Thursday, October 22, 2009

Jealous gamer

My wife, as an elementary school teacher, roleplays more than I do, and I'm jealous. Granted, her roleplaying is usually just a means of relating to her students, often playing the part of a 2nd or 3rd grade student trying to understand a teacher's methods. But that's irrelevant, isn't it? She's indulging in imaginative play...and I'm not.

Okay, so my wife isn't infiltrating a network of spies, saving a city from a mecha-dragon with her laser vision, or falling asleep as an invisible chicken (that's her D&D specialty), but all the same, she's getting outside of herself.

Even though I work with a group of relatively imaginative people, I can tell you that roleplaying at work would be pushing things to the extreme. I mean, sure, I've often pretended that my coworkers are evil cultists trying to infect the sane world with their blasphemous terrors; who hasn't it? But I can't very well walk through the halls damning them to hell and spouting counter spells. Trust me, I've tried. Doesn't work. They just spout even more nonsense about "finding a solve for the problem" or "marshalling resources to enact greater departmental bandwidth." Seriously, how am I supposed to react to that?

When I expressed my jealousy at this, her comment was, "Well, YOU could become a teacher too." I replied appropriately. I mean, that's just too much work, never mind the responsibility. After all, being a successful teacher requires too many skill points. It doesn't leave enough points to spend on sneaking or sword-wielding. And I like a little bit of dice rolling with my roleplaying too.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

MMO-ing stole my writing life

All of my late-night blogging time of late has been spent playing Free Realms – a family-friendly MMO. That's right, I've broken my first commandment: Thou Shalt Not MMO.

Free Realms is free to play and is full of free-wheeling adventure. There are quest lines to follow, but only if you want to. You can just as easily hang out in the middle of town or pursue random errands offered by the world's NPCs. And that's the big win here: there's something for everyone.

There are nine jobs you can choose for your character, and you can jump freely between them (no cross-class penalties here!). That lets you find your gaming niche, whether you like racing games, combat, puzzle games, or exploration. They're all here. You can even play as a Card Duelist. So yes, this is a computer game where you play a character who plays a collectible card game - talk about reaching the next level! And if you decide to become a paying member, you get access to even more jobs.

The other thing I like is that it's a family friendly game. I can let my wife and kids play too. (I haven't been able to lure them in yet – they're all still playing Club Penguin.)

I'm sure that a lot of you wannabe gamers out there – the kind who play your games on a computer – might scoff at a family friendly game, because it definitely caters to kids and girls. Most of their 5 million registered members are under 18. And while it might not be the go-to game for Suicide Girls, having a 33% female membership is considered very high in the gaming industry. Personally, I'd LIKE to have an online game where I can hang out with my kids, my wife, and online friends who maybe aren't into hardcore rocking like Jack Black, at least, not all the time.

There is one problem that I'm having with Free Realms: it's fun. If I play much more, I’m going to have to buy some Station Cash. See, there are two forms of currency in the game: coins and Station Cash. Coins are the treasure you accumulate from doing stuff. They're used for buying basic supplies and some other stuff. But all the coolest gear can only be purchased with Station Cash and you get that by spending real money. Mind you, the conversion rate is pretty good. And it's a nice way to support the game without a membership subscription. But as I said, if I'm going to keep playing, I'll have to spend money. My character needs the superhero mask and a pet dog. And a mask for the dog. And the electric knife would make me a much better chef. And I'll need a Halloween costume VERY soon!

So Free Realms is my first MMO. And I need some support. If you're into this new-fangled trend of playing games on computers, give it a try and we can hangout. In the meantime, what was your first MMO, and what do you play now?

Now reading: Weird Tales #350 (I'm a few issues behind)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wonder Twins of the modern age: Waits & Perlman

Tom Waits and Ron Perlman were separated at birth. That's the obvious explanation. They were both born in 1959, which means they turned 50 this year. Okay, sure, they were born months apart (October and April), but what does that matter? If they're not biological twins, then they're a batch of mutant off-shoots of the Boys from Brazil. Now that I think of it, I'm sure that's the real answer.

