the_gneech: (Writing)
So yesterday was spent pretty much doing only things that [ profile] lythandra and I wanted to do, which is what counts as "awesome" once you reach a certain stage of your adult life. What we did do was to tool around a big ol' used bookstore for hours (no treasures recovered, alas), poke around a Michael's Arts & Crafts looking at perty paper and Halloween knick-knacks, and watch The Amazing Adventures of Adéle Blanc-Sec, a quirky adventure film by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element), based on a series of French graphic novels about a globetrotting 1800s French adventuress (meaning woman who goes on adventures, not courtesan). Behold the trailer:

The trailer is a little bit misleading, but not much. Fun movie, and nicely different from the shooty-punchy-grunty stuff being put out by Hollywood these days, although it does have a few gruesome moments that made me cringe. It is also chock to the brim with magnificent mustaches, if that sort of thing appeals to you.

I rounded off the evening by staying up a bit past midnight and writing on my new Michael Macbeth novel so I could legitimately put a wordcount in for "November 1" on my NaNoWriMo profile (woot, woot!).

I have wanted to participate in NaNoWriMo since there has been a NaNoWriMo to participate in. I love everything about the whole idea, from the "Words on page, dude, words on page!" nature of the event, to the way that it's for everyone from pros to hobbyists to some person who's never written anything before and just wants to see what it's like. Unfortunately, when NNWM started I was busting my butt to get Suburban Jungle out on as close to a regular schedule as I could pull off; in the past few years, my Novembers have all been full of sturm and drang, usually involving friends or family going to hospitals and/or funeral homes.

But this year! This year, I am a professional writer, dammit, and at least in theory this book is supposed to be what I was going to be doing anyway. Of course I'm still dealing with family stuff, but I'm doing that when I'm "off duty," just like I would have for my coding job.

So finally, after all these years, I'm doin' that NaNoWriMo thing. Because I am incredibly predictable, my ID over there is "the_gneech" if you'd like to add me as a writing buddy.

I'm excited. :) You can tell, can't you? ¬.¬

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Conan Civilization Sucks)
So aside from all the mini-bosses, there are three "Plot Bosses" in Borderlands, not counting the Giant Space Flea From Nowhere at the end.

Last night I sent my Berserker to go fight the second of the plot bosses, which required traversing a narrow canyon with several underground tunnels until you reach a large but enclosed, semi-underground area at the end. To get to the boss, you have to climb up several ramps to where he sits in a turret and will blast away as you approach. His name? Krom.

As soon as I saw him, I knew.

Holy crap, it's Crom on his mountain in the underworld, ready to rain death and destruction down upon those who displease him.

And I'm the barbarian.

So what did I do? Obvious. I went into berserker mode, ran up the mountain, and punched the turret until it exploded. Duh.

Went into Second Wind three times in the process, but didn't die once. Because Brick is a badass.

I was quite pleased.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (It Stinks)
While The Gneech sleeps...

The scene opens in the forests of a sequel, where Paul "Paul of Cthulhu" McLean plays the role of some sort of researcher of indeterminate scholarship, purportedly come to Jurassic Park to study the dinosaurs, but actually there for some sort of dodgy purpose that is never made quite clear. Along with him are his daughter, a nameless supposedly-plucky-but-really-a-damsel-in-distress cipher of a character with dark hair, and Audience Identification Guy, a similarly nameless cipher, also with dark hair. Damsel Daughter and Identification Guy are of course completely unaware of Paul of Cthulhu's dodgy intentions, and are clearly being set up for the "How could you do it?" moment later, presumably shortly before ol' Paul gets his head bit off.

This happy trio have made themselves a headquarters in a leftover prefab metal building which (oddly, given the supposedly-deserted nature of the island) still has electricity, food stores, and even local phone service, even tho for the moment there's nobody else to call. The group have so far been unmolested by dinosaurs, although they've certainly seen some. Dinos, even the dangerous ones, seem to have an "aggro radius," so as long as you don't get too close, you can freely wander around the island. Identification Guy, being Paul of Cthulhu's gopher and Mr. Fixit, does quite a bit of wandering as he's sent on errands all over the place.

