Saturday, January 4, 2014

[Weekly Geeky Report] The Time of the Doctor, Smaug, Sherlock and other stuff...

I was tempted to rename this slot to the WeeGee (Weekly Geeky) Report, to make it sound like 'Weegie', but I figured truncating the words 'Weekly' and 'Geeky' like that just didn't work. Also, I'm not really a Weegie, as I don't live in the city. I just go there two or three days a week for volunteer work and hanging out at GUGS. So, I just settled for dropping the 'l' from 'Geekly'. And I'm still not happy with that title.

Bah! Enough rambling, let's just get to the Weekly Geeky Report. This one covers what I've been doing since I went on break from the blogosphere on the 22nd, so it's less a Weekly Geeky Report and more a...ugh, I'm rambling again. Okay, here goes:

Swag
Hasn't arrived yet, but I ordered The Great Game t-shirt from shirt.woot.com. Other than my Nationals t-shirts and GUGS hoodie, I don't really own much roleplaying related attire, and I liked the design so I figured I'd get myself one.
I also ordered another couple of e-books: The Einstein Intersection by Samuel R. Delany, which is this month's Sword and Laser pick, and I Don't Want To Kill You by Dan Wells which I've decided to put on my A-Z reading list for this year.
I also ordered and received Coup in time to take it with me to the New Year's party, and we got a lot of play out of it. I'll write up a review of the game for Monday's blog post.

I decided to cancel my LoveFilm subscription at the end of December and started a free trial with Netflix instead. I was using the streaming service for LoveFilm more than the DVD rental, and I found out that Netflix's selection of films/programmes available for streaming was, for the most part, better than LoveFilm's. As well as switching streaming services, I also kicked off a subscription with Audible, and used my first credit to download Redshirts by John Scalzi, which is narrated by Wil Wheaton. I'm kicking myself a little bit that I had already bought Ernest Cline's Ready Player One on Kindle, since it is also narrated by Wheaton and - given the amount of geeky '80s pop culture references in the book - I think he would be a perfect fit as narrator for it.

I got a couple of unexpected Christmas presents at the New Years' party this week, the first of which was a Digimon tag from Ruaridh, with the Crest of Hope on it to represent how my character in our L5R game gave the party the strength to carry on with the task of helping a simple maeko claim her birthright as a late governor's heir. Well, shucks. *blushes*
And James, our former L5R GM, got me the Fate Core System rulebook which I'm really grateful for. I had bought the PDF when it was on offer, but I prefer to work with printed game books and I don't think I've even really looked at the PDF since I got it. But now that I've got the hardcover, I'll definitely give the system a go, so many thanks for that, James!

And then, when I got home on Thursday, I found an e-mail linking me to my Kickstarter backer's copy of the PDF for the Tears Of A Machine RPG. Haven't read much of it yet, as I've been feeling a bit under the weather since Thursday, but so far it looks good.

Achievements Unlocked
On Christmas Day, like many others, I sat down to watch Matt Smith's last episode on Doctor Who. The Time of the Doctor was okay. It tied up pretty much all of the loose threads from the Eleventh Doctor's era, albeit clumsily. We're finally told who blew up the TARDIS, but just how they managed to do it remains a mystery which will most likely never be explained. Clara still lacks depth as a character, and the time skips in the episode robbed it of tension somewhat. Nonetheless, the Doctor's final goodbye was both beautifully written and delivered perfectly by Smith. It was a more stoic exit than Tennant's but no less heartbreaking. Although, the regeneration itself was a bit too quick for my liking. As my friend Luke said: 'Sneezepaldi was not nice.'

Before the New Year's party on Tuesday night, a bunch of us went to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. As with An Unexpected Journey, I was annoyed by the amount of stuff they crammed into the movie which wasn't in the original book. I get that they want to tie it to The Lord of the Rings movies, but it felt unnecessary to me, especially the inclusion of a younger Legolas. That also doesn't account for them shoving in an awkward romantic sub-plot between Kili and a wood elf guard, played by Evangeline Lilly. Also, whereas the barrel scene in the book had Bilbo's plan work more or less flawlessly, the film version is expanded into a complete action sequence. It was a fun action sequence, but ultimately it wasn't needed. And I couldn't help but feel that Martin Freeman's portrayal of Bilbo isn't all that different from his portrayal of Watson in Sherlock. I still enjoyed the film, but I wish there was much less filler in it than there was.

