Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Life is Strange, part 2


I'm on episode 2 of Life is Strange by now and I'm getting to know Chloe. She can be manipulative and she will get me in so much trouble, but I like her a lot anyway. I'm still chewing over my decision to tell Kate to go to the police, but really, not going wouldn't have made things any better. None of the options were good there.


The game really does a great job of capturing the feeling of being between teenager and adult. Adult maybe on paper and maybe to anyone who asks, but inside you're still trying to figure out how stuff works and wonder when you will just KNOW how to do all the things adults are supposed to do.



Saturday, September 3, 2016

Shadowrun: On Co-GMing

I GM a Shadowrun group for a campaign that is the baby of one of the current players. He and I GM together, but right now I run all the sessions and he's playing and doing some of the planning with me. He also has stories that run in the background, so to speak, that I don't know about, which is usually fine with me. But the other day I got blindsided by one.

We were doing a Play by Skype with another player, between Fog and Kiki, who are in a relationship that is a bit rocky to say the least. Fog is a full PC, Kiki is an NPC/sometimes PC. They fought and Fog took off for some time to think. Kiki went back home and then just disappeared. Nowhere to be found.

And I was like: WHAT? I had no idea this was coming and my brain went into overdrive, trying to calculate how this would impact the stories I had planned. Since Fog is a fairly central character to the group and his freaking girlfriend had just dropped off the face of the earth, the impact would potentially be huge. I asked, as the GM, what had happened to Kiki in a private chat and got a glib 'I don't know' as an answer, which I know to read as: 'I know, but I'm not telling you'. And I lost it, I was so incredibly pissed.

I mean, I'm totally okay with not knowing the reasons behind this. But I am NOT okay with having such a bomb dropped on me out of the blue when I do a lot of work of planning how the campaign is going to go in the long run as a GM. This had the potential to mess up my plans big time and it came from my co-GM. I seriously don't know why he didn't just tell me before. We usually do that for stuff we have planned, even if it's just: 'yo, this thing might happen, just a heads up'. In the end, we talked it out and we're good. The way this plays out is that the group won't be able to find Kiki anyway and I can just handwave her disappearance and the search for now. It will come up again, of course, but it's not derailing everything.

The reason why I was so angry was not that this might have overthrown all my planning. That's basically in the job description for any GM: plans won't survive contact with players. I like this about GMing. But if you have a co-GM, do not drop something like this on their head without warning. It's not necessary and disrespectful of the work they do. Much better to share and come up with a way to fit the story into the campaign together.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Shadowrun Hong Kong

art by CeruleanRaven, click photo for their Artstation site

I really enjoy the Shadowrun games by Harebrained Schemes and they get better every time they publish another one. Hong Kong is by far the best and the main reason for this, as far as I am concerned, is the story and the characters. You can talk to so many people in this game and you should. You will get information necessary to playing the game, of course, but you will also get interesting stories and background on all the NPCs, not just your team. Really, do take the time to talk to everyone. They all have led interesting lives and it's fun to explore their stories. Ten-Armed Ambrose in particular has a lot to say, just keep poking at him.

The detailed environments and the excellent music are more reasons to play the game. Steam now has the deluxe upgrade for sale that gets you not only the game but also the soundtrack and a PDF copy of the artbook and I think it's well worth the money.

I'm on my second playthrough because the first time round, I couldn't save Raymond and that bothered me enough that I want to give it another try. The game really makes you care for your team and for Raymond, your foster father.

The bonus mission is worth playing, too, but will ask you to make a decision that I found very hard to make and I was unhappy with both outcomes. Not because they were badly written, quite the opposite. If you tick anything like me, be prepared to swallow a very bitter pill.

The game basically asks you to decide between Duncan (or Duncan and Raymond if you saved him) and your team. You can either go back to Seattle with Duncan and Raymond and never see your team again or you can stay with your team and really fuck up Duncan's life in the process. He will be so angry at you (and with good reason) that he takes off and you never see him again. This was the solution I picked because I did not want to make things a mess for my team just for Duncan and I still feel it's the best choice. But it really, really hurt. When I started this game, I did not expect for it to make me cry, but this is exactly what it did. Well done, Harebrained Schemes, well done.

