Tuesday 30 April 2024

Sisu and Rebel Moon - Part 2: The Scargiver

Movies with high improbability.


Finland, World War II. An old gold prospector trying to distance himself from the war strikes it rich and begins his journey to the bank. Unfortunately a platoon of Nazi's decide to try get in his way. Unfortunate for them that is! This funny and violent flick stays that shallow for the whole thing, and I'm glad that most of the speech is in English. Our heavily plot armored hero encounters a lot of unlikely situations but all are quite entertaining.  A good movie if you just want to see some old fashioned "one good guy takes down a lot of bad guys". Recommended!

Rebel Moon - Part 2: The Scargiver

The continuation of this space Seven Samurai flick features a lot more action than the first outing which is both good and bad. Good in that the action scenes are nice with plenty slow motion artistry and cool CGI, bad that story wise you will either not care or just hate some of the protagonists, especially if you didn't watch the first movie. The opening narration tries its best to get you up to speed if you haven't seen it but you'll encounter a lot of "why is this person doing this" and "where did this thing come from" questions. I think the writers realized this problem and shoved in a montage string sequence at one part to try put a backstory to some of them but I'm not sure it got the effect they intended. Anyway, it's still an improvement on the first movie at least.

Monday 22 April 2024

Echo and Solo Leveling (Season 1)

Weak protagonists gaining ridiculous powers.

Echo (Season 1)

This five episode series focuses on Maya, the titular Echo, who is a pretty disabled gangster (being deaf and missing a leg) previously working for Kingpin as was last seen in the Hawkeye series. Probably a good series to practice your sign language knowledge on as there is a LOT of it, but the story is very average and the action scenes and budget are subpar for a Marvel show (maybe just one fight near the start is good). I do enjoy that the protagonist is naturally very easy to sneak up on, and I hope that remains to be the case despite gaining some ancestral super powers, because its a superhero show and apparently because she's not good enough without powers? Mmm, what's your message here Disney? Lol. Only for die hard Marvel fans; everyone else can give this a miss.

Solo Leveling (Season 1)

The setting for this Korean anime is a strange one: present day but with fantasy monsters occasionally warping in from dungeon dimensions and modern equipment has no effect on them. Lucky there are people born as "hunters" who can fight and defeat these to protect the world. Yes, a hunter with a tiny dagger is more effective than a tank or Gatling gun versus a goblin. Just don't think about it.

Further more, hunters are ranked by strength and this never changes or fluctuates. A strong guy will always be that strong, never weaker / never stronger. Except for our protagonist who is the weakest hunter of all. For plot device reasons "the game" decides that he in fact CAN level up, and boy does he make use of it. While the plot isn't very deep the animation quality and fights of which there are PLENTY are very good. It also helps that there's a good amount of blood and gore thrown in there too. Quite entertaining if you just want an action anime. Recommended!

Friday 19 April 2024

Blades in the Dark: The Battle of Brightstone

[Part of the Party Time journal]

The team are unopposed as they enter the district and can't help but attack the Leviathan Hunter headquarters head on. Onna and Strangford fight on equal footing while his forces (80) are cut down by DL, shot by mom, and have grenades detonated by Juris' ghost. When the forty members of the Church of the Ecstasy  of the flesh flank them, Rose convinces some of them to fight their comrades! Much blood is spilled and the second (and last) of the F-bombs are detonated in the exchange.

In the end the vigilantes are out on the street with just the demon Elder Rowan left, when suddenly Strangford attacks from above. DL saves Juris from a fatal blow, but the attack destroys Onna's mirror (and with her anchor gone, Onna too is destroyed) and then engaging with his cutlass. As he has the fang of kotar it makes him really difficult to hit (reroll successes) and manages to badly wound all the heroes before DL finally manages to behead him. Juris tricks the arriving Spirit Wardens into attacking Rowan too who destroys all but 13 of them before the demon is finally put down. They then get out of there before the Leviathan hunting ships can open fire but they didn't need to worry as the Lord Governor's destroyer shoots first, enganging the fleet in naval combat.

When they get back to their hideout they are surprised to find the Lord Governor waiting for them there. Juris takes a terror roll as he realizes he is a star vampire. Nevertheless, the Lord Governor thanks them for their service - because of them the losses to the city are minimal and should the need arise in the future he hopes to be able to call on them for their help. He lastly introduces himself as Karl Orlais-Trantor Argen-Reich, (or Kotar for short) then takes his leave.

And that is the end of this campaign! While Juris was really into it, mom was only most active when there was dice rolling involved so I'll need to take that into consideration if/when I make campaign number two. :)

Thursday 18 April 2024

Blades in the Dark: Burger Time

[Part of the Party Time journal]

Surrender is not something our heroes do and thus violence ensues. While they are careful to only disable their opponents, the Skovlanders have no qualms about killing the local militia and Weeping Lady volunteers and destroying the guardian hulls who get caught up in the conflict. Bluecoats also arrive early on but as they are allied with Strangford proceed to just shoot the vigilantes (they get shot a lot)! Also Flint, Juris' nemesis (according to his character sheet anyway) appears and points him out to a full contingent of 40 Spirit Wardens. He tries to surrender but they just shoot at him too!

