Sunday, September 30, 2012

Monsterhearts (Gamerati Game Day) AP
This is the Revenant Mix of Liar by 8MM. Once again, this is Underworld: Awakening's score, which I just keep loving more and more. This, along with Evanescence's Made of Stone (Renholder Mix) (see Feb. Songaday day 1), were the first songs off the album I loved, followed later by Combichrist's Bottle of Pain, Stella Katsoudas's Killer & A Queen, and Lacuna Coil's Trip The Darkness, all of which have been posted before here at some point. Enjoy the song - it's long enough to help make it through such a dense post as this, and it's dark enough to work great for Monsterhearts.

So, I was at the Gamerati Game Day in Tacoma on the 22nd. Actually, I AM at the Game Day - I just finished session 1 and wanted to start typing things up in my in-between time. EDIT: Barely had any time between actually, done with the day and typing it up after the fact.
But hey, I'll talk real quic about the venue and the Game Day itself. Organized by the Gamerati, specifically Ed Healy and Joe England, it was held at AmVet Post 1 in Tacoma, WA. We had a decenetly sized hall with a bunch of tables. I showed up early, and was there before most of the players, but the volunteers and other folks (there were a few Pathfinder Society GMs and such already there) were nice. There was a wide array of things going on. We had card games, board games, miniatures games, trad RPGs (mostly Pathfinder Society) and a couple of indies. I spent most of the day with the story-gamer types, Jay Loomis (who ran two of my games), Erin Sara, and others. Everyone was nice, but especially early on we had the curious issue of too many people who were going to run games and not quite enough players. It balanced out pretty quick, but I know Ross had some issues finding people to play Serpent's Tooth (which if I come across you again at some point Ross, I'd like to play it). A special note goes out to the designer there who was playtesting what he called a "destructible card game" called Red Tape about bureocracy in Communist Russia: Sorry I didn't have a good chance to play it, it sounded really cool and I actually would still love to give it a shot some time, I just had my existing game commitments. Hit me up here or on Twitter if you're doing something that I could have a chance to play it at, I'd love to play it. Not playing those two games (Red Tape and Serpent's Tooth) are my regrets for the day. In the long run, I suppose not having enough time in the day to do even MORE awesome as my only regret is probably good.
I was also amazed at the prize table. Wow, you guys pulled together a ton of stuff. I would have recommended spreading out the raffles a bit more rather than two very-loaded drawing sequences. I also would have made it clear to people (maybe with a sign on the prize table) when the drawings would be. I can't complain though - I got drawn! I picked up Pathfinder: Ultimate Equipment. I know, I don't play Pathfinder, but it's a really pretty book and I have this enormous soft spot for item books. Though seriously Paizo: did we need separate entries for Trail Rations, Dwarven Trail Rations, Elven Trail Rations, Halfling Trail Rations, and Orcish Trail Rations? A bit overboard, don't you think?
All in all, I found it a pretty good venue, although not a ton for food. The Cafeteria closed up really early and didn't reopen the main internal doors, you had to loop around the building to get in there. Other than that, I was pretty happy with it for the size.
It took a bit to get enough players - none of us had signed up beforehand for the game, though I signed up almost immediately upon arriving. We were joined by a couple of further folks (Olympia I think), and we were ready. Oh, what were we playing? Oh, just this little game called:
MONSTERHEARTS (Session: Gamerati)

First, an aside for the uninitiated. Monsterhearts is a hack of Apocalypse World made by Joe Mcdaldno, that wonderful genius behind Perfect Unrevised, Simple World, and he's working on The Quiet Year, among other things. He does this Pay With Good Deeds thing that is fucking brilliant. I bought Monsterhearts at Go Play NW and though there was some interest from the group about some of the bits, we've been doing other things - D&D Next at the time. Apocalypse World was also easier to pitch to them, plus I was feelign like it at the time. The two of those, AW and MH, both are trying very hard to be my favorite Apocalypse-powered game. DW is great and all and I love it, but the genre of these two is simply more interesting to me. But I still haven't described the game itself!
Monsterhearts is a teen drama with monsters game. As Jay put it, it's like the Breakfast Club, except if they were all secretly monsters underneath all those other problems. They are horrible little people. It is a game that's a metaphor for the struggles of growing up and maturing and the body changing and social struggles and other teen things. It's really cool. It's probably the most liberal take on the AW framework, and the Strings mechanic (a variant on Hx which has its own token economy), which emulates characters' emotional control over each other.
Anyway, so we read out the skins (character classes, I guess) and picked our choices. It's worth noting that the Vampire was not available - aside from generally being a very obvious character to play oftentimes, apparently Jay has had bas expriences with the Hypnotic ability before thanks to it being a "force people, including players, to do exactly as you want" and if it fall into the wrong person's hands it can wreck a game. Later, I also noticed that the Chosen was also missing, and I'm not sure why. Likely because its abilities and tone are MUCH more suited to long-term play. So:
Jay Loomis as the MC!
Ross as the Queen, Cordelia!
Erin Sara as the Witch, Heather!
Orion as the Infernal, Mika!
And me, Ego/Max as the Hollow, Adam!

So, we described ourselves. Cordelia (which seems to be the only name on the Skins sheets ripped directly from a matching Buffy character) was a rich girl with her friends Jocelyn, Shawn (probably Sean, but I'm typing it as Shawn just because), and, um, another one. There used to be a Jenny too, and she used to date Shawn, except Cordelia didn't really like her so she broke up with her for Shawn and hooked him up with Jocelyn. She's all aloof, and has two dads (gay-married, both doctors) who are super-rich but are generally absentee parents. She took The Shield as her other move. The person she found threatening? Me, Adam. I watch her. I'm super-creepy. The time I was in her house without her knowingwas, uh, really bad. She wants to go into fashion. She's the most popular kid in school. Ross was really good - his dialogue and stuff was spot-on. He's played the Queen before, and he's certainly skilled at it! He made the interesting note that, by consistently playing the queen as rich, she almost seems like she has a super-power of her own among all these supernaturals.
Heather is a witch totally into Wicca. She's friendly and all, but she's vindictive, as are all Witches. Her initial sympathetic tokens were Mika's knife that he brings to school covertly that she stole and a sewing needle that Cordelia bled on. she took the Illusions Hex and the Ring of Lies Hex. She took Transgressive Magic, but I think she only used it one time. Her other backstory bit was that I caught her rummaging through one of my friends's things but kept quiet - I saw her steal Mika's knife. Heather learned about her powers through the Internet - as we decided, Wiccapedia.
Mika the Infernal is not a happy kid. He's in the debt of The Poisoner. He got tricked into service - the Poisoner gave him a long time of nightmares and restless sleep, then gave him peaceful rest, and then appeared before Mika and told him that he was in the Poisoner's debt for the peace and that he needs to pay that back. He's basically a burnout kid. His additional move was...I'm not sure, it didn't really come up. I think it was Dark Recruiter. His Bargains were Uncanny Voices and Strings Attached. He owed a debt to each of us I think - to Cordelia for straight up cash, to Heather for I don't remember, and to me for tutoring in History class. You'll see why I'm good there in a sec. I gotta say, if I was a big fan of Ross's acting for Cordelia, I loved Mika the character. The Infernal was my second choice that I was torn between that and the Hollow, so when Orion picked it he took out the hard part for me. And seriously, I really like Mika. He's sort of dating Jenny, the reject from Cordelia's clique.
And me, I played the Hollow, Adam. Look: Immaculate, Soulless Eyes. Origin: Once a Demon. See, I had a different vague idea of the Hollow before-hand, and when I read and picked it, and then when I actually started to make it everything went out the window because come on, tell me "Once a Demon" isn't amazing. Yeah, that's what I thought. So Adam was a boy who grew up through his normal life, and had a single dad Tracy (mom died while he was young), then out of the blue about two months ago the demon showed up and took permanent control of Adam's life. It doesn't have its powers, it doesn't have Adam's memories, it doesn't have any memories of its past self's deeds (though he can recall a lot of other things from demonhood). He's been trying to be normal but, well, Adam hasn't had to do high school before, ever. He's pretending to act as normal as he can when really he's confused and just doesn't care. People noticed a personality change, but he's started to do better at the pretending thing. He has an Inhuman Gaze (I used it!) and Metamorphosis (didn't use it - kept rolling super lame when I Gazed). My backstory says I've been taking social cues from someone and I've learned a lot about them - Cordelia, hence why I'm creepily stalking her. I don't mean anything by it, I really am just trying to learn, but man is that creepy. My backstory also says someone's seen through my invented past and realized it's all lies. I kinda fudged this one, but Mika's picked up on what happened. For the record, I took Hot-1, Cold-1, Volatile+1, Dark+2. Also, all of this former-Demon stuff is why I'm great at history - sometimes I'll say something that, uh, isn't quite out of the textbook. I say it's from the internet, but hey, I was kinda there.
As for highlighting stats, I actually picked everyone's but my own. Yeah, I had the highest or equal number of strings on everyone - apparently it pays to be the intelligent creepy stalker. I gave Cordelia Hot (easy, I know), Heather Volatile, and Mika Dark. Mika gives me Volatile, and Jay gives me Hot. I don't roll any Hot, and I do regret that.
We're all juniors at small-town Southwest US.

So we started with, as I've gathered is quite common, homeroom generation. Jay drew a circle of desks. We had an early-day art class, with the teacher being Ms. Dawnflower (who tells us to just call her Anita - she's a total hippy). Heather showed up first, and sat by the window, next to Juan. Juan is the apparently token Mexican that keeps showing up in Monsterhearts games. To her other side was, um, I don't remember. Must not have been that important. We decided I would be next to show up (I'm very orderly, I don't like things that take me out of my comfort zone, so I like to be there early. Also I kinda think that being very on-time is normal, which it certainly isn't). Next to me is What's-His-Name, but he was an asshole who I dislike because he always brings his breakfast and eats loudly and sloppily. It's just annoying. Across from me though is Nick, one of Adam's few pre-demon friends who is still post-demon Adam's friends. He saw the change in me, but he doesn't mind. I like him too. He's a huge goof. Mika selected his seat next, and sat next to me cuz we're apparently decent friends. He knows something is wrong with me, I just think he's weird, not a fiend-servant. Next to Mika is Danny, who's the art-genius of the class. He's an art snob. On the other side of him is Jenny, the ex-clique member and Mika's sort-of girlfriend. On Jenny's other side is Heather, so I guess I've cleared up that forgotten spot. Last of us came Cordelia and her posse, showing up with expensive drinks from the coffee shop. All of them but Shawn were there, cuz Shawn doesn't have this class. He was off in "Chemistry," cooking up some designer drugs for them. There were a couple others in the room that I don't recall, but the other important one was filled into the last slot: Heather's mom, Tammy. She wanted to take an art class somewhere, and is friends with Anita, and so sits in. Heather has a...strained relationship with her mom. Normal strained though, embarassed by her and feels oppressed by her and all (given the average teen environment, I gather that's normal at least. It happened to be entirely untrue for me personally, I have always had and still have a great relationship with my parents I think). And we had our homeroom!

