Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Song of the week, other stuff

So I don't know when, precisely, I am going to be getting another here that will be something other than the song of the week or an obituary.  Hopefully it will be a long, long time before I do find myself doing the latter.  I have been concentrating on writing articles for The Agony Booth and I guess I find that more challenging, more fun.  No one there has said anything, no one gives me a deadline, but I do find myself with the urge to contribute, to be part of that community.  So I try to get an article up every six weeks.

Hey, comedy is hard.  Besides, say I review 18 of the 22 Star Trek, The Animate Series episodes.  I can drag that out some two years.  Maybe during that time I will find another outlet.  I had considered being a full-on internet reviewer but my brother Jon has given me some very good points to think about.  Internet reviewers (and I'm talking about people doing video reviews) do it seemingly because it is their full time job or it is a hobby while they are going to college.  Or they are in positions where they can get away with being wacky online without any consequences to their regular jobs.  And while I do not think I would do anything that might put my job in jeopardy, do I really want to risk it?  Jon also suggested that if I went that route I should adopt an alternate identity and do faceless reviews like SF Debris.  He has given me a lot to think about.

But if that happened that would be months and months down the road.  I would have to learn how to edit films, discover how much editing software would cost me, etc.  I'm really not sure if I want to pursue the hobby that passionately, and if it interfered with my GMing that would suck.  I still very much like being a GM for a great bunch of players.

What else?  Oh, yeah.  Years ago I used to love Yahoo(!) Music.  The format was set up where you could easily find acts, and acts were also listed by their level of popularity.  I came across bands I had never heard of before, like Kittie and Rachel Farris (I have to remember to put them on the list for SOTW later).  Then Yahoo(!) altered the format and I thought it kind of sucked.  By then Pandora came on the scene.  But anyway, I remember listening to a lot of Sevendust  back then.  So today we have a one-two punch of Sevendust!  First is Praise:

Second is Enemy:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Song of the week

Sucker Punch.  Hmmm.  I remember when I saw the ads for the movie, the posters, the hype machine in full effect I was, ah, suckered into seeing the film.  I mean, Zack Snyder did it.  This was the guy behind 300 and Watchmen and I loved those movies!  How could he go wrong?

Well, he could.  300 and Watchmen were both preexisting properties he adapted to the big screen, while Sucker Punch came out of his own head.  His own sick, twisted, demented head.

The plot of Sucker Punch is as follows.  A mother dies and her two daughters are now at the mercy of their wicked stepfather.  After one daughter accidentally kills the second in an attempt to prevent the stepfather from raping them, the wicked stepfather has her committed so he can control the assets she was bound to inherit.  In the asylum she awaits the day when she will receive a lobotomy, arranged by the wicked stepfather.

So then the movie goes off the rails and the girl starts to imagine that instead of an asylum she now is in a brothel, because Snyder wants an excuse for the girls to wear sexy clothing.  So while the girl is fantasizing she is in a brothel she has further fantasies of fighting giant robot samurai or fighting along side steam operated zombie German soldiers, or fire breathing dragons.

Don't get me wrong.  I followed the plot just fine.  No matter what visuals I was being assaulted with, I followed the narrative.  I just didn't dig the movie because at the heart it was about women being abused in a mental institution.

Which brings me to the song of the week.  As much as I did not like the movie, the visuals are stunning.  Combined with the Korn/Skrillex song Get Up and I think it is a pretty cool music video.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

All, Some, None

Sometimes, when running a game, things do not always go according to plan.

Oh, who am I kidding?  Things never go according to plan.  The mark of a good GM is dealing with those time when things go seriously off the rails.  A bad GM keeps the train running forward until the whole thing crashes.  A good GM lays new track.

And yet, even if you keep things rolling you are still going to upset some passengers.  Players.  Whatever.  The point  is, you are bound to upset someone.

Let me give you an example.  In my Vindicators game there has been this epic storyline running since March.  Lord Dread, inspired by Marvel's Doctor Doom-
Of coure!
...right.  Lord Dread has blown up the Starscraper, a space station used by the world's heroes.  Hundreds are dead, including some of the world's most iconic super humans.  My players were stunned I would do such a thing.  Stunned, but excited.  Because I had added a serious element of uncertainty to the game.

So this epic has been going on for months and we are finally at the culmination, the face off against Dread.  I had planned for this fight to last quite a while.  Dread has been around for decades, he knows how to fight teams of super powered beings.  He has numerous tactics and an arsenal of weapons at his disposal.  I had fully planned on making my players suffer in this final battle.


