Sunday, April 5, 2015

[Weekly Geeky Report] Not So Weekly, Very Geeky!

I didn't manage to post a Weekly Geeky Report last weekend because I was at the Student Gaming Nationals, so I decided to roll my two weeks' worth of geeky activity into one mega-post. Here goes!

Before leaving for Leicester for my weekend at the Student Gaming Nationals, I ordered the Night Witches RPG from a German games store, since it wasn't released in the UK yet.

While at the Nationals, I picked up a copy of King Of New York and the Hostile Intent expansion for The Resistance from the vendors there.
I also picked up two new sets of Fate Dice (the Core and Eldritch sets), a weather dice and a pair of pilot goggles for use as a future RP prop or part of a cosplay outfit.

Somehow, I still had some cash to burn when I got home, so I went ahead and ordered Mad Scientist University from Atlas Games (who have an offer giving you the Spring Break expansion for free right now). It was one of the games I was hoping to pick up while I was there, but the vendor had sadly just run out of stock. It sounds kinda like Cards Against Humanity in terms of gameplay, except the judge (or TA in this case) draws a mad science assignment (like Journey to the Centre of the Earth), the players each draw a random 'unstable element' (like 'lawn gnomes') and then take turns to do presentations explaining how they would use that element to achieve their goal. It sounds like mad creative fun, so of course I wanted to get my grubby hands on it. I need to get those creative juices flowing again somehow.

My monthly credit for Audible came through while I was gone, so I used it to buy Wyrd Sisters (Discworld #6) by Terry Pratchett, since that's this month's pick over at the Sword & Laser bookclub. I guess it's their way of paying tribute to Terry Pratchett and I'm all for that, especially since Terry Pratchett's Discworld series was largely responsible for getting my teenage self into reading in the first place. It's been a while since I read anything Discworld-related, and Wyrd Sisters is one of the ones I haven't already read.

Finally, even though it wasn't among the games I played, my anime-themed roleplaying at the Nationals inspired me to buy the PDF of OVA Revised Edition. Not sure yet what I could run with it, though I do have a couple of old anime-themed ideas I could dust off for it, including a Tenchi Muyo-inspired Galaxy Police game.

Achievements Unlocked
In last week's Firefly, the crew of the Shuìlián were reunited with their captain and, with the help of Mr Universe, get a lead about their arch-nemesis Dr Matthius Hartman, head of research at Loew Rheinmetall Industries. Mr Universe managed to extract the coordinates programmed into a computer virus that previously attempted to take control of their ship and deliver it to a specific location for LRI to capture. The coordinates would have taken the Shuìlián into orbit over Destiny, a quarantined black rock which is blanketed in flesh-dissolving mists due to a terraforming quirk. LRI must have had some reason for trying to get them there, so they figured they'd likely find some kind of clue if they went there.

The crew split up, with the captain, Tammy and Winston travelling aboard the Shuìlián, while Vanni and Jessie stayed on their borrowed Firefly, the Bonnie Mae. While enroute, Vanni picked up an anomalous signal being transmitted from the Shuìlián and decyphered it. In doing so, she uncovered a live video feed from aboard the Shuìlián. They soon realised the images were from Tammy's point of view, and that she was receiving instructions in text form ordering her to disable the ship and her crew. Chaos soon ensued, as Tammy attacked Winston to try and sabotage the Shuìlián engine room. The captain, made aware by Vanni, rushed down to aid Winston while Vanni brought the Bonnie Mae in to dock with the Shuìlián so that Jesse could go over to help as well. Meanwhile, Vanni hacks the feed and is able to interfere with it enough to temporarily free Tammy from apparent mind control. But they had more problems, as the black ops ship that nearly killed their captain once before returns, tracking the signal from the cyber-eye Tammy had been implanted with.

With Tammy subdued, Winston worked on finding a way to disable the control chip and cyber-eye. Meanwhile Vanni separated the Bonnie Mae from the Shuìlián and took it away, engaging the stealth systems to avoid detection. The captain began evasive manoeuvres with the Shuìlián and Jesse jumped into the gun turret they had installed aboard ship a while back. Winston was able to knock out the chip and cyber-eye with a jury-rigged low-level EMP emitter, even as the Shuilian was rocked by near misses from the pursuing ship's plasma cannon. As the black ops ship closed in on them, with its attacks coming closer and closer to hitting them dead on, Jesse was able to get in a couple of good shots which damaged the plasma cannon and caused it to backfire, destroying the enemy ship.

