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Jan. 15th, 2017 @ 12:38 pm More new anime
Current Mood: calmcalm
Urara Meirochou: Labyrinth Town is a centre for divination -- the women who live there choose a method for divination and get the guidance of the spirits and gods that live in the town to offer insight into the future. Four fifteen-year old girls are invited to apprentice themselves to a tea-leaves diviner, but of course they have some adventures in the town.
It's typical bishoujo fare: four cute girls with different characters doing nearly inconsequential things while being cute. And of course every character is female.. In my experience, these kinds of series can go two ways: it could be cute an funny to the end, or it could fall flat and simply rehash the same character dynamics over and over and over again.

ACCA: 13-Ku Kansatsu-Ka: the setting is like a federal land (shaped like a bird) that is divided in thirteen regions that retain their own character. There is a federal agency called ACCA which offers federal services like the police and the fire department, but also economical activity is facilitated by them. One department is the inspection department which oversees the workings of all the other departments. The vice-chief of this department is the chain-smoking Jean, whose sharp senses catch every little thing...
The visual style is pretty distinct, with lanky characters with rather dopey eyes. And the subject matter with a department of a huge bureaucracy sounds like it's a real snoozefest, but that's not the case -- there is much going on right under the supposedly calm surface. My only worry is that it turns out that Jean has supernatural powers of deduction and solves issues with information that we, the viewers, do not get until he explains his brilliant conclusions to his underlings...

Akiba's Trip: The Animation: There are zombies in Akihabara that 'possess' people. Exposing their skin to the air gets rid of the possession. Our hero gets caught up in all this and gains some special powers -- so now he can undress the 'bugged' in one fell swoop!
It's based on a fighting game, and it's quite stupid. But if you're a total nerd and like to ogle animated underwear, then... Well, in my opinion, series like these have pretty much everything that gives anime its bad name.

Chain Chronicle: Haecceitas no Hikari: The episode starts with an alliance of "good" races fighting against the forces of the Dark King -- and losing. The alliance disbands and the leaders of the 'volunteer army' begin their trek home... but of course the Dark King isn't sitting still and has started his campaign of conquest, hot on their heels. During an attack, the resolve of the army leaders is tested...
I don't think I've ever watched an epic fantasy story that ends with the protagonists losing what was supposed to be the fight against the end boss. You get to see the characters doing their super-cool attacks -- and then it all (almost literally) goes to hell. We see them picking themselves up and regaining a little bit of their resolve. The designs are really cool as well, and the fight scenes are very dynamic too. Will be interesting to see how they regroup and their future plans.

Kuzu no Honkai: Hanabi is in love with her 'older brother': a boy a few years older who lived next to them. Mugi is in love with his former tutor, who is a few years older than him. And both of them go to the same highschool, where both objects of their affection (or rather, obsession) are teachers! And the teachers seem to have a thing for each other... So Hanabi and Mugi are drawn together by their unrequited love -- and if you close your eyes, it's just like your real love is making out with you...
It's beautifully animated, giving an intimate look at the psyche of Hanabi . (Mugi seems a lot more stoic, so it's hard to gauge what he is thinking.) It's certainly some really messy entanglements that are going on here, but the mopey atmosphere didn't work for us.
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Pantsu!
Jan. 14th, 2017 @ 07:33 pm New anime
Current Mood: happyhappy
Time to sample the new anime for the Winter 2017 season! Almost every series has already started, so we have a good many first episodes to get through.

