Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Shadowrun Rat's Nest: Ghosts

I now have an Awakened character on my hands. In almost fifteen years of gaming, I have played a magical character only once (a too short game of Mage). It just wasn't my cup of tea.. But this is going to be interesting.

Neil is 45 years old now and he has never given any thought to magic. He knows that it exists of course, but it just didn't have anything to do with him. Now he has to deal with it and he has no idea how, it will take him a while to fully realise what is happening. So far he knows or rather guesses that the ghost was called by him, but he doesn't know how to handle such a situation or how to keep it from happening again.

I'm not reading up on Shadowrun magic rules, this will be purely learning by doing. I know only marginally more about it than Neil and we are going to keep it that way. When Neil learns something, I will, not by reading the rules but by roleplaying.

The whole thing is going to play hell with how he sees himself and with his social life. I absolutely didn't plan any of that and it's taking Neil in a completely different direction, but for me, this is exactly what gaming is about. I like a challenge.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Shadowrun Rat's Nest: After the Storm

The next instalment can be read here. I'll write some more later, the part of the story Neil is not going to put on the public part of his blog.

The GM gave us a trailer of what would happen a couple of days before we played. Unusual idea, but fun...if having some extra time to worry about your character getting shot in the head during a rescue mission is your idea of fun.

Kidding. It really was fun to have that "next week.."-snippet, not to mention that it gave the GM time to prepare for our reactions. This could have ended very nastily.

Monday, February 27, 2012

February Classic Challenge: Antigone

Dear Antigone,

you really had no chance, didn't you? I mean, with that family I'm surprised you grew up into such a (as far as I can see) normal woman. But it didn't save you.

You have courage, there's no doubt about that, and once you made your desicion, there's no going back. I admire you for that. In your situation, most people would have bowed down to the immediate threat of Creon and obeyed. You felt bound by a higher law and I really hope the gods know it.

It's not a gentle world you live in and your gods make it even harder. I think your people had a good sense for the random cruelty of life and they molded their gods to fit it. It's probably part of the reason why all those myths (and I don't use that word in any negative sense) are still so well remembered today. We may no longer believe in such gods, but hearing about them and about you still may help us make sense out of life...as far as that can be done at all.

Would it satisfy you to know that Creon has been harshly punished for his actions? I rather think that you'd see it as the natural consequence of his hubris. He put himself above the gods' law and he suffered for it, ending up a sadder and wiser man to quote another story about a man who badly overestimated himself.

Regards,
someone who read about you 2500 years after your time

Antigone by Sophokles is my 4th book for the Classics Challegne
Reviews 2012

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Tagged

I've been tagged by The DM's Screen - thank you!

Here are the rules:
The Rules Are:

1. You must post the rules.
2. post eleven fun facts about yourself on the blog post.
3. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post, and create eleven new
questions to ask the people you've tagged.
4. Tag eleven bloggers, however, you can break the rules and tag fewer people if you want.
Make sure you hyperlink their names/blogs.
5. Let them know you've tagged them - it's good manners ;)
6. Enjoy and have fun with it.


1. What made you decide to write a blog?
Hm. I started with a photoblog and that got me into memes. The Bookscorpions Lair started out as a meme blog, turned into a book blog and is now a book, roleplaying and whatever I want blog.

2. What would you say has been the highlight of your blogging career to date?
I don't know about highlight, but here's something I enjoyed. I blogged about Cato Bontjes von Beek and a while after publishing that post, I noted lots of hits from Canada on that particular post. Some Google-fu later I found out that people had been watching a documentary on Cato on TV and wanted to find out more about her. I hope my post helped them.

3. Name your favourite animal.
Koala.

4. What has been the best thing to ever happen to you?
Really, I have to choose just one? Then that would be meeting Mr Bookscorpion. Runner-up is deciding to study in Hamburg (a decision I made, I kid you not, based on the number of Goth parties there).

5. You are in a lift with a Nun, a middle-aged business man, a Karl Marx look-alike, a twenty-something female charity worker and Stephen Hawking. The lift shudders to a stop, the lights go out. There is a high-pitched scream followed by a thud. The lights come on and the Nun is lying dead on the floor with a knife in her chest. Who did it and why?
I think the nun did it. She needs to escape her order because she's in love with Stephen Hawking and they want to marry. Hawking hacked into the lift controls to give her the moment of darkness she needs to plunge the stage knife into her chest. She cannot just leave because she has been entrusted with the knowledge about a prophecy that could destroy the church if it got out. The others may be in on it. I know I am not, but I'd love to be. Because that story is bound to include a chase with Hawking's wheelchair and that would be epic.