The class started with Anita giving an announcement. As it was the last day before christmas vacation, we weren't going to have a very structured assignment. We were to paint (or draw or whatever, it was open medium) from our sould or some hippie crap like that, and were let loose to work. And we went to work, and Cordelia was basically directionless with what to do for this (admittedly, if I was asked to do this in class, I would be too). Everyone's going at it, and Mika was painting a raggedy woman on a street corner who was very obviously a prostitute, done with moderate skill - high school realistic, basically. I drew not an object but a pattern of black swirls and spikes on a red backdrop, something that I actually have drawn similar things to before, but in this case definitely demon-inspired. As Anita came around, she did the ever-embarassing thing of really liking mine and holding it up for the whole class to see and said some very pretentious artsy things about it (come on, I'm an artist and I still find a lot of art classes super-pretentious sounding). After being embarassed in front of the class, I felt like I had an opportunity to make a move, but I just wasn't sure what. Tangent from the summary time!
I have a hard time with Monsterhearts. This is my first time playing it, but even from reading it I predicted I'd hit this issue, and I did indeed. My issue is that my own experience was so utterly mundane. I had no class troubles, I was a nerd and generally not very social but was still accepted and experienced no bullying, I was friends with people from most of the circles of friends, and I had a group, my current game group mostly, who I could be cool with. I got into no relationships by mostly my own choice. What I'm trying to say is that the experience in Monsterhearts is extremely alien to me. My instinct is to be a good person, and, well, Monsterhearts doesn't really account for good people - they're there, but you sure as hell don't play them. It's weird for me to play a monumental asshole. This isn't a fault in Monsterhearts - it does what it's supposed to. It's just a serious learning curve for me, and I hope I did a good enough job. If I could get some honest feedback from one of the other players about how well I actually did, I'd be grateful, because I really want to build up the understanding of it to eventually run MH myself for my group. Anyway, back to the AP.
So Anita is going around and is talking to Danny in the background. Nick, grinning silently, picks up his canvas and shows it off to the class, aiming it very directly at Heather - the picture is Anita and Heather's mom going at it. Class is laughing, Anita comes over and Nick's canvas is back rolled down showing a bunny - but apparently, he's done this before. He's getting in trouble, and Tammy is getting super-embarassed, and Cordelia is disgusted by Nick, and I'm just laughing my ass off - both demon and Adam find this hilarious I think. And so everything is happening and Heather is darkly fuming and starts whispering under her breath. She rolls to Hex Nick, and it totally works. Nick starts freaking out about bugs everywhere and is goign crazy about it and Anita isn't believing and Nick falls on the floor, raving, until Heather's spell seems to go overboard and he starts vomiting up black goo all over the floor, and it just keeps going. Others are recoiling in shock, Anita is now freaking out and standing stock-still, and I'm still laughing - this doesn't really faze Adam, though he's starting to calm down a bit. Mika comes over and Anita is trying to tell Nick to knock it off, and Mika just mouths off at her about how "He's fucking dying, bitch!" and she gets upset at him and tells him to head to the principle's office and fetch the nurse. He heads off. Cordelia is bailing on this ("Oh my gosh, he's got ebola, ew"), and Heather slips out to the parking lot for a smoke. I'm now calming down and moving closer and trying to figure out what's going on - I'm feeling almost a kind of deja vu from this whole thing, something's wrong. I get closer, and touch the goo, and have some on my fingers, and well, I taste it. I wasn't sure how explicit I was supposed to be with my intentions (and this one is a hard one to reveal through just narration without saying the words), but I was really pushing to Gaze Into The Abyss. This is the equivalent of the Open Your Brain from AW, and just like Open Your Brain it makes itself my favorite move. I just love the Abyss. I try to do this at every turn basically. Thankfully Jay picked up on my intention, and I rolled my dice. I have a +2 on it cuz I have a great Dark, I should do okay, and this is my first roll of the game (and of the day), and all of these good factors combined to allow me to strike out completely >:|. Figures. The world fades into the background as I'm sitting there, and I see a figure. He appears to be a man, dressed as a male nurse, holding a large syringe in his hand. He turns toward me, and locks eyes, and I'm paralyzed by the exposure to this thing, and I just know that this is the Poisoner. We switch over to other people while I'm just sitting there now, staring at nothing with my finger on my lips like an idiot.
Mika is off going to fetch the principle, and is talking to him, and trying to bring him, and it seems that Mika's come crying wolf about this stuff before, and he's going all slowly, but they do start going. They talk as they go and we expose a bit about Mika being kind of a chronic troublemaker. Cut away to the parking lot, where Cordelia and her friends are getting ready to go to out for lunch, and Cordelia is talkign with Heather about how Nick is so bad and how that that was such an awful thing to do and stuff and Heather pretty muh didn't want to talk about it. It came out between players (though not in-character yet) that Heather has a crush on Shawn. We get a shot of Shawn coming out of the building, all cool with his shades on and his leather jacket slung over his shoulder (I would've hated this guy in high school). Heather wants to tag along, mostly just to try and get close to Shawn. They chat and Heather tags along and while they're in the car Shawn and Jocelyn start cozying up together.
Jump back to Adam, sitting in the goo, eyes locked with the image of the Poisoner. Mika comes in with the principle and nurse and sees me there as well and he slips out into the hall while the nurse is starting to attend to us. Mika closes his eyes and calls upon the Poisoner for information. He appears outside, and you can hear Adam gasp and hit the ground inside the room. Mika starts asking what's going on, and honestly I forget most of this scene except that he obliquely hints at my true identity (referring to "the demon boy"). Oh, that's one of the things! The Poisoner gives Mika his task - don't you dare fail again. He's to bring Jenny to the Poisoner with him - sleep close enough to each other. This isn't the first thing he's asked about Jenny though. In the past he's asked several things, such as putting blades in her food and such, and Mika keeps refusing. Mika begrudgingly accepts his task though. Mika goes outside to the front of the school. Oh, by the way, Mika's communing was a Gaze. Jumping just to me, I'm trying to get away from the nurse and the principle, I first try to just shrug off what just happened to me, but it becomes pretty clear that I ought to make a move. I chose to Run Away - I could have tried shutting them down, but either manipulating them or running would be worth xp, and I'm far better at running than manipulating. I very successfully got away! Figures that I can't pull that off with my +2 stat, just the +1 one.
So Mika is outside, and he sees Jenny and starts to go over to her. He tosses down his skateboard and rides over all cool-like, in an attempt to Turn Her On. He owns the roll and has this girl falling all over him. They talkin' 'bout going to the theater cuz it'll be so dark and quiet there, and they're walking toward the parking lot exit...when Adam shows up, all distraught, asking if he can tag along with the. Adam is the best third wheel. And hey, he's having a freakin' AWFUL day so far (Nick is FAR worse off, of course), I get where he's coming from wanting to be with people he knows, but seriously this could not be worse timing for them. The sort of "Hey, where you guys headed to?" "We were gonna go catch a movie together" "Hey, I love the movies!" sort of scenario with the dude you really just want to get rid of and it just isn't working. They let on that they're pretty much on a date and Adam kinda backs off. He asks if he can tag along just to the theater then, he'll get away after that, but if they're going to the same direction already, you know, why not? Mika's fine with it, though Jenny's hesitant. As we're walking out the parking lot, she basically parades Mika as they pass Cordelia and the others - especially Shawn. To be entirely honest, I'm not so sure she should be so proud - she's toting a burn-out demon-slave on one arm and a literal former-demon who's a total weirdo (and potentially a stalker of Cordelia's) trailing along. As we're heading along toward the movies, I'm chatting with Mika, and he's prying a bit into his suspicions about what the Poisoner said (calling me the demon boy and stuff), asking crap like "have you ever seen a dead body?" and stuff, with me denying things, and denying them POORLY. Jenny doesn't catch on, daft as she is, but Mika is starting to catch on.
So the others are going off to lunch at a very high-class, very upscale french cafe. A lot of fvery fun dialogue between the characters about the restaurant and numerous jokes about how "rich and cultured" they are (aka they're huge snobs). It spawned lines like Cordelia asking Heather "Have you ever been to France?" and Heather responding "Uh, I went to Canada once!". If you my viewers weren't aware, I'm actually Canadian (though I've lived in the US most of my life) so I found this kinda hilarious. This really ended with Heather kinda getting fed up with watching Jocelyn and Shawn fawn over each other and carefully and quietly stol something out of Jocelyn's purse and then excused herself to the restroom and starts to throw a hex over Jocelyn.
Now, a note from me. I don't remember exactly where in the game it happened, but at some point, Heather went Darkest Self as a response to a not-fully-succeeded roll. I don't remember where though. From what I can tell, it must have been around here, so for the purposes of the AP I'm going to assume this hex triggered it.
Anyway, so she sets up in the bathroom and burns the token and through it unleashes Illusions upon Jocelyn. Not the same Snakes and Spiders she gave to Nick though - she's going to give her the illusion of imaginary subtext. She's going to see subtext everywhere, even where there isn't. She starts to pack up her stuff and get away, without even returning to the table (which means, of course, that she just stuck Cordelia with her portion of the bill).
Back at the table, Jocelyn is now freaking out - she thinks that there's something going on between Cordelia and Shawn. And of course there isn't; Cordelia WANTS Shawn and Jocelyn together, but it all goes kinda nuts and Cordelia pays the bill (unbelievably large, of course) and they break for the day.
Back at the theater, before the movies start, Mika and Adam are alone in the restroom and Mika confronts me, asking me who I am. The effective conversation goes to the point of us both knowing who each other are, and me knowing that Mika is indebted to the Poisoner. Me: "Wait, you know the Poisoner?" Him: "Yeah, I do..." Me: "Hold on a second, you don't OWE him anything, do you?!" Him: "Um, maybe, yeah..." Me: "Oh crap.". Turns out the Poisoner makes a habit of doing this sort of thing. I may not remember myself as a demon, but I remember knowing him, and he's bad news, one of the worst. I also know that he wants Jenny too and that Mika has promised to bring her to him. To counter this, I spent my String over Mika to say that if he doesn't turn Jenny over tonight, he'll get XP - he'd be ruining Jenny's life by doing it. We go off to our separate movies.
Quick scene of Heather walkin' through the park and finding Juan at the playground, smoking some weed up on the monkey bars, and she joins him and starts smoking some herself.
Mika is with Jenny in the theater of a little kid's movie - it's the middle of the day on a schoolday, it should be empty. As they come in, well, there's a couple of kids and their parents. They're in the back, and it starts quiet, and basically she's fuckin' him in the back fo the theater. This would happen without a hitch if she hadn't gotten as loud as she did - one of the parents comes up and tells them to knock it off and that there are children present. Jenny didn't even register the intrusion, and Mika just told her to fuck off and mind her own business. The woman stormed off and brought the manager, and it was a whole thing where you know, like, they pause the movie, and the lights come back up, and Jenny isn't paying too much attention to this and the manager is coming in. The manager is a kid, only like 18 or 19 himself, and awkwardly tries to tell them that they can't do that, and how it breaks like a dozen rules, and Mika closes his eyes and calls on the Poisoner. Appearing in his mind's eye (and cocking one eyebrow at Mika), Mika tells him that he's trying to do what he asked, if he could just get these people to just turn a blind eye. The Poisoner is kinda irritated that Mika can't do even this without help, but gives him a deal: he'll get rid of the intrusions if Mika'll bring him a puppy. Mika hastily agrees and opens his eyes again and the manager is telling the mother to just go back to their seat and stuff, and Mika and Jenny finish their business. Thanks to the sex, Mika took a String on Jenny and the Poisoner lost one on him.. For the record, Mika was using the Strings Attached bargain. There's also a hilarious moment where Cordelia spends a String on Mika to have him pocket-dial her and cry out, "Oh my gosh, Mika, are you having SEX?" to give him the Pocket-Dialed condition.
So over in the other theater, Adam snuck into a rated R film, a really gory one. He doesn't care about the film - sitting in the dark, thinking about what Mika said in the restroom and how he doesn't even know what he did as a demon, he lets the fear and horror and blood-soaked atmosphere provided by the movie wash over him and consume him as he Gazes Into The Abyss about his past self. For once, I actually rolled properly and got clear visions. I saw myself, hidden just out of view of people, a rapid flurry of images of me, leaning into peoples's ears, and just the one echoing whisper filling my head, "You know you want to...", tempting people to, mostly, be unfaithful or lustful. I was a tempatation demon, an embodiment of lust (kinda hilarious now post-game, cuz manipulating and turning people on was pretty much the main thing I didn't do). I left the theater with a greater understanding of who I really am. I started to head toward home.
Mika is back at home now. It just so happens that his rich absentee parents have a VERY annoying little puppy! But first Mika gets a call from Cordelia, and they talk for a bit and Mika's getting this idea that Cordelia likes him, and she's all disgusted by his sex, and it's gloriously awkward. Mika's getting ready to try to figure out how on earth he actually GETS the puppy to the Poisoner. What ends up being decided by Orion is that Mika is going to grind up some sleeping pills and put them in its food (we're horrible horrible people, I know. Jay made the mention "hey, it's not every day I can bring Kill Puppies For Satan into things!"). He does it and brings himself into the abyss to commune with the Poisoner. The dog is there, but is instead a many-headed behemoth that honestly makes no anatomical sense, baying and growling from many angles at once. The Poisoner admits that he's quite pleased that, for once, Mika actually did his task. But of course, there's still the matter of Jenny... Mika objects and asks why he has to take her, and the Poisoner says it's not his business. Mika returns with a counter though - "If I get you someone else, can we leave Jenny out of this?" "Hmmm. Bargaining, Mika? Tsk tsk. Remember your place. However, who did you have in mind?" "Cordelia." And the Poisoner accepted this counter-offer - Cordelia is a far better prize than Jenny would have been. If Mika can bring Cordelia to the Poisoner, he'll be free of a bit more of his debt. He needs that desperately, because as the Poisoner has been saying, this is his last chance.
Adam is walking home through the park, and notices Heather in the distance with Juan. Adam thinks about passing by them unnoticed, but realizes that if he wants to know more about Mika and his connection to the Poisoner, he's going to need something significant of Mika's, and he knows JUST who has something - Heather. Adam watched her steal his knife. Heather's always seemed a bit timid, this ought to be easy. I come over, trying to be a little menacing, and call out at Heather. I tell her that I know what she did, and she responded kinda confused (well duh, I wasn't very specific). I say that I saw her steal Mika's knife, and Juan calls me out, saying "hey man, just chill", and I Shut Him Down by just pushing his high ass off the monkey bars, staring him down with my Inhuman Gaze. I succeed by like a mile, by the way. With Juan intimidated, followed by passed out from weed and falling-off-the-monkey-bars, I snarl at Heather to just give me the knife out of her purse and I promise I'll leave it at that. She doesn't take that though, refusing me and Shutting Down my social skills. So what does Adam do? He lashes out and grabs her purse, proceeding to dump the contents onto the ground, and grabbing the knife (and now I see all the weird witch shit she keeps in her purse!). She's furious, and thinking back, she starts to hex me. See, she advanced a bit earlier and bought the rest of her Hexes, and now that I think of it, I think THIS roll, as a partial success, triggered her Darkest Self, which immediately took effect and threw the Binding spell she put over me into overdrive. The monkey bars warped and bent themselves, wrapping me up in a coil of metal, holding me in place. She wanted to get the knife back from me, and I wanted to get away while still holding the knife. If I remember right, we decided I needed to Hold Steady and Run Away. I succeeded at both! Not sure how I pulled it off with my AWFUL Cold, but it happened. I got away, and my "safe" was I got to my home, and thankfully avoided an encounter with my dad.
After the fight, Heather is finished packing up her purse when she sees Shawn coming. She quickly finishes up and hurries over, where hse tries to catch his attention and tries to Turn Him On. It goes off successfully, except Ross spends one of the Strings that Cordelia has over Shawn to place a condition on him. He remembers back to the jealousy that Jocelyn showed earlier and feels like he should remain faithful to her; the condition is Turned Off. Ross, you wonderful asshole.
Up in my room, I took the knife and started to Gaze into it. My original intention had been to try to see Mika's connection to the Poisoner, but I saw what Hetaher just did, I wanted to know about HER through it. If she used it, or even if it was just in proximity to all that stuff, it must be connected to her. I got a partial success on the Gaze, and got a messy vision of looking into the knife, and seeing the reflection, and seeing THROUGH the reflection to see Heather, up at night with the lights out with only the light of the computer illuminating her, open to where she was learning magic, and I see the reflection in the screen and again see through it, finding my mind in a demonic landscape, filled with the servants of hell. I don't recognize anyone, but I know that her powers are demonic in nature.
Mika left his place and it's now quite late, and Mika is outside of Cordelia's window. He calls on the Poisoner to knock out her security, and the Poisoner agrees because it's so obviously toward his goal. Seeing Cordelia asleep, he crawls in through her window, with the intention of hiding and sleeping under her bed - hopefully that's close enough proximity. Apparently, that doesn't quite jive with Cordelia, because as he's climbing in she rolls over and shoots him with the gun she's been sleeping with ever since I was in her house. With Mika on the floor with a bullet in his arm and blood on the floor, Cordelia picks up her phone and calls Jocelyn. "You're gonna want to see this, come over right now."
And that's where the session ended.

