Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Gaming News

With summer Kickstarter has suddenly exploded with RPG options. I have swooped in and collected a bunch of them for your consideration.  Kickstarter has demonstrated an ability to reach out to a target market at a very personal level, which makes it fantastic for niche-operations like RPGs (and for niches-within-niches like Spy RPGs). I'm not backing all of these, but there some interesting stuff here that should pique yours interest.

The Lost Citadel: Some campaign settings aim at big, sprawling canvases that can accommodate any style or subgenre of play. The Lost Citadel is a lot more defined and refined - its world is founded by a single event, an underlying tragedy that informs everything that follows. Magic has died, the dead have risen, the last outpost of the living is a huge city of Redoubt. It is a dark world, with a single flickering point of light. This one has some serious talent, behind it and has funded and is knocking down stretch goals left and right. It also wraps in about a week.

The Yellow King: I don't know if this would exist without Kickstarter's ability to fund extremely dedicated markets. This is a four-volume set of adventures based on the Gumshoe rules used in Trail of Cthulhu, but not based on Lovecraft's work (a niche to start with) but in the King in Yellow, the creation of Robert Chambers. Starting in Belle Epoque Paris, the story bounces to an alternate universe with a horrific war, then to the present of that world, then back to "our" world with a few nasty changes around the edges. As a heads-up, this one looks like it is based out of England, and notes up front that the pledge does not support shipping.

War of the Cross: This looks like a diplomacy variant set in Theah, the "Europe" of the 7th Sea RPG. When I say diplomacy variant, it has armies, navies, area movement, convoys, etc... But it also has heroes (do differentiate the various nations) and treasures. This one has a while to go, both in time and funding - as a board game, it has a large up-front.

Torg Eternity: Long ago and far away there was TORG (The Other Roleplaying Game) from West End by BIll Slavicsek, Greg Gordon, and others. It used the multi-genre idea in divvying up the Earth into different zones, like the pulpy Egypt, the cyberpunky religious France, and horror-filled Indonesia. Now its back. You're a Storm Knight that can move between zones and fight the big bads.Torg Eternity rolled out with a 16-page introduction on Free RPG Day which was a good enticement.

Calidar: Dreams of Aerie: I mentioned Calidar as while back as Bruce Heard's design descendant of the Princess Ark concepts of flying ships. This time out he brings to the table a literal flying circus (as in three-ring) as a the centerpiece of his adventure. Suitable for use in any campaign with an atmosphere. You can see the initial maps at the link, which look cool. This one has just hit its numbers, but can increase through its stretch goals.

Top Secret: New World Order: This one has yet to go live, but has an excellent provenance. The original Top Secret was one of the early non-fantasy games I encountered back in the day, and I contributed to the Top Secret: SI line with a cyberpunky future called FREELancers featuring old movie monsters re-imagined in a sinking Mirror-shaded Chicago.  And I had a pitch in for a TS Module called: Operation: Tin Man, which involved a camera on Mars sending back a picture of a banner saying "Surrender Dorothy!". Ah, yeah, good times. Do not know more about the details here, other than Merle "The Administrator" Rasmussen and Allen "The original editor" Hammack are on board for this  It has a spiffy video as well.

Check 'em out. More later.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Play: Serious Wimsey

Busman's Honeymoon by Dorothy Sayers (and M. St. Claire Byrne, whom the program neglects to credit), Taproot Theatre Company, through June 24th.

The Lovely B and I recently removed ourselves from the safe bounds of Seattle Rep season tickets with an excursion to a new venue - the Taproot Theatre, north of the city on 85th Street in Greenwood. Situated at a confluence of major roads, it is one of those neighborhoods with a variety of restaurants and somewhat challenging parking (the e-tickets specifically state that, though it may look tempting, do NOT park in the Fred Meyers).

The Taproot is a 200-seat venue built around a thrust stage (that is, audience on three sides). This particular performance of Dorothy Sayers' mystery is very popular, such that we got tickets on the right-hand balcony, along a single row fronted by a low, extremely clear glass. Nice seats, good view of the action but I have a bit of crick in my neck from two and half hours of looking slightly to the right to follow the action.

Busman's Honeymoon was originally a play (one of Sayers' first) and later a novel (one of Sayers' last). It is set in Hertfordshire, where the newly-married detectives Lord Peter and Lady Harriet Vane have decamped for a honeymoon away from the bright lights of the press, with their loyal butler Bunter. They arrive at their newly-purchased cottage to find nothing prepared for them and the previous owner dead in the basement. The house is soon awash with typically British characters; the previous owner's mousy niece, the pottering vicar, the angry handyman, and the local constable (who actually says "What's all this, then" upon his entrance).

And Sayers/Byrne do an excellent job of the challenge of bringing the mystery genre to the stage. Sayers tends to play fair with her readers, and it shows here. The scene of the crime shows up early, and all the clues are in place to be discovered, including bits of business that seem innocent but later become revealing. If you've read the book, you'll know from the outset, but for those who have not, and those who have forgotten, I will leave it there.

But where the play succeeds is in the relationship of the newlyweds Peter and Harriet. Peter at his core is delighted to be married, but saddened by his very serious detective work, which will ultimately result in the destruction of the life of the guilty. Terry Edward Moore is a weary Wimsey, and you can see when he is positively delighted and when he is putting on the good show for others. With Harriet (a sparkling Alyson Scadron Branner) he has his strength, urging him onward, matching him pace for pace, but she comes from writing mysteries as opposed to solving them, and now she is yoked to that same sense of duty that drives Peter forward.

The rest of the cast is very good. Nolan Palmer is an arch-eyebrowed Bunter, settling into having a mistress as well as a master to tend to. The setting is Hertfordshire, but the accents of the locals span the the British Isles, and fortunately are carried forward with the vim and vigor of an island fragmented by a common language. Reginald Andre Jackson as Mr. Puffett the sweep digs in deep every time he has to talk about the "carroopted sut" clogging the chimney, while Brad Walker as Constable Sellon is a bit too young and slender to pull off the officer.

It is a good performance with good performers, and actually does a bit more digging into the characters than the 1940 movie (based on this play) which has the American Robert Montgomery as a very Mid-Atlantic Wimsey. In fact, I like the play more than the book that evolved out of it - the play is tighter, stronger, and uses the space to front the relationship of Harriet and Peter and to demonstrate that they are a match made for the courts.

One minor niggle, from the program book - Sayers is identified as a member of the Inklings, an Oxford group of writers that included Tolkien and Lewis. Yes, she was Oxfordian, and her letters are included with some of the Inklings at Wheaton College in Illinois but she was never a member. That's sort of like calling Ed Greenwood an Alliterate - while a fine writer with a shared heritage, he never officially part of the group.

As for the play - worth seeing, better than the movie and the book.

More later,