Dark Matter: RPG?

Dark_Matter_IntertitleThanks to the magic of the Fire TV Stick we recently bought, Edmund and I are half-way through watching the first season of the Space channel series Dark Matter (no spoilers on episodes 7 through 13, please!)  We’ve been viewing this very much as someone’s role-playing campaign, with classic players: the Fast-Talker (1), the GM’s Spouse, a.k.a. the only one that is sensible enough to be trusted as party leader (2), the Gun Bunny (3), the Ninja (4), the Weirdo (5), the Real Role-Player (6), and the GMPC (Android).


GM: OK, we’ve been playing this for a while so we’ve reached a milestone.  You guys can change one of your aspects now.  Think about taking something that will anchor your character in the story, build connections among you.

4: I change my Trouble from “Wanted for Murdering my Father” to “I Will Avenge my Father’s Death.”

GM: Uh, OK… you realize you guys are the hunted crew of a damaged ship, earning a hardscrabble existence on the edge of known space, and you won’t interact much with your family, right?

4: That’s what my character would do.

GM: (Sigh) OK.  What about you guys?

6: I took “I Must Bring the General to Justice.”

GM, weakly: OK… you realize you guys are the hunted crew of a damaged ship, earning a hardscrabble existence on the edge of…

6: Yeah. But that’s what my character would do.

GM: (Sigh) OK.  What about you, 3?  You’ve had some time to become familiar with the premise, you saw the background plots everybody else is taking. What about your own mysterious past?  You could take something to add a little depth to your character?

3: Nope.  I’m fine.

GM, looks at character sheet: Your aspects are Big Gun, Other Big Gun, and Even Bigger Gun, your High Concept is Gun Expert, and your Trouble is Trigger-Happy!

3, proudly: And I have the stunt “Two-Handed Shooting”!

GM: I fucking hate you all.

[Edited to add:]


GM: Hey guys, 3’s player can’t make it this week but my friend Chris is in town and will play 3.  I hope no one minds?

Dark Matter Intertitle” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

Mini-Review: Jurassic World

Jurassic World logoOK, this is definitely spoiler-free if you have seen any of the movies in the franchise before. The only spoiler here is that there is no spoiler. Jurassic World is exactly what you think it will be: visually stunning, and apparently written in cooperation between a pre-teen fan fiction beginner and an Internet bot.

Yes, that’s what I expected. No, I had not intended on paying money to see it in theatre, but after a shitty week I felt like seeing dinosaurs smashing stuff, so I changed my mind and woke my poor husband early-ish on a Saturday to catch the matinee. I had fun, but in exactly the way I was expecting. Here is my quick-score overview, all rated from 0 to 5 for worst to best:

  • Visuals and special effects: 5. It looks really sharp throughout.
  • Musical score: 2. John Williams on his slowest day, cloying Disney theme-park soundtrack.
  • Writing: 0. It’s profoundly derivative, inconsistent, and the dialogue makes George Lucas at his worst sound like Joss Whedon on a good day.
  • Casting: 3. Eh, it’s OK.
  • Direction: 0. The characters are weather vanes and it’s damned windy. “What’s my motivation?”
  • Editing: 3.5. Not bad, but could have been greatly improved by cutting out all the spoken lines.
  • Property Destruction: 4. Not a Pacific Rim or a Mars Attacks!, but respectable. However, I would have liked more buildings smashed and fewer extras chomped.
  • Diversity: 2. It has some intriguing non-white characters but only in support roles and without much agency.
  • Feminism: 0. It has no redeeming feature in this regard.
  • Carrie Fisher Award for salvaging dignity (a mere shred) despite awful lines goes to Chris Pratt.
  • Steven Seagal Award for inexplicably exiting the movie early goes to Irrfan Khan, who probably decided partway through that he had to save his career from this movie.

In short, you should only see this movie if, like me, you are really in the mood for this:


Fijit the Gnome Illusionist!

In my previous post I mentioned our time at Pacificon. There was one Pathfinder Society event that Edmund attended by himself, to his chagrin. To cheer him up, I commissioned the awesome Rae Wood to draw his poor Gnome illusionist, Fijit, and here is the result:


Mini-Review: Knights of Badassdom

Knights of Badassdom movie posterOn Thursday night we attended a showing of Knights of Badassdom organized by the Ace of Geeks podcast. They sold out the projection room they had secure at the AMC Van Ness 14 theatre, 152 tickets all sold to complete geeks like us. The audience brought costumes, props, and Monty Python references; it made Rocky Horror Picture Show events look a little staid.

