Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Promethean: Leavin' New Orleans

So! Last time the throng finally took Red out, and then headed back up to the surface. They stop off at the junkyard's electrical poles to top off. Sicky is swinging a car antenna around in a fencing sort of way, and Grimm offers to teach him to shoot. Sicky declines; he's afraid of the noise and he doesn't want to hurt anyone anyway. Feather, then, mentions that she's trained in unarmed defense - getting out of the way rather than striking, and that seems up Sicky's alley a bit more. She trains him a bit, and makes a milestone: teach someone self-defense

NEXT DAY. They decide that it's about time to start thinking about packing up and heading on, but there's no real hurry. Enoch heads to his workshop to finish his Athanor. Matt keeps working on his Pilgrim Mark atlas. Feather heads out to go sit on the bank of the river where she was created. Avalon goes out to be a vigilante (she isn't quite sure how). Grimm goes out to meet Anita, the Sin-Eater that they'd talked to. Skip is at home thinking about where to go next, since he's mastered Ferrum.

Enoch takes the stones he picked up from the River Lethe and fixes them as eyes on the frog that he's fashioned, and in so doing, he completes the Craftsman Role (make an Athanor using metallurgy/electronics). He forces Vitriol into it and tries to make it like the one that was smashed in the sculpture garden...and fails. The frog becomes a black hole of power, sucking in life around it. Enoch isn't sure why or what he did wrong, but he stares, trying to figure it out. Maybe he just used too much, the smashed Athanor, the stones from Lethe? He uses his Vulcanus Alembic to animate the frog and ask it what's going on.

Matt, meanwhile, is working, and Sicky asks him what's up. Matt explains the project, and Sicky looks interested - Matt realizes that he's jealous, a little, but mostly he wants a project, something to focus on. Matt invites him to help, and Sicky enthusiastically agrees, and the two of them spread out the notes and start looking at how to arrange them, how to put it all together, and so on. Matt completes his multiplicatio milestone: Mentor a Promethean on a Role or Refinement. He realizes that, as an Extempore, he might not ever be able to create a new Promethean, but he still pass along some of himself this way. Maybe he doesn't even have to finish the atlas, if he can pass it along to Sicky.

Skip feels the spiritual balance of the place shift, and goes to find Enoch. He sees the frog and activates Ephemeral Flesh, and sees that light just seems to fall into the stones, creating little black holes around its eyes. The frog starts talking to Enoch, but then Enoch asks it if it can still fulfill its original purpose (to make Pandorans Dormant) and it says it can. Skip realizes it is lying, and informs Enoch of this. Enoch figures that he'd better call an Originist in on this, and since Feather is out that leaves Matt. They call him in, and he uses the Plumb the Fathoms Alembic to try and figure this out.

What he sees chills him. That "Athanor" is more like an anti-Athanor, and it's summoning something. He isn't sure what, but they figure that can't be good, so Skip does what Skip does best and smashes the damn thing. He crushes the black eye-stones in his hands, and feels pure, powdered Torment suffuses his humour. He figures he can either succumb to it or ride, so he rides it, taking on Stannum. As it turns out, adopt the Refinement of Tin is his separatio milestone, so that works out pretty well. He isn't sure, though, if the summoning was interrupted.

Feather, meanwhile, is at the river, and she reflects on her path so far. She was created to be a protector, and the word in her forehead - "SISTER" - reflects that, but is that her path? Is that what she's meant to do? She decides that she needs to change it, to take a name that reflects her path since her creation. She gathers some of the mud from the river and heads back into town, now pursuing the Pilgrim Role.

Grimm contacts Anita and meets up with her. They talk about Red and the cabbie that he killed, and Anita agrees to take some money from the throng and get it to his family. She asks Grimm about the throng and their bond, and what his role in the throng is. Grimm says that he's what he needs to be, practical and protective, but he does feel like sometimes the throng doesn't work together especially well - but they're family. He feels the stirrings of Vitriol, and heads back to the storefront.

Avalon is out and about, and finds pickpockets and uses Arc to give them minor zaps. At the end of the day, she winds up in the sculpture garden, and sees Parris Mick. Parris is confused - she can't quite remember how she got here. She says she remembers hearing a familiar, low, enticing voice, but not being able to make out specific words. She remembers following the voice here, and then...nothing. Avalon spots the shadows move and, embracing her new Role, throws lightning at it.

Parris screams and runs. The shadows coalesce into an insect-like creature, so dark Avalon can barely see it, but she knows it - it's the Creeper in the Dark, the thing she saw when Carroll died. She asks it where Carroll is, but it doesn't answer, it just rushes her and claws her stomach. She shocks it again, and it slithers off.

She follows it as it approaches the street, but as she watches it changes and takes on the silhouette of Carroll. It speaks, but it isn't him. It moves to the street where some buskers are performing, and knocks their money into the street. The folks on the street start grabbing for money, and Avalon, sighing jumps in the middle, trying to talk people down. She isn't successful at first and a fight starts, so she grabs a dude and plants his ass on the ground, and then speaks much more firmly. People cool down and Avalon tosses money in the buskers' hat, and the calm down and start playing again. The Creeper, though, is gone. Avalon realizes that she might never catch it but, she's prevented it from hurting people, which fulfills her Vigilante Role. She heads back to the storefront.

The throng gets together and talks about their day, and Matt talks about Sicky and his newfound purpose. Grimm suggests that Sicky probably needs a new name, and he chooses "Virgil." In celebration, the throng goes down to the Cafe to get beignets. There, they find DeVries.

"Glad I found you," he says. He shows them a video taken in Lexington, KY. A pillar of fire lances down from the sky, and people run and scream, but then a figure walks through the frame. Matt knows that silhouette - that's "Lurch," the Promethean that created him.

The throng decides they need to head up there and investigate. DeVries agrees to buy them a van, and they take a day so that DeVries can give Avalon a crash course in Cobalus. And then they bid farewell to the Big Easy, and head north.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Game Prep!

I'm reading through AMP: Year One to make a character, but I haven't had time to really dig into it and I need to do Promethean prep, so I'm gonna do that first.

I'm doing AMP next, of course, because +Eloy Lasanta is one of the (many) game designers running Kickstarters this month. His is AMP: Year Four. (Mine, of course, is Undead.) Back them both.

Anyway, Promethean notes ahoy. Players, don't look.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Awesome Games That Are Kickstarting + A Character, Part Deux

Yeah, I'm gonna do mine now.

So, as I know I've mentioned, Undead is Kickstarting now. It's a sourcebook for Chill 3rd Ed, and I considered writing it myself, like I did Monsters. I really had a lot of fun writing Monsters - I got to research a bunch of new and interesting stuff, write in the voice of Ruby Garrett (with notes from Mafuz El-Hasham), and delve into some of the spaces in Chill that 2nd Ed never explicitly touched.

But for Undead, I decided that I needed a more diverse group of voices, precisely because of this: the undead are people (most of them). They're like ghosts with bodies, they're people with understandable motivations and needs and fears and hates and loves and rotting corpses and evil magic. So I needed some people who could write like not-me to convey that diversity.

You can check out the writers here (just look for the folks with Undead after their names), and do note that of the 12 people writing the book, 2 of them are white/straight/cis/male (I'm not straight, in case you didn't know, but sure, count me in there if you like, because that's still 2/3 of the writing crew that ain't the "default" for the hobby). I wanted women, I wanted POC, I wanted (other) queer voices, I wanted non-cis voices, because this book, like Chill as a whole, is about people.

I don't need cookies for this; if I need cookies I'll bake 'em. I just wanted to point out that for a project like this, diversity was critical, so diversity is what we got (I say "we" because I had help from my brother Jonathan and my SIL Morgan, both of who are writing parts of Undead, in assembling this crew).

Anyway, we're less than $6000 from goal, so please back us, or forward the project on to someone who might like it.

Meanwhile!

The Game: War of the Dead
The Publisher: Daring Entertainment
Degree of Familiarity: None with this game in particular, but I'm very familiar with the system and the genre.
Books Required: The War of the Dead book and the Savage Worlds core.

War of the Dead is a zombie apocalypse RPG, starting with the Rise and then...I'm not sure, actually. The book states that players should make characters and then not read any further. But I do what I waaaaaaant, of course, and I see that the initial chapter starts on a cruise ship. Groovy. I just need my character to have a reason to be on that ship.

OK, I note that there's a new Edge in the book called Scavenger that gives me a bonus to forage in urban environments. I believe I shall play a character with that Edge. His name is Charlie Finn.

Charlie was living in Miami, working in a warehouse loading boxes, when he got sick. It wasn't anything serious...well, it was, but it wasn't like a flesh-eating bacteria or like a zombie virus or anything. No, Charlie got good old fashioned influenza, spent 10 days unable to walk very well, lost his job, spent his money on food and staying alive, missed a couple of car payments, lost his car, couldn't get work, lost his apartment, and wound up homeless. Just like that. Took four months, tops. He doesn't have family in the area and they don't get along anyway, so he wasn't going to move back to Ohio. He just figured he could get back on his feet.

Cut to a year later, and he was living under a bridge, doing whatever odd jobs he could muster, drinking a little too much (though he managed to stay off anything harder). And then a buddy of his told him that if he could get on a cruise ship, he would get put to work. It was shit work, and it paid shit, but they'd feed and house you for a few weeks. Charlie figured "fuck it," stowed aboard the Pinnacle, and wound up washing dishes.

There's been the occasional second thought.

OK, this being your standard SW game, I start with Attributes. I need Spirit d6 or better. I think I'll go d6 across the board for right now; I don't have a feeling Charlie is any better or worse in any particular area.

Skills, then! I need Tracking d6 and Survival d6 for the Edge, so that's 4 points right there. I'll put a d4 in Driving, a d6 in Fighting, a d4 in Guts, a d6 in Notice, a d6 in Stealth, a d6 in Streetwise, and a d4 in Swimming.

