spiritual advisor. Likewise, helping out Steiner means they have an assassin who owes them a favor. Either job sounds good, so the crew splits up to do some research.

Copper and Siren hit the streets, looking for information on the dead dude (Phin Dalmore) and his ring. They learn that Dalmore is probably related to Lord Dalmore, the executive officer in charge of the Ministry of Preservation, which is in charge of transit between cities and disbursing food and resources. No wonder Steiner is getting some pushback.

As they're looking, they realize they're being followed. Copper, since she has her demon-wolf (almost trained, and now named "Button") with her, isn't very stealthy, so she distracts them while Siren slips around behind the pursuers. She surprises them, bluntly asking what they're doing, and one lashes out with a punch-dagger in surprise. Copper handily disarms him, and recognizes these guys as members of a rival gang called the Wraiths.

The Wraiths, despite their fearsome name, are apparently quite receptive to being intimidated, and spill the beans - there's word on the street that the ring that Dalmore wears is worth a good price to the Foundation (a kind of Masonic-like organization), so there are a few interested parties. They heard Siren and Copper asking about Dalmore and decided to follow them and see what they knew. The incident resolves without violence; no one really wants a fight.

Meanwhile, Cage and One-Eye get an audience with Lord Penderyn. Penderyn is non-committal about the spirit-bottle affair, but tells Cage to listen to his heart, apparently indicating that if he takes the gig, it's his to deal with. One-Eye, not impressed with Penderyn (or, like, anything) stops off in the alchemy department, steals some components, and bribes her way to some new designs to incorporate into her alchemical/mechanical eye.

Cage, for his part, goes to Silkshore and finds Flint at the Red Lamp (he's reliable with the ladies, apparently) and questions him a bit more. Flint says that he's getting the equivalent of 12 Coin for this, but since he's really relying on the crew to do the work, he'll just take 2.

The crew reconvenes, and decide that grabbing the ring should be quick and relatively easy; it's not as much money, sure, but if they can do it quick, they can still do the job with Flint. Besides, Steiner's in a jam. They know the location of the body, so they rig up a gondola pole with a claw at the end, and head out to the site (and get a critical on the engagement roll, so the first obstacle - get the body out of the water - is handled).

One-Eye lifts the body out with the claw and snips off the ring finger...whereupon the body comes to life and grabs her neck. Copper grabs the ring, but drops it onto the boat deck and knocks it further away trying to grab it. Siren pushes the pole away from One-Eye...but then the lamps on the nearby shore go out, and the crew sees people jumping across rooftops to the edges of the canal. They are, it seems, not alone...

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Chill: Voices

Sunday was Chill. Check it. You know, or don't. You do you.

Last time, the envoys opened their investigation into a killing on the University of Idaho campus. We open today with Dee and Dylan at the vet, and Jordan and BB heading back into town from the ranch. The envoys meet up for brunch so that Dee can get day-drunk, but they also decide that they should head back to campus, look at the steam plant, maybe try and get a sense of what's happening a bit more. They stop at a church near the university and Dee (now more than a little tipsy) asks the priest about whether he's heard of increased violence at the university. He says he hasn't - sure, there will always be tragedy, but it's not abnormally bad out there, apart from the young man who was just killed (Mendoza) or the student who committed suicide last year.

This isn't the first time the envoys have heard this mentioned, so Dylan does a bit of quick research. The guy's name was Sidney Bass, and he jumped off the Gym Tower. The articles at the time state that he had dealt with depression since high school and was on medication for it; some of the editorials talked about the link between certain psych meds and suicidal ideation. The envoys note that Bass was a member of the Delta Tau Delta frat - no immediate connection to Mendoza, then.

They head back onto campus, and climb Gym Tower to see where he jumped. There's a dried-up bouquet of flowers, but no evidence and no Unknown. They check the base of the tower, too - if Bass has returned as a ghost, they don't see any evidence of that. They head back over toward Greek Row to ask at his old frat house, and are met with crowds and first responders. Last night another student was murdered - Stacy Diaz.

The envoys are a bit shaken by this (Jordan especially, who winds up with a Minor Trauma), but they resolve to try and figure this out. Jordan goes to the hospital and tracks down an EMT buddy and buys him lunch, and he tells her that the kid's head was bashed in with something heavy and with defined edges - probably a brick. They found Stacy's body in a ditch, between Greek Row and the dorm where he lived. The EMT mentions that Stacy had some defensive wounds, so he probably got a good lick in before he died.

The envoys check the area. It's wide open, but at night it would be completely unlit - not a bad area for an ambush. They can see the dorm, Greek Row, and Morrill Hall (a small classroom building). Dylan and BB check out the DTD frat house and rouse a member, who tells them that the chapter president (Doug Campbell) is away at class. Sensing that they're being fed BS, Dylan and BB go to Dylan's office to look up Doug's schedule. On the way, they pass Morrill Hall, and BB notes a pile of bricks - some light construction going on here, and probably that's where someone got a murder weapon.

Dylan finds Doug's schedule, but by the time he does (slow computer system), Doug should already have left class. The envoys regroup and go back to the DTD house, hoping to find Doug there. Dee brings a couple of pies and her now casted and somewhat doped up dog.

Two frat boys are in evidence, the somewhat slow one from before (Jason) and a much sharper guy named Ben. Jason doesn't say much at all, but Ben is adept at deflecting questions and saying nothing while still talking (he's pre-law). The envoys noticed multiple pairs of shoes by the door; someone else is here. BB checks the bathroom, and finds a bottle of pills with Sidney's name on it (which he pockets), and paper towels with blood on them in the garbage - looks like someone cleaned up a cut.

Jordan slips upstairs and finds Doug's door. She knocks and opens it, surprising Doug. He's sitting on the bed, perhaps pretending he's not home, and he's got a nasty black eye and a cut on his cheek. She leaves him be and goes back downstairs - it looks like Doug killed Stacy, but why?

Dee gets Jason in the kitchen and tries to get him talking. She senses the Unknown and realizes it's all over the place, but it's more like a bunch of echoes just bouncing around - not a solid, specific presence. Jason zones out, and then starts answering much faster. His speech patterns are different, and Dee notices it. She asks who she's really talking to, and Jason seems confused by the question.

Reasoning that Doug is really the problem, Dee and BB go upstairs to get him, figuring that if Dee can't talk him down, BB can punch him. They smell smoke, though, and BB kicks in the door to reveal the room burning. They head downstairs and evacuate the house, and the firefighters put out the blaze with minimal damage. By now, more of the frat has arrived, and the envoys see Jason, Ben, and two new folks named Joey and Dave talking heatedly. Jordan, ever the picture of subtlety, confronts them, and it's Joey who breaks.

He reveals that it was supposed to be a prank - someone was supposed to swap out one of Sidney's pills, since missing one just made him weepy and morose for a day or so. But all four of them did it, and Sidney killed himself. Joey reveals that someones he hears a voice telling him things, but it doesn't sound like doesn't even sound human. And then he has dreams, too, dreams of falling and dying.

The envoys arrange for all of the frat to come stay at the ranch. They figure that'll let them keep the boys under surveillance and out of harm's way. They have Darnell bring a bus down to get them, and then they start focusing on Doug. BB tracks him away from the house, but loses the trail as it gets into the heart of campus. They can see the steam plant up ahead, though...

Monday, December 4, 2017

Movie #436: Monsters vs. Aliens

Monsters vs. Aliens is an animated movie starring Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, Kiefer Sutherland, Paul Rudd, Hugh Laurie, Rainn Wilson, Will Arnett, and Stephen Colbert. It's part of a slate of Dreamworks films (including Shark Tale and MegaMind) that drew on parodying older films, to varying degrees of success.

On her wedding day, Susan Murphy (Witherspoon) gets hit with a meteorite and grows to roughly 50' in height. Immediately captured by the government under the supervision of General W.R. Monger (Sutherland, channeling George C. Scott with a dash of R. Lee Emery), Susan - renamed Ginormica - meets the other monsters currently in custody: fish-man Link (Arnett), supervillain Dr. Cockroach (Laurie), giant monster Insectosaurs (RRRROAARR!), and brainless blob B.O.B. (Rogen). She settles in for a lifetime of isolation...

