Weekly Recap

Hmm…  well the last recap was on Tuesday.

Work was hectic last week.  I counted and I attended just under 5 bazillion meetings.  Under our one big project there are about 6 other projects in flight that need my attention.  Anyone of them could fill 50% – 100% of my day.  They’ll all end in mid-March.

Comics were great.  I think I mentioned that before.  Tim pronounced the week as “solid”.

The guys came over on that day they always come over.  We played Galaxy Truckers again.  We choose two advanced ships and added another option to make the game harder.  It was killer.  Ships pulled into port in pieces.  More drop outs and complete destructions than I’d even seen before.    The important thing is that I won.  Except I didn’t even do that.  Grr, I say.  Grr.

Fun was had by all.

People had been very nice about Dave’s foot online.  We gave it a good mocking on Friday.  We didn’t want his head to get as swollen as his feet.  I haven’t asked – hopefully the swelling and bruising has gone down.

Mr. P returned from Jamaica on the weekend.  He has an airplane tale of woe and horror that has a happy ending.  If you didn’t catch it on the Facebook, you should track hm down and hear it.

There are several games I want: Space Alert Expansion, Cosmic Encounter Expansion, 7 Wonders and Innovation.  There word was they were all in at the game store this weekend.  I tried to go and get them, but the snow on Sunday sent me back home again empty handed.

The other news is that work wants me to travel to Lethbridge late this month and Winnipeg in May.  So I’m trying to figure out how to stay in a hotel room without getting stuck in bed.  If that is possible, I need to talk to the airport and airline.  I haven’t really traveled since I haven’t been able to get out of a normal chair.

Had tummy trubles today.  Apparently I shared too much on Facebook.  So I’ll spare you all her.

Finally, my thoughts and prayers are with Jason and his family as they grieve.  God bless Jason.

“Monday comes to fast…”

maybe if I punch it in the face it’ll stay down a while longer.

[Typo by a facebook friend, punch line by me.]

I want to talk about Brian Wood.  He is a comic writer.  He has two regular ongoing vertigo series – Northlanders and DMZ.  Neither are really my thing.  I mostly read them because he finds such astonishing artists to work with.

But Mr. Wood has a track record of mini-series and graphic novels that are great: Demo, Demo 2, Local, and New York Four.  His collaborators were either Ryan Kelly or Becky Cloonan.  That might be one factor.  The artists on those series always knocked it out of the park.  Incredibly so.

Perhaps he just has a way of chronically the fictional tribulations of twentysomethings.

These series were ones for which I waited eagerly month-by-month for the subsequent issues.  Comics which I immediately wanted to read again a second time.  Comics which often provoked a visceral emotional reaction – good and bad.

New York Four was the best of the short Minx line of graphic novels and when it was ended the knowledge that Wood and Kelly had follow-up stories planned for the young ladies in the cast was one of the biggest disappointments.  Grr.

So when New York Five was announced as a Vertigo title I was a little bit happy.  When I missed issue #1 last month I was downcast.  When both issues #1 and #2 arrived this week it made an already pretty nifty week of comics almost transcendent.

New York Five is cute and quirky.  Its characters almost defined more by their peccadilloes than a personality.  It seems to tell four stories that barely abut one another. Those are flaws.  This is not a perfect book.

But it is so very very fun.  It brims with fun.  It sports that same form of teen angst that makes watching shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Desperate Housewives so inappropriate and painful.  But it makes it joyful.

It is but a four issue series and so it is now half over during the first week that I’ve begun reading it.  So despite being happy, happy, joy, joy to have read it I am already sad.  😦

Hopefully Brian Wood is already working with the right partner on something just as good.

In which I send all but the gaming group away…

Not intentionally.

The Dresden Files are an urban fantasy series that I enjoy and there is an associated RPG in a system I quite want to explore.  To which end I proposed we make characters next week.  The character creation process is different and potentially nifty in that it is collaborative and before the characters are created the setting is also collaboratively designed.

I’ll explain all the game mechanics and stuff next week if we make the characters, but here is a primer on the Dresden Files.

At its base the series conceit is that there is a magical realm alongside the world as we know it, but it is invisible to most people.  While most factions of this reality try to actively hide themselves from the world the main thing keeping magic separate from reality is not a conspiracy, but people’s ability to rationalize the unexplained.

