Reality Is The Playground Of The Unimaginative

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Thursday, 30 April 2020

How Excited Are You For Next Monday?



This will be the first "May The 4th" since the launch of Disney+

The platform is really embracing this special Star Wars day, as it will see the launch of the documentary series about the making of The Mandalorian, the streaming release of Rise Of Skywalker, the long-awaited finale of the epic Clone Wars cartoon and, possibly, The Mandalorian.

Well, that's my day take care of!

Really enjoying how the Clone Wars story is now occurring concurrently with the events of Revenge of The Sith, and so, presumably, it's building up to the revelation of Ahsoka's fate when the dreaded Order 66 command is issued.

That fight between her and Maul in the last episode (and covered in the featurette above) is one of my favourite duels from anywhere in the franchise.

Documentary Of The Week: Quentin Tarantino - The First Eight (2019)


I went into Quentin Tarantino - The First Eight (now streaming on Prime Video) hoping to be transported back to my film studies days at university and came out, not only with a fresh appreciation of Tarantino's craft, but also a ravenous hunger to see all his movies again.

This 105-minute documentary, full of film clips and interviews with his collaborators, touches on his early script work - True Romance and Natural Born Killers - but is really concerned with the first eight movies he directed in the first 21 years of his career: from Reservoir Dogs to The Hateful Eight.

From Dusk Till Dawn doesn't even get a look-in!

A host of respected actors (including Christoph Waltz, Samuel L Jackson, Tim Roth, Robert Forster etc), as well as stunt woman Zoë Bell (who doubled for Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, as well as performing in many of Tarantino's films) and others share their experiences of making movies with Tarantino, his passion for the craft, his encyclopedic knowledge of cinema, his mastery of storytelling etc

Tarantino, himself, does not appear in the film, instead his point of view is represented in quotes that appear in text on the screen.

Written and directed by Tara Wood, Quentin Tarantino - The First Eight (QT8) is a gorgeously crafted documentary.

Clearly inspired by Tarantino's visual style, the appearance of the documentary is also very much its own thing with handy graphics appearing under every name to remind us which of his movies this certain actor appeared in.

As Tim Roth reminds us, Tarantino has stated on numerous occasions that his goal is to write and direct 10 films that will be his primary body of work (number nine is Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood), thus this documentary encapsulates the majority of the work he hopes to be remembered for.

On its journey through his oeuvre, the documentary obviously addresses Tarantino's use of language, the connectivity of his different tales, and his operatic approach to violence, but we are also treated to some wonderful behind-the-scenes anecdotes and first-hand accounts of his filmmaking technique, enthusiasm, and general bonhomie.

You have to realise that I came to QT8 with my own positive bias as Reservoir Dogs and Kill Bill: Volume 1 are two of my all-time favourite movies ... there's a reason I have this poster in my office:


Initially, the documentary almost comes across as a fluff piece, seemingly uncritically praising the filmmaker for his body of work, but given the calibre of many of the speakers you soon realise he really is that good at making movies.

QT8 does mention Uma Thurman's dreadful car accident on Kill Bill - which the studio tried to cover up - and always lurking in the background is the hideous spectre of Tarantino's long-time association with producer Harvey Weinstein.

Things get a bit awkward, in the latter part of the documentary, when it confronts the Weinstein aspect of the story.

It makes it very clear that once the revelations about Weinstein came out, Tarantino severed his connection with the man, but does kind of hand-wave who knew how much.

The documentary tries to walk a fine line between addressing the elephant in the room (it was a major factor in truly bringing the foul underside of the Hollywood system into the light, that also clearly harmed many of the women involved in the movies we're talking about) but also trying not to let it overpower a study of the work of one cinema's greatest auteurs.

You can't ignore it, because that does a shocking disservice to the people affected, but on the other hand that's not what this film studies documentary is about.

Depending on your predisposition to Tarantino and his movies, I don't think Quentin Tarantino - The First Eight is going to win him any new fans, but those of us who already love his work will certainly be reminded of his peerless craft.

