Friday, May 27, 2016

Review: "Deadpool"

I took today off from work. Chilled out. Ate a nice, fattening breakfast. Hit a biergarten for lunch. Chill day.

Oh wait, I said I was going to review Deadpool, didn't I?

Yeah, so I finally saw Deadpool. Dunno why or how I missed it in theaters.

No, wait. That's a lie. I know why and how. By the time life calmed down enough for me to even consider hitting a film in theaters, it was too much of a pain in the ass to find one in which Deadpool was still playing.

Fast forward to today. So... yeah.

Reactions: Goddamn brilliant!

Nice opening with the ultra-violence. Fun dose of carnage. Morena Baccarin. Mmmm... Sorry, where was I?

I'm lukewarm on Deadpool in comics. The character concept is campy, but fun. I didn't think they could possibly do a proper Deadpool film. When I heard Ryan Reynolds (who once played Green Lantern) was cast, I was... well, I wasn't super-excited. Reynolds also played Wade Wilson in Wolverine: Origins, which was not a good movie, so... yeah.

I was gratified to find my fears were unfounded. This movie was fantastic. Breaking the fourth wall. Ridiculous villains. X-Men cameos. Guns. It had it all.

And Morena Baccarin.

I cannot wait for the sequel.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Drama and Gaming

When preparing to run a table-top role-playing game, I learned long ago that it's an exercise in futility to write out too many details.

Players are just impossible to predict. They do shit you never thought of. They do shit you really wish they hadn't thought of. They just do shit sometimes.

So I don't get into the details too much. I write myself up a nice outline. I prepare my list of non-player characters (NPCs) and then improvise.

I've described table-top role-playing as a sort of improv theater. I think the description has merit.

Sometimes I slip up and go nuts defining things. It's always tempting to go for some grand prophesy or achieve some Tolkien-esque level of epic.

Invariably, it's a bad idea. True drama needs to grow organically from the party.

Oh, you can drop all the hints, conspiracies, clues, and teasers in until SMOD comes to finish everything off in a fiery crash of doom, but the fact of the matter is that players hate being railroaded. They only appreciate drama if it comes from their choices and actions.

Usually.

I've been running games for... well, let's just say a long time and leave it at that. Inevitably, there are times when player characters just run out of luck and get killed off.

Oddly enough, it's a fairly rare thing in my games. It's sort of a joke in my games that any NPC I have that has a full name and backstory has a life expectancy measured in minutes.

A cruel jibe, but not an incorrect one.

Anyway, I don't generally kill off people's characters, even if I don't like them. There's always a way to tweak even the most odorous of character concepts around to mesh in a campaign. If not, there's always subtle ways to encourage players to change characters. It's gauche and barbaric to up and kill them off.

It's too quick, too. I'm a sadist. I usually want them to twist a bit.

Why am I talking about this? Well, last Saturday was my group's monthly sit-down game.

And one of the PCs didn't survive the game.

In fairness, I didn't plan on things going the way they went.

I started the game by arriving in a foul mood. I'd been depressed and not really in a gaming mood. I had an outline that required the heroes to get rid of a BAD THING. I'd intended to get rid of an NPC who was a traveling monk who was with the party and leave some kind of lasting mark on those who were last with him. I was running a very dark game (even by my standards) and I had an idea in mind that would lead to something suitably horrible later.

I did say I was depressed.

Then along comes that whole Player Uncertainty Principle. One of the PCs, whom I'd recently messed with to make the character have more of a dramatic path, took a more heroic course than I'd intended.

Fascinated by the turn of events, I fell back into my habit of letting things run their course and I altered my plans.

By the end of the night's session, a character who had been something of a clownish joke was sacrificing his life to save people he'd never seen or met. If I'm not wrong, there were a few tears at the table as all this went down.

And I think a couple of players were pissed at me for letting things go the way they did.

I have to say, it was a beautiful moment. Bittersweet, heroic, and dramatic. Probably one of the best moments of drama I've ever had in a game, truth be told.

I wish we'd recorded it. Goddamn that was awesome.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Review: "Captain America: Civil War"

Took the day off to unwind and get my head back together.

Also deal with a sinus infection. That's been great fun.

Part of today's activities involved hitting a matinee of Captain America: Civil War.

GodDAMN that was an awesome movie!

I've enjoyed all the Captain America offerings as well as the Avengers flicks. Hell, I even liked The Avengers: Age of Ultron.