He manages to lightning bolt eight of them into disrepair and gets Onna to shapeshift into Flint to negate that order (some BS good dicing here for them to not notice Onna's a spirit). By the time this happens the others have defeated their foes: only 7 Skovlanders escaped out of 112. Juris senses Nyryx is also dead, but her body can't be found. Having pissed off DL, he leaves the 125 injured opponents (including the captured cops) to whatever Juris has planned. This includes feeding Ulf to Coran's death hounds and feeding the rest to Onna who executes them one by one and eats their spirits. Coran handles the corpse disposal, turning them into delicious burgers.

After healing up, Juris gets DL to make a delivery at the Archive of Echoes where Flint works: an F-Bomb. The bluff is so perfect that they get away scott free, walking down the street in slo-mo fashion as the entire building behind them explodes and goes up in flames. Flint eats this to his face and dies (as does whoever else happened to be in there).

Meanwhile Rose and mom follow a lead given to them by Celeste's widower Veleris, who claims the Iruvians still have an in-roads through some drug dealers at the docks. After a terrible stealth engagement roll which sees the pair jump across rooftops only for the roof to give in and drop them right on the drug table, they basically blow everyone away and find evidence linking the Church of Ecstasy. On their way back they also find a talking corgi at the menagerie and Rose convinces the owner to let them take it back to Juris.

It holds the spirit of Jen, and having seen Jen's body as a "pleasure" hollow (the Dimmer Sisters really did a number on her and Nyryx) at the Silver Stag he retrieves it and returns her spirit there. Helene has no problems with any of this and sets her free. Juris also gets to keep the corgi. The team then gear up to attack Brightstone, which is the home district of both the Church of Ecstasy and Lord Strangford's Leviathan Hunters!

Wednesday 17 April 2024

Blades in the Dark: Giving a Hand

[Part of the Party Time journal]

With no good options coming to mind about the power crisis DL goes to talk to info guy Matt and for a fee gets a map to the "reverse polarity" junction box and learns Elon is into embezzlement while Juris goes to Nightmarket to capture "Onna", the shear wielding serial murderer ghost and finds her in the club where they defeated Lord Mora - she's killed everyone else. Surprisingly Onna isn't hostile to him and, taking him by the hand leads him to her "friends" - cultists of the Burned King (a forgotten god) who all have a burning crown branded on their chests.

After receiving awkward hugs from these guys (they really didn't like Lord Mora) he is given Onna's anchor, a large mirror, to place into the Archive of Echoes at Charterhall. It's like a library of spirits, and Onna likes eating spirits! Instead, Juris takes Onna home and formulates a plan. The next day he returns the death dogs to the recently released Coran, sells the Hand of Kotar to Lord Elon and starts helping him research the solution.

Meanwhile DL and mom follow Matt's map and sabotage the "reverse polarity" switch so that instead of turning off anything, nothing happens (suggested by Rose). DL's tinkering is good enough to make this undetectable but they have to bluff their way out when a group of soldiers runs into them. Lastly, Rose herself using a letter of introduction from Lord Elon goes to meet the Lord Governor in a dimly lit room (despite there being more lanterns than everywhere else) - he's an old man who walks on a crutch, speaks with the help of a machine and is missing an eye and an arm. He is pleased by the actions of the Shield of Dawn, and confirms the plan to shut off power to half the city - because half the city will be drafted into the Imperial Army soon to fight the Iruvians who from all indications, are planning to secede. Rose tries to command him but he just laughs and commends her ability, which makes her flee from there pretty quick!

The team (mostly DL) then spends almost all their currency in helping Lord Elon develop the solution and are successful in using sea water - pumped into the heart by the hand - to turn into demon blood (or close enough to it) to continue powering everything. Crisis solved!

The next day Juris makes F-Bombs (bottled powdered fire bombs now with a ghost inside for remote detonation) and helps Helene buy out the contracts for Silkshore from Lord Elon while Rose, mom and DL go with Eisele to Charhollow to investigate strange suicides there - involving strangulation and falling? Atop a building they are attacked by a bed sheet anchored ghost (an Ittan-momen) who almost drags Eisele off the edge, but it otherwise is a humorous fight where DL ends up having to chop up a flaming blanket with smiley face bullet holes at the end.

Returning to their home district they are surprised by a large party being thrown by Ulf in which he's invited almost every Skovlander in the city to. Ulf then very publicly tells them to surrender everything they are carrying and the district itself to avoid bloodshed... Lord Strangford's orders.

Tuesday 16 April 2024

Blades in the Dark: Not Good Enough

[Part of the Party Time journal]

While Rose and Juris have their ghost door adventure, mom and DL get some free time after Warden Pope leaves to headover to Charterhall to deliver Helleren's "ghost recording" to the authorities to help clear Coran (and his dogs) then return to the Dimmer Sisters house to pick up more hull shells as DL wants to create more dragon armor. They find the home inhabited by the Gray Cloaks, a group of ex-cops wanted for burning evidence in an imporant case against Lord Strangford. In fact they are very much against Strangford and after passing negotiation checks believe the visitors aren't hitmen and simply hand over the remaining hulls and a suitcase of junk from the previous owners. This "junk" happens to include seven toenails of Kotar, which when ingested are basically a full heal for stress and trauma.

