I had to share this

I had to share this exchange, from my email campaign. Never let it be said that Amberites don’t take their fun seriously…
“So you have seen my cousin since we returned?” {Rylan} asks in return. “As for what we have been up to, just a small war in shadow. Nothing, I am sure, to compare with the activities going on here. Will there be many here for the ball tonight? With all that is going on, it seems a strange time for a party.”
Asteria’s demeanor goes from a pout to angry surprise at Rylan’s words. “A strange time for a party?” she says, as if disbelieving Rylan’s words.
“You’ve got her started.” Noys comments aloud.
“Why, Mother and I have been planning the Ball since, well, since Midwinter Ball was finished, months ago. We’ve worked hard on the music, the guests vetted and invited, and everything else involved.”
She pauses, and if there was any doubt that this “pretty little thing” lacked the steel of an Amberite, it is soon dispelled.
“And, Rylan son of Finndo, if you even think for a moment that I, or Mother for that matter are going to postpone or cancel our party on account of a gang of interdimensional invaders, then you are very sorely mistaken.” Her eyes flash.

Feel somewhat in a malaise

Feel somewhat in a malaise this afternoon and I am not sure why. Part of the reason, I think, is that I changed around the stuff on the defunct Oaths of the Unicorn page, making it official that the game didn’t work out.
The reasons why are mainly time, time and time. Oh there are other factors, but they are not for me to say or to judge or to mention. Although the game just started as a writing exercise between the two GMs, there was potential there, and I am sad that the game really is done. I take my creations seriously, and I mourn their passing, especially in an untimely manner. I mourned WIRIP in the same way.
In happier news, I managed to, the other day, snag a copy of First Edition Nobilis. What is Nobilis, you ask? I point you immediately to http://www.chancel.org. I find it most intriguing. I would be willing to try and play or even GM this once the oft delayed second edition finally comes out.
Incorporating Nobilis into an Amber game would be a very strange exercise. The Amber Mailing List hashed this out months ago, and I admit that at the time I didn’t understand half of what they were saying. Many RPGs have a vocabulary to them that a player has to learn. In Amber, for instance, its things like the four stats, Amber Rank, Chaos Rank, Good Stuff, and many more. For D&D, its things like Hit points, Skills and Feats. Nobilis has terminology to master including Imperators, Chancels, Anchors, Domains, Excrucians and many more. So a lot of what was said on the list was unappreciable by me because I simply couldn’t understand some of the terminology at the time.
Re-reading those posts, I do understand it a lot better now, although the First Edition book can be very obtuse and unclear in its dense writing style.

