Saturday, 30 April 2016

Friday, 29 April 2016

And then your equipment fails part 2

Writing this on the seemingly working tablet as my PC is now in for repairs following a loud bang from somewhere inside it...

Thursday, 28 April 2016

More Lego Star Wars Resistance

Three new shorts featuring Han and Chewie, Maz and Rey, among others.

“He shot Greedo!”


Plane Shift: Zendikar, a free D&D sourcebook PDF for one of the planes from Magic: The Gathering. As io9 notes this is a pretty big surprise, as a Magic RPG has always been vetoed and this dropped with little warning.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

And then your equipment fails

Not writing this on my tablet because last night it went black and whined for an hour, then crackled like a Geiger counter and shut off entirely. Which is not cool of it, especially as it was working during the day and is less than two years old.

So, to assuage grumpiness, how much do PCs rely on technology and how often does it let them down? I certainly wouldn’t want cybernetics that fizzle out as suddenly as modern smartphones and tablets.

“Have you installed the patch for your lungs? If not, you may lose breathing functionality.”

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Happy Alien Day!

Who wants a hug?

Because it’s 4/26 in the US due to their month-day-year dating system. Here it should be celebrated on the 42nd of June. Er...

Monday, 25 April 2016

Dead By Dawn 2016 aftermath and shorts

Isolation seems to be something of a theme this year. K-Shop and Yr Ymadiwad and are all about people going nuts due to isolation, while Decay, Der Bunker and Men And Chicken have people isolated because they’re nuts already but the isolation will not have helped. Astraea shows people recovering from too much time alone, standing out greatly in that respect.

And now, the short films. Some are mood pieces, some are jokes, and some are perfect for one-shots, just add stats.

Francis is a nice creepy little thing.
Other Lily manages to be unnerving as a cartoon.
Alt-Tab is some jokes.
Mute suggests a world where people have no mouths but still act like they should.
Frozen Blood Test is a gag.

La Seance (The Session) is, well, the Victorians were odd.
Death In Bloom asks about the options when choosing how to die.
How Deep Can I Go? is an, er, interesting music video. Play the song and see how quickly someone notices.
The House Is Innocent is a funny and touching documentary about moving into a murder house.
The Nest is a single take from David Cronenberg, almost pure story. In a Cronenbergy sort of way.

Boniato is a horror game one-shot ready to go.
Foxglove is changelings.
The Bridge Partner is a creepy little short story.
L’Ours Noir (The Black Bear) is a safety film in the manner of Forklift Operator Klaus.
Bad Throttle is a reminder not to annoy people...

Graffiti, like Astraea, looks at loneliness and hope in the quiet snowy end of the world.
The Disappearance Of Willie Bingham could be a Twilight Zone warning.
Monsters is a Future Schock.

Viking could be a Fiasco setup.
Honor Student is about how life sucks.
Black Eyes has horror-fu saving the day (hooray!)
De Kleinzoon (The Grandson) is an odd one.
The Babysitter Murders is a great pastiche, beautifully made with a kickass fight and a nice nasty joke.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Dead By Dawn 2016, Day 4

The Babysitter Murders was really damn good. Among other things.


Creature Designers is a solid documentary about the golden age of special makeup effects and the CGI revolution that led to its passing.

She Who Must Burn wants to be a critique on weird sects and anti-abortion movements but overplays its hand like crazy.

Sorgenfri (What We Become) is zombies. Does some interesting things with the initial outbreak setup, but then straight on to zombies.

Men And Chicken is kind of like a Cronenbergian origin story for the Three Stooges, most interesting for the chance to see Mads Mikkelsen play an oaf.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Dead By Dawn 2016, Day 3

So very tired.

In the meantime, Boniato.


Astraea is a lovely, warm, peaceful take on the near-total end of the human race.

Der Bunker is... I’m not really sure what Der Bunker is.

Antibirth is body horror played for laughs, partially due to the stoner hero being Lebowski-ishly oblivious to the genre she’s stumbled into for much of the run.

The Corpse Of Anna Fritz is gruelling.

We Go On from the makers of Yellowbrickroad is a film of two halves - the search for life after death and how that might not be such a great answer to have. The title could also be about endurance...