Tom Waits has been making music for a long time, and it's good stuff. But I think we all agree that his greatest contribution to society was his portrayal of Doctor Heller, the designer of non-lethal, super-weapons in the movie Mystery Men.

Ron Perlman has been acting for a long time, and got famous for snuggling up to Linda Hamilton on a weekly basis. Now he rules Sam Crow's roost on Sons of Anarchy. Hell yeah.

These two men are the Wonder Twins of the modern era, full of vinegar and self-expression. Both are ruggedly independent, incredibly talented, and gravelly voiced. Blue eyes and strong countenances further point out the kindredness. Still, there are differences. I mean, clearly, Ron Perlman is the evil twin, while Tom Waits is the drunken, happy twin. And they're both among the coolest people walking the planet today. Happy 60th year gents! Keep on truckin'!

* Edit: corrected my math. Sheesh. *

Now reading: The Reel Stuff (a collection of scifi stories that had movies based on them)

Saturday, October 10, 2009


It's that time of year again. Oktoberfest means seasonal brews, and if you know me, you know I'm a sucker for seasonal beers. I like trying new flavors, new takes on my favorite food.

Oktoberfest is no exception, certainly. But I've noticed something. All Oktoberfest beers pretty much taste the same, they only vary in the degree of how good they are.

This thought scares me.

After all, that's what non-beer drinkers say about any beer, and what clueless food critics and beer drinkers say to justify why they drink crap. So, I recognize the possible ignorance of my statement.

In general, an Oktoberfest brew is a lager that is designed to be full-bodied and easy to consume in quantity. It's a traditional (in the European sense) fall harvest festival beer. "We brought in the crops that we nurtured all summer. Our village will have food to get us through the coming winter…now let's party!"

That aside, I have found a couple that I like. For "ease of availability," you can't beat Saranac's Oktoberfest. It's easy to get, and easy to drink.

The one I have to give full props to, however, is the Oktoberfest from my favorite local brewery (see my previous post), Blue Mountain Brewery. This one is easy to drink, goes down smooth, and for me, is easy to get.

Go find YOUR favorite Oktoberfest – and hurry!

Now reading: the first volume of James Robinson's Starman


Saturday, September 05, 2009's what's for dinner

This post is about another highlight from this summer, my favorite local brewery: Blue Mountain Brewery. Since I haven't posted about beer in a while, I thought this would be a great excuse to ramble about my other favorite topic. First, I am happy to say that I *have* a local brewery. That alone is a beautiful thing. The fact that it's a *good* brewery is more than I deserve.

Blue Mountain Brewery grows most of their own hops and uses them to make some mighty fine beer. The owner worked as the brewer for Charlottesville's go-to spot for craft beer, South Street Brewery until he decided to open his own place.

The brewery has a spacious restaurant with ample indoor and outdoor seating, with a very relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. Every time I go there, I just want to call up my gaming friends and take advantage of one of the restaurant's big, solid-wood tables! It's just a great place to hang out.

The beer list has something for everyone too. Their basic Blue Mountain Lager is light and easy to drink, while the Full Nelson Pale Ale tastes like they picked it right off the hops vine...yum! My wife and I are most partial to their Evil 8° — a Belgian Dubbel that's made for sipping. It goes down smooth and syrupy, and is probably pretty good for a cold too.

Their prices are fair and they have regular specials to keep you coming back. For example, Wednesday is $1 off of every glass. The food seems a little pricey; most of the menu choices are around $9. But everything is fresh, locally or regionally grown (even the meat!), and amply portioned. I recommend the spinach salad and pulled pork barbecue sandwich.