Little Witch Academia: Akko will enter Luna Nova Academy, a school for witches. However, she is not of a magic bloodline, so there are a lot of things about the magic world that she does not know about (and is ill-equipped to deal with). The first hurdle is even getting to school! But her quick thinking sees her and her new friends through, and the all make it to their boarding school in time...
Clearly inspired (or evolved in striking parallel) by the Harry Potter series: a castle that is a magic boarding school, snobism about magic bloodlines and rules and manners that are obvious to people who were raised in a magical enviroment but not apparent for newbies. And since Akko is the first, she has many trails to blaze. (Though I think there is also a chance she will turn into a miracle rookie.) Even though it's very original, I enjoyed it none the less.
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Bishoujo squad!
Jan. 13th, 2017 @ 08:42 pm Finished: Fune wo Amu
Current Mood: impressedimpressed
Fune wo Amu: 11x25 minutes about creating a (Japanese) dictionary. Who could have thought that this would turn into such a fascinating story? Halfway there's a jump in time 13 years forward, and all the characters have been subtly aged -- really well done. Maaya Sakamoto in a supporting role as Kaguya is the cherry on top.
We gave it a 9.
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hand-eye coordination
Jan. 8th, 2017 @ 03:39 pm Shodoshima in anime
Current Mood: relaxedrelaxed
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We've finished watching Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari. It's a fun series about a thirty-something man returning from Tokyo to his parental home in Kagawa prefecture, which is decidedly more "rustic" than Tokyo after his parents died. Lots of angsty soul-searching which gives the series its emotional depth, but otherwise there's not much story to go around. It's fun, and I liked the character designs, they reminded me of Nodame Cantabile.
One of the episodes is set on Shodoshima, an island in the Seto Inland Sea where we stayed a few days on a vacation. There's not much of anything there, and the infrastructure is not really set up for tourists. So it's presented as this reasonably compact island where you can get from one end to the next in decent time as a pedestrian, but that is far from the truth. Still, it's nice to see locations where you've been presented in an anime.
There were also some episodes with lots of landmarks in Kagawa, and it looks like a fun place to visit -- if you have a car and can easily get around...
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curry ga dekita!
Jan. 3rd, 2017 @ 07:15 pm "Erased"
Current Mood: stressedstressed
Tags:
I understand people considering Erased as a contender for "Anime of the Year". But I found it hard to watch: there is a constant sense of urgency that just doesn't let up and it deals with some heavy subjects that I found difficult to deal with emotionally. And with the small cast, it gets another layer of claustrophobia.
I'm glad I watched it, but I'm also glad it's finished. It stressed me out.
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Kashira? Kashira? Gozonji Kashira?
Dec. 23rd, 2016 @ 11:11 am First episode reviews: Christmas special
Current Mood: okayokay
ClassicaLoid: Modern versions of classical composers live at a house that is about to be sold and torn down. They do not contribute to the household, much to the exasperation of the girl whose house it actually is. But then the organ in the music room becomes 'unstuck' and the composer-bums turn into some sort of super-powered version of themselves. They then call down music-powered magic (or something like that) and the machines that were assembled to tear down the house start to dance!
...as you do. I don't know what the writers had been smoking when they came up with this, but it's just the right kind of weird for me.

Long Riders!: Ami decides to ride a bicycle to college -- she never had one. So when she goes to ride her bike with her friend to practice, she overdoes it and gets the 'hunger knock'. Luckily, a pair of tour riders pass and they have some jellies with them to get Ami back up her feet. And then they meet at an icecream place too. The next morning, it turns out that the tour riders go to the same college!
So it's harmless fun about girls riding bicycles, but not in a competition. So it's not really a sports anime, right? And this series only has a single exclamation mark in the title, so you know it won't be as intense.

Sangatsu no Lion: Rei, a 17-year old boy, is a professional shogi player. He is an orphan, living alone after moving out of the household of another professional shogi-player whom he beat (yes, awkward...). He is a brooding boy and a perpetual loner, never fitting in. But Akari and her two younger sisters Hinata and Momo sort of looks after him and invites him over often to make sure he eats properly.
Poor little emo kid with his messy hair and bad eating habits, you just want to give him a hug and tell him it'll be all right. The atmosphere is really nice, the locations are interesting and detailed. I read some of the manga, and I was looking forward to this. I was not dissapointed.

Occultic:Nine: I can't even remember what this one is about. That should tell you enough. ;)

Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari: Souta returns to his hometown after his father, who ran an udon restaurant, died. He intends to clean up and sell the place, but he meets a lot of people who come to eat udon and who are disappointed that they can't. He also meets a little hungry boy -- who is more than meets the eye.
Fun "homecoming" series. I also liked the atmosphere and the backgrounds: small provincial towns do look like that, but it's fun to have a little bit of a supernatural element mixed in. Should be fun!

Fune wo Amu: Creating dictionaries is a specialised undertaking, and when one of the main editors of the dictionary department leaves, it is doubtful whether the new dictionary will ever be finished. The department head is on the chase for a new editor, but everybody refuses because it sounds like a really stuffy job. And then there is a salesman who is incredibly bad at his sales job, but who has a large vocabulary...
OK, so creating dictionaries probably is a stuffy job. But I want to see more of these characters, I want to see more of the publishing house, and I want to see more of the animation style which is both impressionistic and detailed.

...and that concludes the reviews for the fall 2016 season! Sorry for making you wait, I'll try to do better for the winter 2017 season.
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kodama
Dec. 21st, 2016 @ 09:56 pm Not-quite fresh anime
Current Mood: sleepysleepy
Wait... the season is almost over, and I still haven't written up all my first-episode reviews! Better get cracking.