Neat, now Edges & Hindrances. Well, I know I want Scavenger. Poverty would make sense, but it feels like the money-related Edges and Hindrances should be disallowed since society is about to crumble? Eh, let's assume they're not. I'll take Poverty (which is Minor, for some reason), Anemic (which is also nasty; Charlie is necessarily literally anemic, he's just kind of immocompromised), and Clueless (he's been homeless for a while and he wasn't exactly keyed into the world before that).

Oh, I get one more Edge, don't I. Um. I'll take Alertness; seems like Notice might an important thing in a zombie game.

Four points, then. I'll bump Agility to d8, and I'll pick up Throwing at d6. That'll do it.

My derived traits are all basic; Charisma 0, Pace 6, Parry and Toughness 5.

Charlie's skinny, wiry, blond hair, patchy beard, wearing dirty jeans, boots (he bought them before he lost everything; they were expensive but they've held up), carries a Bowie knife.

And that's me done, I think! Charlie either cleans up and learns to be a zombie killin' badass or he gets bitten and turned in the first chapter, I'm not sure.

Movie #428: Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous

Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous is, of course, the sequel to Miss Congeniality and stars Sandra Bullock, Regina King, Enrique Murciano, Diedrach Bader, Heather Burns, William Shatner, and Nick Offerman. The best part of it was watching it with Teagan, because she hated it and it was funny.

We pick up three weeks after the events of Miss Congeniality. Gracie (Bullock) has become a minor celeb - she was, after all, a finalist for Miss USA and stopped a terrorist plot - but that fame gets in the way of her career. Faced with a choice between a desk job and a new position as the "face" of the FBI, and reeling from a sudden breakup with her boyfriend Matthews (Benjamin Bratt in the first movie, but he's not in this one at all except as a way to flunk the Bechdel), Hart goes with the latter. She's teamed up with the style specialist named Joel (Bader) and at that point, I thought we were going to get a whole movie of her learning to be fabulous, which would be a retread of the first one.

But no, instead, we cut to ten months later. Hart is going on talk shows and talking about the FBI. She's (ghost)written a book about her life, and exceptionally violent co-FBI Sam Fuller (King) is pressed into service as her assistant. And then her buddy Miss USA Cheryl Frasier (Burns) and...Miss USA Pageant MC Stan Fields (Shatner) who apparently tours with Miss USA?...never mind. They're kidnapped by a pre-Parks & Rec Nick Offerman, and Hart and Fuller get assigned to press duty. Hart, though, goes off script, starts doing her real job again, and foils the bad guys.

So, the bit of this that Teagan hated was that Gracie embraced the shallow, fashion/beauty obsessed side of herself and completely lost her hard edge for most of the movie. I think this movie actually has some things going for it - it's not a complete retread of the first movie, which is always a plus. Bullock is, as usual, charming and funny. Poor Murciano is also funny as the overly-earnest agent completely in love with his (as it happens) unfaithful girlfriend (Elisabeth Rohm in one of her earliest film appearances).

I wasn't crazy about King's character. I like the notion that a comedy starring women could be a buddy movie rather than a rom-com, but Fuller is kinda one-note (seemed to be a scripting issue more than a performance issue). Plus, "angry black woman" hits some uncomfortable notes as presented (particularly since Bullock mocks her dialect a couple of times, which is Not Cool).

Anyway, it's funny in places but it's not as good as the first one and it's pretty vapid all things considered.

My Grade: C
Rewatch Value: Low

Next up: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Blades in the Dark: Choices, Choices

Monday was Blades in the Dark and I want to do this writeup before tonight when I run Night's Black Agents and get too far behind on game writeups and like drown in a sea of them AAAAAAAA EGG.

Ahem.

Another fine "day" in Duskwall. One Eye is talking with Jul, a blood dealer. He tells her something interesting - Dundridge & Sons, the famous tailors in Nightmarket, bought some blood from him for treating the fabric of a new cloak made on commission. He's not sure who commissioned it, but it it's got alchemical treatments in it, it's for someone with money and someone with mystical or spiritual concerns. In addition, stealing said cloak would give the thieves a great deal of bargaining power or just something cool to fence. One Eye is skeptical (what's Jul getting out of this, after all?).

Meanwhile, Copper is heading to the track and hails a carriage. The driver turns out to be Grull, a known scoundrel himself. Knowing that the Widdershins gang has reputation for smuggling weird shit, he mentions that he's got a line on someone who would pay well for some eggs from the deathseeker crows that the Spirit Wardens breed. Time isn't really a factor, but they'd need to be delivered to Grull quickly after theft. He drops Copper off at the track, where her dog comes in third.

Also in a carriage is Cage, but a carriage of a different sort - the Bluecoats picked him up. Captain Vale talks to him, and says she feels kind of bad that Widdershins is on the outs with the Gondoliers. Cage presses and she admits that really, she's afraid the gang will start blowing up roads next, and she uses those roads. She tells him that a Gondolier named Strain went missing, and his boat was found washed up in the Docks. If someone were to find out what happened to Strain, probably the Gondoliers would be happy about it.

The gang meets up at the lair later on to discuss their options. They figure the cloak isn't a great choice; there's no immediate promise of money and they don't really trust that Jul isn't feeding them bad intel. The egg-theft sounds like a good heist, but it involves stealing from the Spirit Wardens (who are already not fans of the crew) and from the Belleweather Crematorium, no less - spirit guards, human security with sparkcraft weapons, plus the crew would need to keep it very quiet so they don't wind up going to war with the Wardens. Cage, in particular, isn't a fan of this - he's a former Warden and knows what they're capable of.

They decide that although they might not make money off it, investigating the disappearance of Strain would be a good way to mend some fences with the Gondoliers. Plus, his boat washed up by the docks, meaning the leviathan hunters probably know something and they're friendly with the crew. They head down to the Docks to ask around.

Siren talks to Noggs, a former shipmate (she's a former leviathan hunter, remember) and Noggs appears willing to talk, but not here. She arranges to meet him for a drink later. One Eye goes to Ink Lane and finds a tattoo artist who is hurting for business. She talks to him about the prospect of a hallucinogenic tattoo, and learns that he put a tattoo on a Gondolier some days back - a warding glyph - but messed it up because the Gondolier didn't tell him that he'd put blood in the ink he supplied. Apparently word had gotten out and they were blaming him. One Eye promised to trade information and try and spread the word that this hadn't been his fault, if he'd help them out, so he drew a sketch of the glyph for her.

Copper wandered through the Menagerie, and found a cage with a weird striped wolf-thing. Captain Rye, the proprietor, tells her it was given to him by a sailor, who called it a "devil wolf" - they used it to kill rats on their ship, but it's hellish fast. Copper, in love, runs off to One Eye and gets her to loan her a coin to buy it (some haggling occurs). She buys the wolf and puts it on a leash.

Siren meets with Noggs, but when he's about to talk, he glances over her shoulder, gets spooked, makes an excuse and leaves. Cage, meanwhile, goes out to where folks sell cheap goods on the Docks, and tries to attune to the spiritual madness in the area, narrowing down what might have happened to Strain. He gets lost in it, though, and winds up wading into the water as the others walk toward him. Siren notices something slithering towards him, and shoots it.

That snaps him out of the reverie and he tries to grab the thing in front of him (thinking maybe it's a ghost), but it wraps tentacles around him and tries to drag him under. Copper, struggling to control her new doggie, rips the monster off him and tosses it back into the drink, and they stagger up on land ("I thought they stayed out at sea!" says Copper. "That was a baby," says Siren. "That's why we don't go in the water.").

The crew confers, and they figure that Strain must have known something was coming. Cage looks at the sketch, but isn't sure what it means - he's a got a hookup, though. Since Strain brought blood to the tattooist, One Eye figures that she'll check in with Jul. Siren and Copper decide to look around and see if they can find out where his boat went.

One Eye heads back to Brightmarket, breaks into Jul's workshop, and rigs it up so that with a flick of a switch she can ruin his supply or spray him with toxic leviathan blood. When he gets back, she threatens him, so he talks - he didn't sell Strain the blood (he doesn't work the Docks), but he heard that a colleague did. Mixing blood into a warding glyph means that you're trying to ward of a particular person or, if the blood is alchemically treated, that some powerful magic is going on, which is what Jul suspects was happening. He has never met Strain, though, and doesn't know what happened there.

Copper and Siren find where the boat washed up, and Copper asks around (loudly) until she learns that a captain named Laudis took it to turn into a lifeboat. They find Laudis' ship and talk with the captain, who tells them that when he found the boat, it was washed up on the shore. Based on when he found it, the boat must have been out in the bay, which is too far from shore for a Gondolier's boat. He found no blood on the boat, just a bunch of broken glass (which he didn't keep). He figures something slithered up out of the sea and dragged Strain down. Laudis also reveals that he lost his left hand (now replaced with a wicked-looking pronged prosthetic) at the blade of the captain of the ship Siren used to crew, so that tenses things up a bit.

Cage talks to Flint, his buddy who traffics in spirits. Flint guesses that, based on the glyph, either Strain was trying to protect himself from something specific and personal or he was taking spirit traffic work on the side. Cage brings Flint back to the lair to have a seance - if Strain is dead, maybe they can summon him (unless he's in a bottle somewhere).

Back at the lair, Cage and Flint (and the others) call up Strain, and see him in the scrying pool, but realize he's still alive. Copper attunes herself a little more closely than she should, and hears the ocean. The shadows make her think she's under something - a bride, maybe? Also she feels pain on her chest, like her skin is itching.

The crew figures that they know enough to go and find Strain - he got himself into some kind of trouble, and needs rescue. And if that results in a reward from the Gondoliers, well, so be it.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Movie #427: Miss Congeniality

Miss Congeniality is a comedy starring Sandra Bullock, Benjamin Bratt, Candace Bergen, William Shatner, Michael Caine, Ernie Hudson, and Heather Burns.

