Alien Covenant. A movie review.

No spoilers! Not real ones, anyway…

I just saw Alien Covenant. I was a bit concerned that it might be all promise and not deliver the goods (a bit like the rather crappy Prometheus that preceded it). But guess what? I was pleasantly surprised. Alien Covenant was good, it filled in the story behind the additional canon Prometheus introduced, and actually made that movie better as a result.

The colony ship Covenant is on its way to Origae-2, where 2000 colonists in suspended animation will start a new life. On the way the ship intercepts a transmission of human origin. They identify the planet it’s coming from as being suitable for colonisation, and make their way to the source of the signal. Landing on the planet, they find it eerily deserted. Then some of the crew members breath in alien spores…

That’s the set up for Alien Covenant. Ridley Scott returns as director, and as expected the visuals and set designs are spectacular. Michael Fassbender returns in dual roles as David (the android from Prometheus) and Walter, an android accompanying the mission, and gives a suitably nuanced performance as both. The human colonists are the usual selection of lesser known actors, with little to care about when they are inevitably killed in various gory ways. This movie belongs to the enigmatic David, and Fassbender’s performance.

Alien Covenant manages to resolve a lot of the issues caused by Prometheus, the movie that divided audiences with its bizarre logical leaps and glaring continuity problems. The pathogen, what happened to the engineers, the different early forms of the Alien progenitors, how the final Alien xenomorph evolved, what happened to the alien ship that took off at the end: all these questions are answered.

Unfortunately, the humans in Alien Covenant are still just as stupid as they were in the previous movie. Walking onto a new world without some kind of breather to protect against bacterial and viral infection? Come on, that’s almost as bad as running in a straight line from a wheel-shaped spaceship rolling towards you… And yes, you just knew someone was going to get killed in the shower. What is this, Friday the 13th?

Alien Covenant was fun, a little bit creepy at times, but not very scary (we’ve seen the Aliens enough by now). It answers the questions you probably asked when you saw Prometheus, improves that movie as a result, and sets up a potential sequel. Not perfect, but good stuff. B+

Lion. A tear-filled movie review.

This review contains spoilers.

I never got the chance to see Lion in the cinema. In some ways, I’m glad I didn’t. Not because it’s a bad movie, but because it’s a movie that guarantees I’m going to cry, and I don’t want to be going to the movies with a mate and tear up (it’s a bloke thing). If I ever have a girlfriend again (and if you’ve ever read one of my dating posts, you’ll know the odds of that seem ever remote), then I will gladly accompany her and blubber away like a baby.

I borrowed my Mum’s copy (as you do when you’re poor) and watched it by myself (why don’t you go to the cinema by yourself, I hear you say. My life is sad enough already without going on my own, thank you very much).

Lion is, without doubt, the best movie I have seen all year. That’s a pretty big statement to make, so I guess I better back it up.

Lion tells the story of a five-year old Indian boy called Saroo (played by newcomer Sunny Pawar), who is separated from his brother and ends up on a train that takes him thousands of miles away from his Indian home town to Calcutta, where he is lost. Eventually he is relocated to an orphanage, and from there is adopted by Australian parents and raised in Tasmania. Later on, he discovers he can track down his mum and brother by using Google Earth, and does so.

The story sounds pretty straightforward, but it doesn’t prepare you for the sheer emotional rollercoaster this movie puts you through. From the squalor and heartbreak of the living conditions of Saroo’s family, to the plight and serious abuse of street kids in Calcutta; you are overwhelmed by incredible anger and profound sadness, and I was on the verge of tears throughout the first act in India. Saroo’s adopted brother is profoundly affected by the abuse he’s received, and this is a theme carried through part of the film’s second act in Australia.

Dev Patel is magnificent in the role of the adult Saroo, who suffers from PTSD as a result of the separation from his family. His adoptive parents are played by David Wenham and Nicole Kidman (in possibly the best role I’ve ever seen her in. In Australia, Nicole falls into two camps: ‘national treasure’, or ‘can’t stand the frigid cow’. I quite happily sat in the second camp, until I saw her in this movie. Wonderful performance, glowing with warmth and intensity).

As expected, Saroo finds his mother and is reunited. Tears all around.

It’s not a perfect movie: there are times when the pacing drags, the secondary characters are often underdeveloped. But the cinematography and music are excellent, and the leads more than make up for anything else that is lacking.