Stopping to explore the wreckage, the Shuìlián crew were able to salvage some laser weapons as well as retrieve data from its computer systems (I rolled 3 on a 2d12 difficulty roll, and they got an exceptional success), which gave them further information about Destiny. It turned out that LRI had a secret underground lab there, and it was one of Dr Hartman's primary research locations so there's a good chance he'd be on site. But it's likely to be heavily defended, and it'd take more manpower than they have to infiltrate the place. Lucky for them, the captain had a contact in the New Resistance movement who agreed to offer them support in storming the facility. That's were we left off for the evening, so it looks like the last session is set to be an explosive finale indeed!

As mentioned already, last weekend I was in Leicester for the Student Gaming Nationals. On the bus there, after being subjected to Batman & Robin via the onboard DVD player (don't ask me why, because I don't know), a few of us played a quick two-hour game of Icons: The Assembled Edition. We played the X-Men - I was Wolverine, the others were Storm, Beast, Rogue, and Gambit - and we were sent to contain a potential invasion by some Brood who had crashlanded near a small town. The situation was complicated when we discovered the Brood were headed for a concert at which Lila Cheney was performing. Because Lila Cheney has the ability to teleport over intergalactic distances, if the Brood were able to infect her they could potentially spread across the entire galaxy at an alarming rate. Luckily, the X-Men were able to stop the Brood possessed victims from reaching Cheney (perhaps a little more lethally than they really ought to have...sheesh, my Wolverine was positively tame in comparison to the rest of the team) and once she was informed of the danger Cheney fled to her Dyson sphere out of harms way.

In the evening, after we were all settled in our hotel and had registered at the venue, a few of us got together in the evening to play Ascension. I have to admit, I wasn't terribly interested in Ascension before, as it seemed a bit complex from what I'd heard and seen. But, after actually playing it, it turned out not to be as complicated as I'd believed and I was really getting into it before we had to wrap up early due to how late it was getting. However, Heather picked up a copy of Ascension (I think it was the Storm of Souls set, but I'm not sure), so I'm sure I'll get a chance to play a full game sooner or later.

At the Nationals themselves I was in group 1 of the 'Anime' category for roleplaying, and my first game was a high school-based hack of Maid: the Roleplaying Game, and we managed to cram in pretty much every anime trope we could think of over the course of the session.

In the scenario, we were all members of a student club dedicated to taking over the world, the first step of which was taking over the school. We were in the middle of a battle in the school courtyard to do just that when our club president, the Crimson King, decided he just wasn't feeling it today and went home. Cue crazy hijinks as we attempted to cheer up the president and figure out the cause of his depression. We took him on a beach trip to a hell beach, but that didn't work. (My ninja did end up having to flee from a pack of hellhounds though, after accidentally applying bacon mayo to himself instead of sunscreen).

Later, all of us were invited to a party in Hell by Greed, one of the kings of Hell (and one of our club members' dad). This eventually culminated in a wrestling match between father and son, which only ended when my ninja (Sasuke) first shot Greed with icer rounds from a sniper rifle, then set off explosives beneath the ring which unearthed the molten lava beneath and sent Greed to his flaming demise. Sasuke then crossed off the first of seven Kings from his list. While all this was going on, the president's depression was mended and he ended up marrying another of the PCs, despite the revelation that she was really his twin sister. Meanwhile, Greed's son and one other PC had siphoned off half of Greed's powers each during the fight and were now (sorta) brothers. They also got married in the epilogue, and our club went on to battle the remaining six Kings to take over Hell. From there, we went on to try to take over the world, but soon realised it was too much trouble and decided to just go back to high school.
After the first day's worth of games, a group of us congregated in local pub Firebug for the annual quiz, in which GUGS came first place.

On the second day, Anime group 1 played The Mountain Witch, but with a cyberpunk twist: Japan had recently recovered from a dark age and returned to a feudal state in which rival clans (corresponding to Chinese Zodiac animals) vie for control. However, all the clans had set aside their differences in the face of a common enemy - O-Yanma, the AI in control of Neo-Tokyo, had gone rogue and threatened the city, perhaps even the world. And so, the clans gathered a team of samurai to journey to the heart of Neo-Tokyo and destroy O-Yanma. On our journey we encountered walking tanks (think ED-209), cyber-zombies (like the husks from Mass Effect) and brain-hacked security forces (one of whom my character was 'Desperately In Love' with as per his Dark Fate). In the end, we confronted O-Yanma in a holodeck-like simulation of a garden, with the AI appearing to us as a elegantly bearded man in a kimono. One of our team turned out to have been working for O-Yanma all along, and had brought a specialised data drive to download the AI into and transport him to safety. Our team was opposed to this at first, but after getting O-Yanma's word that it would release its hold over Neo-Tokyo and cause no further trouble, they allowed it to escape in the hands of a cult of willing human followers. However, at least one of our team was dissatisfied with this outcome, and joined the hunt for O-Yanma which inevitably followed.