Yuri!!! on Ice: A figure skater is a huge fan of a Russian talent, but he can't really perform under pressure and this is relegated to the bottom half of the field in every competition. Disillusioned, he returns home, and at the local ice rink he performs the routine of his idol -- flawlessly. A few days later, the Russian skater comes to his hometown and makes himself his coach!
It's interesting (and of course full of yaoi undertones), but I especially liked the depiction of a sleepy provincial town and the slightly shabby inn his parents run. That is spot on: we've stayed in places like that. Having the main character be discouraged but not helpless is also good.

Flip Flappers: Cocona is a normal schoolgirl who tries to be as normal as possible. One day, she meets Papika, a peculiar and very energetic girl. Somehow, they end up travelling to another world where everything is covered in snow and they are attacked by snow monsters! Luckily, they manage to make their way back...
A weird series, but very adventurous. Not sure if there's something of an actual plot, but it kept our interest through the whole episode. Fun magical realism romp.

Keijo!!!!!!!!: (really, what's up with the exclamation marks?) So there's this sport called 'Keijo' where women are put on a floating platform in the middle of a swimming pool. And it's a bit like gladiators: they have to push their opponents into the water: last person standing wins. But: they are only allowed to use their breasts and butt! Nozomi wants to get into the sport to get rich, and she is (barely) admitted to the school that trains the best Keijo players.
The premise is so stupid and such a thin excuse to ogle drawn women with ample bosoms that it's hard to imagine that something like this could actually be made in 2016 and people would be OK with it.

All Out!!: (again with the exclamation marks...) Gion is short and he's sick of being teased about it. This has made him a hothead with a bad attitude, but when he is invited to try out rugby together with his tall classmate Sumiaki, he finds joy in the gentleman spirit in those who play this rough sport.
So it's a basic sports anime, the types of which you've seen many times before: this time it's rugby. But what I found refreshing is that instead of the usual "show some spirit!" argument to start a sport and/or being a"miracle rookie", this time a friendly and gentle sportsman appeals to the personality of the person who is enticed to pick up the sport. Still a sports anime though.

Watashi ga Motete Dousunda: Kae is a "fujoshi": a girl with an unhealthy obsession with boys-love (yaoi) comics. Boys don't pay her any attention, but when her favourite character dies in an anime series, she grieves so much that she can't go to school and loses a lot of weight. When she gets back, boys swarm her, and she decides to see if she can set some situations up so that she can satisfy her craving for yaoi with actual boys...
So I guess the message of this series is that if you're thin enough, boys will pay attention to you. And if they do, you should totally disregard them as persons but see them as pawns to do your bidding! Let's all be super-superficial! ...right.

Girlish Number: Chitose works as a voice actress at an agency co-managed by her older brother Gojo. She is a total brat and just not very good: her roles are the bottom of the barrel and she doesn't get along that well with the others. Then the incompetent owner of her agency thinks something up and she is offered a leading role. Of course, this goes straight to her head, to the exasperation of her brother.
A main character that's unsympathetic that gets catapulted in a situation she can't manage by an incompetent boss? It irritated me and had nothing of the charm of other such series.

Drifters: Warriors of all different eras get transported to another world upon their death. Some of them band together (though of course things like "being civil" and "cooperating" is beyong most warriors) and when the "elves" of this world are brutally suppressed, they jump into action. Meanwhile, there's some sort of secret war going on, and these warriors will have to end up in one or the other army...
This is typical shounen violence porn with unbeatable warriors who constantly are on the edge of getting to blows with eachother. You know the type: growling voices, bulging muscles, blood spattering everywhere... The genre is hugely popular, but I don't quite understand why.
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azumanga
Nov. 13th, 2016 @ 09:54 pm New anime
Current Mood: okayokay
Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume: The girls' tabletennis club suffers a crushing defeat at a tournament. They're all a bit dejected, but then a new girl comes to try out the club -- and she's really good. Even better than the new 'ace' of the team, who will need some time to get used to that fact...
It's pretty standard, and did not hold our attention.

Shoushin Shoujo Matoi: Matoi works part-time as a shrine maiden at a shrine. Her father is a police detective who is on a case of disappearing people. And then there is an attack by an evil spirit on the shrine: one of the visitors gets possessed and starts attacking Matoi's father who is visiting as part of his investigation. Matoi gets possessed by one of the gods that are enshrined in the shrine and proceeds to take out the evil spirit!
Interesting take on the magical girl phenomenon: this time it's based on holy shinto power, which interests me.