The following day mom and Rose and summoned to the courthouse to give testimony against the cabbies who are fighting their charge, while Juris and DL follow Earnest to Barrowcleft bridge where he claims he lost his ghost brother Bertrand, in a dice gambling game with Spogg. Juris is distracted by howls from the death dogs in his care up at Fogcrest though so he goes to check on them while DL continues to the bridge alone. Mom and Rose are split up too when mom is summoned to an upstairs office where she is ambushed by the bounty hunter Casta (who had just murdered mom's cop friend Celene) and her four melee goons!

Downstairs in the waiting room, Rose is also ambushed by knife wielders but these ones are all deaf (to negate her voice power) and wearing masks (to negate her trance powder). On the bridge 10 snipers ambush DL from both ends as he reaches the middle, killing Earnest, Bertrand and Spogg and Juris finds the demon Grist at the top of the hill with some dogs strapped to him as hurting animals really is Juris' weakness. I thought I was super clever splitting them up and pitting them against their weaknesses, but well - mom and rose cleared their battles in two turns with good rolling, Juris used his "tamed and trained" ghosts to free the dogs then the hand of Kotar to bisect Grist (banishing only a 3rd of him), eating a toenail to negate trauma - and DL systematically murdered every sniper with feats of acrobatics and blood thirst.

The next day they decide to follow Adda's request of checking in on Coalridge, the industrial sector, where Skovlans are trying to unionize against their brutal foremen. They find the lead foreman, Slane, whipping the union leader and since he's a demon Juris wastes no time in "handing" him to the next dimension while eating another toenail. It's hilarious since Slane didn't actually get to say anything - they just walked in and blew him away.

Afterwards they attend a meeting with Lord Strangford who confirms he is planning to start a civil war, explaining that due to the shortage of demon blood the Lord Governor is planning to turn off the barrier to half the city (including the districts our protagonists reside in). He hopes to get their support in overthrowing the Lord Governor to prevent this, specifically by convincing Lord Elon Dalmore either join the revolt or simply do nothing with his troops.

They go talk to Elon next who refuses to do nothing as he is bound to help the city government but does suggest there might be a way to "reverse the polarity" and make it when the switch is flipped that the barrier go down in the other half of the city only. None of the above options are good enough for our heroes as they are determined to find a way to save everyone. Juris donates a toenail of Kotar to Elon to try help his "heart" project, but other than a temporary increase in performance it has no effect.

Monday 15 April 2024

Blades in the Dark: He's a Demon

[Part of the Party Time journal]

The Shield of Dawn rebuilds Tangletown and lets Ulf and his Skovlander buddies move in to keep the peace. Juris then experiments with a new drug: Lure 2.0 called Bait, and this time he finds himself waking up in the Church of the Ecstasy of the Flesh and meets Elder Rowan (who is a disguised demon) so he quickly gets himself out of there to accompany DL to recon on Maestro Helleren (alleged murderer of Kenny V) only to discover he too is a disguised demon, so the both back off and instead go to talk to the Sallies squad (fire fighters) about their "fire insurance" policy. One of their members, Grace, has the hots for DL and confirms that it is an extortion racket wherein they set fires to holdings for people who don't pay.

They take the issue up to Lord Elon Dalmore, head of the Ministry of Preservation who is the over all boss of the umbrella that covers the Sallies and with Grace's cooperation immediately fires all of them. Elon then tries to buy the hand of Kotar from Juris after showing him and DL a highly guarded research center that contains the Heart of Kotar, explaining that he's trying to solve a potential power shortage issue as metrics suggest the Leviathan Hunters are bringing in less and less demon blood to fuel the lightning barriers around the city. Juris refuses.

Meanwhile Rose and Mom go to the docks where Rose participates in Grist's boxing challenge, ringing out her first foe, getting the second one disqualified and then having a decent match against the third but she gets ringed out this time - one match away from championship. While she does this mom follows some drug dealers back to their den but doesn't engage them at all. The next day all four go to confront Helleren who is convinced to speak of his crime to a "recording ghost" Juris pulls out. A fight ensues in which DL has to cut through a flying piano but ultimately Helleren is decapitated and killed.

Returning to their home district they find Warden Pope (he's a demon) and the Ironhook prison guards searching for escaped convicts believed to be with Ulf and the Skovlander community. While mom and DL buy time from the guards, Juris and Rose convince Ulf that they can help get the three away through a ghost door, and they do especially as Rose has ghostspeak now and basically commands them to leave them alone. By luck they also pick up Eisele, the last gondolier who has been trapped here ever since Juris' first encounter with Scurlock and they all make it out to the docks.

Here Rose brings them to the the only Skovlander she knows, Grist - who also turns out to be a demon. The escapees are quite happy to go with Grist despite Juris' warnings so he takes a devil's bargain and floods the warehouse (inside) to push them away from the demon before they finally get the message. The bargain: by saving these three, (2D6) dock workers died in the flood / crushed by containers. I rolled double 6. Running off they deliver the three to the Fog Hound, a small smuggling ship and head back home to find that Warden Pope and his team have moved on to search elsewhere.

