Sunday, 29 June 2014

Snowpiercer - a one-shot

Snowpiercer, an at times very funny and at times very bleak post-apocalypse SF movie set on the last train on Earth, which trades on Chris Evans being Captain America to affect our expectations of his character and features Tilda Swinton and John Hurt together in the second genre movie of the year, is definitely a one-shot.

Based on a graphic novel rather than a series, with a plot and locations purposely limited by the premise, it could be expanded by sequels and prequels but should really remain self-contained. The train is a classic enclosed location, like a Base Under Siege or anywhere else you cannot leave. I rarely use maps and precise NPC cast lists, but they work well for adventures like this.

(To put it in a series, it could easily be a planet of the week for someone like the Doctor or Captain Kirk to visit and save, which would overshadow the heroism of the locals.)

It also features one of the oddest threats I have seen on screen. You’ll know it when you see it.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

I am old and cranky.

Class and level systems are historically important but I don’t want to use them these days.

I’m sure it’s possible to advocate the “sandbox” play style without being a condescending One True Way asshole but I have yet to see it achieved.

Malkavians are most popular with people who don’t like Vampire but insist on playing anyway.

And don’t get me started on Sabbat fans.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Save Points

A recurring gag around my game tables is that as we’re about to engage the enemy, open a scary door or do something else risky/stupid, someone says “save the game”.

There are very few systems where this is actually an option.

I’ve seen the occasional retcon of a TPK or some other major turning point by group agreement, but I rarely see it suggested by the rules themselves. Marvel Super Heroes SAGA has an optional “What If?” rule to change things, to pick one example I can think of.

Would you limit the number of saves? I tend to save a lot if I have the option to in computer games. I wouldn’t overdo it in an RPG, because there’s a lot more to remember and no system doing it automatically.

Alternatively, what if it’s something the characters can do?

Edge Of Tomorrow (which is a lot of fun) got me thinking about this. The main character gains the ability to reset back to when he woke up that morning - by dying. Like an alien invasion Groundhog Day, not unlike Source Code. This allows him to learn to avoid a variety of unpleasant deaths, although if it were up to him he would have chosen a different “save point”.

The indie console game Braid does something similar, making going back over events a key part of gameplay.

See also Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time for a deliberately limited version where the time warp only goes back a few “rounds” and runs out eventually. A PC might bend the game but probably not totally break it.

And there are enough Groundhog Day episodes of genre TV series that it’s on many lists of staple story ideas and has its own TV Tropes page. Buffy and Angel both did as part of a larger threat in one episode each, so I left it out of The Watch House.

Edge Of Tomorrow involves time travel, so that genre is the natural place to include this kind of thing.

TimeWatch is built around time travel tricks like coming back to save yourself in a fight, so establishing a save point seems to fit as well. A time effect with a “dead man switch” set to go off it certain criteria are not met?

Other kinds of save point includes backup bodies (often seen in transhuman SF games and vital in Paranoia) as an in-universe explanation of multiple lives, although that just lets you come back from death rather than restoring the things that lead to it.

Happy 40th birthday, me

Give me monster hunters!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

At what point does interactive theatre become a LARP, or vice versa?

Maybe it’s the point where the audience/players have specific characters and/or a win condition? Looks like it has the latter...

Edit: Morgan Davie reports -

oh heck, they've taken this to the Fringe? fascinating. It was a big thing in Auckland a year or so ago - completely independent of the LARP scene, sharing more of its origin with those walk-thru horror houses I think, or like the old Alien War thing.  
Your question about "why don't local LARPs do Fringe shows?" is a good one though. That's certainly the way I've been thinking down here. I think it's an underexplored space - but maybe someone who went to Knutpunkt might have an idea of movements in that area.

Friday, 13 June 2014

The Twitching Curtain

Via Cat Tobin (who appears in it) The Twitching Curtain, a podcast on LARP, story games and more. Featuring Knutpunkt, Fiasco and Storium.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Strange Sports Stories

Over on the Whoblog I mentioned aliens wanting us to play in the Worlds Cup, referencing a similar Superman Adventures story. Which apparently in turn references a short-lived comic series DC put out in the 70s, mixing the classic nerd genres of fantasy/SF/horror with, obviously, sports. I am not hugely surprised that it didn’t take off, since it slams right into the dividing line between Nerd and Jock in a way that something like Roy Of The Rovers does not.

But from a different direction, this has the makings of a great Ghostbusters adventure. Possibly like this one. Monsters doing everyday stuff is part of the appeal of urban fantasy.

Legends Of Cthulhu toys interview

Complete with wonky 80s Filmation style cartoon pitch.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Diana Jones and the Awards of 2014

The Diana Jones shortlist has been announced and features two RPG publishers, an RPG, a boardgame and a cardgame.


DriveThruRPG is ten and has some insanely good deals to celebrate.

Cowboys & Aliens

Cowboys & Aliens is pretty good fun as long as you don’t go into it expecting a comedy. It’s mostly a homage to classic Westerns and their tropes mixed in with an 80s-style practical alien movie and its tropes, especially playing with the ones that overlap. It acknowledges the silliness of the notion and proceeds from there.

(The aliens themselves are nicely done, sort of apelike and sinewy like the Future Predators from Primeval with faces oddly reminiscent of Mutts from Doctor Who. They have a decent sense of threat even in the final battle.)

As cliffc999 on RPGnet noted at the time: “What I found most interesting about the movie is that in any standard cowboy movie, Harrison Ford’s character would be the villain.” As director Jon Favreau notes in the commentary, people putting aside their differences for a great cause is part of Westerns and alien invasion movies.

