Saturday, July 4, 2015

The CVG Actual Play & Community Theater Podcast 002 - The One Ring: The Darkening of Mirkwood - Session 02: The Gathering of the Five Armies

The streets of Dale are bedlam on the eve of the Gathering...

Episode 2 of The CVG Actual Play & Community Theater Podcast is up and in stores near you (i.e. iTunes)!  

Remember: it's on a different feed from The CVG Podcast and Rhythm & Blues Revue, so you will need to subscribe to this feed separately if you're into it!

The game is The One Ring, by Cubicle 7 Games!  The campaign is The Darkening of Mirkwood!

Don't remember much about The One Ring?  Check out the Geek's game review of it here!

Or check out the TOR community forums here!

Here is Tales from Wilderland!

Here is a link to Richard Harrison's TOR resources, including the Guide to Dale!

And now a quick breakdown of our characters:

PC:  Carl Huffingtoe
Player:  Andrew

Culture:  Hobbit of the Shire
Background:  Too Many Paths To Tread

Calling:  Wanderer

PC:  Denethor Lightbow
Player:  Nick
Culture:    Elf of Mirkwood
Background:  Diligent Defender

Calling:  Scholar

PC:  The "Boarslayer"
Player:  Monster Mike
Culture:  Woodman of Mirkwood
Background:  The Hound

Calling:  Warden

PC:  Brand, son of Gorm
Player:  Jack

Culture:  Barding (Man of Dale)
Background:  Rediscovering the Past

Calling:  Treasure Hunter

PC:  Mord, Son of Munan
Player:  BJ

Culture:  Man of the Lake

Calling:  Slayer

Remember to show your love and support for the Geek out on Patreon!  Actual play episodes don't count for our Patreon contributions, so every time we play a game, you get a freebie!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The CVG Podcast and Rhythm & Blues Revue - Episode #012: Shuriken, Honey Honey!

Action shot from a recent LARP in the Geekery prepping for this month's episode
Episode Twelve of The Chippewa Valley Geek Podcast and Rhythm & Blues Revue is complete and can be found here or on iTunes and Stitcher!

We're talking about Asian and Asian-inspired gamery, geekery and all sorts of other cool stuff!

0:00:00  Intros
0:01:06  The Up Front: On geek imagination vs. geek capabilities
0:05:35  The Interview:  Master Rich Parsons tells us what it takes to become a martial arts guru, breaks down some RPG combat systems, and takes on the Geek-del Test!
0:42:02  Payin' some bills

0:47:16 The Roundtable:  Wherein Mike and Jack talk Asian gaming and films, confront rules bloat, and make like Bruce and Jackie with the picks!
1:39:42  Community Calendar
1:43:26  Outro & Credits
1:44:55  Bonus Track:    Wampa Roll!

Remember to support the CVG on PATREON!

Hey, how about some show notes?

The Sunset Warrior Cycle by Erik Von Lustbader

Get Luke's Green Lightsaber the easy way!

Master Rich Parsons
Please welcome Master Rich Parsons to the podcast this month!

Check out:


Vampire: The Masquerade

The Five Deadly Venoms

Legend of Drunken Master

Force 10 from Navarone

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

Sin City

Under Siege

1E - Oriental Adventures
2E - The Complete Ninja Handbook
3E - Oriental Adventures

Feng Shui

Big Eyes Small Mouth

Vampire: Kindred of the East

Princess Mononoke

Usagi Yojimbo

Samurai Jack

Empire of the Petal Throne

Weaponized Tuna!

PC Stinger:  Rion Miller
This month's stinger is by a Shadowrun mercenary mage contributed by our special guest Master Rich Parsons.  Check out his character sheet here...

The backing sound effects used in this episode included:

-  "Gong 3.wav", obtained via via a Creative Commons Attribution license.  The original file can be found here.
-  "Dizi Chinese Flute Sample 2.aif", obtained via via a Creative Commons 0 license.  The original file can be found here.-  "shimbashi_festival_taiko.wav", obtained via via a Creative Commons Attribution license.  The original file can be found here.
-  "koto and shamisen loop.wav", obtained via via a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial  license.  The original file can be found here.
-  "Hokito.wav", obtained via via a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial license.  The original file can be found here.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Monster Mike's Geek Reads: Monster Mike Pulls a Hat Trick

Well, this geek-who-reads has been reading up a storm in the past year, and I've got a truckload of recommendations for you in Monsters and Modern Fantasy.  Not one, not two, but three books.  And each book is really just a placeholder for a whole series of books that are some of the best current geek-lit out there.  Go read all the books in these three series now.

