Changes…

So, Team (Almost All) Dual Wield  won a convincing (albeit slightly strange, even by their standards) victory over the forces of evil (Continuing to mightily sass the Watch as always) and now both laden down with cash and having (sadly inaccurate) street theatre made about their exploits are trying to decide what next. Sadly, that’ll have to wait – owing to a combination of one player’s looming unavailability, the fact we’re at a nice climactic point and my knack for crises of confidence, I’m putting that game on hold for the time being and switching to another. After some consultation with the group, we’re going old school. How old? A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

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That’s right, way back to the late 90’s with West End Games Star Wars RPG, aka ‘Bring a bucket of D6’s.” I spent a lot of time playing it as a kid, and it still gives me that warm glow of nostalgia. First thoughts are how retro the book looks (That now ancient 2 column format combined with the cheesily photoshopped advertisements), but that’s kinda charming these days. The system has it’s quirks and things that are of their time (I have vauge memories of trying to use the Force at higher levels and rolling huge numbers of dice), but I’ve still got a lot of love for it. It was the first RPG I purchased after all, with an almost complete set of books for it sitting on the shelf and those few I don’t have are at the D6 Holocron. I was contemplating messing with the skills slightly (Merging the combat and parry skills mostly), but I think I’ll leave alone for the time being and see how it goes in play.

I’m really looking forward to the game, having gotten the itch to play Star Wars again after Rogue One. Different reaction to Force Awakens, which left me both grieving and with a whole load of questions to be answered (What happened post Jedi? Whats the current political situation? Who are the Knights of Ren?) while Rogue One made me want to pick up the dice (And blow stuff up). Therefore, the campaign is based around Rebel Alliance Special Operations, or as one of my players put it, the A-Team in space. I’m starting to write up details and plan ahead, but really I’m just hoping I can avoid the mistakes that plauged the last game. Mind you, I’d settle for not being in a blind panic writing adventures at the last minute. Granted, some of my best work has resulted from that, but it’s an approach I try not to take too regularly.

So, another game on the way. A band of Rebel misfits, out to steal from, cause chaos for and bring down the Empire, preferably with a lot of explosions. By the Force I’m looking forward to this, even if one player’s character is a Force sensitive Jawa who’s learning from having read the journal Obi-Wan Kenobi left for Luke Skywalker (He didn’t steal it, just read it) and another’s is Arnold Schwazenegger’s character in Commando, but Mon Calamari. My players…

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PARKOUR! The Movie.

AKA Assassin’s Creed. This is less a review, and more a collection of random thoughts concerning the film. Also, there be spoilers.

I came to the film not having played the games much outside of Black Flag (Cause you know, pirates.), but I know the basics. It seems to be represented pretty well, though I don’t know if the Templars grand council consisting entirely (As far as I saw) of old white people was a subtle political jab or a case of you work with the extras you have, not the ones you want. Cause you know, when have old white people ever wanted to stop people from having free will?

I’d say I was certain that gaming tables and LARPs will soon be deluged by players wanting to play good assassins, but I’m fairly sure that already happened about the time of the first game. Also, it’d have to be a much better film to have that sort of impact – there’s good reason cons were jam packed with Ledger Joker cosplayers for years after The Dark Knight. (There’s an urban myth floating around that at a UK LARP event following the release of Fellowship of the Ring there were no less than 9 characters named Legolas) Ahem. I digress.

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I continue to not be able to put aside the logic (or lack thereof) of a group of assassins who have a recognisable uniform and a signature weapon. Still, it’s far from the greatest logical leap needed for this film, which has the Knights Templar searching for an apple that contains humanity’s genetic code in order to ‘cure’ violence. Oh, and they have a magical device that let’s people live through their ancestors memories. It could be said that it’s Jeremy Iron’s best genre film, but that’s damning with very, very faint praise. That and it’s not that terrible. It’s still not great, but he’s done worse movies – one only has to look at him in Star Wars Episode IV Eragon. As for the film as a whole, it could have been far, far worse (See also Super Mario Brothers).

Characters don’t really get much to do – Fassbender glares stoicly and grunts his lines while bouncing around in a CG harness, Irons all but sleepwalks through it with his voice rarely being raised above a monotone (I think it’s meant to convey something about his lack of emotions showing his devotion to the cause, but it just seems like he’s heavily medicated) and Marion Cotilliard tries bravely, but seems more a plot device than a character (See also Natalie Portman in Thor: The Dark World). On the bright side, Brendan Gleeson is always lovely to see, though again he’s more plot device and exposition spouter than character.

It’s also an oddly bloodless film given it’s body count, with people getting stabbed, garotted and pierced with arrows, crossbow bolts and knives, but barely a drop of blood is shed, outside of a few major incidents involving characters with dialogue and even then there’s far less than could be expected. Speaking of knives, in the scene where Fassbender’s 15th century ancestor and his compardre (Who’s name I don’t recall being mentioned, despite her and said ancestor’s involvement) escape from the fires of the Inquisition and Grand Inquisitor Torquemada (Let’s face it, you can’t Torquemeda anything!), where the hell did all those knives they threw come from? Had they not been searched well enough, or where they magically picking up them from all the people they’d killed? It’s a mark against the film that I spent more time pondering that through the Ye Olde Jason Bourne style chase scene, along with the unintentionally hilarious moment when as they’re about to escape they dramatically draw their hoods up*. Speaking of that, I’ve a lot of respect for the CG and/or costume department wizardry that kept said hoods up while the cast were crashing, stabbing and bashing about the place.

