Off Topic

Transmissions From The End #17 – Alien Predators

Back with the logical continuation of my Aliens content for the Singularity System. My thoughts on the Predator films, the crossover films, the extended universe, and then all the content you need to include the Yautja and their toys in your Singularity System game.

The Predator Franchise

As a general note, I don’t have the same passion for the Predator films, mythos, or universe that I do for everything Aliens. The exceptions are the original Predator film, which is a superlative piece of cinema, and all situations where Predators are, as I might have said when I was ten years old, “versing” Aliens.

  • Predator (1987): My God this movie stands up well over time. It’s genre slight-of-hand at its finest, and midway through the film a great dumb action movie suddenly becomes a damn fine smart horror movie, in a way that must have left audiences bamboozled on the order of 1996’s “holy shit now there’s vampires!” From Dusk Till Dawn. Dutch and his entire “squad of ultimate badasses” (yes that’s an Aliens quote, shut up, it also applies here) are charismatic and memorable: former wrestler and future Minnesota governor Jesse “The Body” Ventura’s Blain certainly has a memorable moment at the center of what has to be the most continuous barrage of gunfire being discharged into foliage in cinematic history, but my favorite character was and continues to be Bill Duke’s Mac, who I refused to believe was really for sure dead until the most explicit cut of the movie made it the most explicit it could possibly be. Arnold Schwarzenegger is at his absolute prime here, contractually mandated cheesy one-liners and all. The film is full of memorable moments, killer quotes, and macho banter, and there’s a lot to watch, from the general unhinging of the special forces’ team’s sanity (“gonna have me some fun, gonna have me some fun, gonna have me some fun”) to Billy’s incredibly brave, incredibly honorable, incredibly ill-advised decision to engage the jungle hunter in single combat, to the unforgettable finale when it’s down to just Arnold and the Predator…this is unquestionably one of the best action/sci-fi/horror films of all time.
  • Predator II (1990): Okay, I know “in the near future, the year 1997” dates this movie horribly, right alongside The Terminator, but that said, this is a solid sequel and an overall underrated film, and whatever time frame you imagine it in, Los Angeles being a violence-ridden hell hole is not that much of a stretch. Danny Glover delivers a capable performance as Lt. Mike Harrigan, and while it’s not his fault he’s not a larger than life 80s/90s action icon like Arnold Schwarzenegger, he’s almost certainly better at acting in the technical sense of the word. Solid performances from an interesting supporting cast, including my man Bill Paxton (plus an actress who until today I thought was Aliens’ Vasquez, Jenette Goldstein, but turns out to actually be an actress named Maria Conchita Alonzo) round out a movie that expand the Predator lore and mythos and most importantly teases us with this shot, leading to a fan-base drooling for an Aliens vs. Predator picture that finally comes to the big screen 14 years later.
  • BaP5b
  • Predators (2010): I only saw this film once, when it came out in 2010, and it neither offended me nor made a lasting impression of delight. I am not sure if the world in general has largely forgotten it exists, or just me.

Crossover Films

  • Alien vs. Predator (2004): Whoever wins, we lose indeed. Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson whose career peeked around one of his first films, the Alien meets Hellraiser pastiche Event Horizon and has largely been a downhill slide ever since, this was a movie that I loved in theaters and have just found stupider and stupider with every subsequent viewing. Understand that when this movie came out I was 18, young, dumb, and full of, y’know, acid blood or whatever. I was so excited coming out of the theater about how “freaking awesome” this movie was that I managed to shatter a ceiling lamp with a music stand in my spastic enthusiasm (don’t ask, I couldn’t do it again if I tried). My major issues with the movie after my first theatrical viewing were that, based on my headcanon, deeply entrenched in the extended universe (see below), no way in hell should one Alien be able to take down that many Predators. On each subsequent viewing of the film, my concerns with it have turned more and more to how overall dumb and disappointing it was. It good have been worse, I guess, but it’s hard to imagine it being MUCH worse. Of course, AvP didn’t come out as a movie until it had been released/published/played/sequelized in virtually every other commercial medium known to man, so I was measuring it against the exceptional totality of the extended universe which preceded it, so again, see below.
  • Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (2008): I both own this movie on DVD (or blu-ray, or whatever) and have frequently caught it on television. In spite of that, I don’t think I’ve ever been able to force myself to watch even a full consecutive half-hour of it. It just looks so dumb and so bad, like someone took the most generic teen horror movie setup ever and dumped xenomorphs and Yautja without any thought. I’m going to try to force myself to watch it soon…if I can. Does it have any redeeming value? You let me know.