By the time I went back for my third visit, I talked myself into buying one of their growlers. Now I can bring home fresh beer 68 ounces at a time! Of course, fresh beer in a big jug won't last long, so I'll need a little help with it. Any volunteers?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Introducing Savage Dresden

So I talked about how much I'm in love with Savage Worlds. At the end of that post I promised that there'd be more on the topic. Well, I intend to do so much more that I didn't want to crowd out my rambles about other stuff here (beer, comics, etc.). To that end, I created a new blog called Savage Dresden to serve that content.

Seeing the title will clue in most of you to the blog's purpose: I'm creating a Savage Worlds game set in the world of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files. Each post will be a specific part of the game, whether how I'm going to handle something from the books in-game, how I'm going to model Butcher's world with the game mechanics, or just in general, what I think the game will be about. Surf over there for details and to see what I have in mind, and please leave comments and weigh in on the poll!

For my second order of business, tell me what you guys like to hear me talk about here in THIS blog. I'm really trying to post more frequently, so knowing what you like to see me write about would be a big help. Should I be reading more comics and talking about them? Watching more TV? Writing more about beer? Or do you want sappy stories about my kids? If there's something you think I'm good at talking about...let me know!

Now reading: Renegades of Pern by Anne McCaffrey

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Savage Worlds RPG is my new favorite thing

I had a whirlwind affair this summer. No, not with another woman, but it was with my mistress - gaming. I delved into a new RPG. After hearing so many good things about Savage Worlds, I finally looked into it. I turned to my buddy, Cthulhu's Librarian, to borrow a copy of the Explorer's Edition rules. And I have to say, I may never go back to a d20-based system again.

That's not a big deal really. I like D&D (3.5 edition) just fine. It does what it does very well and it's the game that us old farts grew up with. But for my tastes, it's overly complicated and combat is agonizingly slow and barely leaves time for any roleplaying - either during or outside of combat.

Savage Worlds is built on the philosophy of Fast! Furious! and Fun! roleplaying (that's their tagline). And the Explorer's Edition of the rule book, at only $10, is the best bargain on the market. Especially given the quality of the contents. Heck, after my two experiments, I bought TWO copies of the book just because it was affordable!

So I borrowed the book, dug into the wealth of free gaming material on the publisher's website, and ran two games: one with my sons, now 8 and 10; and one with my regular gaming group. And this system gave me exactly what I needed for both games. Naturally, I want to share a little about the game with my sons.

First I asked them what style of game they'd like to play: What kind of characters did they want, and what kind of adventures did they want to have? They both wanted similar things. A character who had some kind of super powers, perhaps like Ben 10, and who was also a Pokemon trainer. And they wanted to fight Sleestak (we had just worked our way through the entire Land of the Lost series).

So that's what we did. Their characters were the newest two trainees in the Pokemon circuit. They each had one Pokemon and powers to mimic one of Ben 10's alien forms. They were on a camping trip with their instructors and one night, during a severe storm, their instructors and the other trainees were abducted.

During the day before that night, I had them make Survival skill checks to see how well they had put up their tents and built their campfires. The younger one enjoyed the outcome tremendously because his older brother, who in real life is well versed in those tasks (he graduated from Cub Scouts last year), fumbled his roll. His character ended up taking shelter with the younger brother's character because as soon as the storm hit, my oldest's character's tent collapsed and filled with smoke from his fire.

Next morning they tracked the missing people to a cave in the nearby hills. The cave led to a large cavern deep in the mountain which was occupied by a tribe of Sleestak. Their missing companions were being held in wooden cage, except for one of the other trainees, who was lashed to a spit and about to be cooked over a fire.

The boys summoned their Pokemon, activated their powers and jumped in! Combat progressed and I quickly started to see the beauty of Savage Worlds come to life. The battle raged back and forth and for a while the outcome was unsure. My oldest had given his character the "Overconfident" hindrance, and he played it to the hilt. His character decided that he wanted the magic wand that the Sleestak shaman was using to blast them with, and nothing was going to stop him from getting it.

The only reason his character survived was because my youngest had his character go back and rescue the other one after his self-assuredness got him captured and beaten to a pulp. Through the whole encounter, the boys worked together to rescue the prisoners, keep the Sleestak at bay, and have a lot of fun while doing it.