I found this movie mentally and emotionally overwhelming to watch. But it was also profoundly uplifting. I challenge anyone to not feel for the characters and their situations. This is a movie you should see, even if you hate tear jerkers, if only to remind yourself that you are better off than you think you are.

My movie of the year. If I judged movies based on the number of tears I shed while watching, it would be movie of the decade.

Borrower. An ‘Alpha Girl, Beta Max and Me’ short tale.

This is a uni piece I wrote a few months back. It was actually the first appearance of Alpha Girl, Beta Max and Me. I’ve removed the academic references and included one of my discussion thread responses from that week. NOTE: This was back when I used social media. Nowadays I only use it to promote my blog, which makes me even less well informed then I used to be. 

I haven’t read a newspaper in well over a year. It’s not that I don’t like newspapers; it’s not like I don’t have a ready supply of them each day. It’s just that I’m not really bothered to read them when I get my news through social media and television.

(“Are you on Twitter again?” says Beta Max.

“No,” I reply, quickly changing to YouTube.)

So, I was a little surprised when I read the Insider Movies section of the Sunday Telegraph and found a number of well written movie reviews by Vicky Roach, the reviewer in residence.

(“Why are you reading the paper?” says Alpha Girl.

“Research,” I reply.

“Why can’t you be normal like other people?” she says. I extend my tongue.)

When I read through Critical Review in my uni course notes, I thought to myself: “this is a bit clunky – I don’t recall reviews being this structured.” Identification of work, Context, Description, Assessment, Identification of reviewer – it all seemed a bit robotic to me. I got to the bit about “blending the elements”, and was somewhat relieved. Heaven forbid I’d have to write a review in such a stilted way.

So, back to the newspaper: Ms Roach reviewed four movies: Passengers, Assassin’s Creed, Rosalie Blum and Paterson. I really enjoyed her approach. She was knowledgeable about the art form (script and director techniques, for instance), had a good understanding of the plot and themes of each movie, and raised relevant points and criticisms insightfully. Her comments about Assassin’s Creed succeeding on a “kinetic level”, but failing to deliver in the end due to the character’s “moral ambiguities” and a lack of viewer investment in the outcome, struck home with me as I was planning to take my son.

(“We’re still seeing it,” says my videogame-loving nerd.)

Ms Roach obviously loves the film medium. You can tell from the way she crafts her reviews. (I love women who write well about things they love, especially when it’s a subject I know and love as well. It’s a bit of a turn on. Um, that probably was more than you needed to know.) As expected the smaller “art nouveau” films like Rosalie Blum and Paterson rated better than the big budget movies. Is this a thing with reviewers? “I will always take art over fluff!” I happen to like a little fluff with my art.

(“It’s like chocolate, marshmallow and vegemite sandwiches,” says Beta Max. “They shouldn’t work, but somehow really, really do.”)

Each of Ms Roach’s appraisals captured the essence of the five ingredients of a review, including context and a witty summation of each movie in the legend (for example: “French crowd-pleaser sure to leave audiences blum-struck”, with an attempted pun, no less). I especially liked the intro headline for each movie, in punchy prose – for Passengers: “Sci-Fi romance has too much space in its plot”. For Paterson: “Story of a secret poet has its own rhyme and reason”.

So now I have to read the newspaper every week, just to check out the movie reviews. And maybe read some of the other stuff: news and the like.

(“Are you finished with the paper” says Alpha Girl.

“Not much longer,” I reply.

“Buy your own,” she says.)

 

One of my responses to the discussion thread:

Hi

I, too, like short reviews. I think it’s a measure of a “real” reviewer to be able to do a review in a short format and not leave anything out; to be able to capture the essence of a movie, book or CD in a short, almost perfunctory way.

I have to admit that I’m not good at short. I think I’m a bit verbose at times (read: boring). Maybe I should try writing reviews as Haiku – that way I’m deliberately restrained by the form:

Assassin’s Creed film
Started well but ended bad
Little investment

Could be onto something here. I’m just going to rush out and patent the Haiku movie review concept.

Cheers

Steve

John Wick: Chapter 2. A Movie Review.

No spoilers here!

I loved John Wick, the Keanu Reeves actioner from a few years back, about a retired assassin who returns to the business after some local mobsters steal his car and kill his dog. The movie features plenty of martial arts and Gun Fu action, with Keanu doing many of his own stunts.

