Sunday, March 20, 2005

Unseen -- Episode 1

Looky! Another overly long recap of a Primetime Adventures game. Oh, I also have put together a cast picture.

An Unkindness of Ravens

We open at Julie's Place, showing Virgil talking with his reporter friend, Sydney Bennett. She offers to help him any way she can in his hunt for Odin. They have seven days until the full moon, and the final ritual that Odin has planned. Also in the diner is Lewis, who chats with his friend Susan. She reminds him that he is supposed to escort her tomorrow to a gallery opening of some of her work (she is a potter.) The final little scene takes place in Robyn's government class at Waterford High, where the teacher has just told them to clear their desks... it's a pop quiz! The camera pushes to a guy sitting a few tables behind Robyn. He's a kid in a varsity jacket and he looks red-eyed. He just stares intently at Robyn and he appears to be drawing something. The camera looks over his should to reveal that he is sketching the hanged man -- Odin!

Opening titles and theme song

We're in the basement of the department store where the gang encountered Odin. Lewis is setting up some strange analytical equipment that he has thrown together. He is trying to detect energies, as well as trying to find out patterns in the symbols that Odin had painted on the wall. No matches found...

The tabloid offices where Sydney works -- she goes to her computer and notices an envelope under her keyboard. It has her name scrawled on the front. Inside is a picture of Lewis; a surveillance picture. On the back is written the number "439."

After-school, in Lewis's bus, and Robyn is complaining about Government class, and the differences between Canadian and U.S government. She is pacing and eating cookies, while Lewis is still trying to find clues from the basement. Robyn suggests he try to cross reference with movies, or maybe album covers. She notices that one of the screens has a red light flashing. Someone has tripped a sensor in one of the alleys leading to the bus. On the camera they seem the shambling, red-eyed student who had been drawing the hanged man. Robyn thinks his name is Whitney. He stops every ten feet or so, cocks his head, as if he is listening to something in the wind. Then he looks directly into Lewis's surveillance camera and it goes dead.

Virgil is at the new age shop that houses Phil Erickson, the feng shui guy's office. No one is around and he glances at the receptionist's steno pad. There is a doodle of a man on a throne, and a game of hang-man being played with the man hanging upside down. The receptionist shows up and angrily takes the pad. Phil takes Virgil into his office, and Virgil tells him, over a game of mancala, that he needs his help to try and find Odin again.

Lewis tries to call Virgil in his cell phone but only get's Virgil's voice mail. Lewis and Robyn are startled when there are skittering noises on the roof of the bus. Lewis activates a camera on a building overlooking the bus, and sees that there are dozens of ravens on the top of the bus. The camera also sees and zooms in on the kid, Whitney, standing nearby, watching the birds. He seems to be listening to something again. Lewis tells Robyn to stand on a rubber mat on the floor, as he does too, and unplugs two thick electrical cables. He slams the live ends of the cables into the metal ceiling of the bus! The shock causes all the birds to take flight, but their screeches have a very unnatural sound. The surveillance camera shows them flying off, but Whitney is gone...

The mancala game ends, and Virgil checks his phone. He has voice mail, and listens. It's Lewis. He jumps up and he and Phil dash out of the office. Virgil slaps the police light onto the roof of his car and races to Lewis's place. About a block away from the bus, Virgil comes to a screeching halt -- there is someone standing on the middle of the road. A kid in a varsity jacket... Whitney. He glances at the car, but we only see him for a moment. A wall of black flying forms turn the corner and engulf the car. When the ravens fly off, the kid is gone.

Lewis, Robyn, Virgil and Phil are in the bus. comparing notes. Phil seems distracted, and disturbed by the feng shui of the bus. Virgil watches the video of the kid, and uses his mental focus. He hears the old woman's voice (he encountered her in the previous episode -- she seems to have some connection with Odin), saying "I think we're making them nervous now. Sleep." The camera goes blank. Lewis is searching for this kid in the Waterford school records. A match. Whitney Sutherland. Phil is stunned. He says he know the kid. It's his nephew...

The camera follows Whitney walking through a park. He does not seem sinister and red-eyed. Just a normal kid on his way home from school. He walks into his house, goes to the kitchen and pours himself a glass of orange juice. He walks to the basement door, opens it, and goes down. It is a dirt floored basement, with a bare light-bulb hanging. In the shadows, there is a man sitting in a large, ornate chair. "Father, I have done as you asked," the boy says, and the man in the chair leans forward, and we see that it is the one-eyed Odin, and he has an evil smile.

Back in the bus, everyone is shocked by Phil's revelation, until Robyn points out that another of Lewis's monitors is flashing again. Not one, not two, but three different government black sedans on three different cameras. But they were not going to the bus, instead, they they headed to the old department store, where Odin's former lair was, and where Lewis had left all his equipment. They see Agent Severin lead a team in. They head on over to the location, being sneaky, but they are being watched... by Sydney. Virgil sneaks up on her and asks what she'd doing there. She says she was checking out the area, looking for clues to Odin's whereabouts. She says she saw Fed coming out, carrying some electronics. But they are now gone. Then the building explodes, and everyone hits the ground!