For me, I used the game session to try lots of skill checks, different kinds of combat maneuvers, and other aspects of the rules and mechanics. It was the perfect practice session to prepare for running a different adventure for my adult players. In retrospect, I probably could've run the same Sleestak adventure for them...they would've loved it too.

Instead, one of my ex-Marine buddies got to play a militant nun, the other nearly got himself turned into a werewolf, and my wife got to be the hero of the night by Acing her damage rolls on nearly every attack. And instead of Sleestak, they got to fight a reanimated t-rex skeleton in the British museum. Fun times.

I love Savage Worlds. It's my new favorite game ever. Savage Worlds is like the Nirvana of gaming.

No that's not good enough; this game system is better than eternal peace. Savage Worlds is the Led Zeppelin of roleplaying games! I'll talk more about my plans for this game soon.

Currently reading: Getting caught up on The Walking Dead and Invincible. Holy crap, Robert Kirkman is not afraid of anything.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Book Notes: Jeff Long's The Descent

I found this book because I loved the movie - it was a great horror movie, even if the monsters were removed. The movie is just a derivative story representative of similar vignettes contained within the novel.

The novel is SO much more than a monster movie. It's an adventure. The story takes you through a new world miles below ground. While there most certainly are monsters, most of them are human. The savage, barbaric race central to the book's story comes to life under Long's "pen." In fact, everything about the story is vibrant and realistc.

While even the author has a hard time pigeon-holing this one into a specific genre, which makes it hard to find in the bookstore, it only serves to illustrate how wide-ranging this adventure roams, and it's all groovy. I LOVED this book and immediately moved on to the sequel.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Post of the way

I've been feeling trampled upon by life lately. Everywhere I turn there's strife and hardship. Nothing new. I'm usually the first person to tell someone, "Welcome to life bub. Now it's time to stop whining and put on your big girl panties." But dang, every segment of my life is throwing flack at me right now.

Then yesterday I decided that I'd had enough glum and it was time to find the glory. I want to start writing down the single thing that makes every day unique or special, whatever that thing might be. I'm calling it "my daily neato." And then I thought, wow, what a great way to give me something to blog about! Besides all the other things I want to blog about but usually ending up ranting about in emails to friends (hi Curtis).

And then I realized who I was talking While I am going to keep a journal about these bits of subjective singularity, I don't know if I'll be able to catalog them all here. That's really asking a lot of myself, but I'll do my best to make a quick post as often as I can.

But really, in only two days of paying attention, I've experienced several things to post about. The world and Life are out there, I just have to pay attention when it happens. When I had this thought, I of course said, well hey, that's my first post! And I bore witness to some really cool stuff in just the 45 minutes of my sons' karate class.

First, during class they practiced their version of a kata, and I got to see my son perform it flawlessly. It was very cool to see him demonstrate that much focus and precision.

At the beginning of class, while I was trying to read a short story by Jim Butcher, a mother walked through trailing three young kids in tow. One was a newborn, 2-months tops. The other two were roughly 4 and 10. Plus, she had a child in the class, probably filling that gap between the other two. Wow. Four kids, three sitting with her. That meant that either there's no husband or that he works evenings or nights. Yet she cares enough to get one of her kids to karate. Then I saw that she was studying a psychology text book, looked like an Intro text.

And that was my Daily Neato for yesterday: A harried mom who had a good parental-grip (at that time, at least) on the three of her four children and was taking notes on her college class in those few moments of peace that I'm sure are so infrequent in her day. It gave me a warm fuzzy and would make a great observed scene in a story, much like I've used it here.

My Neato for today is a page on Edutopia (a website for teachers) that showcases several videos about how to use technology in the classroom. Not just the usual stuff like SmartBoards and music, but how teachers can use Twitter, YouTube, and even the Nintendo Wii in the classroom. Very cool and future-thinking. I mean, how quickly would you bond with your students if they knew that YOU know what YouTube is and even show videos from it in the class or as homework?