As a tip: if you happen to have Gaichu on your team and do the run to discredit Neville Ma, by all means do take Gaichu with you because it will be hilarious.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Stranger Things

Stranger Things by Crimsella on DeviantArt  

 Netflix has a new series, Stranger Things, and I highly recommend watching it. It has some of the most believable and talented child actors I have seen for a long time and I get a very strong Stand by Me vibe from it. It's a coming of age story on so many levels and I always enjoy that. It also has horror movie, thriller and conspiracy movie elements thrown in and strange as it sounds, that works really well. Each group of main characters works on a different level - the kids for example are in a fantasy story, but the sheriff is up to his neck in a conspiracy thriller and, with two episodes left for me to watch, the threads are only just coming together.

STRANGER THINGS: JOYCE BYERS by aquiles-soir on DeviantArt

Winona Ryder is excellent here. I haven't seen her in any movie for ages and the role that I remember her most in is Mina in Bram Stoker's Dracula. This one is ... very different and I almost didn't recognise her.

The first episode starts with the boys playing D&D and that scene is hilarious. I never played much D&D and I started pen and paper RPGs only in my twenties, but the scene still was so very familiar from pretty much every game I have ever played.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Suicide Squad

I saw Suicide Squad last night. It was ... a movie.

I had zero expectations, but I wanted to see Harley Quinn, Deadshot and El Diablo and they were cool, so that was good. I would have traded at least 30 minutes of random fight scenes against faceless minions against a much longer scene in the bar because every time the Squad interacted, it was awesome.

I would have loved some good creature design. The Enchantress had a cool look in her original form (not as sexy squirming June!Enchantress) and I wish her brother and her minions were somehow based on that design instead of being whatever the hell they were.

The Joker was bland. I have no other word for it. His look was not bad, but every time he opened his mouth, I couldn’t hear him over the sound of my brain going meeeeeeeeh. The movie would have worked just as well without him.

I think I would watch another movie with that team because they did have great chemistry, but man, get someone to write you an actual STORY that makes sense.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Lost Ember

The first teaser for Lost Ember, an upcoming indie game by Mooneye Studios, a small team from Hamburg. I'm waiting for their Kickstarter so I can back them because it looks gorgeous and I want to know what they can do with their ideas. Subscribe to their newsletter over at their site to keep up to date!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Shadowrun Rat's Nest: Ghost Parasite

Stanley has been depressed lately, seriously so. After consulting with two mages, he finds out that it's because he has some sort of awakened parasite, a spirit that feeds on his negative emotions. The group comes up with several plans to help him: duking it out with the spirit when it comes to feed on him, putting Stanley on a suborbital flight to banish the spirit (spirits can only exist in the Gaiasphere), looking for the spirit's true name to destroy it, putting so much cyberware into Stanley that he's no longer interesting for the spirit and, courtesy of the Technomancer, having him spend a month in the Resonance Realm. Which Stanley wasn't exactly excited about and I got the distinct impression that it was aclose call between that and getting killed by the spirit.

The spirit didn't feed on Stanley that night, so suborbital flight to St. Petersburg it was. While Stanley does some touristy things there, the group does detective work and finds what probably was the first victim of the spirit, at least in Seattle. A ganger living in Puyallup. They go there and search for its true name in a squatted house, admist people so high on Tempo and other drugs they don't even move when the group kicks down the door to the apartment. But they come up wit nothing.

The best scene was when Zach, while waiting in the parking lot for the others, decided that he needed to help a guy with a run-down car. The owner was inside the soup kitchen, getting a meal and Zach opened up the engine hood without asking. He does that, going straight from: I want to help that person! to I'm gonna do it! without actually asking if his help his wanted. He's seventeen, maybe he'll survive long enough to learn. The owner of the car came back and, with Zach obliviously studying the insides of the car's engine, he closed the hood and leaned on it. Fog and Kiki came back just in time to safe Zach from getting a beating or worse.

Some OOC highlights (both by Zach's player):
A McDonald's run solely by drones: MechDonald's
Players find a cat. GM: Do you know anything about cats? Player: Sure, I have Botany as a skill!