It's the next morning, at Julie's Place, and the whole gang is there, including Phil and Sydney. Virgil and Sydney were talking in a booth, while the others were at the counter eating. Virgil was trying to get Syd to tell him who her informant was, or why she was there at the department store last night. Robyn glanced over and saw Virgil take Syd's hand. You could almost see the beams of angry energy shoot from her eyes and bore into Syd's head (it must be noted that Sydney is a connection for Virgil and Robyn's nemesis.) Sydney showed Virgil the envelope with the picture of Lewis. Virgil was thrown off by that... Sydney had actually been there last night following Lewis?

Robyn wanted to get that envelope. Anything to annoy and/or discredit Sydney. She made a diversion with her TK, causing a waitress to drop some dishes while she walked by Virgil and Syd. She grabbed the envelope with her TK while they were distracted. In the bathroom, she opened it and saw the photo of Lewis. What the heck?

Robyn wants to make a quick stop at the arcade, to calm her nerves she claimed. Phil and Virgil play a little Gauntlet, while Lewis and Robyn shoot pool. Robyn shows Lewis the photo and tells him that Sydney had it.

Later that evening, Lewis escorts Susan to the opening of her exhibit, and lo and behold, Sydney's there. She is very friendly to Lewis, saying she was assigned to cover the opening of Susan's exhibit, a last minute thing, but he's not buying it. Of course, he doesn't let on that he knows that she is investigating him.

Phil and Virgil go to the home of Phil's sister Ann, and her son, Whitney. He tells Robyn to wait in the car. Virgil asks the boy some questions, but he seems completely normal. He asks to see Whit's varsity jacket, but doesn't find anything, other than that it seemed to have been very recently cleaned. Both Ann and Whitney seem confused by the questioning, and Virgil decides to wrap-up before they get too suspicious. They go out to the car, and hear the music is cranked up. But, the car is empty and still locked... Robyn is gone.

Robyn comes to and is tied up and gagged. She is in the basement of Whitney's house, now lit by candles. She is at the foot of the chair, now revealed to be a thrown, and Odin is sitting in it, looking down at her...

Next Time on Unseen

-- The click of a gun cocking. Whitney and Virgil. Virgil wrenches Whitney's arm behind his back and slams him against the wall. He presses his gun to the back of the boy's head. "What the hell do you want man!" Whitney says. "You're gonna tell me now," Virgil growls. Whitney's expression changes from innocent kid, to sinister and creepy.

-- Julie's Place. Sydney walks in and over to Virgil. "Where's your tagalong?" she asks, mockingly. Virgil gives her "the look."

-- The camera focuses on the full moon over a tree. It drifts down to a raven perched in the tree. It screeches three times, and the third on has an unnatural sound to it.

-- The scene is surreal and dream-like. Robyn is hanging upside down in a tree, and Whitney's voice can be heard from off camera. "All-Father! Why have you chosen her over me!"

Wednesday, March 16, 2005 And the Cable ACE award goes to... OLD STARSKY AND HUTCHES! And the Cable ACE award goes to... OLD STARSKY AND HUTCHES!:

I didn't know WebSnark snarked RPGs, but this post is pretty awesome. And I'm not just sayin' that because it mentions Dogs in the Vineyard as an example of why 2004 was an awesome year for RPGs.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Cool Things From Jared, plus Shoujo

This is nothing new, but I was browsing around The Forge RPG Bookshelf and remembered that there's a cool free supplement to InSpectres, called UnSpeakable -- made for playing Lovecraftian adventures. The one game of InSpectres I've played was tres fun. I would love to try UnSpeakable.

And I hadn't noticed before, but there's also a spiffy free PDF called "Blood And Steel," a "Sword & Sorcery" supplement for OctaNe. I'm actually much more likely to play that than OctaNe itself, so that was cool to fine. (No diss on OctaNe there, sword and sorcery is just more my bag, baby.)

Both of those are from Jared "Memento Wicked-Dead" Sorenson, an Ur-Indie game designer.

While we're looking at cool little games, I found Shoujo Story by following the link in the creator's Forge signature. Reading the "Actual Play" segments fascinated me. Sounds like a really neat cards-based storytelling thingy. I'd like to try this one too.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

That's One Exit Strategy I Guess

The Forge is down. For how long? That remains to be seen...


Update -- it's back, all is well

Friday, March 04, 2005

GNS Discussion Explodes On Lumpley Blog

Here and here.

I ain't gonna touch it there cause I don't think I've put in the time at the Forge cluing myself in. Lots of interesting bits, such as --

On 3-4-05, Clinton R. Nixon wrote:
Neel: Hey Clinton, take a look at Mark Rosenfelder's Language Construction Kit. Do you think that kind of activity -- sitting down and making up new languages for fun -- is without value? ... If so, then we can't talk.

