Mouse Guard Must-Have

photo-sep-08-4-48-55-pmI’m very late in discovering this, but the hardback compilation Mouse Guard: The Black Axe is a must-have for all readers of the Mouse Guard comics (David Petersen, published by Archaia) and especially for players of the role-playing game based on the comic, the Mouse Guard RPG (Luke Crane & David Petersen).

It’s full of information about what the Guard Mice do, the art is as inspiring as ever, and the book offers a nice appendix full of maps, illustrations of locations, genealogies of famous mouse clans, etc. (You can see examples of location art here, but the ones in the book are different and contain much more information.)

War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus is a 2016 ENnie Nominee!

ENnies 2016 Nominee
The 2016 ENnie Awards nominees were just announced and War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus has made the list in four categories:

  • Best Art, Interior
  • Best Family Game
  • Best Rules
  • Product of the Year

It’s up against high-quality, popular releases but it’s so nice to be on the list. (Now I know that at least four people read it!)  ^_^

I am so very fortunate that on my first professional writing gig in the role-playing world, Evil Hat Productions let me create a book the way I wanted to, with the support of their fantastic knowledge and staff resources. It doesn’t get any better!

War-of-Ashes-Pageheader

Dive, Dive, Dive!

cover of Deep Dark BlueWelp, having used the example of the Frankie West character from Deep Dark Blue (Evil Hat Productions) in yesterday’s post, I was then haunted once again by the wish to play or run in that kind of setting. (I loved Fantasy Flight Games’ Blue Planet v2 way back when). I loaded the first season of seaQuest DSV on Netflix, and longingly thumbed through David Brin’s Startide Rising.

FrankieAfter the stupid kerfuffle about whether you could have a character who uses a wheelchair on a science fiction submarine, and looking at Streaker and seaQuest built to accommodate frickin’ dolphins throughout their length, I want to yell at people who lack both empathy and imagination. Even as I wish I could play right this minute!

seaQuest_layout
Darwin the dolphin swam everywhere on seaQuest!

How can you not see how great it would be to have someone like this:

Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba (SUDS) - January 2010 trip
Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba (SUDS) – January 2010 trip

Popping out on the bridge or in the lab alongside this dolphin:

Winter the dolphin with a prosthetic tail
Winter, the dolphin with a prosthetic tail

I swear as soon as I get a chance, I will play this character. How is that not the coolest thing in the middle of a big battle scene for the character to unlock their powered wheelchair from the gunner station, dive into the nearest moon pool opening, swim to the lab, get the macguffin, dive back in, zip to the torpedo bay, fix the problem, and swim back to their station?


Credits: Illustration by Arthur Asa taken from Deep Dark Blue, © 2016 Evil Hat Productions. SeaQuest layout from seaQuest V play-by-email sim by Crazynexus. Photo of diver © 2010 Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba (SUDS). Photo of Winter the dolphin © 2008 Barry Bland.

 

Women-y Bits in Action Movies: Irreparable Harm

Trigger Warnings: Feminism, Sarcasm, Social Justice

Hey, it’s time for dude derision! A couple of days ago the trailer for the Ghostbusters reboot was released and unleashed a wave of anger, sorrow, and reportedly flaccid penises among the U.S.A.’s most vocal minority, Insecure White Men. The new movie’s four female leads, which do not even include any bikini babes, in lieu of the 1986 all-male line-up have left the MRA contingent weeping tears of impotent rage.

A masterpiece forever ruined...
A masterpiece forever ruined…
... by this desecration.
… by this desecration.

This is not the first time in recent years that a cinema classic has been completely stricken from loving memories after a sequel or remake made the original completely unwatchable. There is too little attention paid to this phenomenon, which has left the lives of too many IWMs joyless and tragic. How can true fans find any satisfaction in re-watching these classics, knowing that out there someone is enjoying a different version?

But the harm is far more insidious. These are not, in fact, merely different takes on the fictional universes so savaged: they represent visions unapproved by IWMs. Please take a moment to consider the pain of a self-respecting dude, a real man, a genuine bro forced to see headlines, images, friends’ Facebook statuses and perhaps even entire minutes of movie trailers containing fully-dressed, normally proportioned female characters with speaking parts. And not only that, but the lack of a strong central white man as the focus of the plot, which may irretrievably shatter fragile IWM psyches.

Even when male actors are given a heroic title role, as in last year’s Mad Max: Fury Road, the damage done is considerable.

