May 31, 2017

Dunwich Committee on Student Safety

Just finished another story featuring my Dunwich Committee on Student Safety. It's with my beta readers now, then it hits the submission rounds. Now we move on to the next story...

May 24, 2017

Thoughts On Wraith: The Oblivion

Talking about World of Darkness Games from White Wolf always eventually leads me to Wraith.

I loved Wraith: The Oblivion—LOVED it! I have nearly all of the books released for that line. I think I might have been the only one because that game line never sold particularly well. Most of my friends either never played it or just didn’t like it. I think I only ever managed to play it three times (always had to run it) and never for very long because the players found it depressing.

As much as I loved it, here are the problems I saw with W:tO:

  • It can be relentless depressing and most people play a role-playing game for some kind of escape and to have fun.
  • The players also playing each other’s shadow was a great idea, but hard to do well and often lead to player-versus-player drama.
  • So much about Wraith is character-centered and character-driven that group play was very difficult to pull off or explain.
  • The whole flavor of the game with the Kingdom of Stygia, the Death Lords, Charon and the Ferryman, and the Tempest was all great great stuff but like so many of the games that came after Vampire, most people seemed to have a hard time grokking how all the pieces fit together with the real world, the Shadowlands, and the places out in the Tempest.

I think of all the classic game lines, Wraith could most benefit from a complete overall. Here’s what I’d do:

  • Not make the game so relentless bleak.
  • Instead, play up the creepiness and weirdness. GM to Wraith-Player: “When you go downstairs, there is now a brand-new door in the middle of the living room. The living family who inhabits the house you died in does not notice the door. A part of you wants to go over and open the door, but the other part of you that refused to submit to death knows you must never ever open that door.”
  • Release an initial supplement detailing one-on-one play.
  • Make it easier to affect the living world. “Oh yeah, this is so fun just standing here not being able to do anything, especially after playing as a vampire/werewolf/mage.”
  • Or structure the game different. Maybe instead of playing each other’s shadows, half the players are playing humans the wraith characters are connected to. You could make it so it’s the mutual play of unresolved passions and desires that leads to a wraith, both the wraith’s and their human’s.
  • Come up with a different central conceit to hang group play around that connects the players together. Maybe wraiths awaken in the underworld and need to find/fight their way back to the land of the Quick?
  • And/or release supplements that provide different structures/modules to hang group play on. I always had the best luck with that when I was trying to convince people to play Wraith. ("You're all victims of the same serial killer. You all haunt the same house, each of you having lived there in different time periods. You're all the ghosts enslaved to the same Giovanni.")

May 23, 2017

New World of Darkness Editions

There’s going to be new editions of the World of Darkness tabletop RPGs, or at least for right now a 5th Edition of Vampire: The Masquerade and a 5th Edition of Werewolf: The Apocalypse. (The anniversary editions from Onyx Path are the 4th editions)!

I played a ridiculous amount of WoD games—a ridiculous amount. And while I came to like other games from White Wolf more and discovered other games outside of White Wolf I probably like better overall, V:tM is what got me into tabletop RPGS. And a vampire LARP is even how I met the lovely wife.

So here are my main hopes and dreams for the new WoD lines as a whole:

  • Decide whether the meta-plot matters or not and stick to the decision
  • Decide whether the different game lines mesh or not and stick to the decision
  • If they do mesh, adjust the cosmology so the different worlds make sense together.
  • If they do mesh, publish rules for how the different powers interact and affect the different supernatural creatures
  • Free the other game lines up a bit from having to fit in the V:tM template --They all could have been slightly better games if they didn’t have to be: Group A has X number of whatevers and they are opposed by Group B with X number of whatevers
  • Make sure all parts of the central conceit of the game are understandable and don’t leave you shaking your head as to what’s the point again:
  • See most of Changeling the Dreaming
  • Wait? Hasn’t the Technocracy basically won already? Then why are we fighting them?
  • So as werewolves, we’re against the progress of man and society?
  • Back off on the incessant New Age, crunchy granola gobbledygook.
  • Axe all the terrible stuff that highlights the worst parts of gaming and being a gamer. 
  • No abominations ever
  • Never release anything like Dirty Little Secrets of the Black Hand—ever
  • Remember to keep some humans and some mystery in the world, so ease up on pumping out new “monster-of-the-week” bloodlines, etc.

May 19, 2017

Political Post: As Cherry Pie

One of my writing goals has been to try to focus my political thoughts into essays that I submit elsewhere.

My first piece is up at

And before you go read it, because I have a good feeling it's gonna anger a lot of people, here’s what I’m trying to get at it with it—I'm not advocating violence, what I'm trying to point out to you is that wishing something isn’t so, doesn’t make it so.

The elites want you locked into a mode of thinking, right? About everything. It’s only when you’ve acknowledged the truth, that you can deal with something meaningful--in this case, that's having a conversation about how to get around violence effectively.

Because what most people do when they "protest" is mimic a fictional construct, so it’s utterly meaningless and mostly accomplishes nothing other than maybe making them feel better.

Read my thoughts here: 

May 17, 2017

Marvel Flavored Dreams

When I daydream about writing comics, if the dream is Marvel flavored, it's either this: 

Or this:

May 12, 2017

The Mummy and the Universal Monsters Universe

The Mummy? Hmmm… I get it. I do. These sorts of “creative” decisions about properties come down to simply what the suits think will make them the most money, right? What you as fan think will make a good story doesn’t matter. What you as a fan think about the integrity of the characters doesn’t matter. Kill your internal monologue—it’s always what the execs think is going to pull in the most money.

Universal looks around, they see all these connected film franchises that regularly pull in around a billion dollars, and so they naturally want their cut and their monsters movies seem like a good place to start.

Once they start looking, what do they see? Del Toro’s Crimson Peak was a complete failure, Dracula Untold with Luke Evans fizzled at the Box Office, The Benicio Del Toro attempt at The Wolfman was another flop, all their big plans for Hugh Jackman’s Van Helsing (including a TV show called Transylvania) were shelved after those box office returns, and finally they come to The Mummy franchise with Brendon Fraser.

So next it becomes, “…all those superhero films are action heavy and so is Star Wars…” So naturally, they decide to kick off their Universal Monster Movie franchise with an action-adventure The Mummy with some horror elements.

But here’s the thing: yeah, I think the new version of The Mummy looks like a fun action-adventure film with some horror elements. And Tom Cruise is the male hero so I’m sure they’ll be at least one really-involved and cool stunt sequence that he and Christopher McQuarrie came up with and that Cruise trained for 6 months to be able to pull off. But despite all that…

...I’m not really sure if this is the best way to kick off a successful Universal Monster Movie franchise. The big problem is there really is nothing unique to the Universal Monsters. Anyone can make a Dracula film, a Frankenstein film (like Fox did with their version of Frankenstein that featured McAvoy and Radcliffe), or a Mummy movie without any interference from Universal as long as they’re not plagiarizing a script or using those unique character looks that they’ve trademarked (so no green skin, flat-topped Frankenstein with neck bolts or black beehive with white streaks, gossamer-gowned Bride of Frankenstein unless you want to get sued).

This is why I don’t think too many people are exactly scrambling for a new classic monster movie that wasn’t born out of something fresh…like Penny Dreadful which made use of all those same classic monster characters pretty expertly in a character-driven story that included some great takes and new twists. Plus, Penny Dreadful’s story was cohesive and complete instead of being cobbled together by a bunch of different writers hired for different parts of your franchise.

There's also the issue of the action-adventure focus over the horror, the modern setting over the past. Seems like a sure-fire way to disappoint people who might want a classic monster movie that’s maybe scary…? I mean, do you really want to see Frankenstein smashing through a tank when you have The Hulk? Besides that, I'm pretty sure that Fox is working on another version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Lastly, starting right away at the big scale we see in The Mummy trailers means you’re either going to have to keep upping the ante for each successive film before you’ve built real interest or you’re going to start big and then have to backpedal to something quieter. These sorts of films with tons of effects and big action sequences all lead to big budgets which mean the films must get big box office returns to even break even. So I'm not sure I see all this really leading anywhere except for maybe another couple of action-y movies for Tom Cruise to star in.

What would you do with the Universal Monsters franchise?

May 11, 2017

Nephilim: Occult Roleplaying

I know it's had multiple editions in France and I remember reading something about a legal issue with the rights after the original company went out of business, but, man, someday I'd love to work on a new English edition of Nephilim.

May 10, 2017

The Problem With Doctor Who

The 10th season of the new Doctor Who is now underway. Despite tons of buzz about this seasons being the best DW has been in a long time, it will be the last with both Capaldi and Moffatt.

As we get closer to a new Doctor and a new showrunner, I see a lot of talk about what went wrong with DW and why the ratings have declined. Most of the talk seems to center around either the writing under Moffat or the Doctor as played by Capaldi, or some combination of both with varying degrees of chief responsibility.

I know both contributed to my decision to stop watching DW until there was a new Doctor and a new showrunner--(the stupid, stupid scene with the Doctor playing electric guitar on a tank was when I decided I was done even trying). A few articles have also mentioned the trouble with the companions under Moffat (the most insightful one I saw wisely pointed out that Moffat spent too much time making Clara special and not enough time making her likeable). And one mentioned what they considered to be timeslot mistakes by the BBC.

Truthfully, it’s probably a combination of all those. But something else that I don’t think has been discussed really is the general lack of understanding how an audience likes to consume it’s entertainment. Splitting seasons up and having large gaps of time between episodes or specials or even the next season isn’t conducive to binging, especially considering a show doesn’t appear on a streaming service until quite sometime after the entire season is done. With so much good programming to binge, having huge gaps of time between seasons of show makes it lose both excitment and interest. And speaking of streaming services—the absolutely biggest mistake, I think, the BBC has made in ensuring the continued success of DW was signing that exclusive contract with Amazon Prime for American streaming rights and removing DW from Netflix and Hulu.

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