On one of these errands, Identification Guy is near the beach when he spots a steamer pull up to the docks. He hides and observes, since they're not expecting anyone else to be on the island. Out from the steamer pour about two dozen idiot jock suburban survivalist types dressed like commandos, right down to the machine guns and the utility harnesses packed to the brim with ammo. Apparently these morons are all on a "Dinosaur Hunt" theme vacation, being led by Sinister Smooth British Guy Ewan McGregor, except that in some scenes he's Kenneth Branagh. Whatever. Same guy. Also marching along with the dino hunters is Brendan Fraser, who looks rather dubious about the whole thing.

The fate of this group is so obvious that the dream refuses to even show it. The idiots will bag a T-Rex, feel very awesome about it, and immediately get devoured by raptors, except for Brendan Fraser (who will have a turn of heart and help rescue Identification Guy and Damsel Daughter) and Kenewan McBranagh, who will get involved with whatever Paul of Cthulhu is doing and the two of them will immediately start trying to murder each other. Taking all this as read, the dream just cuts to the chase, and most of the suburban survivalists never appear again. (And actually, neither does Brendan Fraser, whom apparently gets ruled as superfluous by the dream editor and ends up on the cutting room floor.)

Skip to the prefab building, where Paul of Cthulhu is clearly intimidated by Kenewan McBranagh but immediately starts trying to mess with him anyway by means of baffling and irritating phone calls. The dream then skips again to Kenewan McBranagh and his four or five surviving flunkies having occupied the prefab building following said provocation, as Identification Guy and Damsel Daughter (now Disillusioned Damsel Daughter, after seeing whatever wicked thing it was her father was up to, the dream never does make that clear) decide it's time to escape. They make their way out a ventilation shaft (because even single-floor prefab research buildings have ventilation shafts) and get up to the roof, where they see raptors descending on the building like sharks, having been stirred up by their killin'-and-eatin' of the suburban survivalists.

At this point, I woke up. I pretty much assume that Identification Guy and Disillusioned Damsel Daughter get to the steamer and live happily ever after, possibly also with Brendan Fraser who simply didn't get to make his appearance before I woke up, while Paul of Cthulhu, Kenewan McBranagh, and the rest of the goons got eaten.

Go for it, Mr. Spielberg. You're welcome.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Legolas silhouette)
Saw Brave today. Loved it. :) If you want specifics I'll happily give 'em, just ask.

For the record, that guy from Wired has no leg to stand on. He was just making up shit to complain about.

the_gneech: (Bilbo Gandalf Ring)
The Hobbit

Go watch.


PS: HUGE bonus points for the singing dwarves.
the_gneech: (Conan Civilization Sucks)
Well, I must admit it, I'm disappointed. Specifically in this module I bought from Paizo, Hungry Are the Dead, which is theoretically the capstone for the three-adventure arc spanning Hollow's Last Hope, Crown of the Kobold King, and this one, tying them together and wrapping them up.

And it does ... sorta. Kinda. A little bit. Not really. In fact, other than referencing a few NPCs and locations, it pretty much has nothing to do with the other two — and the other two have nothing to do with it. Oh sure, there are a couple of encounters here and there that have "this is a side effect of what's going on in Hungry Are the Dead" in the GM text, but given the nature of D&D, they could just as easily be random encounters.

All three modules are set in a lumbering town at the foot of a mountain, under which a dwarven civilization flourished, became decadent, and fell; and while Hollow's Last Hope is only tangentially related to the abandoned dwarven ruins, Crown of the Kobold King focuses on them pretty heavily, with lots of vague hints about "the horror below" and "the darkness deeper in the mountain" etc., etc.

Beware, some spoilers ahead for those who may be playing in Hungry Are the Dead. My players are safe, tho, 'cause I'm not going to run it as written. )

Thanks, I never would have thought of that. But what about the dwarves??? Guh.

It's like if Return of the Jedi, instead of being about Luke, Darth, and the Empire, had been about Lando Calrissian turning into a time traveler who rides around in a blue box. I mean yeah, they're both SF (for sufficient quantities of SF), but you wouldn't blame the Star Wars enthusiast for standing up and doing a lot of "what-the-hell"ing.