The Extended Universe

Long before the turn of the millenium, and in fact–I’m just learning now–even before theatrical audiences could have seen that xenomorph skull on that Predator space ship, Dark Horse Comics got the rights to AliensPredator, and yes to Aliens vs. Predator. I don’t have time to get into all of the AvP videogames and what nots, so I’m just going to mention the Dark Horse Comics which I never got a chance to read and actually talk about the novelizations of them which I did. And actually, considering this is stuff I read like 20 years ago when I was like 11, rather than trust 11 year old me’s judgement, I’m only really going to talk about one of them.

  • Aliens vs. Predator: Prey was the 1994 novelization by Steve Perry and Stephani Perry (published by Bantam Spectra) of the first Aliens vs. Predator comic series published by Dark Horse, and if there was an AvP movie to be made, it should have been made using this book as a basis (and there were for one brief golden moment in the 1990s plans for exactly that), not whatever fatuous bullshit Paul W. S. Anderson’s screenwriters sprang on him in the early 2000s. Clearly set in the world of Aliens, it introduces protagonist Machiko Noguchi as the supervisor of the ranching colony of Ryushi as it is beset (unsurprisingly considering the general premise) with aliens and rogue Predators at the same time. What I thought this novel did best was its handling of the interiority of the yautja, namely I thought it very deftly walked a very fine line, making them both just relatable enough that you could see that there were stand up guys and bastards among yaujta just as there were among humans, and just alien enough as to still be really frightening. The novel ends with nearly everyone dead but Machiko who is Blooded by the Predator she had been forced to team up with, Dachande or Broken Tusk, who sacrifices himself saving her. As she is Blooded, she is now effectively a Yautja, which means from this point forward, the Predator race recognizes her as one of them. She now runs as a hunter among Hunters. Pretty cool, right? Virtually all of my headcanon in terms of Predator lore comes from this novel, and if my brain has embraced it, it must be right!

Races

Maybe you thought it would only be race because well…Predator. Ha! Did you forget about Ash from Alien and Bishop from Aliens?

Please note that in term of game balance, these races are roughly balanced with each other, and each approximately twice as powerful as a human starting character.

Synthetics

bishop-main

“Actually, I prefer the term ‘artificial person’…”

Advent Adjustment: Max Advent of 2, and -5 to starting AP Pool (23 instead of 28 in an average game).

Attribute Adjustments: +4 Strength, +4 Fortitude, +4 Quickness, +2 Intelligence, +2 Cyber. Their starting caps are 10 for Strength, Fortitude, and Quickness and 8 for Intelligence and Cyber.

Artificial Person: Synthetics have Armor 3. This is cumulative with worn armor, making Weyland-Yutani “combat sythetics” a real force to be reckoned with. Synthetics cannot be poisoned and have the Durability and Toughness traits automatically, along with the First Strike and Ambidextrous traits. They cannot take the Charisma, Juicer, or Will to Live Perks. They cannot take the Addiction, Addictive Personality, Allergic Reaction, Missing Limb, Missing Sensory Organ, Obesity, Space Sickness, weak Immune System, Weap Pain Threshold, or Venerable Weaknesses. Synthetics built to obey the classical prime directives (see Aasimov, Isaac) must take the Mercy Weakness.

Built Tough: Synthetics are immune to all drugs and toxins and to all standard means of first aid. A Synthetic reduced to 0 Health is broken. A Hard Engineering (2) and Hard Electronics (2) test can restore them to 1 Health, but if only one success is achieved on either test, the machine is hardly functional. It is so badly damaged that it will “never be top of the line again”, but it can still provide a brief audience and share anything it chooses to with the characters that repaired it. The first (Fortitude) points of damage that a Synthetic takes can be repaired with an Armorer (15 Minutes) Test: each success restores 1 Health. Additional damage beyond Fortitude can be repaired in a similar way, but using the Electronics skill instead.

Eidetic Memory and More: Synthetics of course have eidetic memory. They also benefit from all of the benefits that can be installed in Artificial Eyes, from the Biotech sourcebook. They are damaged by Pulse weapons, and as usual, Pulse damage ignores all of their Armor.

Morally Inflexible: A synthetic must follow its programming. A synthetic programmed to follow the classic Asimovian prime directives, cannot “by action or omission of action allow a living being to be harmed”. Robocop must 1) Defend the public trust, 2) Protect the innocent, 3) Uphold the law (4, classified: not harm or arrest any employee of OCP). The Terminator only has to Terminate Sarah Conner. (Understand these are just examples: neither Robocop nor a T-800 would necessarily use the same “race) described here.) Ash, on the other hand, was programmed to serve the interests of Weyland-Yutani’s exosciences division. In any case, a synthetic must follow its programming. If one welcomes the canonicity of Alien: Resurrection, the exception would be Aut-Auts, synthetics built by synthetics who have free will.