Movie Review: Lord of the

Movie Review:
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Featuring Elijah Wood, Ian Mckellen, Ian Holm, Liv Tyler, etal
Directed by Peter Jackson
“One ring to rule them all. One ring to find them. One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.”
An autobiographical prologue
When I was nine years old, the animated Ralph Barski version of Fellowship of the Ring was set to come to television. My older brother thought it would be prudent
for me to read the books before sitting down to watch it that Sunday.
>From Thursday to Saturday Night, I managed to devour and assimilate The Hobbit, and all three books of the Lord of the Rings, admirably equipped to watch
the animated film. Just as The Martian Chronicles and I, Robot were my entry into Science Fiction, Lord of the Rings was my entry into Fantasy. When I created a D&D campaign, I named the country that the PCs (and my NPCs) were from after my favorite character. Thus, Ragnar, Phocas and Justin of Aragorn.
For all of its faults and shortcomings, I still remember the animated film..and aside from an ill considered animated version of Return of the King, no director has dared to try and tackle the veritable ur-text of modern Fantasy
Until Peter Jackson’s film, which has opened today.
The movie’s opening reminded me, ironically, of a failed attempt at a movie version of another major piece of Fantasy and Science Fiction…Dune. The opening is a prologue, one that is unfortunately necessary for any hope of a non-Tolkien fan to understand just what has happened before. And I admit that it wasn’t quite as bad as one might think. At least its not static images and monolithic blocks of dialogue, like Dune’s early going was. We get to see how the Ring came to that most unlikely of persons, the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins.
And it is then that the movie can begin in earnest.
Summarizing the plot does no justice, for if you are not familiar with the plot in even broad outline, then I have to just wonder just what you are doing reading this. My audience is almost certainly Tolkien-friendly, and in some cases even more so than I. So I shall limit myself to what you are really interested in. What is missing? How is the acting? Does it WORK on screen?
The short answer to the last question is, yes, it works. Oh, I have regarded Tolkien as unfilmable, ultimately, as, say the Amber Chronicles. By this I mean that no film is going to be perfect, because filming everything and leaving nothing out would make the work unwatchable. But for nearly three hours, Jackson does manage to transport you to Middle Earth. You are there in Hobbiton…in The Prancing Pony…in the Mines of Moria. Mise-en-scene is strong and high. Visuals, both CGI and the landscapes are absolutely incredible. I suspect that Jackson perhaps chose New Zealand not only because of the relative inexpensiveness, but because the terrain IS so picturesque, and varied. From the idyllic country Shire, to the fierce Misty Mountains, the terrain is a character in this story. The computer graphics blend in fairly well with the rest of the real world. When the Fellowship sails by the statues of the Kings of Gondor, they look damned good and not at all fake.
But what about the acting? Well, one of the weaknesses of Tolkien, hard to argue against, is the relative paucity of female characters. The movie does try to alleviate this to an extent, but no worries…the Fellowship does not have a tenth female member…it is the same nine as in the novel. The biggest change is to Liv Tyler’s Arwen, conflating her with Glorfindel (the Elf, if you remember, who aids Frodo in those last few crucial miles into Rivendell.). It is she who holds the Nazgul at bay with the transformed river flood, and the sequence is one of the best in the movie. Other than this, however, her role is limited to pledging her love for Strider, aka Aragorn. The other major female role is another small one, given to Cate Blanchett, in the role of Galadriel. Both Elves are filmed in an almost ethereal quality every moment that they are on screen.
To the major characters, then. First we have Elijah Wood as the reluctant hobbit Frodo. The “reluctance but ultimate determination” that runs through Fellowship of the Ring comes through very strongly here. Time and again, Frodo is the archetypal reluctant hero who eventually has to overcome his own resistance in order to do the right thing. The filming of the Hobbits is done very well, when you have Gandalf meet the Hobbits, they really do look just about half his size. Ian McKellen was a good choice for the wizard. Old, his power stored and not easily or lightly invoked, the age of a world in his eyes…but in the times of peace, playful enough to blow smoke rings with Bilbo (played by Ian Holm). The other hobbits get a bit of short shrift. The other characters do dominate the action, and there are a LOT of action sequences for the hobbits to get lost in while the more capable members shine.
Legolas and Gimli, out of those other characters, are next in the undercharacterization department. Gimli does better…the movie does travel to Moria, and we do see him nearly break down seeing the Tomb of Balin. Legolas is not so lucky, and basically is known as “the elf who only uses arrows in the battles.” Camera trickery doesn’t quite work as well with Gimli as the Hobbits…we really don’t see him as too much shorter than, say, Boromir.