Sunday 14 April 2024

Blades in the Dark: Knowledge Eater

[Part of the Party Time journal]

Accused of being responsible for the death of first clarinetist, Kenny V, the butcher Coran arrives and asks that the team hide and look after his pack of death dogs implicated in the brutally violent crime. Juris immediately accepts, hiding them out at Fogcrest at Silkshore while spending a lot of time recovering from his trauma of using the hand of Kotar. Also murdered was DL's medic friend, Ferny Sawbones, so he heads to Charhollow to find out more and meets Matt the information trader, paying some coin to learn that Kenny V was dispatched by conductor Maestro Helleren who "isn't what he seems" and Ferny was done in by bounty hunters who are based in Nightmarket, which is where mom and Rose are headed!

The girls finally reach Nightmarket (no carriages anymore) and encounter a shear wielding female ghost whom they dispatch before reaching the club where the orphans are meant to be, meeting the upper class lords and ladies there but are told they can only see the kids in the morning and accept the offer to stay the night. DL arrives later, fighting past the same ghost again and then getting locked out of the club tower as the bounty hunting "Wraiths" arrive to get him. Jokes on them though, as mom snipes them from the tower before they can do anything!

DL is welcomed in and they are all hidden from the Spirit Wardens that come to investigate. Meanwhile Juris, still at Silkshore, goes to the Silver Stag casino to look into rumors of a demon of greed. It turns out to just be a gambler and ghost pair of Earnest and Bertrand cheating at cards. He outs them to the manager, Helene, and is disappointed he didn't find another demon cat before heading back to base.

The next morning they ALL awake at base with DL, Rose and mom unaware of how they got there. Also, they apparently brought a painting of a huge dragon back and hung it up in the orphanage's main hall!? Concerned, they all go back to the club and Juris with his new skill of being able to identify any supernatural entity quickly discovers one of the patrons, Lord Mora, is a knowledge eating demon and that the orphans have been eaten too. Rose manages to command the rest of the club into a trance like state while the team battles Lord Mora who is immune to Juris' ghosts and takes the hits from Juris' lightning, mom's rifle, and DL's special dragon sword which he finished building.

The fight is long but Mora can't land many hits especially after she tells him that he can't move (only works on his feet). Eventually the demon is slain and after retrieving a tongue artifact (the tongue of Kotar, lets you speak to anything) they hastily return to their own district where a horrible spirit aura now emanates from the orphanage. The dragon in the painting is gone but they destroy the frame and base anyway. Four Spirit Wardens then arrive to help them deal with the threat which has moved underground to eat the ghosts there (and thereby make itself stronger). It manages to damage two Spirit Wardens, who as they guessed are hulls themselves, but is otherwise easily captured and destroyed by the high tier visitors. For this heroic action the district is well and truly behind the vigilantes now.

Saturday 13 April 2024

Blades in the Dark: Against the Undead

[Part of the Party Time journal]

As Juris hadn't heard from his pal Nyryx for awhile the team sets off to find her, attuning her location to be in the previously wealthy but now left to decay sector of Six Towers. There they break into the mansion of the Dimmer Sisters but are caught almost immediately and are split up with Rose and mom stuck indoors with the two sisters and a mechanical hull spider while DL and Juris are outside with a tree that summons spirits and eight hulls (spirits animating armor), all of whom are Nyryx in spirit (she was chopped up)!

DL holds off the ghosts while Juris convinces all of Nyryx to stand down and put her back together in a bottle again. Rose KO's one of the sisters and disables the spider while mom accidentally kills the other sister with a warning shot... right between the eyes. Using his new tempest ability, Juris lightning bolts the tree (on his second attempt) to destroy it, sealing the ghost portal. They then take two of the now empty hulls and the prisoner sister before the Spirit Wardens arrive.

Juris then busies himself putting Nyryx into the remaining Dimmer Sister as well as training some of his other captured spirits to inhabit the hulls before experimenting with more Lure on a rat, witnessing it go right into the Spark Grounds carnival where someone is making a large force of... hollows (aka zombies)? While this is going on DL, Mom and Rose try get to the orphans at the club again but this time the carriage takes them near an underground tunnel where they are ambushed by a large group of vampires! Unfortunately for them, sound carries rather well through the tunnel and Rose commands them to sleep, which all but one does.

DL and mom take down the leader pretty easily before the rest can wake which means they are easy prey for the vigilantes. Once again, the team returns to base to regroup and head next to the circus where Juris remembers his time mind-melded to a rat to get to the secret basement of currently dormant zombies. Here they KO the "necromancer" who is just pulling souls out, but are pinned when the remainder of the clowns now allied with the Old Crows enters the basement.

They don't hesitate to ambush these evil doers but are suddenly out numbered when the leader activates the zombies just before she gets beheaded by DL. Fearing that the Spirit Wardens will arrive before they can get out of this quagmire, Juris pulls out the hand of Kotar and uses it (eating one stress / insta KO) to blast all the zombies into the next dimension. In this game, that's the ghost field. With the basement now empty of threats, the team quickly carry Juris out of there and escape unseen!

