Thursday, February 28, 2013

Cambrian Explosion

If you are in need of a monster or two for your next adventure, you really should take a look at this slideshow of animals from the Cambrian Period. There's nothing quite like animals from the Burgess Shale who manage to be hilarious and terrifying at the same time

Hallucigenia_Artist's_Rendering
It's not called Hallucigenia for nothing... source

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Fiasco: Lucky Strike

The year: 1944
The place: France, US Army Replacement Depot Lucky Strike

Corporal "Handsome" Dan Kronsteen and Sergeant William "Kill Bill" Andersen are the sole survivors of an attack on a nearby village and have only managed to escape by capturing a Tiger tank, single-handedly killing every Kraut in their way, and driving the tank back to base. This has earned them a medal and a few days' respite at Lucky Strike.

The tank is still parked outside, but it's nothing more than a shell. Anderson has sold any moveable parts and so he's well-known as a fixer to Sergeant Jeremy O'Reilly, supply clerk at Strike. O'Reilly has a business proposal: four boxes of morphine and amphetamines have been delivered to Lucky Strike by clerical error and it would be a shame to just let them sit there.

click for Black Market


Seeing a lot of easy money coming their way, Kronsteen and Andersen agree. They lose no time in building a customer base: at the mess hall, Andersen once again re-tells the story of their heroic escape and then hints that they only managed it because they had had a supply of amphetamines. The G.I.s are sceptical at first, but when the first guy forks over the money because he wants to make sure he sees his fiancée again, most of them follow.

The three entrepreneurs decide to stash the drugs in the Tiger tank outside the camp, load a jeep with the boxes and O'Reilly goes to deal with the guards. Just as some money and cigarettes are changing hands, the Colonel and his watch dog, First Lieutenant "Hawkeye" Simpson come along and O'Reilly goes straight to jail and does not collect 200 dollars. The drugs once again go back into the supply depot.

Four days later, O'Reilly is a free man again and meanwhile, the drug dealing is in full swing. The morphine is not a good sell, however, and the amphetamines are already running low. O'Reilly suggests that he could arrange a meeting with some Resistance fighters who would be interested in the morphine and if he had access to the Colonel's office, he could forge some acquisition papers for more amphetamines.

Access to the office can be arranged: Kronsteen has become involved with the Colonel's secretary, Private Louise Hancock, and she could be easily convinced to turn a blind eye. During an earlier...visit that was rudely interrupted by Lieutenant Simpson, Kronsteen overheard that a plane was to leave this evening and with the right march orders, it could be theirs.

No time is to be lost. Andersen gets the Colonel out of his office with some cock and bull story about the latrines being too close to the mess hall (the Colonel likes everything just so and is the type to micromanage). Kronsteen busies himself with the secretary and O'Reilly make a run into the office, grabs the papers they need and while he's there, he changes Andersen's march orders so that he can stay a while longer.

At this point, plans become mixed up. Kronsteen plans to desert, O'Reilly just wants to get more amphetamines and use the plane for the meeting with the Resistance and Andersen is just going along. Or is he? When Kronsteen leaves the office, he sees Andersen and Lieutenant Hawkeye talking and what he overhears worries him, they seem to work together.

Since the Colonel was not amused to find that Andersen had send him on a wild goose chase, Andersen gets to dig latrines for the rest of the day. O'Reilly goes to arrange the meeting with the Resistance and Kronsteen sneaks into the supply office to get himself civilian clothes and as much of the stuff he will need to disappear as possible. He's just about to leave when Lieutenant Hawkeye catches him. Kronsteen tries to blackmail him, he knows that the man is involved in black market activities, but Hawkeye is having none of it. So Kronsteen pulls his knife and cuts the lieutenant's throat. Not the best solution, but he's not planning to stay here any longer anyway.

O'Reilly chooses that exact moment to return and almost loses it when he sees what has happened. They hide the body in a box underneath a few crates with office supplies no-one will need in the next few days and decide that they better all desert. They hope that the Resistance will be able to supply passports for them to get to Spain, in exchange for the morphine.