Yeah, Monsterhearts is pretty fucking awesome. I gotta say that I definitely talked my way into situations where I was alone a lot, and I didn't have a real short-term goal. Like we talked about in the post-game, it really helps to pick the playbooks with integrated drives in them for con games, to get the action moving immediately since you know EXACTLY what you want. The big example that kept coming up was the Ghoul. I'd totally like to play a Ghoul sometime - and a Fae, and a Serpentine, and everything else. I love the game, and want to play more, but I think doing con stuff with it is best for me right now unless anyone in the Tacoma region is looking to set up a regular Monsterhearts game - I'm just not ready to run it for my own group yet.
I'm sorry this one took fucking FOREVER to post. The others should be much quicker, and I'm really excited to post about the Dungeon World and 13th Age games. Also, October Songaday starts on Monday, so be ready for a kick-ass month of music! Later folks!
End Recording,

Monday, September 24, 2012

Keys, Milestones, and Coaxing Playstyle with XP Discussion
This is Cage The Elephant's song Ain't No Rest For The Wicked. It was the Borderlands 1 intro song, in which it was fucking PERFECT. It's also a good song on it's own. Wait, I should talk about Borderlands 2? Soon. I'm saving a BL2 song for October Songaday and I'm not reviewing it til I'm done. Speaking of Songaday, this was actually a part of September Songaday. Which I should really post a list of, since I still use it as a restriction upon my future song choices. Anyway enjoy the song and the post.
In an interesting post-DW discussion at the Tacoma Game Day held by the Gamerati, we were talking about XP and how Drew thinks that using a game mechanic to coax a certain play style, a la Keys (The Shadow Of Yesterday I think, also Lady Blackbird) or Milestones (Marvel Heroic) and that he thinks they were an interesting idea that didn't work out. This is an extrapolation of what I think about the topic, not a summary of the discussion or a conclusion we came to or anything of the sort. This is just my musings. For reference, since this is going up BEFORE the Dungeon World AP, the players were Drew, Jay, Me, Scott, Paul, and Erin Sara. I refer to Drew's original point as my main point of discussion.
EDIT: I realized I should probably actually give a sample Key and Milestone since they're so central to, I guess it's kinda become an essay in and of itself. Here's one of Snargle's Keys in Lady Blackbird (note: "hit your key" is mark XP, don't worry about the buyoff thing): "Key of the Daredevil: You thrive in dangerous situations. Hit your key when you do something cool that is risky or reckless (especially piloting stunts). Buyoff: Be very very careful." An example Milestone, from Daredevil: "Out in the Open: 1XP, when you first tell a hero that you're not Daredevil. 3XP, when you go into action as Daredevil without your mask. 10 XP, when you either join a team in spite of your identity crisis or refuse to join a team because of it." I don't mention is again later in the Milestone discussion (mostly because I forgot) by the presence of an "or" in many of the milestones is definitely a mitigating factor, giving you latitude to not not only play the one way they say the character would go, creating a greater chance that the cool action of the moment is the same as the milestone's cool action. Anyway, moving on back to the discussion!
In general, the point I got was that they tend to lead to scenarios where the player is forced to choose between something cool or something to get XP out of. For example, DW's failure-xp system was clever and takes the sting out of failing a bit and lets you focus on the cool that comes out because of the failure rather than just being disappointed. However, Drew felt that, since for a decent little stretch of time he was one off of leveling, he kept trying to roll Discern Realities because his Wisdom was really bad and he was trying to fail to get that last XP, despite it not adding all that much to the story and there being other cool things to do. It's certainly a valid counterargument to Keys and their sibling rules, though I myself have found Keys to be actually uite effective. I think something they do rather well is, while they may have had other cool things in mind as well, Keys DO provide a pretty good avenue to funnel play into a tone that fits the dirction of the game. A lot of games, especially on the indie scale (though I don't think being indie CAUSES this, persay), were designed with a much mroe specific tone in mind, and the game suffers when the tone is broken. Take Dogs in the Vineyard. This is a really specific premise, but how you play the character can vary. As Kevin brought up in a recent bonus episode of The Walking Eye podcast, he doesn't play Dogs any more with first-timers because so many people use the game as an excuse to be a hyper-religious asshole, and I don't think that's what the game is meant to do and that doing so really drags everyone down and out of the rich flavor of he game. Keys and their ilk (is there a word for them?) do a decent enough job at trying to guide you from jumping off the tone.
Keys (just assume I also mean the others) also serve a different purpose, as far as I can see. They help to establish a direction for a character and essentially provide the default tone for a character. This is especially pronounced in a situation with pre-gens, which, funnily enough, both Keys and Milestones happen to be (at least in LB and MHRPG - I know literally nothing about TSOY). With Lady Blackbird, for example, you're provided with characters brand-new and generated of John Harper's mind. No one is going to know how to play them without any direction. The character concepts are broad. It's through the Keys that we understand the tone that was intended for the game - the romance of Vance and Blackbird, the camaraderie between Kale and Vance, etc. The most prominent for me is Snargle's Key of Banter. That is a wildly odd, offbeat Key that gives a very clear direction to the player - this is the character who is a funny, witty, wisecracker. Everyone I've seen play Snargle has immediately tried to make that Key work. Traits and Tags are what you are; Secrets are what you can do special; Keys are how you act by default.
Marvel wields the Milestone a little differently, placing it as a goal rather than a process. Well, sort of. The 1-er Milestones that you can keep triggering are Key-like, telling Daredevil to deny his secret identity to the public and Spiderman to make lame wisecracks (well, it doesn't require lame, but come on). You would likely already play them this way if you're already familiar with the character form the comics - this is a symptom of playing with existing characters from another media - but for the unfamiliar the 1-er Milestone is a great starting point for what the character does a lot as an instinct. The other ones are different though. It says to play as you want, but achieve this particular end-goal, because that's definitely what that character is about and what they strive for. They're more of a tool for letting you know what this character is about (since, while you're playing existing characters, not everyone who plays is familiar with the characters). I genuinely think that, when a person plays a pre-exisiting character from media (regardless, or perhaps especially, when you are not familiar with them), they feel compelled to play the character as they are in their own media instead of taking them and just playing them how THEY think is cool. They picked that character because they already like how that character is, and so will be trying to play them true to the The Milestones are a way of indicating to them how to do so and what they character strives for, and rewarding them for doing so.
I think that's where th problem lies with Milestones. It's not just a roleplaying cue for if you want to play them true - it's incentivizing playing them that way. If you DO just want to take control of the character your own way (play it better than the original, etc), you can, but you sure aren't getting the benefit from doing so. You have a couple options: switch out to the Event Milestones, but I think those are mechanisms to make the event follow the same steps as the original comic, which is a very weird thing for me to grasp, or you could write your own milestones, but those lose the roleplaying cue entirely - you were going to play them like that anyway.
So I think that, from looking at these, I've come to a sort of personal conclusion of what I think of them. Drew is right - they don't act as a means to coax players to play a certain way really - but I don't agree that he's write that they're going to fall out of use. I think they're an excellent tool to judge the intended tone of a game and to direct the playing of existing or low-investment pre-gens like those used in one-shots. They are NOT overly successful in guiding a player to a certain playing style, and serve little to no function at all when the character is player-made (since the player will simply design the "keys" to benefit the way they were already going to play the character).
Oh, I'm realizing I left out what is probably the most relevant of all of the examples, so, if you don't mind reading, I'm just going to keep talking. . We had this discussions as a response to Dungeon World. Wait, Dungeon World doesn't have Keys or Milestones! Well, sort of. It DOES have Alignment, but by contrast we actually liked alignment (since, per session, it only happens once and only happens at the end, you tend to not hound after it and just generally try to act like that at some point in the session, plus it wasn't extremely tight in what we wanted to do with it - plus you get a choice of things). The bit we were talking about was more about what WASN'T in DW rather than what was included: highlighted stats. Highlighted stats are different in a couple ways.
1) They don't specify a way to act or a goal to achieve, but simply a direction to try and perform (by picking a stat rather than a specific behavior)
2) They shift from session to session.
3) They are selected by a combination of other players and the GM.
Each of them has their own effect. The first, despite its difference, I think ends up in the exact same hole as Keys. Instead of trying to move you to play the character in a way that is more dramatic or more accurate to a character, you're playing in a way that'd be interesting to play. Unfortunately, because of point 3, it's NOT what's interesting to you, but to the others. Session-to-session change of the highlighted stats is nice because it allows for variety, but makes it more or less useless as a guide or roleplaying cue for a direction to take the character long-term since next time you very well might not be focusing on that thing. You don't define your character by his Sharp and Hard just because they're highlighted because next time you could be told to focus on how you're Cool and Weird. The last is a weird thing. I very much like the idea of the character who knows your character the best choosing some aspect of something for you. I DON'T like how they choose your primary XP mechanic.
What bugs me about highlighted stats is that they almost directly seem to go against the core principle of AW: play your character like he's real and the world is real. Isn't aiming toward performing actions related to your highlighted stats not allowing your character to do what he naturally would? You have an ulterior motive, to get XP. And the core principle trumps all. This alone, if followed completely, validates the use of highlighted stats - if you don't chase them, it's not a concern that they make you want to do XP things rather than cool things. Unfortunately, people don't follow that rule completely, and I think THAT is where the fault is really, not in any specific mechanism like Keys or Milestones. They have issues, but I think the subconscious drive for XP.
It's weird. For some reason we just drive for advancement. We want more powers I guess, because it's more options and more ways to be cool. It's good and it's bad for this discussion. XP is a powerful motivating force, that can be used as an incentive to act in a certain way to support the tone of the game or the personality of a pre-existing character. It can draw you away from cooler actions. In the majority of games it would actually be beneficial to port over that core principle of AW. When I said it to my own group that their job in Apocalypse World is to play their character as if they were real, the reaction I got was "Wait, aren't we always supposed to do that?", and we are, but we DON'T. We, well, we meta-game. We make decisions because they're good for our character in either the short or long term, not only because that's what they'd do, and sometimes that's benign. However, XP is one of the greatest motivators to meta-game, because we're so desperate to level. I've come to defnitely prefer games where leveling is unimportant or simply absent. For absence, stuff like Fiasco and Microscope of course. The "unimportant levels" idea is a bit trickier. I'd argue that Apocalypse World advancements are unimportant. First, the game mandates that you don't go XP hunting. Second, aside from advanced basic moves and the dull-but-significant stat boosts, nearly everything on the advancement lists are obtainable from character creation. The ability to gain another move? If that move was the coolest thing to you, you could have taken it at the start. A different playbook's move was the coolest thing? Just play that playbook instead. Want a holding, gigs, or a gang? Playbooks for that available at the start. The same can be said of Monsterhearts and Monster of the Week, although not Dungeon World (which level-walls off moves, making XP relevant again). The locked difficulty level of 10+/7-9/6- also makes it so that gaining levels doesn't actually make you that much tougher usually, you don't unlock new places to go or monsters to fight because you're strong enough to fight them now (eg you don't need to wait for level 9 to take on a horde of demons or a dragon or whatever, you can try right away and have, generally, the same potential to succeed) An even more intense thing comes out of Apocalypse World's system: inevitable obsolescence. Level enough, and you're doomed to one of two results: Retire your character to safety, or Change your character to another playbook. The first ends your character's story, time to play someone new. Safe enough, since if you've narrowed it down to those two, you're already playing a second character anyway. The second option allows the character to persist, but requires such a change in identity that often the "Only take it if it makes sense" rule is going to result in you retiring your character. This sort of timer on the character is nice, as is the timing - you're not hugely likely to play enough sessions to naturally reach that ultimatum, or by that point you're probably ready to end that character's arc. However, if you hunt XP and aim very purposefully for that, you'll hit that ending too fast. Plus I like that it's locked in that the character ends, but that's a different day.
So what is an awesome XP system? We were talking at the post-DW table talking about this as well. I believe Scott brought up that, in his experience, the only perfectly appropriate system of when you level is essentially to put up to the GM to just tell people when they've improved enough or experienced enough to level. The one I put forward was Dogs in the Vineyard, which got some agreement. I like that it comes out of a potential to fail - the more fallout you took, the greater your chances of getting experience fallout. You don't grow unless you're risking failure - you don't grow from playing it safe, and I find that rings true - it's one step further than DW's failure-XP, though noticeably more complex. Another cool thing is that almost all of the things you can use your Experience Fallout on are first and foremost narrative tags with little actual mechanical benefit (and that benefit tends to be offset by having to occasionally take penalties off of your Long-Term Fallout). It is very much as different system where, instead of character advancement, you get character development. A third thing I'm happy with is that you simply can't reliably hunt XP. Whether you get XP is a dice roll. I suppose you could intentionally accumulate a lot of fallout to up your chances of rolling 1s and getting experience fallout, but really that slants your result toward taking a long term fallout as well, so your XP hunting didn't actually do anything. Growth comes from actually experiencing these things in the game. Dogs has a lot of problems, primarily lying in its dice complexity, but I think the way it takes its system and integrates experience is simply artful.

