Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I'm commenting on the video game part, people, not the porn. Porn's got its own set of problems that most psychologists are loathe to admit, which is putting it nicely.

This is the sort of garbage that's so unhelpful to anyone who isn't hiding in his mom's basement to play it isn't funny. These were the same people who said that female actors were all immoral, and that it would die soon.

Gosh, I'm starting to wish to play Legend of Zelda again. Time to finish Skyward Sword, assuming I have the time...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Review: Burning Empires

I just got done reading this book, and reading a few play-throughs, and... wow. Damn.

Burning Empires is a game based upon the graphic novel series Iron Empires. The story of said graphic novels is that humanity, once an intergalactic empire, is being destroyed from within by the terrifying species the Vaylen, which is a combination of a human and a parasitic worm life-form that gains sentience from being joined  to the human, called a Naiven. Once the Naiven is joined to the human it takes over the human's brain and can never be removed, otherwise the human will die. Using the Burning Wheel mechanics, Burning Empires revolves around the invasion of the Vaylen to your planet.

To say that this book is revolutionary is a bit of an understatement.

From the very beginning, the game makes it clear that this is not your typical "do whatever you want" RPG. Quite the opposite, this is a competitive RPG between the players and the GM, who plays whatever side the players don't want to play. Unlike most RPGs there is a very clear winner and loser, and the game is meant to be played as a "we'll only cooperate as much as it helps make the game run", type affair.

Players begin by designing the world and society their game will happen in. They must negotiate everything, from the basic geography to the level of quarantine the planet has on its goods. Each point must be negotiated because it has a mechanical effect upon the advantages and disadvantages upon the GM and players. After designing the world, the players base their characters off this world, and they help the GM come up with several Figures of Note, the people who will be central to this conflict. It is recommended that at least one player be a Figure of Note. The players are required to have relationships with people on "the other side".

This brings to light the central question of the game: what will you do to save yourself? Will you sacrifice your family, friends, loves, sorrows, everything, to save them? At least one of them's with the enemy already, and your character may not even know it!

The game is then played out in three phases: Infiltration, where the Vaylen try to get a toehold; Usurpation, where the Vaylen try to take over quietly; and finally Invasion, where the Vaylen are out of options or where all that's left to do is take out the trash. The game should take anywhere from 18-36 sessions to play, depending on how much you do in a single session,which brings me to maneuvers.

The game is played out on the ground level with a series of maneuvers, which represent the actions of the GM and the players. Maneuvers are decided upon at the beginning of a session and played til they are done. There's usually 1-2 maneuvers played a session, depending on the amount of time spent hashing things out. The maneuvers break down into scenes, where the players RP their way into the final ending conflict that decides the maneuver. This happens over and over again, until its over, and everyone attempts to pick up the pieces.

There's a whole heck of a lot more than that going on, but that isn't what's important. What's important is this: if you want a good, intense story this game'll give it to you. Yes, you'll have to put up with some  (at times) very complex mechanics. But trust me when I say that it's all to the point of making a good story in all its glory.

If you can find anyone who wants to play a truly intense game, balls-to-the-walls paced, get this. I'm glad I did.

Book Review: Stardust

Stardust is a book by Neil Gaiman that was written a few years back, and was popular enough to spawn a movie. Having watched the movie (and heartily enjoyed it), I decided I'd eventually give the book a go-through. Well, I finally got to do that, and I must say, I was impressed. Here's my basic run-down:

The Good

  • The way everything came together at the end. While the story doesn't appear to have much of a plot at the beginning the end had a nice way of drawing it all together and making it make sense. I appreciate stories that do that.
  • Neil Gaiman's sense of humor. He's a Brit, nuff said.
  • The ending itself. It felt like a real fairy-tale, bitter and sweet all at the same time. I don't think I'll be getting the image of the Star standing on top of the tower out of my head anytime soon. Its very haunting. 
The Bad
  • The sex scenes were... unnecessary. 
Ultimately, the book was extremely good, and quite worth the time spent reading it. I'd recommend it to anyone of an older audience because, even without the sex scenes, the book is a bit more mature and would need someone with a little bit of real-world experience to understand it. Now I'm not saying that I have the prerequisite experience, but I know for a fact that I wouldn't have liked the book nearly as much, say, at the time it came out. Something about the ending is truly haunting in a way I don't think I'd have understood before 22.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

I Am Very Disappointed (Rant)

By this.

Let me explain.

For those of you who read this blog who are still unaware, I am Byzantine Catholic. Essentially, I am one of the Orthodox Christians who reunited with Rome a few centuries back. We rejoined with two caveats: that we be allowed to stay true to our theology and liturgy (which is different than the Roman Mass), and that we be allowed to keep our married priests.