Boromir, played by Sean Astin, is a major focus for the later action, as anyone who can recall the plot will realize. I shall reserve something of this until the later part of the review, but while he doesn’t get screen time as much as Vigo Mortensen on the sheer fact that we don’t meet him until Rivendell, Sean Astin makes a very capable Boromir indeed. His love of Gondor comes through quite well, just as in the books.
Strider/Aragorn, played by Vigo Mortensen, does all right although not spectacularly. He gets the romantic piece in the movie, with Arwen, but in that scene, I had the feeling that Liv Tyler was investing a lot more emotions than he was. He does very well in the action sequences, however, and the weight of that does help his piece of the movie.
Elrond does not get much screen time, but his tone seems a lot more stridently anti-human than I remember in the novels. He takes it very personally that Isildur failed to destroy the ring, and we do see in a flashback his failure to do so. Elrond was there, and he still remembers and the simmering resentment shows.
Finally comes Christopher Lee, as Saruman. I expect he will get more screen time in the next movie, but he does pretty well with what he has. His malice in subduing Gandalf, in breeding his improved Orcs is evident…as well as his devotion to Sauron. It remains to be seen if he will emerge as his own “power” in the second movie, as he does in the books.
Finally comes the last question, which I posed first. What’s missing? Tolkien’s epic is far too large to translate word for word. Things HAVE to get lost even in a three hour rendition. (I shudder at the idea of a two hour version of this film, as I do a four).
Tom Bombadil is gone and never mentioned. So, too, the Barrow Wights. The Flight from the Shire goes directly to Bree in the movie, with of course the Nazgul on the heels of the Hobbits. So there is a bit of a slight wonderment of just how the Hobbits made it to the Shire in one piece after so many close calls, especially given their reliance on the stronger characters later–Strider, Arwen, and the Fellowship.
We don’t get to see as much of Bree as in the novels, but we do get Weathertop, and I mentioned the River Rising sequence above (with Arwen instead). Rivendell definitely does look like a place faerie might build and live.
My favorite sequence in the first novel is still here…the failed attempt at the mountain pass. In the movie, however, it makes it more the action of Saruman than the mountain itself which defeats them. Still, I was afraid going in that they would simply have them head into Moria. Moria is well done, and the stop at the tomb where they learn the fate of Balin and his settlers is there in full. The sequence with the Balrog…wow! Lorien is somewhat syncopated…only Frodo has significant interaction with Galadriel once they reach the Elves’ hospitality. Most notably, Sam does NOT get the seeds. I wonder, thinking ahead, how this is going to play out in Return of the King, after the Scouring of the Shire. I’d really be upset if a rabbit is pulled out of the hat at that point.
At last comes the climax, the finale. The problem with Tolkien is that he didn’t set out and in fact didn’t write three novels…he wrote a long one. So how DO you film the end game sequence and make it a dramatic finale? Not without changes. I am not sure I should reveal them, but the end sequence, with Boromir’s Temptation, and the Orc Attack is noticeably different than in the novels. I looked at my copy afterwards to make sure…and yes, it definitely reads differently.
The results, however, are the same. Boromir falls, Merry and Pippin captured, Legolas and Aragorn and Gimli pursuing them, and Sam and Frodo heading east into Mordor. To its credit, perhaps, there is NO “to be continued” at the end of the movie. Peter Jackson does strive mightily to make it a complete movie, but doesn’t quite make it. Really, you couldn’t, but at least he tried. Unlike Harry Potter, the director was far more willing to take liberties and make some changes to try and make it play better on screen. Expanding Arwen’s role was a good thing. I am not sure if I like the end-game sequence at the end of the movie. It has a very different “feel” than the novel.
One last bit. Peter Jackson might have made the use of the Ring a relatively innocuous thing to the wearer. Instead, when we are shown Frodo using it, it is a terrifying, dangerous, perilous thing. The “Ring sight” that the ringbearer sees is a completely different world. Oh, I know that in the novels we see this in the Nazgul on Weathertop sequence, but every time Frodo puts it on, this is shown…and it is made absolutely clear that Sauron KNOWS you when you put on the Ring. The handling of this is one of the best things in the whole movie. The idea that, in changing the perceptions of those around you, you change your own perceptual capabilities into a different spectrum is one I shall have to think about and perhaps steal for my RPG worlds.
Out of Five Popcorn Kernels, I would give LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring 4 and a half. The undercharacterization of the hobbits, and a decidedly action sequence orientation to a book more noted for far more do detract some from the movie. However, unlike, say, Star Wars Episode One, this movie makes me EAGER to see the sequel(s).