It was a treat for all of us, I think, to see a gamer movie with real actors — unless you count Mazes and Monsters, which after all did have Tom Hanks. The four Knights of Badassdom are Tyrion Lannister, River Tam, the guy from True Blood, and the guy from Treme.  No, wait, sorry—now that I have access to IMDb to compensate for my woeful memory for names, let’s try that again:

  • Peter Dinklage (The Station Agent, Death at a Funeral, Game of Thrones) as Hung;
  • Summer Glau (Firefly, Serenity, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Arrow) as Gwen;
  • Steve Zahn (Treme, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dallas Buyers’ Club) as Eric; and
  • Ryan Kwanten (True Blood, Summerland) as Joe.
  • Also notable was Jimmi Simpson (House of Cards, Psych, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) who played the game-master, Ronnie Kwok.

I was not familiar with Joe Lynch, who directed, or with first-time screenwriters Kevin Dreyfuss and Matt Wall. Clearly, though, they knew they Live-Action Role-Playing. Except for the superior quality of the props and costumes, the setting felt quite familiar. The story revolves around LARPers who accidentally summon a real demon, which then proceeds to attack unsuspecting participants in the weekend-long LARP. When the authorities fail to respond, a few brave/weirdo LARPers decide to meet the menace with steel. Hilarity ensues.

I remember that while the movie was being filmed a few years ago, some people in the gamer and LARPer community fretted that this would in fact be another Mazes and Monsters or a Revenge of the Nerds, making the hobby look stupid. I thought that Knights of Badassdom did a good job of making gentle fun of the hobby’s quirks while still making it look cool. The general footage of actual LARPer extras and staged battles looks, well, badass.

When we get to the real monsters, they’re mean and horrible and we wince because they kill some of our favourite geeks. The special effects are no more sterling than one would expect, but they get the job done competently. It’s a horror comedy, and as the lady behind us put it at the end, “The ratio of murder to LARPing was a little high.” The music is good, and the mock-documentary feel of the connecting scenes is well used to make us chuckle without diminishing the main characters.

Everybody seemed to have a good time, and I was certainly happy I’d decided to attend. As I told my husband, “The part that would be hardest to understand for some people is that no one here was perplexed by any of this,” be it LARP protocol, references to John Dee, or death metal. It made perfect sense to us — and from what I see of the few reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, to no one else. Highly recommended for gamers.

Some Links:

It was a Fiasco

I’ve been badgering Edmund to finish some of the game conversions he’s playtested recently, including his transposition of the Blue Rose RPG to Fate Core, and his Fiasco playset for the universe of Warhammer 40,000 and Dark Heresy. Today I decided to throw in a bribe in the form of art for the latter (click on the image for the big version):

Fiasco 40K cover

And by the way, here are some of his notes from recent games at Good Omens mini-con and Big Bad Con, plus his most recent draft.

One A.M. Ideas: Fiasco — The IT Crowd

The IT CrowdYeah, I keep doing that.  when I can’t get back to sleep in the dark of night, I come up with great ideas for wasting more time I don’t get paid for.  This time, it’s a playset for Jason Morningstar’s game Fiasco (Bully Pulpit Games), using the setting of the British comedy “The IT Crowd.”

Naturally, I’d want to use the “soft tilt” table from The Fiasco Companion, since there are relatively few deaths on this show.

Yeah, another great idea for next year’s Big Bad Con!

Post-Apocalypse looking good!

One of the games I’ll be offering in the Games on Demand section at Big Bad Con this weekend is Jared Sorensen’s octaNe: the psychotronic game of post-apocalyptic trash-culture america (Memento Mori Theatricks).  Since this is supposed to run in a 2-hour block, I need to be ready to go with no time wasted when setting the mood, so I surfed Google Images for pictures I could use.

You know how this usually yields 60 to 90% crap?  That’s not true if your search query is “post-apocalypse“.  I got lots of fantastic vistas and character shots.  Go figure!

Post-Apocalypse: Google Image search

FAE: The Muppet Show — Game Prep Notes

Fate Accelerated banner
The Muppet Show logo

Following last weekend’s Muppet Show game using the Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE) rules, here are the notes for general play, including comments received from the players:  Open Document file or PDF file.