During the adventure Robin dropped out of the game, leaving me running his character Apex.  Then Alan contacted me, telling me he was disillusioned with his character Knack.  So he did me a big favor and took over running Knack while I modified the game to come up with a way to kill off Knack in a heroic manner.

See how the game doesn't exactly go the way you expect?  And there is no getting angry here.  People are people.  They sometimes disappear from your game, or they get tired of the character they are playing. You roll with it and your appreciate it when they do you a favor.

So Knack gets his heroic death.  He pilots the Vindicators' alien shuttle into space and rams Thor, a military satellite taken over by Dread to drop tungsten rods onto Disneyworld.  Knack is another casualty in the war against Dread.  Meanwhile on Earth round one is done and I am ready to punish the players.

And Chris writes like a man possessed.

Chris runs Trickshot, and Knack was sort of his best friend.  Both were outcasts, both possessed similar powers, both had inhuman advisers.  Trickshot was magical, Knack technological.  And so when Ry’Lahh, Trickshot's magic bow, informed Trickshot Knack was dead, Chris decided that this called for an epic post in response.

“no.”  It was a whisper; inaudible given the situation.  Knack was…gone?!

”I call the top bunk!”  the young archer shouted as he and Taylor raced towards their room.  The space station corridors were just wide enough to allow them to jockey for the lead as the two jostled and joked, entering their living space as reckless as usual.  Charles threw his duffel bag filled with clothes that had been purchased by Brian Griffith onto the upper bed.  A moment later he leaped up onto the mattress; the archer’s feet dangling close to Taylor’s head.
                “What the frag-grenade?!  You dirty virus, that’s rigging!”

 Trickshot had just recently gotten to his feet.  His legs felt like jelly and he was sure that the floor was shifting beneath him.  “No…”  The look in his eyes was one of bewilderment and utter devastation.  It was reminiscent of an Alzheimer’s patient after a moment of lucidity.  He tried to focus on something – anything; but it just wouldn’t happen.

The music at the Canadian nightclub thumped rhythmically; the bass causing many nearby drinks to ripple.  Charles looked over at Taylor and had to smile.  He looked odd and out of place in his own skin.  His hands were placed on the table and they nervously fidgeted with a cola.  The fair haired archer leaned in to be heard over the loud music.  “Ok, listen up.  See those chicks over there?”  He pointed to a table of all girls who were giggling and eyeing the two of them.  “We are going to go over there and talk to ‘em.  You remember your line bud?”   Taylor nodded and sipped his cola.  “Yeah.  I am going to say ‘Are you tired?’, is that right?”  Charles nodded; keeping his eyes on the girls; he caught one’s attention and winked.  “And what do you say after she says ‘why’ – Tay?”  Again the younger man responded.  “I’m going to say ‘because you’ve been treading grav all day.  Is that one right?”  Trickshot palmed his face for a moment; then shrugged as he smiled.  “Close enough!  Onward, to the chase!”  He put his arm around Taylor and they began to slither through the dance floor headed for the table of women.

He could feel intense pain as gravity pulled at his numbed limb.  The shoulder of the costume had been disintegrated, exposing charred bright red flesh.  As he moved, the wet glimmer of bone showed through on occasion.  Tears welled up in his eyes, obscuring the color and light show that displayed behind Lord Dread.  “NO.”  He began to move towards the villain, stumbling at first.

Taylor looked like a kid in a candy store as he climbed up the ladder into the big metal robot.  This was their sixth reality hop.  This one looked terribly like Anime.  Before the archer could even get to his own rig – a motorcycle, the cooling tubes popped off and in no time Knack was piloting a robot like he’d been doing it since birth.  “WOOO-HOOOOOOOOOOO!”  He shouted over the com links.  It was times like this that Trickshot really enjoyed hanging with his friend Taylor.  He hurried to get into his own setup and raced after the flying machine.

His footing became more stable after the first initial steps.  He had little regard left for his own well-being.  He had no quips, no jibes to taunt this villain.  He had no mirth to bolster his team.  It was as if all the goodness and joy that dwelled within the flaxen haired hero had been snuffed out suddenly and without warning.  All he had left was pain and anger.  His shoulder flared in agony; white hot tendrils of pain jolting into his brain and making him want to scream.  His trot turned into a run.  It wasn’t much farther now…”NO!!!”  He leaped into the air; sailing over several stairs as he sought to inflict as much pain and suffering as Lord Dread had just done to him.  He screamed unintelligibly; a snarl full of rage and hate as he swung Ry’Lahh with all his soul.

