Monthly Archives: June 2016

Media Immersion

So, for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been kind of immersing myself in storytelling media: Movies, TV, etc. This started partly because a good friend gave me access to her Netflix account so I could watch Voltron, and about the same time, Mom ended up in the hospital again. So, I’ve basically had the house to myself in the evenings. Some of what I’ve taken in has been stuff Mom wouldn’t appreciate (actually, most of it), while some she watched as well.

In all cases, while I’ve tried to watch it for the enjoyment, part of my mind has also examined the things I’ve viewed with a critical mind. Is the storytelling any good? Were the characters handled consistently? Do the writers have a clear idea of what they’re doing with this work?

So, here’s the stuff I’ve watched lately, and what I thought about it:

Voltron – Legendary Defender: I really enjoyed this one a lot. They’ve handled it like the Thundercats of a few years ago, giving the series a total reboot. Voltron Force isn’t part of the canon, and in fact the original GoLion is more of the source, it seems.

I really enjoyed the show. There are subtle hints as to future plot events that play out naturally. In fact, the entire series is handled rather organically. I got no sense of the plot being forced (although it is strange that the Galactic Garrison cadets that form the Voltron team don’t seem in a real hurry to return to Earth), but there are plot holes that are pretty easily handwaved (like the aforementioned AWOL situation). The villains are cool and powerful and somewhat creepy at the upper ends. I’m looking forward to the next season already.

Penny Dreadful: I picked up the DVDs of the first season a while back, and I actually watched the first couple of episodes before Mom was sent to the hospital. Now that I’ve completed the series, I can say I’ll happily give the disk set away.

The idea behind the series is a kind of “What if…?” focusing on the kinds of stories that were present in the Penny Dreadfuls of Victorian England. Those were cheap, tawdry novellas combining crime, sex and the occult. The main character is Mina Harker’s father, Sir Malcolm Murray, with Jonathan Harker playing no part in the story. Murray is a “Great White Hunter” who is determined to free his daughter from the grips of Dracula, who never appears in this season, but rather is represented by another, Nosferatu-like character (probably because the writers realized they misplayed the Count).

I felt this series was directionless and focused too much on being a “cable show.” There is a lot of sex and violence in the series, for no apparent reason than to titillate or terrify the audience, and failing to do either. Related: Apparently, absinthe had the power to make straight men gay for the night. (I have no problems with homosexual or bisexual behavior, as long as it makes sense for the character; the scene in question did not.)

The quest for Mina is eventually completed, but it seemed overly drawn out, almost forgotten most of the time, with constant delays and misdirections (usually for sex or violence), until the final episode of the season. Then, it seemed like the creators decided they should wrap up the main plot unless the series was not picked up and rushed the ending.

All in all, I think the series didn’t deserve the second and third seasons, and I am not surprised it was cancelled before the fourth. I simply can’t recommend the series.

Brain Dead, S01E01: Another series that doesn’t seem to know what it is. The commercials suggested the series was to be a comedy, but the creators (who created The Good Wife, a very serious show) seem to want a level of drama to the series. The series revolves around why politics are so crazy in 2016, and the Macguffin that’s causing the insanity is some space ants that came to Earth in an asteroid that crashed in Russia. Every time the bugs seem to be influencing someone, our heroine hears All I Want Is You by The Cars. This is more jarring than funny, and the exploding head (handled in the usual “off camera” manner) only serves to make the series more grim. Without a direction, I can’t see the series lasting long.

Person of Interest, Final Season: Fucking brilliant! The storytelling this season has been focused and well thought out. The battle between the Machine and crew and Northern Lights and Samaritan seemed well done and believable, for the most part. The stoicism of Reese and Shaw was shown to be a veneer each character used to hide their true feelings (and yes, I know Shaw was supposed to be a sociopath; she maybe the diagnosis was wrong, or maybe she grew as part of her character arc). The finale, with the final fate of the characters revealed, had every character meeting a logical fate.

I admit that my love of the subject matter in the cases of Voltron and PoI may be influencing my opinions, but I feel that if either of these franchises had produced crap, I would see it for such. Of course, the above was my opinions, and your mileage may vary.

I’ve been tinkering with Dungeon World and the two-page RPG Adventurers! RPG. Last Saturday, I was at my FLGS talking to an old friend who had more experience with DW, and I was explaining my issues with DW‘s lack of organization. I failed to convey to him that I am interested in tinkering with the system on a pretty deep level. When the subsystems are scattered throughout the book, it can be difficult tinker with things and know how it will affect balance and game play. But he did follow my rambling enough to convey to me how DW is not good for long running campaigns like we tend to run in our home game.

So, later that day, as I was looking at adding things from A! into DW, eventually I realized:

Why use Dungeon World as the core system and not Adventurers!?

And the more I’ve thought about it, the more I liked the idea. I was looking at eliminating classes and the pseudo-Vancian spellcasting of DW, and I realized it would be easier to add the things I like out of DW and mix them into A!. I think this is going to result in rebuilding the A! system, as it is a three attribute system, and I like having six attributes (especially as they use two physical stats and one mental, like the Cypher System), as well as some other minor issues. But I think I can work it out pretty easily. And then again, I may be kidding myself. I think two systems with the same dice mechanic can be mixed-and-matched in some respects and work together.

That’s pretty much all I’ve got for this round. Later.

Better Than Last Week…

There was no post last week, not because I went to see a presidential candidate (I wish) but rather because my left shoulder locked up. A pinched nerve flared up, and I avoided my laptop as much as possible all this last week. I could think of at least seven reasons for the problem, but why (except the lack of exercise) is really irrelevant. I was unable to move my arm without pain and didn’t want to stress it more by dealing with the laptop.

Last Tuesday, I went to one of those mall massage storefronts (I don’t want to type “parlor” 🙂 ), and the masseuse there managed to get my back loosened up enough that my body was able to do the rest. I’m just getting full range of movement back, but there’s still some (tolerable) pain.

Sunday, instead of finishing this post, I watched The Gamers: Dorkness Rising, loaned to me by one of my Thursday night group. It was a lot of fun, and hit a lot of the notes I’ve seen from gamers in my nearly 40 years of gaming. I could see myself in a couple of the characters, and other friends in other characters. The appearances by the gaming industry folk and the support they gave the movie was great. Two thumbs up on the movie.

I’ve also realized I’ve come to an understanding the OSR movement, finally. I don’t get the reminiscing that I see in that group, but I understand the desire for simpler games. This realization dawned on me as I was reading Adventurers! by GRAmel. It’s an extremely simple RPG (as evidenced by the “an RPG on 2 Pages” tagline), very similar to Dungeon World. I could easily see mixing and matching the two systems, especially as I’m considering rewriting the core of Dungeon World after my outline of the system.

My gaming currently is also contributing to this thinking. The amounts of accounting and combat slog in 4e is really beginning to get to me. The various distractions at the home game don’t help (being a 14-year-old who wants to ignore all non-combat activity and his adult brother coming in and ranting about his day, ignoring that the rest of us are in the middle of something else), but the general tediousness of the game is at the core. And the FLGS game is no better, as we’re epic level, and there are a large number of us, so combat gets bogged down to one or two rounds a night.

I want to be able to do faster encounters. I want more story, again. I’m getting bored with the games I’m in right now. I need a change. And the streamlined nature of Adventurers! and Dungeon World seem to provide that. For now.

Anyway, I need to head off towards bed. Gotta drive tomorrow.