Reading: Invincible, Vol. 9 by Robert Kirkman

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Bookshelf self defense

Well, here's the update on my attempts at overpowering my reading list.

I finished the one story in the Elric collection. Would've liked to read more, but I had to move on. I read four stories in the horror collection and was bored by all four, even the story by Robert Bloch. They just weren't of a vein that I like. Next came four of the five volumes of Green Lantern comics. These were great, thank you Jeph Loeb!

Currently I'm halfway through Stranger in a Strange Land. What a great book! My wife is also reading it and of course she's ahead of me, but that's normal. I'm pushing through the "extended version" not only because it's so good, but I really want to get to Watchmen.

Just when I thought I was doing well, TBR blind-sided me yesterday. I picked up and read the first page of Warren Ellis's Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. trade paperback. Now I really want to re-read that. The 2-volume work is an irreverent collection of forgotten Marvel Comics characters who are thrown together as a covert ops team by an evil version of SHIELD (Marvel's 'big brother' version of the CIA). Well, since they're heroes, even forgotten, 2-bit heroes, they turn on their keepers and commit themselves to bringing down the organization or at the very least, being a pain in its beauracratic bum. It's humorous AND fun, written as only Warren Ellis can write (no one mocks the establishment like that grizzled prat!) and drawn perfectly by Stuart Immonen (a danged find draw-er in his own right).

Listening to: Clutch "Robot Hive/Exodus"

Monday, February 16, 2009

XM go bye-bye

Lately I've been contemplating a shift in my existential paradigm. I've been thinking about canceling my subscription to XM. It's not that I'm unhappy with the service. Quite the opposite, actually, as I mentioned in a recent blog comment at work, the merger of XM and Sirius satellite radio companies worked out well for me. I'm now able to get the best of both satellite radio worlds.

But these days, I find myself listening to my subscription less and less. In the car, where I do the bulk of my music listening, I've been listening to podcasts (more on those in an upcoming post) and my CDs. At home, I still listen to satellite radio, but since I get my TV programming from Dish Network, I also have access to satellite radio programming through that. And there's really no sense in me paying for the same content twice (theoretically, part of my Dish Network fees cover that music programming).

All of the above leaves me wondering why I'm spending $13 a month for a service I'm not using. Do I believe in what satellite radio has to offer, namely unparalleled music offerings? Hell yes. Do I enjoy access to 120-ish channels of music, news, sports and entertainment? Well, hell yes. Would I give $13 a month to some grimy dude on the street just because he asked for it? That depends on whether he could appeal to one of my geek interests (I'm already doing that at the comic book store), but likely, no. Yet that's what I'm doing, letting some grimy, corporate bum hit my Visa card for a baker's-dozen-bucks every month for something that I'm not using. It's time to drop a dime and cut off that needle in my arm.

Thanks for listening; I have a phone call to make.

Playing on XM: um, that's my point. I don't know. I guess it's time to change my sig line too.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

What I'm (not yet) reading

Lately I'm being haunted by one of my old enemies, a bully who was hounded me since high school, always lurking over my shoulder, gaining strength while I'm relaxing. Yes, my greatest nemesis, TBR. The To Be Read pile.

I thought I had vanquished the TBR over the summer by reading most of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series. Yesterday I finished the most recent book in the series, Small Favor, and looked at my night stand to see what was next. That's when I got hit with the panic attack. My night stand runneth over.

TBR is back. Here are the options piled before me, in no particular order:

Stranger in a Strange Land - I started this one once before but didn't get quite half-way through it. This is one of the books that I really want to read but keep putting off. It's one of the greatest books ever written. One of my favorite and oft misunderstood comic book characters is based on the book's central character. It's the favorite book of one of my closest friends. But I can never fit it into my reading schedule. Bottom Line - It's an immortal work. It'll always be available should that rainy day ever come.