Grace Hart (Bullock) is an FBI agent who's good at the intellectual aspects of her job, but fucks up on a field assignment and gets a fellow agent shot. She's also not especially femme; she states at one point that she doesn't own a dress...or a brush. When a threat from a prolific terrorist is made against the Miss USA pageant, Hart gets sent undercover as a finalist (after the Miss New Jersey contestant drops out following the revelation that she acted in a porn film, which is awfully convenient - what if it had been the contestant from Alabama or something?) and paired up with a disgraced pageant consultant (Caine) to make her ready for primetime. The middle section of the movie is mostly Gracie bumblefucking her way through becoming beautiful and glamorous, learning Important Lessons about friendship and her own femininity, and finally discovering that the pageant head, Kathy Morningside (Bergen) is the one behind the threats.

Mostly this is your standard lightweight cop movie, made a lot funnier because it's got a good cast. Like a lot of movies of the time (late 90s/early 00s), there's some problematic stuff, but it's not nearly as bad as the Jim Carrey shit we got in the earlier 90s. Sure, Grace's coworker/buddy/crush Matthews (Bratt) is a little uncomfortable when he realizes Mellings (Caine) is gay, but it's never played against Mellings and it just winds up making Matthews look like a dork. It bugs me that the Chief (Hudson) plays into the dumb boss trope (refusing to listen to Hart even when she has points worth listening to).

Actually, as I think about it, that was probably deliberate, possibly making a point about how women in the workplace don't get listened to - McDonald asks Matthews whether there's anything to what she's saying, rather than asking her to expand on her points. Earlier, Matthews blithely takes all of Hart's ideas as his own, with her in the room, and she never even mentions it. Played for laughs, or as something the women in the audience might recognize? I don't know, but two of the credited writers are women, so, take that for what it's worth.

Anyway, Bullock is funny and she and Bratt have some fun chemistry, and Caine is wonderful as always.

My Grade: B+
Rewatch value: High

Next up: Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Awesome Games, and Also Character Creation and Game Prep

Hey, people who like games! Do you like games? You know you do.

So, in addition to my own Kickstarter for Undead, the third supplement to Chill 3rd Edition, which sports one hell of a writing team and is made of candy, there are a whole bunch of other awesome game products being funded on Kickstarter right now. It's like a bunch of us just independently decided "hey, October sounds good" and launched the Kick-starts!

(That is, in fact, exactly what happened.)

With that said, I know there's enough money in the world for us all to get funded. So I'm gonna use this character creation project to pimp some of them, including my own. First up is Heavy Metal Thunder Mouse, which I'm going to pimp by making a character for Big Eyes, Small Mouse because HMTM isn't actually available yet, since it's still Kickstartering.

Anyway, HMTM is a Fate-based RPG by +Derek A. Kamal in which you play mice in motorcycle clubs. I have no idea what more you'd need to convince you, but here's the Kickstarter. It's presently sitting at about $600 below goal, so it's pretty darned close. Back it, and then go back Undead in gratitude for showing you these wonderful things.

The Game: Big Eyes, Small Mouse
The Publisher: Guardians of Order
Degree of Familiarity: None with this game in particular, but I've played and run the underlying system some.
Books Required: I need Big Eyes, Small Mouth, but I have it handy.

So! Looking through this book, in the spirit of most Tri-Stat games (such as Silver Age Sentinels and Dreaming Cities), Big Eyes, Small Mouse presents a genre and some basics for setting up the game, but really the idea is that you develop your own talking-animal setting. There's a city called Mousetropolis that's pretty fleshed out, there, so I'm gonna assume my character is a citizen thereof, and that the game is going to be some kind of rollicking adventure that involves a rag-tag group of folks who have to come together to do great things.

That in mind, I think I want to play a mouse who's down on his luck and feeling like the world owes him something. I don't have much more in the way of concept yet; it'll come to me as I got. Figure on his Archetype as Mimic (that is, a mirror of human custom), Background is Urban (he lives in a city), and his Motivation as Hero (superficially he's out for number one, but he's really a good-hearted mouse).

Next step is to determine species, but I know I'm a mouse already. I start with Body, Mind, and Soul all at 3, the Diminutive (3BP) and Easily Distracted - Chese (1BP) Defects, and Stealth and Urban Survival at 1. I have spent 5 Character Points and 7 Skill Points (figure I start with 30 and 20, respectively).

Now I assign stats, which means I can raise them if I wish. I think I do; I'm below average across the board. In keeping with my idea of making my mouse with a lot of potential, I'll set his stats high and worry about Skills later or not at all. According to the BESM book, 8 is "highly capable," and if I wanted 8s across the board that'd cost me 15 points of my remaining 25. Screw it, let's see what happens.

And now, character attributes. I don't have any of these from my template, so.

I want Divine Relationship, because a) it's in concept and b) you're dumb if you don't. I'll put 5 into it. I'll take Attractive at 3 (I'm a real cute mousie), and I'll take Aura of Command at 3 (I can stand up and lead other mice, I just don't know it yet). I'll take Heightened Awareness at 1, too, which takes me to 12 points spent, which puts me 2 over, which is fine, 'cause I like Defects.

I just need two, so I'll take Marked at one (I'm mostly grey, but I have a black birthmark on my tummy; makes me look mysterious) and Phobia (birds. An owl got my mom. I don't want to talk about it).

Skills, then! I have to be thrifty; I've only got 13 points left and I don't feel like taking more Defects. Assuming the "modern military" Skill costs, I'll take Burglary at 2 (6 points), Urban Tracking at 1 (3 points), and Unarmed Attack at 1 (4 points). That's my 13.

Finally, Derived Traits. Now, this is weird. This version of the game uses Pep and Scratch instead of Health and Damage, to account for the scale, but then there are sections that talk about figuring out Pep taking into account the Diminutive Defect. So far, so good. Except as a mouse, I have Diminutive 3, as does the example character, but he's figured Pep under the Diminutive 1 header. WTF?

Well, I'll just do the same thing. That's Body + Soul (16) x 5 (80). My Energy Points, though I don't necessarily use them, are also 80. Shock is 16, Attack Value is 8, Defense Value is 6.

That just leaves a number and a background. My mouse's name is Montgomery. He lost his mother to an owl when he was young, and grew up in Mousetropolis Orphanage. Turned out when he became an adult, he does odd jobs for a living, but has never really managed to catch a break. Of late, he's turned to light burglary, but the outfit he's with (run by a spider named Desmond "Daddy" Longlegs) is getting more greedy and volatile by the day. Montgomery isn't in this to hurt anyone, and he's just decided that the last job was his last one. Daddy isn't after him, at least not now, but if Montgomery tries to go to the Swiss Cheese Guard singing any songs, well, he'll have an Itsy Bitsy Spider all up on him.



Friday, October 6, 2017

Movie #426: Misery

Misery is a horror movie based on the novel by Stephen King and starring James Caan, Kathy Bates, Lauren Bacall, and Richard Farnsworth. Bates deservedly won an Oscar for her performance.

Paul Sheldon (Caan) is a bestselling author who's made his fame writing romance novels about a 19th century woman named Misery. His latest novel, though, kills her off, enabling him (he hopes) to write something else for a change. He's on his way home with his new, non-Misery manuscript when he gets caught in a blizzard and crashes his car, only to wake up in the home of a former nurse named Annie Wilkes (Bates).

Wilkes is a capable health care provider, and knows Sheldon's work and life inside and out. She's also completely nuts, and (this gets elided a lot when talking about it) a fucking serial killer; she was responsible for a spate of baby deaths in Denver before fleeing to the tiny town where Sheldon goes to write his novels. Wilkes keeps Sheldon prisoner, and things are tense enough, but then Wilkes reads the new Misery novel, realizes Misery is dead, forces Sheldon to burn the only copy of his new book, and forces him to write a new book bringing Misery back from the dead.

In the end, of course, Sheldon turns the tables on her and escapes, but the real meat of the story is the punishment that she inflicts on him, his desperation to escape, and the dependence that he feels on her. Evidently King wrote this book with Wilkes as a stand-in for drugs, and for his own fears that he'd be chained to horror forever. This metaphor comes out a lot more strongly in the book, as does the sheer brutality of the situation (in the book Sheldon becomes hopelessly addicted to painkillers). In the movie, though, the horror is a lot less gruesome but a lot more real because it's more believable. Likewise, the small cast (basically just Caan, Bates, Bacall as Sheldon's agent and Farnsworth as the unfortunate sheriff) contributes to the claustrophobia of the situation.

All it all, it's hard to watch in places but it's one of my favorite horror movies and one of the best King adaptations.

My grade: A
Rewatch value: High

Next up: Miss Congeniality

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Promethean: Down to the River Through a Van

Monday was Promethean, but I've been too busy redlining a Promethean and running a Kickstarter that you should totally back and share. 

Anyway! Last time Red kinda kicked some ass, and we wound up with Feather, Grimm, and Matt going to a scrapyard to track him down, Avalon and Enoch dead and at the River of Memory, and Skip hanging with Jesse at the camp. Let's start there.

Skip and Jesse get to the swamp and start looking around. Jesse's left eye goes all white and starlit, and Skip activates Ephemeral Flesh and therefore looks like a ugly Promethean. This makes Jesse stare a bit, and Skip remembers what Sicky had said about Disquiet affecting werewolves. They look about, and don't see any spiritual turbulence. They do find a place where two trees grow together forming what looks like an archway, which Jesse identifies as a gate to the Underworld. He can open it, he says, if they want to see where it goes. Skip agrees, and Jesse performs a ritual that involves biting the head off a snake, and they enter a cavern.

Following water trickling downwards, they come to a fork in the cavern. At the split is a tableau - a man strapped to a table. Other people appear, bearing hatchets and saws and machetes and hack him to pieces, and then the scene resets. Skip contemplates this, and realizes that the blood is flowing one way but the hate is flowing another. He decides that Red's focus on blood was incidental, it's his hate that's important, so heads that way. He also feels the stirrings of Vitriol, and realizes that if he could harness that hate, he could achieve a milestone.

