Friday, January 25, 2013

Song of the week, other stuff

Man, writing part two of my Sex, Religion and Politics trilogy of articles has proven to be a monumental pain in the ass.  If writing about politics without alienating anyone is this tough I hate to think what discussing religion is going to be like.

I will admit when it comes to picking up on stuff I am usually the last one to know.  Case in point: Archer.
Archer is an animated series on FX about a spy organization called ISIS and it's most notable agent, Sterling Archer.  Who is a womanizing alcoholic and who just happens to be the son of ISIS' owner.  While some of the humor is a little gross I find the stories to be pretty damn funny. And I am impressed by the way the writers are able to insure the characters skirt the line between insufferable and likeable.  I checked season two out of the library and have been watching season 4 on FX.

Another series my friend Dave turned me on to is Danger 5.

Danger 5 is about an elite group of agents fighting the Nazis during WWII...At least I think it is during WWII.  There is this sixties vibe coming off the series, from the soundtrack to the way things are shot.  So...are the producers suggesting in this world WWII has lasted until the sixties?  Are they just shooting the series to make it feel like a sixties television series?  Am I over analyzing it?

I suggest you check it out.  You can watch Danger 5 on Hulu for free.

So...Song of the week.  I am in a nostalgic mood this week and I was thinking about songs I just don't hear on the radio any more, not even on classic rock stations.  There was a band called Rainbow, or Ritchie Blackmoor's Rainbow.  Blackmoor had been a guitarist with Deep Purple and Rainbow was very much his project.  He hired and fired maybe a dozen people or more and the band had four front men: Ronnie James Dio, Graham Bonnet, Joe Lynn Turner, and Doogie White.  While the band saw their greatest success with Turner as the front man, my favorite Rainbow song is Bonnet's Since You Been Gone:

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Song of The Week

I am a huge fan of The Beatles, and the only reason I have yet to put them up on Song of The Week is my difficulty in picking out which Beatle song.  After giving it some thought the answer became obvious.  Working third shift at hours in which most sane people are sleeping, there is one song that obviously fits me.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you A Hard Day's Night:

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Taboo Subjects part one: Sex

There are three subjects that can potentially kill a game or a friendship: sex, religion and politics.  And yet if you want a game with any semblance of reality these three elements in some way, shape or form have to be involved.  Oh sure, you might say.  Star Trek avoids religion so I can avoid it there.  And yet Star Trek doesn't; Star Trek often addresses alien religious beliefs.  It is when they try to deal with human religion/spiritualism that they fail so miserably.

This is the first of three articles where I am going to address these three issues and I will endeavor to 1) keep some semblance of maturity and 2) not offend/alienate anyone.  Today we will discuss sex, and while I realize sex, love and romance are all three different things and you do not need two to get the third, for the purposes of this article I will discuss all three because while it might be okay to discuss romance and love with some people, in games it can be as poisonous as sex.

Before I get seriously into it, this article will have little or no bearing on those games which are focused on romance or sex.  I realize those games exist. I also realize that I am not qualified to discuss them in any great detail.

A while back I wrote an article concerning a Star Trek game I was briefly involved in.  In it I jumped in without doing any homework and I discovered I was on the Love Boat.  Romance was rampant and the adventuring and problem solving was secondary to the relationships.  The GM decided I should not be left out and created an NPC which was supposed to be my character's obvious love interest.  Without talking to me about it.  Combined with the overwhelming flurry of posts between players about how much in love their characters were with one another, I quit.

So I learned a few things from this experience, among them how bad an idea it is to not give potential players all the details regarding a game; players have a right to know what sort of game they are joining.  But other than that I learned a few things, and other facts I was already aware were reinforced.

First of all, and this is the most important.  If your game is going to have a strong romantic/sexual element to it, then warn your prospective players ahead of time!

Second, it is up to the GM to make players aware somehow of their game's maturity level.  In my game I have a rules page, showing the Vindicators game is PG-13.  This means sex is implied, it is not written about.  Any sexual contact results in a fade to black sort of situation. If your game is rated R or NC-17 then it is the job of the GM to make players aware of what they are getting into.  Even so, when it comes to PBEMs it is almost always implied games will not contain adult content unless specified.  Still, it doesn't hurt to drive that point home.

Third, do not create NPCs specifically for the purpose of creating romance for player characters.  Instead, NPCs should be created for the purpose of propelling the plot forward in some way.  They should fill a skill/knowledge/power gap the GM judges needs filling, or they should act as a foil for the PCs.  Or they should act in a supporting manner or be the source of a sub plot.  Creating an NPC you think would be a great romantic sub plot for a PC without discussing it with the player before hand is a very bad idea.

But wait, Tom, you might say.  If you discuss it with the player beforehand doesn't that remove the sense of adventure and surprise?  Sure, a bit.  Part of the GM's job is to provide surprises and excitement.  But when it comes to sex and love no one wants an unpleasant surprise.  What if the PC had different ideas regarding their character's love life?  What if the player thought of their character as being gay and you, the GM, assumed the PC was heterosexual?  You see how things might get awkward?

But Tom, you might say.  Shouldn't the player tell the GM his character is gay?  Why?  It's the twenty first century, people.  If someone wants to play a gay character they should be allowed to. Similarly, if they want to keep that character's sexuality in the closet that's their right, too.