Can we ever enjoy this again...
Can we ever enjoy this again…
.. while millions are watching this?
.. while millions are watching this?

Sure, a white man may have the title role, but is it even worth it if he is forced to exchange lines of dialogue with women as if on equal footing? If we are forced to consider women’s points of view? The mere fact that he had to go through this ordeal somehow robs us of all satisfaction when the woman actually agrees with the man’s arguments.

And those who suggest that IWMs simply not watch forget once again that this does not address the problem: these offensive movies would still exist.

It’s not just about women given *shudder* major roles either: while the two examples above generally steer clear of this additional outrage, sometimes these remakes and sequels have also included people of color in speaking parts other than criminal, victim, or enabler.

No more can we savour this..
No more can we savour this..
Doing the unthinkable -- twice.
… with vandals doing the unthinkable — twice.

But IWMs remember that the Star Wars universe never had people of colour before (or women), just like Mad Max’s barren wasteland was never polluted by strong female protagonists.

Figments of your imagination. Never happened.
Figments of your imagination. Never happened.

And it’s not just among main characters either; while a brodude can be generous and tolerate your occasional chick, usually a cool girl, and the token minority, perfidious SJWs have made incursions among supporting cast in disruptive ways. Sure, it’s fine to have women and visible minorities in support roles — but they should be just that, supportive. Not all, you know, assertive and threatening. How can stormtrooopers be feared and respected throughout the galaxy if units can be led by women?

This...
This…
Not this!
Not this! Where is the strength, the leadership, the action?

Mark my words, this undermining of everything that makes action movies cool and exciting was foreshadowed by so-called “fan works” years ago.

Can you see the difference between Troops...
Can you see the difference between the manly Troops…
... and the girly stormtroopers in the later IMPS: The Relentless?
… and the girly stormtroopers in the later IMPS: The Relentless?

Hell in a handbasket, gentlemen. That’s where this is all going. Action movies are dying.

Spotify Playlist: American Gods

american gods

A few years ago, Bridget McGovern at the TOR Books blog put together an exhaustive soundtrack to go along Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods: “The Complete American Gods Mix Tape”.  I added all the tunes I could find, which is the vast majority, to a Spotify playlist.  I was thinking of this playlist because Christmas features at the centre portion of the book, so it’s seasonal.  Unfortunately, Spotify does not allow custom images for playlists (it’s only been a top user request for 3.5 years!) but I’m nothing if not stubborn.  Hence, sharing through my own blog so I could have a representative image when I post the link!  Enjoy.

Spotify playlist: American Gods Mix Tape.  If you want more about the novel, here are some thoughts and links from my previous posts.

[Edit: Now includes the long-missing Beatles songs, just released on Spotify.]

american-gods-mixtape1

War of Ashes RPG: Icy Sounds

iPhoneDock-01Edmund gave me a speaker dock station for my phone a few days ago, so I now have my Agaptus playlist in the background while I prepare my two War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus adventures for next weekend’s Big Bad Con: Jean Sibelius (Finlandia, The Tempest), Edvard Grieg (Peer Gynt Suite), Camille Saint-Saëns (Le Carnaval des animaux), Paul Dukas (L’Apprenti sorcier), Sergei Prokofiev (Peter and the Wolf), Danny Elfman (Music for a Darkened Theatre), etc.

The two adventures are Ice, Ice, Baby and Curse of Agaptus, and will both be released as downloadable content on Evil Hat Productions’ website in the not-too-distant future.

Edit: Here is the Agaptus playlist on Spotify if you want to peruse it.

War of Ashes RPG: Diorama…

When Edmund starts painting miniatures for War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus, this results:

Besieged

From this:

Besieged-spread

Credits:  Photo © Edmund Metheny 2015, used with permission; end pages art © ZombieSmith and Evil Hat Productions 2015, used with permission but my photo doesn’t do it justice.

War of Ashes RPG: The Troops

WoA_minis-KuldZombieSmith have supplied us with a bunch of War of Ashes miniatures in addition to the ones we owned, so little metal creatures are now covering the game table. Edmund has been painting up a storm so I can field bad guys in my two War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus games at Big Bad Con.  They’re not finished yet, but they’re coming along nicely!  Shown here: the voracious Kuld, pre-shading and highlights phases.

Credits:  Photos © Edmund Metheny 2015, used with permission.

WoA_minis

War of Ashes RPG: It’s Here!