Meanwhile, Avalon and Enoch stroll along the River of Memory and find a passage, which leads them to a cavern full of cobwebs. Enoch reaches out to pluck one, and a skeletal hand stops him. He needs to say the name of the person he's looking for, the Kerberos explains, and then he can follow the echoes...if that person is in the Underworld. They plucked a web and asked for Byron Odell Jr. (Red's youngest son, the one that committed suicide via electrocution) and followed the echoes around several corners, down some corridors, and to a frothing, raging river - Styx, the River of Hate.

Also meanwhile, up in the living world, Grimm, Matt, Feather, and Sicky checked out the Marceau Scrapyard. Matt, en route, used Vitriol to calcify the Externalize Alembic, and in so doing achieved the fermentatio milestone (fix an Alembic). Matt picked the lock on the gate, while Grimm (having reassumed Cuprum and therefore regained access to all of his previous Transmutations) turned into a rat to scout around inside. He heard from some other rats that the guy with the hatchet was in the trailer. Feather, meanwhile, dithered around trying to come up with a plan (grabbing her Beat for her Refinement Condition), and Matt looked around and found a blood trail leading back into the scrapyard.

They followed the trail (Grimm activated Bloodhound's Nose and confirmed it was Red's blood) and found a van in the back of the property. The door was open...and it was an Avernian Gate. They couldn't have missed Red by much. They checked out the trailer, but Matt noticed a wire when he started to open the door and they decide to leave it. Feather calls Mort and tells him where they area, but they don't want to wait. Into the Underworld they go.

They follow the blood trail, and everyone winds up meeting outside a cavern on the River of Hate. Skip and Avalon both drink from the river, and find that Wrath and Justice replace their Torment and Elpis, respectively. And then Feather is attacked by blood.

The blood-monster flies out of the cavern and slams into her, melting her flesh. Enoch uses Alchemicus to freeze it (and gets like 7 successes, so it's frozen), and Avalon punches it out of sheer anger. This doesn't do much, but it does fulfill her Torment, which, in turn, gets her Willpower and Pyros back, but also puts her into Torment. Skip punches the bloodsicle and cracks it in half, and then something shoots at them from the cavern.

Jesse changes into a big honkin' wolf and charges into the dark, and the Prometheans follow. There they see Red, armed with a shotgun; this ghostly son Dennis armed with a rifle; and his other son Byron chained to the wall with live wires. Enoch runs over to free Byron, figured maybe that'll help. Grimm shoots Red, and Avalon hurls lightning over Jesse's head and hits Dennis. His ghostly form explodes, but this apparently angers Jesse, who changes into giant wolf-man form and attacks Feather. Feather, far too quick for this, keeps Jesse busy.

Skip punches Red and knocks him right the fuck down, and Grimm shoots him again, killing him. The blood-thing flies back in and they see blood tendrils reaching out, but then Avalon summons up lightning again and fries it against the wall. About now, Enoch manages to free Byron, who stumbles for the entrance. Enoch helps him out, and then the cavern starts to collapse in on itself.

Feather lures Jesse out (still frenzied), and Skip tackles him and holds him down while he calms himself out of the rage. The cavern vanishes, with Red and his geist, both death, both now gone. The whole experience leads Skip to completion of a milestone (fight a non-Promethean supernatural being and survive) and mastery of the Exemplar Role, and therefore the Ferrum Refinement.

The throng (and Jesse) make their way back to the surface. Enoch and Avalon, of course, vanish and their bodies heal up a bit, but they're in the trunk. The Prometheans regroup, and Mort confirms that Red is dead. The throng heads back to town and the storefront, and Avalon, having seen justice done, calms down out of Torment. Something eats at her, though, something else that she's forgetting...

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Happy Sunday! Promethean Notes

Been redlining a Promethean book today, will continue redlining said book later, am now going to take some notes for the Promethean game I'm running tomorrow, players stay out, you know the dealie.


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Blades in the Dark: Downtime

Monday we had an abbreviated session of Blades in the Dark, because my car broke down on my way home and I didn't get back to the house until about half an hour later than the game should have started. So we kept things simple.

I still wanted to do the write-up, however, as we're new to the game and it's useful for me to have a record. Likewise, there's a thread over on RPGnet in which the OP mentioned that their group found Blades unsatisfying after about two sessions; downtime actions were too dear, harm too hard to get rid of it, and the focus on jumping into a score rather than planning it out didn't work for them. (That's perfectly fair; in my group, skipping the planning step and jumping right to the meet prevents the folks who fub from turning their phones on and prevents everyone from overthinking things to death.)

I think that so far, I see their point, but I don't think it's a problem for us. Like, healing is a bitch. I get that. Harm can be debilitating, but there are ways around it. It seems like a lot of that is GM management of consequences, but playing RAW, I can see how harm would get out of control quickly. I'm liking the game, though, so I don't think we're quite ready to quit (also Blades really does seem like a game that works better with a long-term campaign, so that you can see long-term projects and turf war and stuff pay off).

So anyway: Downtime. Step one is payoff. The characters delivered the corpse they'd stolen from the Gondoliers to Captain Vale of the Bluecoats, and she paid them a big bag of silver coins (probably evidence from something that she wanted to make disappear, but money's money). They split it up (1 Coin each, 2 to the gang's stash). They also got 5 Rep (2 for the score + 3 because they tangled with the Gondoliers, a Tier-3 faction).

Heat is next. The character's score was, erm, not subtle, so they wound up with a bunch of Heat (the overall rating settled at 5).

Entanglements was next, and they have no Wanted level, so I rolled two dice and took the lower result...and then roll boxcars. Sucks to be them. The Gondoliers decided to make life hard for them, so they did a Show of Force. Since Widdershins has no claims, they just dropped from strong to weak hold. That's a bummer.

Finally, downtime actions. Everyone took some time to get healed (using One Eye, since she's a physicker), and a couple of them paid her Coin for better result. Everyone also indulged their vice and burned off some stress. One Eye started a long-term project. She wants to build an alchemical eye to replace the one she lost, so she started drawing up specs for that. Cage, too, started a project: He wants to walk the Path of Echoes, so he's learning about the occult path to do so.

And that's downtime! Next time we'll start a score. The crew is looking for a way to reduce their antipathy with the Gondoliers, because being on their bad side is inconvenient, so that'll be next time.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Night's Black Agents: Messages to/from Space

Two game write-ups in one day, ain't you lucky. End of an op, even!

Last time, the agents went to Lithuania and wound up out in the woods (well, as we start, Ess and Gambone are in the woods, Hanover, Parker, and MacAteer are in the van, which is disguised as a hillock). Gambone and Ess sneak around and discover a pretty large facility with multiple radio dishes pointed at the sky, a barracks, and a central building. The agents took a bunch of pictures and then started to fall back, but got noticed by the guards at the jeep.

Gambone grabbed hold of Ess and pretended like they were a couple off in the woods for a hike, and managed to distract the guards. Ess then struck and disarmed one, Gambone the other, and now they had two captives. The clock, as Parker noted, had started.

They examined the photos and realized that these dishes were not dissimilar to the ones at Aricebo, sending messages into deep space. Where, why, what? They had no idea, but they figured the answers would be found in the central building. They did some recon and figured that this wasn't a government facility, though some of the guards were probably ex-military. They decided they needed to take it out, though.

Ess and MacAteer took the guards' uniforms and took up their post to buy some time. Parker and Gambone circled the compound in the woods and found a good spot to sneak up to the main building, while Hanover got up into a tree to snipe as necessary. They also loaded up the jeep with explosives, figuring it would make a nice distraction.

After dark, Parker shot the one guard by the main building and she and Gambone started moving up...but then they alarms went off. When they got back in sight of that back door, they realized Parker had just wounded the guard, and he was being tended. Deciding to press on, Ess and MacAteer drove into the compound (still disguised), while Parker shot the other guards and moved into the building and Gambone planted explosives on the dishes.

Inside, Parker found main servers and swiped a bunch of hard drives before the self-destruct mechanisms when off, burning the place. She got out just as the building went up. Ess and MacAteer parked the jeep with some other vehicles, got to a safe distance, and blew it up, and then faded into the woods. The agents also set explosives on the road to prevent evacuation (and pursuit), and they managed to get to the hillock and get the hell out before reinforcements arrived.

They fell back to the safe house, and then got the hell out of Lithuania and headed north into Latvia, stopping in Riga. They sifted through the data, and found that these dishes were sending a lot of information about vampire/human DNA into space...along with figures on population density and human cities. Hanover finally found a reference for a numeric code that he'd found on Lennart's laptop waaaaaay back at the start of all this: the astronomical coordinates that the data was being sent to, and a date. The date was July 3, 1903, which stumped the agents for a bit, and then MacAteer wondered about Nikola Tesla, since the conspiracy seemed to have an interest.

In 1903, Tesla was trying to get funding for his tower at Wardenclyffe, but the Tesla tower was functional, at least somewhat. Parker applied her knowledge of astronomy and figured out that a message from the coordinates they found would have hit Earth right about there.

So what was really going on? They did some digging into Tesla's life and figured out that there weren't any extant photos of him after about 1920 or so. He died in 1943 at age 86, supposedly, at a hotel in New York, and was then cremated. His belongings were shipped to Belgrade in 1952 at the behest of his cousin, but the agents couldn't find any record of his cousin dying and no photos after about 1955.

Hanover did some research, using the online library at MIT (where a lot of Tesla's research was taken after his death) and realized that the collars that Dr. Macan was working on, the dishes at the Lithuania site, all of it was natural extrapolation of Tesla's experiments. Was Tesla, then, the first vampire? The agents didn't know, but they needed to find out.

They took a boat north to Stockholm, and then flew to Belgrade. Ess made contact with an arms dealer he knows name Kurjak, and got explosives and weapons shipped over from Bosnia. The agents are going to break into the museum again, and check the archives, hoping to find something to point them towards the truth about Tesla.

Misspent Youth: Planet Trippinballs

Yesterday was Misspent Youth, and since I've got to run Night's Black Agents in a few hours, I better get this done!

Last session is here, BTW. The characters had landed on a new planet, but we hadn't established anything about it.