So. Not the worst film I’ve seen (That title is currently held by The Smurfs 2 – we’re never letting my niece choose what movie we see again) and there’s some nice visual moments (The flyovers of medieval Madrid are lovely), but this isn’t the film to do for video game movies what X-Men did for comic book films. Especially given how much the ends screams sequel. I also can’t confirm an after-credits sequence, as I badly needed to pee and wasn’t willing to risk it. Still, it’s not a Marvel film, so I don’t think I missed anything.

2 and a half impractical wrist blades out of 5.

* Though not as funny as the dramatic “I’ll be back” in Terminator: Salvation, a moment that cause my wife to burst out laughing in the cinema.

A catch up of sorts.

Being introduced to someone who’s wearing nothing but ugg boots and shorts and holding a freshly sharpened machete, well that makes an impression. Sure, it’s the sort of impression that makes you think you’ll soon be buried under the patio, but I’m sure I’ve made people I know feel like that on occasion (At least I hope so). He turned out to be eccentric, but friendly (and mostly harmless) and we spent a good 45 minutes or so shooting bows and talking traditional archery. That’s what’ll stick with me the most about that trip. I also got to ride a horse for the first time in over 10 years, an experience that, while enjoyable, reaffirmed my belief that cavalry is not a job I’m suited for.

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Yes, I was quietly singing ‘Over the Misty Mountains Cold’ at that point.

Who? What? Oh, an explantion. I spent most of the Christmas season visiting in-laws in New Zealand, a land that continues to be utterly charming and not just cause we ate at a restaurant that had cats roaming the grounds. CATS ROAMING THE GROUNDS. Why more places haven’t cottoned on this I’ve no idea, but you’ll have me as a client from day 1. I like cats, in case you hadn’t guessed. It was up there with the place that advertised something called a ‘Caveman Platter’, which was one of the most amazing things I have, and will ever, eat. Still, there were no cats, which knocks half a star off.

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KITTIE!

I discovered the works of Joe Abercrombie, purchasing Half a King on a whim and reading it within a day. Apparrently it’s more young-adult that his usual “ALL THE GRIMDARK” fare, but I enjoyed it and plan to purchase more. I also picked up Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist, and while that was hilarious and well worth reading, it’s tinged with more than a bit of sadness now given her passing. While it’s an inevitability that the icons of our youth will pass, that didn’t make things any easier to bear. Many words have been written and tears have been shed in her name, and we shall linger no more in pain and grief.

fisherHell, I’d be happy to go out that way myself. Wife might complain though.

Staying in that universe, Rogue One was a delight. Grim and blood soaked by the standards of the Star Wars universe it’s true, but it was telling a different sort of story than the usual lightsaber wielding high adventure. To quote a friend of mine, ‘They went full Dirty Dozen.” and he wasn’t wrong in that regard. It’s not a take on the universe I’ve seen before, but I saw it described as ‘putting the war in Star Wars‘. At first glance that seems stupid, as Wars in in the title, and the first opening crawl we see begins with “It is a period of civil war.” But the more I thought on it, the more it seemed correct. The other films in the saga, yes, even Empire,  are space opera first and foremost, but this felt more like a war film than any other part of the saga, with the possible exception of certain episodes of The Clone Wars.

After The Force Awakens made stormtroopers seem effective again, to me, this restored Darth Vader to the terrifying figure he was pre “I hate sand.” We didn’t see him much, but when we did it meant something and that something was DO NOT FUCK WITH VADER. And points to the writers for that beautiful burn, one almost equal to the ones covering his body, a line so wonderful I’d kill to have written it. Seeing him rip through the Rebel troopers like an unstoppable machine, it was the Vader that was talked about, had been hinted at, but we’d never really seen. (See also the recent run of Darth Vader comics, which show Vader taking levels in Scheming Bastard) All the more effective for it’s brevity – it’s very much the old saying of ‘the more effective the monster the less you see it.’

After having seen the film again, my initial hype lessened slightly, but that doesn’t mean I think it was any less good. I did spend more time looking out for scenes that were in the trailer that didn’t make the film (And the shout-outs to Rebels), but then K-2SO would say something awesome and/or snarky and all would be well again. Oh Alan Tudyk, bless you. Hopefully we’ll see that footage, or parts of it, at some point. The Blu-Ray better have the mother of all deleted/alternate scenes packages…

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What, too soon?

I’d say there was probably one or two too many shout outs to the OT (Red 5’s appearance ties with trying to work out just how did R2 and Threepio get onboard the Tantive IV in time?), but I can’t blame the filmakers for doing so. Mind you, if I said I didn’t immediately want to start playing Age of Rebellion, or any form of Star Wars RPG, well I’d be lying harder than Federal Parliament. It wasn’t a perfect film, but damn it was good. And for those keeping track of my film costume wish list, you can add Chirrut’s costume and several of the Rebel senator’s cloaks to that list. 🙂

Staying with gaming, more writing has been done for Hyborian Tales, for which I probably need a new title. I also went location scouting recently, and thanks to friends of mine now have a location for the game. Close to shops, public transport and with toilets nearby even! A test day is being planned, but that won’t be for another few weeks. Team (Almost all) Dual Wield recently confronted the mysterious mastermind who’s been concocting devilish deeds of a nefarious nature and may be able to defeat him, assuming they can stop sassing the City Watch. It’s building towards a big finale, which will take place next Monday night. No pressure…

Anyhow, it’s past half 11 and I should sleep now. Night all. Rest well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.