in the Shadow of Greatness

:: Zelazny :: [polish] :: sparks that fly from the ironsmith's hammer ::

::. Friday, January 3 .::

Perverse Access Memory:
WISH 28: Movies for Gamers
What are three movies that have inspired you as a gamer? Would you recommend them to other gamers, and if so, what would you tell them to look for and/or hope for them to get?
Yow! Good Question! I'll try not to go too far afield, but you'll get more than three picks.
Loners, misfit bands, and closed stories offer many movie examples and are particularly appropriate to games. Why?

Maybe it's just the American myth-making process, or what Ginger has called the Great Man theory. Players, in my experience, want to change the world a bit. Loner protagonists allow a lot of that independance. Misfit bands are stories about how seemingly mismatched people can be heroes by cooperation-- and this is always a good point to emphasize in a game. And closed stories are those few exciting tales that happen while constrained by a setting or intense set of limits. Those limits both help the GM define a game, and help the Players focus on what they are hoping to achieve. If a game gets too big, events can move right past the Players.

So here are some of my choices, with brief comments as to how these picks relate back to my three points:

Casablanca (1942): a closed setting of misfits, which is isolated and held accountable by the Third Reich. Also good for mixing tense danger with romance. Loner heroes and unexpected twists can be learned here. Great NPCs.
Ball of Fire (1941): a closed setting of misfits, which is isolated by choice (and society) and held accountable by wealth and privilege. Comedy and common culture clash with danger and romance. Good example of getting cast of NPCs right by giving them niches.
Stalag 17 (1953): a closed setting of soldiers, isolated and held by the Third Reich. Also good for showing how Loners can be exploited if they chose to advertise their self-interest. Good mix of human values, terror, intrigue, comedy, and distinct characters in larger cast of NPCs.

I'll add more for visuals and concepts of how to impress players without OVER-threatening their band of misfits.
Legend (1985): great visuals and modest danger to lightweight heroes.
Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988): superb visuals and modest danger to misfit heroes.
Dark City (1998): where Rufus Sewell portrays John Murdoch, who is the Loner hingepoint of a disturbing mystery in a closed story. Stunning visuals and story.

Here are some behind the screens artists who might steer you to more of the same:
Howard Hawks, famed for bringing us The Thing, The Big Sleep, Bringing Up Baby, and Rio Bravo.
Billy Wilder, for Ball of Fire, Stalag 17, and Some Like it Hot.
Michael Curtiz, for Casablanca, also of Sea Wolf, Sea Hawk, Adventures of Robin Hood, and Captain Blood fame.

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Angel Mills needs more games for Ambercon 2003
4 more per slot more or less . . . figuring 5/6 players per game
Please try your hand at GMing and send in your game.
Please go and have fun! These folks are great!
fun! fun! fun!

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a worthy quote: Books: Dead Roses for a Blue Lady
From Publishers Weekly:
In her debut novel, Sunglasses After Dark (1989), no-nonsense nosferatu Sonja Blue is a punk vampire vigilante with a Clint Eastwood swagger who shows up the sensitive vampire antiheroes of most dark fantasy as refugees from a fern bar.
Much of the Amazon crits I'm reading seem to make Collins out as a very uneven author through the series. This could be why she's not caught fire the way that Anita Blake from L.K. Hamilton has.

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Storm and Fury : Nobilis PBeM just starting, for those who have time for a post-a-day game.
Very nice example of GM giving the Players a good look at how the game will run. Page organization leaves something to be desired, but like the look and feel and sense of completeness.

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Blog, Jvstin Style with additions to the "Top Ten" listings.
Post your own.

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::. Thursday, January 2 .::

While it is a spoiler for many things from the book, this webpage: A Night in the Lonesome October, outlines the bits and lore, as well as the charm and methods of the book as a gamer reference.

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The Elements of Good Storytelling over at Skotos gaming.

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From Jenn: What decade does your personality live in?

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Happy New Year!