Natsume Yuujinchou Go: Fifth series of Natsume! I had not expected another series, because at the end of the fourth series, Natsume seems in a good place mentally: good friends who take him as he is, and accepting the affection and care of his stepparents. This series is a bit of a throwback, with Natsume once again being unsure of his place in the world. He wants to know more about his grandmother and starts to ask questions of the spirits to that effect.

Nanbaka: A group of five inmates have been able to escape from every single prison they have been in by using their special abilities. So now they're all locked away in a secret prison that is impossible to escape from -- but that doesn't stop them from trying.
Kinda weird and not very funny.

Hibike! Euphonium 2: Second series of the highschool wind orchestra that decides to compete in the national competition and their conductor who holds them to their word. In the first series, we see them win the regional competition, and now in the second series, the orchestra will have to up their game to advance in the competition.
If you liked the first series (and/or the movie), you don't need me to tell you to go watch this.

Bungou Stray Dogs 2: Second series about the detective agency. This series seems to focus on Dazai's time with the Port Maffia. He is confronted with some secret assassins running around -- or something. We watched the first series, but it declined as it progressed. This second series did not hold our attention -- we didn't care at all.

Brave Witches: A "side-story" of Strike Witches. Our young Japanese witch isn't very good at using her magic, unlike her sister who is a succesfull witch in the army. But when she has to race against a classmate for a position on a squadron of witches to be stationed overseas, things go wrong and she shows that she is capable of impressive feats of magic when she needs to. So she gets selected and shipped off...
Fanservice galore! And it seems like it will be a simple rehash of Strike Witches, so we'll skip this one.
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Bishoujo squad!
Nov. 12th, 2016 @ 04:28 pm (no subject)
Current Mood: happyfestive
Happy birthday, anemoona!
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eten
Nov. 11th, 2016 @ 10:22 pm New anime
Current Mood: sleepysleepy
Oh yes, there was something about new anime...

WWW.Working!!: With all the storylines of the Wagnaria crew resolved, there was no more story in that -- and so this is all set in a different restaurant with an all-new cast. But it feels all like a rehash, and the characters don't sparkle as in the first incarnation. Or maybe it's just that the main character is a bit of an unlikable fellow, that doesn't help either. If you're really aching for more famires shenanigans, then maybe check it out -- otherwise give it a miss.

Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikau, named after a mobile game in the series called the "Magical Girl Raising Project". It's a bit of an embarassing secret to play this game, but kids who are expecially good at it get invited to become a real magical girl by a creature in the app. They are organised in districts, having regular meetings in their magical girl form and they get magical power to do actual good deeds. Our heroine gets really into it and even finds a friend from her grade-school days who also was heavily into magical girls.
Forming a "contract" with a non-human entity to become a magical girl? I can see no reason how that could possibly go wrong...

Vivid Strike!: Fuuka and Rinne, two orphans used to live together. Fuuka learned to fight in order to protect Rinne, but when Rinne gets adopted by a rich family, she gets trained in martial arts and gets so strong she can beat Fuuka up. Then one day Fuuka gets a job at a gym to train a martial arts team: this is her ticket to defeat Rinne in the ring!
The character designs are kinda retro, and the plot too. Also, I'm not aware of any martial arts that allows uniforms with laces and frills in the ring -- but maybe that's just me.

Tiger Mask W: What if everything that is shown in show wrestling is real? That there are indeed shady organisations and evil managers who are only in it for the money, who are exploiting the wrestlers, that some wrestlers are only in it to humiliate other wrestlers? And what if there is one wrestler who is an upstanding sportsman who seeks to take revenge for the humiliation that his mentor suffered?
Barrel-chested men who disguise themselves with a mask (a tiger mask to be precise) and make their way to the wrestling ring to find a particular person to take his revenge!

Monster Hunter Stories: RIDE ON: You need a monster egg before you can hatch one, and you can only ride a monster into battle if you hatch one. Really easy, and there are structures in place to get every kid their own egg so that they can become a monster rider. But of course one plucky boy decides to ignore all the rules and look for his own egg in places where they were expressly told not to go. And of course he stirs up things that he can't solve -- but at least he got his egg!