Friday 12 April 2024

Blades in the Dark: Rose of Command

[Part of the Party Time journal]

Thanks to the evidence they handed in last time, the corrupt cops are taken off the beat and Celeste's team moves in to look after Crow's Foot. This is effectively means the Shield of Dawn (that's the name the vigilantes chose) totally control the district! They also rename it it to that on the map then head to Charhollow as requested by Adda, a resident Ink Rake (reporter) there to quell an uptick in racial violence between Skovlander drug dealer Ulf and the local butchers.

Some sleuthing reveals that the butchers are working for Lady Drake in hopes to secure the freedom of their patriarch Tarvul, currently serving a life sentence at Ironhook Prison for killing a Spirit Warden that was destroying his wife's ghost. Rose does some amazing negotiation rolls and gets the butchers to stand down - convincing them to let Tarvul rot. Meanwhile Ulf isn't very pleasant but he does get along well with his kin, Juris, who convinces him to also stand down in exchange for getting a chance to distribute Lure instead of his homebrewed KwikCopy drug which makes users see double.

The good news continues to the next day as they learn the Iruvian consulate has been closed as its members were exiled by the Lord Governor. In support of their allies the Dagger Isles consulate follows suit and they both impose a trade embargo in retaliation, making it harder to source material to make stuff but that doesn't deter Juris who bottles some spirits in the tunnels below with DL acting as a bodyguard since he can now physically punch ghosts with the ghost fighter skill.

Having heard than a large number of orphans were taken to a club at Nightmarket, Rose and mom go to investigate catching a cab (a carriage pulled by large goats) to save time. Only, the cab pulls into its garage instead as the cabbies are after the bounty (set by the Iruvians) to get the vigilantes. Rose commands them to surrender and... they do (she rolls criticals at the best times)!? They are tied up, arrested and the ladies return to base to regroup. In the meantime there was a fire at Tangletown, and blaming DL for not paying the fire insurance (an obvious extortion), the Old Crows move elsewhere to seek gainful employment.

Thursday 11 April 2024

Blades in the Dark: Duels of Fire and Iron

[Part of the Party Time journal]

During their downtime, Mom and Rose take the spirit bottles found at the Crow's Tower to Celene, mom's Bluecoat friend who assures them this will force justice into action, DL gets an invitation from Mercy his ex, a member of the Red Sashes, to talk to their master at Tangletown, and Juris decides to take a new drug called "Lure" and finds himself waking up at Silkshore where he talks to the Gondoliers amassing there about the demon cat problem and volunteers to help. Luckily the cat is a demon that feeds of feelings of pleasure, so the plan is for Juris to distract it long enough for the Gondoliers to conduct their ritual.

Juris does his work perfectly and the demon cat is chain lightning-ed to death! The squad continue up to the top of Fogcrest to ensure the ritual is stopped and this time it is they who are caught unaware by the ancient vampire Scurlock who makes half of their number vanish with his staff (the end of which is a hand) and slays the remainder with his claws and incredible strength and speed. Juris successfully begs for his life, and agrees to fetch more demon blood for the vampire who "marks" him with a burning hand and sends him on his way.

Meanwhile DL, Rose and mom are spotted scoping out Tangletown but Rose manages to set a truce between them and the Old Crows of leaving each other alone. The Old Crows also mention there are no Red Sashes there tonight (it had been a trap to make the two factions fight), instead seven Red Sash swordsmen ambush the trio on their way home and while they manage to cut DL a bit - all of them are violently slain as the dice dictated that they didn't run.

The next day DL receives a written letter and accepts to duel the Red Sash master at their dojo, with mom shadowing from sniping positions and Rose talking her way in. Master Shido turns out to not be a swordsman at all, but a whisper who uses ghosts to make swords fly on their own. DL takes minor damage before killing him, and since his remaining students attack they too are mostly wiped out. Only Mercy manages to escape with a bullet wound and a throwing knife stuck in her (both thanks to Rose, as mom missed her snipe here and DL had no more load for a ranged weapon). No doubt Mercy fled to the Iruvian consulate where her parent works.

Juris on the other hand manages to create another batch of powdered fire and returns to Scurlock's house in Fogcrest when the vampire is away (he can reverse "the polarity" to detect him using the hand mark and his whisper skills) and sets up a trap. Then he manages to (critical) summon Scurlock (as vampires are just spirits in corpses) to his location. The next bit doesn't go so smoothly as the ancient vamp breaks one of Juris' arms, but ultimately the vampire is tricked into the powdered fire trap and is incinerated to death (critical again, and since he's "bonded" to the body his spirit is destroyed too. Weaker vamps can just ghost outta their skins but strong ones like Scurlock get this mortally dangerous trait, which I thought was pretty cool balance trade off). Only his staff, which ends with a someone's decaying hand, remains - untouched by the fire. Juris takes it and while recovering learns it is the Hand of Kotar... whoever that is.

Wednesday 10 April 2024

Blades in the Dark: The Flaming Tower

[Part of the Party Time journal]

Juris goes alone to the Crow orphanage to try get their aid against the Lampblacks but the talk goes poorly, to the point that he has to threaten them with a powdered fire grenade. The Crows leader, Lyssa, manages to disarm him and wound him a bit as he runs off to then get treated by DL's doctor friend, Ferny Sawbones, putting him out of action for a short spell.