The sequel has just opened in Australia (why so late? I don’t know. I prefer movies being released at the same time worldwide – less piracy that way). Chapter 2 continues on from the first, with Keanu reprising the lead and with a new dog (acquired at the end of the first film). He is approached by an Italian mob boss closely linked to the society of assassins Wick used to work for. He calls in a marker that helped Wick retire from the business. He wants Wick to kill his sister in Italy, so he can take her seat at the High Table that heads up the assassin society. I’m not going to spoil the movie any more than that, but will give my general impressions.

John Wick 2 kicks ass! This movie has a bigger budget than the last and it shows. The action and stunts are bigger, the story bolder and broader, production values have improved, more backstory is provided for the assassin society (which is more expansive than you’d think), and new characters are introduced that will carry over into Chapter 3 (yeah, it sets up a sequel).

Reeves’ stoic performance suits the character. Wick’s motivations are pretty basic: finish the contract, avenge his losses, survive. And he does these with aplomb: lots of killing with guns, knives, cars, hand to hand, and pencils (yes, you read that right). Remember the 1980’s, when people used to comment on how many people Sly Stallone and Arnie Schwarzenegger killed in their movies (alright, you’re probably too young to remember, but it was a thing)? Well they’ve got nothing on Keanu in this. Wick also gets run over (multiple times), stabbed, shot, tossed down stairs, and generally made a mess of. 

I thought John Wick 2 was pretty awesome. If you like action movies that cut to the chase and get on with it, with dramatic action and stunts, guns and cool fight scenes, this is the movie for you.

Versatile Blogger Award Nomination – Woo hoo! Cheers and thank you 😊

Having just gotten over the excitement of being nominated for the Awesome Blogger Award (read about it here), I was surprised and excited to find I’d been nominated the next day by Sonyo Estavillo from https://lilpickmeup.com/ for another, the Versatile Blogger Award. I’m only able to post this now as I have been doing assignments, seeing movies, posting other (shorter) stuff, researching blogs to nominate and generally screwing up my life (as I usually do each waking moment of my day).

Being the humble person that I am (NOT!), I was delighted to receive this nomination and thank Sonyo from the bottom of my heart (which is not bottomless, but it’s pretty deep – see what I did there, not quite hidden double meaning. Sometimes I just impress myself. And only myself. I told you I’m not humble).

So before I dig myself deeper into a hole of egomania countered by self-deprecation and self-loathing, let’s talk about the award rules and who I’ve nominated…

The Rules:

The rules say to thank the person who nominated you (also providing a link to their blog), nominate 10 blogs you feel should be awarded, and then share seven interesting facts about yourself.

The 10 blogs I’m nominating for the Versatile Blogger Award:

My apologies if you’ve already received it or don’t feel like participating.

 Seven Interesting Things About Me:

I’m not sure if these qualify as interesting, but what the hey, I’ll give it a go:

  1. I’m very fit, if I do say so myself – I work out regularly with free weights, 4-5 times a week, including walking, bike riding and other stuff (yes, I post about it, too. Last one was here). I do Wing Chun Kung Fu (you can read about that here). I’m healthier now than I have been at any other time in my life (including my very active 20’s). Unfortunately, the offset of that is I’m probably going through the unhappiest time in my life, but the exercise helps to keep my depression in check, so it all balances out…sort of.
  2. I always have about ten books on the go at any one time – I loooooove to read. Goes hand in hand with the writing thing. How do I keep up with them all? That’s a good question. Bookmarks, mostly.
  3. I loooove RPGs – what’s an RPG, I hear you say? To answer that, click here. I DM a group regularly, and it’s lots of fun. If you’ve never played, give it a go. You will be pleasantly surprised at how fun nerd stuff can be. Yeah, I’m a big nerd. A fit one, though.
  4. I like to make up stupid nonsense words – Certainly not to make myself sound smarter. More to make me look stupidlier (yep – new word). Which isn’t hard.
  5. I am a full time mature-age student with next to no social life – What’s this? A student with next to no social life?! Unheard of! Well, it’s true. On top of my ongoing depression I have loads of anxiety issues. And not many friends. See, this blog has cheered you up already, because you secretly realise you’re so much better than me. See? My blog is a ‘feel good’ blog.
  6. I am a true romantic – yeah, it’s true. Walking on the beach at sunset. Romantic candlelit dinners. Spoiling my partner (when I have one). I’m particularly good at buying presents (it’s a real skill, y’know). I cry in sensitive movies. I love blokey stuff, but like girly stuff, too. Yes, I’m as confused as you are about that. Maybe it’s some male menopause thing…
  7. I loooooooove movies – If I could live permanently in a movie theatre, existing on nothing else other than popcorn, I’d be as happy as a pig in you-know-what. I would have a little batch of bedding and a shelf of books (for when the movies aren’t showing), and be that lovable hermit over near the wall who never leaves. Come to think of it, that sounds more like something from a Stephen King novel…

Hmmm. I’ve just realised this is starting to sound like some sort of dating blog (Noooooooooo!!!).