Magic-kyun! Renaissance: Magic can be used through artistic expression. Ohana's mother used ikebana for that, and that's what Ohana is aspiring to as well -- but she hasn't succeeded in creating a magic effect yet. She transfers into the second year of the magical highschool and during her first day she meets several boys who are the stars of the school...
It's like Uta no Prince-sama but then with magic. It even looks the same.

Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru: One of the most weird things about modern Japanese culture is how objects can be anthropomorphised into characters that are both human and yet still retain some of the characteristics of the object they are representing. This series applies that to... swords from Japanese history! They live together in a mansion and get sent out to missions where they have to protect certain points in history from invasions. During those invasions, they wield... themselves?
It's weird and since we don't know anything about the swords and their historical owners, it all left us bemused since there is no way for us to empathise with what is going on.

Stella no Mahou: Fluff piece about a girl in highschool who joins the games club that creates their own games and where everybody is overworked...

Trickster: Set in 2030, it's about the Boy's Detective Agency who work under an overpriced private detective. One of the boy detectives, an overconfident and painfully cheery guy meets another guy who kills anything that comes close to him -- though without wanting to. Our detective is intrigued and decides to become friends with the reclusive boy.
It has 'Edogawa Ranpo' in the title, which is the name of a Japanese mystery writer who was a huge fan of Edgar Allan Poe (see what he did there?) -- and I am confused because this is not at all like a traditional mystery story -- rather it is an action series. We couldn't get into it.
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net zombie!
Nov. 9th, 2016 @ 11:57 am Cyberpunk and the greenscreen esthetic
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
Neuromancer was published in 1984. This was 2 years after the introduction of the Intel 80286 -- so PCs were still in their infancy and so-called "home computers" were all the rage in homes everywhere. I think I got my first MSX computer then. The internet existed, but it was all text and all run on mainframes. Getting on the internet meant sitting in front of a terminal (or a PC that ran terminal software) and typing up commands. These mainframes ran VMS or a Unix variant, so you had to use arcane commands like "ls" instead of "dir". Most terminals were monochrome and had a green phosphorous coating on the cathode tube -- so all text was bright green. Applications that you interact with through this type of terminal are called "greenscreen" -- sometimes lovingly, sometimes derisive.
The first time I connected to the internet, which was much later, in 1991 -- it was on an Adm3/a connecting to the server at 9600 baud.
Actual computer work was done on the same mainframes. Four years later, in 1988, IBM released the AS/400 "midrange computer" -- still a computer that required it's own room, but less bulky than the mainframes that were used for really large calculations. The AS/400 became the workhorse of mid-sized companies for their administrative duties. It still is: we have lots of customers that are running insurance or policy systems on these machines. (I've also heard a rumour about Colombian drug lords kidnapping AS/400 systems programmers to force them to build applications to keep track of their illegal empire.) And here, too, greenscreen rules supreme -- often as terminal emulators run on PCs, but even there the text is green. There are some systems to "convert" greenscreen applications to web applications, but that's more like coating it with a little web sauce instead of actually converting.

So in the 80's and 90's, greenscreen ruled supreme -- in the office, and on the internet. And this is the hacking that is portrayed in Gibson's Sprawl trilogy (though I don't think there's ever mention of a greenscreen anywhere). It really meshes well with the idea of giant, faceless systems that control everything and everybody. I think this is why (classic) cyberpunk has a greenscreen esthetic: that was what that looked like at the time of cyberpunk's inception. (Though I wonder if Gibson really knew about these things. There's a legend that when he and Sterling were co-writing The Difference Engine, it was suggested they use e-mail to exchange the written text. The both of them found it too hard to understand, so they used hardcopy and used Fedex to send the manuscripts to and fro.)
And this esthetic has stayed with cyberpunk. Look at the opening scene of The Matrix: even the WB and Village Roadshow logo are greenscreen.

I'm participating in an online campaign of The Sprawl, called "Ashes to Ashes, Chrome to Rust" (which is streamed live through Twitch.tv -- you can read my session reports and watch the videos linked from here). During the initial discussions we had about the 'feel' for the game we were going for, we decided to do 'classic Gibsonian' cyberpunk, reaching back to the rules and types of things that happen in Neuromancer.
We use Roll20 for our character sheets, and the sheets that are available for The Sprawl are fantastic. They're even animated, and really well suited for streaming: you can 'present' things on your character sheet as items in the chatbox. We 'project' that chatbox into the stream, so the viewers can keep track of which is what. And... they're greenscreen, which personally I think is fantastic. Here's the top of my character's sheet:

And one of the players, who is well-versed in design, created a really cool greenscreen-inspired layout, even with scanlines over our video feed. He also created a greenscreen GIF to promote the game on Twitter, and I really liked that.

