A poem about Runequest

If you read a Bernard Cornwell novel,
you’ll feel the need to run a gritty, medieval RPG.
So you’ll go to RPG.net to ask the people there what to play,
You will find that they are young and ill-informed and in many cases,
cunts.
They will recommend Dungeon World and FATE
without reading the entirety of your question.
You will ask yourself are these really gritty or medieval?
The answer will be no.
This will remind you of an older game you’d long forgotten,
and you will search on the internet and won’t remember the name,
you will go to half price books
and look to see if anything there jogs your memory,
but it won’t
you will go on /TG and ask
and though the people there are explicitly cunts,
they will answer you with knowledge and thoughtfulness,
albeit rudely and with disdain for your person,
(Since you will likely be a summerfag or worse)
They will tell you Runequest 6 and you will coerce your friends to play,
they will complain about the long character creation
and lack of options for character powers, and at the table,
They will be shocked at the true horror of combat
at the blood loss and fatigue and destruction of limbs
and they will ask you to play more
and playing more will remind you of Bernard Cornwell
and you will need to read one of his novels.

Savage Sword of Solomon Kane (and Bloodborne)

SolomonKane2-L

Finished the collection of Howard’s Solomon Kane stories and holy crap, I wish he had done another 10-15 of these. The stories are incredibly visceral and intense and while a bit more focused on Africa than I would have liked, there are some good pirate stories in there too. While Conan’s stories are also amazing, Solomon Kane is a lot more relatable since the stories take place in the early modern period and not an imagined pre-history.  I feel like his story arc was not completed by Howard, and that’s sad.  The final story in the book is just a fragment, but still worth reading.  The version (Savage Sword) has excellent illustrations throughout as well.

And speaking of early modern… Bloodborne by the Dark Souls peoples (From Software) looks to scratch the exact itch not having more Solomon Kane stories caused.

 

Gencon Rundown 1: Elderly gay tennis courtier – An Hillfolk AAR!

I got to say the title of this post quite a bit during Gencon, first in reference to a real sad sack we have to deal with at the con but mostly during an excellent game of Hillfolk, the new award winning game from Robin Laws.

Now, I rip on Larping to no end, and stuff like Fiasco, Durance, Carolina death crawl and Hillfolk are about as close as I would ever want to come to that rather odd hobby, but these games are great and they have simple yet rules. While I like Fiasco, and Carolina Death Crawl is an amazing one shot, Hillfolk is a serious contender for the best of these types of games from what I’ve played.  This was a 3 day Gencon event hosted by a dude named Sam.

The scenario we played was straight out of DARK SHADOWS. Set in 1985 (pre-cell phones) somewhere in New England in a small fishing town where various families historically don’t like each other much and the patriarch of one of the main families has passed on. There were a few plot hooks thrown out (nothing obviously super natural in the beginning) and we were off creating characters. The character creation reminded me of the early versions of FATE, where you have plot devices and motivations attached to each other character. The created characters were awesome, there was me: an apathetic party girl from the main family line, some old doctor (the one that was called an elderly gay tennis courtier), a young man from a rival family, an evil half sister, an addict of a brother and a mostly scared all the time office assistant to the family. The GM spun all this into a crazy tale of horror and death, with our help of course. The main meat of character creation is that there are characters that want something from you that you won’t give up, like my bleached butthole in my character’s case, or something you want from another character that they won’t give you, like a pile of money to go shopping with, again in my character’s case. Each character is torn between two poles, and you will get bennies (a sort of in-game economy) if you act, and I mean ACT, in a way that shows conflict between those two poles.

Claudia Stone!

When you actually start to play (after character creation) you randomly get to create scenes. These are either roleplaying or some sort of task determining scenes (like a fight or sneaking around). Typically scenes involve you picking some of the other characters to talk with you about stuff. You usually want something from them and if you get it, or the other character refuses, you end the scene. The plot is not set, and is entirely dependent on the scenes that characters create. Some of the scenes were duds, like when you flip to some daytime soap opera and there is just some poorly written trash going on before they get to showing cleavage (I like the Mexican ones a lot more than the American Soaps for this reason). Granted, ALL of this is ad-libbed, so you have to give players a break if they’re not Constance Ford and if you are shy– ah… likely don’t play this game because you have to talk, and talk a lot about stuff that you had no idea was going on moments ago. Playing a female character for me was a challenge as many of you can imagine, but I nailed it enough to get a benny from the other players after the first “show.” I had to fall in love with one of the other characters which was sort of awkward as it was a dude, but awesome at the same time. During the rounds of scenes, the GM will interject plot scenes to move everything forward– these are likely completely off the cuff but are key as it seemed like character scenes were not the hardcore driver of the plot– we had to work around these obviously huge upcoming scenes rather than dive right in.