...but then a squid-like alien called Galaxharr (Wilson) attacks Earth looking for the handwavium unobtanium quantonium that suffuses Susan's body, and the monsters get called out to deal with the aliens. In the end, of course, Susan learns a valuable lesson about how being a monster is awesome and she and her team fly off to fight a giant snail.

So, this movie clearly went through some rewrites. At one point the president (Colbert) was supposed to revoke the monsters' freedom, and there are definitely some details that were left out but that show up in promotional materials (Susan, for instance, grows to 49' 11" tall, making her just shy of being a 50-foot-woman, but that's never mentioned in the movie). The other thing I find weird about this movie is that it gives shout-outs to Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), E.T. (1982), Beverly Hills Cop (1984), and Dr. Strangelove (1964), and that's before you get into all of the references that the monsters themselves represent. And, like, for the monsters that's fine - sure, the target audience won't get the The Blob references, but B.O.B. is still funny, but what about the president segueing from the five famous notes from Close Encounters to Harold Faltmeyer's famous Beverly Hills Cop synth bit? What's that in aid of?

The dialog is fun, the voice cast is decent. Not a huge fan of Arnett's Link ("ugh, why'd we get a girl monster", c'mon now), but otherwise there's some nice chemistry. Laurie, Rogen, and Witherspoon are the standouts, and Colbert is brilliant as the president, even if the jokes get a little dated at times.

All in all, though, it's a fun concept that, like a lot of Dreamworks movies, could have been better if they had Pixar's love and care behind it.

My Grade: B
Rewatch value: Medium-high

Next up: Monty Python & the Holy Grail

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Notes in the Dark

The sounds more dramatic than it needs to, but really I'm just taking notes for the Blades in the Dark game I'm running tomorrow and perhaps the Chill game I'm running later today.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Character Creation: Roma Imperious

Well, this'll be my 33rd character this year. My resolution was one a week (or 52), so I'm a little short, but I rather suspected I would be when I came out of summer still really behind. I could probably make up the shortfall over Xmas break by doing a bunch of PbtA games, which are quick, but that'll bore me, I suspect.

Anyway, one thing I did notice was that I have two more games that originally came from the Haiti bundle. If you don't know, that bundle was on sale waaaaaaay the hell back in January of 2010, following the earthquake. That charity bundle got something like $178,000 for Doctors Without Borders, and folks who supported it got 170 different products valued at about $1000 for $20. I've supported a few similar projects since then, but that one was the one that cemented the fact that I will never finish this project.

But it's not about the destination, it's about the journey. To wit:

The Game: Roma Imperious
The Publisher: HinterWelt Enterprises
Degree of Familiarity: None. I'm reading through it now. It's a pretty big book, so I'm not going to read the whole thing, but I might offer some commentary as I go.
Books Required: Just the one.

Roma Imperious is an "alternative history role-playing game," which is interesting because I just finished reading a historical fiction novel called Captain Alatriste and developed a hypothesis that I might enjoy such fiction more than fantasy because in fantasy, all the made-up names and places tend to fall right out of my brain. In historical fiction, at least I know what "Madrid" is and I can latch onto that (the experiment, then, is to read a novel that draws on a culture that I'm not as familiar with, but that's for another time).

Anyway, reading the beginning of the book, it starts off with a very nice introduction that talks about the passion the author has for Roman history. What it doesn't do is talk about what characters do in this game or what the basic conflict, struggle, or conversation is about, and I'm finding as I get older that such introductions are really helpful for me in determining how to approach an RPG. But, with that said, this game was written in 2004, so I'm willing to cut it a little slack.

Moving on, we get into history and structure of the Empire. It looks like the turning point between real history and this world is the discovery or use of magic, but I'm not up enough on Roman history to spot the fine details (and again, I'm not doing a close reading because I have other shit to do today). I will say that the book doesn't quite nail down the "now" as firmly as I'd like, or at least not to my casual read.

And then we many, many pages about other cultures, and then...classes? This is weird, hang on. OK, classes seem to be mostly in-setting, but then there are some game mechanics attached. Templates, which follow, are fully-made characters that folks can just grab.

(Where to put the system in an RPG book is a subject of no small debate amongst those of us who make these books. I personally like having the system, or at least the basics, up front so that when you see references to mechanics in the text they make some kind of sense, but there's also a school of thought that wants to put all of the setting stuff first and the system stuff later. In this case, character creation follows the templates, so I'm gonna jump ahead a bit.)

Oh, fuck me, this is mathy. Hang on.

My eyes glaze over when you say things like "curved progression." Let's jump ahead again.

OK, so now I'm at the actual character creation bit, which tells me that the process is less about making up the numbers and more about making up the person. Could've fooled me, looking at the sheet, but let's not be cynical. Let's be Roman.

Step One: Develop a Concept. OK, so I'm actually going to skip this, and I'll tell ya why. Much like in D&D and related games, if you're developing your stats randomly (which I don't necessarily mind), there's no point in developing a concept before you roll. Sure, I could get all tasted up to run a gladiator-style character, but if I roll shit for physical stats, my concept doesn't work.

I will say, though, that this section notes that the players and the GM should work together to make all the concepts fit, and I appreciate that nod to group cohesion. But, be that as it may, let's find some d20s and roll some stats. The idea is I roll 3 d20s and take the highest one for each stat, which gives me:

Strength 8
Agility 17
Constitution 20
Dexterity 15
Intelligence 16
Wisdom 18
Appearance 20
Charisma 17
Luck 15
Piety 18
Will 14

Wow, not bad. Well, the book notes that this makes your vital stats skew high, so I suppose that's fine. Does mean I'm not real likely to be a warrior 'cause I'm kind of weak, but you know me, I'd rather make fast jumpy-flippy-magicky types anyway. What's next! Oh, right, that was Step Two, so I should really go back and do step one and come up with a concept.

Well, I could play to my strengths in any number of ways. I like making magical characters, so I could play a magus or a druid. With my social stats as high as they are, I could also play a performer or a spy or something. Actually, given that my Piety is as high as it is, I'll go with Druid. As part of that, I pick a tribe, which also determines what kind of magic I'm good at. I'll Dumnonnii, which makes me good at magic involving Truth, Sea, and Combat (it's the "sea" that attracted me). Reading on, this particular tribe has a "good if somewhat cool relationship" with the Romans, so assuming that the game is set somewhere in Britannia, I like the idea that my character is half-Roman (his father was a Roman soldier stationed there, and took a Celtic woman as a wife). My character's name, then, is Oppius Velius Vindex.

(Now, I'm aware that as a Roman being raised in this culture and then becoming one of, in effect, their holy people, there's potentially some appropriation going on, but thematically I think that kind of works.)

Right, good, NEXT STEP. Back to math. Step Three: Calculate Fortitude and Defense Stat. 15 and 14, respectively (they're the average of 3 traits each).

Step Four: Choose Class. I did that, I'm a druid. I get two in Wilderness Survival, two in Herbology, one First Aid, and one Meditation. I...guess that's it? I'll come back to this if there's more.

Step Five: Skills. I get skill points each to the average of my Intelligence and Wisdom, which is 17. Let's see how this works.

OK, so, you put levels into skills, which then gives you a higher percentage chance to use them (level 3 is 70%). I seem to get 2 free to put into weapon proficiencies (the way it's phrased isn't super clear), so let's assume that's true. I'll put them into Staff Use.

And then I get these other 17. Holy cats. I'll put one more into Herbology, Wilderness Survival, and First Aid (for 3, 3, and 2, respectively), 2 into Medicine, 2 into Memory, 3 into Mythology (Celts) and Spell Direction, 2 into Wilderness Lore, and 2 into Arcane Lore. That makes me pretty damn druid, methinks.

Step Six: Spells is something I can largely skip, because since I'm using clerical mage rather than spell magic, I don't use "spells" so much as "I do magical shit within my tribe's parameters and take a penalty depending on how amazing it is." So that's pretty baller.

Step Seven is Equip Your Character. So like, my dude is dressed however folks in Britannia would be dressing this season (white robes, very nighttime telly) and has a staff and probably a dagger he doesn't really fight with.