In the meantime, DL - keen to get revenge for Remira has taken the last two powdered fire grenades from Juris and with Mom and Rose shooting from a flanking position, assaults the Lampblacks coal warehouse setting everything (and a decent number of leg breakers) on fire, before taking his sword to the heavily armored leaders and slaying them. Bazso meets his end.

The next day the Crows foolishly attack the charity where the vigilantes work (dice roll) using the last powdered fire grenade as their opening move. Luckily Juris already knows that salt is all it takes to douse those flames. In the ensuing gun battle, Rose and Juris are hit in the armor while holding off the front while mom and DL deal with a lone sniper out the back. Mom manages to wound the enemy and DL rushes into the building the sniper is stationed in to find it is Lyssa, the Crow leader in the stairwell - she was the sniper. Before she can do anything, DL runs her through.

A pair of Spirit Wardens then arrive with their lightning guns and summarily execute the three remaining Crows who were obviously the aggressors here and tell the vigilantes to return to their normal life. Of course the four instead sneak off and head right for the Crow's Tower where Rose and Juris disable the electric fence and mom kills the lone Crow remaining in there. In a safe they find spirit bottles of "dirt" - ghosts of deceased Bluecoats offed by dirty Bluecoats on the payroll of the Red Sashes and in the basement they find a massive ghost filled canal but also a spirit warded catwalk that leads to the orphanage.

Rose convinces the children that their custodian is evil and Juris interrogates him to learn that Tangletown is home to the retired (or "old") Crows who will probably want revenge. Juris then takes him down to the canal passage and executes him before the lot of them set fire to the Crow's Tower so that no one can use it again. They lastly invest a lot of the coin they've collected in expanding the Weeping Lady Charity so that the orphanage falls under its care.

Tuesday 9 April 2024

Blades in the Dark: Cats and Clowns

[Part of the Party Time journal]

Juris studies and weaponizes the powdered fire, and is also visited by his ghost friend (and Rose's frenemy) Nyryx who is possessing the body of a teenage girl named Jennifer (who looks like Jennifer Connely in Labyrinth). Juris had only intended to save Jennifer who stumbled into the Weeping Lady charity after she had been brutalized by the gang war (by putting Nyryx into her to aid her weakened spirit) but doesn't really condone Nyryx now using that body for prostitution. Regardless, she brings news from the nearby Silkshore district where bodies have been turning up in canals and a bunch of clowns are gearing up to attack the Crows - one of the local gangs - over a love triangle situation. She also tries to poison Rose unsuccessfully before laughing it off and leaving.

Rose and Juris decide to warn the Crows about this at the orphanage they run (to train and recruit more gang members) and are invited to prove their worth by joining the ambush they're going to set for the clowns at the bridge. Juris and DL decide to first go to Silkshore to investigate the dead bodies though and learn from a local Gondoliers that the bodies were "hollowed" out (spirit removed) before death, and that all of these look like they fell from a great height.

With that information they investigate Fogcrest, the tallest point in the district which uses tight staircases to double as roads through its bohemian colony of eternally drugged artists and theologists. When the row houses begin to empty as they reach the higher parts, they encounter a talking cat whom Juris immediately plays with and identifies as a demon. The cat admits to having its servant at the top of the hill performing a ritual for it, and then (the cat) disposing of the bodies by throwing them. As they notice a mass of people heading for the bridge they bid farewell to the friendly demon cat and rush to get to the ambush - but arrive late!

Meanwhile mom, Rose and the other Crow sharpshooters get the drop on the militant clowns and despite being outnumbered do quite well in pinning the advancing group while only losing half their own number. When the boys finally arrive in a flanking position Juris uses powdered fire to set a good number of clowns on (powdered) fire while DL closes the distance and cuts down the remainder with his blade. They then run off before the bronze masked Spirit Wardens show up to deal with the dead, but by using the powdered fire here, Bazso has worked out who betrayed him. They find Remira's burnt corpse strung up in front of the charity the following day (and Juris confirms by talking to her ghost that it was the Lampblacks).

Monday 8 April 2024

Blades in the Dark: Words over Whiskey

[Part of the Party Time journal]

Duskwall: one of the few remaining cities in the world following the cataclysm that took place 850 years ago that turned the waters black and prevented the spirits of the dead from departing. Through the science and sorcery of the Immortal Emperor the city's crowded districts are protected from the Deathlands of life draining ghosts by a fence of massive lightning barriers, but what protects them from the brutal gangs and corrupt institutions within?

In the district of Crow's Foot which has seen an increased level of violence thanks to a number of gangs fighting for territory while the Bluecoats (police) turn a blind eye, a small group of individuals who all work at the local Weeping Lady charity have decided enough is enough and to take matters into their own hands: DL the cutter (swordsman), mom the hound (hunter), Juris the whisper (talks to dead people/has magic), and Rose the slide (prefers words over violence).