So I set to programming and created a Python script that uses the curses library to recreate the greenscreen, 9600 baud experience to emulate a system in our game. Setting up a terminal in Ubuntu to look like greenscreen is easy, and byzanz can record (part of) the screen and create a GIF out of it. The text is actually read from a command file, so that it's now possible to create GIFs like this without coding.
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ADM3A
Nov. 8th, 2016 @ 03:56 pm About Conspiracy X
Current Mood: pensivepensive
Tags:
Let's be honest: the 1990's were not a good decade for RPG design. If you look at RPGGeek's list of RPGs, then the first game created in the 1990's that had its first edition in that decade is Castle Falkenstein at position 36 -- and it can easily be argued that this is because of its excellent world-building, not because the system was so great (because it wasn't).
Looking back, it seemed to me that most designers were obsessed with making 'realistic' games, trying to somehow 'fix' Dungeons & Dragons by making the rules more complex. And in RPGs, realism kinda sucks. You want rules and systems that are thematic for what you want to achieve in the game, not to create a simulation of reality.

Conspiracy X is very much a game of the 1990's. Lately, someone suggested that we play it. I own most of the books of the first edition, and I have run a game in it too. It is ranked number 257 in the list -- just above the second edition of Das Schwarze Auge. If you know DSA, that's... telling.
The setting is "X-files with the serial numbers filed off". PCs are government agents (FBI, NSA etcetera) that are part of Aegis, a secret conspiracy. But Aegis is a benign conspiracy: it aims to protect humanity from one of the several other conspiracies that have various nefarious purposes. Using the authority awarded to them by their 'day job', the PCs aim to uncover what is really happening.
And what is really happening is that there's basically aliens and psychics everywhere. Anything that ever happens is sure to be part of the conspiracy. Either it's the aliens (Greys, Saurians, Atlantians) or some psychic running amok -- there's always something sinister going on.

The scenarios are all basically clue-trail adventures where the PCs uncover what's going on by conducting interviews with eye-witnesses to some strangeness and other types of investigations. That's great to watch on TV, because you see what the characters in the TV series see and you uncover the "truth" along with them. But as a scenario, it's... not so good. If you miss your roll to find a vital clue, then that's basically it. Call of Cthulhu has this problem too -- another game that can simply grind to a halt because of a missed 'Use Library' roll.
Which means there are two solutions: either you simply give the players the clues they need and hope they figure it out, or you put them on a railroad and simply take them along for the ride. Both do not appeal to me.
And yes, these problems are not unique to Conspiracy X. As noted, any clue-trail adventure suffers from this. But Conspiracy X never solved this. So to me, it seems like it's kinda... bland. Reading the rulebook does not evoke grand vistas of what the PCs will or can do.
But let's be honest -- there is one thing that Conspiracy X did really well: the psychic rules. Remember the opening scenes of the Ghostbusters movie, where Dr Venkman is conducting an experiment with cards with different symbols on it and trying to get into the pants of the pretty student? Those cards are called Zener Cards and they are indeed used for psychic research. If you play a character with a psychic ability, the GM will draw as many cards as your character's psychic rating (so if you have a rating of 2, that's two cards drawn). You then name a symbol, and if the symbol you picked is among the cards that were drawn, then your action succeeds. It's pretty fun, but it kinda breaks the flow of the game.

I wrote that I ran an adventure in it, and it offered one of the highlights of my GMing career to date -- but that was not because of the game.
About a year before I ran the game, there was a police case in the news about a Winti practicioner from Surinam who had some 'voodoo dolls' that turned out to contain mummified baby bodies. I had collected newspaper clippings about the case and fabricated a scenario. Then I made sure that everthing the players discovered was consistent with the publically available information -- so when I gave them the second newspaper clipping, one of the players remarked: "Yeah, we already knew all this stuff!" And then he realised he was holding a clipping from an actual newspaper, which weirded him out. I'm still proud of that.
(The scenario petered out because the players failed to combine the clues in a meaningful way. So it did turn into somewhat of a railroad where the players were like bemused passengers staring at the weird stuff going on.)

The Gumshoe system was designed specifically to adress the clue-trail problem, and it is the underlying system for Trail of Cthulhu, which is coincidentally ranked third in RPGGeek's list. I do not see a Gumshoe game in the style of the X-Files, but that doesn't mean that one of the existing Gumshoe games could not be 're-skinned' to support this. Using any of the Conspiracy X sourcebooks to provide background is easily achieved once a modern system is in place that supports the type of play you want.
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Kashira? Kashira? Gozonji Kashira?
Oct. 29th, 2016 @ 10:11 pm New anime
Current Mood: mellowmellow
Something something new season...