Step Eight is Character History, but I feel like I've done that pretty well. I didn't note a code (what the character believes in), but there's no space for it on the sheet so it can't be that important. I think Velius probably believes in Family and the Land (which is kinda like being pious for him), but if I were to actually play this character I'd expect to get caught between his two peoples and their beliefs at some point.

I could figure out Fortitude points, but honestly it's more fiddly than I want to deal with right now, so I'm gonna call that done.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Promethean: Visitations

Finally, we get back to what this Promethean game is about: Mysterious visitations from cryptic angelic beings.

We open at the motel where the throng is settling in. Skip and Matt are rooming together, Grimm and Enoch (and Virgil), and Avalon and Feather. Grimm is ironing his pants and Enoch is watching TV when a man walks into the room and shuts the door. He's tall, lean, wearing black jeans and a blue silk shirt, and he tells Enoch he should go back to the park.

The Prometheans, of course, are a little more bemused that the dude just walked right in, but the stranger doesn't seem concerned or threatening. He doesn't tell them his name, instead insinuating that he doesn't have one (but does imply that he, like them, was created). They decide to call him "Rock," which he accepts. He tells them that he has a vested interest in helping them along on their journey, which makes them think maybe he's a qashmal, but when Grimm puts that to him, he denies it. Grimm activates his Vitreous Humour Alembic and tries to see what this guy might be, from a spiritual perspective, and notes that he's animated by something like the Divine Fire, but it's cold.

Meanwhile, in Matt & Skip's room, Matt goes to open the door and is confronted by a luminous being that slows time in the room (even on the TV screen). "YOU HAVE ONE HOUR TO SAVE BRENT DALEY" it booms, and then vanishes. Matt, who can always be counted on to act on angelic visions, takes off across the parking lot, looking for an internet cafe.

(An aside: This game is set in 2008, meaning that smartphones exist but they aren't ubiquitous, and wi-fi isn't nearly as common. This spawned a bit of Googling last night to figure out what devices were available, which fits squarely into the "sorry I asked" sort of category.)

Skip goes to the Avalon/Feather room and tells them what's going on. They figure that if saving someone is at issue, they probably should check it out. They rope Virgil into watching the kittens, and all pile into the van and head off. They pick Matt up on the way to an internet cafe, and Ask Jeeves or whatever to find Brent Daley. They find a Myspace page for his old band, and from there dig up a phone number. Feather calls up and asks the woman who answers about booking the band; she says that they broke up a while ago, but that Brent will get a kick out someone asking once he gets out of the hospital.

The Prometheans call the hospitals in the area as time ticks away, and find the one that he's in. They zoom over there in the van, and Feather buys a bear at the gift shop, and then has information call up to Brent's room to let them come up. They get to the room just as a nurse goes in, and Brent is in his room, leg in a cast, kinda dinged up. He's happy for the company and for the bear (which he assumes is from his sister), and tells the Prometheans he was in a car wreck. The nurse is trying to change his bandages, and the Prometheans ask her if maybe she could do that later, but she says in rather stilted language that she can't...and they realize Brent's gone slack-jawed.

Feather shoves the nurse into Matt, who grapples her and holds her immobile. Her eyes go mirrored and Skip grabs her by the neck. Feather does some quick first aid on Brent and revives him. Matt and Skip frog-march the nurse-thing out of the room and into an empty one, but Grimm notices the nurse behind the desk sees them and speaks into a walkie talkie. He warns the others that they may have company. Avalon goes into the bathroom in Brent's room and uses The Soul in the Software, spitting out her little spy-bug to watch the room.

The others get the nurse into an empty room and Matt goes to strap her down, but she disintegrates into a metallic powder (Skip grabs a sample for later analysis). Feather leaves the room and heads to the bank of elevators, figuring that trouble is incoming. Avalon returns to her body and steps out, shuts the door, and talks with Brent, and he relates the story:

He was driving home a few days ago, near Coldstream Park, when he got t-boned by a pick-up truck and was pinned in his car. And then this really big guy - like 6'10" - ran over and ripped off the car door. He pulled Brent out, but then got a look on his face like he'd fucked up and ran away crying, and that's when the firestorm started.

Avalon takes all this in, and Brent tells her that after he was admitted, there were some government folks who came to see him. He's not sure what branch they're from, but they're concerned that the big guy might come to find him. At this point, the elevator doors open and three men (two in suits, one in camos) come out and meet the nurse with the walkie-talkie. Enoch warns Avalon, and Avalon leaves the room and hides in another bathroom, coughing up her spy-bug to watch the spooks.

Two of them go into Brent's room and talk with him, and he tells them what happened with the nurse and describes Matt and Skip. The other two start looking in the rooms; Grimm warns Skip that they're coming, and he and Matt hide in the bathroom. They watch the guy in camouflage walk in, take his own sample of the carbon dust, and head out.

Avalon listens to them talk, and she realizes that they are concerned with the big guy coming back, but that seems to be more about the guy than protecting Brent. The Prometheans split up and head out, meeting up again in the parking lot. They figure that some shadowy branch of the government is involved, and they're probably all on camera at this point. They check through the parking lot and find some cars with government plates...and that van from the day before.

Avalon and Enoch look it over, but apart from a clipboard with a map of Coldstream on it indicating the accident site, they can't see much. Avalon spits out the bug again and looks inside the works of the van, and realizes that the engine is next-gen - this is a very technologically advanced van, and it has no VINs. Also something very heavy in back. Avalon is concerned.

The Prometheans decide to go back to the park, following the advice of "Rock." Grimm notes a hot dog cart packing up, and talks to the guy. He saw the accident and basically confirms Brent's version of things, but notes also that the stoplights around the park had been malfunctioning for a while (which is consistent with a Frankenstein-created Wasteland). He also refers to the big guy as "Lurch," indicating that Lurch was here long enough to become local color, and says that he thinks he camped out in the park.

The throng decides to fan out and search the park for his camp...which we'll get to next time.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Misspent Youth: The Celestial Finale, plus some notes

Yesterday was the very last session of our Misspent Youth game. I'd wax poetic about how awesome this game is, but honestly I've done it before and I'm pressed for time. So here we go!

Authority Figures:

  • Tezcatlipoca, ruler of the Smoking Mirror planet. 
  • Valkyries, the agender space cops.
  • Queztalcoatl, the feathered serpent god.
  • Xipetotec, the god of the harvest and flaying.
  • Theo, the compromised but still on the god's side fitness instructor
Friendship Questions:
  • Kshanti asked Alaska: "What do you need that you're running out of?" Her answer: "Approval."
  • Alaska asked Yasha: "Why don't you talk to me anymore?" Her answer: "You've become kind of like our de facto leader and I don't know how to feel about that."
  • Yasha asked Jacqui: "What are you planning to do with that hallucinogenic water you saved?" Her answer: "Use it to create art without killing anyone."
  • Jacqui asked Eli: "Why are you trying to repair the off-world communicator?" Their answer: "Um, Theo."
  • Eli asked Kshanti: "What did you smuggle?" Her answer: "A ghost."
Scene One: What's Up

Yasha's player sets us up and chooses Alaska's question to Yasha (about leadership). 

The YOs are in Bruce (their special tank), just kind of tooling around, trying to figure out what to do next. They're approaching a land mass, and need to make a decision about whether to avoid it or explore it. Yasha and Jacqui argue for exploration, and the others agree (they also note that Tezcatlipoca stiffed them on what he was going to pay them for killing Morpheus). 

The tank goes over a rise and starts sliding on the obsidian toward a lake - like a real lake, with water! The YOs try to right it; Jacqui stands up and wins on Eli's Wrathful Conviction, shoves the gearshift, and spins the tank so it winds up beside the lake. The YOs see a path leading out into an island in the middle of the lake, and Alaska advises they investigate. 

Kickoff: This episode is about leadership. 

Scene Two: Fighting Back

Alaska's player sets us up, and chooses the question from Kshanti to Alaska, about approval. 

The YOs take the path across the lake to the island; Alaska tries to direct them, but they wind up just walking as they will. In the island, they find a divot and a nest of sparkly, heavy eggs. As they handle them, a gigantic serpent rises out of the water. Yasha slashes at it with her sword, and Alaska stands up (Thrills) and tries to talk the snake down, starting to change into the snake as she does so. Jacqui stands up and wins on Alaska's Conviction, and holds the eggs over the water in a threatening manner. The snake backs down, and the YOs retreat, with the eggs.

