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Showing posts from May, 2017

Fiction Review: Lovecraft Country

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“Arkham,” Atticus said. “The letter says Mom’s ancestors come from Arkham, Massachusetts.” Arkham: home of the corpse reanimator Herbert West, and of Miskatonic University, which had sponsored the fossil-hunting expedition to the mountains of madness. “It is made up, right? I mean—”   “Oh, yeah,” George said. “Lovecraft based it on Salem, I think, but it’s not a real place . . . Let me see that letter.” Atticus handed it to him and George studied it, squinting and tilting his head side to side. “It’s a ‘d,’” he said finally.
Matt Ruff's Lovecraft Country is an unusual novel - it is a collection of interconnected tales about Atticus Turner and his friends and family in the 1950s.

Atticus is an African-American from Chicago. He is from an upper middle class family, with an uncle who owns a travel agency and publishes the Safe Negro Travel Guide, based upon the real world Negro Motorist Green Book which provided African-American travelers advice on what businesses would service thei…

Reflections on the Passing of Chris Cornell

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Andrew Wood. Kurt Cobain. Layne Staley. Scott Weiland. And now Chris Cornell.



Grunge music really took off late 1991, the start of my junior year at the University of Connecticut. I graduated in May of 1994 (taking five years due to time spent on co-op). For the second half of my time at UConn, the likes of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, and Soundgarden provided the soundtrack. I loved classic rock like the Beatles and Queen and I'd yet to fully discover the greatness of David Bowie. But the grunge music of the early to mid-1990's inevitably brings me back to my early twenties. I don't think I could ever explain what a seismic change those opening chords of Smells Like Teen Spirit marked for many in my generation. And now so many of them are gone. It's not a unique phenomenon -  earlier generations experienced the losses of the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, John Lennon, and Janis Joplin.

Like many of his musical generation, Cornell su…

Fiction Review: The Dead Zone

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It's been a long time since I read Stephen King's The Dead Zone. I believe I received it as a Christmas gift in a boxed set back around 1987. First published in 1979, The Dead Zone isn't really a horror novel - it is more a crossover of a political thriller and a tale of a man gifted/cursed with psychic powers.

What I found striking was how the book both worked as a period piece and how it is relevant today. It tells the story of John Smith - yes, that's his real name. Ever since an accident he had as very young boy (one he has no memory of) he's had the occasional psychic flash. This is illustrated in the beginning of the novel, set in October of 1970, where he and his girlfriend Sarah, both first-year teachers, are at a carnival and he has a wild streak of luck at the wheel of fortune. However, his luck soon turns ill as he gets in a car accident which puts him in a coma with nearly no chance of recovery.

We follow Sarah as she meets Johnny's parents, Herb a…

The Old Ones Shall Be - Planning the Next Cthulhu Campaign

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After some discussions with my gaming group and time spent in creative pondering it appears that up next is some form of the Cthulhu Mythos. I'm in the process of drilling down to see just what that means.

We could continue one of two previous campaigns, a traditional 1920s game and a pulp Gaslight-era one. While the Gaslight-era was fun, my inclination is to return to a more traditional 1920s or 1930s period. New characters might be in order as our group has gotten a bit smaller since then (truthfully I found the group a little too large for Call of Cthulhu though it did help when the body count got high).

I'm considering three possible campaigns. The first is your "traditional" 1920-something era campaign, most likely set in Lovecraft country. I found my players tend to do very well when faced with the "impossible" odds a normal Cthulhu game presents. That's not to say such a game is safe - far from it.

We did enjoy a number of pulp elements in our Gasl…

Wayward Kickstarters May 2017 Edition

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I was updating my backed projects on Kickstarter with projects I've received and I decided it was time to do an update as to what projects are way overdue...