#RPG Can You Help A Brother Out? He's Looking For Some Superheroes...



I was approached the other day by Ron Redmond - of the late & Magazine - as he was on the hunt for Villains & Vigilantes players.

He said:
"One of the members of a PbP forum I play at is looking to start a V&V game up... He'd like a couple more players, trying to boost the signal for him."
I suggested a couple of active Villains & Vigilantes Facebook groups as a source of potential players, but if anyone is interested - or knows anyone who wants to get their cape on - then the campaign thread can be found here.

Beyond this, I know nothing about the campaign, I am just the messenger...

More Thoughts On Those Dark Places


This week, author Jonathan Hicks shared some more thoughts on his upcoming Those Dark Places RPG, and the influence of Outland and Alien on its aesthetic.

Anyone Remember This Show?



Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are bending the laws of space and time for one last mission.

Loving the pulpy poster and the whole time travel gig.

I wonder how much will actually now tie in to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and the upcoming Disney+ shows, of course).

In the States, the season kicks off on May 27.

Over here? Who knows?

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

#RPG Red Dwarf USA: "This Is America, Don't Catch You Smeggin' Now..."

The crew of The Yellow Sun

As I may have mentioned once or twice, it was a piece by my New York friend Adam Dickstein thet inspired me to dust off my old idea for a Red Dwarf campaign and settle in to the cosy familiarity of the Dwarf 'verse once more.

However, while I've been fussing around like Kryten with a pile of Lister's dirty laundry, Adam's actually getting on with his game, using the mechanics of Free League's Alien RPG rather than the system published in Deep 7's original Red Dwarf RPG, from 2003.

His campaign follows the misadventures of the crew of Space Corps Search and Research starship Yellow Sun, which was dispatched to track down the errant Red Dwarf.

Adam has already written up the first episode of his campaign, in five parts, on his blog, Barking Alien, and I believe the next episode is scheduled to played tomorrow (Thursday).
I've always found Adam's accounts of his own games to be highly inspirational and now that he's running the game I have every intention of running for the Tuesday Knights I'm paying special attention.

Social Distancing With Solar Opposites...


From Justin Roiland, the co-creator of Rick and Morty, and Mike McMahan, comes a series about a family of aliens trying to fit in on this human-infested crap-hole of a planet called Earth.

Solar Opposites lands May 8, only on Hulu
.

Weird Wednesday...

Amazing Artwork By Ïve Bastrash


Artwork by Ïve Bastrash.

First Season Sneak Peek At Penny Dreadful: City Of Angels...


Penny Dreadful: City Of Angels is scheduled to land in the UK on Sky Atlantic on July 1.

Can't wait!

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

#RPG I'm Getting Too Old For This Shit, So I'm Abandoning My Quixotic Quest...

Grail painting in from Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade

For years I've wiffled, almost obsessively on HeroPress about finding my roleplaying "holy grail".

Most recently, I'd decided this would be some form of level-based Dungeons & Dragons clone that used ALL the polyhedrals (as I'd long had a stick up my arse about games that didn't take advantage of the full spectrum of dice).

This led to several months of rules hacking, slaving away at carving my own beautiful Frankengame from the bones of Newt Newport's First Edition Crypts & Things, held together with sticky tape made from various houserules I've concocted over the years for a variety of Dungeons & Dragons-style games.

I certainly wouldn't consider games that just used the common-or-garden d6 (far too mundane)  and I wouldn't be entertaining mechanics that relied on "dice pools" (given my feeling that such mechanics are the antithesis of mass combat situations or any other scenario where the gamesmaster has to deal with multiple NPC skill checks simultaneously).

The future for me (and The Tuesday Knights) was Frankengame or nothing.

Until I started reading Free League's Alien RPG.

And suddenly, like a bolt from heaven, I realised that - perhaps - I'd been wrong.

This game appeared to use a streamlined and elegant d6 dice pool mechanic that captured the atmosphere and emotion of the setting so elegantly.

