My son received a big set of Marvel action figures for Christmas today, and I was just thinking how cool it is that three of them — if you count Zoe Saldana as Gamora, since that is the only way my kid has ever experienced her — are POC. That mostly did not exist when I was a kid.

(That said, I’m remembering now that I’m pretty sure I had one of the old MEGO figures of Falcon back in the day. Which is basically more credit to Marvel and the persistence of that character. I mean, beside him and Lando Calrissian, what other options were there back then?)

So, Happy Holidays and WAKANDA FOREVER.

I went to see Aquaman last night with some friends, and it was pretty fun. Maybe it’s because I went into it with exceedingly low expectations, but it feels like maybe DC is finally getting their film act together.

Granted, the storytelling is crude, and the levels of pulpy contrivance and cheesy dialogue reminded me of The Mummy — i.e., recognizably dumb, but not so dumb that it ruined the viewing experience. Momoa has really grown as an actor and manages to exude a decent amount of charisma, and Kidman and Dafoe bring their heavy chops to bear. Unfortunately, I found Heard about as compelling as a hatrack, but she still manages to be a decent heroine.

But, really, the big draw here is the visuals. Unlike most other DC films, Aquaman is not endlessly drab — there’s even a whole fight scene shot in bright daylight! All of the underwater sequences are gorgeous, with beautiful world and character design. The big battle sequence at the end, for me, made everything in every Star Wars movie look like Plan 9 from Outer Space.

And, best of all, the film actually makes Aquaman look cool. I mean, after decades of “talk to the fishies” jokes, this film makes that power look so goddamn epic that you’ll never mock Aquaman again.

The only thing I will say felt outright dumb to me was Black Manta. He starts out as a decent cliche, but then in the second half of the film, he gets ridiculous. He’s given a cache of advanced Atlantean weaponry and a time-sensitive mission to go after Aquaman, but instead of doing that he has to head to his secret lair, paint all of it black, and assemble it into power armor with a GIANT BOBBLEHEAD OF LASER DOOM that looks so ridiculous that I basically wrote him off. It’s like someone dropped an extra from Spectraman into the middle of the film.

Anyway, while this is still not even in the ballpark of the MCU, it’s a solid popcorn flick. I was pleasantly surprised.

#10RPGs — 10/10 Hilarity — Call of Cthulhu Back in high school, I ran CoC once — once. My friends were way less interested in the game than I was, but they gave it a shot. After making characters and bumbling for a while through the scenario I’d bought, there came the SAN roll that ended the game. See, when you fail a SAN roll, sometimes you don’t go insane but you do get some sort of insight. In the course of investigating the disappearance of a number of young girls — why is it always young girls? — our intrepid academics stumble upon a pile of rotting corpses in a cave. SAN roll! They fail but only lose a few points. The insight I gave them: “You realize that these are bodies of the missing girls.” My players start laughing maniacally and start jumping around the game table, saying, “THE SKY IS BLUE! THE SKY IS BLUE! NOOOOO!” And that was the last time I ran CoC for probably another decade or so. Ref:

Chicago Gameday 50 was this past Saturday. Here’s a quick recap.
I played two games ta Gameday: The Clay That Woke and Action Movie World. It was my second time playing the former, first time the latter.
Tim Koppang ran TCTW for me, Dave Michalak, Nathan Paoletta, and Josh Brining. I’d previously played TCTW with Tim at another Gameday, so while I still have not read my copy, I was coming into the game with some basic aptitude. The web of stories that emerged centered around all of our minotaurs being sent on errands by our Decadent human masters that intersected around a number of women who were being betrayed or disposed of in various repugnant manners.
My love for this game continues to grow. Having used the Krater of Lots before, I was able to “game” the Inflections a little better, which definitely put me more at ease. Also, Tim really hammered on the “oppressed minority” aspect of minotaurs in the setting, which was wonderfully tragic and frustrating in a good way. It also finally dawned on me how deeply Paul Czege has embedded the contradictory nature of Silence, like how characters refresh their tokens — e.g., “Never talk about your emotions” vs. “Refresh [x] whenever you talk about your emotions to a leader minotaur.” I love it! Some aspects of the setting are a little phantasmagoric for my taste, but that won’t stop me from running this.
Oh, and, yes, I did play “Welcome to the Jungle” when Nathan’s minotaur broke Silence and ran off into the trees, thankyouveyrmuch.
Megan Pedersen ran Action Movie World for me, Joe Beason, and three other non-G+ peeps. I was really looking forward to this one as the concept is brilliant and Ian Williams is the best. We ended up playing out a Trek-like B-movie about defeating a horde of invading aliens; our ship was the U.S.S. Offensive. 😁
Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite connect with this one. It may have been my waning energy levels, or it may have been that the three other folks playing seemed… well, not turtling, but sort of low-energy and not really fully playing into the meta-framework of the game. They didn’t really react to the content the way I expected them to, and the ideas I was coming up with either jarred with theirs or felt too little, too late. This is no fault of Megan’s; she is a great GM and her love for bad cinema made her perfect for the role in AMW. And Joe did a wonderful job, as he always does.
It may just be that PbtA and I don’t get along, or that I just don’t grok it yet. They’ve been very hit-or-miss for me. I don’t know if I’m just supposed to talk until someone tells me I trigger a move (the “conversation”) or if I should be gunning for specific moves (which is what it felt like Joe was doing). I dunno, maybe I’ll figure it out someday. I’m definitely still interested in trying AMW again.
Oh, and pictured below are both the ever-lovely Tim K. in one of the official Gameday 50 t-shirts, and the lovely dice cake that Joe baked for us. In the background, you can see half of the cupcakes that Laurie and Kelly Johnson brought. Not pictured are the, like, 30 chocolate eclairs that Dave M. contributed. So many baked goods!


#10RPGs — 9/10 Change — Runequest

It’s weird how often I will post about a game that I have honestly never managed to play (I tried once or twice in my youth and failed), but RQ stuck its tendrils into my brain around age 12 and has refused to let go. A classless RPG about a Bronze Age world with weird mythic, shamanistic color and no elves or dwarves and “orcs” (i.e., trolls) that were an important race that was as much ally as an enemy? Sign. Me. Up. There is something wonderfully organic about Glorantha, and RQ felt like a D&D where all of that cultural stuff outside the dungeon was honestly way more important.

Someday, I will get this to the table.


#10RPGs — 8/10 Empathy — Velvet Glove

I played this at Forge Midwest back in April and wrote about it here:

This was the first game to leap to mind at the prompt of “empathy,” as it really made me uncomfortable in a good way. I was really feeling for our PCs while simultaneously having my mind expanded. I really look forward to the full release of this one.


Doctor Who RPG, FGU’s Chivalry & Sorcery and Space Opera
It was really hard to narrow this one down, so I didn’t. Each of these is a game where I feel like you do a lot of math for no discernable benefit. Doctor Who is the worst culprit; as far as I can tell, in chargen you do a huge amount of derived number-crunching that’s basically: spend points to spend points so you can spend points on whether you are a) GOOD or b) BAD at a couple skills. C&S likewise would require massive sliding-scale-as-you-went math just to determine whether, e.g., your magic-user started the game with a wand. And, of course, the trigonometry (literally) you needed to do spaceships in SO.