First Beat: Discovery (serpent eggs). Question: Will Alaska get us killed?

Scene Three: Heating Up

Kshanti's player sets us up, and chooses Theo. 

The YOs are back on Bruce. They set up an incubator for the eggs by the engine, and then get out to discuss their next move. When they do, there's Theo!

Well, he's not really here; he's a hologram being beamed from Bardo. He tries to talk Eli into coming back with him; yes, they'll wind up being a meatsuit eventually, but not for a while. Eli considers it - they're not exactly happy here. Theo also notes that the gods are looking for them (they killed Morpheus, after all), and notes that some gods want them to kill other gods, others want them as meatsuits, and others just want them dead. Yasha expresses interest in being god-assassins, but that isn't something Theo can arrange. He starts to dissipate, and Kshanti grabs his Mojo and tries to absorb it. The YOs try to prevent Theo's departure, but Yasha stands up and loses, and the Mojo runs amuck. When the YOs regain vision, they've all been scattered to the winds, separated. 

Scene Four: We Won

Eli's player set this up, and chooses Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent god. 

Alaska realizes she's alone and runs, wailing, trying to find the others (she's afraid of being alone). She runs right off a cliff, but is saved by a flying feathered serpent (whom she mistakes as her snake-baby, all grown up, and Quetzalcoatl is very patient with her). He asks if she killed Morpheus, and she says she did, with her minions, so they go in search of the others. 

One by one, Quetzalcoatl finds them and asks if they're Alaska's minions (much eye-rolling happens), until they find Yasha and Quetz realizes that probably she did the real work. In any case, they try to convince Quetz to go back to the tank to get their snakes, but he wants to take them straight on to his brother Tezcatlipoca. In the end, Alaska stands up and wins on Kshanti's Helpless Conviction, and in exasperation, the feathered serpent agrees. 

Scene Five: We're Fucked

I set this up and chose Xipetotec, the god of the harvest and flaying. 

Quetz takes the YOs to his brother in his underground lair, and when they arrive, he's there talking with Xipetotec, wearing flayed human skin and waving around a knife. The brothers talk in a language that the YOs don't understand, but Eli uses their Mojo powers and realizes they're talking about sacrificing one of them (Xipetotec has his eye on Kshanti). Kshanti attacks, meaning to equalize the brothers' Mojo, and Yasha stands up and loses. She sells out Trusted to Believer, and realizes that all gods are equal. The only way to beat them is to be one. She helps Kshanti move Mojo, and their power is equalized, putting Quetz at a disadvantage. 

Second Beat: Reversal (Redistribution of Mojo)

Scene Six: Who Wins

Jacqui's player sets this up and chooses Tezcatlipoca (though he was mostly in the background for it). 

The YOs leave as Tezcatlipoca and Xipetotec fight for control. Quetzalcoatl follows them, and demands that they put his power back. He offers them his ship, and even summons it up. Kshanti, tired of bargaining with these people, attacks, trying to absorb Quetz. She stands up and sells out her Disorder (We Have Everything We Need Inside Us) to Emptiness. She destroys the feathered serpent, pulling out a golden serpent made of Mojo, and the YOs have won the episode...but this ends the game. They take his ship and get the hell off this planet.

Scene Seven: Aftermath

Yasha's player sets this up, and chooses the Valkyries for our last scene.

The YOs are in space, and their odd Mojo signature attracts the space cops. Rather than bargain, though, Eli just flips them off from the ship's windows (standing up with Wrathful). They engage in a dogfight and destroy a bunch of them, and then blast off into warp as Jacqui wins on Alaska's Thrills Conviction. 


The YOs wind up with four Exploits to the Authority's five Systems of Control, so they lose: The Celestial Bureaucracy remains in the place. As powerful and determined as they were, they can't change the system. They're only human. 

They're final fates:
  • Kshanti eventually returns to Bardo and becomes the new warden, always attempting to get Alaska back and teach her the lessons she refused to learn. 
  • Eli goes back to Bardo, too, to be with Theo, and eventually winds up as the new meatsuit for Tea, Theo's sister. 
  • Jacqui descends into the weird world of body modification, trying to get rid of her scars and change herself and others, and slowly becomes less than human as she changes out everything. 
  • Yasha goes to work for the Bureaucracy, assassinating gods on contract, telling herself she's still rebelling, still fighting the system from within. 
  • Alaska marries Yasha, stays at home with their serpent babies, happy, contented, and cut off from the struggle. She remains passionate and creative, and continues designing wonderful and glittery fashions. 
And that's all you get.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Night's Black Agents: Without a Hitch

So, when running games that hinge on planning and execution (which is any game that focus on spying, heists, capers, but really a lot of RPGs wind up requiring players to make and execute a plan), there's a temptation as the GM to throw a wrench into the works during the execution stage. Blades in the Dark actually takes this out of the GM's hands, more or less, by gliding right over planning and having the score start in medias res, with the trouble taken as read when things get going.

I'm of two minds. I like Blades because that kind of conflict is baked into the system, but what about more traditional set-ups where the players make and execute the plan? If the plan is solid, if it's not missing some key information that would make it untenable, shouldn't it work, all else equal? Particularly in games like Night's Black Agents where competence is assumed?

For my part, as a player, I don't mind when something goes pear-shaped because someone blew a roll (particularly if it's really a gamble, rather than something my character should really be good at), and I don't mind if things go sideways because there was information that we didn't have and missed. But I don't like it when GMs make things hard just to avoid them being easy, especially if the characters have used time and resources planning things out.

So in Night's Black Agents, my players do tend to plan things out, but they burn a lot of General Abilities and Investigative spends setting themselves up, and it seems wrong to alter things without giving them a clue or a roll or something.

All of this to say: Yesterday's game went pretty well for the players. Check it out.

The agents are in Belgrade again (last session is here). They're lying low, but they want to investigate the Tesla Museum again. They split up and hit the municipal records and the libraries (all except Ess, who goes around planting cameras to get street views of those buildings and the museum). The agents learn a few things.

First, they learn that security in all of these places has been increased, and the security folks are rough-looking individuals - not military, more like gangs. The tattoos on their hands and arms mark them as Hungarian mob...probably working for Vilmos Hajnal. The agents make liberal use of Disguise and manage to avoid their notice, and in the process, learn that there's a vault in the museum that was added in the 60s. Gambone figures he can crack it, given time, but he also doesn't know if it's been upgraded since (that's a long time, after all).

MacAteer puts on a disguise (his MOS) and scouts the museum. He sees that there's a central office that houses a staircase leading to the vault door, but it's right in the middle of the museum and requires a key-card (easy enough to spoof or steal). He also notes a new acting museum director - Mina Subotic. A quick photo with a thermal filter indicates she's not a vampire, but she's armed and capable, which makes them nervous.

Gambone contacts an old friend of his named Jonathan Waverly, a spy from MI6 back in the Cold War days, and asks about the vault. Waverly gets back to him the next day and says that based on his information, yes, the vault has indeed been updated every few years, and probably has a digital lock as well as the rather formidable mechanical security, and it's rigged with a chemical bomb to incinerate anything in it if tampered with. Gambone thanks him, and wonders if he's just gotten this guy killed.

Ess goes back to the museum (also in disguise) and finds the server room on the second floor, but has no Digital Intrusion so can't hack in. All he can do is get some data. From that, the agents learn that if the computer security is compromised, if a lock is forced, or if a key-card is spoofed, the place goes into lockdown.

The agents watch the museum for a few days, and note that none of the new security are vampires or brutes. They also note that, at night, only a half-dozen are on duty at any given time. That gives them a window. Parker goes to a diner where the men eat lunch and lifts a key-card, substituting it for a dummy (figuring it's better that one guy has a card that just doesn't work than trying to spoof or clone one). That night, after the day shifts leaves, they go in.

They enter through the employee entrance, MacAteer dressed in a uniform to give them an advance scout (the disguise won't hold up under scrutiny but it'll buy them a few seconds). They find four of the guards in the center room playing poker, but aren't sure where the last two are. They spread out around the room, hiding in the shadows, then rush the guys and hit them with tasers. They bind and gag them and stick them in the employee break room, and then find the last guy upstairs patrolling and take him out as well.