All of which means, I suppose, that I'm just going to have to come up with something better myself — or find some other module and retrofit it. And it's not like Hungry Are the Dead was a complete waste — there are some cool individual encounters that I can lift and still use elsewhere. Still, it's disappointing to get all interested in the first two-thirds and then be let down by the payoff. Plus, y'know, setup time is a premium for me, so I was all eager to have a ready-made 1st - 6th story arc that I could just copy and paste 90% out of.

I'm not sure this group is cut out for delving into not-Moria anyway; [ profile] jamesbarrett's halfling rogue in particular should be skulking in alleys and joining the thieves' guild, neither of which are going to be found this far from a major city. On the other hand, [ profile] sirfox's dwarven fighter seems just the type. So ... we'll see. I'll at least finish out the current scenario using the setup we've got now and see what the players have to say then.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Me Barbarian)
Given my widely-known love for the fiction of Robert E. Howard, it may come as a surprise to hear me say that I'm tired of all things badass.

I'm not sure when it happened, exactly. Some of it was the release of 4E, in which the not-badass need not apply (hence the shelving of gnomes and bards). Some of it was summer movies, which have become even more "macho guys surrounded by explosions" in the past few years than they were before, which I wouldn't have thought possible. I distinctly remember being in Best Buy, perhaps a year ago now, and I happened to see a clip from Hancock playing on one of the display TVs. Somebody fired a rocket launcher at Will Smith, and he swatted the rocket away with an annoyed look, causing it to explode in slow motion behind him while he adjusted his shades.

Even given that the whole premise of Hancock is "What if Superman were a jerk?", which could be an entertaining premise, my reaction to the clip was just to roll my eyes and sigh. Not because of any problem with that specific movie, so much as just feeling like I'd reached the saturation point and couldn't bear any more badassery.

I think this may be one of the reasons I was so eager to play a hobbit in LotRO over the past year. Hobbits, at their core, are the antithesis of badass. They're twee little bumpkins who go fishing and try to figure out how the cow got up on the roof. Of course, hobbits can be badass when the situation requires it (see also Samwise Gamgee vs. Shelob or Merry vs. the Witch-King), but they don't like it and avoid it whenever possible.

Heck, even Conan the barbarian doesn't seem to hold any appeal for me currently, and certainly none of the ridiculous splatter-porn games currently coming out with Conan's name stapled to the box do. The stuff interesting me at the moment tends to be more sedate, more silly, more esoteric, or even just "more cute." I had a great time recently going through Telltale Games' Wallace and Gromit series, for instance, and I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment of Tales of Monkey Island — neither of which could exactly be called heart-pumping action. My reading has consisted of tales of jittery antiquarians being horrified by vague hints of scariness (i.e., Lovecraft) or reprints of early Peanuts.

And feh! Don't get me started about vampires. :P

-The Gneech

PS: I think that may have been one of the things that bothered me about the recent Star Trek, too. Too ding-dang badass. How about just some competent officers exploring the unknown, not the Explodey Adventures of the Uberkirk.


Jun. 17th, 2009 01:41 pm
the_gneech: (Maedhroc Salute)
The Fellowship's path through Moria, in screenshots.

LotRO at its best. :)

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Yog-Sothothery)
Suddenly I find myself in my periodic mood for a spooky adventure game. The Lost Crown was the last one I played, and I enjoyed it quite a bit when I wasn't being frustrated with it, but I don't know that I'm up to watching Nigel Danvers glide-walk painfully slowly around a seaside village in Kent again just now. I think I'd like something a little less ghostly and a little more weirdly this time around, probably because of all the Lovecraft I've been reading lately.