Yautja (Predators)

“When I was little, we found a man. He looked like – like, butchered. The old woman in the village crossed themselves… and whispered crazy things, strange things. “El Diablo cazador de hombres.” Only in the hottest years this happens. And this year, it grows hot. We begin finding our men. We found them sometimes without their skins… and sometimes much, much worse. “El cazador trofeo de los hombres” means the demon who makes trophies of men.”

Anytime.”

Honor Instead of Advent: Instead of an Advent stat, Yautja have an Honor stat that starts at 2 and works the same as Advent except for how it increases (AP cannot be spent on it). Honor represents the pride the Yautja and its status in its community. A Yautja first gains an Honor for successfully killing one of the “hard meat”, an alien drone. Such a Yautja is considered Blooded and is permitted to hunt the “soft meat” although might not wind up actually doing so until they have Honor 4. The increase from 3 to 4 Honor comes when a Yautja survives an ordeal such as escaping alone from a xenorph hive or single ritualized combat with another Yautja. The increase from 4 to 5 Honor occurs when a Yautja hunts and kills a suitably badass warrior of the “soft meat” (human beings). This hunt cannot be begun with the blessing of the community until a Yautja has Honor of at least 4. No less than taking the skull of an Alien Queen increases a Yautja‘s Honor from 5 to 6, making a Yautja an elder or tribal chief. Only the GM can determine what feat of honor could increase a Yautja’s Honor from 6 to 7.

Note that Honor can be lost for dishonorable actions: the loss of and failure to recover Yautja technology (the Yautja guide their technology jealously), or the killing of helpless prey (not befitting of the galaxy’s greatest hunters) or pregnant female prey (depriving the hunting ground of a potentially suitable prey animal in years to come).

Attribute Adjustments: A Yautja has only 20 AP to spend on its attributes, but receives the following bonuses to them: +8 Strength, +5 Fortitude, +3 Quickness, and +1 Cyber. Their starting attribute caps are 14 for Strength, 11 for Fortitude, 10 for Quickness, and 7 for Cyber. While Yautja are more technologically advanced than humans, they are not necessarily more intelligent. They may simply be benefitting from a head start.

El Diablo Cazador Los Hombres: Instead of getting to pick two free perks, Yautja instead start with all of the following specific free perks: Catlike, First Strike, Outdoorsman, and Toughness. They can take up to two weaknesses to gain up to two additional perks.

Hunter’s Training: All Yautja begin with the Dismemberment and Trick Shooter Combat Maneuvers from Firefight. Additionally, when attacking a xenomorph with a melee weapon, a Yautja can use the Pick Target action specifically to avoid the xenomorph’s acid blood backsplash.

Thick Hide: A Yautja‘s hide is much tougher than human skin. They have a natural Armor rating of 1, cumulative with worn armor.

Deadly Reflexes: A Predator with Honor 4 or higher automatically has ReAct -30. A Predator with Honor 6 or higher automatically has that upgraded to ReAct -20.

Predator (Yautja) Technology

I’d like to give a shout-out to the helpful fan-site Xenopedia with helping me remember the details of some of these and reconciling it with my own headcanon.

Instead of being purchased with credits, these items are acquired based on a Yautja’s Honor level. Any human (or non-Yautja) attempting to use any Yautja weapon does so at a +1 Difficulty Stage penalty until they have successfully hit with that weapon ten times, at which point they are considered to have gained familiarity with it.

Bio-Mask: Requires Honor 2 or higher. The Bio-Mask allows the predator to see in the Infrared, Ultra-Violet, and EM-Field spectrums, along with numerous others. The EM-Field spectrum is specifically designed to spot Xenomorphs, while the Infrared Spectrum is specifically designed to spot humans (although being infrared, it can be tricked, such as by a human masking his thermal signature). Switching modes is a free action. The mask provides +2 to Perception tests (to spot creatures when in the correct mode; the rest of the time it amplifies sounds and allows for digital zoom, providing a bonus to Perception tests in general). The mask also provides access through a series of dreadlock-like tubes to the Predator’s supply of oxygen mix from its home-world. It is a fair assumption that this oxygen mix is not very different than that of Earth, because Predators remove their masks in the presence of worthy opponents on Earth and seem able to breathe well enough to function.