That isn’t what the series is about, BTW.  Its themes are those of loss, perseverance, faith and struggling with the darkness in your own soul – obviously our game can have different themes.  The books are not deep character examinations, but big action adventure pieces.

The series is based in Chicago and centres on the exploits of Harry Dresden the only wizard who advertizes in the yellow pages.  Generally each book starts with a private or police investigation in which Dresden is called to consult because there is a weird aspect.  Eventually it blows up into a Faerie War, assault onto a den of Vampires or a face off with zombies while riding a reanimated T-Rex.

Hmm – so if you can envision a typical supernatural threat they exist in the Dresden Files: vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and faeries.  But each beastie is just a little bit spun.  There are four different courts of vampires who are all bad, but only the Black Court are really Stoker-esque.  In general, supernatural beasts are at the mercy of their natures while mortals have free will.  For example, faeries are driven to make bargains and must always speak the truth.  Vampires are driven to hunt.  People are evil if they choose to be and good if they choose to be.

Let’s look at the ways the supernatural touches up against Chicago in the series:

  • There is a wizard who advertises in the yellow pages
  • There is a special division of the Chicago PD who investigates weird crimes.  (Even then only a fraction of the Special Investigations Unit is truly clued in.)
  • There is a pack of werewolf college students who protect the campus from normal crime like muggers and thieves.
  • There is a bar that caters to the magical community.  It is Accorded Neutral Ground where any signatory of the Seelie Accords can meet in peace.  More importantly it serves really good beer.
  • There is a brothel run by a Red Court vampiress (or was until Dresden burned it to the ground and started a global war between vampires and wizards).
  • Little faeries can be summoned and love pizza.
  • There is an Undertown in tunnels beneath the city where beasties and those with ties to the Never Never (the faerie realm) lurk.
  • A Knight of the Cross lives in town and is supported out of a local church and also gives haven to those in distress.
  • The head of organized crime in the city is a normal human, but is clued in and employees a Valkyrie as a bodyguard.
  • There are lots of minor magical people or groups – a book store that caters to them, a psychic who can really talk to ghosts, an island in the harbour that is a locus of power with a guardian spirit, a “knitting circle” of magical practitioners without enough power to be considered wizards, etc.

Setting up a different setting might involve setting up similar groups or something different.

Let’s see – magic?  Obviously a wizard is the focus of the series so magic plays a big role.  Wizards can cast spells.  On the fly they can do typical D&D type things – fireballs, lightning bolts, winds, tracking spells, etc.  The books can it evocation.  For time they can use ritual magic, called thaumaturgy, to do a variety of other things.

Wizards are powerful and belong to an organization called the White Council.  A major focus of the White Council is to enforce the 7 laws of magic.  A wizard who breaks those laws begins to become a supernatural creature that is hugely dangerous.  Even minor practitioners who are not in the council (membership is a privilege, but non-optional) must abide by the laws.  The punishment for breaking any law even once is death and is enforced by the Wardens of the White Council.  Law #1 is that magic cannot be used to kill a mortal even in self-defense.  The other laws are similar.

The Nevernever is the realm of magics.  It lies congruous with earth and can be reached in both directions with portals and what not.  It might be better called an infinite realm of realms.  Nearest to earth are the Faerie Courts of Winter and Summer.  Deeper in the Nevernever are hells with demons.  Beyond the Nevernever is outside and really bad things.  Most beasties and magic has its source in the Nevernever.  For instance, if a ghost assumes a corporeal form in the real world it does so using the stuff of the Nevernever.  If the ghost loses control of it that stuff turns into ectoplasmic goop and quickly fades away.