Friday, 22 April 2016

Dead By Dawn 2016, Days 1 and 2

Our friendly local international horror festival returns.

Green Room, the opening film, is going to get a wide release. Also probably the most relevant feature so far as it’s a high-violence thriller and black comedy rather than a character piece. A struggling punk band do a gig against their better judgement and it goes about as wrong as possible.

K-Shop is very much a character piece, grimly funny and plain grim in its examination of weekend boozing culture and the people that have to work around it.

A short film by David Cronenberg! Crikey.

Yr Ymadawiad (The Passing) is a bleak haunting drama from the Welsh hills.

Decay is a Denver suburbian Repulsion played for dark laughs as well as jumps.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

April is the conventionallest month

About to go mostly offline for a few days for Dead By Dawn. After that I will be free of festivals and cons until, like, August. I might even get that Nationals news written up.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Spikes in Weird Level

Midnight Special is a good example of something with a fairly high Weird Level keeping grounded by restricting it to fairly minor outbreaks and keeping reactions to it very human. (Until the end, anyway.) Before that, the biggest Weird flag is really the way the sect women dress being lifted from a the FLDS while the men are pretty plain - a bit of real-world Weird that doesn’t quite fit this particular group.

Michael Shannon is pretty reserved as the kid’s father, Adam Driver as the government theorist is gawky but not super-weird. People have been comparing it to Spielberg, and the best comparison point there is probably Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. (Including the until the end caveat.)

Sunday, 17 April 2016


This article about solving the murder of Batman’s parents got me thinking about this plot hook.

(It also features an excerpt from an audio adaptation and the opening theme is The 1980s, but that’s beside the point.)

It’s a classic move to orphan PCs so they can go off adventuring with no strong ties to a particular place and have a motivation to take on one of the Big Bads of the setting. It also comes up with players who have had one too many GM kidnap their characters’ loved ones for motivation or kill them for The Drama. (I once subverted this in The Watch House when I resurrected a PC’s killed-for-motivation relative. He got amusingly super-protective of her.)

Meanwhile I’m currently working my way through Arrow which is totally not like Batman at all, and one major difference is that Oliver does have a family to protect and keep his secret from, and they provide all kinds of soap opera trouble. The GM is clearly getting some good mileage out of those Dependent NPC points.

And this is fine as long as the player is cool with it.

So back to that original point, what does a PC do when their motivation is resolved?

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Ghostbusters 2016 video game

The new Ghostbusters game is a multi-player strategic sort of thing, with different characters (not either canon team despite being connected to the new film) having different abilities and gadgets. Looking at that screenshot, the new game characters appear to include Buffy and Gotrek...

Since the core idea is really game-friendly, it follows the original 1980s game on the Spectrum and the like where you wrangled your budget as well as the forces of evil, tie-ins for the sequel, some toon-y games for the animated series, and most notably the FPS with the original cast doing the voices, which was effectively original continuity Ghostbusters III.

Friday, 15 April 2016

"Why do I suck?"

Tip for introductory and beginners’ games: Make the PCs competent. Skew the game so that the players’ ideas succeed and the PCs win out. Two or three hours of bumbling or a dead PC is likely to put a lot of potential players off.

Looking at you, FFG Star Wars.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Playing the villain

This came up in the latest thread on how to deal with famous NPCs and plot immunity - What if Darth Vader is the PC, not the NPC?

Marvel are doing brisk business with this at the moment... showing a way that the often disastrous villain campaign could work. It has Vader dealing with rivals, political in-fighting - and the knowledge that his son survived and that hopes he had long crushed could be revived. This kind of backstabbing needs to be handled carefully to avoid the moment where all the villainous PCs turn on each other as soon as they have loot to divide, but Vampire does it fairly often...

He also has a (very small) number of allies he can really count on. With the death of Tarkin you couldn’t call any of them friends, but it’s something. A setup with one real villain and support could work better than a Secret Society Of Supervillains, if the players are up for it.

And it never forgets that, even as he pursues an agenda which will one day bring him home, he is a total bastard.

But for me... it was Tuesday.
Yeah, that could be fun...

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Secret Identities

By dint of two shows spinning off from it and another two crossing over, and the first season being in an HMV offer, I am watching Arrow. And I don’t think the secret identity works. The hood and a bit of smeared eyeliner (and a voice modulator) isn’t really enough to conceal the recently-returned member of the most famous family in the city.