6. Name your favourite colour.
blue.

7. What has been the scariest thing to ever happen to you?
I chose the scariest thing that's most funny to tell: on holiday in Sweden, I was busy gathering blueberries, my nose close to the ground, when four huge hooves came into view. I looked up to find myself face to face with a moose. I slooooowly backed away, with the knowledge that there was no way I could outrun the moose or climb a tree. For good measure, I stepped into an ant hill and had horse ants run up my legs. The moose watched me and then sauntered off into the forest and he's probably still telling all his relatives about the hilarious tourist who tried so hard not to yell while getting bitten by a hundred ants.

8. You are about to break the world record for the tallest house of cards in front of a crowded room of onlookers and world press. All of a sudden, some idiot parent allows their errant child to charge over, knocking into your table, sending your world record beating attempt crashing around you. What do you do next?
I start again. I may attempt to slice the neck of the parent with a card, though.

9. If you had to spend a month on a tropical island, what four luxury items do you take with you?
Sketchbook and coloured pencils, digital camera, and a huge chest filled with books.

10. Once on your tropical island you are allowed to have one person of your choice to stay with you. Now this can be anyone famous, living or dead, fictional and from any period of time/history - loved ones are not allowed - who do you choose and why?
One month is a long time. I'm not good with people, so at the end of the month I may try to drown any person I chose. Alexander von Humboldt would be my choice. It's (I assume) an unexplored island, so we might as well have some fun and serious science while exploring it.
If I can chose another place, I would love to spend a few days in the Anno Dracula London with Charles Beauregard, I have such a huge crush on that character.

11. What has been the worst impulse purchase of a totally useless item (one you convinced yourself into believing you needed, but didn't)? What was it, and do you still have it?
I quite like all my impulse purchases of useless stuff. The day may come when I wake up and go "why did you ever feel that you needed a Tardis that goes whorpwhorp when you pick it up, not to mention a sonic screwdriver", but so far it hasn't.

My questions.
1. If you could choose three people to game with (any at all: fictional, real, famous ect.), who would that be?
2. What's the most weird thing you have ever eaten?
3. Name the three most important things to have in case of zombie attacks.
4. Whats top of your bucket list?
5. What's the most weird character concept you have ever come across, as a GM or player (feel free to include your own)?
6. Dracula or Frankenstein? Why?
7. If you could choose any movie at all to see on the big screen (again or for the first time), which one would that be?
8. Where did you buy your first dice?
9. You're offered a day on a holodeck. What do you create?
10. Time travel: what would be your destination of choice?
11. If you had to choose a RPG system to live in, what would that be?

Blogs that you should go and read
Yaqqothl Grimoire
Book of World
Psychic Mayhem
Burning Zeppelin Experience

Friday, February 24, 2012

Kershaw: The End

Ian Kershaw is the author of (in my opinion) the best Hitler biography and of many more books about the Nazi regime that are all worth reading. The End: Hitler's Germany 1944–45 deals with the last months of the Third Reich and the question why the Germans fought on even when it was obvious that the war could not be won.

The book starts with the Stauffenberg assassination attempt and ends in May 1945, when the leftovers of the regime were finally dissolved. The focus is not the war in itself, but what the Germans did or didn't do during those last months: soldiers, civilians, members of the party (Gauleiter in particular) and of course party leaders like Himmler, Goebbels, Bormann and Speer.

The majority of the Germans did not truly believe that the war could be won, the military leaders least of all (with a few exceptions). Nevertheless, they kept fighting: out of resignation, out of spite, to protect their home from the Soviet Army (and to a lesser extent from the Western Allies), to get rid of any proof for crimes committed (part of the motivation for the death marches)

I think Kershaw does a good job of giving the reader background knowledge without making the war the focus of the book, so it can be read well even without any greater knowledge of military history. There's no single answer to the question asked here, but you'll get an in-depth look at all the factors that played together to make people hold on to a regime that was clearly already dying.

Book three for the Non-Fiction Challenge
2012 reviews

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Yiddish Policemen's Union

The 2012 Library Challenge asks that you read a crime novel you haven't read before in February. I chose The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon. It's set in an alternate reality where Jews settled in Alaska during WWII, with Israel being destroyed in 1948.

I love alternate history. With crime novels, my mileage varies, but I instantly liked the premise here. I'm afraid that it wasn't really the right book for me, though.