Once again, thanks Sonyo for the nomination! Much appreciated!

Cheers 😊

Awesome Blogger Award Nomination – What the?!

I’ve just found out (well not really just, but almost just) I’ve been nominated for the ‘Awesome Blogger Award’ by outrightallie. Outrightallie’s blog is awesome, and I’d nominate her back, but she already has been, and if I did so again she might get stuck in a reality-distorting and paradoxical blog award feedback loop. Or not.

This was quite a surprise, as I didn’t think anyone actually read my blog (yes, I have a few followers, but I just thought those likes were ‘courtesy’ likes – you know, like on Facebook, or as I like to call it Fakebook–when you have friends who aren’t really friends, who like your post even though they have no idea who you are or what you’re talking about. I don’t do Fakebook anymore, except to promote this blog. Could be because I don’t have any real or fake friends…). What I will say is that I started this thing a few months ago to push myself to write every day, and so far, I’ve managed to generate a whole lot of crap (a reverse-adage: quantity over quality). Okay, it’s not all crap—some of it is decent. Sort of.

So that’s a rambling way of saying thank you outrightallie for the nomination, which you can find over here (enticing clickbait).

So, who created this award?

It was created by Miss Maggie over at Dreaming of Guatemala. This is a direct quote from her blog about it:

 “This is an award for the absolutely wonderful writers all across the blogging world. They have beautiful blogs, are kind and lovely, and always find a way to add happiness and laughter to the lives of their readers. That is what truly defines an awesome blogger.”

Here are The Rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Include the reason behind the award.
  • Include the banner in your post.
  • Tag it under #awesomebloggeraward in the Reader.
  • Answer the questions your nominator gave you.
  • Nominate at least 5 awesome bloggers.
  • Give your nominees 10 new questions to answer.
  • Let your nominees know that they’ve been nominated!

Following are the questions outrightallie posed for me to answer. I hate answering questions. I like the aura of mystery. Actually, it’s because I’m afraid my life is not very interesting and if people find this out they may read my blog even less than they already do. I will answer because my social skills (as you may have noticed) need some work and this is good practice.

Who do you look up to?

My best mate is a pastor at the local church. He is a keen surfer and is a down-to-earth optimist, who I only found out recently is an introvert. This is surprising as I have known him since kindergarten and assumed he was an extrovert. I guess I wasn’t actually paying much attention all those years. Could be because of my terrible social skills.

What do you want to accomplish in the future?

I want to meet the woman of my dreams, fall in love and have a complication-filled life bordering on wonderful. Failing that I want to be able to live in a place where I can own a dog who will love me unconditionally despite my obvious lack of social skills.

Oh, and finish my novel and become a published author. Not self-publishing. I seek legitimacy through multinational-corporate publishing houses that care nothing for the reader or the author, and in so doing I’ll receive a huge advance that will never be recouped as my book will lapse into obscurity in the first month of sales, become remaindered and sit on my shelf as a reminder of my failure as a writer. Or something like that.

If you have 1 million dollars, what will you do with it?

If I were a narcissistic drug-user I would say “lots of ice”, but as I’m not: I’d buy myself a nice house (where I could own a socially awkward dog that matches my personality), donate much to charities (did I just write that to make myself sound noble or do I really feel that way? Guess you’ll never know…), buy a better car (I own a bomb that gets me from A to B, in attempted style, if coughing and spluttering were in style) and self-publish my novel (didn’t I just say I wouldn’t do that? Yes, but if I had a million bucks, who cares?).

I guess I’d settle back and make music and write every day. Oh, that’s what I do already. But without the million dollars.

Are you a traveller who looks for budget or luxury on your holidays?

I’m a mature-age student eating up his minimal life savings with ongoing limited income who wishes he could travel. Big sigh. As you can see, I’m quite the catch. And that’s not counting my numerous mental health issues, hang ups and years of emotional baggage.