But then, as we all know, a certain post on Adam Dickstein's Barking Alien sent me back to the old Red Dwarf RPG, which only relies on 2d6 for task resolution (highly reminiscent of the classic Traveller mechanic, which we never questioned back in the day... and I still wouldn't!).

So, in the space of no time at all, I've torn up the Holy Grail playbook, put my Frankengame on the backburner, and am diverting all my attention to the idea of a Red Dwarf RPG campaign.

Because whatever you may think of the series, it really is the perfect set-up for a roleplaying game, with one of the most clear-cut explanations for throwing a disparate group of characters together and forcing them to work as a gestalt family.

As I read through the rules, I'm continuing to work on my world-building over at The Red Knight Chronicles blog, which, ultimately, will serve as the in-game record of events (unlike the my broader Aliens-themed blog, Game Over, Man! Game Over! which touches on a variety of gaming-related topics loosely tied to the ideas of the Alien franchise).

It'll be some time before the crew of The Red Knight actually see any action, as Simon said the other day we still had a fair bit to cover in his Ravenloft campaign, then Pete is lined up to run his GURPS 1950's Atomic Age sci-fi game.

But it would still be cool if you decided to click "follow" up in the top, right-hand, corner of The Red Knight Chronicles and joined me, and the crew, on this wacky world-building exercise ahead of, what I hope could become my "forever campaign".

If I keep wasting time chopping and changing my ideas, eventually I'm going to run out of time.

I'm no spring chicken. I don't need to be trying to wrap my head around complex rules mechanics or in-depth worlds when all I really want to do is make up on-going fun stories with my gaming buddies.

And Red Dwarf seems like a great vehicle for that.

In The Season Finale Of Westworld...



And the usual spoilerific behind-the-scenes featurette:



We also know that not only has season four been greenlit, but the showrunners are aiming for a six season arc.

Prepare To Dive...

click to embiggen

101 Alien Scenario Ideas

Alien King by freelance concept artist arvalis

The RPG.net hivemind has compiled 101 ideas for diverse scenarios in the Alien oeuvre, after eliminating the plots of the movies from the mix.

Thanks to Craig Oxbrow for drawing this thread to my attention.

Walking Dead: Sneak Peak At Season Finale...



We don't know when it's coming, but it's coming...

Monday, 27 April 2020

Musical Monday: On The Run (Pink Floyd)


Filmed live on 20 October 1994 at Earls Court, London, UK. Restored & re-edited in 2019 from the original tape masters.

Multiple Doctors In An Epic Adventure Across Time, Space, And Media...


Launching in September, Time Lord Victorious is a brand-new multi-platform Doctor Who story told across audio, novels, comics, vinyl, digital, immersive theatre, escape rooms and games.

The adventure will unfold over twelve weeks, with products and experiences releasing from September until January 2021.

Time Lord Victorious will be set within the Dark Times at the start of the universe, when even the Eternals were young. It features the Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Doctors, travelling across space and time as they defend the universe from a terrible race.

As well as three Doctors, companion Rose Tyler and monsters including the Daleks and the Ood will feature, plus more to be revealed over the coming months as products are announced.

Partners involved in the project include Penguin Random House, BBC Books, Doctor Who Magazine, Titan Comics, Escape Hunt, Big Finish and Immersive Everywhere.

James Goss, Producer, said:
"BBC Studios’ Doctor Who licensees have come together to tell an amazing epic – one that’s full of monsters, fun and heart. All strands of the story unite into a mighty patchwork that ranges from one end of the universe to the next. There's more to be revealed, but the enthusiasm and ideas which the licensees have come up with are breath-taking. It's going to be such fun."

Map-A-Monday: Ancient Egypt and Nubia

click to embiggen

You've Got An Alien In My Traveller


Published in 1980, issue four of the prestigious Journal of the Travellers Aid Society (a source of supplementary material for the original iteration of the grandaddy of sci-fi RPGs, Traveller) included this highly unofficial adaptation, by Chuck Kallenbach, of the creature shown in Ridley Scott's original Alien movie:


Thanks to a very kind fan of this blog - and HeroPress - for drawing this article to my attention.