So Civil War would be better described as an Avengers movie, save for the central role that Captain America and Bucky Barnes (the Winter Soldier) take in it.

It was a solid and entertaining story in which the world's nations are getting a mite skittish over all the super-powered people. So there's laws they're putting in-place to get everyone in a nice, safe box. Tony Stark (Iron Man) is all on-board. Steve Rogers is having none of it. So when bad things happen and the blame lies at the feet of the fugitive James Buchannan "Bucky" Barnes, the super-team of the Avengers splits down the middle. A few new players come on board as well. We get Scott Lang's Ant Man as well as goddamn Spider Man, but the best addition is T'Challa, known better in comics as the badass known as Black Panther.

Of course there's more to the story than all that, but I'm just going to suggest you go watch the movie. It's a great mix of action, humor, and bits of comic-book awesome.

I need to see it again.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The rule of the Dark Side

Two there are: the Donald and the Apprentice.

Monday, May 2, 2016

A prolific sign of a problem

It hit me the other day. I was taking a long, hard look at my life and career and finding myself falling short of where I feel I should be.

It's depressing to realize you're not as good as you should be at what you do for a living.

So it made me think: what the hell am I doing with my spare time that's taking me away from my life? What's distracting me so?

Then I took a good, long look at a single website.

It's not what you think. For many years now, I've been running a table-top role-playing game. I've mentioned it before more than a few times. Hell, a campaign of some 15 years wrapped up a few years back.

I decided to go through the Google Group we use to store most of our game background.

I stopped counting after I hit 300 pages. I estimate there's over 500 pages of material on the site. About 90% of that, I've authored.

And that's just for the one Fantasy campaign.

This doesn't count the content defunct Yahoo Group we used to use for storing this info. I still haven't ported over a lot of those pages.

This also doesn't take into account the "secret super powers" modern-day campaign I had as an alternate.

I figure if I ever get my druthers and clean some content up, I would be able to compile a novel of our gaming campaign with a word count that may well rival Robert Jordan and George R.R. Martin's works.

Wouldn't be anywhere near as good, mind you. It would be derivative as hell of myriad fantasy writers, but it would be a verbose as all hell story.

So that's where I've sunk a ton of my life.

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that, but at least now I don't feel I should be burning my geek card over May the Fourth.

I'll probably just singe it a bit. Set phasers to "cook".

The Force is not with me

That's it. It's time for me to burn my geek card.

While ribbing some British co-workers over their good fortune of having May Day as a paid holiday, I was reminded that I should be looking forward to the fourth here.

Silly me, I corrected said worthy soul and said "Oh no, you're thinking of Cinco de Mayo. That's the fifth."

Never have I been so ashamed to be so terribly, terribly wrong.

I find my lack of faith disturbing.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Belated Review: "The Expanse" (TV series)

A ridiculously-horrible head cold, likely derived from a sinus infection coming from my hellish week of allergies had me laid up most of yesterday and all of today.

So what to do?

Well, I have a DVD set of the SyFy Channel's "The Expanse" series, so that takes care of that question.

I'll be honest with you: after the train wreck that was the last season and a half of "Battlestar Galactica" and the ridiculous downward spiral of SciFi Channel turned SyFy Channel (what a stupid name), I was loathe to give them the benefit of the doubt.

I read the first four books of the series by James S.A. Corey and loved it. I wasn't super-interested in letting the TV series poison what I enjoyed.

Then I watched the first episode on YouTube.

I ate my words a bit and eventually got the series on DVD to gorge on at my leisure.

When your head is pounding from sinuses, you pretty much don't want to move, and kind of want to die, there's nothing better than some space opera.

And I have to admit, the TV series delivers.

I'm pretty happy with the casting and the continuity tweaks, overall.

Steven Strait is a solid James Holden. I have to say that Thomas Jane does a pretty good job as Miller. Dominique Tipper is pretty much dead-on as how I envisioned Naomi Nagata. Cas Anvar is an excellent Alex and Wes Chatham is growing on me as Amos. Shohreh Aghdashloo is a little warm-and-fuzzy for how I picture Chrisjen Avasarala (who doesn't even appear in the books until "Caliban's War"), but I get there are certain realities of having profanity-using characters on television.

There were surprisingly-mild changes to the story of "Leviathan Wakes", but I can't say they damaged the overall story at all.

And I love the Rocinante. I just love it with an unhealthy passion.

I can't wait for season two. Assuming these goddamn allergies don't kill me first.