Of course, that’ll all change when I’m a famous author. Or singer. Or millionaire (see previous question).

What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the world?

I’d like to change the laws of physics and thermodynamics so superheroes are possible. And become one. Nothing major, just an infinitely powerful goody-goody type.

Oh, and world peace (but did I say that because it’s expected of me or because, as a superhero, I would eliminate all nuclear weapons and become absolute dictator? Hopefully, you’ll never find out…).

If you could offer a new-born child only one piece of advice, what would it be?

I know you love Christmas, but Santa is just your parents buying and hiding presents and lying to you for the first decade of your life. That’s your first life lesson. Trust no one. Especially anyone who teaches life lessons based on Santa Claus.

Oh, you said new-born. I guess my advice would really be: “Coochie, coochie, coo.”

What are you most grateful for?

My teenage son, who, despite his rampant disrespect and failure to listen to any of my ever-wonderful and incredibly wise life advice, is the best thing that ever happened to me.

It’s possible he doesn’t listen to me because of that discussion we had about Santa Claus.

What is your happiest childhood memory?  What makes it so special?

Learning all the swear words (including that really bad one) in kindergarten. Before that I never realised they existed, as my parents and friends didn’t curse.

My foul language has been the only constant in a world full of uncertainty.

If today was the end of the world, what would you do?

Become a narcissist, smoke loads of ice and nominate every blogger in the world for this award. No, not really. I guess I’d complain to anyone who’d listen that “I was only two weeks from retirement”.

If you knew you were going to die one year from today, what would you do and how would you want to be remembered?

Okay, let’s get serious.

I’d steal a million dollars (see earlier question), build a shrine to foul language on a hill overlooking the capital, hitchhike around the country accepting lifts only from people riding scooters, create a website with only one word on it (“What?”), try and read War and Peace in one non-stop, caffeine-fuelled sitting, watch every season of South Park, write a new version of Genesis for the Bible incorporating the latest cosmology and dark matter theory (subject to the okay from the Big Guy, of course), teach guitar to fifty chimpanzees and see if they can compose a Led Zeppelin-inspired guitar orchestra piece (the musical equivalent of Hamlet, say), and tell my Mum, Dad and son how much I love them. That last one I don’t do enough of.

I guess I’d want to be remembered for the good things, and not the stupid screw ups I’ve made over the years. Like this Q&A, for example.

Nominations and Questions to Answer

Here are some cool blogs I’m nominating. Further below are my questions for them to answer.

  • Nicolesundays – https://nicolesundays.wordpress.com/ (I am actually envious of how funny this girl is. My witicisms are but a pale shadow of her humourosity. That’s a genuine word I just created.)
  • Message in Stanza – https://messageinstanza.wordpress.com/ (I’m sure she would like this award nom. If not, she can write me and complain.)
  • SerotoninVoid – https://serotoninvoid.wordpress.com/ (I know we’re supposed to nominate happy blogs, but happy is not really my thing. I like what I like.)
  • Flash-365 – https://flash-365.com/ (I don’t know if he does awards, but he should. His flash fiction is awesome.)
  • Mindfump – https://mindfump.com/ (I don’t know if Mindfump does awards either; when I visited his site today my browser crashed. But if you do get there, it’s a great blog.)

And now, the awe-inspiring questions:

  1. Why did you start writing? Was poverty a preferred life choice? And if you have money, don’t brag— it’s unbecoming.
  2. If you could work in a trade, would you prefer to be an electrician or a plumber? Instead of a writer, I mean.
  3. What was the last book you truly hated? And how did you inform people it was bad? Are you the sort who quietly smoulders, or the ‘shout it from the rooftops’ kind?
  4. If you had a time machine, which evil dictator would you hunt down and exterminate?
  5. Now that you’ve changed history with your irresponsible actions, what exactly has come to pass? And will you need to change it back?
  6. If you had to pass a urine test, would you substitute someone else’s? If so, whose and why? What exactly have you got to hide?
  7. Have you ever played a tabletop role-playing game? Do you even know what a tabletop role-playing game is (hint: it’s not sexual)? If not, just pretend you do, without checking wikipedia, and make up an answer.
  8. If you could invite three horrible people to dinner, who would they be? The dinner’s not for you, it’s for your arch-nemesis.
  9. Who is your arch-nemesis, and why would you subject them to such a horrible dinner? Have you no shame? Who really has an arch-nemesis, anyway?
  10. If you had a choice between world peace and world peach, would you assume it was a spelling error or would you choose ‘world peach’ because you were trying to be cool and didn’t want people to think you weren’t hip to the new terms the kids use nowadays? You must answer in the form of a Haiku (a 5/7/5 syllable Japanese poem. But you knew that already, didn’t you?)