They collect Andersen, who has a convincing excuse for his talk with Hawkeye: the lieutenant was the recipient for the four boxes they had stolen and while he didn't have proof, Hawkeye knew well who had them. But that's a moot point now. At eight o'clock sharp, they leave the camp in a jeep. Private Louise Hancock is an unplanned addition, she runs up to them, sauced on two thirds of a bottle of whiskey and demands to be taken along on the adventure. With no time for discussions, they let her get into the jeep and Kronsteen does his best to keep her quiet.

In a small grove, the jeep stops and the trees witness a rather grisly murder. Hancock's body is placed in a ditch and the three deserters see to it that they get to their plane. That at least works out beautifully and an hour later, they land on a small field where three Resistance fighters already wait for them.

O'Reilly discusses their plans with the Resistance while the others unload the crates with the drugs. Obviously, the French are not amused by being asked to help them desert and finally, one of them decides to cut negotiations short. He shots O'Reilly and all three fire at the plane. The pilot manages to start the motor and the plane takes off, not without Andersen throwing a hand grenade that kills or at least stuns the Resistance fighters.

When they are safely in the air, Andersen and Kronsteen are just debating what to do when the pilot steps up to Andersen and shoot him in cold blood. Kronsteen manages to talk his way out of the situation, but it costs him all his money. Andersens body is thrown out of the plane and they make their way to Spain. Here, Kronsteen makes a meagre living working at the docks and drinks to forget. Even the woman who falls in love with him cannot rescue him from his memories. When the war is over, he returns to the US one shady way or another. But it doesn't take long for him to be found. When the knock on his door finally comes, early one morning, he puts the pistol he carried all that time into his mouth and pulls the trigger.

Andersen became a war hero even in death. His body fell onto a genade that would have killed a squad of G.I.s. No-one is sure where he came from, but who knows anything in this war? So he gets a posthumous medal and a parade and a memorial in his little hometown in Ohio.

O'Reilly is still alive and the grenade attracted enough attention that he is found fast enough to save him. He wakes up days later and finds that he is a paraplegic and that all his crimes have been discovered. With a dishonourable discharge he returns home where his family takes care of him when they can be bothered. After a few years, he decides that he won't face one more day of this miserable life and he commits suicide as well.
-----------------------------

It took us a while to get started with this playset, but after the First Act, it all fell into place. It was like watching a train gather speed only to drive full steam on a collapsing bridge. A wonderful Fiasco, in other words.

It might no be the most logical story of all times. But logic should not stand in the way of messing things up when you play Fiasco. The rule of cool (or rather: catastrophic) should be the only rule, as long as everyone's okay with what happens.

Balloon-y Beasts



a short film for the International Festival of Animated Film

I can't get over the zebras. Apart from being hilarious and, well, round, they are incredibly realistic. Take a look at how they behave when they are drinking at the water hole. The whole film is a great example of what you can get away with when you get the basics and the little details right. Disney knows this and Pixar have perfected it. Finding Nemo is where they did it best - Nemo and Dory both have very human faces and so we relate to them readily, but all the rest is extremely well observed and animated: how they move, how their scales shine in a certain light ect. It's actually possible to freeze a frame and pick out the different species of marine life in the background. I love this.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

7th Sea: Courtly Intrigue

last time

Dear Isabel,

I have to admit I feel very much in my element here, among the many actors and liars who call themselves diplomats. Almost nothing is said without some ulterior motive and people move in a complex web of favours and debts. I haven not played this game for a while now and it's been even longer since I've played it with people who were that skilled at it.

We have been invited to a number of events and parties and we accepted the invitation to the Jubilee of Queen Elaine and to the yearly summer festival of the Montaigne in honour of the King's birthday. And we will host our own garden party, preparations are already being made.

We were faced with the problem of making our introductions - Castille has two embassies here and it would be noticed where we went first. Ramon decided to visit the embassy of the loyalists first while Lucia and I made our introductions to the embassador of the occupied Castille. We also invited both factions to our party. We told our contacts that we did our very best to convince the others not to invite the other faction, but compromises must be made.

It took me some time, but I found out the names of the spymasters of Montaigne, Castille and Avalon here at the Labyrinth or rather of the spymasters and their subordinates and I am working my way upwards. The man who is my first contact for the occupied Castille, Raphael Nunez, is, to be frank, incompetent. Do you remember the Eisen envoy to Crescent, that unfortunate left-handed fool who we thought had learned his Crescent in some brothel? Let me just say that he would seem the model of discretion and intelligence next to Nunez. I do not know who had the idea of employing that man, but they are either very intelligent or very stupid. If you want something known in the whole of the Labyrinth, you tell it to Nunez. But for now, I am happy to have him think I'm his friend.

