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(This is the Producer's Commentary for this, my most recent game session recap.)

So the thing about using Primetime Adventures for a supers game is Read more... )
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Who's the mind controlling roach that don't fly coach?

T.H.E.M. Episode 3, "Take Us To Your Leader"

I've been away from these for a long time, but with the two-year cliffhanger from our post-apocalyptic Deadwoodlands game finally resolved, we're hoping to play the next couple of T.H.E.M. episodes in the coming weeks. Maybe we'll even finish the season!

This one's gonna be a bit sketchy, because it was some time ago and I did not take good notes. I'll highlight the "I wonder if this enigmatic conversation will prove to be relevant in the near future?" exposition and be more hand-wavey about the cool things the players actually did. I've split my "Producer's Commentary" on game procedure-y stuff to another post.

Previously: 
"Klaatu, as in, 'I come in peace'; Dalek, as in, 'exterminate!'"
"I'm sorry, what were you saying about the 25th dimension?"
You told me Oroboros was dead.

We start with a glimpse of Dimension Y, home to the parachronic mind-controlling insectile intelligences known variously in our dimension as the Qlippoth, the Time Eaters, and the Hive. (They just call themselves "us.") It looks like a photo-negative of outer space: white sky, black stars, and a huge hive of hexagonal cells, buzzing like the Hypnotoad.

Read more... )
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Sheesh, this one is looooong. That's a great thing about PTA--a lot can happen in one session. But I need to be less prolix. And to stop using words like "prolix." As we say in academia, "I would have written something shorter, but I didn't have time."

(The Pitch) (Episode 1)

T.H.E.M.? More like T.L.; D.R., am I right? )

You can skip to the Producer's Commentary if you like. )

Next Time: Who's the fly guy from Dimension Y, the mind-controlling roach that don't fly coach? Klaatu Dalek is in the spotlight in episode 3, "Take Us To Your Leader." Will it be "klaatu barada nikto" or "exterminate"? Tune in and see, 3-dimensional meat puppets!
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T.H.E.M. Episode 1.1, "Won't Get Foiled Again"

(For the perplexed.)

“Free will is a joke!”

Comic book caption box: “MIRACLE CITY, 2012 A.D.”

Miracle City at sunset, silhouetted against the Pacific Ocean and a flame-orange sky. Flying cars, and the occasional flying superhero, flit between the mile-high office-spires of the Overcity. Our show is sort of animated, sort of not, which is the only reason the FX budget doesn’t rival the national debt. I picture it looking like a cross between the Bruce Timm / DC Comics cartoons and the rotoscoping in A Scanner Darkly. Everything is drenched in lurid colors, like CGI Skittles.

Read more... )

Next: Sidney gets his shot at the big leagues, egregious Speedos of the Silver Age, and the unbearable sadness of the water-themed supervillain, in "Help Me, My Aquatic Friends!"

T.H.E.M.

Jul. 26th, 2010 08:46 pm
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This is the Primetime Adventures game I’m running. It's called T.H.E.M. We’re coming back Friday night after a long hiatus (assuming I get my shit together), so I promised the players some detailed session recaps. This first post provides context for those of you watching at home.

The Pitch )

The Cast )

Producer's Commentary )

Next: Episode 1.1, "Won't Get Foiled Again!"
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So I'm running a PTA game! My first game mastering, not counting one InSpectres 1889 romp, since Battle Without Honor or Game Balance five years ago. It's going well; we played the pilot in February and the second episode ("Help Me, My Aquatic Friends!") last night.

The show is called T.H.E.M. (it doesn't stand for anything), and it's about a team of kinda-sorta supervillains in a city controlled by shiny corporate superheroes. Which means I'm finally in compliance with the ten mention rule I broke in 2002 or something, plus I can steal liberally from myself, the Tatro-verse, even my notes for [livejournal.com profile] weirdotron (possibly my favorite never played game, although there's a lot of competition in that field). Not to mention a zillion comic books. 

The players ([livejournal.com profile] athenalindia[livejournal.com profile] theclevermonkey, and two guys who inexplicably don't have LJs) are great. I originally pitched the game as "Grant Morrison's Dr. Horrible" but it's turning out to be a bit more of a soapy superhero noir with X-Files-y elements. I may get an episode recap up, depending how long Eli naps for.
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First, I need to apologize to those of you reading this LiveJournal for my wordy and shall we say remedial series of blog posts this week on Playful Historical Thinking. I'm writing those a) to figure out for myself what is worth saying about the topic and b) to find the language to talk about play with an audience whose playing muscles are a little more atrophied. But the people reading this LiveJournal, I'm pretty sure, already get the idea of playing with history without a whole lot of wordy hand holding. Several of you are black belt playful historical thinkers if not world masters.