Oh, but we can. This is getting all sorts of splintered, and so you might want to e-mail me at We've got a lot to hash out, and a lot of it might want to be cooked before public consumption.

But, yes, I see it without value, or to be clear, without value to anyone besides one's self. Creating a language to help foster communication between two peoples: that's a redeeming activity.

To reiterate again: I see no activity engaged in solely for the fun of persons to be a redeeming activity. And, unfortunately, that's where I see a lot of Sim play: it's there only for entertainment.

And to reiterate another point: I don't think that "not redeeming" = "bad". It just means there's no point, and that is a major difference to note between activities.

Oh man. I am so torn about whether I agree with Clinton here. There are all kinds of questions about intrinsic and extrinsically motivated action, play vs work, all kinds of things wrapped up there. Having hung out with the conlangers for a while and done a little myself, I think it's really hard to say whether they are doing it "for themselves" or "to communicate." They do it for themselves but when conlangers get together they are fascinated by each other's creations, like any other artist. I kind of know what Clinton is getting at but I'm very leery of accepting the distinction he's propounding here. "Only for entertainment" vs "redeeming because it addresses a theme" -- the thing is, things which entertain often entertain more, not less, when they also have thematic depth. Shakespeare is ultimately more entertaining than Die Hard with a Vengeance, because it's got the depth that it has. And mere entertainment often isn't so "mere." I dunno. I'm not sure I believe in "mere entertainment" that entertains because there's nothing deep to it. The book Killing Monsters has convinced me that what we think is shallow may be deep to some of the people who love it most. (Incidentally that was also an important observation of C.S. Lewis's in his Experiment In Criticism -- that people who love "bad" literature often love it because they are able, for some reason, to get out of it the things that people get out of good literature, despite the bad literature's apparent badness -- in other words, it really is good literature to them.)

Another thing that really interested me is how Vincent started by trying to construct the tripartite GNS out of binary (yes/no) distinctions. It ended pretty inconclusively, some people happy with it, some not. It pointed up that binary distinctions are in a sense natural, easy to find, and uncontroversial, while tripartite distinctions are weird, uncommon, and controversial. It's easy to say "there is x and not-x. Let's call the not-x 'y'" -- but it's harder to do that in any way where you cleanly end up with three chunks. Maybe GNS has been plagued from the beginning by its tripartite nature. (Or maybe GNS theory could use some help from the ever-trinary Charles Sanders Pierce...)

I almost feel like what would like to see Vincent do is just continue on without the GNS terms, and go forward with what he's doing -- talking about "thematic, collaborative" play or the like.

Another interesting bit was from Emily Care:

Yeah, if only we had stuck with the good old, process oriented def. of sim, rather trying to stick it into the CA [creative agenda] biz. It suffered a sea change that made it much less useful (to me at least) as a concept.
At that point I really felt the weight of history attached to Forgie terminology and all the arguments and changes it's been through, and the gazillion people who've contributed to it and argued over it and reinterpreted it. Could it be time to move on from the venerable trilogy of consonants, G., N., S., and find some other useful way to articulate some of the positive lessons and insights that have been gained from the theory? It seems that sometimes that's what Vincent's blog is about, but then you get Vincent:
Hey friends, this is really important.

I know GNS. I know it approximately as well as any other living person does.

If you're, let's say, Ron Edwards, Mike Holmes, Ralph Mazza, Paul Czege, one of that crew - I'll debate with you what the definitions really are.

Otherwise, I'm going to ask you to take my word for it.

Narrativism, Simulationism, Gamism - they operate at a time scale you can generally measure in hours. They are not present in moment-to-moment decisions.

I'll explain why this is so to anyone who asks, as I have done, but I'm not going to seriously engage with anyone who argues that it must be otherwise.

And it's not that Vincent is being a dick or anything, it's true what he's saying here -- and he's trying to forestall an unproductive discussion, but in the moment he said that, I felt like we were back on the Forge, and I don't mean that in a good way.

The fact that he's able to count on one hand the number of people including himself whom he feels are really able to bandy this terminology around authoritatively, well... I dunno. It's become something more than just useful communication at that point. Vincent's made clear in previous posts that he's capable of taking the insights that were forged at the forge and presenting them in ways that are clear to people -- but this thread is aptly called an "ordeal." It's a difficult thread. Interesting, because pretty much everyone involved is sharp as a tack and thoughtful, but really difficult. And its difficulty is Forge terminology difficulty. Forge history difficulty. It's what needs to be transcended somehow, moved past.

Anyway, that's my take on the whole darn thing, which seemed too tangential and meta to confuse the actual thread with.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Vincent Interview

Here's a short interview with Vincent Baker, the guy that made Dogs in the Vineyard. He makes me really want to check out Mountain Witch. Alas, it does not come out until May 1!