Oh, wait, what? The Catholic Church allows married men to be ordained?

They sure as hell allowed for it then.

The Orthodox Church has considered married parish priests essential to its ministry since the beginning of the universal Church 2000 years ago. At one point the West had married clergy as well, but that shifted around the 8th century for reasons that the East has never approved of. Not ever. Rome's response has always been one of naive tolerance. "We are Rome, so therefore everything we do is better", has been their attitude for almost as long as Rome has existed. Anyone who is an Eastern Catholic is acutely aware of the prejudice, and takes it about as silently as one is able to.

Well, I've had enough of that. Rome has, once again, overstepped its bounds in its naive idea that it is superior to all others, an idea that is unfounded on any amount of serious reading of history and common sense. I've had enough of the spiritual descendants of Bishop Ireland, that scumbag of arrogance (may he rest in peace, it's a lot better than he ever gave us!) making power plays over us.

My message to my fellow Roman Catholics who agree with the scumbag of arrogance is:

Our origins have little to nothing to do with you, and I am not impressed by your insistence that you are better. Become educated so I can actually take you seriously.

For the rest of my Latin brethren who try to defend the Cardinal's decision: get the hell out of my way. Rome has no right to do what it did, and the fact that B16 did not announce this personally is of little consequence, as his man "over" us (as if they can be!) did. What the Cardinal did is as close to an act of Rome as there's going to be, short of the Pope himself speaking (which B16 probably won't, he hasn't defended us from this idiot before, and there's indication to the opposite).

So, to be clear, I am done pulling punches with people who seem to think that "us Byzantines" are backwards. We are older and, quite frankly, our theology developed while you were still getting destroyed in Rome by the weekly barbarian raids. Everything that you have that you're so proud of came from us, from your Mass to your Rosary to your celibate priests. A little more than an idiotic "well put up with you" is required, seeing as the East is the source of your basic theology. To get respect you must give respect, and I've lost my patience, short as it was to begin with.

(And to those of you who are my friends and who are offended by my referring to the Cardinal as an idiot, please go back to one of the man's earlier statements that clerical celibacy was an apostolic tradition. The fact that that man can even consider such a statement shows a profound ignorance present in all idiots that I've met, hence the term. I am not attacking the office, he is a bishop after all. But the man? If there's anyone who has earned wrath, it is him. And I will not stay silent anymore. Will my temper eventually calm down? Of course. But do not think it will change my opinion of Rome, for it is a reaction against what Rome thinks of itself. My opinion will change when Rome wises up, and not a moment before.)

The City's Lights: Tomoyo

Clannad is a novel. It has its themes, its arguments, its ending point. Every little part of Clannad adds to this point, and the episodes after Kotomi's arc are no exception. While they focus on a number of things and characters, the most important character of the bunch is Tomoyo.

As I've stated before, all the girls from Clannad are variations of Ushio, the girl who will help Tomoya save himself. Tomoyo's contribution to the show is her absolute determination, combined with a trust in Tomoya that the other girls (save Nagisa) don't show. Don't believe me? Fuko was there just as much because of Nagisa as she was for Tomoya, so she doesn't count. Kotomi, once confronted with her past, shut herself up and only came out when she thought it was good to do so. Tomoyo? Well, she listens to Tomoya from the instant she meets him, and seems to connect with him in a way that none of the other girls do. She hangs on his every word and, thanks to his advice, impresses everyone so much that they elect her Student Council President. This reminds me a lot of Ushio's wish to stay with Tomoya based on three days of knowing him alone. There's a beauty in the simplicity of such a decision.

And that may be it. Tomoyo is very simple. She sees something that she wants and reaches for it, regardless of cost (as shown in the Alternate World episode). She and Ushio both see what they want and go for it with their whole soul in a way that is as beautiful as it is purposeful. More than Fuko, Tomoyo and Ushio are set upon their goals. Which is, and will always be, family. Tomoyo, while not quite as obvious as Fuko and Kotomi, is no less important than either of them.

Tune in next week, as we cover the man of the hour, Akio!

Monday, May 14, 2012

The City's Lights: Cute as a Button

Oh gosh, Kotomi... how cute you are. So very very... oh.... wait.. this seems familiar. 

Nah, couldn't be. They wouldn't. Right? The fact that it's Jun Maeda not-withstanding. They're both very very cute girls, everyone loves them, they lose their parents as kids, everyone loves them, and when they both need something the entire world steps up to the plate and gives them what they need... interesting. The fit's pretty damn close to perfect, actually, and I'm not just talking about their situation. Both of them are themselves to such an extent that people can't help but want to help them with their goals. Kotomi preps us for Ushio, by showing that it's possible for people who never even met Kotomi can be impacted by her plight and that they'll want to help. The fact that it's a suitcase is of no consequence,  because the incident with Fuko proved all that people need is a physical object to help them remember or to know what's going on. Kotomi's impact is to show the possibility of a world-wide impact, which is crucial for poor Ushio.