That said, towards the end I started getting crazy with my scenes, like a Soap that is hurting for ratings. Car crashes (hurling myself and other characters off cliffs), murder in the hospital, crazy talk and all that leading up to a blood soaked finale was amazing to be a part of.   There was just this amazing mometum that started happening about 5-6 scenes in: we had built up our characters enough to know generally how things would shake out, but no one knew what would actually happen.  The game ended with two players dead, two run away and an evil triumvirate taking shape to rule the town forever?

Final thoughts: Play this with extroverts, play it co-ed (an all-dude game, frankly, would not be very good unless your knuckleheads were good at playing women), and don’t be shy about bringing crazy shit into your scenes or calling people elderly gay tennis courtiers! (which is not my line, it’s from In the Loop BTW).  We were a bit too tame at first with setting our scenes, as the game could have gone berserk earlier, giving it a FEAST 2 vibe rather than like an 80’s soap opera that stooped to a Satanic cult plot to grab ratings.

This was the back of my character sheet, with the most important stuff during the game for the most part.
This was the back of my character sheet, with the most important stuff during the game for the most part.

Books with spys and the like

Well I got some goddamned reading in the last month or so. I finished St. Liebowitz and the Wild Horse Woman and wanted some lighter pap to clear the palette for later heaviness. I got my dad GHOSTMAN for Xmas which he devoured and sent back to me so I tackled that first. As you can see it has a SHIT ASSED cover typical of the Robert Ludlum type books around today with some lame ass smeared photoshop crap across the cover.

Ghostman-Roger-Hobbs

This was a solid read about a guy that gets involved in cleaning up a failed bank truck robbery. It moves very fast and has a lot of really good spy tricks and trinkets going on. There was one scene used to establish the villain as a ‘real bad guy’ that was pretty fucking stupid and extreme, but the rest of the book was good. Unlike the two books below Ghostman says NOTHING about anything. It is meaningless except for the story itself, it makes no commentary about modern life or anything–just an ego trip by the author with some sneaky main character with a lot of pre paid cell phones.  And they will probably make a movie of this one.  It will be good action and a good story, but ultimately meaningless.

the-glass-key

The second one goes back into the 30’s: Dashiell Hammett’s The Glass Key. This is a fucking masterpiece of noir/mystery writing about a political fixer (vote repeating, getting unions to vote X way, etc.) who is purportedly involved in some sort of murder. He’s assisted by the protagonist who is a gambling addict on waivers who uncovers a big fucking mess of intrigue. Hammett is no joke and this is as good if not better than Maltese Falcon. I’m going to watch the movies soon. What’s more this is a SCATHING indictment of political back-door dealing and buying elections. Hammett is trying to reveal some very bad things going on in addition to all the, you know, beatings and murders.

delicatetruth

The last one was a new one from John Le Carre (of Tinker Tailer Soldier fame) called A Delicate Truth. While not as strong as The Glass Key, this is an excellent read about a bunch of really incompetent public officials and ‘spies’ who constantly fuck up everything and it sort of works out in the end. No one in the book is all that smart, so it’s sort of an everyman thrust into a series of terrible situations where more bad choices are made. Le Carre here is calling out corporate security and corporate war making abilities as adjunct to a government’s power over control of mass violence. It’s message is not subtle and resonates throughout the text where the shadowy shit is not in the government but in this horrific mash up of government, corporate and law enforcement mess where it’s not clear who is actually in control.  Think Executive Outcomes from the 90’s (and of course, Jagged Alliance!) They are going to make a movie of this fucker eventually.

All three great reads, the first one is super light and altogether meaningless, but fun. The other two are also fast paced pulp noir stuff but have some interesting subtexts and social commentary.

Now back to the heavy stuffs.