#ASMR Satisfying Sounds From the Loop...


Musical Monday: The Great Gig In The Sky (Pink Floyd)


Filmed live on 20 October 1994 at Earls Court, London, UK. Restored & re-edited in 2019 from the original tape masters.

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Aliens: Theatrical Cut vs Special Edition


What's Going On In Room 237?


Is Stanley Kubrick's feature film The Shining full of hidden messages and confessions? Is it about Native Americans? Bulls? Or his confession that he faked the moon landing for NASA - all this is discussed in Room 237.
Dark Corners casts an eye over the bonkers documentary Room 237 that I wrote about the other day.

Since watching the brilliant Doctor Sleep, when it was released on Blu-Ray earlier this year, I, too, have become rather fascinated by the mythology of The Shining, but only in respect to the idea of it being a stunningly unnerving haunted house flick.

Travel To The Forbidden Planet For Your Alien Day Mementos


Check out the Forbidden Planet's Alien range for some sale bargains and pre-orders.

Free League Wins Alien Day By Opening Pre-Orders On Two New Box Sets


Today, in honour of Alien Day, the annual 4/26 celebration of the Alien franchise and fandom, Free League has announced not one but two major expansions for the official Alien RPG: a boxed Starter Set and a brand-new Cinematic scenario entitled Destroyer of Worlds.

Both titles will be released in August and can be pre-ordered today via the official Alien RPG website. If you pre-order, you will get complete PDFs well ahead of the official release day.


The boxed Starter Set is designed to be the perfect entry point into the game and the Alien universe. It contains everything needed to start playing:
  • A 104-page condensed rulebook.
  • The 48-page complete Cinematic scenario Chariot of the Gods by Andrew E.C. Gaska.
  • Five pre-generated characters to play.
  • A huge full-colour, double-sided map (format 864x558mm), with one side depicting chartered space in the year 2183 and the other floor plans for the Chariot of the Gods scenario.
  • 84 game markers for keeping track of characters, motion tracker pings, and more.
  • 56 high quality custom cards for weapons, personal agendas, and initiative in combat.
  • A set each of ten engraved Base Dice and ten Stress Dice, designed specifically for the ALIEN roleplaying game.


Destroyer of Worlds is a complete Cinematic scenario, written by sci-fi novelist Andrew E.C. Gaska just like the previous Chariot of the Gods.

In Destroyer of Worlds, you take the roles of Colonial Marines as seen in Aliens (1986).

The scenario is designed for 3–5 players plus the Game Mother, and it’s a gauntlet of one hell after another. Expect it to take three sessions to complete. This boxed set contains:
  • The main Destroyer of Worlds scenario book.
  • A huge double-sided map (format 864x558mm) of the Ariaricus moon colony on one side and the Fort Nebraska space elevator ground base on the other.
  • Five pre-generated characters to play.
  • Custom cards for weapons, vehicles, and personal agendas.
  • Player maps and handouts.

Spend Alien Day With Studio Yutani


You can find the megacast here: https://www.youtube.com/c/studioyutani

Happy Alien Day!



Now THIS is how you make a movie trailer!

The Horror! The Horror!

Saturday, 25 April 2020

Nicole Maines Stars In Horror-Comedy Bit...


Bit is the story of Laurel (Supergirl's Nicole Maines), a teenage transgender girl who moves to LA and falls in with a gang of intersectional feminist vampires. Not knowing if they want to kill her, befriend her or turn her, Laurel learns to understand the love and dangers of her new and first group of friends.

Mondo Merch For Alien Day


With Alien Day falling on a Sunday (tomorrow) this year, artistic outlet Mondo has released its celebratory products early.

Check out its range of themed Tiki mugs, T-shirts, badges (pins to our American readers) etc here.

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)


Oh my God, Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is bad.