One guy left; the agents figure he's downstairs by the vault door. They open the door and immediately hear him say something in Serbian - a code phrase. Hanover, who speaks Serbian, responds correctly (it's a proverb; this is what Languages spends are for!), and they talk they guy into coming up to join the game...then zap him and bind him with the others.

And then down to the vault. Parker finds an access port for the computer lock, and Hanover hacks through it. Gambone gets to work (he's saved all of his Infiltration for this) and gets through. Inside the vault, the agents find a dusty old medical table, a combination TV/VCR, some video tapes, and some notebooks. They pack all of it up and get the hell out. Gambone leaves behind a timed charged; it'll set off the fire-chemicals in the room, but give them time to get clear.

They head back to the safe house...and next time, we'll find out what the stole, and what the response is going to be.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Movie #435: Monsters, Inc.

Monsters, Inc., of course, is one of the early hits from Pixar and stars John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Mary Gibbs, Steve Buscemi, James Coburn, and Jennifer Tilly. It holds up really well, I found.

The monsters-in-the-closet are real, but they're just there to make kids scream, because scream is a potent source of energy. As such, the "scarers" employed by Monsters, Inc., zip into kids' rooms and frighten them, but then duck out, because, they believe, children are highly toxic to monsters. The number one scarer for the company is a great blue fuzzy thing called Sully (Goodman), assisted by his best friend Mike (Crystal). They're close to breaking an all-time scare record, but the company in general is in trouble - kids don't scare like they used to.

One evening, as Sully retrieves some paperwork, he chances across an active door (the monsters keep doors that lead directly into the human world when powered on). Checking it, he finds an adorable little human girl (Gibbs), who follows him into the monster world. Sully and Mike take charge of her and try to figure out what to do as the Child Detection Agency swarms around the company.

Turns out, of course, that Sully's rival Randall (Buscemi) and the seemingly benign head of the company Waternoose (Coburn) are desperately trying to save it - by kidnapping children and extracting their screams directly (that whole "kids are poison" thing obviously isn't true). Sully and Mike save the day, and in the process discover that laughter is much more powerful than scream, so now the company sends funny monsters (like Mike) into kids' rooms to make them laugh.

This is a really well done film. The voice casting is spot on; Crystal manages to be funny without being obnoxious, Goodman is perfect as the big-lug Sully, and if you need someone to sound vaguely slimy you could do a lot worse than Buscemi. Jennifer Tilly has a fun role as Mike's girlfriend Celia, though watching it this time, I did wonder why Mike and Sully don't immediately include Celia in on the predicament - to protect her is the obvious reason (and because it would undercut the bonding that Mike and Sully have to do), but you know me, I always think it's better to expand the cast out a bit.

Generally, though, the movie is really awesome, the animation is amazing (watch Sully's fur ripple in the wind), and the plot holds up pretty well.

My Grade: A
Rewatch value: High

Next up: Monsters vs. Aliens

NBA Notes: New Op, Old Locale

Running Night's Black Agents later, and it's been a while both since I've run a game generally and since I've run this particular game. As such, probably it's a good idea if I take some notes. If you're a player (and let's face it, that's a pretty remote possibility) don't read further. If you're not, feel free to take this glimpse into my mind as I plan a game session (or, like, click the "gming" tag and take hundreds of such glimpses; I make these posts a lot).

Movie #434: The Monster Squad

The Monster Squad is one of a number of 80s-era "group of kids has adventures" movies (other examples include The Goonies, Explorers, and to some extent Stand By Me). It's directed by Fred Dekker, the genius who also gave us Night of the Creeps (we'll get to N eventually). It stars Andre Gower, Robby Kiger, Stephen Macht, Brent Chalem, Ryan Lambert, Ashley Bank, Duncan Reghr, Tom Noonan, Jonathan Gries, and Leonardo Cimino.

Sean (Gower) and Patrick (Kiger) are two buddies in white-as-fuck suburbia who have a "monster club," along with their buddy Horace (Chalem), whom they cheerfully call "Fatkid" because "Chunk" was already taken, I guess, a little kid named Eugene (Michael Faustino) whose there for reasons I can't fathom, and, reluctantly, Sean's little sister Phoebe (Bank). They recruit local tough guy Rudy (Lambert) after he protects Horace from some bullies, but this barely has a chance to solidify before the monsters arrive.

The "monsters", in this case, are the basic Universal variety: a Talbot-style werewolf (Gries), the Creature from the Black Lagoon (Tom Woodruff, Jr.), a mummy stolen from a local museum (Michael Mackay), Frankenstein's monster (Noonan), who was conveniently being transported over this particular spot in a plane, and Count Goddamn Dracula (Reghr) himself. These rather ineffectual monsters are trying to retrieve a magic amulet that, once every century, can be destroyed and shift the balance of the world towards evil or something.

So, this movie is pretty ridiculous on its face, and it's got some cringe to it. There's a lot of casual homophobia thrown around ("faggot" and "homo" get used as slurs pretty freely), there's a shitload of sexism getting thrown around (the good guys' plan hinges on having a virgin read a passage, and it never once occurs to them that it doesn't have to be a virgin girl - maybe it does, but that's never stated - and then that transitions nicely into some slut-shaming for Patrick's sister (Lisa Fuller) because she isn't a virgin LOL. So that's all kinda difficult.

There are some good points, too, though. Reghr's portrayal of Dracula is nicely intense and menacing. Noonan's portrayal of Frankenstein's monster is funny and sad. There are some nice homages to the original Universal films, if you know what to look for. My favorite bit in the movie, though, is when the kids seek out their reclusive German neighbor, "Scary German Guy" (Cimino), he helpfully translates the diary of Van Helsing (don't ask), and displays his own knowledge of monster lore. When Horace comments on him knowing a lot about monsters, he agrees, and the camera pauses on his wrist, showing a concentration camp tattoo. It's never mentioned or explained or given context, but it cements the character in a way that's really better than this movie deserves.

Anyway, the problematic stuff in this movie bugs me because it's otherwise fun and campy with some solid moments, so I dunno. 80s, man.

My Grade: B
Rewatch Value: Medium-high

Next up: Monsters, Inc.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Character Creation: Yesterday's Tomorrow

Haven't made a character in...well, about a month. It's been a shitty month. Anyway. I've been going through my old links on the chargen project and updating them (some of them went to my old LJ, which I've deleted, so I'm changing them so they go to my Dreamwidth account, which has the same content but isn't LJ), and it got me wanting to make a character. So here we are. I picked something quick, though.

The Game: Yesterday's Tomorrow
The Publisher: John Wick Presents (this game appears in the Big Book of Little Games)
Degree of Familiarity: None, but the system is similar to some of his other ones, and the setting/theme is basically the same as Spirit of the Century or Adventure!
Books Required: Just the one.

So, this game started as a request for a steampunk game, but it's got no discernible elements of steampunk that I can see. Instead, it's pretty based in action/pulp, which of course is awesome.

We start off by choosing an archetype, marking me as a Hero of Action, Mystery, Romance, or Science! (Note: The book says "Man of Action," but "Hero" of everything else.)

I dunno. My Adventure! character was very much a Mystery kind of guy, while Spirit of the Century was Science. I could do Action, I guess. I don't have much of a concept kicking around yet, though. It'd be interesting to try Romance, though I'm not much in the mood for that. Fuck it, let's stick with Action. We'll name my hero Winston Conway! Sounds dashing.

So now I do styles, which, coincidentally, are the same as the archetypes (Romance, Action, Mystery, Science). Why not link these two steps? WHO KNOWS. Anyway, I get 5, 4, 3 2 to put in these, and I'll obviously put 5 in Action. I'll put 4 in Romance (like I said, dashing), 3 in Science, and 2 in Mystery (not a sleuth, this guy).

Next step is Advantages! I get five advantages, or five points to spend on advantages, but they don't seem to have different point costs, so really I just get five. They can be Companions, Talents, or Reputations (or I could make one up).