So, I've rambled on long enough about all this, and I really should switch back to writing what actually happened at the Game Day. I hope you've enjoyed reading this, it's fun to do some real musing. Weigh in yourself if you have any thoughts, this is an evolving thought process still.

End Recording,

Friday, September 21, 2012

(Lack of Updating)
Man is the Time Fcuk theme good. This is the third song on a six song soundtrack. All six are are really good, but this is probably the most pronounced version of the theme.
Sorry there folks. I don't have anything for ya right now. I've been racking my brain for the whole week, trying to come up with something to post, and I'm blanking - I just haven't generated anything new really. But I don't want to leave readers in the dark, so here's everything I have sitting idle:

* My Apocalypse World game. For the life of me, I just cannot bring even three of them together at the same time, let along four. Fucking schedules. This will happen as soon as I can make it happen, and I will keep you appraised. But seriously, this was supposed to happen over a week ago.

* I am in the process of playing Borderlands 2 with my brother. It is fun, but I don't want to write a review til I beat it.

* I completed The World Ends With You - like, every secret report and everything. Not every item, not every pin, not even every boss beaten on Ultimate, but it's crazy fun. I want to talk about this but am working on what to say. Kinda want to do some art to go with it. My best bet for non-RPG content to post.

* I was writing my thoughts on stuff in the D&D Next Playtest Packet 2 before a crash ate my Notepad and I lost the stuff. Remember to save your files, folks! This will take a while longer.

* The Binding of Isaac LP is in the testing stage. I'm teaching myself the recording and editing stuff, and am getting close to a point to actual make Final videos. I'm met with an issue of one run taking about an hour, and I dunno if people will sit through that. Also, I can't actually record that straight, I have to chop it up into 10 minute segments. Thinking I'll cut it up by floor.
Planned runs: Basic run, 10 Runs of Womb, at least 1 Sheol run, at least 5 Cathedral runs, at least 1 Chest run, the Challenges. At least one run with each character (may be integrated into the other runs).
The other problem is that I kinda plan to show off my dead runs cuz I'm unlocking stuff. Maybe I'll just do screenshots of me unlocking stuff when I die? I don't know. Each update will probably be enough dead runs until I succeed at a run. Commentary will be live audio.
An unfortunate uncontrollable variable is Cellar/Catacombs/Necropolis/Utero - I can't control the appearance of these variant floors instead of the originals. Meh.

* The Gunslinger Playbook is a bit hung up on trying to convert Trick Shot to a Gunlugger Move. Nothing's really sticking out to me yet. Once I figure that out I'll probably make a proper pdf of it.

* Do I actually have any art ideas right now? Nope. Nothing worth sharing at least.

* My Twitter has been broken for several days, only accessible through mobile, so my apologies if I missed something.

* Songaday is in October, gearing up for it. At least next month I'll have a post everyday...

* This weekend is actually really busy for me. On Saturday I'm going to the Tacoma Gamerati Game Day to play RPGs from 9am-midnight. I'm very excited, and that will absolutely generate some writing content. Additionally, on Sunday, I'm going on an actual Ocean Research Vessel to do some actual volunteer work out on the water. Excited for that too.
Of course, this means I'm going to be really busy doing my schoolwork right afterward. So it may take a couple days to unpack these.

That's what I have right now I think. Typing this up has kinda jogged my memory a bit, and I have a couple ideas for what to do now. But please: if you have ANY ideas for what kind of content you'd like to see, I can totally try, I need ideas. Thanks, later.

End Recording,

Friday, September 14, 2012

Art, AW: A Hulk (Mostly art, a couple moves)

So, hey, I wanted to post something again today. Music real quick though.
From OCRemix's Project Chaos, a Sonic 3 & Knuckles remix album. I like it quite a bit. This is a remix of Carnival Night Zone.

So, I just wanted to share this. Here, a link to the original image.

And here's some AW-itizing!
 Click for full size.
I really like the hands. The grey in addition to just the white really helps these piecs.Not a huge fant of his left arm though, and his eye still doesn't look good in my opinion.
So yeah, I had this idea of a couple of Incredible Hulk-like moves for Apocalypse World, essentially for the guy who just gets angrier and angrier and more more violent and powerful. It doesn't necessarily involve transforming into a giant beast, but it can. Maybe that'll be another move. I'm aware that there exists an Atomic Monstrosity (or some such) playbook, but I don't have it. To be entirely honest, this was just an excuse to give the art some contest.

(__) Rage!: When you get angry and hulk out, take 1-harm (ap) and Roll+Hard. On a 10+, take 3-Hulk. On a 7-9, take 2-Hulk. For each point of Hulk, choose 1:
* Your physical attacks deal +1 harm.
* You have an additional 1-armor (doesn't stack with actual armor).
* You take +1 to Go Aggro and Seize By Force rolls.
* Your incredible strength allows you to jump/swim/climb with ruthless efficiency. Take +athletic (+1 to any rolls that use your strength to allow you to move somewhere you normally couldn't).
* Your physical attacks have (ap).
* You ignore s-harm entirely.
You may take any of the options a second time (and they stack), but not a third time. Additionally, at any point while you are hulked out and something makes you even angrier, you make take an additional 1-harm (ap) to take an additional 1-Hulk.
When you calm down or go unconscious you lose all Hulk that you've accumulated. Unless you take the option to ignore it, s-harm brings you out of your rage.
 That's the core move I have. It's still a work in progress, but it's a concept. It was mostly the idea of self-inflict harm to get tougher. The first time amps you up a lot, and then you can gradually do it more and more. Some of the possibilities bug me a tiny bit, but this is mostly a list of potentials right now. I'm also not sure of the balance of ANYTHING.
The other moves I came up with all function off of this move, like some of J. Walton's ( think) supplemental playbooks like The Broodmother.
(__) Unstoppable: When you're hulked out and would go unconscious or die due to harm, you don't do that until you come out of it. S-harm no longer brings you out of it either. If you're healed in the meantime, great! If not, well, hope you made that last rage count.
 This is heavily inspired by several Barbarian options through D&D's history (heck, I think one of 'em might have actually been called "unstoppable"), the idea that you live til the rage ends. The additional immunity to s-harm made sense to me fictionally, but may again be unbalanced.
(__) I'm Always Angry: Select one of the Rage! benefits. You have that benefit, even when you're not all hulked out - you don't count as hulked out, and this counts as a use of that benefit (meaning when you actually rage you can only slect it once more). You choose this benefit when you take this move, and it cannot be changed.
 The name is, of course, a reference to the recent Avengers movie. This is a way to get a little constant benefit out of the power. There are likely results on the list that make this overpowered, again probably the s-harm immunity.

