Saturday, October 21, 2017

Friends of the Library Score

Just a drive by.

Went to our local "Friends of the Library" used book sale at my local Library.

Found these laying in the "Computer Games" area.


Te Basic book is in poor shape, but the PHB is in fantastic shape!

Best $3.50 I have spent in a while.

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Sooner or later someone was going to cast Tilda Swinton as a vampire.
Thankfully it was sooner.

The Only Lovers Left Alive is the tale of two vampire lovers, centuries, maybe even millennia old, that periodically spend time apart.  Tilda Swinton's Eve stays in Tangier while Tom Hiddleston's Adam lives in Detroit. 
The movie is arty and actually full of existential dread; what would you do to keep away the crushing sense of thousands and thousands of endless nights?

The cast is fantastic really. We also get Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin, and John Hurt. 
Though the best really are Swinton and Hiddleston who were born to play vampires.  I would want more movies with these characters, but I think we have seen everything we can of them; their curse is to remain the same for all time while the world around them burns.

This one had been one of my early picks for the challenge this year even though it was not on any of my old videotapes (naturally). But one I really wanted to see.

This might one of the best vampire movies I have seen in a very long time. 

Note: Backdating this to the night I watched it. I am woefully behind schedule in posting.


Friday, October 20, 2017

No Sacrifice Without Blood: Carmilla and Laura for World of Darkness (nWoD)

Coming back to Carmilla

Another great system for doing anything "Vampire" is, of course, any of the Word of Darkness systems.   For these builds, I have chosen to use the World of Darkness and Vampire: The Requiem games from the early 2000s. Not the groundbreaking game that Vampire: The Masquerade game was, but a more functional and easier to use game.
Plus the World of Darkness game handles normal humans better.


So in that light, let's start with our first little Creampuff, tiny gay journalist Laura. I am setting these builds roughly in the Season 3 area.

Laura Hollis
Human

Mental
- Intelligence * * * O O
- Wits * * * O O
- Resolve * * O O O
Physical
- Strength * O O O O
- Dexterity * * * O O
- Stamina * * O O O
Social
- Presence  * * * O O
- Manipulation * * O O O
- Composure * * O O O

Skills
Mental
*Academics 2 (Research specialization)
*Computer 2 (Internest specialization)
 Crafts 1
*Investigation 3 (Crime Scene specialization)
 Medicine 1
 Occult 1
 Politics 1
 Science 1
Physical
 Athletics 1
 Larceny 2
 Stealth 1
 Survival 2
 Weaponry 1
Social
 Empathy 1
 Expression 1
 Persuasion 1
 Socialize 1

Merits
Allies (3) Silas U students (Perry, Laff, Kirsh, Dany)
Striking Looks (2)
Technophile (Video blog) (2)

Virtue: Hope
Vice: Pride

Defense: 3
Dodge: 6

Initiative: 5
Size: 5
Speed: 9
Surprise: 5

Perception: 5
Willpower: 4
Health: 7

In truth, I am really, really happy with this build.  I can see this Laura working well as a character.
Her obvious Virtue is Hope.  No one is rooting for her friends more than Laura.  Her Vice is Pride. She feels sometimes she alone can fix the problems that she alone caused. In truth, she is not alone and did not cause all these problems.
She gets the Merits of the friends at Silas, she is the one that brings everyone together.

Next is our brooding vampire hero, Carmilla, Mistress of the Snark.

Carmilla
Vampire
Clan: Daeva (Duchagne Bloodline)
Covenant: Ordo Dracul (Circle of the Crone would also work)

Mental
- Intelligence * * O O O
- Wits * * O O O
- Resolve * * O O O
Physical
- Strength * * * * O
- Dexterity * * * * O
- Stamina * * * O O
Social
- Presence  * * * O O
- Manipulation * * O O O
- Composure * * O O O

Blood Potency * O O

Skills
Mental
 Academics 1
 Investigation 1
 Occult 2
Physical
 Athletics 1
*Brawl 4 (Natural Weapons, Dirty Tricks)
 Larceny 1
 Stealth 1
 Survival 2
 Weaponry 2
Social
 Animal Ken 1
*Intimidation (Physical Threats)
 Persuasion 1
 Socialize 1