I liked the main character Meyer Landsman, an alcoholic homicide detective, but I didn't like him enough to be able to stand his bouts of self pity and suicidal behaviour for 400 pages or so. The crime itself didn't hold my interest neither.

What I did like was the glimpse into Jewish customs and the use of the Yiddish language. I can read Yiddish more or less well and I like it's unique and quirky use of words gleaned from other languages. It was not enough to make me finish the book, though.

The Coen Brothers may do a movie based on the book and that is something I do want to see. It fits their style well and I think that a movie might tell the story in a way that I would like better - there are a few books I detest, but I just love the movies.

Second book for the 2012 Library Challenge
2012 reviews

Monday, February 20, 2012

11/22/63

11/22/63 by Stephen King explores the theme of time travelling and the possibility of changing the past. That's something I always enjoy. For once, the person to die in roder to change the past for the better is not Hitler, but Lee Harvey Oswald.

Don't expect a thriller or one of King's horror stories. This is rather different from his other books, but as always, the story is instantly captivating and I felt I knew the characters right after the first two pages. This is what I like most about King and it works even in the books I absolutely hated (Dreamcatcher...).

*minor spoilers*

Time's not something to be messed with here and Jake Epping, the main charatcer, learns this the hard way. I would have liked to spend some more time in the decidedly dystopian present he creates by saving Kennedy's life, but on the other hand, I get why Jake is eager to rectify his mistake as soon as possible.

I never subscribed to the view of Kennedy as some kind of hero who would have made it all right somehow if he hadn't been killed. But I get why people see him that way and of course it's one of the great conspiracy theories of all times. The books goes into that for a bit, but not too much.

I read the book in about two days and I enjoyed every minute of it. It may not be for the horror only-King fan, but if you liked Stand by Me, there's a good chance you'll like this as well. Oh, and I liked the nod to It.

2012 reviews

Shadowrun Rat's Nest: Damage Done

The latest installment of our Rat's Nest chronicle can be read here. Go ahead, read it, I'll wait.

I have to say, that was the single most emotionally draining roleplaying experience I have ever had. I love the whole Rat's Nest setting and all the NPCs we can get to know and interact with. It was hard to see it all get kicked apart like that. At the same time, it speaks for the scenario that we can do something like this and it still works. A good story will keep on telling itself no matter what you do to it and I think the Rat's Nest story is one of those. I may not like where the story is going, but I still want to hear it.

There were quite a few chances for our characters to get arrested, get hurt or even die. I fully expected to get shot or at least seriously injured when Neil refused to leave the clinic and when he attacked the cops who arrested Whistler. But there was just no chance that the character would have quietly watched in both situations. I like him for that.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Shadowrun Rat's Nest

For those of you following the Rat's Nest campaign: Neil the shadow doc has his own blog now at Rat's Doc. I'll still talk about the real life stuff of the campaign here, but the stuff Neil writes will be posted over there. There are also links to Maggie's and Splash's blogs. It will be a pure in character view of the campaign.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Shadowrun Rat's Nest: Hostage to Ice Cream

Setting and characters are here

Last time, the gang of the Rat's Nest started a war with a neighbouring gang, the Picas

December 4th 2071

I got a call that one of the Picas was standing in front of the gates, asking to speak to someone in charge. That person was me, everybody else was not around. Seems to me I'm doing a lot of this leader crap lately. I should ask for a pay rise. Oh wait, I don't get payed.

The Pica officially declared war between the Scrappers and the Picas, no surprise there. Then he offered to trade Whistler for Kerry's automatic weapon, plus Maggie's stuff or at least the part that belongs to the gang. I told him I had to ask Kerry about the gun, but other than that the trade was fine with me. We agreed to meet an hour later.

Kerry was very much not in favor of giving away her gun and I had to promise to get her a new one as quickly as possible. Ammo was not included in the deal, so she stripped the gun. Rivet and a couple of other orks accompanied me and I have to say if I do have to walk into such a situation, having an ork with a giant crossbow watching my back definitely makes me feel better.

The agreed meeting place was the Iceman, a guy short a few sandwiches of a picnic who sells ice from an armored car. He went postal when we arrived, but that's normal for him. If you can't face down a shotgun to buy your ice, then the Iceman is not for you.

Shortly before the Picas arrived, Splash called me and actually asked me to bring her some vanilla icecream back. With sprinkles. WTF? What is it with people and ice cream? Says the guy with the 15 packages of the stuff in his freezer and no idea how they got there.