I have a couple other ideas, like a move for HULK SMASH or one that essentially turns you monstrous. I'm sure there are others, but I don't have them in mind right now. So that's it I think.

Oh. No Hulk-like art would be complete without:
You gotta show him green. With a purple background.
Click for full-view.
Okay, THAT should be all now.

If I'm lucky, I'm playing AW tonight. I hope for luck.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Basement Collection Talk (also a Review I suppose)

Alright, turns out I have a piece of Apocalypse World art/playbooking to share, but I want to do something else first to break up the spree of AW stuff, I've had like four posts in a row on the AW theme. If you're curious, it's an Incredible Hulk-type art and a couple linked moves.
In the meantime, I figured I can talk about The Basement Collection. The Basement Collection, if you don't know, is a new game (or collection, obviously) by Edmund McMillen. McMillen was thrust from being an obscure indie game designer with a couple noticeable hits, but was largely unknown to the general public, until designing and releasing Super Meat Boy in conjunction with programmer Tommy Refenes (the pair goes by the moniker Team Meat, even though Super Meat Boy was not their first game, as I'll talk about later). He then threw off all taboo restraints and went absolutely wild with his next game, The Binding of Isaac (done with programmer Florian Himsl). By some amazing alignment of the stars, the public ALSO loved it, and Edmund has become one of the premier figures of the indie video game world. This is likely evidenced by the fact that Super Meat Boy was the star case and the main feature of Indie Game: The Movie, which I haven't seen yet though can't wait to be able to.

I am now a through and through Edmund McMillen fan. No, I didn't know him before Super Meat Boy. I actually didn't know him until The Binding of Isaac, when I got it through the Humble Indie Bundle (I think it was the Vexel bundle BoI came in) and then got SMB through Humble Indie Bundle 4. However, I've never been of the mind that SMB was McMillen's first game, which many were, though I wasn't sure WHAT his previous games were until I wrote my Super Meat Boy and The Binding of Isaac reviews, which happen to be some of the first entries on this blog after I rebooted it. Here, have some links.
The Logbook Project's Binding of Isaac Review
The Logbook Project's Super Meat Boy Review

So I mentioned that some people were of the mind that Edmund started with Super Meat Boy. That's what The Basement Collection is all about - dispelling that belief and exposing his earlier work, minus a few (the big one I noticed absent was Gish, presumably because it still lives pretty well as a standalone game). You see, as Edmund mentions on one of the Q&As, he really doesn't like the idea that people are getting that he started with SMB, primarily because it puts up a false idea that you can succeed right out of the gate without the hard work and failure or experience, which is entirely untrue, especially from Edmund's perspective - he had many failed little games before coming upon his super-hits.
So what is actually IN The Basement Collection? Here.
* Meat Boy (NOT Super Meat Boy - this is the original flash game)
* Coil
* Triachnid
* Aether
* Time Fcuk
* Spewer
* Grey Matter
* Two Secret Games (only one of which I've unlocked, AVGM - the other I need to beat Spewer to get)
* The Soundtracks to all the games
* Unlockable comics, sketch books, Q&As, Trailers, Prototypes, and a whole scene of Indie Game: The Movie stock footage.
* I'm sure there are more unlockables that I have yet to obtain.

So I'll start by talking about the Title Screen itself. You're met with a full-screen mostly-white banner with small doodled images of all the characters in the game in the background. On our left are 4 buttons: Exit, Mute/Unmute, Credits, and FullScreen/Windowed. These four buttons never leave - none of the games are quite rectangular enough to fill the screen, so we're always going to be left with white boxes on either side, so we always have access to the buttons. We're met with a wheel of things, more than coincidentally reminiscent of the Binding of Isaac character select screen. For each game it's tagged with its credits: Design + Art (which is always Edmund McMillen), Programming + Design, and Soundtrack. It's also tagged with its release date and the development time, which is, with one exception, 4 months or less. It gives you a little star to indicate if you've not beaten it, beat it, or 100%'d it. You also have a box with a bunch of buttons that lead to all of the extra content.
So what are these games/how are they to play?

Design/Art: Edmund McMillen
Programming/Design: Jon Mcentee
Soundtrack: Danny Baranowsky
Release Date: 10.06.2008
Development Time: 3 Months
Bonus Content: Meat Boy Bonus Map Pack.
It's just like Super Meat Boy, but the controls are a lot more imprecise.We've also got far fewer stages, and all the alternate character skins, while entertaining (I like Gish and the Blue Castle Crasher), don't have actually different behaviors like the SMB ones do. There's not that many levels, and probably the biggest frustration is the responsiveness of the controls - specifically the wall jump, since you have to still be holding toward the wall when you jump or you don't jump off the wall, you just fall off, likely into spikes. Also, scrolling rooms where the screen can kill you are lame, though understandable. I just know that if this is with improved controls, I really don't want to go back and play the original.
It isn't impossible. I beat the main game in maybe two hours, with a few levels giving me real trouble. I've beaten SMB though, so maybe I already have some experience at this. The Map Pack you unlock by beating the game is also nice, gives a ton of extra levels. If you enjoy the experience with this, you should definitely try Super Meat Boy. If you don't enjoy this though, still don't count Super Meat Boy out - it's not more of the same, it really is a lot better.

Design/Art: Edmund McMillen
Programming/Design: Florian Himsl
Soundtrack: John Erik Kaada
Release Date: 02.01.2008
Development Time: 6 Months
Bonus Content: Coil Dev Sketches, Coil Character Sketches, Indie Game The Move: Coil Deleted Scene, Coil Q&A
Coil...Coil disturbed me. It is a very strange game, and I really just didn't get it until yesterday I listened to the Q&A. You see, in Coil the written story and the gameplay are actually separate - they don't relate to each other. The gameplay starts with conception and moves through the development of this alien fetus creature. The story, on the other hand, is a poem-like series of texts about a woman. Now, Edmund has now stated that it's about a woman, essentially being haunted by a spectre of her past, unable to really release that person despite wanting to. However, the poem is non-specific - it's highly interpretive, and I've heard several versions of what people interpreted it to be. Rape is one interpreted theme, as is abortion. I saw hints of the rape theme, but I saw an abusive relationship. However, knowing Edmund's intent takes it out of that terrifying space where it could be any of these horrible things, and actually places it as something a lot more sensible and, in my opinion, better. It's a story about death in a game about growth.
Coil keeps doing some weird things. Right off, you realize one thing very clearly: Edmund is NOT going to tell you how to play his game. Not, like, the way you should play it, he actually doesn't say how you play it at all, like what to do with the mouse and stuff. His intention is really interesting: it was, essentially, to weed out the casual folk who aren't looking to come play a weird experimental game. It didn't really work all that well - it wasn't that hard to figure out what you're doing, and even worse (as he mentions) people did it BY ACCIDENT and then got trapped on the next story screen where you need to do the same thing (it's moving the mouse around the circle in the direction of the arrows btw). In Edmund's estimation, the game isn't any good, and I can definitely see where he's coming from, but something I really like about it is the interpretive poem (which, if it had been the intention instead of him having a theme already in mind, would be excellent - this is a disappointment from his side, not really from ours) and I really like the kind of rough-around-the-edges style. Looking at my brother play Guild Wars 2 yesterday, I realized that one of the things I really love about some indie games is that they don't have that really plastic-y, shine-y, over-polished textures and objects that you often get from high-profile games; indie games tend to be a little more raw and rough, and that gives them this air of authenticity, the feeling that it's a visceral projection of someone's vision, not a manufactured product. Coil has that feel, of being real, even if it's scary and weird and confusing and not very good as a game. Essentially, this is his first shot at abstract storytelling and, well, an art game, and while the game itself isn't perfect, those intentions come through and you can feel them all throughout, in a good way.
In summary, I think that even if you're iffy on the Basement Collection as a whole, play Coil. It's on Steam, listed as a demo even though it's the whole game, and as such is free. Try it out - it only takes like 15 minutes to complete.
Oh, also, the soundtrack is freaking haunting and awesome. It's just a 10 minute long song just called Coil, and it's really nice. If I wasn't using a main song from the Basement Collection for this post's song, Coil's music was my likely second pick, competing with Aether and Time Fcuk (don't worry, we'll get there).
Curiously, this is also the longest development time by quite a bit. From what the Q&A said though it sounds like the development time was split partway through because Florian went to serve in the military.

Design/Art: Edmund McMillen
Programming/Design: Florian Himsl
Soundtrack: Tin Hat Trio
Release Date: 11.02.2006
Development Time: 4 months
Bonus Content: Indie Game The Movie: Triachnid Deleted Scene
NOTE: I have not yet watched the scene.
Triachnid is weird. This is the oldest game in the collection by over a year (though still two years older than Gish). It isn't hard to grasp really - you grab his legs and move the to stick to surfaces. He has three legs and a central eye and mouth. However, I'm not very good at Triachnid. He wobbles a lot, and sometimes he just seems to drop what he's holding. Also, doing the string-swing move is super dangerous, though interesting. This game has a lot of depth to the gameplay - there's a lot of Larva, which are collectibles. It's hard getting them - I think I got one total. There's more unlockables if I get more, but getting more isn't all that likely -_-'
Triachnid isn't all that long, but it's quite fun once you get the hang of it.
Figured I'd mention that Triachnid got a recognition boost from being included in The Binding of Isaac: Wrath of the Lamb as an extra boss (who is quite a chore to kill, I'll add). In fact, playing through the Basement Collection, I'm finding that The Binding of Isaac has a bajillion more references than I noticed hidden in it.
Also, the Triachnid himself is actually kinda cute, what with that big shiny eye of his.
I really don't have a ton to talk about with Triachnid. Oh, the soundtrack is pretty good, although it's a bit quiet. Not the star soundtrack on this thing, but still nice. I'd like to see a real pro play this game, I feel like it would be pretty amazing.

Design/Art: Edmund McMillen
Programming/Design: Tyler Glaiel
Soundtrack: Tyler + Danny
Release Date: 09.08.2008
Development Time: 14 Days
Bonus Content: Aether Dev Sketches, Aether Character Sketches, Aether Tech Demo, Aether Audio Prototype, Indie Game: The Movie Aether Segment, Aether Q&A, #another one that I haven't unlocked#.
Aether is charming. It's a small story, and the gameplay is really simple (though at times challenging if you lose your momentum). Swinging around and going off the clouds (and then stars) is remarkably fun. Each of the little puzzles for each planet are fun to discover, though the blue one where you go inside the planet is a BITCH to get out of.
Aether's story hit me as quite simple, and pretty interesting, but after listening to the  IG:TM segment it becomes something a lot more profound, essentially because this is a very personal, nigh-autobiographical game for him, about a stage in his childhood. I'm not going to recap it - it is REALLY worth seeing that. And based on its naming as the Aether Segment rather than a Deleted Scene I'm guessing it made it into the movie (and as I'm watching these deleted scenes, I'm finding that I REALLY need to see that movie, I'm profoundly interested).
Aether has a lot of depth to it. Not in its general gameplay, but in its design. Check the achievement list for TBC and you'll find an awful lot of ones for just discovering all the stuff out there in space. They don't do anything, and I think it would be difficult (and ruinous to the fun of the game) to map the game's skies. At this point, more people have 100%'d Meat Boy (quite a feat) than have found either the Lost Bird or attained the Lost In Space achievement. In my playthrough I found just one of the many. Unfortunately, while these make for a lot of cool easter eggs, they don't do anything, so the majority will end up ignored, and there's no reasonable way to hunt for them aside from blind luck. It seems like a lot of work that may not have been worth it. Speaking of amount of work...
This is the game created in the least amount of time (other than AVGM, which is essentially a non-game) - two weeks, if you didn't notice. It was done quickly and yet it doesn't feel hurt by it. Yes, it's short, but especially in light of McMillen's context I really like it.
Additionally, the game has a great soundtrack. By soundtrack, I do mean one looping song. However, you have a choice of three songs to loop - one classic made by Tyler (the only one in the original game), and one by Danny Baranowsky and one by Laura Shigihara (if I recall, she did the Plants vs Zombies soundtrack). I like Danny's personally, but they're all cool, and the game is short enough that you could probably run through it with all three soundtracks quite easily.
Aether wound up being one of my favorite games in the Collection.