First, of course, we need our Authority Figures:

  • The Valkyries, a cadre of agender space cops.
  • Morpheus, the god-ruler of this planet, with power of perception and dreams
  • The oceans themselves! On this planet, the waters are meant to hydrate the ambrosia farms, so they're highly narcotic and hallucinogenic
  • Tezcatlipoca, the Smoking Mirror, the former ruler of this planet, now in hiding
  • Pythons, immense serpents roaming this planet as security
And then our Friendship Questions:
  • Eli asked Jacqui: "What did Bruce (my father) say to you when he out of the car?" Jacqui: "If anything happens to me, dig under the shed at my house."
  • Jacqui asked Yasha: "What did you have to leave behind on Bardo?" Yasha: "My brother. I don't talk about him."
  • Yasha asked Alaska: "Why did you insist on this planet?" Alaska: "I saw something shiny in the distance. Also I like to appear decisive." 
  • Alaska asked Kshanti: "Do you feel different now that you're off Bardo?" Kshanti: "Not internally, but I feel different things."
  • Kshanti asked Eli: "What have you been taking your wrath out on?" Eli: "Punching a lot of bulkheads."
Scene One: What's Up

Kshanti's player set us up and chose the giant pythons. 

We open flying over the new planet, skimming down near the ocean's surface, heading towards an immense yellow obelisk. And then a huge goddamn serpent lunges up out of the water, wraps around their ship, and starts to crush it! The YOs fight back - Eli punches it, Jacqui tries to use her power to mess with its blood flow, but then Yasha stands up and loses. She sells out her MO (Righteous Fury sells out to Revenge is Best Served Cold) and turns on the ship's force field generators - which, unbeknownst to Kshanti (who designed the ship to have no weapons), work just fine to vaporize flesh. The snake dies, and the ship splashes down into the water. 

Kickoff: This episode is about survival. 

Scene Two: Fighting Back

Eli's player sets us up, and it seems natural to choose the oceans as the authority figure. The ship is leaking and every gets high as balls, seeing sounds, feeling colors, and so on. Jacqui realizes that everyone is full of paint (which is a disquieting realization), everyone sees Alaska changing into the monster snake - Yasha decides she's in love with it - and Kshanti stays quiet but all of the Unsuitables on the ship scream for her. The YOs struggle to control their minds, but they can't - Yasha stands up and loses and falls into madness. The ship eventually washes up on the shore, but by that time, the YOs are the only ones left alive, and everything else on the ship is a mural of blood. 

First Beat: Catastrophe (massacre on the ship) Question: What have we done?

Scene Three: Heating Up

I set this up, and chose Yasha's question to Alaska: "Why did you insist on this planet?" "I saw something shiny in the distance, and I like to appear decisive." 

Alaska was the only one who wasn't terribly affected by the seas (perhaps because her perceptions are always a little skewed). She kind of becomes the de facto leader, which terrifies her. The YOs walk up the black beach to a huge field of flowers (that become blood red when the YOs see them). Kshanti starts immediately pulling mojo and stuffing it into the YOs, trying to supercharge them, and YOs argue about what happened on the ship. Jacqui, in particular, is horrified (everyone was full of paint), but Alaska repeats that it's not her fault.

And then the serpent arrives! Another huge snake, drawn by Kshanti's mojo manipulation, perhaps, lunges at them. Eli punches it, and Alaska stands up and fails. The snake swallows them, and everything goes dark. 

Scene Four: We Won

Jacqui's player sets us up, and chooses Tezcatlipoca.

The YOs awaken in a dark place, covered in slime. The snake is nowhere to be found. Everything around them is made of black glass. They walk a ways, and find themselves in the presence of a huge man with black scales and smoking eye-sockets - Tezcatlipoca. 

He reveals that he used to rule this planet, until Morpheus moved in, put these damn oceans in and started growing ambrosia flowers. He wants his planet back, and that means Morpheus needs to die. He can't act directly against another god, but perhaps these folks...

The YOs agree - if they kill Morpheus, Tezcatlipoca gives them passage off this planet. Tezcat agrees, and provides Yasha with a powerful obsidian sword, Eli with glass gauntlets, and Alaska with a gun that shoots hurricanes of blue smoke. The serpent swallows them again to transport them to Morpheus palace (in the midst of the biggest ocean), but along the way, the serpent gets pretty stoned and starts slithering this way and that. The YOs work to control it, and Jacqui stands up and wins on Kshanti's Unctuous Conviction. She uses her sangromancy power to keep everything nice and smooth for the snake, and the snake deposits them on the shore of Morpheus' palace, the obelisk that Alaska saw in the distance. The YOs are ready for battle.

Scene Five: We're Fucked

Yasha's player sets this up and chooses Eli's question to Jacqui: "What did Bruce tell you when he got out of the car?" "If anything happens to me, dig under the shed."

The YOs walk towards the palace, and Bruce is there waiting for them. He and Alaska (who have some history, which is always disturbing to both Eli as Bruce's child and Yasha as Alaska's lover) start flirting. Bruce tells them they need to be careful here; Morpheus' power can make their desires turn real, but even if that happens Morpheus still controls them. Bruce is unable to tell them how he got here, though, preferring to ask leading questions using information they already know. He also starts caressing Alaska, just like she wants...and she realizes he was never that good. He's a construct, a hallucination, but it's too late. Jacqui stands up and loses, and the YOs' cover is blown. Nightmares descend from the palace to kill them, and Morpheus stands on a balcony and watches. 

Second Beat: Catastrophe - Nightmares of the palace!

Scene Six: Who Wins

Alaska's player sets this up and choose Morpheus (seems appropriate). 

The battle rages, which the YOs fighting off their own personal nightmares (Yasha fights Alaska, but with a god behind her eyes; Kshanti sees herself, but grown up; Jacqui sees the dead Unsuitables; etc.). Eli stands up and loses, but sells out Rich to Profligate. Eli uses a secret stash of mojo that they hid from everyone, and punches the ground, sending out a ripple that causes the tower to collapse. Morpheus lands in their midst, and Alaska shoots him with the gun she got from Tezcatlipoca. Morpheus is killed - the clique has won the episode. 

Scene Seven: Dust Settles

Kshanti's player sets this up and chooses her question to Eli: "How have you been venting your wrath?" "Punching bulkheads." 

Tezcatlipoca gains control of the planet, and the towers collapse. The seas recede, and all changes to black glass. The serpents come in to feast on them, and Eli punches them angrily, but it's to no avail (Jacqui stands up and loses). They get swallowed again, and when they wake up, the planet is blackened and barren. Tezcatlipoca is back in charge, and has no intention of letting them leave. They're stuck on this planet. 

Aftermath

Of course, they did win the episode, so they add a new Exploit. They find the ship, now on a barren sea bed, and fix it up, fitting it with treads. It's now a tank called Bruce. Next time, we'll see what they can do with it.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Movie #425: Inglorious Basterds

Inglorious Basterds is a war film directed by Quentin Tarantino and starring Brad Pitt, Eli Roth, Daniel Bruhl, Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender, Melanie Laurent, Diane Kruger and a lot of other people.

In the midst of WWII, the US drops a small contingent of Jewish soldiers into France, led by Aldo Raine (Pitt), for the express purpose of striking terror into the Nazi soldiers' black little hearts. "Aldo the Apache" quickly develops a reputation, ambushing, slaughtering, and scalping Nazi soldiers.

Meanwhile, Col. Hans Landa (Waltz) of the SS has made his name as the "Jew-Hunter," tracking down Jewish refugees in occupied France. In the opening scene he tracks down a family hiding at a farmhouse and has them shot, but one of them, Shoshana (Laurent) escapes. Some years later, she's running a theater in Paris with her lover Marcel (Jacky Ido), and finds that because of the unwanted attention of Nazi war hero Fredrick Zoller (Bruhl), her theater will be used to premiere Zoller's biopic/propaganda film for the German high command, including Hitler himself (Martin Wuttke).

So, of course, there's a big plan to blow the damn thing up, masterminded by British intelligence with British solider Archie Hicox (Fassbender) at the forefront, including German movie star/double agent Bridget von Hammersmark (Kruger), and the Basterds. And everyone goes completely off the rails, but the plan kinda works, Hitler gets mowed down by Donny "Bear Jew" Donowitz (Roth) before the place burns down thanks to the fire Shoshana set, and Landa weasels his way into American citizenship...but not before Aldo cuts a swastika into his forehead.

I kinda feel like this is one of Tarantino's better films. Sure, it's a little long, but it actually improves on a second viewing in that regard. Waltz won an Oscar for his portrayal of Landa and absolutely earned it, though I think Melanie Laurent deserved some recognition, too. Tarantino doesn't generally treat his women very well, so that's a thing, but if any movie deserves to get brutal with its characters, it's a WWII movie. Bruhl, too, has a great performance as a Nazi who spends most of the movie in "nice guy" mode and then shows his true colors at the end.

The asides narrated by Samuel L. Jackson and the little on-screen titles don't always work, but that's a small thing in the scheme of things. The movie works best when it just lets the actors work, and Tarantino doesn't get all wanky with things, which is actually true of most of his movies.

Gotta say, for a variety of reasons, this movie feels really fucking timely.

My Grade: A-
Rewatch value: Medium

Next up: Misery

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Promethean: Chop, Sploosh, Gack, Pow

Anybody ever watch Harper's Island? Horror mini-series, basically a slasher movie played out over 13 episodes, which has the effect of making things really uncomfortable by the last couple because you've come to know the main characters well enough that it's hard to be densensitized to their deaths. Anyway, I mention it because the episode titles were all onomatopoeias, and pretty violent, MUCH LIKE LAST NIGHT'S GAME.

So! Skip heads out to the swamp with Jesse, and we'll learn what happened to them next time (Skip's player was absent). Avalon and Carroll head back towards town, but next a salvage yard there's a loud bang and then the car spins out and crashes. Both are mostly unhurt, but Avalon is worried - that sounded like a gunshot. She gets out of the car and is immediately struck by a blast of acidic blood that melts the flesh from her body...and there stands Red. She rushes forward and uses her knowledge of Alchemicus to turn him to stone, and Carroll's eyes go completely black. The darkness pours out of him and surrounds them, and Carroll and Red both vanish.