Wrist Blade: Requires Honor 2 or higher. Free action to extend or retract. Uses the low-tech weapons skill. Size 0, Damage 4, Piercing 6. Harder than a diamond and sharp enough to cut through bone, or the hardened carapace of a xenomorph drone.

Plate Armor: Requires Honor 2 or higher. This plate armor notably does not cover a Predator’s lower torso or thighs, which are instead wrapped in a black wire mesh. It does cover the predator’s upper torso, sometimes asymmetrically, and also includes gorgets, spaulders, tassets, and greaves, as well as foot armor. Armor Rating 3, with two points of special resistance to Piercing. The plate armor is very strong, but ultimately is inferior to some human combat armor in that it does not provide full body protection. As a final special quality, a Yautja‘s plate armor does not have its rating reduced by the backsplash of xenomorph blood.

Medicomp: Requires Honor 3 or higher. The Medicomp is a small case that contains various medical supplies should the Predator ever be injured. This healing kit contains enough tools to perform minor surgery and repair superficial wounds. Among the medical supplies are vials of liquid which, when mixed with heated minerals, creates a regenerative sludge that can be used to cauterize wounds. Also contained are a shrapnel extractor, wound staplers, one stimulant shot, and one antiseptic tube. If the Predator has the First Aid skill, the Medicomp provides a +4 bonus to First Aid tests. The stimulant shot automatically restores Health equal to the Predator’s Fortitude, but once it’s used, it’s gone. If the Predator does not have the First Aid skill, the Medicomp is semi-intelligent, using its own First Aid skill of 5.

Combistick: Requires Honor 3 or higher. This is a spear-like combination weapon made from an ultra-light, ultra-dense, ultra-sharp alloy completely unknown on Earth. It has a length of less than one meter when retracted, but can be telescoped outwards as a free action, and is more than two meters long at its full length. It has several modes of attack, and when used in melee or thrown as a spear,  it uses the Low Tech Weapons skill, has Size/Accuracy of +2, does 6 Damage, and has Piercing 4.  The other end of the Combistick can launch a net to restrain prey before the final kill. The net has an Accuracy of +2, an accurate range of 30 meters, and does 2 Damage, Piercing 4. More importantly, a target hit by it is entangled in it and most likely pinned to a wall behind them: the net has more than enough velocity to drag a man sized target backwards until they hit a wall. Even attempting to wrestle free of the net is potentially fatal, because the net is made of sharp metallic wire and responds to all outward pressure by tightening further. To escape the net, a victim may attempt an Opposed Strength test versus the net’s Strength, which is equal to their own Strength times one and a half, rounded up. If they fail to achieve a net success and break free, they suffer damage equal to the successes the net achieved; this damage is Piercing 4. The netgun loads only one net; collapsing and reloading the net

Cloak: Requires Honor 3 or higher. A Predator’s cloaking system is controlled by its wrist computer and activated as a Minor Action. When activated, all Perception tests to see the Predator are Hard, and all Stealth tests the Predator makes are easy. If the Predator becomes even partially submerged in water (more than a foot deep) the cloaking device shorts out until it is repaired with an Electronics (10 Minutes) Test. If the Predator is wounded (i.e. loses Fortitude points of Health) the cloaking device becomes effectively useless due to the vivid green of the Predator’s bright green blood.

Sat-Comp: Requires Honor 3 or higher. This device, also located in the wrist computer, serves as a local GPS and through millimeter wave scanning, allows a Predator to map out the area surrounding it in moderate detail, including the positions of prey. This requires a Comms/Sensors test. One success maps out a 0.5 Km radius, and each additional success increases the radius mapped by 0.5 Km.

Plasmacaster: Requires Honor 4 or greater. A shoulder mounted plasma-cannon with a fusion power pack laser guided by the signature triangle laser sight and linked to the bio-mask for greater accuracy. Some of the oldest predators, with Honor 5 and higher, disdain the use of ranged weapons such as this, preferring the challenge of going in for the kill with just melee weapons. The plasma caster uses the Energy Weapons skill. It has Accuracy +3, Damage 6, a maximum Rate of Fire of Single, and Piercing 3. One shot can easily kill either an elite human soldier or a xenomorph if a Predator uses the Aim action while Cloaked and the Pick Target action (from Firefight) before taking the shot. The plasmacaster has effectively infinite ammunition, so it can keep firing continuously unless it is damaged (it is not completely waterproof) or discarded by a Predator seeking a fairer final confrontation with worthy prey.