Design/Art: Edmund McMillen
Programming/Design: William Good
Soundtrack: Justin Karpel
Release Date: 09.16.2009
Development Time: 3 Months
Bonus Content: Time Fcuk Dev Sketches, Time Fcuk Character Sketches, Time Fcuk Prototype, Time Fcuk Speech Prototype, Time Fcuk Trailer, Time Fcuk Q&A
Note: You may have heard of this game listed as Time Fkuc, Time Cufk, or any other variety of those last four letters other than fuck. Despite this, you always pronounce it Time Fuck. Reasoning for this comes out in the Q&A.
Anyway, Time Fcuk is incredible. This is without a doubt my favorite thing in the collection. It's deep and extensive, it requires you to think through the levels, its soundtrack is great, its art is gorgeous, its story is intriguing and very well written, there's a very extensive level editor and a Random Organization of Rooms mode, and, most importantly, it's crazy fun. It also gets very hard once you beat the main game (chapter 1). There's going to be a LOT of stuff I'm going to not see because of a very hard level I'm on right now. I  kinda wish respawn time was slightly faster. The level I'm actually on is, um, very reminiscent of Veni, Vedi, Vici from VVVVVV - this is both a good and bad thing.
On the note of the story, it's not only very cool and interesting in the game itself, it too has a more profound context.
I have very little more to say. This is fucking fantastic and I'm amazed it didn't make a wider impact. I'm also saddened that I didn't play it beforehand, even after knowing its name after researching Binding of Isaac because of Steven's cameo. The four dollars to buy the Collection would be entirely worth it on this game alone.

Design/Art: Edmund McMillen
Programming/Design: Eli Piilonen
Soundtrack: Danny Baranowsky
Release Date: 05.04.2009
Development Time: 3 Months
Bonus Content: Spewer Dev Sketches, Spewer Character Sketches, Spewer Prototype, Spewer Puke Test
I have not spent a lot of time with Spewer. It looks like there's quite a bit to do, and that the mechanic will make for a cool puzzle-platformer. Unfortunately, the mechanic also makes me a little sick - Spewer vomits out gunk to fill spaces and move and propel himself more and swim in. He has a limited amount of the stuff, and to get some back you actually eat it back up. Blech. It's just an in-your-face grossness that gets to me more than anything else yet.
Spewer has good art, a nice soundtrack by Danny, and looks to be long enough to be quite the experience. I really should beat it - beating it will unlock the other secret game, which I don't even know what it is yet.
I wish there was either an IGTM scene or Q&A about Spewer. I feel kinda spoiled by having them in everything else.
I very well might report back on Spewer when I've done more.

Design/Art: Edmund McMillen
Programming/Design: Tommy Refenes
Soundtrack: Danny Baranowsky
Release Date: 10.30.2008
Development Time: 3 Months
Bonus Content: Grey Matter Dev Sketches, Team Meat Photo Album, #Locked#, Grey Matter Q&A
This is the very first Team Meat game! These are the guys who went on to upgrade Meat Boy to Super Meat Boy.
Grey Matter is, as they've described it, a reverse bullet-hell shooter. You are the bullet, and it is your job to dodge more bullets and smash yourself into the enemies. It's about losing one's mind apparently, and I entirely agree because if I keep trying to do it I'm going to go nuts. I'm AWFUL at games like this, oh my god. I'm never going to beat this, and I likely will never unlock whatever that is in the bonus content.
Seriously, fuck this difficulty. But hey, figures that at least one of the games in this was difficult enough to have me just stop.
The game's not bad, don't get me wrong. I just can't freakin' DO it.

A.V.G.M. aka Secret Game 1
Design/Art: Edmund McMillen
Soundtrack: Danny Baranowsky
Release Date: 02.01.2009
Development Time: 24 Hours (apparently, actually 4 hours)
Bonus Content: Indie Game The Movie: AVGM Deleted Scene, and a pile of stuff that says "Available only through DLC".
AVGM is shit. Yup. It's a shitty game making good commentary about the shitty practices of other shitty games. It is SUPPOSED to be a shitty game. That's the commentary.
Abusive Video Game Manipulation. That's what the name stands for. It is flipping a lightswitch over and over to make, basically, furniture appear on the screen. And you just keep flipping and flipping. Nothing ever does anything, you just keep flipping. There is NO point and you may have seen a couple all-caps tweets on my Twitter I auto-sent from the game to announce that I'd beaten a mode.
Yes, I played all the way through Normal mode. It took over 10,000 clicks. It was awful. I did it for a little white star over the game's name.
Yes, I played through Nightmare Mode. It took over 20,000 clicks! It took me many hours. I used it as a tactile tool in my classes that day for something to do with my fingers while I paid attention. It was hellish. I didn't even get a reward.
And yes, I will likely go through Hell Mode and whatever is left afterward. All for a little black star with a face telling me I 100%'d the game. Because the Platinum God achievement I will never have is so, so tempting.
I will also have worn out my left click button by the time I've done this.
If you want to know more about like, the theme and the commentary and stuff, buy the game, beat Meat Boy, and watch the IGTM scene, it's really descriptive of it.

 That's all the games I have! What about some other stuff?
The Box is a box of art from a couple years of Edmund's childhood that he found in his grandma's closet. Some of it is frankly frightening in the context of a little boy drawing it, but it's a big insight into his childhood mind. He talks about the contents of The Box in the Aether IGTM segment.
This also has the bonus content of a couple of photos of young Edmund.

This is scans of a couple of Edmund's sketchbooks ranging from 2004-2011. They're really interesting, though quite different from the stuff he does for the actual games. Check out page 12, it's one of my favorites.

This is a children's book. It is a disturbing children's book I would not read to a child. It is also quite interesting, and the story is all in rhyme. It is creepy.

This button opens Windows Explorer to the soundtrack, where you can take all the songs and copy 'em to wherever you keep your music. Very nice for it to all be available with the game's purchase, unlike many games which make you buy the soundtrack separate.

I think I've very well talked about everything I have in the game! Here's a couple lists:
Favorite Game:
1. Time Fcuk
2. Coil
3. Aether

Game I would most buy as a standalone: Time Fcuk. Second Place: Aether if it was extraordinarily cheap, due to length. Otherwise Triachnid.

Game I think everyone should try out: Coil. Second Place: Time Fcuk. I think if you're only going to try one, I'd say Coil. But Time Fcuk is, as a game, better.

Best Soundtrack: Wow, tough one here, between the soundtracks of my three favorite games there. I'd probably say Coil for soundtrack as a whole, Aether in second place. Time Fcuk has a couple GREAT tracks, but is not that level of amazing the whole way through.

Comparison to SMB/BoI: Not quite as entrancing as Binding of Isaac to me, but I actually prefer playing the stuff in this to Super Meat Boy as whole. I love Super Meat Boy, much more than Meat Boy itself, but I think the combination of things in this bundle, especially Time Fcuk, tip it over. I'd love to see a "Super Time Fcuk," where everything is overhauled, enhanced, and extended the way Meat Boy was turned into Super Meat Boy. And I don't think I've mentioned this before, but I'm not a big Gish fan - I just don't get the controls. All three of these are over Gish, in my opinion.

IS THIS GAME WORTH IT: Hell yes. It costs FOUR. FUCKING. DOLLARS. I don't care if you've never heard of Edmund McMillen, you don't know SMB or BoI, hell, even if you didn't like SMB or BoI, try these things. It costs about same as a coffee and a pastry, so save yourself the caffeine addiction and the extra calories and play some thought-provoking games.

Thanks for listening. Sorry it's taken so bloody long to get another post up - scheduling has become a total bitch and I'm trying to make the next session of Apocalypse World happen. Soon! Friday evening or Saturday are the goal days.
I hope to have something else for you soon! Also, I'll start whetting any appetite now - I've decided that October will be another Songaday month! I just can't hold it back, and I want to be able to have SOMETHING to post every day. Look forward to it!

End Recording,

Friday, September 7, 2012

Apocalypse World: Fronts Pt 2

So hey, this is the second front that I couldn't complete last night. This is the Nuzulu (New Zulu) tribe! First music, then right to the front.
It occurred to me yesterday that, since my original September Songaday was before this blog, I've never shared any The Birthday Massacre with you guys! These guys are a goth metal type band with some lighter lyrical tone sometimes. This is off of the album Pins and Needles, but I actually prefer Walking With Strangers, which is simply an awesome album. Lots of cool here, check the songs Kill The Lights, Pins and Needles, Red Stars, Looking Glass, Control, and In the Dark.

Name: Nuzulu.
Expresses: Anger.
Fundamental Scarcity: Not entirely sure, but I like Hunger. Sometimes literal hunger, but also hunger for stuff and hunger for revenge.
Threats: Usimog, The Tribe, The Hounds
Dark Future/Agenda: Nuzulu arrives at the town and tears it apart, killing both Kray and Hide and consuming all within, human and material alike.
Description and Cast: A tribe of Africans that banded together after the Apocalype with a similar appearance and mindset binding them. They now are a mobile gang, set up on whatever vehicles they can get. They're led by Usimog. And yes, they ARE actually cannibals.
Stakes Questions:
* How will the town react if Nuzulu invades?
* Will Usimog retain control of his tribe?
* Will Kray and Hide manage to evade the Hounds?

- Threat 1
Is Called: Usimog
Kind: Warlord - Alpha Wolf
Impulse: to hunt and dominate.
Description and Cast: Usimog is the tribe leader of Nuzulu. He ordered a dress from Hide for his wife, and with Kray's help Hide made it out of his kids. Usimog is now out ot get the two of them. Usimog has a tough vehicle (haven't picked it yet - I like the look of an armed/armored limo but don't feel it's tough enough for him), and a selection of big guns.
Custom Move: When Usimog is in a fight involving Hide or Kray, he gets an extra 1-armor (in the vein of Kray's Rasputin move).
Countdown: 12:00-9:00: Rumblings of Hide and Kray's location reach Usimog.
9:00-11:59: Usimog mobilzies the tribe himself to hunt the two of them.
12 midnight: Usimog finds Hide and/or Kray.

- Threat 2
Is Called: The Tribe
Kind: Grotesque - Cannibal
Impulse: craves satiety and plenty
Description and Cast: The general tribe members. They have some guns, but in general they're just using big blades and stuff - a couple have chainsaws, for sure. Only the best in the tribe drive the vehicles - mostly pickup trucks that they load up other tribe members in the back, but there's some of other stuff. Tribe members do raids on places, often with a Hound or two. Some in the tribe grow tired of Usimog's vendetta and want to get to more serious raiding rather than a manhunt. Some names might be Larass, Krank, Clicking, or Storum.
Custom Move: When you get beaten by or flee from the Tribe, lose 1-barter as well - those thieves and ruffians might take it or might just break it.
Countdown: Nope.