So far, we've learned that not only do you not have to have been "present" to have people connect with you, but that they only really need your name and a cause to help with a miracle. Interesting, because next week we'll meet up with Tomoyo...

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Huh (Serpent's Tongue)

This is different.

BTW's my finals are done, and a regular blogging schedule will commence once again! I'll have my next part of The City's Lights out, as well as a review of the book Stardust and X-Men Origins: Wolverine!

Friday, May 4, 2012

It Revolves on This

There are some days I think Andy and I have the same brain, because as I was about to sit down to write a blog post I read his blog, and saw that he's having similar thoughts.

Admittedly, I was thinking of stuff like this first, he just got to it before I did. AGAIN. Bastard.

One of these days Andy will be able to present a court case that I want him dead, and will win the case based upon this blog alone. Oh, and his mother will be legitimately offended that I keep calling him an illegitimate on the internet. That'll be an interesting day.


So last Friday night was interesting, but in the opposite of the Firefly sense. I went in to DM my last college game of the semester, and realized something.

I didn't want to torment my players anymore.

What followed was the most boring session of Dungeons and Dragons I've ever DMed, bar none. I dunno what was wrong with me, I just wasn't interested. Now, granted, there's a lot of factors that went into my poor DMing session, some of which I'm obviously not going to share. But there are a few things I did notice, and they stuck in my head for a good week or so.

Fast forward to a few days ago, and Shmitty and I are discussing the Marks of Eberron campaign, which was Shmitty's first shot at a story-based game. A lot of cool stuff came out of my mouth (most of which I didn't even know I knew until I was saying it!), but the most insightful thing that came flying out was that if you wanted a good story-based game you couldn't DM like an old-school DM.

Let me qualify that. Go on, you grognards, breathe. Imagine those 1E books that are coming out in a few months. There, that should make you happy, right? Good.

Older games like DnD rely upon a DM vs. Player mentality. People walked into dungeons, got their butts kicked or won, and were wheeled out in pieces or walked out with loot. The DM had fiendish traps and monsters that would kill the weak, stupid, and inexperienced, and the players had each other and the knowledge that if the DM was too mean they could just quit and ostracize the DM. A lot of those games seemed to be a fine balancing act for how much of a jerk that DM could be without angering his players, who were constantly trying to outsmart him. A lot of the games I've been in have been filled with a subtle paranoia that the DM had our character's deaths in mind, even if we had agreed that this was good with everyone.

This semester I tried to run a traditional dungeon crawl. I failed horribly, and it wasn't because I wasn't good at designing traps (that's something I used to take a perverse pride in, truth be told)! I failed at it because I realized that I didn't like it. I wanted player input, cooperation, a story! The great sense of accomplishment I've had from letting people make their own story and directing it to mutual enjoyment was not there, which is ultimately why I want to run games. I mean, c'mon, guys, I've come out of the Fugnathan Incident more or less sane (oh, that's right, I'll have to tell y'all about that sometime), so I know how to munchkin. I can do it with the best of them.

But it would interfere with the memory of Thade standing on a body of goblins, swearing bloody vengeance against the Alianna the succubus, Sir Varis Phlan the paladin who helped build a church when he wasn't out looking for his mother's killer, or Celeste the cambion who had been tricked by the enemy into agreeing to destroying the world. I tried to have both this semester, and realized that I couldn't. Maybe others can (and if Burning Empires is any indication, it can be a lot of fun!), but I guess what I'm trying to say is that the priority I have to have is cooperation.

Now, granted, this is coming from a really personal and subjective point of view. I've been using games to vent my anger and frustration about the unfairness of the world for years, and I've realized that I really don't enjoy that anymore, so I decided to stop fighting the players. If that's not what you're doing when you're going against the players, then don't take my advice. Maybe your players enjoy that dynamic. And sure, you'll also get moments where the sheer ingenuity of the players versus the DM will be show stoppingly-awesome. I have The Pyramid, so I understand. 

But the look of shock on everyone's face when they realized that Celeste, the sweet little girl they'd helped raise for five years, was one of the bad guys was way too satisfying a feeling too deny. I look forward to them trying to convince their little girl that she's wrong, because that'll make a story that'll matter to us.

That's what's important.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

So While I'm Supposed to be Studying for Finals...

I thought I'd share this hilarious search someone used to find my site. It almost made me laugh in the middle of the library.

"Simplify Mouseguard"

Pshaw... as IF!