Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Juxtaposition Blogathon: Mina Harker

For my participation in the Juxtaposition Blogathon at Pussy Goes GRRR I though I would take a look at the various Dracula movies over the years.  But since I had gone over them in detail last year, I figure I'll focus on the heroine of our tale, Mina Murray Harker.

Now to be clear, so we are talking about the same character.  Mina is the character in the novel Dracula that married Johnathon Harker and is bit by Dracula, but does not die.

In many ways Mina is prototypical "Last Girl" of horror films, she could even be considered the first.  While she is still wrapped int he tropes of the female needing saving of the Gothic horror tradition, her growth in Dracula sets her apart.  Mina in the novel is a modern woman.  In the films...well let's have a look.

Nosferatu (1922)
We meet screen-Mina for the first time here, but her name is Ellen.  Mina/Ellen is very much the victim here.  In fact despite having just seen this movie the only scene I can recall with her in it is when Orlock (Dracula) is feeding on her bedroom.   She does hold the old vampire in the sunlight and kills him, but she dies herself.
Now Nosferatu had to deviate quite a bit from the source material in order to get made (and even that was iffy), but Lucy went from a integral part of the story to the roll of the victim, and purely the victim here.

Dracula (1931)
This is famous Bela Lugosi version and this movie is full of Hollywood glam.  Mina and Lucy (Lucy is now brought into picture) are depicted in their Hollywood finest.  Not too bad for a secretary and her idle rich friend.  Again, as with Ellen above, Mina is more victim here.  While this movie is closer to the stage play than the novel we do get to see some of Mina's character.  Now another change here is Mina is the daughter of Dr. Seward, a bit of an odd choice, but one that comes up again (and again, due to the stage play).   As in the book it is Mina that gives our would be vampire hunters the insight they need.  Also interestingly enough this is the genesis of the "Mina loves Dracula" sub-plot that we get in later movies, but is absent in the book entirely.  In the end we end up with Mina back with Johnathon and Lucy dead.

Dracula (1958)
The first of the Christopher Lee/Peter Cushing Dracula films for Hammer.  The roll of Mina/Lucy and the other women is reduced even more than the 1931 outing. The focus here is the Dracula/Van Helsing relationship.   This time Harker is engaged to "Lucy" and Holmwood is married to Mina.  Lucy is killed and Mina is now the focus of the count's obsessions. Again, Mina here is a victim, but she is a "preferred victim" now.  We see the attachment of Mina to Dracula that was hinted in the Lugosi version and made more manifest here.  Dracula is not just a predator, he is after our wives!  Mina displays some of the cool intelligence we see in the book, but this character is not really the same woman.

Dracula (1979)
The famous John Badham film with Frank Langella oozed atmosphere and sensuality.  Here "Lucy" is a wholly modern woman.  She has her own opinions on things and is at the heart closer to Mina in the books than the other portrayals.     Here is the fiancee of Harker, but is also the daughter of Dr. Seward.   "Mina" plays the Lucy role and is Van Helsing's daughter.  Odd changes, but again these are due to the stage play (which gave both Lugosi and Langella their careers.)
Lucy in this movie is viewed as Dracula's equal, or at least a partner he would elevate above the others.  Again there is the "love story" between the two that did not exist in the book.
Lucy is less of a victim here in the sense of the victim's role.  She at times is a co-conspirator of Dracula and even in the end when all seems well, Johnathon turns away from her and she watches Dracula's cloak like she expects him to come back to her.

Dracula (1992)
The last on screen outing of Dracula and Mina is movie that was supposed to be the best adaptation of the book.  In many ways FFC's "Bram Stoker's Dracula" does get it right.  Mina is strong, courageous and a modern woman.  This contrasted with the "weaker" Lucy who is still very much part of the past.   This is the closest to the Novel Mina we have gotten.  And yet we still get the "Love Never Dies" story line inserted.   Mina is Dracula's equal here and this is shown in the movie with her delivering the killing blow (as opposed to Johnathon and Holmwwod doing it in the book). In this Mina is less the victim and even less the co-conspirator of Dracula, though she does sometimes forget herself.

In both the 1958 version and this one Mina is burned on the forehead with a holy item.  The ways in which these scenes play out I think is telling in how the director of each movie viewed Mina.  The 58 Hammer film the burn is nearly gratuitous.  A big burned on cross on the actress' face.  In the 92 FFC movie the burn is a partial circle from the host, it looks like a bad blister is all.  In both scenes we get the same message, Mina has been tainted by Dracula's evil, but in one she is disfigured and the other simply marked.