Self Destruct Device: Requires Honor 4 or greater. Built into the Predator’s wrist computer, this is a weapon of last resort designed not to kill the Predator’s enemies, but to destroy it, all of its equipment, and its ship so none of them can be recovered by “lesser” civilizations. The only thing more shameful than being forced to use a Self Destruct Device (which renders a Predator’s Honor irrelevant as that predator is vaporized) is failing to for some reason at a time when its use would be appropriate (causing the immediate loss of 1 point of Honor). A self destruct device takes 2d6 Full Turn actions to set. It then goes off anywhere from 60 seconds to 300 seconds after the Predator sets it (it’s the Predator’s choice). As implied by the name, a self destruct device cannot be survived: not only would this be extremely dishonorable, but it is built into the Predator’s wrist computer which is effectively impossible to remove from the Predator’s wrist short of hacking it off at the elbow. When it finally goes off, a self destruct device creates an enormous nuclear fireball that deals 500 Damage, Blast -2/1 Meter, eradicating the Predator, its equipment, its ship, and approximately half a mile in radius of whatever else happens to be around.

Smart Disc: Requires Honor 5 or greater. Combining the Yautja‘s futuristic technology with the deadliest qualities of boomerang and chakrum, the smart disc is a programmable, mono-filament sharp, throwing weapon that rotates at extraordinarily high RPMs like a circular saw. Thrown on its own, the Smart Disc uses the Low Tech Weapons skill to attack one target, has an Accuracy of +1, deals 10 Damage, has Piercing 10, and returns to the Predator at the end of the phase. Alternatively, the wrist computer can be used to program the disc with targets. A Predator can take a Minor Action to make a Computers (2) Test to program one target into the disc’s memory. The disc can have a total number of targets programmed equal to the Predator’s Cyber. When the disc is finally thrown (a Major Action like most attacks, using the low tech weapons skill), it calculates a path through the room to hit each target before returning to the Predator at the end of the turn. Its accuracy for each of these attacks is equal to the Predator’s Computers skill + 1, with the damage the same as if throwing an unprogrammed disc at a single target.

Finally, in a pinch, the Smart Disc can be used as a melee weapon (Low Tech Weapons), with Size -1, 10 Damage, and Piercing 10.

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not counting my dog

so i know i said this was going to be  my game design blog but it’s not exactly like i’m ever going to start a “grandstanding on philsophical bullshit and the profane mundanities and mundane profanities and little peccadiloes of every day life miscellanea” blog so let’s just consider this to officially be that too.

Whenever I check into a hotel, even when I’m 100% certain I’m going to be checking in completely ALONE & SOLO (not counting my dog if I’m traveling with my dog to a pet friendly hotel but that’s an edge case and also irrelevant since Dodger can’t use a room key so why would we count it) I always ask for TWO room keys. I always absurdly feel like the check-in desk reads this as me trying to put on the ridiculous front that I am open to the possibility that I (hideous creature that I am, of all people) might somehow acquire female companionship later in the “night” (which is as often as not the following morning) and then I always get defensive about this thing that I think that they might be thinking about me.

For the record, I like to leave one keycard in my wallet, which I can take off and put on the nightstand, when I take off my pants. Then, I can put on sweatpants or pajamas, put the other key card in the pocket of those, and set out to look for the vending machine or fill the ice bucket relatively “unencumbered”. Instead of my pants and my belt and my gun and my wallet and my ID, I just have to carry the “back up” keycard (and possibly some cash or coins for the vending machine) rather than going out fully clad and encumbered.

SO THAT IS WHY I ALWAYS TAKE TWO KEYCARDS WHEN CHECKING INTO A HOTEL ALONE (not counting my dog), NOT BECAUSE I THINK I’M MOTHERFUCKING MILLIONAIRE PLAYBOY BRUCE WAYNE (i am well aware that i look more like his murdered parents) OR AM CONSIDERING USING AN ESCORT SERVICE. Not that, you know, any desk clerk at any hotel over any number of years has ever actually made any question or comment about my second keycard whatsoever.

So in spite of being a REALLY LOUD ANSWER to a question NO ONE ASKED, in honor of the worthlessness of the entire rest of the internet, I HEARBY PRONOUNCE THIS TO BE EITHER THE MOST NOTEWORTHY, OR TIED FOR THE MOST NOTEWORTHY, THING WRITTEN ON THE INTERNET TODAY. (fingers crossed no terror attacks or might have to back down)

MAY THE FORTH BE MOTHERFUCKING WITH YOU.

 

Crawling Out of the Muck and Mire

It’s a new year! 2016 is over…really, it’s over. Which is quite a relief, because 2016 was a shitshow of never before seen proportions, start to finish trash-fire 100%. Most people mention all the beloved celebrities who died, but for me it’s the election of the Goddamn antichrist for President of the United States and everything that implies that really seals the deal on 2016 being the worst year ever: that and the fact that it was a bad year for me personally (the worst year of my life on record, to be clear), and many friends and acquaintances.