Problem is, short of The Lurking Horror there doesn't seem to be much in the Lovecraftian adventure market. There are plenty of "survival horror" games with a bit of Lovecraftiana tossed in — [ profile] sirfox tried to turn me on to one called Eternal Darkness that had fun with "sanity" effects, and I was kinda-sorta interested in it, except for the fact that I had to keep shooting zombies with shotguns. Peculiar as it may sound, I don't want the imminent death of my character by something jumping out from behind a wall and attacking my health meter to be a factor in a horror game. That emotion, assuming it conjures up something other than "annoyance" or "amusement" is terror, not horror.

See, what I really want isn't a "horror" game at all, but a "weird tale" game — it's kind of a hard distinction to make other than to point and say "Yes, that's it!" or "No, that's not it." But what makes a weird tale weird, is that its essential premise is that on some level, the world just doesn't work the way you think it does, and you have to come to terms with that, as opposed to a horror story, which is about either scaring the pants off of you or making you toss your lunch, depending on when it was made and the intelligence of the creator.

So for instance, if Eternal Darkness hadn't had all that mucking about with forcing you to fight waves of zombies, it would have been closer to a weird tale, but since it was spending so much time trying to make you afraid that "you" were about to die, it was more of a horror, see?

There's more to the topic than that; my ideal version of such game would probably be half 1930s Sim anyway, or at least be heavily themed in that direction, with a cozy-style mystery that gradually unfolds into some sort of cosmic horror. Think The Dagger of Amon-Ra, except that at the end the murderer turns out not to have been an art-smuggling cop [1], but an ancient Egyptian wizard trying to bring forth Apep to devour the world. Or something along those lines.

And spooky. But without any real combat to speak of.

-The Gneech

[1] Is it possible to spoil a long-OOP Sierra adventure game from 1991?
the_gneech: (Maedhroc Salute)
"Hullo, friends, from my temporary quarters at the Deep Delvings camp in Moria. I'm sorry to have ended my last letter on such a sad note, but even the most stouthearted hobbit can succumb to fatigue from time to time, and such it was with me. A bit of rest, and a few nights of music and cheer at the Bird and Baby, and I was much recovered and ready to tackle my next mission. So I headed east... )

I shall write again when I can. Let us hope that Laerdan and Narchuil may both soon be wrested from Amarthiel's grasp.

Your friend in the Shire,
Honourary Shirriff, Maedhroc Thornhollow"
the_gneech: (Maedhroc Salute)
"Hullo, free peoples! Maedhroc reporting in. I hope this letter finds you safe and well; for alas I have been up to my ankles in danger. )

That's all for now, my friends, and enough too! The stone still lies there in the Tomb of Elindil and we must make another attempt; but until we can muster our strength and possibly find a new tactic, I shall perform what other missions I may. I hope to write again soon.

Your friend in the Shire,
Honourary Shirriff Maedhroc Thornhollow"
the_gneech: (Maedhroc Salute)
"Hullo, everyone! Maedhroc here, taking a break from helping the Rangers in Annunimas to catch up on my correspondence. I should warn you now, this letter will follow a theme of the strange creatures of Middle-earth. )

That's all for now. I hope to write again soon!

Your friend in the Shire,
Honorary Shirriff Maedhroc Thornhollow"
the_gneech: (Danger Lion)
In case you were wondering...

Casablanca meets Indiana Jones by way of Only Angels Have Wings? Yes please, and make it a double! Made by the same team as Magnum, P.I. and Quantum Leap, the show was actually much better than it deserved to be, considering the era and budget, but sadly nowhere near as good as its opening credits.

Still, accusations thrown at TaleSpin that it was Tales of the Gold Monkey: The Animated Series are wholly justified.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Boromir battle)
Last night, we completed Red Hand of Doom in suitably epic style, with the heroes facing the Wyrmlord, Azarr Kul, and then Spoiler Alert! )

From there we had a very pleasant little denouement in which the characters briefly revisited (or at least had mentioned) the various major NPCs or friendly locations, were given heroes' welcomes and treated like stars, and all named Knights of Elsir Vale. There was then a final shot of them all gathered wearing medals, the music rose to a crescendo, and the credits ran. Figuratively speaking. ;)

All in all, Red Hand of Doom was a great adventure, and worthy of its place alongside such classics as Against the Giants or Temple of Elemental Evil. And while I added a few flourishes or made a couple of tweaks here and there, for the most part I ran it straight as written (which is something I almost never do) just because it really didn't need a lot of adjustment.