The man employed by the loyal Castille, known to me only as Javier, is a very different matter. I have only met him once, but I already have a lot more respect for him than for Nunez. He asked me to plant some information for him - facts, actually, but since I was to tell it all to Nunez, no-one would believe it. I happily agreed, but I did ask why Javier chose me of all people for this. He told me that not all my students have forgotten me. I had not expected to find this kind of support here, of all places. And believe me, I have a healthy amount of distrust for everything Javier says. But I cannot deny that I would love to accept it as the truth. We will see.

It seems I was not the only one who planned a visit to Castille. Ramon and Lucia positively cornered me the other day and offered their help. You know how badly I accept such offers and it did not help that they wanted to plan it all themselves, asking me to leave it in their hands. It is not that I do not trust them - I do, with my life - but I was not happy with trusting them with your life and that of Alba. They know too little of our situation and I was afraid that they would make a mistake out of that ignorance. At least I kept my temper and we agreed that we would work together on this. I'm glad my pride did not get the better of me this time, Ramon and Lucia are the best friends I could wish for and there is no shame in accepting their help. Lucia, by the way, earlier apologised to me for the things she said in the Judge's house. It took me completely by surprise, but I accepted it gladly.

Do you think you could arrange for you and Alba to go on a short journey, just for a few days to visit some relatives? Not right now, but after the summer festival, which will be around the middle of July? If you can, I think we can arrange a meeting. The thought of seeing Alba again makes me a bit nervous - she was a little girl when I left and I missed so much of her life. But nervous or not, I would give anything to see her again. And you, of course.

Marcello


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

Castille is a country torn by war. Parts of it are under the control of Montaigne, something all three Castillian members of the party see an intolerable crime. But they are not here to fight for the freedom of their country, at least not right now, so Marcello and Lucia at least play along. It doesn't keep them from taking a chance of helping Castille in secret if they can, though.

Marcello is exceptionally bad at accepting help and we skirted a situation where he would have been insulted by Ramon's and Lucia's offer. He swallowed his pride, but he would not be left out of the planning altogether, that would have been too dangerous for his family. Not to mention humiliating in his eyes.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Gameable Culture: The G-Force Tribe

Quinn over at Thought Crime Games has an interesting challenge: make up a culture in five sentences, just by telling us what people from that culture do. Not what they believe or what they value, just what they do. Then create three archetypes that may evolve from that culture, describe them just with a name. Add ten traits a member of that culture would use to describe themselves.

Since we had to create a Cerbora tribe for my Endland game anyway, I accept. The G-Force tribe in five sentences:

  • We don't show our women to outsiders.
  • We never stay in the same place long.
  • We use Human tech to make us stronger.
  • We don't kill weaker tribes, but we take what we want.
  • We listen to stories and search for the truth inside them.


Archetypes:

  • The Rebel
  • The Motorcycle Warrior
  • The Storyteller

A member of the tribe should be:

  • clever
  • honest
  • modest
  • enduring
  • cautious
  • tenacious
  • honourable
  • inquisitive
  • resourceful
  • outspoken

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Company of Wolves

The Company of Wolves is a 1984 Gothic horror movie that explores wolf/werewolf myths and their connection to sexuality. It's based on a story by Angela Carter who has written and edited a number of collection with such tales.

The film is many things, but subtle is not one of them. By that I don't mean not subtle as Game of Thrones is not subtle (boobs every five minutes), but the whole movie is one thinly veiled innuendo. It's fascinating, though, and while I'm not a fan of the theory that all fairy tales have a sexual meaning hidden away, the werewolf myth certainly has in my opinion and The Company of Wolves makes an excellent case for it.

There wasn't have a very big budget, but I think it helped the look of the movie. Since the film makers didn't have money for huge, sweeping sets, they created a small, slightly claustrophobic world that fits the stories well. The whole movie has a very dreamlike quality (and it is indeed all taking part in a dream) that is enhanced by the small, layrinthine sets that seem to wind back into themselves. There are many details you will only notice at a second viewing, for example the animals that are hiding all over the village and forest where the story takes place.