The four meet Remira, a friend from childhood who is now part of the local Lampblack gang, at the Leaky Bucket tavern on the canal flotilla village (and neutral territory) of Tangletown - built upon the shipwreck of a massive leviathan hunter ship that sunk there years ago. Remira tells them that their leader plans on burning down the opposition, regardless of any innocents involved and that she wants out. The arrival of more Lampblacks led causes her to panic a little, but Rose manages to talk them into gambling with Spogg the ugly dice man instead.

Rose then goes alone to meet the Lampblack leader Bazso, who is her friend, and over a glass of whiskey slyly confirms his plan of action and learns that he's waiting on a delivery before starting said attacks. That night Rose and mom sneak aboard the smuggler vessel but are caught! Rose doesn't miss a beat and convinces them that she is Bazso's courier, and they hand over a suitcase of powdered fire: Just add water to make it burn.

Sunday 7 April 2024

Blades in the Dark: The System

[Part of the Party Time journal]

Inspired by DL's Pathfinder sessions I decided to run a campaign for Blades in the Dark using the Vigilante expansion as most of my players need to play good guys. For this entry I'm just going to talk about the game system itself, specifically the parts I enjoy most, which is so fast and accessible and has been used in many other "forged in the dark" type games.

First is that only D6s are used and it is all theater of mind. No figurines or battle maps here which means the limit is just your imagination. Characters have 12 or so skills with four dots against each, and these skills are definitely double duty things. "Hunt" might mean you are shooting someone, tracking something, or using binoculars on a watch tower. While you start with some dots shaded in, you shade in more as you level up. Each shaded dot represents how many D6 you get to roll if you are attempting that AND it is dangerous. The result is the highest number from the roll. If it is not dangerous, it automatically succeeds without having to roll.

If you roll a single 6, it succeeds in the way you intended. If you roll multiple 6s its a critical and goes better than planned. If you roll a 4-5 partial success but partial problem or damage and a 1-3 you failed and are about to be punished for it with either loss of gear, position or health (whatever the GM warned you about prior to your roll). As such bad guys never roll, but if they are a higher tier than you then you might lose dice to roll. If your dice pool is 0 or less, you can still attempt an action by rolling 2D6 but you will take the lower roll and are unable to crit. This makes combat go by so quickly but still be tense.

The other thing I really enjoy is that there's less book keeping inventory wise. When the crew heads out each member declares what their load is: Light is 4, Normal is 5, Heavy is 6 which might affect how fast they move and how people perceive them but everything else comes from "hammer space". You need a sword? Pull one out at the cost of 1 load. Lock pick tools? 1 load. Armor to take a single hit? 2 load. There's a great list on each character sheet which is both easily accessible and gives enough uniqueness and opportunities per player to pull out of their coat if they need it, as long as they can still pay the load cost. If you're in light and have used armor and two swords, sorry - you can't pull out anything else.

Anyway, its a really fun system and for a $20 PDF its certainly one I'm happy with. Play through posts will start soon! :)

Friday 5 April 2024

Frieren: Beyond Journey's End (Season 1) and Strong Girl Nam-soon (Season 1)

Featuring female protagonists that make you laugh and cry. In a good way.

Frieren: Beyond Journey's End (Season 1)

This anime is a strange masterpiece. It takes place in a Dungeons and Dragons like fantasy world focusing on Frieren the long lived elf mage, and the story begins with her and the party of heroes having saved the world from a demon king - usually the end of a campaign but that's ok, because this is a mostly a melancholic drama about characters growing as people. As a bonus there just happens to be a good portion of awesome action sequences on top of the excellent art, music and story. I'm sorry Blue Lock, this is now my favorite anime as it regularly hits me in the feels. Highly recommended!

Strong Girl Nam-soon (Season 1)

This continuation in the world of Strong Girl Bong-soon gives us a new cute protagonist but unlike Bong-soon, Nam-soon (and her family) has no problems making use of her superhuman strength in public. While yes, there are bad guys who just happen to be idiots despite their good looks, this is mainly a love story with a heavy focus on humor. This works for the most part but in the few episodes where Nam-soon is taking a back seat in the plot it can get quite taxing... Ultimately if you enjoyed Bong-soon you'll probably like this too, but just don't expect it to be as good.

Thursday 4 April 2024

GTFO: ALT R3A1 - Resuscitation

Just for practice (since R2 is getting hairier by the level) I decided to scout out R3A1 solo (with bots, so not really solo) and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was almost exactly like my first write up of it. The original version was the very first GTFO level we ever managed to complete! The load outs were as follows (I basically made it Jim and DL bots, but with Auto Sentry tools as those are the easiest to deploy):

Me: Pistol/Revolver/Cfoam/Spear
[Bot]: DMR/Sniper Rifle/Auto Sentry/Hammer
[Bot]: Double Tap DMR/Combat Shotgun/Auto Sentry/Hammer
[Bot]: DMR/Hel Gun/Biotracker/Hammer

The mission is to bring the "baby" to a machine, get it stamped, and return to extraction. Everything is brighter now, and many of the more vertical rooms have been changed to be less so which makes it much easier. Sneak through the one way you can go (and save this first door), bop the sleepers, open first security door with no alarm and bop the sleepers in here. Leave the baby at the locked gate to go into the big door to bop/shoot more and use a terminal to locate the key you need for the door as you'll only need to open one of these.