Which is why I could use your input.

So I know that many of you are familiar with that thing that happens, that pattern recognition / apophenia / confirmation bias thing, when you're doing playful historical research, especially for an RPG you're playing or running or planning to run. You start flipping through books, and Google and Wikipedia, concocting some deranged historical theory, and then suddenly you start finding facts and evidence that are too perfect, that seem to confirm the very goofball theory you just yourself made up! [livejournal.com profile] princeofcairo  has written a bunch of "how to" columns on the subject, Umberto Eco built a whole novel around it, and [livejournal.com profile] mgrasso  seems to have it happen about once every three days.

What I'm trying to do is to concoct some kind of game, activity, or demonstration exercise for a group of, say, 6-12 academics that would in the space of 30 minutes or so let them have this experience themselves. Basically I want to turn sober professional historians into paranoid conspiracy theorists. Temporarily.

I thought about giving them a bunch of interesting and allusive historical sources and asking the group to come up with a theory connecting all of them, but I worry that if I choose the sources in advance it will seem like I'm stacking the deck, and they won't get that uncanny "nobody planned this and yet clearly somebody planned this" feeling. At the other extreme, I thought about hitting the Random Page link on Wikipedia a few times and asking them to connect all the things that come up--but the random pages on Wikipedia can be extremely random and farflung and it's quite possible they could not be connected. I also wonder if it would help to frame the exercise inside a mini-roleplaying game, but that's a level of artificiality that my audience just might not go for. Maybe I should just run a session of InSpectres?

Anyway, that's my current conundrum. And I know your playful historical kung fu is extremely advanced. Any ideas, suggestions, warnings, conjectures?
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I'm sorry I'm too busy to give this historic anniversary the long and loving treatment it deserves, but:

It isn't often that the world changes, in a way that's so big and dramatic and unmistakable that everybody in the world sits up and takes notice, that everybody everywhere is conscious they are experiencing History with a big History Channel capital-H. The world itself seems smaller at these moments, as we sense our connection to each other and to history and to all time. And when one of those real, history-pivoting moments happens, 9 times out of 10 the event is something bad--an assassination or a disaster or a sneak attack. How many times in an average life does the whole world change for the better, overnight? Those moments are worth remembering.

I met Lisa ([livejournal.com profile] papersource) ten years ago today. Happy anniversary, baby.

What did you think I was talking about?

(Further reading.)
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Early this morning, a pack of clean-cut kids swarmed through our neighborhood and put up big American flags in front of every house on the street. I guess it's a Labor Day thing? I've got no problem with the flag but you don't need a PhD in U.S. history to know that the relationship between the U.S. flag and the international labor movement has had its ups and downs.

What's the collective noun for these roving bands of clean-cut youngsters, anyway? An emigration of Mormons? Whatever you call them, they're a regular feature of our new neighborhood. It actually reminds me of my childhood a little: kids playing up and down the street from dawn to dusk, knocking on the door after dinner to ask if the Ukelele can come out to play. We have lots of kids in our neighborhood at home, but you book your playdates three weeks in advance, and nobody goes nowhere without a car seat, helmet, and three chaperones. Don't these Utah kids know the wild spaces of childhood have been paved over, we're all paranoid helicopter parents now? Maybe they don't read the New York Review of Books. Or maybe it's just that they have such a surplus here, it's not so crucial to look after them.

More Hilarious Observational Comedy, Utah Style )
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I think the Ukelele is adjusting to our move pretty well. I hope she is. We've thrown a lot at her this summer. First, of course, the arrival of her brother, ejecting her from the absolute center of our solar system into some kind of shared binary star formation (which, unless Star Trek has lied to me, are always at risk of collapsing or flying apart). Then the move to Utah, and with it a new house, new neighborhood, new preschool, new routines.

Her brother* is adjusting just fine. I know I haven't posted much at all about him yet. I will--love, after all, warrants yadda yadda--but as long as he remains a jovial bundle of smiles, chins, and drool, the imperious diva that is his sister is inevitably going to commandeer more than her share of our psychic resources. I'm sorry, little buddy: you seem to have inherited my big ears, my placid temperament, and my propensity to sit in a bouncy chair and be overlooked for hours.

Damn the Norwegians! )
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"This is the place," said Brigham Young, feverish and pockmarked by a painful arachnid-borne infestation known as the black measles, as his emigrating Mormons passed out of the Wasatch Mountains and caught their first glimpse of the Salt Lake Valley below. Which is to say, we're here, and Our Excellent Utah Adventure has begun.
 