First, the good news. There were some Kickstarters over the past several months that I finally received overdue rewards on. These include:

The Encyclopedia of Golden Age SuperheroesCthulhu and Zombie Mugs and Cups Production Run!The Dracula Dossier - I'd actually received almost all of the rewards ages ago but there was one final reward, The Hawkins Papers, which recently arrived, closing this out. Pelgrane kept the backers well-informed as to what the issues were and their statuses.Blue Rose: The AGE Roleplaying Game of Romantic Fantasy - Like The Dracula Dossier, I wasn't particularly worried about this one. I've had the PDF for a while and was kept well-appraised as to what was going on.
Next, the products for which I've not yet received the full set of awards and are considerably overdue. In some cases I&#…

Fate Lessons #3: Star Wars Campaign Evaluation

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Last night we wrapped up our Fate Accelerated Star Wars game, at least for the time being. We ended at a good breaking point, with our heroes escaping from Alderaan as the Death Star destroyed it and broadcasting footage of this act of terror across the galaxy. Sure the Empire initially wanted to be very public with the Death Star, but after its destruction they'd have preferred keeping it hush-hush. It's hard to intimidate the galaxy with a weapon you no longer have. A write-up of the adventure itself will be forthcoming but since we decided to try something else next game (with the option to come back to it at a later point) this is a good time to reflect on our first completed Fate campaign, albeit a short six-session one. I've played and run Fate games in the past but this is the first time we kept on to a conclusion.

To begin, and this is related to the Fate Accelerated variant, the size of the rulebook was quite an adjustment. The rulebook is very short. Now as the …

FAE Star Wars Actual Play: Operation Shadowstrike

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A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away....
Star Wars: Tales of Rebellion
Episode IV: Operation Shadowstrike

The Rebel operative code-named Prodigal One has crashed in his Y-Wing on the planet NCW-781. This agent had been gathering intelligence information about double-agents embedded within the Rebel Alliance.

Gaven Stark, Marcus Doha, and R2-C4 have been dispatched on a U-Wing fighter to NCW-781 to retrieve Prodigal One's information and, if possible, the agent as well. While the Alliance has managed to distract an imperial Strike cruiser into leaving the system, elite Imperial Deathtroopers are searching for Prodigal One.

To evade detection as long as possible, the team must risk a high-altitude drop and fly to the surface in stealth-enhanced combat paragliders...

Cast of Characters:

R2-C4 - Rogue Imperial assassin droidGaven Stark - Idealistic former Imperial army officerMarcus Doha - Veteran Clone Trooper who has lived an active life since the Clone Wars Based on the advent…

Time for the Jedi to End

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“Give evil nothing to oppose and it will disappear by itself.” -  Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
It's been a rough journey for Luke Skywalker. He's gone from "I am a Jedi, like my father before me" to "it's time for the Jedi to end".
With The Last Jedi not out for several months I find myself unable to avoid some fanboy speculation regarding Luke's declaration.
It seems unlikely that Luke is totally ending the idea of an order of Force users who protect the galaxy. After all, from the teaser we can see he is training Rey. There's been some speculation that he'll bring balance to the Force by embracing both the Light and Dark Sides of the Force. I think there's something to this, but not in the sense of some order of "Grey Jedi". I'm pretty certain that Luke will remain a good guy - he was tempted by the Dark Side of the Force and survived by learning not to fight. 
Looking at the Jedi Knights it seems they are a flawed organization…

How Is Fate Working for Star Wars?

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I've had the opportunity to use every official Star Wars RPG out there. I've played all three incarnations of the West End Games Star Wars RPG, all three of the Wizards of the Coast, and an Edge of the Empire Game that borrowed material from Age of Rebellion and Force and Destiny.

I've had fun with all of them and if I were in another group that proposed any of those games I'd be fine playing any of them. It was a bit unusual for me to take a stab at going my own way with a home-brew Star Wars game. I'd thought about using Savage Worlds in the past and did a one-off Wushu Star Wars game once but Fate was a bit out there for me given my earlier experiences with it were a bit so-so - I liked it but I was unable to really grok it.

What I wound up doing was deliberately avoid other adaptations of Star Wars for Fate. Now that I've been playing it for a while I've gotten more comfortable checking out what others had done but I wanted to start as minimalist as po…