- Threat 3
Is Called: The Hounds
Kind: Brutes - Hunting Pack
Impulse: to victimize anyone vulnerable
Description and Cast: Hounds are the name Nuzulu has for their scouts and hunters. They're all mounted on motorcycles, and all have machetes and usually have some scary-ass weapon (shotguns go BOOM). Rigge is in charge of them, and in general the tribe respects them.
Custom Move: When you attempt to elude the Hounds, roll+Sharp. On a 10+, they lose your trail for now. On a 7-9, choose 2:
* You are undetected.
* You're in a good position to attack them.
* An escape route is open.
Countdown: Don't have one here.

Overall Countdowns: 12:00-9:00: Occasional raids from Nuzulu, open threats.
9:00-11:59: Nuzulu threatens major assault - and seem to be far more serious about it than usual.
12 midnight: The tribe descends upon the town.

So that's it I think! Game got canceled Saturday, but I may be having the game on Tuesday (though without Kris, unfortunately, but Kenny/Luke/Dan would be there if it works out). I'll see about coming up with something else to stick out there in the meantime, over the weekend or something.

End Recording,

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Apocalypse World: Fronts Pt 1


This is written as if I had both fronts done. I don't. My game is delayed by several days so I have time, but I've been exhausted by the start of school, and I don't want to deprive you guys of any content. I think what's here already is cool, and I'll put in more cool next time.
EDGE is a good, but not stellar indie action-puzzle game with one of the best retro soundtracks I've heard in a while. This is, in my own opinion, a spiritual successor to Cave Story's soundtrack, and I'm that guy with at least 5 versions of the entire CS soundtrack and over a dozen versions of Last Battle. Seriously, this is a freaking incredible soundtrack. I love this song in particular for how upbeat it is - it's freakin' Labyrinth Fight all over again. Now, to Apoclaypse World.

So, Apocalypse World has a thing called Fronts. Fronts are, essentially, a packet of related Threats, developed between sessions by the MC so the MC will have interesting things to say already prepared. It's a cool thing that always confused me. I must say, looking at them before play, I didn't comprehend what exactly they were really doing. They seemed like just another piece of prep, something similar to regular games and not really integral. I've read about them in Dungeon World and as I said in my annotations of that they confused me (though the latest version is much better than the very original from Basic), and I read about the variation in Monsterhearts and Monster of the Week, and I think I suffered from the same confusion across the books.
I get it.
I think what I really needed was to actually play. Having actually done the MCing, I get why the game is stressful in a rather unique way, that the pressure to come up with this stuff or to keep track of the myriad stuff is tough. Biggest, it's tough to build up your threats when so much of the motion is on the player's side. Having this pile gives me a chance to come up with the cool names and the cool schemes and the horrible things that lay around the players and get all tangled up in their webs. I also absolutely understand why you CANNOT write these before the first session - everything I've written so far has been built off of a base of information built by my players (in this case, the NPCs from Life's Establishment questions and Kray's Hx question). This way I'm not just making guys to fight them with - I'm preparing material on the guys they've set up as their own enemies.
I've built two Fronts now. I'm gonna share 'em cuz I think they're cool and writing it all up here will help me think through my last couple gaps. In front one I'll also describe what each category is - Front two will likely be more streamlined.

Name: The Dame's Tower (Holiday?)
Expresses: ...the example front has corruption but I couldn't actually see it explained anywhere. Unless it just wants what our Scarcity is, but corruption isn't an option for that. Either way, Toyota and the Dame's Tower expresses Ambition, power-hungry-ness.
Threats: Toyota, The Dames, Lovesickness
Dark Future/Agenda: Lovesickness infects the whole town, placing everyone under Toyota's command as she dominates the population.
Description and Cast: Description, who's there, etc. The Dame's Tower is both Toyota's brothel and her cult. I'm not so sure of this yet, it's still stewing, but I kinda like the idea of them calling the place Holiday cuz maybe the tower they operate out of is an abandoned Holiday Inn - a hotel is a pretty good place for a post-apocalyptic brothel I think.
Stakes Questions: Essentially, these are questions I ask that are open ended that I'm commiting to not answering myself. This is what I want to see answered in play.
* Will Rolfball fall victim to Lovesickness? Will Toyota gain control of the town? (these are, essentially, the same question)
* Will Toyota manage to enthrall any of the PCs?
* Can Toyota eclipse Life in popularity and success?

- Threat 1
Is Called: Toyota
Kind: There are a series of lists describing what kind of threat something is. There's categories and types within those categories. Toyota is a Warlord - Dictator.
Impulse: The impulse is determined by the type of threat, and dictates what they do instinctually. Totota has the impulse to Control.
Description and Cast: Description, who's there, etc. Toyota is a small-ish Chinese-looking woman, and the madame of Holiday. She's simultaneously a brothel-owner, cult leader, and awakening psychic.
Custom Move: Threats and fronts get custom moves about them! I love this part. When you lock eyes with Toyota, she forcefully opens your mind about Toyota, but she knows any answers you give. Your sex move also activates, if it has a relevant effect when triggered on an NPC.
Countdown: Countdown clocks are a thing in the game as a whole - fronts are the main things with 'em. It'd take too long to explain these if you don't know the concept already. Toyota so far doesn't have a countdown clock of her own.

- Threat 2
Is Called: The Dames
Kind: Grotesque - Disease Vector
Impulse: to
Description and Cast:All the girls under Toyota's command, and the distribution vector for Lovesickness. They're Toyota's cult.
Custom Move: When you have sex with a Dame, roll+Hard (heh). On a 10+, you're good. Anything less, you've caught Lovesickness, though on a 7-9 the MC doesn't make an additional hard move.
Note: in Apocalypse World, ALL sex is unprotected sex.
Countdown: Don't have one here either.

- Threat 3
Is Called: Lovesickness (other names include Black Widow's Disease from Kenny and Maelstrom Syphilis from Allegra. Thanks for the input, it really helped move my mind along!)
Kind: Affliction - Disease.
Impulse: To saturate a population.
Description and Cast: An STD secretly carried by the Dames that causes the victims to become loyal to Toyota. She also cuts it into her opium. It manifests looking like an obsession with Toyota or her Dames - the obsession could be sexual in nature or simple devotion, depending on the case.
Custom Move: When you're infected with Lovesickness and you act counter to Toyota's demands, Act Under Fire or succumb to her will.
Custom Move: When you take some of Toyota's dirty opium, roll+Hard. On a 10+, no problem, either your stuff was clean or your body fought it off. 7-9, not too bad, you're only afflicted til the drugs are out of your system. 6-, you're Lovesick for Toyota and her stuff.
Countdown: 0:00-9:00: The disease spreads through the town.
9:00-12:00: The majority of the town is infected.
12 Midnight: Rolfball is infected and Toyota takes control of the town.

I can also do Overall Countdowns, but I don't here. I'm pretty bad at Countdowns. I really hope that, in general, I'm doing this right - as I've mentioned, making Fronts is a touch perplexing for me. And you'll get to see Front Two - Nuzulu soon enough!

End Recording,

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Apocalypse World Actual Play: Session 1

Sorry for the delay in writing this, I've been getting these really nasty headaches. Anyway, music.
I love The Book Of Eli. It got a lot of shit critically, but I think that's a lot due to some crap marketing (it wasn't really an action film, it was a drama) but it is some FINE post-apocalyptic work. Seriously, it's great. If you haven't seen it, do so. This song is a calm one, but I still just love the movie enough that it can fit into an AW post.

It has come to my attention that apparently a couple of my players now know where my blog is (by which I mean in a play for pageviews I gave the link to them) so I figure I ought to preface some of these RPG posts with some info on whether or not it's okay to read the stuff, cuz I plan to do some prep work on the blog too. Players, this post is safe to read.

So, this was it. We played Apocalypse World. I was nervous as fuck - I must admit, for all the love I have for the game and the rules and it fascinates me and is wicked rad, the MC role intimidates me. There are a big pile of principles and a lot of moves that I'm not supposed to tell people when I use 'em and it's a lot of saying things without exactly saying things (not referring to dishonesty, I'm again talking about "Make your move but never speak its name" - this particular principle is really really good and hard for me to perform). I'm always a bit frightened that I don't know the genre well enough to really emulate it, but I was pretty sure I was in good hands - two post-apoc fans (Kenny/Dan), another guy who enjoys it like me (Luke) and a fellow who tends to not really be into post-apoc though not disliking it particularly (Kris). Also, yeah, if you caught that I got the full group! First time in a long while, since the beginning of high school senior year I think. We had TWO members going through the internet. Not Skype Premium, we tried out Google Hangouts. I've, uh, never even tried it before, but it worked! Sort of. Lower video quality, a very VERY small touch of lag, but hey, it's nice. I couldn't figure out how to put both of their cams side-by-side instead of one big cam at a time, so the small ones along the bottom had to do.

