Monthly Archives: February 2011
It’s been a while since I went over Complete Arcane, but I finally got around to going through another 3.5 splatbook with an eye on conversion: Complete Adventurer. (Thankfully, there are other conversions already out there, so at this point I can just cherry pick and critique the different versions.)
CA is my favorite out of the official 3.5 splatbook library. It has a wide range of rogue-like base and prestige classes. Many of the pres classes are fascinating hybrids: the shadowbane, daggerspell, and nightsong in particular are things I’ve always wanted to play. And it has the shadowmind and dread pirate, which should count for something. Granted, most of these are converted from 3.0 sources, but I never owned any of those, so I’m one of the few people who won’t bitch about the reprint rate.
Needless to say, it’s also one of the easiest (and most straightforward) to convert to Pathfinder. Why? The base classes don’t have any dead levels, meaning they’re on the right road to start with. Making them as powerful and balanced as the Pathfinder classes takes relatively little work, though they really do need it: this isn’t 3.5 any more, and these base classes just aren’t as powerful as they used to be.
The ninja is still pretty good, though the official one is about to outshine it. The scout is no longer guaranteed to be more powerful than either a ranger or rogue, and needs the most work to become competitive again. And while the spellthief is a decent all-around class, it really needs a boost in power to make it something people will actually play.
I’ve been meaning for a while now to post about Detroit 1-8-7, how awesome it is, and how it’s shot locally, and how it features the people mover actually moving people, but with today’s state budget proposal I figured to go with this since it’s a bit more timely (while also relevant). It’s a surprisingly big deal in the state, and apparently with the Hollywood side of things.
The Michigan Film Industry incentives have been fascinating to observe. On the one hand, they’re just starting to take off. Detroit 1-8-7 is the main TV hit, and it’s struggling; HBO’s Hung is the other big TV show. For films, there are a small number of big-name successes out of the 135 productions: the biggest name is the upcoming remake of Red Dawn, a bit odd considering our latest fears usually revolve around terrorists and not Cold War fantasy relapses, but also include’s Eastwood’s awesome Gran Torino, the Micheal Cera comedy Youth In Revolt, Transformers 3, Cedar Rapids (which I keep seeing ads for and thought it looked awfully local), George Cloony’s upcoming Up In The Air, a frightening number of Lifetime movies, and a mix of local films and direct-to-DVD flicks I’ve never heard of before and will probably never hear of again.
On the other hand, it’s pretty cool to have this as a local thing; it promotes an air of creativity compared to the previous “Rust Belt Despondancy” with all those industrial jobs leaving even though we don’t want to work at them any way. It may be a little presumptuous, and the amount of interest some people (and the local news companies) give the films industry is probably way too optimistic, unreasonably so. It’s not quite a Music Man story yet, compared to the people mover (that shitty monorail you see in the background of Detroit 1-8-7, which approximately ten people ride per day, if it happens to be operating) or Autoworld (the Flint equivalent of Disneyland, which is, of course, abandoned).
But it’s had an interesting start. There’s been a lot of growth in the past three years; Michigan creative-type students (film and video, comm, writing, et al) get a morale boost thinking they can won’t necessarily have to leave the state/can get easy; it could indeed surpass the fading auto industry to become Michigan’s second largest industry in terms of employment and economics (last time I checked, it was Michigan’s wineries and microbreweries at the top). And there’s this dorky glee when I watch locally-filmed stuff: I saw Gran Torino when at college, and it was like being home. (Well, close to being at my current home, because it was like seeing my great aunt’s old home, but close enough.)
So, in sum. It’s fascinating to locals who develop a bit of a pipe-dream complex, but it’s also turning around a lot of niche markets in the state (hospitality and tourism management majors have a job in a hotel/catering outfit near you), and is a much better way to promote the state than the auto industry (bailouts), tourism (sadly dying), and the produce/wineries segment (which only works for half the state). Now, the Michigan Film Industry’s on the rocks, and not in the good way.
Some leftovers from last month’s viewing when I was sick. I lumped these two action flicks together, mostly because I saw the trailers for both of them when I went out to see another, probably far better movie in the theaters. Since I was either busy or broke over most of the summer, I missed out on all the trashy action movies—The Expendables, The Losers, The A-Team, Red, Machete—which was kind of a shame.
Though, in at least two cases, I now know I didn’t miss out on much.
Originally, I started out writing this for Wednesday (3 February ’11), but thanks to a surprise case of Head Injury Theater and a trip to the ER, I didn’t get past the rough draft stage. Needless to say, I took the rest of the week off recovering. So, I’m splitting up the entry into three smaller parts, looking at aspects of Lovecraft and how they relate to horror roleplaying.
I had a decent intro paragraph that is now long since forgotten, save that it brought up a quote from some random dolt (more on him later) who plays in the game I’m in. The quote is roughly “What’s the point in playing a game [Call of Cthulhu] where you know everybody is going to die at the end?,” an only slightly bitter sentiment following the guy’s first exposure to CoC a few months prior. To be honest, I don’t have so much a problem about playing in a Cthulhu game so much as I can’t comprehend how you can have a “long-running” Cthulhu game. Sure, sure, the protagonists can spend a half-dozen tense sessions building up knowledge of strange cults, leading to extraplanar entities, leading to the eventual madness and death. But since the guys at Chaosium have honed this arc down to the point where you can play it in a three- to five-hour session (e.g., convention adventures, tourney adventures, pretty much all premade Cthulhu adventures)… I don’t see a reason to delay the inevitable and draw it out over several months. Namely, because either the players will have done something stupid and went insane/bumbled into the local Migou/Esoteric Order of Dagon convention, or because the GM would have done something right and driven the PCs mad/into the downward spiral of infighting/straight into a shoggoth hive or something.
One last Lovecraft-related anecdote. After playing in a few CoC games, my roommate decided he should (as a nerd and all) delve into the actual Lovecraft stories and read some of the Mythos. So, with all due attention, he asked to borrow one of my Lovecraft comps (the SFBC collection Black Seas of Infinity, which I’ve been reading again, hence the topic). Some fifteen-twenty minutes later, he returned the book, having read the first story (“The Call of Cthulhu” proper), telling me “It wasn’t scary at all, but I thought it was pretty cool that they brained Cthulhu with a tramp steamer.” No, these are not terribly scary in the campfire tale/ghost story vein; they’re not even spooky or spine-tingling.
Let’s put that up front (along with the fact Lovecraft used prose we now consider antiquated). The Mythos is scary because of the exact tropes I’ve underlined below, namely the first one; it’s a psychological terror, realizing that everything we come to accept as fact, realizing the boundaries of Human Ingenuity, realizing the place of humanity on the cosmic scale are so finite and infinitesimally small that we are nothing more than playthings to beings vastly more intelligent and powerful. Don’t read Lovecraft because you want to jump out of your seat. Read Lovecraft because you want to see human perceptions of the world—namely, the Victorian/Edwardian “humanity is so incredibly advanced right now,” “pushing back the dark boundaries of the universe with the light of civilization and industry” conception—shattered when the smartest and most powerful are put in the Migou’s killing jar.