Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Triumphant Return, and the Narrative Prerogative

You know I've got like, three or so blogs started and saved for this post.  I feel maybe I need to shift my format a bit.  I wanted this blog to work like a "Do It Yourself" manual on building narrative, especially in a Table-Top gaming format, each post being like a chapter. I realize now that's a little to intensive for me to keep up with (one of the reasons for my sabbatical).  So though I'm going to scale it back a bit, still focusing on Narrative, Storytelling, and Gaming, but breaching every now and again for a few personal bloggy things.

So, let's talk about what I've had the privilege of discovering while I was away!

I was able to attend Colossalcon in June with my friends Kristina Elyse Butke and Dave in June, and it wasn't nearly as "Colossal" as I'd anticipated.  I got the sneaking suspicion that maybe I just wasn't into the "scene" of it (being a bird of many feathers, this feeling of having one foot in the crowd and one foot out was not new to me).  Regardless it was a neat experience, and I was able to attend a panel lead by Uncle Yo, a comedian who's proclaims himself "The Geek Comedian, tackling all things sci-fi, comic books, video games, anime, and all that role-playing in-between.".  He was true to his word telling jokes through-out his panel that apply directly to the "Geek" culture, so directly in fact that some were lost on me (am I the only sci-fi fantasy fan on the planet that isn't apeshit for Dr. Who?).  But more informative by far then his humor was the content of his panel, "Beyond D&D" where he discussed narrative driven games (in story as well as system).

I can't help but applaud the mind
that decided to turn this...
Games like "Dread" a survival Horror game played with a Jenga tower.  Character Creation is, instead of the classic list of numbers detailing your characters abilities and attributes, a number probing questions, where your answer tells more about your character, things such as "In this game you will be a child at slumber party.  What did you do to your little brother that you're afraid your parents will find out about while you are away?"  your storyteller will then use your answers against you through the course of the story.  To test whether you're able to resolve conflict, you make pulls from the tower, but if the tower falls because of you, you're character is removed from the game, usually in a very final and vicious way! The tower is like quicksand, finding may give you incremental chance, but ultimately, the more you struggle, the more peril you put yourself and others in.  
...into this.

Or "Panty Explosion", I'll be honest, since looking this thing up, I've been talking anyone and everyone about it just because I like saying the name.  In this game you are Japanese school girl, dealing with high school life, evil Oni, psychic powers, and possibly (depending on the age disposition of your group) tentacle monsters.  In the game you choose which player is your best friend, and which is your rival.  When you resolve an action (with dice rolls) and are successful at an action, your "bestie" sets the scene boasting about how awesome your action was, but if the dice come up with failure, your rival paints what ever malicious picture they like.  The game pokes fun at teenage cultural norms by asking you to describe your character in terms of their zodiac, their blood type (which apparently at some time in japan was believed to shape your persona not unlike a zodiac sign), and even starting the game (and each subsequent day in "game time) by holding a popularity vote, the most popular girl claiming the best dice as her own and the least popular claiming the worst dice (in essence, the game is a lot harder when you're not popular).

There was a time when someone saying "you want to play a game where you're a Japanese school girl" might make me scoff (as many of the folks I've described it to have), but when Yo mentioned it, the first thing that sprung to mind was this movie, and how could I not be immediately overcome by dark glee!?

There are many other games Yo mentioned, games like "The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen", "Danger Patrol!" and "Mouse Guard" that also are some great looking games and introduce some fantastic narrative concepts.  Now if only I could find someone to play them.

There's also been a number of bands of great bands I've gotten into recently (and some not so recently) that introduce some amazing narrative via their music, or at the very least puts me in a mood to create a story.  Here's the rundown.

The Protomen. If I have not talked to you in person about The Protomen, we probably haven't seen each other in the last five years.  The Protomen takes the story of Megaman (Capcom's flagship blue-clad robo-hero), and turns it into a progressive rock opera.  Starting with their first album (Self-titled) following the creation of Protoman by Dr. Thomas Light, in the attempt to end the rule of Dr. Wiley and his army of evil Robots (don't you dare look down your nose at this, you loved it when The Flaming Lips did it!).  Then on to the creation of Megaman, so that Dr. Light may find companionship via a created robot son.  Megaman catches winds of his brother's exploits and decides (In only the most epic way) to finish his brother's work.
Light up the Night.

Act II: The Father of Death, the seconds album is a prequel, following Dr. Light's fall from grace, and Dr. Wiley's rise to power.  Where the first album was a rough, progressive, rock n' roll narrative extravaganza, The Father of Death combines an "old western" feel with synth rock and classic rock (even with some nods to "The Boss" himself).  I really can say enough about these guys, folks.  Buy their albums, and turn them up to 11.

I meant to talk about many other things, such as bands like "Manchester Orchestra", "The Dear Hunter", and "Ludo" (who brought us "Love me Dead", check out "The Broken Bride", a wonderful concept album), but my time on this post comes to a close.  Check out the games and music I mentioned if you get the chance.

One last thing. The other evening, I had the good fortune of appearing with my friends, Nathan Zoebl, Eric Muller, and Ben Bailey on their podcast "Dirty Sons of Pitches", which is a discussion on movies, a pitches for new films.  We made the "most inappropriate movie pitch", check it out!