The animatronic shapeshifting scenes are the great weakness of this movie. I saw it about 20 years ago and they didn't look all that convincing even then and a lot less now. And worse, they feel unnecessary, the movie doesn't need all that blood and gore. This scene with its transformation of a whole wedding party of noblemen and -women into wolves is much more subtle and much better (also, I love the indifference of the servants to the fate of their masters).



Yes, those are dogs, not wolves, I know. Small budget strikes again. But the scenes with the whole pack of dogs running together are still incredibly effective, especially at the climax of the movie.

Your mileage may vary with this film. I've shown it to quite a number of people and they either found it ridiculous or fascinating. But if you like looking at old stories in a new way, then I suggest you give it a try.

And if you never saw Angela Lansbury in anything else than Murder, She Wrote, you are in for a surprise. She's does look like everyone's idea of a granny, but there is something subtly creepy about her. Also, watch out for Terence Stamp as the devil.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Turn of the Century Salon: Passage to India

There is nothing quite like discovering a new author and I have greatly enjoyed reading E.M. Forster's "A Passage to India". I never read anything he wrote before, but have seen almost all the film adaptations of Forster's novels, with the exception of A Passage to India. This was one reason why I chose to read this, but also because over the last two years or so, I developed an interest in the British Raj. I have a roleplaying character who used to be a soldier in the British Army and has lived in India for twentyfive years, so I did some research and I found myself fascinated by India (fuelled by other novels I read, like For the Win) and by the British Raj in particular.

A Passage to India follows a young English woman, Miss Quested, who has come to the city of Chandrapore in India to marry and who wishes to see the real India, not just the India presented by the British she meets, always seen from a distance and with a good dose of contempt. So when the Indian physician Dr. Aziz arranged an outing to some caves for her, she is eager to accept. But something happens to her in those caves and she accuses Dr Aziz of assaulting her, creating an uproar in the never very stable community of Chandrapore.

The book is kind to no-one. Not to Dr. Aziz or Miss Quested. Not to the Indians, Muslims or Hindus.. And most certainly not to the British who rule India with so much arrogance and self-delusion. It presents a very bleak view of the British Raj and of different cultures living together in general. It's certainly not free of stereotypes, for all the different groups, and at times that bothered me. The story isn't built on those stereotypes, though, and that's why they don't harm the book as much as they could have.

It's a great book despite that fault, a study of colonialism and of prejudice and how it destroys lives. It's best when it concentrates on it's main characters and their inner life and when it describes the country through their eyes. Forster writes a very elegant style that captures the imagination. I'm looking forward to read more of his books.

2. book for the Turn of the Century Salon
Reviews 2013

Monday, February 18, 2013

Cthulhu Gaslight: Return to England

After their last adventure, Cat had left for Florence House, the house her father owns in the Yorkshire Dales, and Dai has stayed behind in London. He receives a letter from a former lover of his, Rashmi, and she asks him to come to India. She knows she has not much longer to live and she wants to see him. Dai has to leave on the day he received the letter, so he has no time to explain everything to Cat. He writes her a long letter and explains why he had to leave so suddenly, but can only post it a week later from Aden. Cat meanwhile, with only a short note that Dai has left for India which doesn't mention if he's coming back, blames herself and is angry at Dai for just leaving.

They continue to write to each other and slowly, they make up. It helps that Dai finally admits just how important Cat is to him. By the time he is ready to return, Cat will soon be leaving London for the next weeks to visit a friend. So instead of waiting for her in London, Dai decides to take the long way back: he takes a steamer from Bombay to Bushehr in Persia and then he crosses Persia and Turkey by camel and mule. He arrives in Constantinople in November 1890 and from there, it's only a comparatively short train ride back to London.

When he arrives there, he find a letter from Cat: her father has been abducted and she herself has been hurt while investigating his disappearance. She moved to Florence House to recuperate. Dai more or less turns on his heels and takes the next train to Manchester. There, he rents a horse and braves sleet and snow on his way to Florence House, where he arrives a couple of hours later, cold and tired. Cat had not been expecting him and she scrambles to find the right dress and to master her feelings. It takes just a quarter of an hour or so, but Dai, who is more than a bit scared of seeing her again, feels like he has been waiting for hours when the butler finally admits him into the reading room.

