I separated the VTES wiki into a subdomain (vtes.orava.org) and set up a new wiki there. I’m in the process of moving things over, will probably take a bit until it’s all there – I have an Exalted game to run on Sunday and need to prep for that, and various things (including a Porcupine Tree concert) eat up most of Saturday.
Anyway, registration is free for all and you’re welcome to add VTES-related content there. Spammers and vandals will be deal with appropriately.
Ok, the 2008 tournament rules for VTES just came out, and contained some (welcome) surprises. The changes contained two significant items:
The cards Edge Explosion, Memories of Mortality and Protect Thine Own are now banned in tournament play.
The way finals results are tallied has changed, now the top scorer of the final round (only) is the winner, all other finalists share second place. In addition, prize splitting is forbidden.
Now, this has already spawned a lot of talk both on the newsgroup and on a local mailing list. The overall reception has been very positive, with of course some dissent here and there.
So, what does this mean, and why was this done? Here are my views, in a nutshell.
First off, the banned cards.
Edge Explosion - I think the rules team correctly identified this as the problem card, causing the problems with overpowered Imbued decks. It let them largely ignore Conviction costs, and also let you largely ignore Virtues, letting you build optimal cryps mostly based on special abilities. Without this, Imbued decks will actually have to pay attention to Conviction as a resource, and also make a lot more (hard) choices in crypt construction. This is good. This would have been a hard card to errata without rewriting it completely, so I think a ban is justified.
Memories of Mortality - this has always been a stupidly powerful card, but with the Imbued it became a problem card. Total shutdown for combat decks, and near-impossible to get rid of (especially since most Imbued decks used Anthelios to cycle it back). I would have personally preferred an errata to this card, making it a lot less powerful, since this ban also hit some otherwise ok ally decks hard… but I’m ok with a ban, too. This card is too strong, whichever way you look at it.
Protect Thine Own - well, what can I say, except “goddamit, finally!”. This card has been a problem since forever, the effect is simply too strong, no easy way to rewrite it to reasonable levels without totally changing it. Ban is fine.
So, in effect: the Imbued get a (deserved) nerf, while still being totally playable and competitive. IMHO, of course, some people disagree on this. Also, an old problem card has finally been buried for good.
Then, for the tournament finals rules: the reason here is that lately, tournament finals have tended to be… well, not that fun. Too much careful table talk and wrangling, and weird deals made just so someone could become 3rd instead of 2nd. This change will hopefully force people to play to win in the finals, disregarding everything else. What will probably happen is lots of careful table talk and wrangling, but the moment anyone gets a VP everyone else goes all-out. We’ll see.
All in all, I’m very happy, these changes should result in better games all around. An overpowered deck type has been toned down a bit, and players in finals have been given new priorities.
My “hate list” is growing short, here, it now only contains Anthelios and Direct Intervention.
On a VTES-related note, Monger is still down, but Jussi Hattara’s excellent Secret Library provides a good replacement. I haven’t played around much with it yet, but what I’ve seen looks very cool and well-designed.
What do you do when Rick Astley just doesn’t cut it anymore?
Simple. You go hooga chakka ooga ooga….
Well, we finally got a pile of snow over here. Sure, it was mostly gone by this morning, but still… Sunday morning, I actually had some trouble driving the car down our driveway, had to take care not to get stuck. Kind of hoping the snow comes back soon, even though it’s a bit of a hassle it still changes the dreary grey into less dreary white – a big deal, as we’re right now in the worst stretch of the “it’s always dark, dammit!” Finnish winter.
Was a bit of an exercise-oriented weekend, for a change; six hours of martial arts / self-defense training on Saturday and three more on Sunday. Was a ton of fun, we explored what options a walking stick, a (big) flashlight, an axe, and a (normal trouser) belt give you. Turns out a walking stick/cane is a lot more versatile than even I would have imagined, especially if it has a hook on one end. Another surprise was the belt… it can become a surprisingly useful weapon/accessory. Best of all, neither are generally classified as weapons, and can be carried in places where a knife, for example, would get you in trouble.
The fact that an axe is a pretty good weapon came as no surprise, and neither the fact that a large flashlight doubles as a weapon without much problems. Have to watch out against blinding yourself, of course… we did some training in a darkened room, lots of fun that.