Heybot!: In the 'Screw Kingdom', everybody has their own robot that they can set 'gag screws' in. That's how they battle, and that's how the crown prince has to defeat his father the king in order to become the next king! And it's a marketing vehicle aimed at really small kids! And very lively! And nonsensical! And the 'gags' are boring and bland! And that's 25 minutes of our lives we'll never get back!

Digimon Universe: Appli Monsters: Digimon now live in smartphones, as applications! But when they get infected by a virus, they become malicious -- for instance, a messaging application can spam your private messages all over the internet! Of course, it befalls on a young man (who thinks of himself as a supporting character) to do something about it with his own digital monster sidekick!
Not interesting in the slightest, but I liked that it showed kids that they actually do have something to hide, even if it's that blog post by your mom about your bedwetting!

Time Bokan 24: Tokio, a young boy, gets involved with the 'time police' who are investigating the 'true history' with their time machines that look like a stag beetle. It turns out that history as you learn it at school is actually incorrect! But at every turn, the agency is opposed by a team secretly working for the publisher of history books because they don't want to alter all their books! In the first episode, we find out that Cleo and Patra were actually a comedy duo in ancient Egypt, and there was never someone named Cleopatra...
It's weird and stupid -- but I guess since it's aimed at young kids, we fall firmly outside of the target audience. I'd rather have kids watch this than 'Heybot!' because at least it's not that stupid.

Bloodivores: There's an illness, and the only medicine makes the users vampires. So that brought about a huge black market for blood -- especially since they go violently mad when they get deprived. Then a small group of vampires stage a heist on a bank to get some data on someone, and they get framed for murder! So then they get sentenced to death, but they get abducted to some secret facility when they are in transport.
The ending reminded me a lot of Deadman Wonderland -- like a secret facility where some sadistic manager basically calls all the shots. This series wants to be all 'edgy', but it fell flat for us.

Bubuki/Buranki: Hoshi no Kyojin: Second season for Bubuki Buranki. We saw the first one, but at the end of it we weren't so sure it was really something we wanted to watch. Watching the first episode of this second season cemented our opinion that watching this would not enrich our lives.

Shuumatsu no Izetta: Crown princess Fiine of the country Elystadt, an idyllic country in the Alps that is neutral in the wars that Germania is starting, is trying to meet an ambassador from the Allies for help. And then Germania invades her country anyway and their spies catch her! The plane in which they are taking her to their capital holds another cargo: a cryogenic capsule containing a girl... this is Izetta, the last witch of Elystadt. She and Fiine go back some time: Fiine protected her from persecution years ago. Izetta wakes up and makes short work of the soldiers and the plane...
It's really WW2 -- you can still see the serial numbers where they tried to file them off! But the combination of a princess on the run without a country to return to and somebody who can use magic, that's really interesting. I really want to see how this goes.
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Counting (Shuffle)
Oct. 19th, 2016 @ 08:32 pm Fub's Dungeon Week
Current Mood: excitedexcited
Tags: ,
klik will be attending another sesshin (Zen retreat) in the second week of November. As is usual, I have taken that week off as well. And as usual, I want to challenge myself with a project. With my current interest in playing Dungeon World and playing games online, I came up with Fub's Dungeon Week.
It comes down to me hosting a game of Dungeon World every evening for six days straight. Check out the site I made for it, and contact me if you want to participate!
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Viking!
Oct. 16th, 2016 @ 05:11 pm Our Essen Spiel'16 loot
Current Mood: happyhappy
Tags: ,
This year, we visited the Spiel international game exhibition at Essen again. On previous years, we went on Thursdays, which is the first day of the fair and the most quiet -- and there might be some limited items here and there... But since klik had to work on Thursday evening, we decided to go on Friday. We got off to a late start (or at least, later than we had intended) and then messed up the navigation too, so it was around 11:00 when we got to the Messe. And by then, all parking spaces near the Messe had been marked as "full" -- which meant we would have to park somewhere outside of the city and get a shuttle bus to the Messe. We had that one year, and it was an absolute disaster, so we were kinda bummed we would have to repeat that experience.
But when we drove past the parking garage near the swimming pool (which is next to the Messe) we noticed cars going right towards it -- and that line was moving. There were policemen standing on the corner, and they had a sign saying it was closed off with them -- but they had not 'deployed' it. So if you followed the parking signs, you'd end up at the big parking outside the city -- but we decided to try our luck anyway. And lo and behold: there was ample space in the garage, so we got to park reasonably close to the Messe! That was a huge relief, to be honest.