It takes them a while to get over the awkwardness of the moment, but it's obvious that they are happy to see each other again. Cat tells Dai about her father's disappearance and that an expedition has left for Egypt to find him. Dai feels guilty because he wasn't there, but he makes it very clear that he doesn't intend to leave any time soon. After dinner, Cat takes him on a tour of the house and in the (extremely impressive) library Dai finally does what he wanted to do since he arrived: he pulls Cat into an embrace. He wishes he didn't have to let her go ever again and Cat is not at all surprised or reluctant to find herself in such a situation.

They spend a couple of very relaxed days at Florence House. Cat is only too glad to forget her worries for a while and Dai does his best to help her with that. Nothing much happens between them except the occasional touch, but it's enough to make it very clear how Dai feels. He has also given Cat a journal he kept during his travels, with sketches of the things he has seen. Reading it, Cat gets some insight into Dai's feelings and thoughts, Dai finds it a lot easier to express himself in writing than in conversation.

The day after the first Sunday in Advent, Cat receives a letter from her editor: would she mind returning to London, the newspaper is short-staffed due to sickness. Also, her brother has arrived in London and is eager to see her. It's news to Cat that she has a brother. So of course they prepare to return to London, but they also decide to enjoy their last evening at Florence House without worrying about any mysteries.

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

This summary is the result of countless conversations, letters written in-character and one evening of free-form roleplaying. The relationship between Cat and Dai is one of the most interesting and intense experiences I've ever had in my roleplaying career and I'm enjoying myself immensely. If everything goes as planned, we will have one last Cthulhu adventure with the characters and then we'll retire them. Cthulhu is so very deadly and we both decided that we did not have the heart to let them die or go insane. It's very possible that we will continue to play them in some sort of free-form roleplaying, they are too interesting to just put them back into the character sheet folder. And Cat and Dai have so many plans where they want to travel and what they want to do, so it would be a shame to refuse them.

I actually made the journal Dai gives to Cat. I wrote about it here and you can read the whole thing on Flickr here.

Dai's Journal

After the last time we played Cat and Dai, I had to make Dai leave London. Cat would figure in another Cthulhu Gaslight adventure and I didn't want to play Dai in that adventure. Also, there was the fact that they were both falling in love and we couldn't just put that on the backburner for half a year in-game time.

I decided that Dai would be called back to India by a former lover who wished to see him one last time before her death. Rashmi is an important person in Dai's life, so of course he would go. And since Cat wasn't in London anyway for the summer, Dai used the time to travel back the long way: from Mumbai per steamer to Bushehr in Persia and from there by camel and mule to the Caspian Sea, into Turkey and along the Black Sea coast to Constantinople.

IMG_5521_01
small statue from Van, Turkey...about 2500 years old

Dai knew fully well how much Cat would have liked such a journey and so he kept a diary and sketched the things he saw. As for me, I had too much fun planning that journey to keep it to myself. I'm by no means a trained artist and at the time I began the journal, I had been sketching for a bit more than six months. It was a challenge, I went wide out of my comfort zone and sketched things I never would have dared otherwise.

IMG_5524_01
Lion's Gate of Hattusa near Bogazkale, Turkey

I learned a ton, both about sketching and about India, Persia and Turkey. Persia was the biggest surprise by far. To my shame, I have to admit that I thought that the country was more or less all desert. Instead, I discovered that it's an extremely diverse country with, yes, deserts, but also jungles, huge mountains (including a dormant volcano) and at times positively parklike landscapes that are extremely fertile.

Ganesha

The whole diary took me about nine months to make, with life getting in the way. As a guesstimate, if I had dedicated eight hours a day to it, it would have taken me about three weeks, including the research. Flickr, Wikipedia and Google Earth were absolutely invaluable for this. Persia in particular is very well represented on both Wikipedia and Flickr. Also, historic travelers made the same journey at about the same time and wrote about it. Lord Curzon's Persia and the Persian Question describes in detail how to travel in Persia. Isabella Bird, just a few months shy of her 60th birthday, traveled almost the same route as Dai on horseback and wrote a book about it.