Some of the major factions in the Dresdenverse are:

  • The White Council – other than enforcing the laws they also stand up to some of the nastier bad guys.
  • The Vampire Red Court – Red Court Vampires look human and can go out in the sun.  They have narcotic saliva and their bite is addicting.  But their flesh is a mask and underneath they appear as bat winged demons.
  • The Summer and Winter courts of Faerie – Not good or Evil, but forces of creations and destruction.  The courts exist in balance within the Nevernever.  Each court is rules by a triumvirate of the Mother, Queen and Lady.  They also have a mortal emissary – The Knight who wields great power.
  • The Erlking is another really powerful Faerie.  he rules over the goblins, ogres and trolls of faerie kind and is the Lord of the Dark Hunt.
  • The Knights of the Cross – Three mortals blessed with power from God.  They undertake missions to safeguard people from evil.  Their particular foes are the 30 members of Order of the Blackened Denarius.  The Knights wield swords of renown and each is said to contain a nail from the Cross.
  • The Order of the Blackened Denarius – Fallen Angels bearing one of the 30 pieces of silver.  The most powerful demons that have been encountered in the books.
  • The White Vampire Court – This court is contains behind the scenes manipulators.  White Court Vampires are almost human like in appearance.  Other than extraordinary strength, speed,  durability, attractiveness.  They feed on extreme motion.  The three main White Court families are Raith (feeds on lust), Malvora (fear) and Skavis (pain).
  • Necromancers – When a wizard goes bad this is as bad as they get.  Summoning the dead?  Yeah, that breaks one of the 7 laws of magic.

Other baddies that have been fought include ghosts, fetches (spirits that took the form of horror movie baddies and caused fear), ghouls (super-tough baddies that appear human until they start to show their super strength and toughness), hexen wolves (people with magic items that attune them to beasts), and warlocks (wizards who use magic to kill).

Lots of baddies are beyond the ability of Dresden to face directly.  The Red King of the Red Courts is an example.  Others (not necessarily bad) in that category include the god Odin (who runs a corporation), the Queens of Faerie (Mab, Queen of Winter and Titania, Queen of Summer), dragons (a Knight of the Cross slayed one off-screen) and Archangels (these were definitely good guys).

Establishing another setting for the Dresden RPG would involve figuring out things like:

  • which of the major players are in town?  Is there a wizard or even a Warden of the White Court (are they PCs?)?  Do any of the vampire courts have a presence?
  • are there smaller ongoing threats?  ghouls, maybe bad faeries, maybe some other kind of malaevolent spirit
  • what protects the city?  Maybe instead of the police being in the know there is another organization, or maybe just a single protector
  • Any minor magical presences…

PCs is the game.  So the first group choice is to choose the power rating of the campaign.  A high power rating allows wizards as PCs or a White Court vampire who rebels against their nature.  A low one would have normal mortals (perhaps ala Esoterrorists).  A medium level might have werewolf, or someone infected by Red Court Vampires (but not yet a real vampire).

The list of playable templates is:

  • Pure Mortal
  • Champion of God (e.g. a Knight of the Cross (high power level) or some other called champion)
  • Changeling (half faerie half human)
  • Emissary of Power (A knight of the cross or of the faerie courts are specific examples of this broader category)
  • Focused Practicioner (ability is some kind of named magic – like pyromancy or photomancy)
  • Knight of a Faerie Court
  • Lycanthrope
  • Minor Talent (like a medium or water dowser or some other limited form of magic)
  • Red Court Infected (A mortal who is becoming a vampire, but hasn’t yet drank someone’s lifesblood.)
  • Sorcerer (having only evocation or thaumaturgy -not both)
  • True Believer
  • Were-Form
  • White Court Vampire
  • White Court Virgin (A white court vampire who has never killed)
  • Wizard

Not all templates would be selectable at all power levels.

Weekly Recap (today on Tuesday!)

Do you ever do a task mostly from muscle memory, but yet half way through realize you’ve missed a step.

You step out of the shower and your hair is wet, but you never actually shampooed it.  You put your toothbrush in your mouth and realize there is no paste on the bristles.

On the weekend, I attached my suspenders to my pants, stood up and reached to pull the straps over my shoulders.   I realized that I had forgotten to actually put the pants on.

That was my story for last week.  I spent the week awaiting the weekend with baited breath and when it arrived I did basically nothing.

The most amusing happening for the week was trying to talk about my job with my parents.  It was frustrating as I could only answer one out of five questions.  For the rest it was, “Hmm, that is confidential.”

I watched no new movies and read no new books.  Gaming on Friday was quite fun, but we played no new games.  (Galaxy Trucker and Kingsburg)  I got my butt kicked as per normal.  Comics were good, but my week was quite small.  Dave’s week was larger and he had some very good issues.

We are already a quarter of the way through the shortened work week.  And I had a list of four things to do today.  I only accomplished one of them.  Grr.