It's as though director Cathy Yan and writer Christina Hodson haven't seen a costumed superhero movie in the last few decades and have instead presented us with an '80s-style action movie that only pays lip-service to its supposed comic book roots.

In essence Birds Of Prey is a tired first season Arrow episode with dialogue spiced up with the f-bomb quotient of a DC Streaming show and very few indications of where the big Hollywood budget went.

Harley (Margot Robbie) has just split from The Joker (I guess in the wake of Suicide Squad, although no reference is made to that movie at all) and found her immunity from the enmity of Gotham underworld rescinded.

In trying to broker some kind of peace with gang boss Roman Sionis (a sad waste of Ewan McGregor's talents), aka The Black Mask, Harley agrees to recover a crucial diamond that has been pinched by juvenile pickpocket Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco).

The diamond actually originally belonged to the Bertinelli crime family (and holds the encoded key to their missing fortune), but the only surviving member is Helena Bertinelli (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who operates as the vigilante known as The Huntress (or The Crossbow Killer).

Also tangled up in this web is disillusioned police detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) and torch singer-turned-mob driver Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) aka The Black Canary.

Don't expect much in the way of character development in Birds of Prey. Outside of Margot Robbie owning the role of Harley, the only one of the central women that borders on interesting is The Huntress, while all the others remain plot-driven cyphers rather than fully-rounded characters.

However, credit must be given for scriptwriter Christina Hodson's clever use of non-linear narrative in the first half of the film to get the audience invested in, what is actually, a very small and quite mundane plot (if it wasn't an episode of Arrow it could have been a recycled episode of NCIS).

Conversely, maybe 50 percent of the constant wannabe-Deadpool voice-over by Harley is wholly unnecessary and most of the film isn't anywhere near as funny as it thinks it is.

The most memorable joke revolves around Huntress continually being referred to as The Crossbow Killer instead of by the alias she chose, which again reminds me heavily of early Arrow.

Outside of odd moments, Birds of Prey is dreary, bordering on tedious, and even the odd heavily-choreographed fight scene isn't really enough to pique - let alone hold - the viewer's interest.

Unlike the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there seems to be some reluctance here to actually show characters in superhero (or supervillain) costumes (barring Harley's unique style of dress and The Huntress's hoodie... or raincoat) and you can count on one finger the number of times actual comic book superpowers are used.

This reticence to embrace its source material continually reminded me of my growing aggravations with The CW's superhero shows, but without the excuse of having to stick to a TV budget.

Hell, Gotham did Gotham better than Birds of Prey. There's no sense of scale here, everything - including the storyline - just seems to revolve around a very small area and involve a handful of people in what appear to be stage sets (even when they are supposedly outdoors).

Yet, in Birds of Prey we still got dumb things like introducing us to Harley's (CGI) hyena... purely for the sake of being able to say: "Look, we included Harley's hyena", then having it promptly written out until the final scene.

The presence of a hyena really could have made an interesting addition to the climatic showdown in the abandoned amusement arcade.

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, released this weekend digitally through the Sky Store, is not a good film. It's not even so bad it's good. It's just bad.

#RPG Shelfie Saturday...

An assortment of genres and systems in the gamesroom

The combination of our house move last year and now the global lockdown has been a good time to get my gaming materials sorted.

Barring a few odds and sods, I reckon these photos show the remnants of my depleted 40(ish)-year-old gaming collection that has been bounced from house-to-house since the '80s as I moved around this corner of Kent, before finding my "forever home" here with Rachel.

And, to be honest, there may well be further trimming of the collection once the quarantine has been lifted and life can get back to some semblance of normality.

Star Trek and Red Dwarf
Ubiquity games, new school Traveller, old school Deadlands, and Underground
Mork Borg, Troika, and Jim Zub's D&D guides
Bit Of A Cheat: My Aliens shelf, the RPG stuff is on the far left.
A lot of fantasy games - largely Dungeons & Dragons... or variants
'Zines and digest-sized publications - mainly fantasy
Box Sets!

Thor: Love & Thunder (2022) + Dr Who (2022)

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