I had decided even when I started the journal that I would give it to Cat's player. When the time came, I found it surprisingly hard to give it away. I'm so used to be working on it and to taking it everywhere, it's a strange feeling not to have it anymore. But the player's reaction was more than reward enough for all the work.

alamut
the ruins of Alamut Castle

If you are interested in reading the whole thing, I uploaded it to Flickr here. There's a bit of background information for each sketch and some out of character comments when I felt like it.
I used Faber Castel Polychromos coloured pencils and graphite pencils. The book is a 5 x 8.25" Moleskine with 250g paper.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Book of Choice: Sinbad

Sinbad by Christophe Arleston, Audrey Alwett (authors) and Pierre Alary (illustrations) is set in the "universe" of Arabian Nights and uses familiar characters like Aladin and Sinbad, but tells a different story. Sinbad is searching for his parents - all he knows is that he had been found as a baby floating in the water in a basket. A merchant took him in and raised him, but now, as a young man, he wants to find out where he came from. And he intends to find out with the help of magic.

Sinbad by Arleston

Sinbad is no hero, he's a trickster, thief and liar and so much more entertaining because of it. The story takes you into exotic places filled with strange sights and secrets and captures the feeling of Arabian Nights well. The great strength of Sinbad are the illustrations, though, and the characters in particular. With expressive faces and body language, Alary creates unique personalities and a great amount of storytelling is done just by his art.

IMG_5498_01

This is one of the best comics I have read lately and I'm definitely going to buy and read the whole series. The art is amazing and the story is exciting, imaginative and hilarious (but not without its dark moments). If you like swashbuckling fantasy, then I highly recommend it. The only problem is that there is no English translation so far...so you'll need to brush up on your French.

5. book for the Graphic Novel Challenge
7. book for the Library Challenge 2013
Reviews 2013

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Turn of the Century Salon: To the Lighthouse

I thought that I had read To the Lighthouse by Virgina Woolf before, but to my surprise, I hadn't. I haven't read anything by her for years, although I used to love her books very much. She's not the most accessible of authors and it always takes me a while to get used to her style. But it's worth it.

To the Lighthouse takes place on two days, but years apart. A trip to the lighthouse is planned and then canceled, years later it finally does takes place. If you now think that this isn't the most thrilling of stories, you are forgiven. What's important in the book are the characters thoughts and feelings and Woolf follows them, jumping from thought to thought, often switching between characters without any clear indication when such a change happens. The characters' inner voices come together like a piece of music and create a vivid scene, a moment in time.

It's a deeply personal book and reflects Woolf's feelings for her mother and her writing process - something that didn't come easy to her. What struck me is how much it is about things being left unsaid. The Ramsays almost never speak their thoughts to each other (but understand each other anyway) and their children keep much of their thoughts to themselves, even when they would like to talk about important things. For me, it was about the inability to know another person and how we construct images of other people in our mind that may or may not actually fit that person.

If you want to read a stream of consciousness-novel, then this or Woolf's other books are a much easier choice than James Joyce, the other famous representative of this technique. It's also a glimpse of society on its way from the Victorian Age into the 20th century and as always, Woolf pays special attention to the women.

1. book for the Turn of the Century Salon
Reviews 2013


Endland: Not Dead

My Endland campaign recently lost a player due to lack of free time. With only two players left, my immediate reaction was to retire the campaign because most of what I had planned would have involved three players. Looking for new players...not really something I want to do. So far I have been lucky with my RPG groups, but I don't really relish the thought of introducing a new player only to find out that he or she is that guy or a variant thereof.

But after some time to think about it, I decided to run the campaign anyway. Every time I looked at my notes, the world drew me in again and new places and characters evolved. So I sorted through what I had planned and found that a lot of stuff worked just as well with two players and the rest - I'll just keep it in mind. There's nothing that has to happen at a particular time. We'll see how it all works out with two players. I want the campaign to continue very much, but if it turns out that two are just not enough, I'll retire it for the moment.

If anyone had told me that I would be that addicted to world-building and GMing a year ago, I would have laughed at them. I would not want to do it full time, I like playing too much, but I would not want to miss it either.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Rains of Castamere

Because it's 54 days until Game of Thrones starts again.