Merits
Barfly 1
Brawling Dodge 1
Fleet of Foot 1
Striking Looks (4)

Vampire Powers
Celerity 2
Majesty 1
Obfuscate 1
Protean 4 (to become a large cat)

Vitae: 10
Humanity: 5
- Derangements
 Depression (what she has done)
 Inferiority Complex (mother, sister)

Virtue: Justice
Vice: Sloth

Defense: 2
Dodge: 4

Initiative: 6
Size: 5
Speed: 14
Surprise: 4

Perception: 5
Willpower: 4

I gave her Ordo Dracul given her Victorian literary origin, though Circle of the Crone could work better given her mother and sister Mattie.
Her Virtue is Justice. She wants to stop her mother, she wants to do the right things. But her Vice (Sloth) and her Derangements (depression and feelings of inferiority to her mother and sister) keep her from doing the right things.
I also cheated here and gave her Protean 1 so she can become a large cat.

I am not sure if my numbers are right, I have not touched the game in years, but they feel right, to be honest.  They are certainly playable and if anything a touch underpowered.

They would fit in nicely with my two witches in the Word of Darkness.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #54

Again today is a bit of cheat. I had been going through all my October issues and this is the next one on the pile.  It's October 1981.  I am in the earliest days of my gaming life, having played Basic D&D pretty much exclusively but adding the bits from AD&D where we wanted. This would place me in 7th grade and my life was full of D&D and learning to program on a TRS-80 Model III.
Radio and the movies have been dominated by "Endless Love" and "Arthur" since August and on the shelves is Issue #54 of This Old Dragon!

Ok let's get to that cover.  I HATED it!  Not because it is bad or anything, but when I was little I had gotten really scared of the trees in the Wizard of Oz movie.  I also was scared of the Tree Monster from the terrible movie "From Hell it Came".  Poltergeist didn't help either. Ever since then Tree Monsters freak me out. Not today of course...that would be silly...(looks behind).
But all kidding aside it is actually a really fun cover.

We start of the issue with a letter from J.D. Webster concerning the fate of the comic Fineous Fingers.  FF was also that bit of D&D history that "predated" me. While I was playing and had been now for two years (little less) I was not reading Dragon yet and I had not even heard of White Dwarf.  I used things like FF to judge how long people had been playing.  If they talked about it I knew they had been more involved than me.  Plus one of the groups in town had a player (I forgot who) whose character was Fineous Fingers.   Oh, the letter.  Yeah, this is the last issue for FF.

There are some letters, mostly about a recent adventure competition.

Up first in real articles we have something from Ed Greenwood.  So this year (2017) I have been spending some time expanding my knowledge of the Forgotten Realms.   This article is one of the earliest articles on the Realms I know of.  Down-to-earth Divinity discusses how Ed has put together his Pantheon of Gods.   You can easily see how this evolved into the gods of the Realms.  I found it interesting that he includes the elemental gods from the Melnibonéan mythos. There are a lot of "reskinned" Deities and Demigods gods here too (which is the point of the article).  I liked that Ed specifically mentions that witches worship Selûne.  The article is long and seriously good.

A feature I loved in the past is present in this issue, The Dragon's Bestiary. We get a different version of the Boggart here, closer to it's Brownie origins. The Stroan, which looks like a giant water bug, and the Incubus.

Beware the Jabberwock is next by Mark Nuiver.  Background and stats for the creature and the poem that gave us the vorpal sword.

The centerpiece of this issue is the competition adventure for AD&D, Cavern Quest by Bill Fawcett.  It's a long one and has one of the most complex scoring systems I have seen. It might be fun to try with the right group.

Abomination is the fiction bit. Seems related to the cover.

Cash & Carry for Cowboys by Glenn Rahman is one of the very few Boot Hill articles I can recall reading in the pages of Dragon.  Odd that Boot Hill has not been remade in the wave of nostalgia hitting both WotC and the OSR.   It is a very useful price list of items for sale in the Old West.

