yeloson: (Default)
Though I've been sick this whole week, I saved up my energy reserves to go see Attack the Block at a free screening. I was worried that given all the hype, it would be "just ok", that I'd be expecting too much.

Wrong. That shit was filthy.

The action moved at a good clip, I never felt like anything was dragging, and all the kids' personalities got a chance to shine a bit. I like the fact that we don't get the kids' names until a third of the way through the movie, because there was never a reason for everyone to be yelling each others' names all the time. I really liked all the references that reminded you that these are teenagers ("I shoulda stayed home and played FIFA", "Call us back when you're done playing Xbox" etc.)

I also like the fact that the kids were never held up as "ZOMG GHETTO URBAN PLIGHT" children, but just kids who happened to live here and have stuff to deal with - they even had parents and not all evil orphans who exist because ghettos spawn children magically.

Action: Awesome. Acting: Awesome. Cinematography: Awesome. Soundtrack: Awesome.

Go see this movie, give them money, and tell your friends to do the same.
yeloson: (pic#459018)

Daniel Solis is making a roleplaying game that's heavily inspired by Avatar the Last Airbender. Preorders available on Kickstarter, and you can get either the PDF or the hardcover of the game. More details about how the rules work are here.
yeloson: (Default)
Jono mentioned MS Paint Adventures as a webcomic to check out and I'm thoroughly entertained by it.

MSPA:Homestuck is a weird and hilarious comic set up almost as if it were a crappy point and click adventure game from the 80's mixed with Zork. The comics use animated gifs and flash graphics to provide small animations and sometimes interactive bits. It's also not a comic that you can jump into in the middle and get it- you have to go from the beginning.

The story follows 4 kids and a bizarre game-like world that only gets progressively more bizarre as you go, from the view as if you were playing a videogame. (There's recurring jokes and drama around inventory and the number of things you can carry and what a fucking hassle it is to do anything).

The story starts with John, and it's his birthday. He gets a new videogame and starts it up- he's playing online with his friend Rose.

But apparently, the game works in a weird Sims-like fashion, Rose sees John and his house on her screen and can actually move stuff around using her cursor - lift a couch, change the dimensions of the house, etc. She also can "drop in" items, including an "Alchemizer" and other bizarre machines, while John is actually running around his house dealing with the mayhem this creates.

And then things get worse.

The game apparently summons a meteor to hit your house, unless you can figure out how to use the weird machines to teleport your house to another dimension. Like classic videogame fashion, this "game design" only makes sense if you're going to get to play a lot of times and expect to die a lot of times- Rose & John figure it out through luck and a lot of hilarious mistakes.

So John is now in an other dimension, with his house, on some weird quest. They can only keep in touch through his computer or his dad's PDA. (Problem: he can only access the PDA when it's at the top of his inventory list. Very often, he has to do other things, leaving Rose typing him desperately to warn him of things and he doesn't see until it's already too late.)

Rose, on the other hand, is stuck in "the real world" (as much as anything in this videogame-like strip is real) where kids around the world are playing this new game and getting hit with meteors left and right. In fact, the area around her house is on fire, because of this.

So the plan is to try to get a third friend, Dave, to put his game in so Rose can play as "the player" and teleport her house to safety as well. Problem is, Dave is a spacey dudebro/ninja (don't ask) and doesn't even get why it's important to play a stupid game.

It really just gets deeper and crazier and more entertaining, but it's definitely a series that builds on itself and creates it's own context - you have to really start from the beginning for any of it to make whatever sense can be made of it.

It also does amazing things with the medium- it has fun music on some parts, and even semi-interactive bits where you pick commands like a videogame.

And here's a non contextual example of why this comic rocks.
yeloson: (pic#459018)
You can pay whatever you like for Polaris or Bliss Stage!

Ben's one of my favorite designers- all of his games sharply hit on the human condition, and none of them are like anything else out there. Go check'em out!

Polaris

Polaris is a game about a dying society at the North Pole. Their world of perfect harmony collapses under corruption and in-fighting while armies of demons gather without.

You, one of the last knights protecting the land, with a sword of starlight and an oath of honor, you will see who and what, if anything, you can save, before you also fall in battle or fail in your heart and turn to the demons.

It's a GM-less game where the mechanics are resolved primarily through specialized "key phrases" that turn conflicts into bargaining - "I kill the Demon King", "But only if you are captured in return", "But only if I am unharmed", "And so it was."

Bliss Stage

Aliens have come and conquered the Earth... through our dreams. Everyone over the age of 18 has fallen into a stasis-sleep, "The Bliss" and the kids who have survived the last 7 years have finally cobbled together a means of fighting back.

Jumping into the dream world, you construct giant robots made of your love and care for those closest to you- to fight the aliens and hopefully free our world. But in doing so, your risk your relationships- damage to your dream-mech is damage to your relationships... can you protect your friends? Can you save the world?