The insane fuck sequences of Eva Green

Last weekend I had a bender in Miami.  Part of this bender was being passed out on a couch with the TV on.  Dark Shadows was playing over and over on one of the various cable channels and I was awake during one of the showings to watch the crazy furniture shattering fuck scene between Johnny Depp and Eva Green, a vampire and a witch respectively.  That same evening I stumbled with Matt into a dark theater playing 300: Rise of an Empire. During the movie Eva Green is again involved in an insane fuck sequence with the main Athenian Character.  Given that it was Alpha Male fucking Alpha Female for the win, this wasn’t actually too disturbing, but to have seen this same actress in two different films having furniture destroying fuck sequences was a fairly comedic coincidence to me.

Now, I guess I’m not a fan of 300 Rise of an Empire and will be even less so of the next film that doesn’t have Eva Green in it since her character gets eviscerated, but there are two notable things about it: the above mentioned sex scene and the multiple scenes of Eva Green’s character staring from a bow of her ship with her right eye twitching in anger–that’s one for the meme pile. The rest of the film, while visually stunning in parts is just plagued by… well, everything. They paint the main Athenian as some sort of physical badass, where he could have played the part not like Leonidas (since we already had the sacrificial alpha male in the first movie) but instead a scheming little rat who plays all these tricks on the Persians for the win. He did play tricks in the movie over and over and over so this would have fit (and also made a better contrast between Athens and Sparta) as they also characterize him as someone totally awesome at everything– sword fighting, archery, etc. He literally is a character characterized by his complete lack of any weaknesses in character or prowess–sort of like Superman. Also, the Athenians made the Spartans look sort of pussy, which just ain’t right. In 300, the Spartans work together as a UNIT to defeat the Persians, but the Athenians are seen fighting in Rise of an Empire like the Germanic and Celt tribes would– mano y mano in a full on melee. What’s more, the Athenian leader gives I believe FOUR pre-battle speeches, with all the heartfelt music playing and all that. That was ridiculous. Overall, the film just could have been so much better. I’m glad I saw it, if nothing more to make fun ever more of the gouts of blood that issued forth whenever someone was so much as touched by a sword, but Hotel Budapest was playing in a packed theatre next door, and I would have much rather seen that in retrospect. Anyway, back to the fucking. Below are two vids from the movies in question. You can see watching them the same day would create a comic juxtaposition.

Here is the comedy scene from Dark Shadows:

And the non-comedy scene from 300: Rise of an Empire (has boobs)

Nemo: Heart of Ice references

I finally picked up the newest League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Nemo Heart of Ice) and while extremely short, it is chocked full of references.  Nearly every comic PANEL has some reference to an earlier work, many of which you have never heard of.  While of course it hits the Jules Verne stuff and in this particular story, tons of Lovecraftian references as well, there are numerous sources I had never even heard of.  I bet eventually in the span of time, these comics will be published with annotations, but for now we have to turn to the internet.

Anyway, highly recommended.  It’s not the best LoEG book (the first two were incredible and Black Dossier was an astounding achievement for a sourcebook) but it’s great.  My only complaint is that it was way too short but in light of thinking that CENTURY was the end of the series, it’s all good.  The art, in particular, is astounding.

Gencon 2013 blatherings

Holy shit was it crowded. I’ve been there many years in a row (I think close to 20) and I have never, ever seen Gencon that crowded before.  All the parking lots were full, the entire con area was packed with people.  Normally you’ll see the same people around, the same security guards, the same cos-play nerds or larpers or insideout jelly doughnuts, but this year it was such a WAVE of humanity you’d never see the same people twice unless you went to the same type of regions in the gaming hall.

As this was Matt and Steve’s first time to the Con since it was in Milwaukee, I had some things to prove since I had been talking up Indy since it moved there– that it was and is far better than Milwaukee as a location for this large of a convention.  Milwaukee’s downtown is pretty but let’s face it, it’s got shitty hotels and it’s dangerous at night right in the area of the new convention center. What’s more, though I didn’t remember this much, Matt said that Milwaukee never welcomed Gencon as a city much, only tolerated it.

Indy is different for sure, the bars nearby all go into full fucking nerd mode when the con starts with odd menus and drinks. There seems to be a Warmachine bar and a Pathfinder bar–likely some others.  The people on the streets and in the attached mall (which is an actual mall, unlike the one in Milwaukee that is about as dead as you can get without being closed down) are confused by the gencon nerds, but not alarmed– they know there is a big ass nerd convention going on in the city and welcome it.  There are random gaming posters in shops, taxi’s hang dice from their rear view mirrors and so on.  All worshiping the nerd dollar descendant upon the town.