Now.  Yes, right now.  Shoo.

Have you finished yet?  It's okay.  I'll wait.

(Twiddles thumbs.  Makes a play on Words With Friends - SCROTUM for 77 points and another bingo against Brian.  There were higher scoring options, of course.  But when you get a chance to play a funny body part, you play it, no questions asked amiright?)

Good job, reader!  Skin Game is book number 15 in The Dresden Files series by LARPer and author Jim Butcher.  And of course, you also read the short story collection Side Jobs for extra credit because it kills you to not have every last scrap of canon.  It can be difficult to discuss a single book from this series because context matters, and things that happened in earlier books have echoes that keep ringing in the later ones.  Harry Dresden is a private investigator and wizard living in Chicago.  Somewhere deep in the back of my brain, I hear Robbie Coltrane's voice whispering "Yer a wizard, Harry," whenever I dive into one of these books, but this series should not be confused with Hogwarts.  Dresden's world is simply our everyday world, with massive power struggles between the Summer and Winter courts of Faerie, werewolves of multiple origins, a white council of wizards, and three different courts of vampires lurking in the shadows of our existence.  The principal characters, both friends and foes of Dresden, are rich and interesting and each have their own arcs of personal development and tragedy.

Skin Game is essentially a heist story.  Dresden has been piled with different obligations and complications throughout the series, and these converge to force him to work with some old enemies to steal the Holy Grail out of the personal vault of Hades, Lord of the Underworld.  Cross-purposes, competing agendas, and inevitable betrayals compete with some really thrilling action in this story, and Dresden manages to survive if not come out completely on top in the end.  The private conversation between Dresden and Hades himself is definitely the OMG moment in the book.  As a rule, the books in the Dresden Files series get better and better as you go along.  However, they are not strictly episodic.  This series reads best in published order, and watching the short-lived TV show won't be any sort of useful preparation to reading Skin Game.  Start with Storm Front and enjoy about 100 hours of great reading to prepare yourself for this book.

 out of 5

The Rhesus Chart is the fifth book in the outstanding Laundry Files series by Charles Stross.  The Laundry, in case you didn't know, is the super-secret part of British intelligence that deals with supernatural threats from beyond space and time.  We're talking principally Lovecraft mythos here, rather than the more World of Darkness vibe of Dresden.  Along with Things Man Was Not Meant To Know, you can mix in a little bit of James Bond for secret agent spy action and The Office for humor and you've got the feel of The Laundry about right.  In The Atrocity Archives, you learn how Bob Howard  came to join The Laundry and why he can never leave.  Bob, you see, has made the transition from IT professional to  computational demonologist.  Magic is mostly about complex computer algorithms solving multi-dimensional differential equations, and Bob is one of the professionals at The Laundry who has mastered this craft.

In The Rhesus Chart, it seems that a group of quantitative traders working for a major London investment bank have stumbled across a formula of their own while designing a complex trading algorithm.  They all develop a keen awareness of their surroundings, highly enhanced strength and reflexes, an aversion to sunlight, and a thirst for human blood.  Even though everyone in The Laundry knows that vampires don't exist, Bob ends up inevitably on their trail and uncovers an ages-old conspiracy between man and monsters.  Charles Stross has come up with a fresh modern take on the Mythos that avoids becoming another Delta Green.

 out of 5

The Monster Hunter International series is so damn good that I recommend people don't start reading them until early on a Saturday morning during a weekend with nothing else to do.  Get comfortable, turn off the phone, have some food nearby, and wear a catheter because you will not be able to stop reading these once you start.  Larry Correia has a real gift for pulling you into the story and keeping you pinned in the literary version of a bridging double chickenwing hold until you finish the book.  You can get the first three books in the series under a collected volume called The Monster Hunters, and the author gains bonus cool points for insisting that the digital versions of his books are published without DRM.