Mina is a reflection of the Modern Woman in the novel while Lucy is more the reflection of the Woman of the Past.  Mina is the one that finds everything and uses the latest technologies (typewriter and even Seward's phonograph).  I find it interesting that Mina in the novel is more forward thinking and modern than the movies that came after the fact. In fact it would be another 100 years till we ended up with a Mina, in the form of Winona Ryder, that came close to the book.  Sure Kate Nelligan is great and very modern, but she comes up a little short.  Or rather, the director and script do not allow her character to reach it's fullest potential.

Last Girl
Does Mina qualify as the "Last Girl". Yes. In book she is the prototype of the Last Girl, she confronts the evil and lives to tell the tale.  In fact it is Mina that discovers all the connections in the various tales of the other characters.  In the movies, well she survives, most of the times, but she also confronts the evil of Dracula.

Want to read more movie Juxtapostions?  Head on over to Pussy Goes GRRR!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Half-Price Book find: Complete Book of Necromancers

In the waning days of 2nd ed and before 3rd ed was out there was a golden time of ebay sales of older books.
Golden that is if you were a seller.

One such book that went for outrageous prices was the 2nd Ed, Complete Book of Necromancers.  

I had bought this book back in 1995 or so for the cover price.  I held on to it and really enjoyed having it.  Nothing makes for a great arch-villain like a necromancer.  In early 2000 I sold it, along with a ton of my AD&D 2nd Ed. Material on eBay.   I got $83 for that book alone.  Not a bad deal really.

Since that time I have not really thought about that book much other than to gloat on making $65 profit on it.  Sure there were times I wanted to flip through it again, but I had new 3rd Edition material to keep me busy.

Well yesterday at Half-Price books I found another copy.  It was in very good condition and despite the name of the store it was going for $14.00.  Sure they are not fetching much more than 40 on ebay these days either.

Well I own a copy again and happy to have it.  
Reading through it I was caught up in the world of WP and NWP and THAC0 all over again, but the fluff is still great.  Not sure I'll ever actually use it, but it is there now next to my 3e and 4e books of similar nature.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11

I have not talked much about this date in the past really.  I also don't see that changing anytime in the future.

I remember everything about that day is sharp detail and it was an exceptionally bad day, though my day was nothing compared to those who lost their lives to the acts of infant-brain cowards.

I may be a godless atheist, but I am a godless atheist that loves his country.

This has also been a fairly stressful week and I am really out of sorts at the moment.

Regular posting to resume tomorrow.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Zatannurday: And Still More Cosplay

Women dressing up as super heroes just never really gets old.

More Zatannas. These are from last year's HeroesCon 2010.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Here there Be Dragons: Aži Dahāka, 3.5/Pathfinder

Here is a stab at Liam's big dragon, Aži Dahāka.  I used a couple of different tools and then manually tweaked them.

More details on his monster here soon.  Right now I want to know how these stats look to you.

Aži Dahāka
Dragon, Great Wyrm Fiendish
CR 28 XP 3,100,000
Chaotic evil Colossal Dragon
Init +4; Senses Blindsense, Darkvision 60; Listen +53; Spot +53

AC 41, Touch 2, flat footed 41 (+ No Armour, + Shield, none)
(+39 Natural, -8 size)
hp 660 (40d12+400);
Fort +32, Ref +22, Will +32
Damage reduction 20/magic, Immunity to fire, Spell Resistance 32, Resistance to cold and fire 10

Speed 40, fly 200ft.
Single Attack Bite +50 (4d8+17)
Full Attack
Bite +50 (4d8+17)
2 Claw +47 (4d6+8)
Crush +47 (4d8+8)
Tail +47 (4d6+8)
2 Wing Slap +47 (2d8+8)
Space 30ft.; Reach 20ft.
Special Attacks
Breath Weapon DC(40) 24d10 Fire 60ft cone, Frightful Presence DC(38) , Sorcerer 19,
Spell-like Abilities Sorcerer level 19,
Smite good 1 per day add extra damage = to HD total

Spell-like Abilities
Spell-like Abilities (CHR) 3rd DC(21) Locate object 11/day
Spell-like Abilities (CHR) 3rd DC(21) Suggestion 3/day
Spell-like Abilities (CHR) 6th DC(24) Find the path 1/day
Spell-like Abilities (CHR) 8th DC(26) Discern location 1/day

Spells Known:

Spells  (will choose these later)
Level 0 (6) DC 18
Level 1 (8) DC 19
Level 2 (8) DC 20
Level 3 (8) DC 21
Level 4 (8) DC 22
Level 5 (7) DC 23
Level 6 (7) DC 24
Level 7 (7) DC 25
Level 8 (7) DC 26
Level 9 (4) DC 27