Our Amber community can be

Our Amber community can be very creative.
Over at Meera Barry’s general Amber log, she’s revealed the names of her towers. Towers of Castle Amber. I admit that I have never thought of naming the towers of Amber.
I wouldn’t put it past Arref, though. He’s an architect, it would come naturally to him.
Me? I’m not sure where I fit in, or really what is my forte. Sometimes we are blind to our faults AND our virtues.

Arref’s Blog continues to impress.

Arref’s Blog continues to impress. He really is using the Blog to its hilt…highlighting the gems and gems-in-the-rough that he has
found for the rest of us.
So I will share something, myself, today. A NEW review of ADRPG, over at Rpg.net. Read the review..
Interestingly, the author of the review said that he received a copy from the author, i.e., Erick Wujick. I never thought of him as someone to hand out Amber DRPG books for review, but there you go.
Work and time has stymied me, and so Marcus’ story languishes. Actually its a matter of keyboard time. I seem to have all sorts of ideas when I am walking to work, etal. For example, I think I know now pretty much what i want to run for Ambercon 2002. The irony is, I don’t have a title, which is what I usually have first.
I would like to have had Bonnie, and Ray, and Anne play in this, but its not going to happen, alas. Hopefully people like Bridgette, Mike, and other members of my circle will, as well as others.
Details on a site for my con game to come soon. I am going to borrow a couple of ideas, and give bonus points to players for submitting characters before the con (given the nature of the game, it is much easier for me), and I will give every PC a single point they can ONLY use to describe one “skill” that their character is the sine qua non of. The best archer, or blacksmith, or pilot. That sort of color will help me in the game, too, and it helps flesh out those who do not bring fully formed characters.

I’ve been thinking about some

I’ve been thinking about some comments Ray made about Death in In the Shadow of Darkness Blog.
I seem to have done some things he’s never done.
I brought back Brand. I brought back Deirdre. Finndo never really was dead.
Not because I wanted to cheat death. Death IS death, although there are always echoes of a person. I still think about people lost in my own personal life, from my grandmother to Lisa Shandler.
Maybe, just maybe, saying that x, y or z didn’t die after all was a way to defy and cheat that. I can’t psychoanalyze myself, who can?
Brand and Deirdre I always intended to have return because they didn’t die in the first place. Furthermore, the Elemental Plane that they wound up on serves a purpose…it was the first tangible proof of Valerian’s claim…that the Amber Universe was definitely NOT all that there was. I originally did not intend to have Brand return in a healthy state, but in a classic case of player involvement, Jim Groves, playing Jayson, did the unexpected, and so I rewrote some of my plans to suit. Thus, Brand, alive and free…but quite mad, and quite dangerous.
Human, though. A coordinated attack by some of the brightest lights in the PCs stopped him cold. He wasn’t quite himself yet, anyway…part of the reason WHY he was meddling with the Fount…to try and regain his former power. Now that he is in custody, what will happen to him is not precisely clear.
Deirdre was, in effect, rescued by Jayson. I wasn’t going to deny his heroic effort. It WORKED. I think, now that she has come to Amber, it will make things rather interesting.
Finndo was an accident. Chris, who plays Finndo’s son Rylan, suggested to me the idea that Finndo was living in the Courts all of this time, and didn’t die like Osric did. I ran with it, and thus that’s why he’s alive, despite the attempts of a few NPCS to correct that.
Caine? Except for an echo of himself seem in two different venues by two different player characters, he IS dead. Dead, dead dead. Luke is wise not to go through Arden, or to Amber much. Retribution is a possibility, and not just from the obvious choices, either. Read this profile of Noys, an NPC in my game.
Is it TRUE? The Gm remains silent.
On other Amber fronts, I still haven’t registered, but I DO have a budding idea for a game to run at the con as I mentioned yesterday. It was a little more clear to me today what I could do…but it involves bringing back a ‘dead’ character as focus for the plot.
Found an interesting out of print game book called Nexus, the Infinite City. I am going to have to digest this more, but it is made by the guys who turned around and made Feng Shui…but Nexus could very well be a template for someone’s idea of Chaos…shadows running riot together, laws of magic and technology changing from place to place, variable geography and the like.
I love reading gamebooks for ideas. 😀

Another Monday. Last week was

Another Monday.
Last week was bad, this week looks to be worse as far as my creativity goes. Vacation Lady, my boss, has gone on my vacation and the Store Manager, variously called Voldemort, Nero and Ivan the terrible has made my life into a living hell.
Fun for me, eh?
So, Marcus’ Murder Mystery is stuck…l am behind on my Amber turns. I actually did have a con game idea, but that was on Friday, before the madness really hit. When my brain clears I am going to have to try and retrace it in my head.