Avalon, realizing they're probably screwed without help, pulls Fluffy (Enoch's shabti, whom we haven't seen in a while) out of her backpack and tells him to alert Enoch, and then runs into the dark.

Avalon realizes they're in a maze, but she can, inexplicably, easily find her way through it. In the center of the maze, she sees a huge, monster-ghost thing erupting from Red's petrified body, and facing off against it is some horrible spindly-legged creature, shrouded in darkness. The creature is badly wounded, and the ghost turns the blood-torrent on Avalon again.

Avalon, enraged, switches to the Refinement of Tin and throws lightning at the creature. It cries out in pain, and Avalon gears up to fire again, but then Red de-petrifies and shoots her.

And in a cab, heading towards town, Feather and Enoch feel Avalon die. Grimm and Matt, walking back towards the city, feel it too. The folks in the cab see the boys on the side of the road and stop to get them, and based on what Enoch can see through Fluffy's eyes, finds the salvage yard. Grimm gets out of the car and sees the huge pocket of darkness, and rushes in (completing a milestone and his Daredevil Role for enter a gateway without knowing where it goes). Feather and Matt follow, telling the cab driver to wait.

Enoch, seeing them go, calls out "OK, I've sent them in, now come get me," trying to bait Red. It works - Red appears behind him. Enoch tells him that his quest for vengeance is going to get him killed; the other supernatural beings of New Orleans are looking for him. Red says that all he wants is "all of you at the River." Enoch asks why, and Red tells him "figure it out, you stupid sonofabitch, you killed my boys" and then hits him with an ax.

Enoch changes to barghest form and attacks, but the first hit took too much out of him, and Red blasts him with blood and then finishes him with a second stroke of the ax. Enoch dies, and the others feel it.

Inside the darkness, they find themselves isolated and lost in a maze. Matt and Feather make it to the center, though, and find the spindly creature slinking up in the dark. Feather sees that it has Carroll's eyes...but then those eyes go away and become the black, insect-like eyes of the creature. The maze walls start to collapse, and the Prometheans run. Outside, they find the cab gone and the cab driver dead.

They call DeVries for help, and moments later a car with the mages Sebek, Mort, and a third one named Cassie, arrive. Cassie looks around at all the death and gives an abbreviated version of what happened, but notes that it's like it all happened "in a nightmare." The Prometheans note that Red seems to have a thing for junkyards, and maybe he was holed up there - of course, he's not there now because he took the cab towards New Orleans. The mages decide to investigate the junkyard, and the Prometheans take their car (with the bodies of their friends in the trunk) and head for town. They call Sicky, who's terrified because he felt Avalon and Enoch die, too, and have him meet them at DuMonde.

In the Underworld, Avalon awakens on the shores of the River of Blood. She unleashes her rage in lightning form at the river, screaming in anger, and firmly cements herself as on Stannum, pursuing the Vigilante Role. Enoch appears behind her, and they talk a bit, and then start heading upriver. The river splits, and Avalon remembers that the River of Blood is about violence and passion, so she takes a drink and feels aggression and anger surge. She takes a little blood with her in her shoe. She figures she'll need it.

They find ghosts in the nearby tunnels, and Enoch asks where he might look to find a particular person (specifically he's looking to find Red's family to try and get them to calm him down). The ghost responds that Enoch should look in the Web of Names, and tells him to follow the River of Memory. They find said river (Lethe) and Enoch takes a couple of stones to work into his project back in the world of the living. Note, too, that all of this fulfills the projectio milestone for both Avalon and Enoch: Visit a River of Death.

Back in the world of the living, the Prometheans decide that maybe they should check out a local scrapyard (Sicky tells them that the one that the characters were near earlier has werewolves in it; they call the mages and warn them off. Grimm espouses a theory that every scrapyard has some kind of supernatural creature running it, which is now canon in my Chronicles of Darkness). There's one nearby, though, outside of the city, pretty small - some of it got destroyed by Katrina. The Prometheans decide to go check it out. If they can find Red while he's hurt, maybe they can kill him.

Grimm, meanwhile, adopts Ferrum and the Soldier Role. ETA: Upon reflection the player decided instead to go back to Cuprum for the fight with Red. He also forces himself a little further along on the Pilgrimage, and achieves the fermentatio milestone (use Vitriol to increase Pilgrimage). Enoch uses Vitriol to fix Mutatus Aspiratus and Sanctus Aspiratus, and Matt uses Vitriol to fix Externalize, which is where we'll pick up next time.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Chill: Layin' Old Ghosts to Rest

Yesterday was the end of a Chill case (beginning was here).

The envoys have Darnell come down from Boise, and he brings Dylan (Edward's player was out, so we figured Edward was out in LA doing movie-stuff) along. Dylan is still recovering from his last mission - still a little injured, still a little delicate mentally. They arrive at Stewart's house, and Darnell checks out Jordan. She's badly dehydrated and sick, so he puts a saline bag up and tells her to rest. He checks out Stewart, too, but he's not as bad, so Darnell just tells him to stay hydrated.

The envoys talk a little about what to do, and in a couple hours Jordan is walking again. They think about heading out to the site that evening, but decide it's better if they have everyone (and Jordan isn't really 100%), so they choose to sleep on it and gear up in the morning. Dee dreams of riding in a car with Bryan, the mysterious hitchhiker. The car stops and he follows a light into the woods, and then falls into a crevasse. Dee hears a crack when he lands, and then realizes something else is there with her. It chases her and she falls near the road, scrabbling for a foothold, and then the creature backs off. Before she wakes up, Dee realizes that her hands smell like carrots.

The envoys wake up and realizes that Stewart has gone to work, which is good - at least he's feeling better. Darnell, however, is not well; he's contracted the strange disease. Jordan draws a line of defense around his bed and he starts to feel better, but that of course means he's stuck in the circle.

Dylan realizes that he was going to hit the books last night, but forgot and passed out instead. The envoys get some breakfast at the diner and then make some plans. Dylan does a little research and learns that Unknown-caused diseases tend to be fast and acute, but if you can get through the initial sickness they're usually not fatal. They are, however, sometimes contagious, and often the only way to stop the spread is destroy the creature that caused it. Some ghosts can cause contagion, as can some undead creatures, but without knowing what the envoys are up against they can't really make a plan.

Dee mentions that she woke up craving carrots and that they might be significant. Carrots don't grow wild around her, but Queen Anne's Lace, which is also called a wild carrot (and smells like just carrots) does. The envoys figure that their best bet is to get down into the crevasse and see what they see, so they hit Wal-Mart and buy a rope ladder, some garbage bags, some rope a tarp, and some lights.

They head out to the site and see a man flagging their car down - Bryan. They pick him up and start driving him back to town. They ask him questions, but he's pretty uninformative; Willa realizes that he probably doesn't quite know what's happening and is just recreating a particular scene. She uses Voice of the Dead to channel him, and he reveals that his full name is Bryan Gill. He was visiting his brother in Mountain View, NV and on the way home when he pulled over because he saw a light in the woods. He felt compelled to follow it, and then fell, and then nothing. He asks that the envoys tell his brother what happened to him, and then he fades away, leaving some ectoplasm behind.

They head back out to the site, make some garlands out of Queen Anne's Lace, and rig the rope ladder to go down. Willa starts descending, and activates Eyes of the Dead. Sure enough, she sees a figure in the bottom of the crevasse, but it isn't approaching her. The bottom of the crevasse is covered in white mushrooms, which makes the envoys nervous - what if the spores cause the illness? Willa hangs on the ladder a minute, but when she goes to descend again she forgets how her hands work and lands on her ass in the shrooms.

She looks around and finds Bryan's body, and calls to the others. Jordan descends as well, and touches Willa, using Disrupt, which gives her back her coordination. Unfortunately, Willa looks off in the distance and sees lights...and wants nothing more than to touch them. She starts walking slowly towards them, but Jordan notices, darts in front of her, and uses Line of Defense to block her path. Willa comes to and sees the figure out in the dark...hovering over another level to the crevasse. They decide to head back, put Bryan's body in the tarp, and rig it so Dylan and Dee can pull it up.

They start to do that (some minor Trauma from Bryan's decomposing body later), and get the body hauled up. And then it starts raining blood. Dylan, a bit freaked out but not terribly, puts up a Sphere of Protection, which blocks the rain from him and Dee.

Willa goes up the ladder to assist, but then Jordan sees the lights. She walks right off the edge and falls into a lower area, but isn't seriously hurt. The others move the ladder, and Willa sees the figure standing directly in front of Jordan, pulling back as if to strike her. Thinking quickly, Willa uses Voice of the Dead and summons the creature into her own body. Dylan draws a Line of Defense around Willa to keep it trapped, and Dee rigs the ladder so Jordan can climb up.

Willa can sense that this creature was once human - a Chinese woman - but that she's been dead for so long that most of her humanity has gone. Jordan looks around in the lower crevasse and finds a skull, a fragment of a spine, and part of a femur - the last remains of the woman. She bags them, and climbs up.

The envoys engage in a bit of pantomime and nonverbal communication with the ghost to try and figure out what she wants, but finally they figure that burying her in a cemetery might do it. She's been dead long enough that the specific tradition doesn't matter anymore, just the recognition would be enough. They load up the bodies (like, 1.2 bodies) into the car and call ahead to Stewart for help. He says he'll meet them with the Reverend at the church, but they'll need to explain it.

The Reverend tells them that they'll need to call the police about Bryan, but allows himself to be convince that the other body could just be buried in the older part of the cemetery. The envoys dig a grave for the bones, and mark it with a stone labeled with the Chinese character for "daughter" (Jordan figures she had to be somebody's daughter, so that's accurate). They see mushrooms sprout in seconds, and then die, and the Unknown presence fades.

The police reprimand them a little for hauling Bryan's body out (this is technically illegal), but they let it go, presumably because they saved the police the trouble. Bryan's brother is notified, and the envoys collect Darnell (now recovered) and head back to Boise.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Character Creation: Synthicide

It's early in the morning, but I can't start doing inventory yet and I gotta take Sephi to the vet and no one else is up, so.