What’s more because the hotels are all connected (and quite nice) there is a massive and I mean massive party scene.  Remember the White Wolf parties circa 1996/97 at the Hilton with the kickboxing and tons of beers and drinks and chicks?  That’s going on every night of Gencon full on everywhere.

So what were we up to?  I got in late Thursday night and headed into the con messing around the crowded ass retailer hall until the 4PM Shadowfist tournament, which had a great turnout with 20 people.  I didn’t make the finals this year– but I played a REALLY crap deck and still pulled out a very lucky win in a game.   My other two Swiss games did not go well, but were fun.  I got to see what seems to be the trend after the endless big bruisers returning from the smoked pile of years hence:  endless big bruisers unturning and attacking over and over again.   Otherwise there was a TON of Ascended on the table this year compared to last. I counted four decks including mine.  After a poor showing in the last couple years for the transformed animals, that was great to see.  Mouth got to the final with his Bonechill deck but came in second.  We need to tune that fucker to win next year.  Matt’s deck was just not up to par and Steve’s relied on Infernal Army– while a big scary site-taker, is still basically a thug and got targeted for events or taken over more often than not.  Matt cornered some of the design team for Fist for awhile and gave them a probably undeserved earful about some of the issues with the game.  I guess I’d be happy if the Architects were back in the game and they didn’t have so many fucking NERD cards!!  Just slapping a nerd head on a previously created painting to fulfill a Kickstarter reward is not anyone’s idea of a card they want to look at.  Fuckn’ A.  What’s more, we encountered TWO decks where the player had centered their deck around a card with their picture on it.  This was terrible.  Otherwise, time will tell whether the new cards make a good effect on the game or if they are overpowered.  It certainly LOOKS like the dragons got a big boost.

Other than Shadowfist, we got in a few games of Seasons– which is excellent!  It’s in the Glory to Rome/Race  for the Galaxy vein, but the dice/action mechanic put it into the fun zone. While I wouldn’t say it’s better than Glory to Rome, I would play it over Race for the Galaxy and 7 Wonders any day (though both of those are excellent games as well).  Also we got in a horrible game of Eclipse where no one was attacking until the very end.  While I love the game, we’ve played so much I need a break from that one for awhile.

Shit that I saw.  My Little Ponies was fucking everywhere at the con.  For good reason, it’s a good show, but I think next year it will fucking EXPLODE even more.  There’s a CCG coming out that will likely be a Pokemon rip off (which is fine) that I’ll have to buy for my kids and I saw some odd mission based game. It’s certainly a franchise worth gaming up and while we look very much down upon the bronies from a high level and urinate– it IS a really good show for kids (and adults forced to watch it).  Even though it’s about female multihued ponies, the plotlines are excellent and much better than sitting through a five episode fight in Naruto…

A line at Fantasy Flight.  Yeah.. was this necessary?  They have some popular games for sure but a line? I think they are doing good work with the Star Wars license but… I am so fucking sick of the Star Wars license….let it go away again for a few years so we can like it again– it’s just been beaten to death.

King of Tokyo– I think the game is finally getting it’s due after a cult release as I saw it everywhere in the con and there was both a massive playset (with child sized monster stand ups) and a massive tournament going on.  This is a great game for beer and pretzels in the BANG vein and really good with the kids– even if they cannot read.

D&D Next? Where was it? Matt got the new book (which is chock full of art from the old sets) but I didn’t see anything special– especially compared to something like Lamentations of the Flame Princess–which is awful special (module called Fuck for Satan for instance).  I don’t know where WOTC are going to go with this next– but it’s nice to see all the Basic D&D and AD&D books reprinted beautifully after all these years.  Too bad AD&D fucking sucked.

Bolt Action.  I tried this out last year and I think it’s starting to get some traction.  There were five table setups this year for demos and the game looks great.  I splurged and filled out my 1000 point brits with a Cromwell and another infantry unit. I feel it’s a mash up of EPIC 40K and AT-43 and that’s a good thing.  So many tanks….