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Top Ten Comic Mag Characters Unranked that might have captured Your Imagination:
I am a reformed comic geek, so I cannot resist the suggestion to do this---

phoenix (jean grey: x-men)
batman (bruce wayne: dc)
she-hulk (jennifer walters: marvel)
midnighter (unk: the authority)
jenny sparks (actual: the authority)
spiderman (peter parker: marvel)
the crow (unk: J. O'Barrs)
catwoman (selina kyle: dc)
the thing (ben grimm: marvel)
the sandman (dream the endless: dc)

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Top Ten Fantasy Characters Unranked that might have captured Your Imagination:

Frodo Baggins (Lord of the Rings)
Ged (Earthsea Series)
Corwin (Nine Princes in Amber)
Aiken Drum (Many Colored Land)
Polgara/Belgarath (Belgariad)
Elric (Melnibone series)
Vlad Taltos (Jhreg series)
Sonja Blue (Sunglasses After Dark)
Don Ysirdo (Those Who Hunt the Night)
Mayland Long (Tea with the Black Dragon)

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Let's really stir the waters.
Top Ten SF Characters Unranked that might have captured Your Imagination:

Doctor Who (Doctor Who)
Miles Vorkosigan (The Warrior's Apprentice)
Klaatu (The Day the Earth Stood Still)
Spock (Star Trek)
Obi-Wan Kenobi (Star Wars)
Gully Foyle (Stars My Destination)
Lijah Bailey (Caves of Steel)
Slippery Jim DiGriz (Stainless Steel Rat)
Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin (Ender's Game)
Valentine Michael Smith (Stranger in a Strange Land)

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Sci Fi Wire :: Top SF Characters Ranked
I'll save you the click, the list is so wrong it's a wonder who the readers of SFX are...
1. Doctor Who (Doctor Who)
2. Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
3. Buffy Summers (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
4. John Crichton (Farscape)
5. Aeryn Sun (Farscape)
6. Han Solo (the Star Wars saga)
7. Willow Rosenberg (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
8. Darth Vader (the Star Wars saga)
9. Angel (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
10. Gandalf (Lord of the Rings)

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::. Tuesday, December 31 .::

Perverse Access Memory (read Ginger) chimes in On PBeM Writing
note this will probably be the future home of "Turn of a Friendly Die" thoughts... from one lovely little blog Title to another.

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::. Monday, December 30 .::

Blog, Jvstin Style Game Wish 26
I can't do much better than this list of wonder posted by Jvstin.
. . . and almost anything Amber by Zelazny.
I'll add a couple things no one else touched.

1. The Pretender World of Nancy Collins :: most famous for her protagonist, Sonja Blue. If you don't know the series, Sonja is orphan, whore, crusader, killer, and bitterly insane at times. I've heard these books called gothic, splatterpunk, and vampire fiction, but I think they are just good old fantasy world building-- with amazing vivacity. Not for the squeamish. Collins has put the character aside, so you can expect collections of the work to show up.

2. The Opener/Closer World of Roger Zelazny :: most famous for his early work, Zelazny seemed to focus more on variety and less on blowing minds in his later years. He did light fantasy, parody, comedy, and even returned to earlier themes in ways that seemed to puncture his own work. I believe that A Night in the Lonesome October is one of his neglected poems to our darker fantasies. I read it and smile, laugh, am amazed and entranced. Creative, yet not morbid. Violent, but wry. I would love to see it taken as a premise for a long-running RPG game that preserved its charm as the recent Buffy RPG has tried to capture the spirit of ordinary people helping to beat back the darkness. Bless you, Roger, wherever you are.

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Blog, Jvstin Style Quantity Multipliers for Shadows

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WISH 27: Science Fiction RPGs
The RPG market is dominated by fantasy (with horror coming in second). Why have most attempts at creating a science fiction RPG failed (commercially or artistically), and what would a hypothetical SFRPG need to catch on the way fantasy has?


SF concepts are most often immense, as befits the nature of an infinite universe, and most genre concepts tend to quickly become big, big ideas. A lot of those big ideas never get around to people, or only enough that you care about them as they are crushed beneath the big idea.


SF games require the GM to simulate a steady stream of technical points with the Players. The gadgets of SF (at a minimum) require the GM to think very quickly and have a blase or confidence about techinical tom-foolery. You may think playing a computer is easy, but wait until Players quiz you for five minutes about the background details of a city, a world, a merchant empire's financial records.


SF games tend to put a lot of power into the hands of Everyman. That means that expertise often cannot overcome numbers or mishap. Your opposition might undo your plans with a poorly placed grenade or a bevy of accountants. Fantasy genre often tends the other way. A few people might be able to make a difference. Is it true one way or the other? Ah, well that's a question about Romantic Notions and I'll save it for another day.

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Vacation still . . . and loving it.

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