It is best if the players pursue the NPCs, looking for romantic involvement themselves.  Follow their lead.  This does not always mean their efforts should be successful, however.  In the pursuit of love and romance there are no sure things.  Later on, after a considerable time playing with people, when they have become your friends, then perhaps you can dare to produce romantic sub plots for them.

Next, there may be situations where players may decide between themselves they wish for their characters to pursue a romantic subplot.  Let them.  If the two players consent and they seem to be handling it in an adult manner, and if they work within the confine of the game's rules then they should have every opportunity to role play it out.  It is when one player's advances are unwelcome that there may be trouble.  Like the situation between PCs and NPCs, players should really be discussing this sort of thing in advance.  Again, yes, this takes some of the fun of the unknown out of the equation.  It also prevents a player from quitting because they feel uncomfortable.  In one of my games I had two players actively pursue sub plots like this and it made for years of good story telling.  In one case the relationship ended in tears, in the other the PC and NPC got married.  And in both cases the players never, ever made the relationships the primary focus of their characters; they were just one of many facets.

Which brings me to the issue regarding how much such romantic sub plots should impact the game.  In that Star Trek game I was overwhelmed with e-mails focusing on characters saying virtually nothing outside of how much they loved one another.  It was like a Stephanie Meyer book, it was so bad.  It was nauseating for me to have to read that crap.  And then two of those players did the same thing in my game.  Oh sure, some of the posts contained relevant content but a majority of it was insipid dialogue a person had to wade through.

So, what is the solution?  First of all, if two players are writing a post involving a purely romantic scene they should submit it in the form of a joint post.  A joint post produces a minimum of space in the mailing list and if someone doesn't care about it they can skim the e-mail.  If the scene is actually necessary to the plot as a whole then it is up to the romantic interests to reign it in.  They should be aware that not everyone likes that stuff and they should tone it down.  Not every single post should have a character citing an endearment or a statement of how full of love their eyes are or some romantic nonsense like that.  Players should have the good sense to realize their romance might not be to everyone's liking.

Finally, I want to address an issue that came up in a Star Trek game years ago.  A guy wrote a post flashing back to an incident in his character's past.  This incident involved a relationship his male character had with an under aged male NPC of his creation, of how they had been lovers and they had been forced apart.  The player had no idea why some people took offense to this.  This player was an idiot.  When writing such a thing it is important to gauge the mood of player and GM alike.  Consult them, damn it!  Do not assume just because you don't have a problem with sensitive subjects like this your peers share your views.  There is a good reason why this sort of thing is a taboo subject in Hollywood; it disturbs most people.  You remember Indiana Jones?

Marion Ravenwood claimed "she was just a child" when she and Indy had their affair.  It turns out she was not exaggerating.  I read the book adaptation and Jones slept with Marion when she was only thirteen or fourteen years old.  Indy claimed "she knew what she was doing".  Not the point, Indy.  This was glossed over in the movie, Marion's age during the affair never specified.  What was also cut, what was in the book adaptation, was the fact that Jones had a habit of sleeping with his students.  One slipped out the back door when Marcus stopped by Indy's house to tell him he had the go-ahead to get the Ark.

Adding these elements into the movie would have made Indy considerably less likeable, less heroic, wouldn't they?  So yeah, stuff like this does have an impact on your character and you should really think twice before adding them for fear of alienating your fellow players.  When that guy submitted this flashback it started a storm of posts that caused people to quit, because the GM should have booted the player right then and there, no question.  There should have been absolutely no debate.  A player that stupid, that irresponsible does not belong in your game.  And a player who writes that stuff in a mainstream game should expect other players to forever see him in an unpleasant light and not wish to play with him.  Yes, this Star Trek game was going to have adult content.  There is a difference between writing about adult content and criminal content.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Song of the week

There is this guy, Bruno Mars.  And a while back he released this single called The Lazy Song.

I really, really hate that tune.  And I can't say as I'm crazy about the music video either.  And yes, I saw the alternate video starring Leonard Nimoy and even that was not enough to get me to sit through that song.

So I am channel chasing and came across Mtv2...or 3...whichever one still shows music videos.  And there was this pretty good video/song playing and imagine my surprise when I discovered it was Bruno Mars!  So the guy has a notch in both columns with me now.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Song of the week, other stuff

Well, I hope everyone had a happy and safe New Year.  Mine was pretty uneventful.  Basically it was me watching a bunch of lackluster bowl games.  How does an 8-5 team like Stanford make it to the Rose Bowl, anyway?  I don't care if they won, I'm wondering why the #1 and #2 teams aren't playing against one another.  Then again, I don't get why there are some 31 bowl games to begin with.

Oh.  Right.  Money.  Silly me. At this rate there will be exactly as many bowl games as there are half the number of college football teams.

There won't be any updates for a while.  I am putting together a post regarding sex, religion and politics as they relate to role playing games but depending on the length it might get broken up into three articles.  Or I might break it up into three articles anyway to produce the illusion of me being a prolific writer.  Speaking of writing, I hope to have another Agony Booth article up by Sunday.  After that I am going to write an article defending Star Trek, The Motion Picture.  I feel it is an unjustifiably maligned film and I shall cite my reasons.

Oh, song of the week! Soundgarden was this band who was huge during the nineties, and then they broke up due to creative differences.  The members each went their own ways and then they reformed in 2010.  In 2012, some sixteen years after their break up, they have come back as if they had not missed a beat.  One of their big songs this year was Live to Rise from the Avengers soundtrack: