Okay, let me explain. If you get the reference, just go with me on this.
I enjoyed the newest installment in the hoary James Bond franchise quite a lot. Skyfall is a moody, textured look at the character and icon of 007 — personally I found it a perfect addition to Daniel Craig’s tenure as the character. I’ve heard varying reports about whether or not this will be his last film as “dude’s old”. But if this is his final performance as Bond, this is a perfect way to go out. Exploring the last part of the hero’s career, and a true brush with mortality and frailty.
But I there’s one thing that is revealed, that concerns me.
One of my favorite sections of the movie is the final act. Bond retreats to the moors of Scotland, and we get a glimpse of his childhood — something never shown previously in any other film. [Not even the wacky-ass original Casino Royale.] There was something primal about him returning to his ancestral manse, on his noble steed [the Aston Martin!]. Some serious low-tech battle prep — followed by the usual helicopter explosions, high kill count, brutal kicks to the face and a knife fight [of sorts] — all the action required for the end of a Bond film.
It wasn’t until the second time that I watched the movie, that I noticed something.
Right there, on the top of the gate leading to Bond’s family home.
This can only mean one thing.
James Bond is a Baratheon.
I…I…don’t know how I feel about this.
This changes everything.
For the uninitiated, House Baratheon is from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, currently more popularly known through the HBO series, Game of Thrones.
I don’t know how I feel, because the Baratheons are all, well… kind of dicks. [Or all kinds of dicks? How does that phrase work?]
Lodestar is an odd beast. Telling a story live for two years across thousands of words online, and scores of tabletop games it’s easy to get lost in the thickets. At least I know I often did, and at least nominally I was in charge of the story. Killervp asked for some Lodestar related blather, so I’m obliging. These are 5 things that the players either never knew, didn’t notice, or never encountered. Some of these are missed plotlines, or NPC backstories — or just things that I thought about a lot in the shower, but never actually mentioned in-game. Now that I had some time and distance from the story, here are a few things way back in the freezer of Lodestar.
1. The Precursor Homeworld
Oh, man. This was going to be amazing. Admittedly, this was part of the ‘Machine Unleashed’ end of Act 3. [More on that later in the list.] After a few failed attempts to defeat the Machine, the crew of the Lodestar was going to discover a hidden cache of Precursor knowledge [through clues in the sadly neglected Arkanic Computer, Carbunkle.] and discover Teon’s notes reconstructing the route back to the homeworld, along with the Song of Change that would have finally unlocked the Lodestar’s sleeping heart/psyche. [LEVEL FIVE!!!] The whole ship was going to gain an Interstellar Travel Mode in epic Flight of the Navigator fashion and the crew would have gone on last ditch quest across the stars.
There they would have encountered the Dark, the nebulous force of ultimate evil that forced the Arkanics to flee to Aufero. I don’t know what it is, but it scares the shit out of me — so, definitely nasty. Making their way through a shattered planet, finding lost technology and twisted Precursor-spawn — fleeing from the ultimate negation, the destroyer of all. They would have no chance of defeating it, but would have found something that allowed them to defeat the Machine. A glimpse into the larger cosmic battle beyond their own world — and foreshadowing for the next tale in Aufero.
2. Shadar Logoth
Ah. My unabashed crib from the Wheel of Time series. In Jordan’s first book, it’s a lost city filled to the brim with an ancient evil. In middle school, it really fascinated me, so I wanted to have it in my game world.
Immediately after the crew saved Talitha from the Shadow Knight in Brom, they had to deal with the temporarily-riderless and wounded Giant Roc, Bird. The druid managed to tend the creature’s wounds through and pulled a sizable stone chunk out of one of the bird’s wounds. A quick inspection revealed that it was overloaded with negative energy, a clue that the party could investigate to lead them to Shadar Logoth. They would have found an open conduit into the Umbral Plane, and the remnants of Izus’ battle with a large manifestation of shadow creatures. The players didn’t really miss much, but it was an opportunity to learn a lot more about the Plane of Shadow much earlier in the campaign.
And, of course there would have been a dagger with a ruby in the pommel.