Watchmen - One of the greatest comic book stories ever told. The movie is finally (after DECADES of waiting) coming out next month. I've wanted my own copy of this book for a long time and my wife gave it to last month for my birthday. Bottom Line - I've read it twice before and will again. Just not yet.

Elric The Stealer of Souls (Chronicles of the Last Emperor of Melnibone: Vol 1) - One of my favorite fantasy sagas, and in my opinion, one of the earliest dark fantasies. The forlorn story of Elric of Melnibone, the Sailor on the Seas of Fate, is presented in this first volume of an apparently ongoing collection of the older stories. The best part is that the back cover of the book promises an upcoming motion picture. Rock! Hopefully they'll get Hawkwind to do the soundtrack (see one of my previous posts). Bottom Line - Here again, I've read most of these stories before and will again. I started the first story last night, so I might continue with this one.

2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl - I picked up this book at the Green Valley Book Fair. It's a New Age treatise on the upcoming end of the world. According to the ancient Mayan calendar, the world will end on December 21, 2012. I've read the intro and first chapter, and skimmed a lot of the rest (the professional term is "gutting" the book). The author suggests that, rather than an apocolypse, the date will instead bring a cosmic paradigm shift resulting in a higher level of consciousness for mankind. That is, if we prepare ourselves by cleaning out our emotional and karmic closets, renewing our environment and opening ourselves to the Universe. He promises us telepathy!

Now trust me when I say that I've read my share of New Age books. I'm all over that stuff. If you want a good book about self actualization, read Dan Millman, James Redfield, or Wade Davis (one of my favorite books). Those guys write good stories and deliver a positive, emotional message. THIS book is more academic, by which I mean that it's obtuse and belongs in a college classroom. The book is 400 pages long and has a 5-page bibliography listing over 170 sources. With that much depth and documentation, I have no choice but to deduce that the author's theory is true. Even if it's not, he deserves a PhD solely from the amount of research and synthesis exercised here. Bottom Line - While I like the message and am very interested in really grokking his theory, the book is just too dense. The author needs to write a new version of it that is more obtainable. I don't plan to read this one.

Great Tales of Madness & the Macabre - Next on the shelf is a short story collection from 1990. Those who know me know that short horror fiction is my meat and potatoes. I think that short fiction is the best form for good horror. I picked this one up from the library because it contains stories I've never heard of, including ones by Robert Bloch, Jack London, and an early tale from Nancy Kress. Okay, truthfully, I picked it up just for the Robert Bloch story. Next to Old Man Lovecraft, Bloch is easily one of my top tier writers of weird horror. Bottom Line - I'll read at least some of the stories in this one. But it's over 500 pages of sweet, sweet horror. I don't know if I can read the whole thing before the other denizens of TBR haunt my dreams.

Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War - This is a series of trade paperbacks on loan from a friend. (These are published in hardback more frequently these days...does the industry have a new term for them?) This saga is the story of how other emotions suddenly have their own armies of ring bearers. Afterall, why should Willpower and Do-Goodery be the only characteristics to merit power rings? Hopefully my friend Rich won't mind that it might take me longer than usual to get through these five volumes. Bottom Line - I'm definitely reading these. I'm just not sure when. I mean, they're sitting right next to Watchmen. What am I supposed to do, huh?

Weird Tales magazine - I'm somehow two or three issues behind in reading my subscription to Weird Tales and its companion magazine, H.P. Lovecraft's Magazine of Horror. I'm not sure how this happened, but that's how TBR works to corrupt your sanity. Bottom Line - Of course I'll read these, but I'll have to work them in between other things.

So what's my next move against the big bully? Looking back over this list, I'm going with the book of short stories. I'll read the ones I'm most interested in, and probably a few more. After that, I think I'll dive into Watchmen; I mean, there's the movie coming up after all. I'll keep you posted, assuming I actually get around to more blogging. Hey hey, my my.

What I'm listening to: Lucinda Williams "Little Honey" - easily her best album since "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road."

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Zombie Cinema

Last weekend, some friends came over to try out the newest addition to my gaming shelf: Zombie Cinema. Zombie Cinema is a cooperative storytelling game that is part board game and part roleplaying game. The board game aspect sets the pace of the story, but the action and fun are all in the roleplaying.

The premise is simple: each player plays the role of a character in a zombie movie. The objective is to survive and not get eaten by the advancing zombie hoard. I know, your first question is: Which kind of zombies are we fighting? Traditional Romero zombies that are slow and mindless, or modern, over-caffeinated zombies that are fast, intelligent predators? Well, that's part of the fun. It's up to the group playing the game.

The group decides on setting, type of zombies, and everything else about the game. Since this was our first time playing, our group decided to go very traditional. I was pushing for something different, like setting the game in the Star Wars or Star Trek universes. Maybe next time. As it turns out, we brought in a good amount of campiness without having to resort to scifi geekiness.

Characters are created by drawing a few cards to help derive vocation, motivation, and personality. Card drawing is optional, but none of us could resist the randomness factor, so we pulled cards until we each got an assortment we could work with. Once we had characters and setting in mind, the story fell right into place.

The game started in a hospital in the middle of downtown Chicago-type city in the 1920's. The characters are described below and now that the game is over, I realize that we were all playing very iconic roles that lend themselves to celebrity photos:
  • a mad scientist who had been experimenting on recently dead and nearly dead patients in the hospital basement. Naturally these experiments reanimated and thus kicked off our game.

  • an ethnic minority who's wife had recently died at the hospital. He was sure there was foul play involved and had just arrived to take names and kick ass.

  • a dock hand who was delivering mis-labeled supplies to the hospital. This player revealed that his foreman had been changing labels to smuggle mysterious chemicals to the hospital...the very chemicals being used by the mad scientist.

  • an angry teen who was currently locked up in the hospital's mental ward. He was waiting for any opportunity to get out of the locked ward. He didn't really want to cause trouble, he's just misunderstood.

  • and a macho, ne'er-do-well guy who had recently taken a job as a hospital orderly. Given all of the stereotypes present, it was clear to me that this character was going to be the hero of the movie (the fact that it happened to be MY character had absolutely nothing to do with it).
The game started like any good movie should, as a slow-boiling pot on the verge of bubbling over. On each player's turn, he or she is the narrator of the story and describes the current scene. The other players then decide if and how their characters fit into the scene and describe what they are doing. Then the narrator closes the scene and control passes to the next player.

This was also the first time we've played a free-form storytelling RPG, so we got off to a slow start, all of us doing our best to contribute. It didn't take us long to find our rhythm. As the story unfolded, we learned a lot about our zombies. The only thing we decided at the outset was that these were slow-moving, unintelligent zombies. Next we learned that the chemicals used in their initial creation were highly flammable, which contributed to the burning down of the hospital and zombies walking around on fire.

In their attempt to escape the burning building, the characters got tense and the ethnic minority saw his wife, now a zombie, shambling around in the alley below, got angry and pushed the scientist off of the third story fire escape. Luckily he didn't land amidst the flaming zombies on the ground, but was able to grab the second story fire escape. That was our first instance of one character trying to kill another. Sure, there had been lots of minor, impersonal acts of violence prior to this. In fact, the scientist had already been knocked unconscious twice.

When the story moved to the docks and onto a yacht, we learned that the zombies also combusted in the water, so now they were on fire while underwater.

Only one of our characters actually survived the zombie horde: The dock worker who just got involved in the story because he needed a signature on a delivery invoice. He ended up somewhere in the Canadian wilderness. In a last-ditch attempt to kill him, I tried to have him attacked by the polar bear from Lost, but I got voted down.

Zombie Cinema is a fun game and I'm eager to play it again. The mechanics and board elements serve to keep the story moving forward without getting in the way of the storytelling. The zombies could easily be replaced by aliens, vampires, or even furry little gremlins...whatever your group wants to have invade their home town.