The ThingYes, I’m finally holding a real book in my hands.  That’s my very own stack of books, at EndGame, freshly arrived from Evil Hat Productions’ printer: War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus.  Dang, it’s real!  I’m real!

Luscious matte-finish hardcover, full-colour printing on thick glossy paper, glorious end sheets.  It’s so wonderful to be on a project where the whole team excels. I’m awed by:

  • Karen Twelves‘ editing and way, way more: she identified the correct “voices” for various portions of the book, tied this into a coherent text, reorganized it several times as we answered the playtest feedback, hunted for typos and cross-references, selected appropriate images from the pre-existing pictures from ZombieSmith, and wrote extensive art notes for new pieces.  In all this, we worked on multiple sections in parallel and the only time we had a version control problem was my fault.
  • Dale Horstman‘s beautiful layout that brought out the art while conveying mood, his choice of images where we had not provided instructions, his skill at visually distinguishing the different types of text (instruction, narration, examples, fiction, etc.), his extensive work to showcase art pieces in the best way possible, his patience with our edits and changes, and his attention to detail.  He also did “invisible” work, such as making sure all those hyperlinks worked properly in the PDF version, and preparing the layout for a smooth transition to ePub.
  • Edmund Metheny‘s micro-fiction, coming to my rescue when I was too exhausted, mentally and physically, to write it.  His little bits of dialogue are funny and zippy, they are short enough that they don’t interrupt the “gamer” reading, they convey a whole lot of flavour and background info in small bites, and they make the characters come alive.
  • Mike Olson‘s help with the conflict rules, and particularly his ideas on using zones more intensively.  I think the playtesters generally loved this rule sub-set, and it’s completely portable to other Fate games.
  • Sean Nittner and Stephen Bajza‘s excellent project management, unexpected in the world of gaming.
  • Sean also acted as creative director, and he was always there with a good idea when I was stomped. To his particular credit: the cycle of approaches in the Froth rules, and reminding me of the usefulness of invoking aspects for effect.  There were tons of other things, but these two bits right there had important ripples in the book.
  • Plus we had an all-star team with all the specialized tasks: Jessica Banks (proofreading), Krista White (indexing), Carrie Harris (marketing and tie-in fiction), Rob Donohue, Leonard Balsera, and Brian Endgard (internal reviewers), Twyla Campbell (playtest survey consultant), Josh Qualtieri, Anthony Brown and the artists at ZombieSmith (art and concept), and of course the business savvy and long-term vision of Chris Hanrahan and Fred Hicks.  (Also, Fred decided to switch from a softcover to hardcover book, which I think the art and graphic design totally deserved.  Thanks, Fred!)

And it smells good!

Smells good! Pretty pictures It has pages! It's in a real store!

P.S.: Of course, as soon as I opened the book I started thinking “Oh, I could have done better here!” etc.  But when I play it, this is a miniatures-based role-playing game I enjoy. I’m also pretty pleased with the game-master tools I provided in there.  I hope you’ll like the book.

I salute the Blue Rose

BlueRoseCover3

Fans of role-playing games are likely aware that the Kickstarter funding campaign for a new edition of Green Ronin Publishing’s Blue Rose RPG is in full swing. If you didn’t know, then go read io9’s interview with line developer and original co-writer Steve Kenson. Hey, while you’re there, I’ll borrow a pull-quote from Steve to describe the genre that Blue Rose emulates, romantic fantasy:

“Romantic” refers to a style and a point of view that’s generally positive, hopeful, and cooperative: good people can make a difference, true love can and does win in the end, we can make the world better, people of good conscience can work together (and even disagree) but still coexist peacefully, and, ultimately, there is good in the world and it’s something worth fighting for. That romance often includes interpersonal relationships, from boon comrades to passionate love, and such things are both the reasons why characters take action and the rewards they receive for their efforts.

Blue Rose will be celebrating its tenth anniversary this year! It’s crazy how quickly time passes. One thing has been nagging at me every time I see someone say that the game was “ahead of its time” in 2005 for its inclusiveness of gender, orientation and even body type diversity.

Ahead of its time? Please. Let’s give credit where credit is due:

The Blue Rose RPG is exactly the kind of game that helped move the gamer and geek mindset forward.

The kind that show that games matter, that they are not just a few hours’ entertainment. They are that, yes, but also so much more. Because the times, you see, they may be a-changin’ but they have to be dragged a-kickin’ and a-screamin’ into it. Otherwise nothing ever advances.

So thank you, Green Ronin. May the Blue Rose bloom pure and bright for a long time.