3. Enton Blake, Scion of the Neclord
Oh, this still burns my players — because they know they missed this one. So, not totally a secret, but I like to rub things in.
Early in the campaign, I ran a ‘murder mystery’ adventure styled around Murder on the Orient Express. The main point of it was to introduce a new antagonistic group, the Seafoam Trading Company. The somewhat-evil multi-national conglomerate that controlled most airship and naval commerce in Aufero. There were about eight red herring suspects, and unfortunately I made the clue to who was the real killer too hard to notice. So, they had their ‘drawing room scene’ and accused one of the Vice Presidents of Seafoam with the crime under the evidence that he was an evil dick. He was evil, and they had a good fight — but he wasn’t the killer.
The real killer was that guy’s nebbish secretary, Enton Blake. I wrote a ‘confession‘ of sorts here on the blog several months later. And he was a vampire.
If they had uncovered the true killer, it would have served two purposes.
It was a neat link to the old campaign that spawned this game world. The Neclord was a master vampire who nearly toppled an entire country with his schemes. The old heroes had quite a time dealing with him, so I liked the nod to the old campaign.
Enton was the only Scion remaining — the only Child of Zed to survive the purge by the Forces of Light. His mission in life was to keep his existence a secret, as he slowly prepared over many, many decades the return of the vampires. Not quite sure whether he was going to resurrect the Neclord, or BECOME THE NECLORD HIMSELF. MWAHAHA.
Hey, you know what? It can still happen! Thanks, heroes!
4. Nyver Moonbeam and Jan Wise.
Sometimes you have a really cool backstory for an NPC or villain.
Sometimes you are just about to open your mouth, and lay down some narrative jazz and blow the players’ minds.
Sometimes the players kill that NPC or villain. Right. Before. The. Reveal.
Early in their career, the Lodestar crew did some work for a local crime lord in the city of Flenelle, a Dark Elf known as Nyver Moonbeam. They uncovered the edges of some sort of nefarious plot he was hatching, and decided they needed to take him down. They enlisted the aid of an alcoholic ranger named Martin Wise, who had a serious grudge against the crime lord.
When the party went to face Nyver, it was in the wreck of an abandoned galley that had been turned into a saloon. He had a female bard chained to the wall, forcing her to sing for him in between intermittent bouts of torture. The barbarian freed her, but they wouldn’t learn much about her until later.
As mentioned, the party made quick work of the nefarious Dark Elf. The only little nugget of the backstory I managed was his dying words to the ranger.
“You know I really loved her.” Nyver sighed.
“It don’t mean a damn.” Martin Wise replied. “And you know that too.”
So, yeah. Here’s the big backstory. Martin’s daughter, Jan fell in with Nyver early in his career. She was his lieutenant, and eventually his lover. The wrinkle was that the dark elf had a predeliction for causing pain, an inescapable compulsion. Jan allowed herself to receive the brunt of his abuse in an attempt to help him work through the condition. I don’t think she enjoyed it, but she was a willing participant.
Enter her father, the renowned ranger and adventurer, Martin Wise. He rolls into town and finds
bruises and scars on his little girl, and immediately commences to tracking down her villainous boyfriend. An epic duel erupts, Jan gets caught in the middle, she dies.
Ironically, much of Nyver’s sado-masochistic leaning is broken in this event. He still feels the compulsion, but then he will see Jan’s face on his victims and stop. His bard prisoner had some clues to the effect.
Martin started drinking, and didn’t stop. He even sunk to the level of taking odd jobs from Nyver’s growing criminal syndicate to make ends meet. He had some ale-soaked thoughts about working his way close enough to the dark elf to get revenge, but they didn’t amount to much.
5. The World of the Machine
The other way the last half of the campaign could have gone. The entire first arc of the game involves the discovery of the Shadow Plane — and some sort of being trapped within that is frantically trying to break into our world. Through travel and investigation the Lodestar crew learn that the trapped entity is a giant machine, built by the Precursors to destroy the evil that filled their homeworld. In typical Frankenstein fashion, they made it a wee bit too powerful. A large portion of the race’s population sacrificed themselves to create the Shadow Plane and imprison the machine.
