Showing posts from December, 2015

2015 In Review

"Another year over. And a new one just begun."
- Happy Christmas (War Is Over), John Lennon

Blogging Looking at my blog's post count for this year, I see I for the first time exceeded the post count of the blog's first year. So, hooray! One thing which helped was participating in #RPGaDay back in August, though I also managed to do at least 10 posts every month for the rest of the year. What I did was quietly set up a posting schedule. I knew every other day would probably be too much so I opted for something a little bit unusual - I made sure I had a post for every day which was a prime number. I managed to keep to this schedule, though there were two or three days when I fudged and made a post the next day and set the date for the post to be the day before. I also set up a rough list of subjects to cover for each day, should I not have an idea when it came time to write.

I expanded my subject matter a little bit. I'd originally intended on talking about topics …

The Force Awakens and the Happy Ending Override

This post has spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Please scroll past this lovely picture of Jar Jar Binks in order to proceed further.

All Bettie's stories have happy endings. That's because she knows where to stop.  She's realized the real problem with stories -- if you keep them going long enough, they always end in death.  - Sandman: 24 Hours by Neil Gaiman, Mike Dringenberg, and Malcolm Jones III
The Big Bad to end all Big Bads has been brought to a crushing end at the hands of The Hero, his Ragtag Bunch of Misfits and his trademark BFS. The Negative Space Wedgie that was threatening all of creation has been un-wedgied, the Sealed Evil in a Can has been safely disposed of, all the plot threads that were left hanging have been wrapped up nice and neat and everybody lives Happily Ever After.  And then the sequel happens.  -, Happy Ending Override
One of the criticisms I've heard raised against Star Wars: The Force Awakens is that it seems to undo …

Non-Fiction Review: The Devil in the White City

A few years back I ran a brief Cthulhu by Gaslight campaign. It kicked off, as one might expect, in 1890's London. I was somewhat surprised when the game wound up relocating itself to New York City. Though I had some familiarity with late Victorian-era Britain, I discovered I did not know very much about the United States of that same period, typically referred to the Gilded Age. Having done a bit of homework as a result I found it to be an incredibly interesting era and one largely untapped in gaming. If an RPG takes place in the 1890's it is usually safe to assume it takes place in Britain (or is a globetrotting game with Britain as its base.) An excellent work of fiction detailing 1890's New York is Jack Finney's Time and Again, a novel I reviewed back in 2013.
Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City is a work of non-fiction about the construction and realization of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair - the Columbian Exposition, commemorating the 400th annivers…

Minos Cluster Setting Part 1 - Deciding on the Cluster and the Imperial Presence

This is possibly an ongoing series - either that or in a few months I'll need to get rid of that Part 1 when no one is looking...

So after doing what we thought would be a one-shot D6 Star Wars game back in May, my gaming group wound up doing an Edge of the Empire Star Wars campaign throughout the summer. We did a 5th Edition D&D game in the autumn and are back to the Edge of the Empire game again.

After running the Beginner Set game which was set on Tatooine the group needed something of a "home base". While jumping through the galaxy is traditional in Star Wars, as GM I find Star Wars games go a bit smoother with some unifying element to them, with a sector location working best. In one of my favorite D6 Star Wars games a large portion of the campaign had taken place in the Elrood Sector which had been detailed in  Planets of the Galaxy, Volume Three as well as the campaign Operation: Elrood. We had a rather memorable climax to that campaign, with the Rebels succe…

Spoiler-Free/Plot-Free First Impressions of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I'm not going to spoil anything, give away any plot details, or character details.

I will say that they made a worthy sequel to the original Star Wars trilogy. It looked great, had awesome characters, delivered an emotional impact, and was definitely a Star Wars movie. It had some elements of nostalgia without being a nostalgia-fest.

My 10-year old daughter could not stop talking about it the whole ride home. I had to tell her not to spoil it for her friends. I'm apparently going to be taking her and a friend to see it during winter break.