Besides that flailing around on an exercise mat, it was a nice, peaceful weekend. Cleaned up around the house, read quite a bit, watched some “tv”. I can now safely say that Pushing Daisies is very much worth watching, I found it delightful. It’s also… unconventional. It’s a romantic comedy, and it’s also a sort of an urban fairly tale (with a slightly macabre twist). The 3rd party narrator and the hyper-saturated colors add to this, it’s a totally intentional vibe. The writing is excellent and very funny, and there are just wonderfully bizarre momments (like when the passengers in a car suddenly start singing a They Might Be Giants song). It’s quirky and warm-hearted and I’m very much enjoying it.
What’s it about? Well, there’s this pie maker, who can raise the dead by touching them. Thing is, if he ever touches them again, they drop dead again. For good. If he doesn’t “kill” them again within one minute, someone or something else dies as a side-effect. Then there’s a girl named Chuck, some kooky aunts, and much surrealism.
The whole thing is just so weird and unconventional that I’ll be surprised if it stays on air for very long. On the other hand, it’s apparently gotten great ratings and has been picked up for a full season, so apparently I’m not the only one finding it charming. We’ll see.
Oh, and on a totally unrelated note: I’ve previously talked about Delta Green: Eyes Only, a Delta Green book collecting three near-impossible-to-find old chapbooks, with lots of new material thrown in. Well, it’s now shipping, and also nearly sold out; as of Sunday, there were 110 copies left out of 1000. After this limited run sells out, getting your hands on a copy might be highly non-trivial. So: if you’ve been thinking of maybe getting this, act now. Soon it will be too late. There’s a Game Geeks video review of the book available, if you want to get a quick description of what the book’s about.
Word of warning: the book is only available through Internet order, and the shipping costs to Finland are pretty high. The US$ is pretty low vs the euro at the moment, but still… this book will cost you a bit.
No, you can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
And if you try sometime you find
You get what you need
– Rolling Stones, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”
I still have tons of tv episodes sitting on disk, waiting for me to get time to watch them, but yesterday I finally got around to watching the final episodes of one of my favorite new shows, Californication. Final verdict: made me laugh out loud, made me cringe, made me care for the characters. I’m glad this is apparently being picked up for a second season; I’ll be watching.
David Duchovny plays Hank Moody, a novelist with sex and drug addictions (and a writer’s block) who is struggling to raise his daughter part-time, while trying to cope with life without (and with) his ex-girlfriend. The dialogue is brilliant, there’s a lot of very explicit sex and various recreational drugs, and in general the series doesn’t hold back much – it starts off with Hank getting head from a nun (with the Rolling Stones playing in the background), and goes off at 90 mph from there. It’s no wonder that many conservative groups have condemned the series and mounted some protests against it. Family-friendly fare this is not.
…but it is very human, in a way that reminds me of Six Feet Under (another series that also managed to… disturb some conservative elements). Now, this is very different fare from Six Feet Under, and to be honest in the beginning I felt this show might be using the sex & drugs thing a bit too much of an exploitative device. I changed my mind, though, there is very much a point and the whole thing works. Hank is, to quote his daughter, a “tragically flawed person”, but he’s also sympathetic. He’s trying, sometimes, though he fucks up more often than he gets it right. There’s also a very definitive Spider Jerusalem vibe there, during Hank’s stint as a blogger for a magazine. Both characters rant “I hate it here!”, but can’t help caring for some people round them, can’t help also being decent human beings when the mood strikes them.
This is billed as a comedy, and yes, it had me laughing out loud in many places – but it’s comedy in the same sense that Six Feet Under was a comedy. The humor is pretty dark and bizarre, at times.
Anyway, I can recommend this to anyone who isn’t too conservative. People with too much of a prudish outlook will probably just fixate on the sex & drugs thing, and ignore what the series is actually about… which would be a shame. This is good stuff.
About other stuff, let’s see… Moonlight is another new series I like, though it seems that so far I’m the only one who likes it (sort of like Supernatural, in that regard). It’s a modern-day vampire story, and while it doesn’t break any new ground in any regard, the story and characters are interesting. This could well be a WoD story (again, like Supernatural). The pilot is very mediocre but the series picks up pace fast – don’t give up right away, watch the first 3-4 episodes or so. It’s not a wonderful show, but it’s pretty good; I like it and will probably continue watching if it gets picked up for another season.
Supernatural itself enters season three, but I’ve only seen the first episode of that so far so can’t comment much, other than to say it seems to follow the style of the previous seasons. Good WoD/Hunter -flavored monster hunt romp, with uneven episode quality (some excellent ones in there, some pretty poor ones). I keep watching.
Heroes season two is still in the “to watch” pile, as is the second season of Rome, season two of Dexter and other known-to-be-good stuff. Pushing Daisies gave a good (and weird) impression based on the pilot, but too early to tell yet. Stargate Atlantis continues to be lightweight brain candy, not too good but watchable on the side. Desperate Housewives, now in season four, is also brain candy but a lot better and quite a lot of fun. Nip/Tuck continues to mainly go for the cheap shocks, I’m not sure why I still watch it; it’s not all that good – though I do have to admit the self-deprecating tv-show plot in the latest season is good fun.
As for the “avoid” list: Bionic Woman is pretty crap (no big surprise there), watched the first 5 episodes then gave up. Not sure why I bothered in the first place, maybe because some rare tv remakes turn out to be good. This wasn’t one of those.
I think it was Radio Paradise that initially introduced me to Imogen Heap, both through solo work and as vocalist of Frou Frou. I was immediately struck by her distinctive voice, and by how she managed to inject something very unique into what was, on the surface, bouncy electropop.
Nowadays, every time I head something by her, I wonder why I don’t already own all her work; reasons tend include such down-to-earth things like cash and availability. My favorite song so far isn’t on her “normal” albums, it’s the song Glittering Cloud from the theme compilation Plague Songs. Wonderful tune. I would have bought it via iTunes, but it’s only available as DRM’ed version so no sale (related gripe: why can’t all labels release their catalogs without DRM already?).
The latest in the long list of “my god, she’s good” moments is this live studio clip. Wow.
Fun weekend in Turku, attending a knife fighting seminar. This time we concentrated on folding knives (traditional ones, not butterfly knifes etc, those will come later). A lot of fun, and even though people managed to get some cuts and lose some drops of blood, it was due to fumbling with own knife – always better than accidentally scratching a training partner. I learned a lot, having previously had very little experience with the folding thingies, and managed to do a draw + open under one second; a small something to feel smug about. My new toy, though expensive, proved to be worth that cash and was a joy to use. Solid blades are always faster and more reliable than folders, of course, but folders have their advantages.
A funny mental thing: we did the normal pair drills this time so that the sequence started with the attacker flipping open his knife and attacking, the defender then opening his in response and doing what was required. It’s a small thing, but that metallic “snick!” sound you hear when the knife opens brings a whole new psychological element to the game. It sounds evil and dangerous, in a whole new way. My training partner also commented on it, so it wasn’t only me.
Speaking of evil and dangerous… when I got back home on Sunday I curled up on the couch and read Don’t Rest Your Head, a very cool little game from Fred Hicks (of “Spirit of the Century” fame). A bastard love child of Dark City, Neverwhere, Alice in Wonderland and some demented drug dream, this thing rocks and proves you don’t need a huge word count in order to have a complete game. It’s only about 70 pages, but that’s enough. The dice mechanics are very interesting and elegant, with the roll giving you several different details (like the ORE system in Nemesis and Wild Talents, though this has no other real similarities to ORE).There’s a death spiral mechanic that’s vicious, and a “hit the ground running” attitude running throughout the game. I get the feeling that this is most suited for a one-shot or short campaign, if only because the player character lifespans seem likely to be in the “short” category.
If you’re at all into indie rpgs, you’ll do yourself a favor by checking this one out. Mucho cool.
And if the snow buries my,
And if my parents are crying
then I’ll dig a tunnel
from my window to yours,
yeah a tunnel from my window to yours.
You climb out the chimney
and meet me in the middle,
the middle of town.
And since there’s no one else around,
we let our hair grow long
and forget all we used to know,
then our skin gets thicker
from living out in the snow.
– Arcade Fire, “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)”
I was feeling very fluish and antisocial last night, finding some people more irritating than usual, so after getting home I just did a few quick things on the computer and intended to retreat to some far corner with hot drink and good book.
Well, that sort of worked, but iTunes started playing Arcade Fire’s magical “Une Année Sans Lumière” and… as so often before, it grabbed me and I had listen to most of Funeral, once again. It helped, it has that ”this is what is important, ignore that other crap!” quality to it.
It’s a raw, dangerously romantic album, in many meanings of the word. There’s no slick production here, it’s all… strange and emotionally charged. Win Butler sings with an almost primal intensity, with wife Régine Chassagne providing equally charged vocal backing (the chorus on “Laika” being a good example). The mood shifts between almost whimsical vignettes and near walls of sound, with the whole (large) band going all-out with a crazy variety of instruments. The thing that matters most is the very real sense of danger, of people balancing on tightropes that just might break any second, with no guarantee of safety nets. I can’t explain it any better than that, it’s a feeling that the music evokes.
This is what matters. This is what you should focus on.