Simulation Corner by John Prados looks like it was a semi-regular feature on Game Design.  This one, Practicing Game Design III Rules of Realism covers how to get realism into your game.  It might be interesting, in a purely academic sense, to compare this five-part series to what later would be said about GMS game theory or the work at The Forge.  My philosophy of game design is a simple one.  Do what is fun and serves the game the best.  Derive everything else from that.

Another favorite feature from the past, Bazaar of the Bizarre is next. This time we get More feather tokens by Edward J. Greenwood.   To go with a loose Halloween theme there is the Skull Mace, Mace of Pain and Jug of Undead.

Hmm...there is a continuation of an article on Ruins that I don't seem to have the first part of.

There is a silly little technology quiz on page 74.  At 11 I would have loved it. Today...it's like seeing an ad for polyester kung-fu pants.

We get a What's New. A Dragonmirth.  Both Wormy and Fineos Fingers in color.

Ads for both the D&D Basic set (A Dungeons & Dragons Adventure!)


Loved these ads. But you never got to fight a Purple Worm in Basic!

And and ad for the D&D Folders.


Always wanted one of these!

Great issue. Not very Halloween-filled, but still a lot of fun.

Here is what I said about White Dwarf #27 from the same month.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Love Will Have Its Sacrifices: Carmilla and Laura for the Buffy RPG

Some pairings just work so well that it feels like the universe clicks into place.
This is one of those times.

Carmilla is a web series based on the Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu short story of the same name.  Like many (MANY) updates to Carmilla, this takes place in modern times.  We have Laura Hollis (played by super cute Elise Bauman) a 19-year-old freshman at Silas University in Styria, Austria.  Laura starts a VLog when here roommate Elizabeth Ann "Betty" Spielsdorf goes missing.  Laura, a journalism student with an over-protective father, decides to investigate and her suspicions fall squarely on her new roommate, Carmilla Karnstein (played wonderfully by Natasha Negovanlis).

Along the way, we meet Lola Perry (Annie Briggs) a German-language student, compulsive neat freak (and former below-average witch) her best friend S. LaFontaine (Kaitlyn Alexander), a non-binary cool science geek biology student, and Danny Lawrence (Sharon Belle) a 6'2" (no really, she is that freaking tall) English lit TA.

The first season, 36 episodes, covers the relationship between Laura and Carmilla as well as the mystery of all the missing girls. The next two seasons (36 episodes each) cover other issues facing the often tormented students of Silas University. Including fighting the Faerie Queen Titania, the Deep One Dagon, oh and getting in the middle of a 3 millennia-old war between Inanna and Ereshkigal.  Fun times.

The writing is witty. It is a geek-filled romp with plenty of nerdy pop cultural references. I wanted to die every time I saw Laura drink out of her TARDIS cup.  And these were not just fan-service nods these were legitimate geek moments.
The acting is great and the chemistry between the two leads is some of the best I have seen in a long, long time. They are in another series together by the same creators but as different characters.  I have to admit I am little hesitant to watch it less I ruin the good juju of them as Carmilla and Laura.

I missed the whole fandom that surrounded this show and that is my loss. The fans, the "Creampuffs", seem like a great community. The creators of the show know what the fans mean to them and it feels like a great relationship.

But that's not why YOU are here, is it?

Carmilla is pretty much in every sense of the term the spiritual successor to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  So it stands to reason then that the cast should get the Buffy RPG treatment.

I did this once before for Carmilla for the Ghosts of Albion RPG, but these stats will be based more on the characters around Season 2 or so. Plus the GoA stats are based more on the novella than this.

Yeah, I might be a little obsessed.

Carmilla

The young Mircalla Karnstein and Elle in 1872 (great for Ghosts of Albion)


Countess Mircalla Karnstein, aka "Carmilla"
Vampire

"Buckle up, creampuff."