If you like this version, you can buy it for a dollar at Bandcamp.com

RPG Blog Carnival: Pimp a Game

The theme for the RPG Blog Carnival in February are the not so famous RPG system:
This month of February I invite you to gather round the campfire with your obscure indie rpgs and your sleeper hits and your imported foreign rpgs with funny dice. I invite you to gush about your love for these less well-known games, create homebrew content and share it, or tell a story about a session you where in playing these games. I invite you to pimp out your favorite roleplaying game, the one you could never find players for and settled for DND even though you really wanted to play Paranoia or Call of Cthulu.

I don't play fantasy RPGs, so at time I feel like that makes me a freak and I'm always thrilled to find blogs who talks about games that are not DnD or Pathfinder.

It doesn't really qualify as obscure, but I think that Deadlands is getting not nearly enough love from the roleplaying community. With its mix of alternate history, all the Western tropes you could want and bit of magic and monsters thrown into the mix, it's tons of fun. You can play it straight, you can add a bit of weirdness to your game or you can go full out WTF is happening. Anyone who has ever seen a Sergio Leone or John Wayne movie immediately gets into the mood of the setting (and there are so many awesome soundtracks to use as background music). Plus, you get to use just about all your dice, from d6 to d20.

Endland definitely qualifies as obscure because it's a German RPG and there is no translation. And even in Germany, not many people play it or even know it. But it's brilliant and very versatile. Playing in a post-apocalyptic world on a continent that is eaten away by fire on the one side and ice on the other, you can set your campaign anywhere from Mad Max to medieval fantasy with tech elements or just somewhere in between. The world is only described broadly, so everything else is up to the GM and I love that because it gives me a lot of freedom. You can download the rulebook for free at the Endland homepage - even if you don't read German, take a look at the artwork, it gets the mood of the game across fairly well. My campaign is on Obsidian Portal and there's some info about the world of Endland in English there.

And then there's Alternity. I played this game only for a very short time and I remember that it was a lot of fun...but I'm a bit hazy about things like rules or game mechanics. I'd love to play it again just to see if it is as good as I remember it to be.

RPGBlogCarnivalLogocopy1-227x300

Monday, February 4, 2013

Graphic Novel Challenge: Dieu en personne

Dieu en personne (God in person/himself) by Marc-Antoine Mathieu is not exactly an easy read. God decides to appear on earth, not for the Apocalypse or give some more commandments, he just is there one day. First, he is considered insane, but after a few incidents that can only be explained if he really is God, the world starts to believe. God becomes a media phenomenon, everyone wants to see him, everyone talks about him. He gets made into a brand label, his books outsell anything else written, he is THE talkshow guest ... and he is put on trial for anything people have ever felt that is wrong with their world.

I liked the idea of the comic and the way the story is told. Tongue in cheek, but very serious in the end. If you like that kind of mindgames and metaphysics, then it's a book worth reading.

Dieu en personne by Marc Antione Mathieu

The only thing that bugged me was the artwork...and that's a fairly huge problem when you're reading a comic. I just didn't like it, although I've read comics by Mathieu before and liked his style well enough. But here, the characters, for me, come across as just too unlikeable ... which may be a deliberate choice by Mathieu, though. But it really cut into my enjoyment of the comic.

Oh, and I really wish he hadn't used that old "we only use 10% of our brain"-crap.

4th book for the Graphic Novel Challenge
6th book for the Library Challenge 2013
Reviews 2013

Friday, February 1, 2013

Graphic Novel Challenge: Kraa

Kraa - The Lost Valley by Benoit Sokal is the story of Yuma, a young Native American boy who befriends a young eagle (who calls himself Kraa). The valley they live in is threatened by settlers who want to dam the river that flows through the valley and flood it. When the family of Yuma refuses to move, they are killed by the settlers. Yuma tries to revenge his family and Kraa, for his very own reasons, comes to his aid.

Make no mistake, this is no soppy "child befriends animal"-story. It's a brutal world and Sokal does a good job of keeping the eagle as animal-like as possible. It doesn't really understand Yuma and tries to make sense of what he does from the view of an animal. It does consider him the reincarnation of its brother whom it pushed out of the nest, as eagles do.

Benoit Sokal: Kraa

The art is gorgeous. If it looks familiar: Sokal created the PC games Syberia and Amerzone. This is the first of two novels and I need to pre-order the second part from the library...I really want to know how this ends. I'm not at all sure it will be a happy ending, the way the story goes.

Reviews 2013
5th book for the Library Challenge 2013
3rd book for the Graphic Novel Challenge