One thing I do like: On the character sheet, there's a section for a Sidekick, with all the relevant slots for numbers. You know, I think I will take a sidekick for Conway. I kinda want Conway to be a driver of some kind - motorcycle, maybe? (I feel like airplanes are too limiting.) So I'll take Vehicle as an advantage, and then I'll take a Sidekick who can maintain it and add gadgets.

So my sidekick is my goddaughter Amy Lewiston, daughter of my best friend Artemus, killed in Her Majesty's service (Conway's not British, but Lewiston was). Amy gets a style at 3, one at 2, and one at 1, so clearly that's Science, Mystery, Action, respectively.

Anyway, Amy developed my motorcycle (complete with detachable sidecar and front-mounted cannons) based on her father's designs.

Right, so that's two advantages down. I'll take Talent: Dashing Smile, Fighting Style: Pistol Whip (Conway can shoot, but he'd rather crack a dude with the butt of his gun), and Talent: Driver. That's all five of those, then.

Next step is Flair! This is three descriptive facets of my character - doesn't give me a bonus, just makes me stand out. So, Conway's are: Flashy smile, aviator jacket, and silver-plated pistol.

And finally, my Serial, which is an idea taken from Spirit of the Century (and the game text says as much). This is just a title and a summary, so the title of Conway's serial is: Onward to Victory! (Wartime propaganda, maybe?) The summary is: "Nothing can slow Winston Conway down...except maybe her!" (Her, who? Something for the GM to play with, I think.)

And that's done, in fact.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Promethean: Danger Lurks in Vans

Last night was the first session in our new Promethean story, wherein the throng heads north to Lexington on the trail of Lurch, Matt's accidental creator.

Along the way, interesting things happened (courtesy of the players):

  • Skip: Stopped by the Gibson factory in Nashville to go on a factory tour; Skip is both a woodworker and a blues fan and was interested in how the guitars were made.
  • Feather: At a gas station, the throng found box of kittens being given away. Avalon and Feather each adopted one (Feather's is Chester, Avalon's is Oscar). 
  • Grimm: While stopped for dinner and gas, Grimm recognized a bail jumper, broke off from the group to take him down using newfound grappling prowess (he's now on Ferrum).
  • Enoch: Found a place to get illegal booze; some is left over. There was a night of trying it, but of course Prometheans don't get drunk easily.
  • Avalon: Breaks part of a rocket at the Space Museum in Huntsville, AL. It was probably an accident.
  • Matt: Evening on a riverboat on the TN river, gambling and losing what little money they had. 
The throng rolls into Lexington and heads for Coldstream Park, which is where the footage of Lurch in the Firestorm was taken. They've noted, too, that the footage has been taken down since then - government interference seems to be the prevailing theory. They arrive at the park and start poking about, and quickly find the remnants of the storm. It's a big circle-ish shape in the grass, but the grass isn't burnt, it's just dead and brown. In the very center, Grimm notes, there's a small circle that does seem a bit blackened, so that's apparently the epicenter. 

Matt asks some of the folks hanging around what happened, and finds a guy who witnessed it. He says that the sky became dark and overcast almost instantly, and then fire came down in pillars, but slowly enough that people could get out of the way (no one was hurt that he knows of). He doesn't mention seeing Lurch, or indeed anyone, actually in the storm, but he says it was pretty bright so he might not have.

Pondering this, Matt looks around for Pilgrim marks and finds some - carved on trees and benches. They mean things like "death," "despair," "please help" - not uplifting messages. Some of them are carved high enough that a very tall person, such as Lurch, must have done them. 

Enoch, now following Plumbum, employs his Plumb the Fathoms Alembic to learn about the area, and discovers that the greatest danger to the throng is over in the parking lot in a van. He lets Grimm and Skip know about this, and Skip activates Ephemeral Flesh to look for spirits. He finds that the spirit of the van is awake, which is odd, and it's got some minor spirits riding around in it, which is odder. He relates this to the others (Feather and Avalon put their kittens back in the van with Virgil, figuring they might need to be ready for action), and Grimm tells him to go talk to the van-spirit. The Prometheans note a woman in the driver's seat messing with a cell phone, but no other people in evidence.

Skip approaches the van and talks to it, and it seems surprised that he can, but otherwise doesn't offer much helpful information. It does tell him to stand still a minute, and then Skip feels something scrutinizing him. At that point the woman turns around and looks into the back of the van, and then gets out and starts walking around it. 

Skip, sensing danger and playing to his new Role as Savage, uses the Wrath of the Gods Distillation and causes an earthquake. The woman tumbles to the ground, as do all of the Prometheans. Skip advances on the woman, but Avalon intervenes (not wanting Skip to assault someone in broad daylight, especially since people are already taking video of this). Skip demands to know what the woman is doing and what the van told her; the woman seems genuinely confused by the question and terrified by what just happened. Avalon takes a softer tactic and uses her Confession Distillation to force a truthful answer out of the woman - "Do you mean anyone here any harm?"

The woman answers "No, we're just here to protect people." Avalon nods and drags Skip away, and the woman gets in the van and flees. Virgil, a moment later, pulls the throng's van up and the characters pile in. They head off to a cheap motel and rent a couple of rooms. They still need to get a line on finding Lurch, but now there's a new factor in play, and they aren't sure what it is.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Movie #433: Monster House

Monster House is an animated film starring Steve Buscemi, Kathleen Turner, Jon Heder, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Lee, Mitchel Musso, Sam Lerner, and Spencer Locke.

The movie takes place right before Halloween in a generic American suburb. DJ (Musso) is a fairly normal kid, but he lives across the street from Mr. Nebbercracker (Buscemi), an old man who's crazily possessive of his house and lawn. Any toy or item that lands on the lawn is immediately forfeit, and Nebbercracker screams hatefully at any children that dare step on his grass.

DJ and his buddy Chowder (Lerner) wind up apparently giving poor old Nebbercracker a heart attack after Chowder's ball lands on the lawn, and immediately DJ starts getting phone calls from the supposedly empty house. The boys discover that the is alive and hostile, able to manipulate its physical structure (lawn included), and wind up recruiting a girl who comes around selling candy (Locke) when the house almost eats her.

After some investigation, including a visit with a local video game/nerd culture legend Skull (Heder), they learn that it's not Nebbercracker himself possessing the house, but his long-dead wife Constance (Turner). Nebbercracker found her working as a circus freak, married her and started to build a house with her, but she fell to her death and haunted the place for decades, attacking anyone that came near.

So, a few things about this movie that I really love. First of all, it's all done through motion capture, meaning that the actors really performed their roles rather than just voicing them (the behind the scenes videos on the DVD are pretty damn interesting). Second, there's the nice twist of Nebbercracker being such a hostile dick to protect the kids in the neighborhood; better they lose some toys and hate and fear him than wind up angering Constance. And finally, it's a perfect Chill movie (or WoD: Innocents, or Little Fears, or any of a number of games that have kids investigating spooky stuff), right down to the kids' methods of investigation and confrontation.

My Grade: A-
Rewatch value: Medium-high

Next up: Monster Squad, The

Game Prep: Promethean

Haven't run anything in a while (at home, anyway; I got to run a couple of Chill games at Con on the Cob, and that was fun). Tonight we're back into Promethean after a bit of a hiatus due to schedule et al, and beginning a new story.

Most of the time we take a break after a story in this chronicle and play something else as an intermezzo; this time the players decided that the story was light enough that they didn't need the break and we should just keep on Pilgrim'ing. I must be losing my touch.

Anyway, notes below, don't read 'em if you're a player, blabbity-bloo.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Movie #432: The Money Pit

The Money Pit is a mid-80s rom-com starring Tom Hanks, Shelley Long, Alexander Godundov, Joe Mantegna, Carmine Caridi, with a weird little cameo from Yakov Smirnov.

Walter (Hanks) is an entertainment lawyer whose father (Douglass Watson) stole all their money and split for Brazil. He's living with his classical musician girlfriend Anna (Long), but they're living in the apartment of her ex-husband Max (Godunov) while he's in Europe. He returns, preceded by his not-at-all wacky assistant (Smirnov), who tells the couple they need to vacate. Of course, this being New York, they're hosed - they don't have any money to speak of and they have no line on a place to live.