Anyway, the trade went down without problems, no-one tried to shoot anyone. Whistler had obviously been badly beaten, he was barely able to walk. The Picas had also drugged him, probably to make him easier to control. Rivet picked him up and we drove back to the Rat's Nest.

Back at the clinic, I got to work on Whistler, neutralizing the heroin he had been injected with. There were a few broken ribs, a broken ulna and if I had to guess, I'd say someone had worked him over with a baseball bat. At least he still had all his organs.

Maggie saw him and called something over, making Whistler freak out completely, I had my hands full calming him down. So I already have a pretty good idea that she was at least involved. For Whistler's sake, I arranged for Maggie to move into another container down the road, I don't want her here with him.

Rivet asked me if I could supply him with an antidote to Kamikaze. The Hellhounds and the Scrappers had a run-in with the Spikes. Instead of an all-out gang war there will be a duel between two fighters of the Spikes and Rivet and Blaster. He's hoping that the Kamikaze will give him an extra edge. I also agreed to come with them, for on-site first aid, in exchange for a gun for Kerry.

---------------------------------------------------

Here's Maggie's diary - have fun with her street slang!

I think the Rat's Nest will face some hard times. Neil is beginning to get he feeling that if he hears the word gang never again in his life, it will still be too soon. He's a doctor, not a gang leader.

The Iceman scene was pure genius. Imagine High Noon with orks on one side, a kiddie gang on the other side. While the two leaders walk toward each other, all suspense and tension, one ork sidles over to the armoured vehicle and buys ice cream. Sometimes I really wish that we could make a movie out of those adventures, that scene would be so epic.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Typewriter



Can anyone please tell me why I immediately think of murder in some sleepy, otherwise peaceful village? I could have sworn it was used as the title music for Murder, She Wrote, but it wasn't. Nor was it used for any Miss Marple movies, as far as I (and Wikipedia) know.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer and the Bomb is part of a series of short biographies of scientist. Paul Strathern has written a great many biographies and other books about science and history.

The book is easy to read and will give you an overview over the basic facts of Oppenheimer's life, along with an impression of his personality. The style is casual, which makes the book probably attractive for students who need to read up quickly on the subject. Strathern manages to explain the theory of the atom bomb so that it's very easy to understand.

However, he actually mentions the story that J. Edgar Hoover was a cross-dresser, which was already discredited at the time the book was written. I admit, it's an image that has a lot going for it, a story that's almost too juicy not to be re-told. But really, I expect more from a book that claims to be a well-researched biography. It's always a fine line between gossip and fact when writing biographies and I enjoy a good story as much as anyone, but at least the author should make it known that he's gossiping (unless you're Truman Capote, in which case it goes without saying).

The whole thing is only mentioned in passing, but it does nothing for my trust in the author's research. The book is a good choice when you need to polish up your knowledge of Oppenheimer and/or the history of the atom bomb quickly. As far as I can see, all the hard facts are reliable. You may do better to recheck the personal stories about the people involved, though.

Third book for the Non-Fiction Challenge
2012 reviews

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Cthulhu Gaslight: Secrets

Last time, Dai and Cat ended up at Dai's flat after an adventure that was a bit more than they had both bargained for. Cat is asleep as soon as her head touches the pillow, so at least one of them gets any sleep that night. Dai spends the night wide awake, too high on adrenaline and worries to rest. He's a rather private man and he rarely has guests. Cat's an inquisitive young woman and he knows fully well that his flat holds the key to a great many of his secrets. But so be it. After all, he has invited her to ask about his past before.

*Secrets Revealed*


When Cat wakes up, she needs a few moments to remember where she is. She gets up and finds Dai in the living room. The awkwardness of the moment (they are Victorians, after all) is glossed over by their usual friendly banter and Dai offers to make breakfast. He had been cleaning his revolver when Cat came in and he finishes, obviously a routine for him, so much that he barely has to look at what he's doing.

Dai busies himself with cooking, so Cat has some time to make herself a bit more presentable and to take a look around the living room. A small house altar with some sort of elephant idol catches her eye, it's very clearly not just decoration. There's also a great number of books on all sorts of topics, fiction and non-fiction alike, including some that she cannot read at all and guesses to be written in Hindi.