While staying over with several others on New Years Day, I got to play a ten player game of The Resistance, and also got in some Forbidden Island and Chrononauts.

I also got to play Coup properly for the first time since it arrived, and it was really popular with everyone. (I'll post a review of the game sometime next week.) The only game we replayed almost as much was Cards Against Humanity, which I'd never played before and was eager to give a try. It was the UK edition, so we didn't have any problems interpreting the cultural references in it. We had a lot of fun with it, and many laughs (often pained ones) were had, and many winces were induced. I don't know if it's a game I would pick up for myself, but I'd definitely play it again.

In the evening a group of us sat down to watch the series 3 premiere of Sherlock: The Empty Hearse. It was fun, but it was also very blatantly trolling fans with two fake-out explanations of how Sherlock faked his death and one 'official' explanation...or is it? No sooner has this final explanation been given than doubt is cast upon its veracity, despite it coming straight from the horse's mouth. I'm going to assume this explanation is the truth, but I'd rather they hadn't added a note of ambiguity to it. And then there's Sherlock. There are times in this episode when he doesn't seem like himself, too. And then there's the climactic scene where Sherlock is back to being a jackass, but it feels like even he should know better. The plot itself was really just an afterthought, this story was about reintroducing Sherlock to London and getting the band back together. In that respect, it works as a character-focused episode, dealing with the effect of Sherlock's return on his few friends, specifically John. It's still not enough to make it more than an average episode for me, though.

After Sherlock, James - our host and my old L5R GM - got a bunch of us together to play a one-off session of 13th Age. For the first time ever I decided to play as a dwarf - most likely due to some lingering influence from seeing The Hobbit - who had left the service of the Dwarf King after being asked to deliver a mystical goblet, which he realised was too dangerous to be used by anyone. (Each PC has one 'unique thing' which the player chooses at the start, giving the GM a narrative thread to tie the story to them. Mine was 'The only one who knows where the Goblet of Illmar is hidden.' and this led to the plot for this session being aimed mainly at me, since it turned out to be a trap to attempt to force my character to reveal his secret.)
The other characters included a frivolous elvish prince who had been assigned to escort me through the elves' lands, a forgeborn assassin who had been sent to follow me and keep me safe until I led him to the person he was supposed to kill, and a creepy beardless dwarf who had been enslaved by the spiders of the Spider Woods and sent to infiltrate our party so that we could lead him to 'the Master'. By the time we finished it was quite late and I was having trouble keeping my eyes open, but I enjoyed the session and even liked the system despite it being a d20 system. The escalation dice mechanic in combat sequences is a neat idea as well, ensuring that the longer the PCs stay in the fight, the greater their chances of succeeding attack rolls becomes. This means it's more beneficial for players to hold back on their stronger abilities until later, when their success is more assured, and reduces the problem of combat grinding on forever. Depending on PCs' abilities, some combat options also become available to them at certain escalation dice values. I don't know if 13th Age is a system I'd get for myself, as it still seems a bit crunchy for my GMing style, but I'd definitely play it again and would even be up for joining in a campaign of it.

It's been a fun couple of weeks, and things are probably going to be much quieter now until GUGS starts up again on the 14th. There's a possibility of a film night this week, and an L5R one-shot at some point but I don't know when that's going to happen. I had to turn down the idea of playing L5R yesterday because I was feeling mentally exhausted after the New Years' excitement, and it seems I may have contracted a cold which would probably explain why I felt so drained on the Thursday. Anyway, regardless of what happens between now and next week, I'll let you know if I've been up to anything exciting next Saturday.

I'll be back tomorrow with an announcement regarding the blog, and I'll see about putting together some more posts for later in the week. See you later!

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