I think this was the longest blog I have ever written. A lot of work. I have uni assignments due tomorrow, y’know.

And yes, my spelling is English, not American, so stop picking.

The Laid Back DM #4 – ‘Tales of the Yawning Portal’ Leaves me Yearning for Something Better

I received ‘Tales of the Yawning Portal’ the other day, after ordering it from the Book Depository. I’d heard that Wizards of the Coast (WoTC) were updating some of its best known modules to 5e, and was looking forward to it.

Well, I’ve been reading it for a few days now. And all I can say is – WTF WoTC?! Let me explain.

‘Tales of the Yawning Portal’? They couldn’t come up with a more inspiring title? And the titular tavern is featured in TWO pages of the book. Why bother with it at all? It’s supposed to be a linking device for the adventures. But guess what? It’s not! It’s just…there. Maybe it’s a plug for a future Yawning Portal adventure. It’s fantastic that the Undermountain dungeon (Which adventurers can access via the tavern) is mentioned so many times in those two pages, but it’s NOT IN THE BOOK. Yawn!

These adventures were some of the best, and most dangerous, of all time. One small problem: they are all dungeon crawls. There is no variety. They are all dungeons, with no wilderness, urban or role playing components (okay, ‘the Forge of Fury’ has a tiny bit of wilderness). I love some of the old modules (I own the AD&D (1e) ones featured), but come on! A dungeon crawl is a dungeon crawl – but seven of them? 

And ‘The Sunless Citadel’ is boring (sorry, all you people who loved D&D 3e). ‘Tomb of Horrors’ is still spectacular. ‘The Forge of Fury’ and ‘White Plume Mountain’ are great.

Supposedly the adventures were selected so that you could play the book as a campaign. But why bother? In the same line WoTC suggests using them any way you like, as fillers. And there are no real reasons for linking them as a campaign, except for the first two adventures (which followed each other in D&D 3e), other than the fact your PCs should be at the required level by the next chapter.

And why make some of the maps so small? Would a map to a page for some of the earlier dungeons be such a big ask (some of the later dungeons have maps to a page).

There are heaps of monsters included in the back, many of them from ‘Volo’s Guide’ (I guess it didn’t sell as well as they expected).

In WoTC’s defence: the adventures have been converted well. The artwork is great. I still dislike not having monster stat blocks in the room descriptions. A monster name in bold is NOT ideal. I know WoTC wants to sell more ‘Monster Manuals’, but shortened monster stat blocks are used by other companies producing 5e adventures, so why can’t they? And like all WoTC’s offerings, the text entries for each room are always too wordy. When I’m running an adventure I don’t want to have to drill through loads of text to get the information I need.

In summary, I was a little disappointed by this offering. Yes, some of the dungeons are great. But after so many great campaign releases, overall this was a bit of a let down. And I wish they’d left the Yawning Portal tavern out of it. I would also prefer they excluded the seminal ‘Against the Giants’ adventure, and released it with ‘Descent into the Depths’ and ‘Queen of the Demonweb Pits’, all together, the way it should have been. In fact, maybe they should have released that collected edition rather than ‘Tales of the Yawning Portal’. 

If you’re looking for some killer (literally) dungeon crawls, then this is the book for you. If you already own most of these adventures, save your cash and do a manual conversion instead.

Novel Daze

My novel is back on track!

Rather than follow the advice of one of my previous blogs, and do it in bite-sized chunks (read about it here), I decided to devote myself to writing as a full-time job. As I’m a full-time student, I ironically have some time on my hands. I’ve shuffled my schedule (it’s not hard to shuffle nothing) and arranged my time so that I work on my novel every week day, for about 4-5 hours. Today was my first foray, and things are going swimmingly (that’s an old-fashioned expression, noobs).

I’m feeling a bit better about myself, I have a direction (one could almost say a purpose, but I’m not ready to believe that yet), and I have a better excuse not to work for a living (whereas before I had no excuse at all). My creative muse is flowing. I’m enjoying writing and I still have time to update my blog (yay!).