Walter's realtor (Josh Mostel) finds him a million dollar house on sale for a fifth that; the current owner needs to flee the country (turns out her husband was Hitler's pool boy). The couple go in on the house, which immediately starts to crumble comically around them, costing them another fortune (which they don't have) to get it fixed. Meanwhile, Max continues to try to woo Anna back, even to the point of lying and saying that they had sex after getting drunk together while Walter is out of town.

This being an 80s rom-com, at the end of the movie all is well. They've fixed the house, they get married, they get back together, fine and dandy. No mention of whether their money issues have been resolved (doubt it?), but that's fine.

The movie is cute and light, for the most part. Joe Mantegna (who's really only in the one scene) aggressively comes on to Anna (she literally says he attacked her), but Walter kind of dismisses that because he's the only carpenter who'll even consider the job. This would be a lot ickier if she didn't immediately go along with him on that because the dude's brother is a plumber ("So, you think I should sleep with him, then?"). Likewise, the whole subplot with Max letting Anna believe they had sex, which then leads to Walter and Anna splitting up, feels a little much - I almost would have liked it better if Anna had (knowingly and willingly) slept with Max, but that's examining things that are a little too touchy for an 80s rom-com.

In any case, it's fun watching Tom Hanks when he was still primarily doing comedy, and this movie is more watchable than The 'burbs.

My Grade: B
Rewatch value: Medium

Next up: Monster House

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Blades in the Dark: Unpossessed

Last night was Blades in the Dark. Last time, the crew figured that Strain, the Gondolier they were searching for, was possessed but alive, and was hiding out under a bridge near the Docks. The crew decides that this mission is occult, so they decide their arcane method - exorcism. I make the engagement roll, and off we go!

The crew finds Strain under a bridge at low tide. They flank him, but he tries to run. Copper tackles him easily, though, and Cage pulls out a ghost anchor - a great big chunk of hematite which he affixes to the rock with tar.

Problem is, that reacts badly to Strain's tattoo. The tattoo starts to sink into his flesh (though it does hold him in place), and the anchor starts pulling in ghosts from all around. Copper punches a few of them, and Siren unleashes a barrage of ectoplasm bullets, but then her guns get magnetized to the anchor and she loses them (temporarily).

One Eye figures they'd better figure this out and tries to reckon a way to alter the tattoo and de-power it, but she screws it up. Suddenly she can see (only) the ghost field - the canal water is black nothingness, the ghosts howl in the distance, and she doesn't see Strain, but instead the ghost possessing him. That ghost looks pissed at Cage.

Cage, seeing none of this, whips out his lightning anchor and yanks the ghost right out of Strain. Turns out it's Nyryx - a ghost that Cage captured back in his Spirit Warden days, and who just keeps getting free. The ghost is captured, but Strain is bleeding out (his tattoo has become a wound), and One Eye is incommunicado.

Copper slaps some healing herb on One Eye to calm her down, and One Eye stitches up Strain the best she can, but they figure they'd better get him to the Gondoliers. They load Strain into their boat and flag down the first Gondolier they see...but they aren't real welcome amongst the Gondoliers. The Gondolier opens fire on the with a cannon, and they weather several hits before finally holding up Strain and providing proof of life.

They all come ashore and give Strain over (but Cage keeps the spirit bottle with Nyryx). The Gondolier tells them that this doesn't fix things, but the Gondoliers do look after their own, so this is appreciated. When the crew gets back to their lair, they find another Gondolier waiting with a package of Coin. The score is over, and the crew did pretty well.

Downtime: Everyone heals, of course, and everyone indulges their vice. One Eye works on her false eye a bit more. Copper starts training the demon wolf, intending to eventually make it a cohort for the crew. Cage continues his studies into the Path of Echoes. They've also generated enough Heat to get a Wanted Level, so that'll be exciting, considering they're actually on OK terms with the Bluecoats.

Movie #431: Moana

Moana is an animated Disney film starring Auli'i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temeura Morrison, and Jemaine Clement.

Moana (Cravalho) is the daughter of the chieftain of her village on the island of Motunui, and though she longs to sail the seas, she adapts to being a leader and problem solver for her people. Her grandmother (House) tells her stories about the great goddess Te Fiti, whose heart was stolen by the trickster demigod Maui - that lack of heart gave rise to the fire demon Te Ka, whose influence is slowly poisoning the world. When a blight does indeed hit the island, Moana learns that her people were once voyagers, but stopped when boats stopped coming back (thanks to monsters unleashed by the blight). She vows to find Maui and force him to return Te Fiti's heart.

She does find Maui (Johnson), but he's egocentric, puffed up, and in no mood to try and face Te Ka. But Moana helps him get back his magical fishhook from Tamatoa (Clement), a giant crab channeling David Bowie, Maui teaches her to sail, and eventually they confront Te Ka only to learn that Te Ka is Te Fiti - she simply forgot who she was without her heart.

This movie is really beautiful. The music, partially written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, carries the movie without being distracting or shoehorning in a number when we don't need one. The performances are fantastic, and Moana manages to be a badass without feeling like it's unearned - she struggles with her role as the chosen of the ocean, just as Maui struggles with wanting people to love him as a hero.

This is what happens when you get a bunch of people to make a movie with some cultural underpinnings and they understand that culture. Do that more, Disney.

My Grade: A
Rewatch value: High

Next up: The Money Pit

Chill: Hazing

Sunday was Chill. I don't mean it was chill. It's chilly today. Moving on.

We open on a crisp fall Idaho morning at the University of Idaho, and Dr. Dylan Reeves, anthropology professor and SAVE envoy, has learned that a student was murdered on campus last night. The body of one Shawn Mendoza was discovered near his frat house (Alpha Gamma Rho), and the rumors Dylan is hearing is that the poor young man was beaten to death.

Dylan, not necessarily suspecting the Unknown, but horrified by the event, makes his office hours as a campus counselor known, and goes out to the house. He finds a police cordon in effect, and a campus security officer who tells him that the body has already been moved and the Boise PD are handling everything.

Dylan knocks on the frat house door and talks with a couple of brothers; they mention that Shawn may have had a girlfriend named Stacy, but state that between classes and practice (Shawn was here on a football scholarship), they rarely saw him. Dylan leaves and texts Auntie Dee...and then sees her walking toward the house, carrying a couple of casseroles. Dee goes to church with the family of Charlie, the AGR chapter president, and is here to offer food, support, and the services of her "therapy dog" Sweet Baby Jesus.

She and Dylan go back into the house and talk with the boys some more, but don't learn much more than they did (though the fellows are happy to take a moment petting the pooch, though they might not admit it). Dee texts Jordan and BB and has them come out and look around a bit. Jordan does so by way of an EMT friend of hers, who worked the case. The EMT says that Shawn was definitely beaten to death by multiple assailants, probably with clubs or wood - Shawn had splinters in his hands from defending himself.

The envoys get together outside the house and BB brings up the obvious point - why would SAVE get involved? Sure, it's weird, but it's not like this kind of violence is unknown (let alone Unknown), even in Boise. Dee takes Sweet Baby Jesus over to the police cordon and Senses the Unknown. The little dog goes nuts and Dee feels it, too - "Yep, it's a SAVE case."

The envoys still aren't sure exactly how the Unknown is involved, though. They get some dinner, and then decide to try and track down Stacy, Shawn's girlfriend; rumor has it she's a Tri-Delt. The envoys go to the sorority house and Dee pulls the same trick ("here's a salad, pet my dog"), but learns that there are no sisters named Stacy. In fact, talking to one of them, Dylan learns that the only Stacy they known is Stacy Diaz, a football player and a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity.

They look through the house a bit, and realize that behind the houses there's a kind of "alley" that leads between the houses on Greek Row, but the windows are positioned such that the alley is one long blind spot. Apparently students go there to snog or get high. While the other envoys chat with students, Dee, figuring Jesus is telling her to check this out, walks into the alley. Sweet Baby Jesus scampers off, barking at someone, and then Dee hears him yelp.

Racing up to her dog, she finds Sweet Baby Jesus lying on the ground whimpering. She yells for help and the others come running. The dog's back leg is broken; Jordan restrains it the best she can and Dylan and Dee head for an emergency vet. BB and Jordan stay to look around. In the bushes, BB finds a length of wood with some dog fur on it - the weapon used to smack poor little Sweet Baby Jesus. But who would want to do that, and where did they run off to? Jordan Senses the Unknown and winds up with a Colossal Success (which means the Unknown senses her right back), but realizes that the wood wasn't touched by a creature of the Unknown. Rather, a creature might have been influencing or guiding the wielder.