So, we started 'round 4. Or, people showed up at 4. Actually, everyone was finally here by 4:30. We spent probably a whole hour just shootin' the shit (understandable - most of us hadn't caught up with Luke in a year). So I finally start explaining things, in what on reflection was a really haphazard explanation. Thankfully, they're smart dudes and figured it out through play. Very quickly I just switched over to briefing them on the playbooks I had available. I showed off all the standards and all the LE ones (other than the Marmot - I don't really GET the Marmot). Kris already had an idea from the conversation where I convinced him to play and Luke had been reading through them. Luke ends up picking the Gunlugger (not the Battlebabe as I expected - I didn't show him the Gunslinger but I'm gonna once I retool slightly for Gunluggers), Kris picks the Maestro D', Kenny picked the Skinner, and Dan picked the Faceless (suprise surprise - I think my phrase "kinda like a barbarian" had him convinced).
Here, I'll just detail the characters to you cuz they're so cool and because we spent the remainder of Dan's time here with them.
Kris played Life, the Maestro D'. Life is a woman, with vintage wear (typically gothic fasion), a porcelain face, a curvy body, and precise hands. Cool+1, Hard-1, Hot+2, Sharp+0, Weird+1. Her moves are A Devil With A Blade and Fingers In Every Pie. She has this blade contraption on her arm, up her sleeve (kinda Hidden Blade-like). Life is a nice gal who runs an establishment. Her major attraction is "Scene (see and be)" which means the place is the place to be if you want to find important people or be noticed by important people. Her side attractions are Sex and Drugs - a fun time. She's got a bar in there, and a bunch of private booths for meetings. She has a throne in the corner overlooking the place. Life found this place, an old bunker underneath the "casino," and the bunker had a big stock of food and booze and radios and stuff and she started this place, this speak-easy. We didn't actually name the place. The atmosphere is velvet, shadows, luxury, and intimacy.
As per the rules, Kris designed his NPCs. Lamprey is Life's best regular. He's a big russian, a government type (though not the top), and he brings friends and big spenders here for meetings who then bring their friends, and he's always polite and courteous to the place. The worst regular is Toyota. Toyota is a rival of Life's, selling girls and opium mostly. She's always here, looking to try to poach Life's customers. She's Japanese-looking. Gams wants in on Life's establishment. He runs the "casino" upstairs - he's a bookie, basically. He was running this place when Life took out the basement for her place, and wants to merge the businesses (and stay in charge once he's done so). Rolfball gave Life the start-up funds to get this place off the ground, so to speak. Rolfball is also the town's chief/hardholder. He's the boss. Been wants it gone, but we're not sure why yet.
Luke is Bones the Gunlugger. Bones is a real heavy badass. He's a man, with custom homemade armor (looks pseudo-plate-armor-esque, but made out of scrap metal and stuf), he's got a worn face, cunning eyes, and a battered body. He has Cool+1, Hard+3, Hot-2, Sharp+2, Weird-1. His moves are Battle-hardened, Insano Like Drano (pretty much everyone who could took their +1 to best stat move), and NOT TO BE FUCKED WITH, which Luke got a real kick out of. I need to enforce the "in battle" thing a bit better. Bones has a big fucking silenced sniper rifle, a pair of magnums, and grenades. The magnums actually came up as his primary weapons, what with the sniper being hard to use in close range. He also wears this black leather duster. He looks like 5 miles of bad road, and looks like he could drag you through 10 more. In town, he does a lot of mercenary action, pretty much doing whatever job needs doing. He also is called upon when the town as a whole needs defending.
Kenny played Hide the Skinner. The important thing to note is that, while the Skinner has a rap for being a stripper (called the Skinner because they show a lot of skin), Kenny played a different kind, more of an artist type. And by art, I mean skins. He's a skinner. He makes things out of skins. Unfortunately, he likes to use HUMAN skins. It's horrifying. He's kind of a sociopath. His gender is ambiguous (even we as players don't know, though I think we're defaulting to referring to him as a male just because it's easier (cuz Kenny's a dude, of course). He wears fetish wear, has a striking face, dark eyes, quick hands, and a slim body. His fetish wear? Mostly a long gorgeous coat he, uh, made. Stitched skins. His stats are Cool+1, Hard-1, Hot+3(!), Sharp+1, Weird+0. His moves are Breathtaking (of course), and Artful and Gracious. His Skinner Gear is an ornate sword and a, uh, skin & hair kit, along with his long gorgeous coat. That Skin and Hair Kit is going to be misused so badly. He's NOT wearing armor - turns out human skin is awful at stopping bullets and knives. A funny note: he's at Hx+3 with EVERYONE. This guys knows everyone really well.
The last character is Daniel's, Kray the Faceless. Kray is a man, with fetish-bondage wear (since it's armor, it's kind of the restrictive, also very plate-armor-esque but covered in straps and chains and other stereotypical bondage gear tricks), merciless eyes, and a muscular body.  His stats are Cool+0, Hard+3, Sharp-1, Weird+1. His moves? Rasputin, Oh Yeah! (aka the Kool-Aid Man move), and Beastly. His mask is kinda like a gimp mask. When unmasked, he's grotesque and afraid. His weapon? Oh yeah, chainsaw. VVVVRRRRRRRRRRR!
So there's one more important thing to do in character creation, and that's the Hx step. Kray started. For the someone who did something terrible with him, he picked Hide. They decided that the two of them had previously lived in another settlement, and the boss ordered an artful dress for his wife from Hide (depending on the mark, he doesn't always let them KNOW it's made of skin). Hide made it out of their kids. Needless to say, that warlord was NOT happy. Warlord Usimog is now hunting them, and they fled the settlement, Nuzulu, for this one. That was a while ago though - they've been here for a bit. Hide went next. For the "one of them is your friend," he picked Kray. He also decided that Life was in love with him. He had no lover. Note that for his "On others' turns" bit he just added +1 to all of them. Kray decides that Hide was the one who was kind and unafraid toward him (probably because Hide is just too psycho to care about the physical or personality issues). After Hide, Bones did Hx. He's fought shoulder-to-shoulder with Hide - I guess the targets would have made good clothes or something so Hide helped out. Bones thinks Life is the prettiest, and is overt about the fact. Bones says that Kray left him bleeding and did nothign for him. Not TOO badly bleeding it seems, because once play started Bones said that this was pretty much IMMEDIATELY before the game started. Life? Life thought Hide was the most attractive. She chose Hide as her favorite character too.

So now we have a big mess of horrible people (and Life). I included in there a bunch of the details that I got from asking them questions afterward. We're in a somewhat wasted environment, but more of a less-cold less-snow Siberia - as in, forested. I didn't focus much on it this time, but I likely will try to play it up in the future cuz it's cool and nonstandard.

So the game began and I just threw the starting ball to Kenny (metaphorical ball, we don't have a talking stick. That would be lame). Where was Hide right now? Hide was downstairs, inside the speakeasy, at the bar area (the commons type area). He's been trying to hawk his newest piece, a blood-red shawl (guess how he made it that color?). He's talking to this fella, Monk, this big guy in a tattered suit with a hooker 'round his arm, tryin' to convince Monk to buy it for her and him being all suspicious. After some dialogue (Hide not revealing what it's made of and dressing it up in all pretty terms like "All-Natural!" and the hooker falling for every word of it), Hide pulls the dude off to the side and cuts a deal with him. Eventually (and by eventually I mean a Manipulate roll later - the game's firts roll! The promise bit of the mechanic is weird in practice, but I think it'll get better with time) Hide convinced him to buy it. The price? A favor, to be called in at Hide's choosing...
Meanwhile, Bones is just coming back into town. He's had a really damn awful day, and is pissed as hell, and has heard 'bout this place run by this gal named Life and that they've got some great stuff. Bones is coming into Gams's place and goes to try to get into Life's establishment when the bouncer, one of the security fellows, who I neglected to name (#PrinciplesFail), tried to stop him at the trapdoor. They had an exchange, about how they don't let just anyone in, and how a dude that looks as battered as this guy isn't the sort of guy they welcome here. He intimidated his way in by showing off his guns and the security dude got out of there. He pushed his way in, and everything kinda went to a stand still and Bones tried to bully the bartender into giving him a free drink. He was partially successful - didn't get anything good, but did get a drink. In response to the commotion, Life came over to figure out what's what (Reading a Stich too, and finding out that this guy is the one in control in this situation), but even when he was about to get chewed out for Hide comes to Bones's defense, saying the bartender's been drinking a lot himself and can't be trusted right now. Bones talks about how what he could really use is a job, and uh, hey Life, you seem to have a security issue, what with the guard that got scared by a pair of tiny guns and left. Life's not one to hire strangers in a moment though, but, as they're talking, they hear crashing around happenin' upstairs. They head up, Life in the rear and the other two in front, and Life says that she wants to see how Bones handles this.
We go up and there's two BIG black guys busting up Gams's place (not random stereotyping - I had a REASON for them to be explicitly black). Gams (note to self: do not make names that end sounding like plurals) is out cold on the floor. Bones tries to reason with them real quick, then quickly switches to trying to scare them out. Before he gets too far with that though, one of the guys calls over "Hey, who is that? Isn't that Hide?" "Yeah, I think it is! Hey there Hide, miss us?" "Hey you there, Mister Tough in the coat with his little guns, how 'bout you just hand over that little twerp and we'll leave you and your gal alone and just go. How's that sound?".
Post Commentary: I really liked that particular bit. I think it made Bones really get in his character's head and decide how Bones would really act, since this is a case where just standing and being tough wouldn't work. I'm going to need more stuff like this to get Dan to not just play a psycho killer and actually roleplay a bit. Also, if you hadn't caught on, these guys are supposed to be from Nuzulu, the place Kray and Hide fled from in the Hx cuz the warlord Usimog is after them - the tribe is of Africans who banded together soon after the apocalypse, hence why I specified that they were black. See, I have reasons! Anyway, back to the AP.
So after a moment of thought, Bones decides, no, there's no way Bones is just giving up this dude. Hide helped him when it mattered, and besides, what'll it look like to Life if he just gives intruders what they want when he's working for her? He tells them that isn't gonna happen, and the two of them start charging and brandish their machetes. Seize By Force, and Bones's magnums blow one away and graze the other one, who just keeps coming. Hide draws his ornate sword and, well, Hide shouldn't be attacking things probably. He fucks it up, and gets a huge gash on his arm from the machete and fall to the floor. Bones shoots again and, by some fluke, MISSES. Life's goons are coming up the stairs now, and Hide tries to chuck his sword at the guy. Well, Hide is not very good at the violence thing and blows the roll, so I have the dude catch his sword instead and, seeing the goons, start running for the door. Bones takes his last shot and kills the guy, falling to the floor near the door.
Hide reclaimed his sword and immediately went to work carving up the guy - the one who took his blade he just shredded (Hide is a poor loser) while the other one he started to do his careful work. Bones and Life got into a discourse about how he did, but Life just sent him downstairs to the now-empty speakeasy. Before going herself though, she's caught by Gams, who blames her and her people for this - this would never happen if he was in charge. He'll be okay though, he doesn't look hurt too bad. While the guards are around, Kenny suggests that Hide's carving is good for the Artful and Gracious move, and I agree. Full success! One of them admires his patron (who happens to be Life, we decided) and one person, suitably impressed, gives him a gift of "Hey, that knife you're using looks like it's seen better days. Try this one." and gives him a knife, which he promptly took and started using.
Downstairs, Bones and Life are alone, save for the bartender, who's pouring himself a drink. They're talking terms of employment - Life's willing to hire him if he does something for her. Rolfball took something of her's and she wants it back. However, she's indebted to Rolfball, so she can't be overt. She wants Bones to, alone, go and steal her item back, but to do it without killing anyone or causing a commotion. In return, she can offer stable employment. When asked about payment, Life offers food, drink, and girls, though not the best of any of it. Insistent on the best girls, Bones pushes for better. Life switches and says that if he gets the best girl around, she's not paying food or drink. Bones agrees, but it's got to be the BEST, and exclusive with him. Bones leaves back upstairs. Also, this scene saw us introduced to the top two members of Life's security, Vincent and Dominic.
Upstairs, Bones talks to Hide about coming and helping (blatantly ignoring the "alone" bit), and Hide wants to know what's in it for him. Bones is thinking that, if he has to kill anyone, Hide can have them, though Hide can't go killing himself. Bones's (UGH plural names) reasoning: Being undetected is mroe important than no killing, so if I have to kill a couple guards to stay undetected it's acceptable. Hide goes along with it.
Life is putting out the word that she wants the best girl in town with all of the caveats. Fingers In Every Pie, and she gets it - the girl'll be showing up soon. I think I might have to complicate this a bit - she's got the best girl, but there's an issue, for sure. My thinking is it's one of Toyota's girls. But hey, we'll see. We'll get a name then too.
Later in the day, Bones interrupts a radio call of Life's who makes it clear to him to NEVER knock when the door's shut (the door with like 9 kinds of locks that serves as the door to her office). He gets a bit more info about the job, and goes. This is also where we established that they have radios at several of the major locations, thanks to Life's supply.
We ended with the beginning of the job. Hide and Bones are hiding on the outskirts of Rolfball's wildly overgrown estate - he's set up a major armed complex around this mansion. The west wing is entirely blown out, and the guards are obviously watching it. Bones Reads a Sitch to find the best way in and finds that it's the windows on the east side if you come through the wilderness. Watch out for all the snipers and the mounted machine gun out front, and try not to get caught on the barbed wire! And them heading off is where we end.

That was really fun. Seriously, it was fucking fantastic in retrospect. I felt a lot of pressure at the time, courtesy of trying to keep everything running, but I'm thinking it's time to write a few fronts and stuff! I also want to get into custom moves a bit, and since both Bones and Life had an improvement at the end of the session (that we will be doing at the beginning of next session), I think I'll be showing Luke the Gunslinger Playbook I wrote (or will be re-writing with Gunlugger in mind). Bam. I also will be brushing up on how stealth works in AW - I think it's Acting Under Fire a lot, but I remember some custom moves by Johnstone in the book I'll be looking at.
I got the one comment I REALLY wanted from the players, that AW felt a LOT more fluid than a lot of other games. I kind of expected it from Luke - he's only had trad game experience, so something like this would absolutely feel fluid, but even from the others, who have played things like Lady Blackbird and others, so I felt really good. I have a lot of stuff set up, and while I didn't keep that close to the 1st Session worksheet, I did what worked, and had fun. No one was really disruptive, and all the characters DID feel real. I'm really excited for the next game. In the meantime, I plan to do some prep work here on the blog, writing my fronts and stuff. Look forward to that, as well as the remainder of the GPNW AP (still working on it!).

That should be NOPE just wanted to plug The Basement Collection by Edmund McMillen and will be reviewing it soon, it's a ton of fun.
NOW I'm done.

End Recording,