So, I'm very pleased! It's only the second campaign I've run that "finished" rather than just sort of coming to a stop (the other being Star Hero back in the '90s), and it was a fun one. :)

Next for me, a short break from GMing, then time to finish up that Star Wars scenario from last April. 0.o

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Maedhroc Salute)
Maedhroc's been a busy little hobbit, so the postcards have sort of piled up since the last time he sent any. I'll put them behind a cut to save bandwidth. )

He's really becoming quite the hero. I remember when he was carrying mail and gathering chicken eggs to prove himself worthy to be a Bounder!

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Legolas Aaah)
It's a little early to put any real thought into it now, but being in "the final stretch" of Red Hand of Doom naturally leads to thoughts of "So, what will come next?"

My first post-RHoD priority as a GM will be to finish up that Star Wars scenario from, y'know, April. From there I'm not sure if I'll continue that game or not; as much as I like Star Wars, I've been finding myself hard-pressed to do something that isn't "ditto, ditto" of things I've already done with it. I might like to do something in the Knights of the Old Republic era, tho. (I also thought of using Saga Edition as the basis for that discussed-but-never-run Crimson Skies campaign.)

Second priority will be to actually run some Uncanny Midnight Tales. The Halloween Call of Cthulhu one-shot was a nice appetizer for that, but I want to actually get to the main event now. The character group that the players came up with for that sorta came at me from a direction I wasn't expecting, so I've had to retool some of my plans to make it work. (I chose to run "The Haunting" as a CoC one-shot largely because it ended up on "the cutting room floor" of my UMT plans but I wanted us to have gone through CoC's version of The Keep on the Borderlands.)

That just leaves what's next in the realm of fantasy. I already know I don't want to switch to D&D 4E, but I don't really want to stick with 3.X either, particularly with the group's copy of E-Tools gradually-but-perceptibly falling apart the way it is. So the ruleset will probably be S&S Saga or a close variation thereof, although at this stage part of me wants to jettison even that much connection to "pure d20" and come up with my own ruleset. (I doubt I will, though — system creation is just an urge I get periodically.) But assuming "system neutrality" for the moment, I have had the following campaign ideas:

  • Sword and Sorcery — The game S&S Saga was created for, an episodic string of pulp fantasy adventures set in a Hyboria-esque world. The heroes would be a motley collection of random adventurers thrown together by fate (i.e., shipwrecked together, all enslaved by cruel overlords and needing to escape, or something similar) who then spend the rest of the campaign wandering from place to place as adventurers for hire, searching for rumored treasure, getting involved in the schemes of petty warlords or evil sorcerers, etc.

  • The Red Maid of Cardolan — Set in a slightly-alternate Middle-Earth, the premise of this game is that the ring Bilbo found in Gollum's cave was not the One Ring, but was in fact Durin's ring, thought lost when he was slain by the Balrog, but instead stolen from the dwarf lord's body by an orc and traded (or stolen) among the tribes until its owner was also slain during the ambush that slew Isildur — the One Ring has not been found. The year is now T.A. 2991; Balin's company has established a colony in Moria, Sauron has openly declared himself, and while The Wise are preoccupied with locating and either claiming (or destroying) the One Ring, the Rangers of the north find themselves dealing with a new threat closer to home — a malevolent and powerful witch known only as the Red Maid of Cardolan, whose army of wights and twisted huorns are turning their attention to Bree and Rivendell, and if unchecked from there to the Shire, Angmar, Eregion, and beyond. (This idea steals some of the neater ideas from LotRO, I freely admit it. But I'd make it my own.)