The big moment at the end of Act 3 hinged on two options. Will the heroes stop the Machine from breaking free, or will it run amuck across the globe?
To my chagrin, the heroes succeeded.
But, oh. The Machine. It was going to be so freaking sweet. Just stomping its way across the world, crushing cities to dust. The party was going to need to ally themselves with Seafoam [and maybe the devils and Izus] to even have a chance to survive long enough to get to the next leg of the adventure.
I just loved the idea of spending over a year building all these communities, cities and countries — then pulverizing them. Admittedly, the 13 Day War that came later did just as good, but it was going to be a giant robot!
I’ve been noodling over a couple of different blog topics, whilst digesting the mammoth pile of turkey and dressing that I’ve recently consumed. Which sounds the most interesting to you, oh wanderer of the Internet?
1. Why I kind of like that show Elementary, despite it being an empirically flawed premise for a show. [Sherlock Holmes in America?!? Blasphemery!]
2. I recently completed a re-read of the first book of the Wheel of Time series Eye of the World. This was a series I loved as a younger reader, but lost interest in as the years and volumes piled up. I’m re-reading the first book to help me decide whether it’s worth plowing back through now that the very last book is being released. There would be lots of navel-gazing, musing and a de facto review of the book. Who doesn’t love an article on story structure?
3. That show I’m directing at Town & Gown, Pippin.
4. My nebulous new tabletop campaign, Ocean of Not [placeholder name.]
6. Spell/Sword …you know, my book or whatever.
7. Potpourri. [You tell me what you’d like me to blather on about.]
Any of this sound remotely interesting or palatable?
[I know it’s been quiet here for the past few weeks. I’m hip-deep in a production of Pippin that I’m directing, plus holiday work volume, plus BLAH BLAH BLAH WRITE US A STORY ABOUT A GRYPHON. I should have some quiet time over Thanksgiving, I’ll try to be a better blog-content producer over the next few days. In the meantime, here’s my Director’s Note for the program of the show.]
This show is strange.
It’s one of my favorites, and every time I watch it I find another odd little quirk, or strange sequence of lines, or incongruous thematic element. This is the second time I’ve directed this show — and once again I’m left with a vague feeling of unease. Do I really know what this show is about? So many pieces that don’t fit, arcane and vivid.
I think this show is about magic.
The magic of youth. The magic of theatre.
The magic of choice. The magic of love.
And — bereft of descriptor — magic itself.
Who am I to parse the strange symbols and gestures of this incantation? Magic cannot be understood, that is its base element. A resistance to definition, to codification, and to the jaded understanding of maturity. Only the eyes of a child can glimpse the Leading Player’s riddle.
So, take your ease Ladies and Gentlemen. Become children with us tonight, and let us tell you a tale. The spell begins again.
It wanted to be more than it was. It wanted to know. It wanted to have.
The water grew dark. Regret, fear, desire. Seeds of our world.
All from Nothing. Thinking.
The Others were born, the Elder Gods. Then the Sun and Moon. Then their children, the brawling ones. Hantei and the rest. They shaped and formed our world, this Emerald Empire, this Rokugan.
The bones of our world, the secret in every drop of blood. The sin of Nothing. The filling of the empty, the darkening of the water.
Is this the secret to Shinsei’s path? To return to the serenity of the absolute, to be empty water once more?
Is it even possible? To live without regret. Or fear. Or desire?
A curious riddle.
This bears careful thought.
I hope my readers will forgive my small joke.
– Musings – Kitsune Miho
[With apologies to John Wick and Alderac Entertainment. I’m starting to do prep work for what could be my next long-running tabletop campaign. Returning to the hallowed system of yore, 1st Edition Legend of the Five Rings. I’m rereading a lot of the setting information for the first time in over a decade. Such a strange mashup of Eastern and Western mythology, neatly combining the Amaterasu myth with the Cronos/Zeus story.
And also forgive my crude use of Japanese. My only aide is Google Translate.]
[And yes, I’m responding to the Petraeus Boondoggle.]
I want you to do me a favor. Stop writing your sexy email. Yes, I know you have it open in the next tab over — you’ve been marinating on it all day, in between doing, you know actual work – grooming and squirming your mental eros into a nicely formatted 4000 word missive. Just stop, for like five seconds and do something for me.