Now I just have to see how long it lasts (nooooo! The first wave of cynicism…).

In other exciting news (or average news, take your pick), I’ve nearly finished Madeleine St John’s novel The Women in Black, an Australian classic about five women who work in the ladies frock section of a department store in 1950’s Sydney. It’s required reading for one of my uni subjects, and it’s a riot. I’ve never read any chick lit before, but it’s fun. Check it out, it’s available through Text Classics from book shops, The Book Depository, or Amazon.

Fun fact: My mother remembered attending the same Sydney boarding school as St John and her sister. Yes, at the same time.

Mindjammer – SF role playing that’ll bring you back for more

I guess you can tell by the title of this post that I love this game. I included it in my recent Top 10 Tabletop Role Playing Games.

Mindjammer is far future space opera role playing, a la the stories of Iain M. Banks and Peter F. Hamilton. It’s a world of exploration, political intrigue, cultural conflict, post-humanity, virtual existence and rediscovery. The name of the game is taken from the sentient starships that carry communications and information between the stars.

Mindjammer uses the excellent Fate Core System as its engine. I wrote about this system recently, so to find out more about how it works, click here. The Fate Core System is about cinematic storytelling and making your players look and feel awesome. It empowers players and Gamemasters (GMs) to stretch the envelope. This means that Mindjammer adventures can be…flexible, and as such, the game probably requires a reasonably experienced GM.

The New Commonality of Mankind is the setting, 10 000 years in the future. And what a huge setting it is. The Mindjammer hardcover rule book is almost 500 pages long, and it contains literally everything you can think of for a sci-fi campaign–-technology, equipment, weapons, armour, starships (including sentient spaceships), constructs, vehicles, cultures, history, synthetics, races, divergent evolution, environments, life forms–and more.

Although characters can be New Commonality humans, there are also hominids (humans who have evolved to suit their new environments, like the genurgically-enhanced Chembu, low gravity Javawayn, symbiotic Hydragand-Dezimeer, and the artistic Viri), xenomorphs (uplifted animals, like canids, cetaceans, felines, pithecines, ursoids), synthetics (intelligent starships with humanoid avatars, mechanicals, organics, installations, etc.), Aliens (the warlike Hooyow, the mysterious Lowhigh) and post-humans (Evanescents, Evolvers, Extenders, and Longevitors). And the rules are flexible enough to allow creation of your own genotypes so the sky is, quite literally, without limit. There are multiple occupations, with suggested aspects, skills, stunts, enhancements and equipment for quick builds, but players have the freedom to create builds from scratch.

In the far future, nearly everyone has Mindscape implants that enable them to connect with everyone else via a virtual network, enabling technopsi powers. The Mindscape stores memories and personalities of the dead, and can provide additional skills. It’s another environment for players to adventure in, or can be used as an adjunct to their ‘physical’ adventures.

The New Commonality itself stretches over 3000 light years from Old Earth, and contains so many systems that only a small number are in the book (The included Darradine Rim is a great introductory setting, nestled on the edge of the New Commonality and bordering the Venu Empire–lots of intrigue and cultural stresses to fuel adventures). Full rules are included for creating your own systems and sectors.

Adventure seeds are peppered throughout the Mindjammer rule book, to give GMs ideas. There are extensive sections on creating adventures and campaigns, which can be any type of sci-fi the GM and players want. There is so much contained within that it’s a bit overwhelming at times, and impossible for me to cover here. The rule book is impeccably written and edited by author Sarah Newton (who also put together the great retro-fantasy Monsters and Magic RPG, which I’ll also get around to reviewing sometime…).

There are various adventures and supplements available, including The Far Havens, Blue, The City People, Hearts and Minds, and the quickstart PDF (introductory rules and adventure) Dominion, which is only $4.00 (Australian).

Mindjammer has a Traveller-version of the game, for grognards old and new (I have many fond memories of Traveller campaigns from my way-distant past).

Mindjammer is a fantastic game and setting. The Fate rules engine is flexible and easy to use, the sci-fi setting is suitably vast, fascinating and challenging, and the options for style of play are many. You can’t go wrong with this game. Even if you already have a preferred ruleset, you can just adopt the setting.

Try Mindjammer out with your gaming group. I guarantee they’ll be coming back for more.

 

Mindjammer is available via Modiphius Games at https://www.modiphius.net/collections/mindjammer-press

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