The Game: Synthicide
The Publisher: Will Power Games
Degree of Familiarity: Enough. I ran a session last night in preparation to write a review.
Books Required: Just the one.

So! Synthicide is billed as sci-fi noir, and that's not a bad description. You're playing "sharpers," mercenaries or hired help trying to survive in a universe that really doesn't give a shit what you do, as long as you don't fuck with the Church or its Synthetics.

Oh, this is sad. There's a PC generator here, but there's no way to print the sheet it creates. Boo. Guess I'll have to do this analog.

OK, so, the book has a bunch of random tables that you can roll on to generate an origin story. I enjoy such things, so I'm gonna use 'em. First roll: Birthplace. I was born on a ship. I have no home planet. Sounds OK.

Next roll: Why did I become a sharper? Restlessness. Wanderlust. Search for meaning. I can get behind that.

Next, connection to other players: Sworn to secrecy. My character and other sharper share a terrible secret. I get to roll on the mystery table to determine what we're hiding. Sounds good to me! Visions - I get visions of a terrible future...maybe past? Anyway, I start with three doses of Illuminix, which is cool, because that's the drug you need to take if you have psychic powers and I was thinking that'd be fun.

Now I choose a Motivation (there's a list). These are very broad, and help determine how I can regain Resolve in play. I'll say my guy's motivation is Don't Get Mad, Get Even, because I feel like making a character who's a little harder around the edges today. He gets Resolve if he denies an opponent mercy or settles a debt.

Step Three, I select a bioclass, which is basically whether I have or could have any cyber. You don't actually start with any cyber either way (which is kinda weaksauce). I think if I want to have psychic powers, my brain has to be organic. Yep, I can't be a scraphead or a rigfiend. I think I'll be a hardshell - got some work done in the body, but the brain is all meat. That sets my Attributes totals, but I don't fill them in yet because they'll be modified by Aspect. I also start with either Cyber Eyes or Serbs Limbs; I think I'll go with the eyes. I get +1 Awareness. I get 2 cybernetic slots for my body, but those don't matter at chargen.

Next up, Aspect. I already know I want to be a Bulbhead. I get +2 Influence but -1 to another Attribute of my choice. Hmm. I think I'll take it to Toughness; my rigged body was done on the cheap and it's prone to shorting out at bad times. Now I can fill in my Attributes. My Influence and Awareness are both pretty good, but my Toughness and Combat are sucky, so I'll need to rely on my psychic powers, which, speaking of, I get two.

Ooh, these are pretty baller. I'll take Psychic Barrier (I need a way to prevent damage), and...hmm. Do I want a movement power, or do I want a way to do damage? I think given my motivates I should take the latter. I'll take Mind Burst (there's a slot to write these on the back of the sheet, but I don't care that much, so I'll just jot 'em in on the front).

Now I pick a Natural Talent, which is the closest this system gets to skills. There are really only two types, Influence (which, perhaps ironically, let me use my highest Attribute instead of Influence to lie to or otherwise persuade certain types of people or in certain situations) or Operate, which let me use a higher Attribute than Operation to perform certain tasks. Since Influence is one of my highest Attributes, I'll take an Operate one. Since I grew up on a ship, let's make it Operate Vehicles.

And then, an equipment package. I appreciate these; you can just pick one and get stuff you might need without shopping. I'll take the Gutter Psych package; that gives me a gun and a combat vest, but more importantly, it gives me Illuminix, which I need to be all psychic. That means I have 10 doses total.

And that's all the number stuff. Now for a little backstory. Stelo (means "star" in Esperanto) was born on a colony ship bound for...parts unknown (turns out they were bound of Cruxian, which is a planet that doesn't realize that space travel exists - they're kept forcibly ignorant by the Church). Stelo was taken off the ship by his mother during an incident (she never told him about it, but he has visions of explosions and monsters), and she became crew on another transport ship. Stelo grew up in space.

He fell in with a crew of sharpers when he was 14, and on his first mission got caught between two huge cargo crates and crushed. The buyer, who was moderately wealthy, felt bad and paid for some augmentation to keep Stelo alive, but not, like top of the line. Stelo stayed with the crew for a while, though, and then met up his current crew (which would be the PCs). He revealed his occasional visions to another sharper, and they realized they both had similar visions. Stelo is curious about what he's really seeing, but up till now he figured it was just Illuminix side effects. Stelo also took to heart he lesson of the buyer fixing his body - if you wrong someone or are responsible for someone getting hurt, you balance the scales. He's toying with the notion that the reason he's seeing these visions is because something is out of balance, but that hasn't really crystalized yet.

OK, I think that does it!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Movie #424: Home

Home is an animated comedy starring Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Steve Martin, and Matt Jones. It didn't do fantastic at the box office, but it's got a special place in my heart.

Oh (Parsons) is a member of an alien race called the Boov. They are the self-described "best at running away," and move from planet to planet, fleeing their world-destroying enemies, the Gorg. They find Earth and use their superior, bubble-based technology to move the world's population to Australia, where they arrange everyone in circular neighborhoods with Ask-a-Boov kiosks in the middle (side note: it's never revealed if they arrange people in any particular way, and Boov don't have families the way people understand them, so it's a good thing they took the time to learn all these peoples' names so they can find missing folks!. Further side note: Their relocation always makes me think of this).

Anyway, Oh is kind of a fuckup - he's enthusiastic about being with other Boov (most Boov aren't), and he's hyper enthused about his race and their cowardly leader, Captain Smek (Martin). In his haste to have everyone over for a warming-of-house party, he inadvertently broadcasts the invite to the whole universe...including the Gorg. Now a fugitive, he runs into a young girl named Tip (Rihanna), hiding out in her apartment after the Boov's technology missed her. After some highly amusing initial disagreements ("Can I come into the out now?"), they team up to find Tip's mother (Lopez) and try and clear Oh's name.

This movie is based on a book and diverges wildly, but that's normal. I like Oh's linguistic foibles (what they do with gerunds is fascinating), and I like that one of the main characters is a girl and a POC. I don't know if she's from Barbados in the book, too, but that was also a nice touch - she's assimilating to a new culture, and in the process winds up teaching Oh that he can't just steamroll in and take everything.

I think the fact that the Boov are pretty clear analogs for well-meaning white people could be underlined a little more heavily, but hey, this ain't a Pixar movie and we're not in it for the message. Home is funny and touching at points, and the voice acting is good.

My Grade: B+
Rewatch value: High

Next up: Inglorious Basterds

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Character Creation: Blades in the Dark

I started running this game Monday. I'm really liking it, for a number of reasons. I love the notion of a criminal gang being all sneaky and stuff, I love the kinda Dishonored-ish setting, and I really am looking forward to playing with the system.

But, you know, I like to make characters for games that I run so let's fucking do that! (Woooo.)

The Game: Blades in the Dark
The Publisher: Evil Hat Productions
Degree of Familiarity: I've read it, and it uses a system that's kinda like PbtA.
Books Required: Just the one.

So, first thing I need to do is pick a playbook. It says to play a Lurk if you want to sneak around in the shadows, and boy-howdy, that sounds like fun. I'ma make a Lurk.

Next up, I choose a Heritage. I think I want to be Tycherosi, supposedly part-demon. My character gets a telltale, which in his case I'm gonna say are utterly black, slightly-too-large eyes. Neat! I get to add a detail, so I'll say he was adopted by a blind Iruvian, an old merchant who didn't care about his weird-ass unsettling eyes because he couldn't see them.

Now we choose a Background, which is what he did before becoming a professional scoundrel. I'm gonna go with trade. He was a shopkeeper; he ran a spice stand in Nightmarket. I'll add former spice dealer as the detail (presumably he inherited the shop from his adopted father).

Next, we assign four Action Dots. I already get Finesse and Prowl. I'm gonna take Hunt, Tinker, Sway, and...hmm. I kinda feel like Study might be appropriate, but then, Attune is useful, too, and that would give me two resistance dice in each area (see, it's different when you've played the game before you make the character). I'm gonna go with Study, actually.

Special ability! Ooh, I really like Ghost Field (which lets me become shadowy and insubstantial briefly), but then, Shadow is groovy, too - that would let me perform Kevin-like feats of leaping and silence. I think I'll do that.

Now I get a close friend and a rival. For my friend, I'll take Darmot, the Bluecoat. He was a friend of my adopted father and stopped by the shop every now and then to get a particular smoked salt that he liked. As a rival, I'll take Frake, a locksmith. She takes my skills as a burglar personally.

Choose my vice! My vice is Pleasure. He has very sensitive skin, so he goes to Madame Tesslyn at the Red Lamp (a brothel). He doesn't always indulge in sex, though - more often he pays the girls (or, y'know, whoever) to stroke him with various silks and textured things.

Name, alias, and look. OK, then! His name is Sesereth Karstas, but on the streets he's called Silk. He wears loose silks, soft boots, and pulls a scarf up over the lower half of his face when working. He speaks softly, and has a faint Iruvian accent. His eyes, as mentioned, are just a little too big, and are completely black.

That's it!




Movie #423: Heat

Heat is a crime drama directed by Michael Mann and starring (deeeeep breath) Robert de Niro, Al Pacino, Val Kilmer, Danny Trejo, Tom Sizemore, Ashley Judd, Dennis Haysbert, Jon Voight, Diane Venora, Amy Brenneman, Wes Studi, Ted Levine, Mykelti Williamson, and Natalie Portman, plus a bunch of other fairly famous people.

There are a bunch of storylines going on, here, but the main thing is: Neil (de Niro) runs a crew of highly skilled thieves. On a job sticking up an armored car, new recruit Waingro (Kevin Gage) gets squirrely and shoots a guard, prompting the others to shoot the rest. Neil is pissed - they don't need any heat, and killing people brings that. He goes to shoot Waingro, but he manages to escape. File that away for now.