I want you to look at the newspaper on your desk. Yes, I said the newspaper. I know you have a newspaper on your desk. You know how I know? It’ll become clear momentarily — for now just humor me. Okay, now look at the top of the newspaper. Do you see the date?
DOES IT SAY 1997?
What? It doesn’t? It says ‘2012’!?!
Well, heavens to Mergotroid! That’s a Flintstones reference, I’m trying to couch my humor in something you’ll understand, as clearly you have not been paying much attention to some major developments in technology, communication and internet horse-sense.
So before you press send on that Sexy Email — which you are probably sending while at work, on a computer owned and monitored by your soulless corporation of choice — I would like you to consider some Super Science Alternatives. [And one Classic.] All of these methods are much harder [if not impossible] to track, log and throw up on CNN for all of us to leer at.
SUPER SCIENCE ALTERNATIVE #1 : Google Chat
Or really any chat program ever existed. I mean, freaking Words With Friends has a chat feature — but I pick Google Chat because it has a handy ‘Go Off the Record’ option, that means the conversation will not be logged. Just think about it, you could have your sexy email time — like right away! All the time! It’s almost like there should be a word for this. Cyber-sexting? Inter-fucking? Come on, I’m trying to drag you people into the dial-up AOL era, get on board!
SUPER SCIENCE ALTERNATIVE #2 : Tumblr
Use this social network for what the kids use it for. Flirting and arranging hookups and fuck assignations. Here’s what you do — create an extra email account, then use that to create a tumblr profile. Have your paramour do the same, and voila! Double bagged anonymity — with the added bonus of you can mark your blog as ‘Private’ and then send private messages to each other that are never published. If you start catching heat from the press — or you know, your wife or whatever — just delete the Tumblr profile and walk away.
JUST WALK AWAY.
And don’t be cute and make a tumblr name like penetraeus.tumblr.com — that’s just asking for trouble.
SUPER SCIENCE ALTERNATIVE #3: Text Messages
I know you’re all thinking — but what about TIGER WOOOOODS?!?
Well, actually I congratulate you. Thank you for noticing something that happened in the world after the Olympics were in Atlanta.
Look, here’s the deal. As long as you have the good sense to delete the text messages saved in your phones regularly — most providers don’t log text communication more than 72 hours old. [If any nerds read this, check me — this was with some very quick and dirty research into Text Message Subpeona laws. I wouldn’t want to lead these poor Sexy Emailers astray.]
And finally, the CLASSIC ALTERNATIVE: Write a letter.
Because, my reasonably sound suggestions aside, Sexy Emailers. Everything you write on the internet is there forever. If you type it on a computer, it is NEVER GONE.
NEVER. EVER. GONE.
I know you’re approaching your sex life with the same aplomb and discretion of a lemur discovering a pudding-dispensing Roomba — but please, as you slave over your Sexy Emails. Exercise a little common sense.
If you really want your written canoodling to go completely under the radar. Take a pen, write it on a sheet of physical paper and mail it to them. They can destroy it after they read it, and your fierce passion can burn all the brighter in the flames of your words’ death.
I am beyond excited….and more than a little terrified. I actually have an artist working on the cover art for Spell/Sword.
I insist that you click on this super-rad Cyberman art and check out some other examples of his work. He’s got a lot of style-flexibility, but everything he does is interesting, distinctive and [as mentioned] on the north side of Rad. We had a great brainstorming session last week, and I should start seeing sketches in the next couple of weeks. I almost wrote ‘barnstorming’. I really want to have a barnstorming session in the immediate future.
Mike Groves – aka Poopbird – is a phenomenal artist, living in my hometown of Athens, GA. You should follow all of the links below and rub your grimy internet-hands all over his virtua-product. He is also an amazing tattoo artist, so if you need some ink (especially nerd-ink) he’s the man to call.
I can’t wait to see what he comes up with — even though the anxiety-engine in my head is already revving up. Cover art means we’re getting closer and closer to the book being real, and launched into the world where everyone will hate it.