Over the second cup of tea Cat asks Dai if he has ever been involved with someone, although she puts it much more delicately. He tells her that over the years there have been a few relationships and that the last one ended due to his life as a soldier of the occupying army. Cat misses or ignores the term occupying and still assumes a British or at least white woman until Dai mentions the Indian name Rashmi. That raises an eyebrow with Cat... it's not something people do or at least admit to. They end up discussing their different views on the Empire - Dai has come to doubt the right of the British to just march in and declare countries part of the Empire, which is a new point of view for Cat and not one she immediately understands.

From there the conversation steers towards what exactly Dai did during his 25 years of service and that's the moment when he finally shows how very nervous he is about this whole subject. Nevertheless, he values Cat's friendship and her opinion highly and he's done with hiding so much of his past. He used to be a sharpshooter with the Rifle Brigade and he was good at what he did. Cat doesn't see this as very shocking until Dai tells her the exact number of people he has killed.

Things are not made any better when she picks up on the fact that he still takes pride in his skill and that he misses it. Not the killing as such (or, as he puts it, "London would have a problem on her hands"), but the whole experience: choosing a vantage point, waiting for a good target, the thrill of taking the shot. He does not want to be a soldier any longer and he thinks that he had no right to take the life of the people he killed, but that doesn't change the way he feels.

It's all a bit much for Cat to take in. She knew already that there were secrets, but now she feels that there is a completely different person hidden behind the Dai she befriended and she's not sure if she likes that person. She needs some time to think about it all and prepares to leave when the doorbell rings.

Dai opens the door to the mail man and receives a small package, with just his name written on it. He takes it upstairs and finds a rifle cartridge with his name scratched into it. The note that comes with the cartridge tells him that one of his sins has come back to haunt him: he killed the brother of the man who is now out to kill him. Both were soldiers who went over to the enemy's side and Dai knows that the man is not only an excellent marksman, but also a fanatic.

Dai tells Cat the short version of what has happened and asks her to give him five minutes before she leaves the house. In the meantime, he takes his rifle out of its case and loads it, again clearly something he has done many times before. Cat watches with a mixture of fascination, fear and distaste, it's the first look she gets at the rifle, although she had noticed the case before (it was sitting in plain sight after all).

Dai climbs up on the roof and manages to go unnoticed by the at least three people who are watching his flat from across the street. Cat waits the five minutes and leaves, half expecting to be shot when she opens the door, but nothing happens. She does however notice a man who is watching her, even though he is very inconspicuous. Dai sees her leave and has to fight the urge to shoot the men, especially when one of them suddenly moves to leave his observation post (he's the one who is spotted by Cat).

--------------------------------------------------------


The talk between Dai and Cat has been long in the making and I think it has definitely changed the dynamics between the characters. The future will tell how much and in exactly what way. The evening was a lot of fun, basically just a conversation between players, the GM got to lean back and watch the show for the most part.

Yes, I did notice that the package had no address written on it. I'm going to do something about it next time, but I decided that at the moment, Dai was too distracted to pay any attention to it.

I have no idea where the whole vendetta storyline is going, but I can tell you that I had a major "oh crap"-moment when Dai read the note. If he had only himself to worry about, it would be much easier, but with Cat in the equation, things may get very ugly. I'm looking forward to it. Part2

Monday, February 6, 2012

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy

I finally saw Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy last night and it was brilliant. I've been waiting for this movie to come to the big screen for ages, ever since I first found out that Gary Oldman would be playing George Smiley.

Oldman has his first line when the movie is already been going on for 20, 25 minutes and he has been on the screen for much of that time. Even without saying a word, he shows us who George Smiley is and by the time he finally speaks, we already know Smiley well, his dedication to his work, his dismay at losing it, the fact that he leads a potentially dangerous life despite his down to earth-appearance. Towards the end of the film, when he can prove that the source everyone so highly values is nothing but a sham, he cannot conceal his satisfaction at being right, of being good at what he does. Oldman plays Smiley very restrained, hiding his emotions well, but here he really comes to life.

The film has an exceptional cast and they all shine, even when given only a few moments to do so (like CiarĂ¡n Hinds) and make the most of the already great scenes they are given. As an admitted Sherlock-fangirl, I enjoyed seeing Benedict Cumberbatch as Peter Guillam. Colin Firth steals every single scene he is in, sometimes without saying a single word.

You need to pay attention to the plot and listen closely or you will get lost. The movie is fastpaced, more so than the book, but I think it's true to the book in all important things (although it's been a while since I've read it).

I've been developing a taste for gritty, non-Bond movie spy movies and fiction. Along with Sandbaggers, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is right at the top of my list of favourites.