But it is over. 2017 is here. Three days into a brand new years. I have plans I’m trying to put into immediate action to move m’family (that’s Mikaela and myself and our furry friends) to a new location. 2017 should be a new start, filled with End Transmission Games and therefore myself making and building and releasing all kinds of cool and interesting things. But just right now, if I’m to be honest, I’m having trouble, emotionally speaking, crawling free of the wreckage of 2016 and figuring out how to operate as a real human person again which is, most likely, a basic prerequisite for game design work of any kind. What I’m dealing with is almost certainly clinical depression–I’m on more psychiatric medication than ever before in my life, and none of it is working particularly well. The temptation is there to ditch all of the pills in frustration, but I am well advised what a bad idea that would be.

As has been written about popularly, depression is less a feeling of being sad all the time and more about just a complete lack of drive and impetus to do anything that previously interested me, or even to stay awake. My vital force feels completely drained. Writing this blog post felt like a pointless exercise and probably was, but maybe I can get some traction by making myself write SOMETHING today.  I feel bad about vaguely whining out into the internet, but 350 words about how listless and depressed I am almost feels like an accomplishment relative to my gut instinct upon waking up every day, which is to go immediately back to sleep, forever. My body seems to want to hibernate until the world is less of a dumpster, but that probably ain’t gonna happen, so I gotta find some energy from some place to crawl my way out of the muck and the mire.

Lesser Evils

I got this bumper sticker at DragonCon ’04 when I ws 18 along with a lot of other cool shit that I’ve treasured for my entire life: it’s where I learned about the awesome band Darkest of the Hillside Thickets, for instance. Since then, the Elder Party’s branding changed quite a bit. They’ve stayed behind their candidate–Cthulhu for President–and changed their slogan. Pretty consistently throughout ’04 to ’12 it was: Why Settle For A Lesser Evil?

I definitely don’t want Cthulhu to be the president of the United States. Not even if I personally get to go insane and be eaten the very last. I’ve matured since I was 18But the truth is…I really, really don’t want Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton to be my president either.

Hilary Clinton to me personifies everything presently wrong with America–she’s a corrupt, war-mongering, chickhenhawk, liar (which I almost typed “lawyer”–freudian slip?) who is completely and wholly owned by Wall Street interests. She’s the embodiment of the status quo, and she’s every cancer eating away at the status quo. Also, I might as well be honest: on a more petty level, I’ve had a grudge against her on a Free Speech level since the late 90s or early 2000s when she like a lot of other “Senators’ Wives” and “Tipper Gores” she came out on Jack Thompson’s side in the “war against videogames”.

Donald Trump is almost immeasurably worse. He goes way beyond “American will continue to suck in every way it sucks now”: in him, I see something truly horrifying. I see the death of America. Probably inseparable from this is the fact that I am third generation Jewish-American (I don’t practice the Jewish faith or any faith, but I am certainly enough of a Jew for Hitler to have liquidated me in his “Final Solution”). Yell “Godwin’s Law” at me all you want, but watching Trump’s “campaign” over the last year as a populist demagogue, I see the same exact dangerous parallels that

You know what’s more important to me than–but also probably inseperable from–my heritage as a Third Generation Polish-American  ethnic Jew? The World/Inferno Friendship Society, without which there would be no Psionics. That seems like a hell of a pivot, so let me explain. TWIFS have an incredible concept album called Addicted To Bad Ideas about the life and death of 20th century character actor Peter Lorre. I hate political correctness more than maybe anyone alive (I might hate it even more than I hate Fox News). But there are lines from this album that help me understand why not only could I never vote for Donald Trump, I probably can’t remain in this country if he does (ugh, such a melodramatic phrase, yet so perfectly frank) “rise to power”. They come from the song “Ich Erinnere Mich an die Weimarer Republik”.

“Me and my friends had some good ideas
but I swear that town got so damn weird.
I got out alive in ’35
I don’t think I’ll ever go back
but I remember….

….

It ain’t no thing about the promise ring
and socialists are so boring.
Just a bunch of bullies
that I can’t stand
they got elected into office by…well, you!

“I’m a fag, I’m a Jew, how do you do?
That’s Mister Anarchist to you.
You think your scene’s dead?
Well mine got killed
by some dimwit’s Triumph of the Will.

Now every time I see a Swiss bank I spit.
You say “resist control”?
Well, I mean it.
Cause it was come as you are
in the cattle cars
and not a damn thing you can do about it.
‘Cept remember!