Here is my hoard of loots from the con.

genconscore13

New Cosmic Encounter expansion was probably the biggest score.  I picked up another box of On the Edge (10$) and the On the Edge survival book which from what I’ve heard is EXCELLENT shitter-reading materials.  Fist was cheap at the con this year.  I scored a box of Empire of Evil and a box of Critical shift for 60$ total.  If we are going to go Zman only for playing going forward, I needed these— and I still needed them.   I was looking for some Blood Wars but it was nowhere to be found.  Also, Dreamblade was in just a few nooks and crannies…if you were ever thinking of picking that shit up at all, the end is nigh and I bet in the next 4-5 years the prices for stuff starts climbing and climbing…

I did pick up some random stuff for Epic 40K– Razorbacks and Ork dreadnoughts.  I’m itching to get that played again.

It was a great con, much better than last year when I had that coughing crud people had for a couple months at a stretch and hadn’t slept for weeks.  It was all still a blur but that was due to self-imposed sleep deprivation and the demon drink.  I hope Matt, Steve and mouth can come along next year as we could all get into some Roleplaying games in addition to the other crap, which was sorely missed.  Even with 3 days at the con– it was not enough gaming!

Now we’re looking DIRECTLY down the barrels of Saints Row 4 and

Game of Thrones: Ruminations on finishing the series

The chewing through the reading list continues!  I finished book 5 two weeks ago and I have some feelings about it.  Note that below has spoilers.  Many spoilers.  Pushing through books 4 and 5 which were very long, we’re left with — guess what?  A huge set of cliffhangers for most of the main characters: Tyrion and Bran excluded.  Reek is alive, Asha is alive, Dany is alive and back where she started in book 1.  Stannis, Boltons, Dario, Jon Snow, Cersei, Jamie we’re all at the cliff with these characters– at least the Dornish prince storyline came to an end as I was getting quite confused as to which characters were with Aegeon Targaren and Quinten Dorne–that all got really messy until finally one was dead and one was in Westeros attacking.

Finally after 5 books, we have the Targaren faction fighting in Westeros itself AND since there are now two Targarens, neither of them are safe from death.  I always said that the one character that was truly immortal in the series was Dany because if she died the entire non-westeros storyline would have been for nothing at all.  Now that Aegeon is around, she is no longer untouchable and that’s an improvement.

The thing about the series is that the stories we thought we were getting in the beginning are not the stories that are being told, it almost feels like a Naruto fight, where the fighting that takes a total of 5-6 attacks drags out over 6-8 episodes of character exposition in between hacks (hey! Exalted combat in cartoon form!).  What’s more, in book 5 there are more characters that you just don’t care about than you do–it’s like once you saw that first Samwell chapter in book 2 or 3 you realized that anyone could have a chapter on them, and in 4 and 5 we are exposed to chapter after chapter about Reek and Brienne and various Ironborn and Samwell  that just seems to move the cheese of the conflict from Dany and whoever is in charge of Westeros at the time to minor players, and in a way, getting in the way of the conflict in the shadows between Varys and Littlefinger.  Even the Stark chapters, the cornerstone protagonists, have nothing whatsoever to do with the main plotline at the end of book 5 with the exception of the likely dead/not dead Jon Snow.  That said I doubt we’ll have another Bran chapter (though he will have an effect in the north in other character’s chapters) and while Arya’s view of the riverlands and Bravos was interesting it is now a complete sideshow that will take almost incredible dues ex machina to get her back in.  Tyrion– well that’s a tough one because like all Hobbits in fantasy novels, he has some key role to play in the eventual resolution of the big plot, but in Book 5 he was really just wandering around doing a whole lot of nothing– sort of just a witness to events and peoples outside of the main conflict.

Last but not least, the dragons are finally having a bigger part in the plot, but what was the dance if they stay chained up the whole time (well except at the end)? We have no resolution to the Ironborn/dragon horn plot and have to wait, like everything else, for the next book.  In addition, some of the progress the series made with characters and their positions seems to have been reversed– the book 4 “fall of cersei” was essentially reversed at the end of book 5 with the death of Kevan–leaving yet again another power vacuum that she can fill.  It’s almost like Martin has a vision of where the characters will all be when the main plot starts to actually roll out, and we just have to wait until all the pieces are in place for that to actually start and until then they just get whipped around the mullberry bushes.