Essen is more geared towards boardgaming -- and we're not huge boardgamers. But there's some roleplaying games there, and I had marked the map with some stands that I was interested in. For some reason, Essen ends up being all about the dice for us. Because there's no such thing as too many dice!

The dice of Essen"16Collapse )

So did we buy only dice? Nope, I also bought some actual gamesCollapse )

We were kinda tired when we got back home, but it was a lot of fun to wander the halls and to see what's on offer.
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nixie
Sep. 30th, 2016 @ 08:48 am Amazing repairmen
Current Mood: impressedimpressed
If you like to see peple being awesome at what they do through careful application of honed skills, then I fully recommend this playlist of YouTube featuring master crafters repairing things. Yes, it's Japanese and it's not subtitled, but you don't need to understand what they are saying to appreciate the absolute skills these people have.
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ADM3A
Sep. 18th, 2016 @ 09:53 am Dungeon World ruined things
Current Mood: embarrassedembarrassed
Tags:
I know, I am going to sound like a total fanboy in this post. But I know I am a fan of Dungeon World, and as a recent convert, I know I am a bit of a fanatical. So read this post with this in mind and forgive me my youthful enthousiasm.

Friday night, I played in an online game of 13th Age, which is a D20 game. That is: it is a clone of Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 with added rules. (Pathfinder is another one of those. During the era of D&D 4th edition and until the release of D&D 5th edition, it ruled the roost and in it's own turn spawned a whole set of games that are compatible with it.)
The group of players was excellent, but the game felt very flat to me. I mean, there's plenty to like there: every character has 'one unique thing', there's powers and spells that trigger during or outside of battle, there are 'Icons' which are the movers and shakers of the setting and the characters have positive, conflicted or negative relationships with them, etcetera. Everything for a cool game in a rich setting.

And yet, it was a bit of a slog. Perhaps this was due to us not being familiar with the system or perhaps this was due to not having played with everyone in the group before -- but I don't think it's that. It is that D20 combat (and the scenario was basically a set of combats strung together) is a slog. You can't do cool things at low level because you don't have those abilities. And in fact, D20 combat is not about doing cool things, but all about damage output per round and killing things through a million papercuts. A siege troll took maybe ten combined hits to bring down.
Contrast this with, say, The Hobbit where a single bowman can bring down a dragon in a single shot. Sure, a single bowman of outstanding ability, but still. You can't do that in D&D, it just doesn't model fiction like that.

But Dungeon World does. I completely agree with this assessment by Weem: Dungeon World ruined things.
I really like the people I played with Friday, and would game with them again without any reservations. And yet I kind of feel horrible that I didn't like the game and at the same time thought that this set-up could make such a cool scenario for Dungeon World...
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D20
Sep. 13th, 2016 @ 07:08 pm Last #RPGADAY
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Tags: ,
31) Best advice you were ever given for your game of choice.
Hm. I'm not sure I have a "game of choice". Best advice for a GM that I ever received was to trust yourself and your players -- go with the flow and make up the details as you go along to fit your group.

Also, this was the last of the #RPGADAY entries. You can now breathe a sigh of relief. ;)
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D20
Sep. 12th, 2016 @ 10:16 pm #RPGADAY
Current Mood: okayokay
Tags: ,
30) Describe the ideal game room if the budget were unlimited.
Cozy room. Well-lit table large enough for character sheets and room to roll dice. Central area for maps and diagrams. A side-table to make coffee and tea, next to a small fridge. Comfortable chairs or benches. Bookcases along the wall.
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kodama
Sep. 11th, 2016 @ 09:55 am #RPGADAY
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Tags: ,
29) You can game anywhere on Earth. Where would you choose?
Playing an RPG is a very 'internal-facing' activity: you're sitting around a table with friends and the attention should be focused on what is going on in the game. Playing in a fancy or distracting environment is actually detrimental to the fun I have in a game. So dining tables are actually a pretty good spot to play at.
That being said, there is something to be said for gaming in a private suite at a luxurious hotel, with staff available to cater to your needs. Where the hotel itself is located doesn't really matter for the game itself, but it might be a factor right after the game when you go out for a meal.
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haiku