They also meet a young man smoking a joint. A really good Interview roll later, they find out that he's Stacy Diaz, and he and Shawn were involved - they even went to the same high school in LA without knowing it. Stacy isn't sure if Shawn's murder was a hate crime, but he's obviously devastated. He mentions that the other day, he and Shawn saw each other on the way to class and Stacy noticed someone watching them - someone wearing a silver frat shirt, but all the frats have them and he didn't notice the letters.

After talking to Dylan over the phone while Dee is fretting at the vet, and Dylan mentions the steam plant. There's a steam plant on campus which takes and burns scrap wood from sawmills; it heats the campus cheaply and cleanly. That might have been the source of the weapon. Jordan and BB check out the plant and scale the fence, but all they find are big bins of wood before campus security finds them. Jordan improvises a story about losing her cat and convinces the cop; he tells them that security is liable to be tight for a while.

At the vet, Dee insists on sleeping in the same room as Sweet Baby Jesus. Told this is impossible, he gets hysterical, and find says, "the real baby is gone, so Sweet Baby Jesus is my baby." The vet tech, recognizing when something is above her pay grade, has them bring a recliner into the room where the dog is recovering.

Tomorrow, the investigation continues.

Movie #430: Mission Impossible

Mission Impossible is an action/spy movie based on the TV series and starring Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Ving Rhames, Emmanuelle Beart, Jean Reno, Vanessa Redgrave, and Henry Czerny. Kristin-Scott Thomas and Emilio Estevez stop by for cameos before dying.

Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is a government agent in the Impossible Mission Force, under the command of Jim Phelps (Voight). After a disastrous mission to stop the sale of a NOC List (detailing the code names and real names of undercover operatives) in which all of the rest of his team is seemingly killed, Hunt goes rogue and, with fellow survivor Claire (Beart) and disavowed agents Stickell (Rhames) and Krieger (Reno), goes to steal the real NOC list for an arms dealer (Redgrave) in order to lure out the mole in the IMF. Said mole, of course, turns out to be Jim, selling out, but there's a big chase with a train and a helicopter and all the bad guys blow up.

Having never watched the TV show, I can just appreciate the movie for what it is - a fairly good spy movie without a ton of the casual misogyny that we get in Bond films. That's not to say women get treated well; most of them die, though Redgrave's Max does pretty well for herself. Cruise is the star, of course, and gets to run around a lot, which he likes. The best sequence in the movie is the heist at the CIA, and I'm a little sad there was another mission set-up like that to really show us what IMF teams are good at.

It's aged pretty well, though anything computer-related just looks laughable (need to find an arms dealer named Max - quick, search "!").

My Grade: B+
Rewatch value: High

Next up: Moana

Monday, October 30, 2017

Chill Notes

Started up a new Chill case yesterday, and took all the notes right before the game started because this week, man. Anyway, I'll do the actual write-up later, but these are the notes, folks.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Movie #429: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is a comedy starring Frances McDormand, Ciaran Hinds, Amy Adams, Mark Strong, Shirley Henderson, Lee Pace, and Tom Payne.

Guinevere Pettigrew (McDormand) is a rather conservative woman working as a governess in pre-WWII England. After getting fired (again) she lies her way into a job for an American socialite named Delysia Lafosse (Adams), who, it turns out, needs a social secretary, not a nanny. Initially horrified to find Lafosse in bed with one man (Payne) whom she's using to get a part in a West End show, involved with her boss at the club where she sings (Strong), and in love withe pianist at said club (Pace), Miss Pettigrew gets swept up in it all. Plus she really needs the work; she's in the soup lines without it.

Over the course of the day, Miss Pettigrew and Ms. Lafosse wend their way through the worlds of theater, jazz clubs, and women's fashion. During the latter they meet Joe Blomfield (Hinds), an older gent engaged to a manipulative young women (Henderson) who attempts to blackmail Pettigrew into helping her lie to Joe about her affair. At the end of the day, though, Lafosse realizes her love for Michael the pianist, Phil the theater impresario winds up snogging with the other contender for the role, Nick the club owner winds up knocked on his ass. It's a rom-com.

The poignant bits of the movie, though, are all McDormand's, and the hands-down best line in the whole thing is when during a party a bunch of bombers fly overhead. The younger folks (including Lafosse and her friends) all cheer, while Pettigrew says sadly to Blomfield (also old enough to remember the Great War), "They don't remember, do they?" It's such a sad, beautiful moment between them, and it absolutely sets them up to fall in love by the end of the movie.

Speaking of that, the movie really ends with Blomield finding Pettigrew, now poor again, sleeping in a train station, and tells her that he's in love with her and basically proposing on the spot. I have some niggling issues with the fact that she's utterly destitute and at that point he has all the power, but he doesn't come to save her and she doesn't respond with gratitude or desperation; the interplay between them seems very much as equals. I'm actually more annoyed that the whole scene seems a bit rush.

In general, though, it's a very sweet rom-com, with great performances from McDormand and Adams. Blomfield is dignified and charming, Strong is slimy as fuck, and Henderson took me forever to place as the actress who playing Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter movies.

My Grade: B+
Rewatch value: Low

Next up: Mission Impossible

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Character Creation: Threadbare

Time to make the donuts character!

The Game: Threadbare
The Publisher: Stephanie Bryant
Degree of Familiarity: Some. I ran a session and I'm familiar with the underlying mechanics.
Books Required: Just the one.

Threadbare is a PbtA game where you're playing toys in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. It's got a lot of knobs to fiddle with; you can play a pretty dark and angsty game, or you can do what we did and have a plush llama named Jamie who has a little tiny book about Peru around his neck and recites facts from it whenever possible. Either's good.

Making a character requires I choose my basic type: I can be a Mekka (I have plastic or metal parts), Softie (I'm a stuffed toy) or a Sock (I'm a...sock. This is more fun to play than you'd think). Then there are some sub-types, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Well, since I made Snake-Man when I did a character for Toypocalypse back here, I can't do that one. I kinda feel like making a Softie, actually. Let's do that. Softies are Bossy (basically give them a command move), but I need to pick a form.

Side note: One of the options here is "I'm Real", which is a pretty obvious Velveteen Rabbit reference, and means that the softie was loved so hard by a human that they awakened before the Collapsed. That means that this character carries the memories of the person that loved them and might very well know what happened to the world. That's a lot to carry, and is angsty as fuck, so of course that's what my daughter decided to play when I ran this. I just appreciate games that stab you in the heart a bit, so thanks for that, +Stephanie.

Anyway, for my softie, I think I'll make the Hippo of Refuge.

Ecce hippo.
I'm not sure where I got the Hippo, but I've had him for a while. He's kind of leathery and missing an eye, but he's comfy, and we pass him around at my gaming table when someone needs something to cuddle (hey, it happens).

So the Hippo of Refuge (pronouns are him/he/his, it's on the sheet) needs a form. Hmm. Well, the only real options are "Built Like a Bear" and "I'm Real", and I don't think I'm quite in the mood for the wistful sadness of the latter, so we'll go with the former. What that means is that when I gain Hold (which happens when I roll a miss), I can spend it to learn the history of an object or person. Seems pretty in keeping with the Hippo.

I need to assign my abilities. Threadbare only has three: Scrounge, Smile, and Strongarm. I get a -1, a +1, and a +2. I'm gonna put the -1 in Scrounge (the Hippo doesn't have thumbs, after all). I'll put +2 in Smile and the +1 in Strongarm; the Hippo is good with others. He's patient, understanding, and authoritative when necessary.

And then I just need to assign Parts. I get up to 8, and I can assign as many of them as I want now. So let's say: bead eyes, tuft ears, thick body, stumpy legs, floppy tail, stitched mouth, leathery hide, and heavy tread (he thumps when he walks). These things will get damaged in play, and as I replaced them the Hippo can change until he's as much a melange as anything else in this world. So it goes.

And that's the lot, actually. This game is a lot of fun, check it out. Also back my Kickstarter!