 This is a player who has stepped up and wrote a tremendous post.  And I confess I saw this post as being a way out.  Remember how I mentioned Robin and Alan earlier?  Well, they were not the only issues going on.  I had one player, Dave, who wanted to return to the game and had been patiently waiting months to do so.  And a guy named Don had contacted me, wanting to join the game.  On top of that Paul had gotten in touch with me privately, telling me he wanted to take a leave of absence.  Combined with the other issues I had faced earlier as well as the fact that I anticipated this combat to possibly last as long as another month (My plans had been for Dread to be a stunningly difficult opponent)...

I took the easy way out.  Even though Chris' character Trickshot had been stunned for that round, I wrote it so his character staggered forward and smashed Dread on his helmeted skull, killing him, bringing the combat to an abbreviated close.

And this served to frustrate Earl, whose character had been less than effective these past few months, combat wise.  In retrospect I could see where he was coming from; Earl's character has what is probably the most effectively terrifying weapon in the game: a holy flame thrower that burns the souls of the wicked.  Imagine if you were a criminal and you knew this guy had such a weapon.  You would either 1) make it your top priority to take this person down first or 2) you run away.  At this stage of the game Everyone knew about the holy flamer, that's what happens if your character has been adventuring for a few years and criminals exchange information.  And in this day and age information sharing is as easy as a text.  So did I overcompensate a little too much where Earl's character, Battle Maiden was concerned?  Yeah, I probably did.  Earl had been looking forward to that final fight and when he was robbed of his opportunity to do something big and cinematic-ally impressive, it justifiably pissed him off.

In the end I let the combat stand.  If I reversed my decision then that would have likely upset Chris.  Worse, everyone would have known the end result of the combat: bow smash to skull.  All I could do was apologize to Earl both privately and publicly and apologize to the group as a whole and explain why I did what I did.

The moral to all this?  When you are dealing with a group of individuals you are not always going to be able to make everyone happy.  There are going to be times when you make unpopular decisions, wrong decisions.  And I can assure you that if you are a GM for long enough you are going to make wrong decisions.  You are going to upset players, either singly or some or the group as a whole.  And the question you have to ask yourself is, is it all worth it?  Is it worth the frustration and risk of upsetting people?

After twelve years of running The Vindicators I would give an unqualified Yes to that question.  Have I upset players?  Of course I have.  Have I consistently entertained them far more?  I would say so.  No GM bowls the perfect game.  What you do is try and do better next time, to come up with ways to make sure a similar event does not occur.  For me I think I need to insure these mega-events do not last as long, somehow.  It would be a start, anyway.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Song of the week, other stuff

To my pleasant surprise, I was actually able to knock out a second Star Trek, The Animated Series review.  The first one took me some eighteen months to write, this time just five weeks.  I don't know if I will be writing reviews of other televisions series.  One of the reasons I chose TAS is not many people talk about it.  Somewhere down the line I am thinking of doing something along the lines of Manly Movies, talking about old action films like The Dirty Dozen, Ice Station Zebra, The Magnificent Seven, or...

If I continued to do internet reviews I would rather target flicks other internet reviewers are not talking about.  Really, there are so many interpretations of Michael Bay's Transformers at this point that no one needs to hear another one from me (Although I do confess The Cinema Slob's take on it made me laugh.).  I love the Bourne movies but so much time is spent on the protagonist agonizing over who he is and all the people he killed.  They are good movies, but I also relish the escapism of good old fashioned action films.

Now, on to the song of the week!  I am not going to pretend this song is ground breaking, earth shaking, trend setting, or even great, for that matter.  However, the song has been stuck in my head and unlike, say, Call Me Maybe (Which radio stations here in the Metro Detroit Area simply love), I don't mind it being there.

I give you the Swedish duo Icona Pop and their song I Love It:

Hmmm.  Nikki and The Dove, Nero, and now Icona Pop.  My musical tastes seem to be sliding more towards electronic pop these days...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Song Of The Week

When it comes to Van Halen fans you have three camps; those who prefer the David Lee Roth era, those who prefer the Sammy Hagar era, and those who find merits in both.  I fall into the first category and when I heard that Roth had left the band I had been a little depressed.  Their cover of Pretty Woman was one of the first videos I had seen on Mtv, their concert videos for Unchained and So This Is Love received lots of airplay.  1984 was a massive album for me; I played that cassette to death.

But then I heard Sammy Hagar had joined the band and I did not feel so bad.  I actually preferred Sammy's voice over David's and I figured this was the best of both worlds.  I tuned in when their first single together, Why Can't This Be Love, was played on the radio and I thought it was fantastic (and it is still one of my favorite Van Halen songs). 5150 is a great album, one of Van Halen's best.  It was not until OU812 came out that the honeymoon was over and Van Hagar soured for me.

So for SOTW I choose what I think was "Van Hagar's" best effort, Why Can't This Be Love: