Spring creeps reluctantly in
Spring would finally seem to be beginning hereabouts, and I've been doing very little gaming recently.
One reason is that I was struck down by a mystery illness and spent a week in bed, too tired to do basically anything. The other, more cheerful reason is that I went on holiday for a fortnight. I paid a return visit to both central China and southern Japan to visit a few friends there. Between the lingering aforesaid illness, cripping jetlag and devoted socialising, devising elaborate Cthulhu scenarios was not really on the cards.
Speaking of things on the cards, though, I did (partly) achieve a long-held ambition and play a session in another language. I'd introduced one of my Japanese friends to the concept of both board games and RPGs a few years back; after trying some board games, this time she introduced me to another friend who actually plays the Japanese edition of CoC! Hurrah!
We decided that actually running The Haunting would be a bit too time-intensive for our slot, but Friend 2 had brought along an intriguing hybrid card/RPG called The Fifteen. It's only available in Japanese as best I can tell. Essentially there are four Role cards with slightly different stats in Body, Mind and Will. There are also a number of location cards which have a visible topside and a hidden underside, which define a particular location you're investigating. As you interact with the cards, the GM consults a scenario book which determines what happens when you do certain kinds of interactions, and of course does some improvising on the side. We had fun getting to know the concept and just about escaping before (it turned out) a zombie horde broke into our base.
Sadly, I wasn't able to get my hands on a copy to try running it myself. It looks like it's only really available by mail order. Maybe I can arrange it. And maybe I can now start angling for my friends to try a simple PBEM or Skype RPG..?
I was also able to pick up a cool idea, the Japanese book "R'lyeh Beginners" which talks potential players through the idea of RPGs, the Cthulhu Mythos and playing in a CoC game. It includes a guide to character creation, discussion of how to approach the game and be an Investigator, guidance on what's constructive and unhelpful (with some play examples), a longish play session example, and a substantial appendix. I've not finished it yet but am impressed with it so far.
Despite apathy, lethargy and the social whirl, I'm currently up to 34k words in my pulpy campaign. I have yet to reach the end of the second chapter... much of chapter 2 is devoted to describing a substantial trip through a rather strange place, so that does take up a fair bit of space, and describing possible events and encounters is similarly time-consuming compared to visiting, say, York.
I also managed to watch a number of films on the plane. Doctor Strange was adequate. Seondal: the Man who Sells the River was very entertaining, and I also enjoyed Time Raiders and The Magnificent Nine. Any of the three suggest some ideas for gaming.
Others I saw included Arrival, which seemed really promising - I've heard people saying it's Lovecraftian (I can sort of see why) and I was entranced by the idea of a film about heroic linguists. Unfortunately the manipulative mawkishness of the personal plot annoyed me, and fundamentally me and the directors had wildly different ideas about which parts of this were interesting: I wanted a lot more of the contact/puzzle elements and would happily have dispensed with the literary elements, the thrillery subplot, and the pointless romance element. Also, there's just no way you handle the biggest scientific problem ever by sending one specialist: the obvious solution is to get every linguist in the USA and send every one of them to jointly work on cracking this language barrier. Also also, there is a physicist in the room and he does literally no physics whatsoever, why is he even there.
Also also also SPOILER...
Seriously, you want me to believe that in your precious thriller section, the aliens have been taught the complex conceptual word "weapon" (which they use incorrectly most of the time for no apparent reason)* and can throw a string of words out in a fumbled attempt at warning, but are unable to put together a helpful phrase like "behind you"? And that they can essentially see the future, but don't actually take any steps which would prevent the problem arising in the first place or neuter it immediately?
*I actually really want to know how they were taught this word. It's not exactly easy to explain without an awful lot of even more complicated surrounding concepts. More specifically, how could the humans have identified that a specific alien term indicated "weapon" at all, short of some demonstrations?
Sorry, yes, there is a lot wrong with this film unfortunately, in my view.