I am not very political, personally. At least, I try not to be. But this “Two Party System” we have, where we hold our nose, going to our polling place, and vote for the candidate we hate/fear the least? It FUCKING SUCKS and I can’t blame anyone for checking out, even for a second. The American Two Party System needs to fucking go, because at this point we’re choosing between “another four years of everything wrong with America” and “not-so-secret-Hitler“.

 

 

The American Mercurial Speaks: Unnecessary Necessary Mission Statement – Feminism and Inclusivity

The list of people who are not welcome to play our games includes and is limited to the following: anyone that I specifically and subjectively think is an asshole and/or a douchenozzle. If you are on this list, you already know right where you belong, because I have never been the type not to say what I believe, and chances are I have personally fucking told you to “fire yourself as my fan” (see below).

That said, it is literally impossible to be on this “not welcome” list for any reason except your (shitty) personal behavior and actions. 

I have not, for instance, taken the incredibly shitty step that Posthuman Studios have of “firing” all of their fans that identify as MRAs, with a stated reason of “tolerance”. To me, “we are SO TOLERANT that everyone who identifies as this group can go die in a fire” is the very pinnacle of hypocrisy.

I was a huge Eclipse Phase fan, and am not and will never be an MRA, but I stopped supporting Eclipse Phase on that day, on principle. Because that was a shitty thing to do to a group of their fans, even ones whose beliefs I don’t share.

I also hold the radical belief that people I strongly disagree with are still the former (people).

I don’t want to repeat the giant sentence above, but I feel like I have to.

It is literally impossible to be on this “not welcome” list for any reason except your (shitty) personal behavior and actions. 

Literally no one is unwelcome in the related group of tiny, tiny fandoms that constitute End Transmission Games’ content and nascent community on the basis of race, creed, religion, sexuality, etcetera, etcetera, et al.

Let me give an example of the above without explicitly naming any full names: for five or six years, M. Hunter and Jacinda M., two now-married queer women, were members of my core gaming group. For half a decade they were queer women and they were as welcome as possible: hell, they went beyond welcome: they had the best, most regular attendance of my LARP for four years running.

Then they were shitty assholes to me and now are banned for life. Their gender and sexual identity is irrelevant to the fact that they are not welcome to my content. Their douchebaggery is. (Regular readers: you will note, this paragraph will not help me mend that particular fence. You will also note I don’t give a fuck. I don’t care how many minorities they are, fair weather friends aren’t real friends at all, and anyone who cuts you out of their life for a brief glimpse of you at your saddest doesn’t deserve your friendship.)

In Short — Everyone Should Feel Welcome And Included In All Of Our Games Except For The People Who I Personally Think Are Assholes, And Those People DEFINITELY Know Who They Are

Now I am going to talk about feminism and the risky proposition of self-identifying as an anti-feminist.

Yay.

One of the most radical beliefs I hold is that words have meanings (FWIW: I (obviously) don’t give one half of one fuck about the late Antonin Scalia’s dissenting opinions, I just think it’s funny that Coheed put it to music). Holding the belief that words have actual, objective, applicable definitions is dangerously backwards in [CURRENT YEAR].

  • If I say “feminism” or “I am an anti-feminist”, and the only definition of feminism you have ever been exposed to is the memetic and epigrammatic “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people”, you would be shocked, and confused, and offended that I could say anything against feminism.
  • If I say “feminism” or “I am an anti-feminist” and you think of batshit crazy, completely toxic, radical feminazis publicly declaring that it is a “basic fact” we should “recall” that “all penis-in-vagina intercourse is rape”…well that tells us a few things. It tells us that we get some of our our news from the same sources. And it tells us that you know exactly the strain of feminism I’m talking about when I self-identify as an anti-feminist.
  • If I say I’m an anti-feminist and you have no idea which feminism I’m referring or don’t even know that the second “feminism” really exists…then things get really complicated and you might assume the worst.

Spoiler Warning: For Certain Values of ‘Feminist’, I, Devon Oratz, am actually a feminist.

vs1

(Translated From Japanese) “I’m a feminist.”

I wanted to find that clip from Versus (2002) here…you know the one…but the internet wouldn’t let me. Probably for the best.

Specifically, I am an ardent supporter of women’s suffrage (first wave feminism) and a supporter of second-wave feminism, which campaigned for legal and social equity for women.

When I say that I am an anti-feminist, what I mean is that I am an opponent of radical 21st century third-wave sex-negative white feminism (whew!) which seeks to go beyond second-wave feminism and establish women as a privileged class with more rights than men.