  • Iuz Must Die! — You've survived the Tomb of Horrors. You've turned back the armies of Elemental Evil. You've escaped the Lost Temple of Tharizdun. Now you've been asked to go on one last, great adventure. Veluna and Furyondy are openly at war with the demon-realm of Iuz the Old — and while their nations spill their blood to keep his infernal army at bay, you've been given an even more daunting task: travel Skull Road to the fortress of Iuz himself and slay him, by whatever means necessary. More of a one-shot than a complete campaign, the idea behind this game is that everybody will have a 20th level version of a previous character (Kyriela for [ profile] jamesbarrett, probably Kory or Angelina for [ profile] lythandra, perhaps Brother Murphy or Wadsworth for [ profile] sirfox, some new character for [ profile] hantamouse, Celedras as a party NPC), tricked out with 20th level gear, and your job will be as described: go to the heart of Iuz's empire and destroy him, going through whatever horrors stand in your way.

My players: I'm curious as to which of these ideas (if any) you'd be interested in. Everyone else, I'm curious as to what other comments or suggestions you might have. :)

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Boromir battle)
We started the last chapter of Red Hand of Doom last night, in which the heroes must travel to the Fane of Tiamat and prevent Azzar Kuul from completing his ceremony to summon the dragon goddess and let her run amok. First, the party got a new member in the form of a dwarven cleric named Braegli, recruited by Sellyria Starsinger to provide extra healing support since she was too old to come along and help in person. Sorrana, former captain of the guard of Drellin's Ferry, also joined up, having gained a level during the battle of Brindol. In order to save days of riding back across Elsir Vale, they used a custom teleport spell created by Immerstal the Red to carry them back to Drellin's Ferry (where it all started). The teleport went smoothly enough (other than dropping [ profile] hantamouse unceremoniously into the river), but once they were at the town they discovered... )

Having taken care of these last loose ends, the party patched themselves up and continued their journey. The came to a rise where they could see the Fane of Tiamat's looming menace of the far side of a valley, and noticed that for the first time since they'd arrived in Elsir Vale, it was getting cloudy. And that's where we broke until next week.

-The Gneech

[1] This encounter wasn't in the module as written; I put it in to replace the very dull random encounters of the Wyrmsmoke Mountains. The book doesn't mention anything about the post-horde state of Drellin's Ferry, which struck me as a notable omission. Thematically, having "come full circle" and now moving into the big finish, it seemed to me that a little time spent revisiting familiar places would add to the emotional impact. Still, considering how often I have to completely retool modules, Red Hand of Doom has been remarkably usable straight off the shelf.

[2] Being 6th level in an EL 11 party, she is the weakest link.
the_gneech: (Legolas silhouette)
Galadhalion visits Carn Dúm, realm of the Witch-King, in Angmar.

I knew it would be ugly, but... )

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Boromir battle)
Big night in LotRO last night. First and foremost, [ profile] lythandra has picked up an account and so I started a new lowbie character so the two of us could go questing together. :) She created a human hunter, so even though humans are pretty much my last choice in M-E, I created a human as well so we'd go into the same starter instance. The one thing that humans have in LotRO that nobody else does is the Captain, so I created one of those, figuring that she'd be DPS, while I'd be buff-and-tank.

Eventually she'd had enough for the evening, so I went back to my main, Galadhalion, who also had a big night. He hit 50th level (finally!) and got his first legendary weapon. Although I usually picture elves as being swordsy kinds of folks, Galadhalion actually ended up with the legendary axe because it was a better complement to his existing abilities, and ol' G. is generally a "right tool for the right job" kind of guy.

The other big event of the evening was that I met the Balrog of Moria (beware spoilers).

Eep. [1]

I won't say too much about it here to avoid spoilers for the other LotRO players who may be reading. But suffice to say he's huge, he's bad, and he's cominagitcha! 0.o The good news is that you'll know when he's coming. The bad news is … you won't be able to do anything about it.

All in all, a fun night. :) I'm enjoying this game much more than I used to!

-The Gneech

[1] Actually, I also got smacked around by the Watcher of the Black Pool, but after Durin's Bane, a bazillion squidgy tentacles just don't seem to have the same "Holy @&$!!" quality.
the_gneech: (One True Trek)

Thelma, Louise, and Jim Kirk?

Reserving my judgment until I see what they've done with it; so far I'm not keen on a lot of what I've seen, but it's largely superficial stuff that may turn out not to matter.

-The Gneech

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