I want to say something about the drive (spectacular and rejuvenating, must be all the lunar-ka soaked up along Eisenhower's ley lines, plus it's a mighty pretty country you've got here) and the summer that preceded it (which obliged the rejuvenation) and about Salt Lake City and Utah and our careful prep course of sensitive cultural immersion (Dogs in the Vineyard, Under the Banner of Heaven, and one season of Big Love), and the job and the house and all that, but if I wait to write it all up properly and in order, before I turn around it will be December and it will never get done.
 
So remembering Charles Fort's dictum about measuring a circle, I'll begin anywhere, with my first day at work, and the first two conversations I had with the department chair. I know these were both obligatory legal formalities but the juxtaposition did paint a picture: The first was about accommodating students who find their assigned readings offensive on religious or cultural grounds. Because you know there's loads of raunchy stuff in my history of communication syllabus.* The second was about students who bring concealed firearms to class. Because apparently they can.
 
Filed under "not in Canada anymore, or Massachusetts, for that matter."

*I guess the first reading does feature prostitutes and venereal disease.
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So E. has been in the hospital since Monday with some kind of infection. They've ruled out all the scary possibilities like meningitis and nobody is ultra concerned, but it is hard to sit with him there all covered with electrodes and IVs - he just doesn't have that much surface area to attach everything.

Plus the logistics of having one parent in the hospital with him at all times and then another parent taking care of a very energetic three-year-old at home. [livejournal.com profile] papersource and I see each other in the hospital twice a day - kiss, pass off the car keys and parking pass, and that's that. It gets old fast.

Last night, [livejournal.com profile] papersouce said, "We're like Ladyhawke." I HAD JUST BEEN THINKING THE EXACT SAME THING YO. We are geeks, wretched 80s geeks, but is there any doubt we were meant to be together?
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I don't think there will be many people reading this who are (a) gamers and (b) not already aware of Claw/Claw/Peck, [livejournal.com profile] head58's groovy new gaming blog, but it occurs to me there are a few.

(For instance: Ephemeral Circus, meet [livejournal.com profile] athenalindia and [livejournal.com profile] theclevermonkey--I've been gaming with them (among others) in London, at least until I had a baby and completely marooned our post-apocalypse Deadlands campaign at an excruciating cliffhanger; [livejournal.com profile] athenalindia  and [livejournal.com profile] theclevermonkey , meet the Boston circus (among others)--sorry for being AWOL so long.)

Claw/Claw is off to a nice start, with an admirable focus on praxis, both in the sense of "actual practical application" and also in the sense that that's the name of  one of [livejournal.com profile] editswlonghair's Agon hacks. So far I have contributed three Alternate Alpha Complexes, which isn't especially praxis-y, but hey, that's how we do.

(I think at one point the excellent Allen Varney and his merry band of traitors were working on a book of alternate worlds for PARANOIA, which is the sort of thing that could bring even me out of lurktirement. But I don't know what ever came of it. My understanding is that PARANOIA is now the work of one in-house writer, so Allen and the traitors' more glorious schemes have probably been shelved.)

Does the world need a new gaming blog? Perhaps not, but I'm more interested in what these particular guys have to say about gaming than I am in 90% of the gaming pundits out there. Plus the most recent post gives me credit for inventing the flashback, so I'm digging it.

Buckle Up

Jun. 4th, 2009 10:41 am
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Buckle up!

"Dear ROBERTMA,

Great news! We've made your Internet even faster! You don't have to do a thing. Your download speed has been automatically increased from 5 Mbps to 7 Mbps.* Whether you're banking online, streaming a video or booking a hotel, now you can do it even faster — at no extra cost.

Enjoy your new speed. Thank you for "choosing" Rogers.

*Download speeds may vary with Internet traffic, server or other factors."

[Graph showing average broadband speeds by country.]

Michael Geist: "As measured by price per megabyte - effectively the price for speed - Canada ranks 28th out of 30 countries, ahead of only Mexico and Poland. This may be the most telling metric, since it confirms that Canadians pay more for less."
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That was pretty sweet.

We watched the inauguration on the TV in the Centre for American Studies. There were like 50 students crammed into the little office and spilling out the door. [livejournal.com profile] papersource and the Ukelele are there on the Mall somewhere, but I've had no luck raising them on the cellphone.
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Can't you hear that singing, sounds like gold
Maybe I can only hear it in my head
Five years ago, we owned that road
Now it's rolling over us instead
Waylon Beulay is dead


Five years ago tonight (same day of the week, too) was the final session of Unknown USA. I hope to post something longer to mark this little anniversary in the next few days, but I am packing the car just now for (appropriately enough) a long drive. Much love to my old and often missed road-tripping companions. Pancakes are on me.
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IT IS THE END OF TERM and I continue to totally lazy-Web my own job. Still, there's an interesting anecdote in it for you about magic and spies.