Life Points: 63

Strength 6
Dexterity 6
Constitution 5
Intelligence 3
Perception 3
Willpower 5

Qualities
Age (3) (335 years)
Attractiveness (3)
Cloak of Beasts (Large Cat)
Fast Reaction Time (Vampire)
Hard to Kill 3 (2 from Vampire)
Natural Weapon (Vampire)
Reduced Damage 2 (Vampire)
Regeneration (6 Life Points per hour) (Vampire)
Vampire

Drawbacks
Adversary (2, mother, various vampire hunters)
Bloodlust
Love, Tragic (Elle)
Love (Laura) (2)
Emotional Problems, Emotionally Dependent (victims) (1)
Mental Problems, Covetous (Lechery) (1)
Minority (lesbian) (1)

Useful Information
Initiative +8
Actions 2/1
Observation 1d10+6
Fear +5

Height: 5'3"
Hair: Black
Eyes: Brown

Skills
Acrobatics 3
Art 2
Computers 0
Crime 2
Doctor 0
Driving 1
Gun-Fu 0
Getting Medieval 3
Influence 4
Knowledge 4
Kung Fu 2
Languages 6 (English, French, Latin, German, Romanian, Sumerian)
Mr. Fix-it 1
Notice 3
Occultism 1
Science 1
Sports 1
Wild Card

Combat
Maneuver Bonus  Damage  Notes
Dodge / Parry     +8 - Defense Action                           
Grapple +9 - Defense Action
Bite +7 6 Slash / Stab, needed for blood drain
Punch / claw +8 12 Bash / slash


Laura Hollis
White Hat

"What would Mina Harker do? Get bitten. Mina Harker would totally try and act all alluring to the bloodsucking fiend and totally get bitten. Let's not do that."

Life Points: 26

Strength 2
Dexterity 2
Constitution 2
Intelligence 4
Perception 3
Willpower 3

Qualities
Attractiveness 1
Nerd

Drawbacks
Honorable (1)
Love (Carmilla) (2)
Minority (lesbian) (1)

Height: 5'2"
Hair: Blonde
Eyes: Brown

Skills
Acrobatics 2
Art 2
Computers 3
Crime 2 (Investigative Journalism)
Doctor 1
Driving 1
Gun-Fu 0
Getting Medieval 1
Influence 2
Knowledge 3
Kung Fu 2 (Krav Maga)
Languages 2 (English, German)
Mr. Fix-it 1
Notice 2
Occultism 0
Science 1
Sports 1
Wild Card

Combat
Maneuver Bonus  Damage  Notes
Dodge / Parry     +4 - Defense Action                           
Grapple +5 - Defense Action
Punch  +6 4 Bash

These stats represent our stars around Season 2.  So each one has a bit more points than expected of starting characters.

You can watch all three seasons on the KindaTV YouTube Channel.

Season 1



Season 2



Season 3




The movie is out next week!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

October Horror Movie Challenge: Black Swan (2010)

Is Black Swan a Horror flick?

It certainly has elements of it and IMDB and Wikipedia list it as Psychological Horror.  I mean it is no Silence of the Lambs, but it can get to you.
Plus Darren Aronofsky can do some really creepy shit (see "Requiem for a Dream").

There is no "last girl" here and certainly no one is murdered (except for a hallucination) and we can never really be sure of Nina's (Natalie Portman) ultimate fate (though to stick with Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake theme she certainly died).

Portman gave a fantastic, Oscar worthy,  performance, as to be expected, and Mila Kunis was also really good as Lily.

This movie was a happenstance for this challenge.  I do not have it on tape but it was on one of the movie channels.

A good movie makes you think afterwards.  Though not all movies that make you think are necessarily good.  This is both.  Sometimes Aronofsky can get on my nerves, but this was a good one.





Monday, October 16, 2017

October Horror Movie Challenge: Underworld: Blood Wars (2016)

I have now seen so many of these movies I am forgetting what is going on.  They are all beginning to bleed into the other.   Kate Beckinsale is back as Selene, hunter of both vampires and lycans.

The vampires are nearly wiped out and the lycans want Celene for her blood.
It is all a World of Darkness game gone WAY out of control.  But it is still fun and the special effects are still cool. 

There is a coven of Nordic pacifist Vampires (not sure how that happened) and plenty of actors filling in their off time from Game of Thrones.

I snark, but the film is fun. I gave up on the plot a few movies back.

To be honest, I really should do a marathon of all these films one year and watch them all with the same dedication I do Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings and see if I can't rediscover some of the excitement I once felt for them.

Note: I am way behind on posting these, so I am backdating to the nights I watched them.