Before starting the alarm I shut and foamed the big door and put the sentry guns facing each other inside, with more foam in between them to catch things in crossfire. This is because with bots, you can't really do c-foam duty. Open the correct class IV and unlock the door and win the fight (in that order). Some giants came in here but we had a lot of ammo still so it wasn't a problem. Beyond the door was a scout who I just revolvered to the head (I was just messing around), shot the sleepers that woke up and snuck into the next room with giants. They were far enough apart for me to just snake through, get the key and snake back. Afterwards its just back to the baby and pushing forward through the next big door.

Clear the arcing hallway then open big door number three and clear that room too. Another security scan door waits for us here so I shut the two big doors, foamed the inner one, put the auto sentries at the door facing away (so things get shot in the back) and cfoamed the hallway to catch things for the guns, then its alarm time. Scan first then win.

Lots of loot in the empty chamber ahead and I made sure that I had 12 cfoam and everything else went to the bots because they'd be doing the fighting now. Baby goes into the machine, gets stamped and starts an alarm. As bots never carry the baby I picked it up and just made a beeline for extraction while they covered me, only stopping to cfoam that first door in the level to halt the pursuers before getting to extraction. Baddies did manage to arrive, including a pair of barrage firing hybrids which I don't remember being there last time. Still, no big deal. Just fight well and GTFO! :)

Wednesday 3 April 2024

Kung Fu Panda 3 and Testament: The Story of Moses

Learning to be teachers.

Kung Fu Panda 3

Having saved the village numerous times now, the "dragon warrior" Po (a talking panda voiced by Jack Black) is tasked with stepping up to be the new teacher as his own one is retiring while also reconnecting with his biological dad which puts his adoptive father on edge. Naturally things go terribly at first but urged on by an impending doom track yak, a mighty undead warrior from the ghost realm, Po has to get everything lined up perfectly just in time to save the day... by simply being himself! It's a good message for the younger audience wrapped up in a fun animated adventure, but plot wise there's no real threat to Po or his friends here which is a shame as I do enjoy protagonists learning through consequences. Still a decent watch.

Testament: The Story of Moses

As you might expect, this three episode mini-documentary-series focuses on the life of Moses from escaping death as an infant to bringing lots of death to the Egyptians while saving the slaves. Alas Moses himself is mostly a grumpy, non-interesting character (which is ironic as this is his story) but maybe that's what they were going for? In contrast Pharaoh exudes in screen charisma and is great. While the dramatization certainly has some budget behind it, I'm not sure how much value is added by the "expert" segments of actual theologians talking about him seeded at various points in the plot which couldn't have been better done with just some book-end like text. As such the episodes are quite lengthy and if you should attempt watching it I'd advise at least bumping it up to 1.25x speed.

Tuesday 2 April 2024

Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge and The Final Table

Competing as teams!

Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge (Season 1)

I've never seen the original Spartan games, but in this format three squads each made up of two men, two women and one ranked spartan (from the solo version) race through an obstacle course using fitness and teamwork. Three races take place each episode, but they only show the "featured" race followed by the finals race where the two winners of the earlier races are joined by the 2nd place team with the fastest time. I guess even the producers realized that showing people doing the same things over and over could get repetitive but thankfully the teams have enough charisma to keep viewers engaged for eight episodes. Netflix doesn't have season two available so maybe they too thought "eight episodes of this is enough for anybody".

The Final Table

In this show 24 established chefs from around the world work in pairs to prepare the best dish based on whatever cuisine the current episode is focused on, judged by celebrities and foodies from that same region. The three worst dishes then compete using the selected featured ingredient of the region and makers of the worst dish are eliminated. It's a fast format which is pretty neat, but its only the final four that ever have to compete individually. Recommended for Masterchef fans but as the episodes are on the longer side, I suggest watching at 1.25x speed (it makes their knife skills superhuman too lol).

Monday 1 April 2024

Saints Row (2022) and Astro Duel II

Still clearing out those Epic giveaways...

Saints Row (2022)

This reboot of the franchise drops the characters and continuity from the original (where the protagonist has possibly fought aliens, been to hell and had the Earth destroyed) and gives you a brand new "boss" who happens to have skilled room mates that are already part of other various gangs, but are still unable to make the rent. They're pretty cool, as is the gigantic map you can play in. Alas most of the crazy side jobs tend to be locked by a grind, so its likely you'll complete the main mission first and once you do that, well... there's no real incentive in going back to do the unlocked stuff. Also, the towing type minigames suck which is a shame because that's one of the few new things they tried to add here. Everything else is just a "hey remember this from the other game... where it was better?". Only recommended to people who haven't played any Saints Row previously.

Astro Duel II

This is a strange pixel game where you fight other players (or NPC monsters for solo players) on maps that are both top down asteroid-type shooters with you piloting a spaceship, but if you fly into an area with gravity (or get destroyed) you hop out as your anthomorphic avatar to continue the fight. After a few moments your spaceship form returns too, but somehow being outside the spaceship gives you more options in the way of attacks. A very odd game and not one I recommend.