A student of mine writes the following in an email. He irritatingly neglects to name the book he's talking about.

Magic, Mulholland, and MK-Ultra )
So, there are people on this f-list who know their CIA history, and their magic history, and lots of other things besides. Can I get a ruling on how for real any of this is? How about suggestions in general as to books on the CIA that are detailed and interesting without being written by kooks? (This latter question comes up a lot when my students are writing papers, actually.)
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Does anyone reading this still play any of the Sid Maier Civilization games, or even just have them on their computer?

I posted earlier today about my science & technology course. The first lecture back in January, I'm going to be talking about the industrial revolution and the Needham Question. Crudely put, the Needham Question asks "why didn't the industrial revolution happen in China?" Slightly less crudely put, the Needham Question asks, "why did an industrial revolution happen in England?" Less crudely put than that, the question involves me yammering on about coal deposits and opium and counterfactuals for three hours or so. (There is a twenty minute break.)

So I thought I'd use Civilization as a way of getting in to the question. Not just because you can play out alternate histories where the Sioux get the bomb and the Mongols discover the secret of cheeseburgers, but because I figure I can use the Civ tech tree as a metaphor for technological development, contingency, and determinism. What I'd like to have is a couple of screen shots from Civilization that I can use for slides. I especially want one of the discovery screens that says "Chinese Wise Men Discover the Secret of Industrialization" or however it's worded. But I could also use a handful of images of, say, ironclads putting the hurt on phalanxes, or really anything from the game. I've Googled around and found various screen shot collections but none of the discovery screen for some reason. (Did they drop it from the later versions? I thought I remembered it from Civ 3 but maybe my memory is playing tricks on me.)

If you're wondering why I don't just dig up a copy, reinstall the damn thing, and get the screen shots myself--well, that's a little like asking a former junkie to throw together a heroin kit for old times sake. Anyway, I can certainly get by without the screen shots, or with ones I pull together from the web. But if you were looking for an excuse to kill 36 hours over the holidays...
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or, WAYS SHE IS LIKE HER DAD (First In a Series)



And you're so much like me
I'm sorry

It may be that all two year olds exhibit geek personality traits. Or that all geeks exhibit two year old personality traits. My sample size is too small to be sure. Of two year olds, that is. My sample size of geeks is pretty robust.

1. A List Is Not A Conversation,
but don't tell the Ukelele that. Here's a scene that gets replayed every couple of minutes at our house:

U: "Let's talk about Muppets!"
Me: [any response other than immediately listing Muppets]
U: "LET'S TALK ABOUT MUPPETS!"
Me: "Well, OK. Kermit the Frog is a Muppet."
U: "Kermit is green! And what else?" [means: "and who else?"]
Me: "And Fozzie Bear is a Muppet."
U: "Kermit and Fozzie sing 'Moving Right Along.' And what else?"
Me: "And Doctor Teeth is a Muppet."
U: "Doctor Teeth is so many colors! And what else?"
Me: [any response other than immediately naming another Muppet]
U: "AND WHAT ELSE?"
Me: "Well, which Muppet plays the drums?"
U: "Animal! And what else?"


And so on through pretty much every named Muppet, catching me if I repeat ("No, already DID talk about Fozzie!"), flipping out if I try to stop ("MORE MUPPETS!!!!"), and cataloging one or two facts about each one along the way ("Tatlo and Waldo [Statler and Waldorf] laugh like dis: HA HA HA!").

(some time later:)
U: "Oh! We didn't talk about New Alien!"
Me: "New Alien? I don't know that one."
U: "New Alien throws the fish!"
Me: "Oh, you mean Lew Zealand. No, I guess we didn't talk about him yet."
U: "AND WHAT ELSE?!!?"


She's also very interested in Muppet emotional states:

U: "Why Beaker is sad?"
Me: "Well, sometimes his friend Bunsen is not very careful when playing with him."
U: "And what else Muppet is sad?"
Me: "Uh, most of the Muppets are pretty happy, I think."
U: "WHAT ELSE MUPPET IS SAD?!!?"


[livejournal.com profile] papersource  makes me handle these conversations more often than not. She figures the obsessive memorization and recitation of pop culture data is my genetic imprint, not hers. For some reason.

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