The trip back from Leicester was uneventful compared to the trip down, since it was during the evening and we were all tired. Also, we were spared further cinematic torture in the form of Wild Wild West and Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer because the DVD player wouldn't work. Lucky!

At Tuesday GUGS I brought my two recent board game purchases to try out. We first played The Resistance with the Hostile Intent expansion, specifically using the Hunter module. The Hunter module allows a chosen player to check the loyalty of one other player after each mission. Either the mission leader or an appointed Investigator get to do this, depending on the mission's outcome. It also adds Chiefs to the Resistance and Spy factions, and if either side is able to identify the other's Chief when they face defeat, they win instead. This task is made easier by the post-mission investigation, as players must reveal whether or not they are the Chief when revealing their loyalty. The investigation mechanic added an extra bit of tension to the game, but the end-game accusations make it a little too easy for one side to steal victory from the other at the last minute. At least, that's the case if you're only playing with five people, as we were. We also missed a rule that would have allowed the spies to trigger an early end-game by accusing the Resistance leader. Oh well.

After that, we played King of New York. It took us a while to get the hang of all the extra mechanics that weren't in King of Tokyo, and even then I'm not sure we entirely had the rules right, but we had fun with it nonetheless. In the end, nobody won by earning 20 victory points, the winner was the last person standing (which was either Peter or Ruaridh, can't remember which). I think the extra harm inflicted by military units in this version make player elimination more likely than in the original game. (Not that it's particularly unlikely in King of Tokyo either.)

Lesson learned: I need to have a proper read at new rule sets and familiarise myself with them a bit more before bringing them along to board gaming meets in future.

After those two games, we finished off the night with the Firefly board game, with all the expansions (though we didn't use the Reaver trail markers, to simplify things). I took the Interceptor as my ship and Nandi as my captain, and ended up picking up a crew of hillfolk as I trawled through Silverhold for a bounty head (Zoe), before moving on to Persephone. I finally picked up a bounty there and delivered him to Londinium to claim my creds, then headed back to Silverhold to try and root out Zoe again. Since we were playing to see who could earn the most, I probably should have won with the amount I made on the bounty. Only thing is, I forgot we'd agreed to deduct the value of any outstanding jobs still in our hands at the end of the game, and wound up with a negative amount. In fact, only one person ended the game without a negative balance, and that was Peter (who owned the game).

Wyrd Sisters didn't take too long to finish off, and I really enjoyed it. From the homage to Macbeth among other works of William Shakespeare, to the overarching theme of the power of words which is itself a fitting tribute to the Bard. The one thing I had forgotten was that - at least in the earlier Discworld novels - Pratchett didn't really have chapter breaks, which made finding the right places to pause the book rather tricky. Also, the narrator for this book, Celia Imrie, seems to have a bit of trouble with her timing - or maybe it's just poor editing - which gives the narration a slightly awkward feel to it. That aside, her performance is excellent and she provides a variety of distinct voices for each of the story's various characters. All except Death, who is given a suitably booming and authoritative voice by Nigel Planer (I think).

I also finished off Fate/Zero yesterday and...well, I don't want to spoil for anyone who hasn't watched it yet, but boy, that series didn't pull any punches. Epic, with some magnificent moments of characterisation, but ultimately and inevitably heartbreaking. I think I'll need to watch something a bit more upbeat before I move on to Gurren Lagann as originally planned, because - given that it's a Gainax series - it will probably have a mind screw-y and nearly as depressing ending, and I need a break from that crap right now.
Works In Progress
I'll try to get the blog back on track this week, starting with the first of two late AP reports from Tears Of A Machine: Tales of the Arx Jericho.

Also, I need to work on prep for my Firefly finale to make sure it's suitably epic and probably emotionally devastating for at least one of the crew. A final assault on a secret underground laboratory containing dark and sinister experiments? If it ends in anything except blood, fire and tears, I'll be very surprised!

In addition, I'm going to try and set aside some time for fic writing. My Doctor Who/Evangelion fic should have gone live by now, but the first 'episode' still needs some polish before I publish it, and then I'll move on to the next part. I'm also considering a novella/novel based on the Kuro RPG. It'll likely be a trunk novel, because I don't have any rights to the setting and I doubt the creator's would be looking for any tie-in fiction for it. Still, it'll get me back into practice and I can use it to revisit a roleplaying character I don't get to play any more who's well-suited to the Kuro setting.

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