Meanwhile, I still want a historical Predator movie.

The Horror At War

RPGnetter requests creepy imagery for “what if Nazi occultists summoned and failed to bind something Lovecraftian just before D-Day?” and hits something of a Tarkovsky / Hot War / God-Machine goldmine. I’m pretty happy with my examples, but some of these are pure eek.

War is Hell, as the saying goes. Adding the occult and/or weird science can help express in metaphor just how utterly messed up it can get safely.

And the image of propaganda posters with bleeding eyes is totally cool.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Warp Speed NOW!

Or at least what an FTL-capable ship should actually look like according to NASA. Which is still cool.

And guess what they call it.

"Games are evil" headlines, 1880s edition

About Chess of all things.

Collectibles Of Cthulhu

You may remember a previous rant about retro-70s-deliberately-horrible action figures. If not, here it is for your edification.

Well, the trick to making me like a style is producing something totally weird in it, like Cthulhu Mythos figures. (Via the HP Lovecraft Historical Society on thefacebook.)

Monday, 9 June 2014

The Testament Of Longinus

Reformatted from the PDF, printed, weathered and handbound by Rick for my birthday. His first shot at bookbinding!

And it keeps opening up at passages about owls made of black smoke. Dunno what that could mean. :D

See also his Awakening Atlantean scroll, with alphabet reverse-engineered from the Tibetan language family.

Greg Stolze on adapting Delta Green

From the RPGnet thread What game would you like to see turned into a TV series?

Man, I fantasize about writing for a DELTA GREEN TV series. But the cardinal rules I'd want to put down would be challenging, I suspect.

1) All scenes of people arguing are filmed like a Michael Bay fight, just cut-cut-cut and the cameras jumping all over the place.
2) All fight scenes are filmed from a single point of view.
3) You never see monsters clearly.
4) Consequences are super-permanent. That dude who gets shot in the leg in Season 1, Episode 3? He's still using a cane in Season 3. People who get badly hurt are now JUST THAT WAY.
5) From the first ep., everyone who really understands anything is betting on humanity losing, and says so quite clearly. Then, at the end of Season 4, we end the series with humanity losing.

And further:

Aw man, I figured out how you could do PROGENITOR as a movie or TV show, too. You start the narrative towards the end, with Amanda in her coma and then getting rewound back to her 1969-era mind and body before escaping. So now we've got the most powerful and important person of the 20th Century as an amnesiac finding out about all the crazy, crazy, crazy shit she did/caused/responded to. # # #

The cruelest conceivable way to do DELTA GREEN would be to have it like AMERICAN HORROR STORY with each season being completely disconnected, but also have each season end with a cliffhanger. 

You would just see these cells get deeper and deeper into their investgations, everything comes to a point of maximum tension and then... NOTHING.

Next season, start again with another cell and maybe just throw in an oblique reference or two to the previous one.

But even as I type this, I realize (1) it's psychotic, (2) it's vanishingly unlikely to get made, (3) it reeks of David Foster Wallace's belief that it's wrong, SO WRONG, for the writer to do anything to "comfort" the reader* and (4) it's going to leave viewers feeling as stupid as I felt after watching DRAG ME TO HELL, muttering "Wow, I didn't think that she'd actually wind up being dragged to hell." -G.

*Which, I suspect, means "do anything but show utter contempt for the 'average' reader."

An insight I could have happily avoided

So, this time a year ago today, I was breaking my arm.

(It lead to my 2012-3 game Starfall stopping a few sessions shy of a proper ending, among other things. I was on my way to a session, and helped to the Minor Injuries clinic by the players.)

And I got home to find Iain Banks had died.

Anyway, posting about my arm here as well as general blogging because, if nothing else, it gave me an insight into injury penalties. I got to feel what being at -2 dice to all actions for two weeks or so really felt like.

I had to sleep sitting up, and barely got any sleep. I felt unsteady, and my ankles swelled up on top of everything else. I never lost the use of my hand (my main hand, no less) so initially thought my falling was just a bad bruise, but had to lift my arm with my other hand to, for example, shave.

It really put those penalties into perspective.

And made me wish I could spend a Drama Point to halve the damage.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Ukrainian Icon Style Lord Of The Rings

Here. Suggesting a time when the story was illustrated by Orthodox religions. Note: contains creepy-as-hell Shelob five pages down.

Most of the scenes are instantly recognisable, others take a moment (the Council of Elrond would look much like any group of people sitting around a table without the names attached) but many of them give it a timeless feel, suggesting a story told for centuries that has passed into legend, as it surely would in the Fourth Age of Middle-Earth.

And it has me thinking about a fantasy setting where stories of equal renown are told and retold, distorted by time, and the shadow that threatened the land is long gone... or is it? And still they inspire, and perhaps contain a truth that could save all.

Paranormal investigations and eliminations

Cracked sometimes runs a list of things the media doesn’t show about this or that job. And last week they talked to a pair of ghost hunters. Perfect fodder for a surprisingly mundane adventure in a paranormal game, or of course something like Ghostbusters.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Liam Neeson Vs. Your Setting

From Taken to Non-Stop, Liam Neeson has fought and defeated Paris, Berlin, Turkey, the Arctic and the sky.

Now he takes on... it kind of looks like The World Of Darkness?

Okay, may not be literal. But still.

(And yes, creepy acoustic version of Soundgarden song.)

How would your setting fare against Liam Neeson?

(Star Wars excluded.)