Some of the key suggestions I received included:

  • Treating the audience or the show itself as a character, taking consequences based on the success of individual numbers.  This is so very much in tune with the way FATE and FAE are supposed to be played, I was embarrassed I had not already thought of it!
  • Starting the show with a few consequences already, tied to the episode issues.
  • The players liked having the characters semi-generated (three or four aspects each, which the players were free to add to in order to customize), but recommended that I add one stunt to each character, serving as a sort of model for them to add more.  Right now, only a few of the Muppet characters have received such a stunt, so feel free to post your own suggestions!
  • Making a worksheet to help players create the line-up of acts performing in their show, so you will find this as the first two pages of the updated Muppet character sheets (PDF file)

EDIT: Here are some examples of inspiration pieces I printed for the players: Muppet Rehearsals (Open Document file) or Muppet Rehearsals (PDF file).

FAE: The Muppet Show – Secret Service

Muppets in Sharpie pen, by groovy geckoFate Con was this Saturday and as promised, I ran a Muppet Show game using Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE).  The character sheets can be found in a recent post.

I ended up with five players, the wonderful Karen (playing Scooter), Jefferson (An-i-mal!), Amy (Gonzo the Great), David (Miss Piggy), and Edmund (Sam the Eagle), plus walk-on parts by other muppets as the fancy took us.  We started by singing the Muppet Show theme (I had printed the lyrics for everyone.)

Despite Kermit’s absence, the Muppets had to put on a show as best they could, starting with finding a guest star, and staging numbers.  Seizing his opportunity for moral reform, chronically disapproving Sam decided that this would be a good time to set an example with an inspiring, high-minded, patriotic show — by inviting the President. He had heard that a petition to the White House gathering at least 100,000 signatures in 30 days had to receive an answer, so he laboriously started  e-mailing repeatedly.  Rizzo and the rats soon turned this into a valuable opportunity by assisting him in exchange for cheese.

Gonzo and Animal, meanwhile, were interested in something loud involving cannons, a bit like 1812, so Sam talked them into a John Philip Sousa-style march (probably “The Thunderer”, I was ignorant and couldn’t tell which.) Buoyed by this success, Sam then decide to invite Bill Clinton to come play saxophone with the Electric Mayhem.

Soon, everyone was into this patriotic theme, with Gonzo planning to read the Declaration of Independence while jumping over the chorus line on his motorcycle, and Miss Piggy getting a sequined red-white-and-blue dress to wear for her singing number.  Scooter was doing his level best to channel everyone’s enthusiasm in a more-or-less show-building direction.

Again, Rizzo was delighted to assist with the project since, a month after the Fourth of July, flags and bunting were cheap and he was able to resell them at a cheesy profit.  But meanwhile, Sam’s project kept growing the closer he seemed to be to his goal, and he started wanting to bring in every living President of the United States — plus Muppet Ronald Reagan.  Continue reading “FAE: The Muppet Show – Secret Service”

Too Old to Rock and Roll, Too Young to Die

The Big Adventure, by zazBWhen I was an engineering undergrad at École Polytechnique de Montréal back in the early to mid-1980s, I finally got to try role-playing games; I’d been reading about them but could not manage to get a game going in my quiet home town.  But Poly (as we call it) had a gaming club, cleverly called Polyhèdre (Polyhedron), which met every Thursday night.  With a school of 1600 engineering students at the time, it was super-busy — it was like a short convention every week.

Everyone once in a while we got students from outside the school; if they attended Université de Montréal, with which we were affiliated, it was sort-of OK, but if they were from outside the pale, it was against school rules for student clubs.  However, we generally pretended not to notice unless they behaved poorly.

At one point, we had some attendees that were clearly high-schoolers; there was this 14-year-old kid who was desperate to run Ravenloft so a couple of friends and I humoured him.  He was a terrible DM, but most of the club members were 18 to 25, so we could remember quite well what is was to be 14 and we put up with his learning curve.  (I still get a warm feeling nowadays, thinking about we could have been dicks but weren’t.)

However, last night it hit me like a ton of bricks that today, he would be about 44 and might have kids older than I was back when I felt so patient and mature for putting up with him.    FFFUUUUCCCK!  I’m OLD!

FAE: at the game table

Credits: The top picture is “The Big Adventure” by zazB, and the bottom one is an illustration by Claudia Cangini for Evil Hat Productions’ FATE Accelerated.