Bliss Stage is a post-apocalyptic anime soap opera. You jump between scenes of bonding and friendship... and terrible nightmare worlds of the aliens. Think Satoshi Kon meets Evangelion and you won't be far off.
yeloson: (Default)
Yoon asked about collaborative roleplaying games and how they work.

Overall, these are my favorite kind of rpgs. They have consistently created the most interesting stories, most intense roleplaying, and general fun for me.

Most tabletop roleplaying either creates events by: a) preparing/creating combat encounters or b) preparing a set of events that players must be "guided into" enacting. In contrast, the kinds of games that I like to play have no prepared story- interesting stories aren't created by prepared events, but rather as an emergent point of play.

So how do they work? Many have a classic rpg set up- you have a GM, each player has a character and so on. Usually the two big differences are what players are rewarded for and how they can affect and shape play.

Rewards

Many games use what I call "Flags". A "Flag" is something on your character sheet that explicitly tells the group what you want to do with your characters' story. "Loyal to the King", "Secretly in love with the Queen" are Flags...

Flags make things easier because they get everyone on the same page about what the story is going to be about in a general sense - even if no one knows how it will turn out in the end. A lot of games set it up so that your Flags create conflicts and situations- my example, obviously, is someone who's on a quick road to drama. You can also create Flags that conflict with other player's Flags, or, a "Flag" for an NPC.

A lot of games work with Flags by giving you points to improve your character, extra bonuses to succeed, etc. when you chase a Flag. In other words, if you pursue this thing, you get points and that starts pushing everyone in play to start chasing them.

This isn't the only kind of reward system, but it's a simple, common one that works well and can be found in several games. The Shadow of Yesterday, Lady Blackbird, Primetime Adventures, The many Burning Wheel games, are some key examples.

Player Input

Most traditional roleplaying only gives a player power over their character and nothing else. Many games have started playing with that- giving players more power.

Such as being able to narrate the results of success/failure is a common one - for example, winning a fight against a foe, you might say, "We rush each other, and strike... and then his head falls off", or, perhaps, "It's a long drawn out battle, and I knock away his sword, and before I can swing the killing blow, he says, 'So, is this how it ends, brother?'"

Obviously, different games have different restrictions, but by opening things up, players can drastically affect the imaginary events- and the GM -cannot- railroad or ram a story at the players. Giving players the ability to declare facts, actively, or retroactively, allows the players not just the ability to resolve conflicts, but to set up new ones in interesting ways. (Houses of the Blooded, which has plenty of examples of that).

Mostly, though, the minimum required is that players are guaranteed some form of input- that the GM can't railroad. At the other end of the spectrum you have games where anyone can input as much as a GM, sometimes divvied up based on dice rolls or spending points to make facts about the game world.

A key thing to notice about a lot of these games is that, when the problems are scaled up beyond something like, "Can we kill this monster?" or "Can we follow this clue trail?", giving players more power to resolve those things trivially is no longer an issue.

Games that do this include The Pool, Inspectres, 1001 Nights,
Universalis.

In Play

Together, what happens with those two elements is that:

a) It's clear on from the get-go what the game is about, what people should be focusing on.
b) The input rules allow players to take it there, or shift it to new, meaty story space if they need to, and not wait for the lumbering movement of "the story" to find it's way to them, if ever.

Here's some links to the most recent game of Primetime Adventures I've played: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3,
Part 4

Hit me up with questions!
yeloson: (Magical Feeling)
I'm hella down.

Austin Sendek, a physics student at UC Davis, wants the number of 10 to the 27th power -- a trillion trillions -- to officially become "hella" big.

Along the lines of using the "kilo" prefix for kilometers or "giga" for gigabyte, Sendek is petitioning the International System of Units (SI) to use the term "hella" to describe really, really big measurements; such as the size of the universe.

"The diameter of the universe is 1.4 hellameters," Sendek said. "You know if someone says that's 'hella meters' you know exactly what they're talking about."

Under Sendek's proposed terminology, you would say the mass of the earth is six hellagrams, and the power of the sun is 0.3 hellawatts.


6 Hellagrams. That's global slanging right there.
yeloson: (Default)
Role Playing Girl is a zine (print & PDF) that is written, edited, illustrated, etc. by women who are involved in the roleplaying hobby- as designers, publishers, and gamers.

I've just gotten my copy, and only had a chance to skim it, but two things immediate jumped out at me:

First, that the zine does an incredible job of highlighting and promoting - there's 25 notable women in roleplaying - listing credits of games they've worked on, in what fashion, links to websites, blogs, galleries, etc. There's listings of conventions, games, podcasts, communities, etc. I mean, there's a lot there.