I feel like where this argument breaks down so that civility and coherency become impossible is in the following conundrum: modern, main stream  feminism is primarily the latter (or at least the loudest VOICES in it are), but makes every effort to present itself as merely “the radical notion that women are people“. This is a textbook use of what is called in rhetoric or forensics (debate, not like, CSI) the bait-and-switch or to use the term I prefer, the “Motte and Bailey” doctrine and makes productive discussions about feminism almost impossible outside of feminist or anti-feminist echo chambers (which is therefore automatically not productive discussion at all, because it’s just jerks in a circle, doing what they do).

It disgusts me to say this on multiple levels, because I think gender studies degrees should literally be abolished (NO OFFENSE TO GENDER STUDIES MAJORS, DIFFERENT OFF TOPIC BLOG POST, DIFFERENT DAY, OKAY GUYZ AND GALZ AND PREFERRED PRONOUNZ?), but I think the way the Eskimo famously (and by the way, inaccurately) supposedly have a hundred words for snow, I personally need more words for feminism so that people don’t think I am, for instance, in favor of repealing women’s suffrage.

So, when I say that I am an “egalitarian feminist”, what is encoded in that is that I support first and second-wave feminism. Especially in the Middle East, which desperately needs a women’s rights movement. Like, 30 years ago, guys.

When I say that I am an “anti-feminist”, what I mean is that I am opposed to ” batshit crazy, completely toxic, radical feminazis publicly declaring that it is a “basic fact” we should “recall” that “all penis-in-vagina intercourse is rape”“.

I can hold these two conflicting ideas in my mind at one time. SO TOO CAN YOU.

Now, where I get into debates with my female friends who more strongly identify as (SANE) feminists than me is right here: I basically say that the toxic feminists have ruined feminism forever, and that they need to come up with a new word for the non-toxic feminism that they support. They often argue that no, it’s just a few bad apples (the bad apples are all screaming at the top of their lungs, to mix my metaphors), and they don’t ruin the bunch, so the name of the movement (‘feminism’) is salvageable, the radfems should just be kicked out of the feminist clubhouse and called something else.

radscorpion

Maybe just Radfems. I like how it implies they’re not just radical, but also possibly radioactive. Like Radscorpions, but with less hit points and a deadlier sting.

In case anyone wanted to mention the “No True Scotsman” fallacy in any way related to any of the above wall of text, I have only to remind them that I am currently dating this bonny lass, and that she is the truest Scotsman of them all.

-DTO Out

Postscriptum Editorius: Some of you infrequent readers might be all like…

56373586

Well, I’m sorry you feel that way, grumpycat.

 

Guest Post By Richard Kelly (without his knowledge or consent): Sparkledance: The Marveling

This is a game we have in deep R&D, for a release some time at or after 2020 in business card format. But playtesting can begin now.

Core Rules (And Character Creation)

Pick your favorite kind of horse (or another other four-footed animal, like a giraffe, a baby, or the tarrasque!)

Pick your favorite color!

Decide which type of magical horn you have. Is it:

  • Narwhal-y?
  • Free-floating and follows you around like a security drone?
  • Actually a tuba?

Now roll a d6! Just do it!

Start monloguing, as fast as you can!

The person who says the most words before someone flips the table over is the winner!

Have at!

Dragon*Con – Just The Best(er) Party

I can’t review my experience at Dragon*Con 2016 here beyond saying it was awesome. The con itself has left me without the energies to direct in that direction.

Instead, I can just say:
A) Check out my facebook page in the next few weeks for the story told by the picture. As a person who “doesn’t do costumes”, I wore no less than two different costumes, and they were both pretty hardcore. Nonetheless I got mad pics with people whose cosplay made mine look like the mere dabbling it was. One was the girl I brought with me, of course.

B) What I said to everyone I encountered in Atlanta who asked me how my #Nerdigras was: One time when I was 18, I went to just the best party (Dragon*Con ‘o4). Returning for the first time in 12 years, at age 30, old enough to drink and old enough to know better than to drink as much as I did, I can say only this: “just the best party” got even bester.

Appendix A.

One time I went to just the best party.
The music was good. The girls were pretty (and in costume)
The booze flowed and it lasted so long
I had a full time job in another city
I think it was in uh…game publishing!
It evolved as the days went by
It involved no hierarchy
It moved and grew to a pitch so fine
Generally encompassing several hotels at a time
Impressive. Extensive.
Nerds paid the expenses.

Appendix N.

The personal high-point of the con was selling a copy of Psionics to an on-the-job (not active duty) Florida police officer, and then showing him how much XP he was worth in the game.

Twenty.

If you were curious.