Fear Itself

I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impel. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days. - From Franklin D. Roosevelt's First Inaugural Address
Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads…

Nativity Scenes on Town Property

This morning I woke up at some dreadful hour and found myself unable to go back to sleep. Doing something probably awful for falling back asleep, I started reading news stories on my smartphone. One caught my eye at Newsbusters - a site dedicated to "Exposing and Combating Liberal Media Bias". This liberal was somewhat bemused by the following story: Fox Spotlights Minnesota Town's Rebellion Against Anti-Christmas Atheists.
The short version is the evil whining atheists made a town take down its nativity scene. In response, gazillions of residents put up their own nativity scenes on their own private property. That'll show those pablum puking liberals.
As one of those evil people strongly in support of separating church and state, my thoughts on the matter are... cool. The town is no longer endorsing a religion. And people are exercising their own freedom of expression and worship. I fail to see how putting up a nativity scene on private property is sticking it to a…

Welcome Back to the Minos Cluster - Galaxy Guide 6: Tramp Freighters

When the Star Wars RPG first came out back in 1987 the game's default assumption was all the characters would be members of the Rebel Alliance. This wasn't to say everyone was a soldier - but if you were a smuggler, for example, you were a smuggler involved in the Rebellion. Most of the adventures assumed the heroes were your basic Rebel Agents - one week stealing Death Star the plans, the next locating a general of the Old Republic before the Empire and its sinister agents can.
In 1990, West End Games published Galaxy Guide 6: Tramp Freighters. Interestingly, it was written by future World of Darkness co-creators Mark Rein-Hagen and Stewart Wieck. Tramp Freighters opened up the setting for characters who had no desire to be involved in the conflict between the Rebellion and Empire. Of course, nothing about the rulebook prevent you from doing just that, but Tramp Freighters had rules for the types of things that you might need in such a game - the cost of modifying and mainta…

Comic Books on the TV and Movie Screens

It might be that I'm becoming an old fogie (old enough to have seen the original Star Wars in the theaters) but I'm coming to feel when I want "comic book" type entertainment, I get the best value for my money and my time in the television and movie form.

For me it comes down to the ability to enjoy a story without worrying about untangling the tendrils of crossovers and reboots. (Though some superhero film franchises are overdoing the reboot concept.) Take Guardians of the Galaxy. Over the past year, you'd have your core comic. Comics for the members. Crossover events, including of course into comics you don't read. And every once in a while you get an extreme crossover, usually followed by some sort of reboot. On the Spider-Man side of things you've got Amazing Spider-Man, Ultimate Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2099, Spider-Gwen, Spider-Woman, and Silk. Plus one of more Avengers titles he might be in.

This isn't a bitter "they're just in it for t…

Fiction Review: The Man in the High Castle

Amazon has recently released to Prime Video the first season of their "Man in the High Castle" television series, loosely based on the Philip K. Dick novel of the same name. I saw the pilot episode last year and for the most part enjoyed it and I've now seen the first two episodes (ahead of it in my viewing queue was the first season of Alias as well as my project to rewatch the Star Wars films).

It's been several years since I last read The Man in the High Castle. I believe my first reading of it was in 1994, towards the end of my final semester at UConn, largely on the praise of my science fiction professor (I had a lot of electives available in my final semester so I had some fun with science fiction and dinosaurs...) I found it a tough read, especially given my knowledge of Nazi Germany, Taoism, and the I Ching were pretty limited. I read it again several years ago and got a even out of it and in my recent listening, via an unabridged audiobook. This isn't s…

Revisiting Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

As much as I dislike the whole "Han shot first" from A New Hope, the change in the special editions that bothered me the most was the replacing of the original ending Ewok song in Return of the Jedi. This is due to the fact that it kind of served as the end credits to my wedding back in 1996. When my wife and I watched the special edition in 1997 we were disappointed to see the song had been replaced. So let's start off with "Yub Nub". I seem to recall it actually got some radio airplay back in 1983.

Return of the Jedi is generally regarded as the weakest of the original trilogy. While all of the movies have their moments of goofiness, Return of the Jedi certainly has more than it's fair share. Having rewatched it, I'm still trying to figure out how Ewoks provided enough force to hurt Imperial Stormtroopers with their spears...
With that all of the way, let's walk our way through the film. We open with Darth Vader visiting the new Death Star, still …

Revisiting Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

Spoiler alert. "No. I am your father."

The Empire Strikes Back was the first movie I actually waited for. After the original Star Wars I was that kid who was absolutely obsessed with all things Star Wars. In spring of 1978 I was overjoyed when my uncle got me a toy landspeeder with Luke and Obi-Wan. Our pantry had tons of Kenner proofs of purchase taped to the walls, good for redeeming for accessory sets, Boba Fett action figures, etc. Greatest Christmas gift ever was the Death Star playset.

In 1979 my uncle and I saw the rerelease of Star Wars, with a sneak peak of The Empire Strikes Back at the end. I was incredibly excited by those small glimpses. At last, Luke was going to be able to take out Darth Vader, the man that murdered Luke's father.
Needless to say, I was shocked by what I saw in the theaters. I seem to recall claiming that I hated the new movie, but that was clearly not the case given the number of times I saw it in the theaters and the number of Star Wars …