Partially this is a live-action adaptation issue with not wanting to hide the stars face too much, but I’m sure they could try a bit harder. Halfway through season one he helps kit out the Huntress, and she gets a mask. Meanwhile, the big villain whose identity has to be kept from the audience gets a full-face mask and hood and shape-disguising armour as well as a voice modulator. This works.

(The mask and blonde wig used by Black Canary in season two also works... although not as well as it might if she didn’t turn out to also be blonde under it, which makes it kind of odd. And Barry Allen addresses this head-on in the middle of season two... although the mask he provides isn’t much better than the warpaint. I know Green Arrow doesn’t cover the lower half of his face, but...)

I do like that they addressed the cops putting two and two together a mere four episodes into the series, and the genius hacker ally had more or less figured it out before being read in.

My favourite moment in Green Lantern was Carol recognising Hal after about eight seconds...

How much trouble do secret identities bring in your games?

Monday, 11 April 2016

The actual World's Greatest Thief?

The bank robber recruited to bring down al Qaeda. True or not, that is quite a character hook.

Via Kenneth Hite

Article guest starring some off-duty Marines going on a crime spree and the Kangaroo Bandit.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Conpulsion Underworld, Day Two

Did the pub quiz. Included questions on crime, theatre and opera. May not be doing that again.

Favourite bit: Brian cracking up while reading out a true or false question, which may have slightly given the answer away...

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Conpulsion Underworld, Day One

Attended a panel, looked at traders, looked in on auction, said hello to and hung out with people. (Hello people!)

Friday, 8 April 2016

Vital Conpulsion preparation

Amusing myself putting big black REDACTED rectangles over RPG cover titles for the picture round.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story


I want a Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso action figure right now.

Seriously. Now.

(And everyone else too, we just don’t know their character names yet.)

Anyway, in the meantime, that Star Wars opening crawl hint of “During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon...” inspired levels in X-Wing and Dark Forces (where the op running the character’s missions was Jan Ors...). It’s the canonical immediately-before-the-series-starts bit of PC-group-style badassosity.

I ran a version myself with the WEG game back in the day, a Mission: Impossible style adventure with a lot of sneaking around bases, crawling through ventilation systems and finally boarding a Star Destroyer mid-battle and stealing the plans as the group fighters held off a horde of Stormtroopers as long as they could.

And now here it comes on screen, bringing new heroes and new villains to the classic era.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Poe Dameron And The Space To Have Adventures

Star Wars: Poe Dameron issue 1 comes out today from Marvel, while Rey and Finn don’t have prequel comics.

Did I like it? Yes I did.

Likewise in the book Before The Awakening Finn’s story is about the harshness of his training, Rey’s is about the sadness of her lonely life and Poe’s is A Thrilling Space Adventure! This is because Poe starts in medias res in The Force Awakens while Rey is stuck in the middle of nowhere and Finn is just about to take his first step on stage. They have origins to show, he’s already off and running.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

A base under siege from within

Having finally seeing it (yay for hitting deadlines through carrot-and-stick methods) 10 Cloverfield Lane is a good one-shot. To play you need some optional secrets, a map and contents list for an apocalypse bunker, and some ideas for a left-field twist...

(You could also grab the Bear McCreary soundtrack for a horror, suspense, or since it’s Bear McCreary Battlestar Galactica game. It’s got big sweeping moments and lots of creepy buildup, particular well-used as the film starts with little or no dialogue or ambient sound for most scenes for the first ten minutes. Mary Elizabeth Winstead could be a great silent movie star.)

Monday, 4 April 2016

The Stephen King Universe

Carrie is one real friend away from being a superhero origin.

Which would totally work, though obviously she’d need monsters and villains to fight as she makes her lonely way through high school. Buffy The Angry Telekinetic. The new film shows this in particular as she tests and researches her power as it manifests.

(Firestarter meanwhile totally is a superhero origin. And it’s a shame that we never got a crossover episode in The Dead Zone...)

Warhammer 40,030

GW mark the 30th anniversary of Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader by bringing out a classic beaky Space Marine. Only $30. (splutter)