Second, that the articles mostly have pictures of the authors with them. If you're not seeing enough women in gaming (whether because you're isolated or because you're not looking) it puts faces for you to relate to. Not that I think there's any need to "prove with pictures" for legitimacy, but if you're dealing with people's monkey brain of assumptions, images are one way to go straight to the point.

Anyway, something for my roleplaying gamer folks to check out.
yeloson: (Default)
Coopted in solidarity from Ithiliana

1) Post a list of up to 20 books/movies/anime/TV shows/video games/bands [fannish etc.] that you've had an obsessive fannish love or interest in at some time in your life.
2) Have your f-list guess your favourite character/member from each item.
3) When someone guesses correctly, strikethrough the item and put the name of your favorite character next to it.

(It doesn't say comics, so I'll omit comics and stick to anime...)

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

1. Giant Robo
2. Avatar the Last Airbender Toph (with Iroh close second!)
3. Battlestar Galactica (new one)
4. A Chinese Odyssey
5. The Seven Swords of Mt. Heaven
6. Macross Plus Gould Goa Bowman
7. The Hakkenden
8. The Galaxy Rangers
9. The Mahabharata
10. Neon Genesis Evangelion Rei Ayanami
11. Final Fantasy 7
12. The Dark Crystal
13. Persona 3
14. Final Fight
15. Final Fantasy 10
16. Robotech/Macross
17. The Incredibles
18. Tartovsky's Star Wars Clone Wars cartoons
19. Megaman Legends
20. Naruto
yeloson: (Default)
Managed to rewatch a couple of episodes between cooking and chores. Someone finally put the theme up on Youtube:

yeloson: (Default)
It's hard to say if cartoons or comics came first. Probably cartoons, though the good cartoons didn't kick up until the mid-80's anyway.

Of comics, it was whatever seemed neat at the drug store just a few blocks away. I ended up getting a lot of Iron Man, Power Man & Iron Fist, and occasionally stuff like Avengers. Only after I got a little older did I start getting into X-men, Alpha Flight, and the rest, and older still when I could make my way to the comic book store, everything else.

Sci-fi - it was cheese like Godzilla or Space:1999, or whatever happened to be on TV at the moment, though Star Wars at the Cinerama imprinted pretty deeply between the dogfights and laser swords. Alien, Aliens, and Terminator would also be big hits with me as well.

Like most boys, it was all about Transformers and Robotech, but I also got to have a good dose of Star Blazers, even getting my ass up 2 hours early to watch it. Later we'd trade fansub or straight japanese VHS copies of stuff like Dragonball before it made it to the states. You don't know my glee when Akira hit, if only because it opened the door. My first two purchased anime tapes were Dangaioh with it's psychic mecha and Gunbuster with it's black hole bombs.

It was something like 3-4 years AFTER the movie came out that I finally got a chance to watch The Dark Crystal. Aside from being completely unlike any other fantasy I've seen, I didn't realize how much I connected with the gelflings' sense of disconnection from their heritage and culture. Older now, I see the story of diaspora peoples, refugees, genocide, all with muppets.

I was 12 when my cousin gave me a copy of blue box D&D, which was way too poorly written for me to understand. There was a map and instinctively I knew maps lead to treasure. I'd pick up Red Box Basic and try to play with my sister and my friends, but couldn't understand how we kept getting eaten by rats when the cover on the box showed a guy taking on a dragon... I made my way through a ton of rpg systems, getting my most play around high school when we all had time for such things.

I stuck with roleplaying because, like hiphop, it was about telling your own stories. I played with a group of all people of color for 2 years, and then after that, a group 1/2 POC in Canada. We were especially happy when Feng Shui came out, because then all of our HK movie geekiness got a chance to play out, in a battle across time.

It wasn't until I was a teenager that I started finding HK movies and wuxia. Everything from sci-fi to fantasy showed up. I would swing up to the art-house theatre for the double features, before Tarantino slapped his name on everything. I'd make my way to boogsie Scarecrow Video to snag movies from other countries, and finally at the ghetto Chinatown spot ($2 a movie and you could rent for 2 weeks).

I got into Lovecraft years back, if only because I wanted to know what all the hubbub was. Less terrifying, more hilarious - novels about "Don't open that door!" watching folks be stupid. I appreciate the abstracted horror, even as I'm all too aware of his sketchy race issues. As I'm reading more and more older pulp fantasy now, I keep running into it. At least I can console myself with the fact that the writing is good and most of these people are dead, and it's less rage inducing than when I encounter books published in 2005 with the same issues.

Despite all this, I stay firmly "middle of the line" in terms of my geekiness compared to my friends. I had two people who were religious about Star Wars novels, a couple of Tolkien fanatics, and much more serious comic collectors than myself. One friend can tell you most B-horror movies from the last 20 years.

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