Monster Hunter International is a private organization that collects US government bounties on supernatural creatures.  The first two books in the series, Monster Hunter International and Monster Hunter Vendetta, describe how Owen Zastava Pitt came to join MHI and face down threats of truly cosmic proportion.  Monster Hunter Alpha follows the story of Earl Harbinger, the leader of MHI and an incredibly bad-ass werewolf.  And Nemesis shifts the focus to another character in the Correia universe - Agent Franks.  Franks works for the government Monster Control Bureau and is a monster himself - Frankenstein's monster, specifically.  Long ago, he swore an oath to our founding fathers to defend America from monsters of all sorts under one condition - that the US never tries to create another one of him.  Well, Special Task Force Unicorn (aka STFU) has gone and done exactly that and Agent Franks has gone rogue.  Often at odds with MHI, Franks has to team up with them to defeat thirteen demon-infested replicas of himself in order to stop all of hell from being turned loose upon the world again.

 out of 5

It's worth noting that all three of these fictional modern fantasy worlds have a lot in common.  First of all, they all share the basic Harry Potter premise: Monsters and magic are real, and the vast bulk of humanity lives in willful ignorance of their existence because things simply work better that way.  Second, they are all highly game-able settings.  So much so, that each of these worlds already has its own role-playing game.  You can play The Dresden Files Roleplaying Game, which is based on FATE mechanics.  The Laundry is a stand alone game modeled on the Call of Cthulhu RPG, and Monster Hunter International is a setting for Hero System 6 for those of you that like a lot of tactical crunch.  Finally, they are all really well crafted stories with a rich cast of interesting characters and lots of action.  They are all easy to pick up, and impossible to put down.  To me, these three series represent the vanguard of the new modern fantasy movement.  Start reading. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The CVG Actual Play & Community Theater Podcast 001 - The One Ring: The Darkening of Mirkwood - Session 01: Blood In The Water

Episode 1 of The CVG Actual Play & Community Theater Podcast is up and in stores near you (i.e. iTunes)!  

Remember: it's on a different feed from The CVG Podcast and Rhythm & Blues Revue, so you will need to subscribe to this feed separately if you're into it!

The game is The One Ring, by Cubicle 7 Games!  The campaign is The Darkening of Mirkwood!

Don't remember much about The One Ring?  Check out the Geek's game review of it here!

Or check out the TOR community forums here!

And now a quick breakdown of our characters:

PC:  Carl Huffingtoe
Player:  Andrew

Culture:  Hobbit of the Shire
Background:  Too Many Paths To Tread

Calling:  Wanderer

PC:  Draveon Silverwing
Player:  Bill

Culture:  Elf of Mirkwood
Background:  A Muscial Legacy

Calling:  Warden

PC:  Denethor Lightbow
Player:  Nick

Culture:    Elf of Mirkwood
Background:  Diligent Defender

Calling:  Scholar

PC:  The "Boarslayer"
Player:  Monster Mike
Culture:  Woodman of Mirkwood
Background:  The Hound

Calling:  Warden

PC:  Brand, son of Gorm
Player:  Jack

Culture:  Barding (Man of Dale)
Background:  Rediscovering the Past

Calling:  Treasure Hunter

Remember to show your love and support for the Geek out on Patreon!  Actual play episodes don't count for our Patreon contributions, so every time we play a game, you get a freebie!

Monday, February 2, 2015

The CVG Podcast and Rhythm & Blues Revue - Episode #011: Come On In My Kitchen!

A Supper to end all Suppers in the Geekery.  (Yes, ALL the holidays.)

Episode Eleven of The Chippewa Valley Geek Podcast and Rhythm & Blues Revue is complete and can be found here or on iTunes and Stitcher!

We're covering the holidays with an examination of feasts and food in history, games and geek media!

0:00:00  Intros
0:02:00  The Up Front: On pageantry and periodicity
0:05:38  The Interview:  Medieval food expert Cassandra Baldassano tells us about medieval misconceptions, humors us with a discussion of the four humors, and takes on the Geek-del Test!
0:27:!6  Payin' some bills

0:32:19  The Roundtable:  Wherein Mike and Donny and Jack make with the matchups, celebrate 7 holidays in 90 minutes, and enjoy an offally good dinner!
1:58:04  Announcements and the Community Calendar

2:03:43  Outro & Credits
2:04:54  Bonus Track:    Highway 53 Blues!

Hey, how about some show notes?

Check out Cassandra Baldassano and her Culinary Journey!

Penzey's is a great place to get your spices!

Here's the Geek's main Amazon link!

Attention kids and giblets:
 KWIKSTARTER IS NOT A REAL THING.  Neither is A Pwnable Feast.

PATREON sure is though!

Let's hit some holidays!




Give a listen to the Atomic Array!

Or the Gamer's Haven Podcast!

Or Postcards from the Dungeon!

Or Gaming & BS!


How about some Feats of Strength!

Mike and Jack square off...

Donny goes "Tusken Raider" on the Festivus pole...


Afterlife with Archie! by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla

The Manhattan Projects! by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra

Black Science! by Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera

Go watch Ravenous!