Str 45, Dex 10, Con 31, Int 26, Wis 27, Chr 26
Base Attack 40 Grapple 73
Alertness: +2 listen +2 spot,
Blind-fight: Re-roll miss chance for concealment,
Cleave: Get extra attack if kill monster,
Flyby Attack: Can make standard action during move,
Great Cleave: Can make extra attacks if kill opponent ,
Hover: Can Hover,
Improved Initiative: +4 Initiative checks,
Iron Will: +2 on will saves,
Multiattack: Secondary Attacks are at -2 instead of -5,
Power Attack: Subtract from to hit add to damage,
Snatch: Snatch prey in mouth or claw,
Weapon Focus: +1 to attack rolls,
Widen Spell,
Wingover: Can change directions quickly while flying
Skills Appraise 28, Bluff 44, Concentration 46, Diplomacy 51, Hide 14, Intimidate 49, Know Arcana 41, Know Geography 41, Know History 41, Know Local 41, Know Nobility 47, Knowledge (any one) 41, Listen 53, Move Silently 39, Search 51, Spot 53, Swim 47
Languages Abyssal, Aquan, Common, Draconic, Infernal, Undercommon

Environment Deserts
Organization Unique
Treasure Standard x 3

Pathfinder Resources

So fast one today. I have a lot going on.

I am looking for some good Pathfinder resources.  In particular monster construction.

I have been pushing to do "Here there be Dragons" in Basic era format for the likes of Labyrinth Lord, Basic Fantasy and Swords & Wizardry.  Liam, the author, wants to do it for Pathfinder.  We might do both.

I am very out of practice in writing monster stats for 3.5/Pathfinder.  
Are their any good guides or online resources where I can "check my work"?

The big issue of course is skill and feat calculations.

Anything is good!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Vacation in Vancouver

All this talk of NC-17 and R rated blogs has reminded me of one of the few purely adult games I have played.

While all my games can be considered to have "Adult themes", after all the main characters of "The Dragon and the Phoenix" and "Season of the Witch" were two lesbians, I generally try to run a game that is enjoyable on many levels.  So my Tara player could stand up against the patriarchy and fight for her right to love another woman and my Robert character could concentrate on killing monsters.

Ghosts of Albion: Obsession  deals with a serial rapists/killer that is trying to find a perfect match for the woman he really desires but can't have.  So yeah, not all my games are kid-friendly.

But lately I have been wanting to get back to another game I was playing online using WitchCraft.  The game was called "Vacation in Vancouver" and the hook was that members of Vancouver's supernatural community were going missing.  Long story short there was this entire underground where vampyres, demons and witches were getting together and engaging in all sorts of lewd sexual acts in exchange for essence.  After a while even open acts of magic were considered acceptable.
The game though was not really about sex or even depravity (there was a lot of sexual slavery going on and it was hard to know who was using who), but about addiction and loosing yourself.
A couple of characters had to be literally pulled back from the edge.

As a role-playing experience it was intense.  There was not much combat to be honest.  Part of that was out of choice (the characters were investigators, not thugs) and part out of necessity (combats online can be dull, even in Unisystem).

The game ended like so many others, not with a big finale, but a gradual dying off.
The mystery of where all the supernaturals were going was solved, but not the one of the demonic sex trafficking. The demons never actually killed anyone, in fact they seemed to be concerned for the wellfare of the Gifted and Lesser Gifted in their "care".  And there were plenty of volunteers for the demons too since the exchange of Essence was pleasurable for both (but only humans can 'regenerate' Essence).

I'd like to revisit that world someday.  But the alchemy of the players and the right situations is gone.  I *know* for a fact that if I went in with a another group it would be of the "kill demons and ask questions later" sort.

It was one of those rare RPG moments were the bad guys might have won and there was nothing the PCs/Cast could do about it.  While the game was fun and provided some of the best pure Horror roleplaying I have run in a long time, I am just not sure how it could even be revisited.

I guess there is the feeling of it not being finished and too many questions left unanswered. The big questions of course were who was in charge of the trafficking and if it could even be stopped, how?  And then there was "Kim". That was the character's name.  She willing sold herself to a demon for the pleasure it provided. I wonder what happened to her.

So. I guess I don't kill characters, but having their minds tore apart by Essence overload and sold into deviant sexual slavery for a bunch of demons is not exactly beyond me.

*Picture unrealted. I thought it looked cool.
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