They start working on their next job, but Detective Hannah (Pacino) and his crew are in pursuit. They play a bunch of cat and mouse, and Hannah and Neil meet and express respect for each other. Neil, meanwhile, meets a woman (Brenneman) and falls in love, and when the last score goes south he looks to take her with him out of the country. At the last minute, he goes off plan to kill Waingro, and winds up getting pursued, and shot, by Hannah.

Into this mix, there are at least a half-dozen subplots. Chris (Kilmer) has a gambling problem that's pushing his wife Charlene (Judd) to canoodle with a Las Vegas bookie (Hank Azaria). Waingro is actually a serial killer knocking off prostitutes, which is something I missed the first time I saw this, somehow. Hannah's wife Justine (Venora) is deeply unhappy in their marriage, and her daughter (Portman) ultimately attempts suicide because of depression brought on in part by her own absentee father. Breedan (Haysbert) is just out of jail and trying to make ends meet, and winds up in the crew when Trejo (Danny Trejo) has to back out because he can't shake the cops, and winds up getting shot for his trouble.

Michael Mann sure knows how to put this kind of movie together, though, I'll tell you what. The characters each have strong motivations, and they're professional and competent, and the chemistry between the crews is great. The criminals are utterly ruthless - they're the bad guys, and they're not afraid to gun down cops and civilians to show it. There's no question about morality, here, it's a question of motivation and what someone is willing to risk - or abandon - for one's own interests. Hannah is absent from his family and it costs him his marriage very nearly his stepdaughter. Neil risks and loses for the chance for revenge after he loses his crew. They're very similar characters, and casting Pacino and de Niro just underlines that.

My Grade: A-
Rewatch value: Medium-low (long but well paced)

Next up: Home

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Blades in the Dark: Widdershins

Monday night was our first session of our new game (replacing Feng Shui): Blades in the Dark!

We talked about playing Unhallowed Metropolis and...something else vaguely Victorian and scary (can't remember now), but landed on Blades because it sounded intriguing to all of us and since it's PbtA based, it's meant to be low-prep. So, without further ado, the characters!


  • Una Daava, aka "One Eye," played by Megan. One Eye is the Leech of the group, and is also a physicker (medic). She's an orphaned refugee; her parents died in the Unity War. She's from Skovlan, but has worked diligently to lose her Skovic accent. She's an enthusiastic user of all drugs and intoxicants.
  • Zamira Obedin, aka "Copper," played by Michelle. Copper is the Cutter, and specializes in punching ghosts as well as people. She's a pugilist and spirit guard for hire, and her family were mercenaries. She's from Severos, and enjoys betting on hound races. 
  • Vond Helker, aka "Cage," played by Toasty. Cage is the Whisper, and is Tycherosi - he has onyx scales on his body. He used to be a Spirit Warden, but left the organization for reasons yet unrevealed. He kept the mask, though. 
  • Cyrene Daava, aka "Siren," played by Amanda. Siren grew up on a leviathan hunter boat, and would stand on the bow and sing. The crew believes this led the beasts to them, hence the nickname. She's from Akoros, and is a practiced marksman. 
The crew is called Widdershins, and they're a group of Smugglers with their own boat. They have a reputation for being strange, and taking spirit and supernatural-related smuggling jobs in and around their home turf of Nightmarket. Tonight would be no different.

As we open, the crew has been arrested. Occasionally the Bluecoats just round up the usual suspects, as it were, and throw them in a carriage (pulled by immense goats) and cart them around. Once they've been taken in circles for a while, the carriage stops, and they find themselves face to face with Captain Vale. 

Vale tells them to look off yonder, and they see a Gondolier boat - the Gondoliers are pulling a body out of the water. As they watch, the body twitches and spits up water. A hollow, then. Vale informs them that the Gondoliers have been pulling these bodies out of the canals for a while now, but they aren't involving the Bluecoats and the Spirit Wardens are staying well away. If someone were to bring Vale one of these bodies, they would be rewarded. 

One Eye haggles a bit, and manages to get some cash up front out of Vale, but Vale clearly makes a mental note to remember these folks (bringing some Heat). The scoundrels start looking for intel. 

Copper follows the Gondoliers back to their hideout, and watches as the corpse is taken into a closed building. She isn't sure what happens then, but sees Griggs, a high-ranking Gondolier and a whisper, talking to another member. Griggs glances over and Copper realizes there's a ghost present, but manages to dodge it before she's made.

One Eye hits the Veil, a nightclub where she partakes of all the drugs. Nyelle, a spirit trafficker known to the crew, hangs out there, and lo, she is there, drinking a very sweet new drug. One Eye stays and learns a few things - the bodies are indeed being pulled out of the canals in a particular pattern, and the pattern forms a rune across Doskovol, but Nyelle isn't familiar with what the rune means. She also tells One Eye that the Gondoliers were once the go-to folks for helping normal people out with spirit issues, but the Spirit Wardens have been assuming that role, and the Gondoliers aren't happy about it. Nyelle isn't sure what, if anything, the Spirit Wardens know about all this, but so far they're steering clear. One Eye stays and gets very drunk on all this. 

Siren, meanwhile, decides that meeting with Eliese, the leader of the Gondoliers, would be worthwhile. She arranges a messenger and sends him out, bearing a special invitation (on which she spends the advance money the crew was given). The messenger returns, possessed, and informs Siren that Eliese doesn't have time to meet with her right now. The ghost leaves the messenger, who of course remembers nothing. 

One Eye returns to the lair and shares what she knows with the group, drawing the rune from memory...and it explodes in her face, frazzling her a bit. Cage tries to decipher it, but can't (it's an old symbol, not one he's seen before). The crew does know, however, where the next corpse should appear, so they head into Crow's Foot to scope out the location. 

They note that this is right near the orphanage, and there are a bunch of scamps watching out for weirdness (not uncommon to use these kids as lookouts). They find the place that the body went in, and then plan out their escape route. And then it's time to begin the score. 

We open on that as they're pulling the body out, and it's fighting them. Copper punches the ghost in the body into submission and One Eye ties it up, while Cage gets the boat moving. Gondoliers are en route - the kids are blowing little whistles and summoning them. Cage summons a bunch of scary ghosts to drive the kids away, and the scoundrels pull away from Crow's Foot, into the canal between Coalridge and Charterhall. They see a bunch of Gondolier boats, as well as Spirit Wardens and Bluecoats, but they try and fade into the background. 

They get stopped in a bit by a Gondolier boat that asks what they're transporting, and Siren gives us a brief flashback to when she got some manifest documents from Rolan, the proprietor of the Veil. She got them, but they're old (Rolan didn't have another use for them), so the Gondolier calls them out. One Eye hits him with a trance dart, making him stoned, but his co-boater sends up a flare, summoning the other Gondoliers. Copper splashes him in the face with rage essences, driving him berserk, and throws him overboard to slow down the Gondoliers, and the scoundrels take off. 

Realizing that they're still being pursued, though, they slip under a bridge and work together to blow it up. The bridge crashes down and the scoundrels escape into Nightmarket's canals...and next time, we'll finish up the score and have some downtime. 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

A Tale of Two Kickstarters

OK, so check this out. We've got two superhero-themed RPG Kickstarters, launched within day of each other. I backed one of them. I think a little examination would be instructive.

Kickstarter Number One: Superhero 2044

So, first, we have Superhero 2044. Now, this is a reboot, if you will, of the game first published in 1977, apparently the first professionally produced supers RPG, predating TSR's Marvel Superheroes. I never played (or even heard of, weirdly) Superhero 2044, but I love me some supers gaming, so I checked out this Kickstarter when it came across my feed. 

Well, anyway, when the first version did. See, it was launched with a goal of $100,000 (since it included miniatures) and...didn't take off like a shot, let's say. So the creator decided to cancel it and relaunched without the minis, just creating the book. Solid strategy, first go-round might have been too ambitious. So he relaunches...with a goal of $100. 

OK, look. Kickstarter is not a store, and yes, some folks (creators and backers) treat it that way. But if all that's standing between you and publishing a huge book (I don't see a page count on the KS page, but frankly the wall of text is a little hard to parse) is a fucking c-note, then, like, borrow a hundred bucks from a buddy and publish that puppy yourself. 

But that weird decision, and the horrible format of the KS text, and the just all-over-the-map artwork taken from multiple sources aren't the problem. Here's the problem. 


That's a screengrab from the RPG Kickstarter News Facebook group. The commenter (Mark Thompson) is the KS creator, who apparently bought the rights to Superhero 2044 from the original creator. The context here is that the person he's talking to raise the question of whether he was legally allowed to use the word "superhero" (since it's held as a trademark by Marvel and DC), and to use characters like "Thor" and "Black Panther" in the context of being superheroes (since, although "Thor" as the god of thunder is unlikely to be trademarked, "Thor" in this particular context might well raise an eyebrow). Thompson had similar questions raised on his initial Kickstarter, and responded similarly: 


Now, I'm not a lawyer. There's interesting discussion revolving around the trademark that Marvel and DC hold on the word "superhero", how it's applied, whether it can or has been successfully defended - I don't know and I don't much care. That alone probably wouldn't compel me not to back a Kickstarter. The disrespect shown to backers and to just random folks asking questions, though, that very much would put me off (and did). And that's before we get into use ableist slurs. 

Kickstarter Number Two: Metahumans Rising Redux

This one came to my notice yesterday when a friend backed it. It's called "Redux," I think, because the creators launched it once before and weren't successful. It looks like a supers game - there's very little info about the system on the KS page, which isn't a red flag per se but it's definitely a strike against. The artwork, though, is lovely, features some POC and some women, and the goal seems reasonable for what they're doing. 

This, to me, is what Kickstarter is meant to do - help creators who want to get a project off the ground and can do (or commission) the work but don't have the cash to make it happen. So, shit yeah, I backed this one. And I don't know, maybe it crashes and burns, or doesn't fund, or it funds and the product is meh. I don't know, but I'm willing to give it a shot, because more games is better than fewer games, and I like superheroes. 

And also because when I asked what the system was like, I got this response: 


See? Not hard to be respectful.