Or Crazy Legs Conti and the Zen Art of Competitive Eating

Or Cannibal! The Musical


We want to get to:

Trail of Cthulhu
The One Ring


Try it with something from the Keweenaw Brewing Company!  (I recommend the Widow Maker Black Ale.)

Remember you can get your own copies of the bonus tracks out at Bandcamp!

PC Stinger:
Euriol of Lothian is how Cassandra Baldassano is known amongst the SCA, and as she explains, "Euriol is Welsh and Lothian is the county where Edinburgh resides.  My mother was born in East Lothian and most of my ancestors in the geneology research I've done were born in... East Lothian"
The backing sound effects used in this episode included:
-  "Magic Wand Glitter.wav", obtained via via a Creative Commons Attribution license.  The original file can be found here.
-  "01914 punches and slaps.wav", obtained via via a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial license.  The original file can be found here.
-  "Space Engine.wav", obtained via via a Creative Commons Attribution license.  The original file can be found here.
-  "Space Beam, Cloak, Warp, Jump, etc.wav", obtained via via a Creative Commons 0 license.  The original file can be found here.

Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Top Five (other) Sequels I Need To See Before I Die

"'Freewill', my ass..."
So, a few nights ago I had a crazy dream.  It started w/ Monster Mike & I hiking through a Yakutsk winter clad a la Chevy Chase and Dan Akroyd in Spies Like Us, while being hunted by twerking wookalar trying to show us Peter Jackson's new script revisions to his upcoming Dune trilogy.  ("At the end, Maud'dib stands on the great worm and yells, 'Gotcha suckas!'")  Then, and this is the truly weird bit, I dreamed that David Lynch & Mark Frost announced finally that they planned to write and shoot a new season of Twin Peaks... a happening I've been waiting no less than 23 years for.

I know...  Totally insane dream, right?  Plus there was that guy with the cheese at the end.  What was up with that?

Anyway, while I was thinking about how incredibly unbelievable all that was the next day, I started pondering the larger theme of the "lost sequel" - the unlikely follow-up entry to that thing you love which is sometimes just imagined, sometimes promised but never delivered on, and sometimes are just a natural result of one needing more content in order to figure out just what the hell actually happened in the stuff you've already seen in the first place (i.e. Twin Peaks).  Often, living long enough to have a chance at seeing these sorts of sequels come to fruition becomes a staring contest with Death himself.  I fully believe the sheer pig-headedness of it is the only thing that keep most geeks alive past the age of 40.

So without further ado, in honor of the nuttiness of my recent hallucination of Lynch and Frost pledging to satisfy my #1 fanboy-est desire of all time,  I thought I would list and discuss entries #2-6 on my "Sequels I Am Determined Not To Die Before The Final Creation Of" Countdown.  

Drumroll please, maestro.

#6 - Firefly: Season Two, or Serenity: Re-Aiminating to Misbehave Agin'

Six is an artificially low number on the list for this classic, but it's mostly there just so we can get this no-brainer out of the way.  I mean, come on... Did anyone really think it wouldn't show up here?  
Had to buy that guy a new hat last time...

Joss Whedon hit a nerve that desperately needed to be scratched (yes,yes, I know) when he made Firefly, and the poor handling it received from the TV brass at the time earned it legendary status in the circles of geek oppresion conspiracy theory.  The amazing thing here is, though, we already got a sequel with the film Serenity.  Regardless, the fact is Whedon could make five more Serenity films and the hunger would still be out there and the fanbase would still feel as cheated out of the property by Big Hollywood as any typical Lions fan feels after watching...  well, any football game ever. 

If Whedon can put something new together for Capt. Mal and crew in his copious free time, there is no way the opening night line isn't going to stretch at least past the Area 51 console.  My enthusiasm for another installment is tempered only by the fact that my favorite character was Shepherd Book.  And well...  Sigh.

#5 - My So-Called Life: Season Two

I realize this isn't really "geek fare"and likely comes as a surprise to many reading the list, but, next to Firefly, MSCL is the ultimate example of a finely-crafted show which came at a pivotal moment in time, prepared to re-draw the boundaries of what we should expect from a television drama, only to be cruelly cut down in its prime, before being ever allowed to come to full flower.  (Which is to say, it was a show that premiered on FOX.)

Get out of my dreams, Get onto my bike.
(Billy Ocean said that.)
The sole season produced gave us questions, made us laugh and cry, and ended in true cliffhanger fashion for all eternity... with the blonde neighbor kid who looks like the Greatest American Hero sitting on his bike in a poorly lit residential neighborhood, wondering if Angela will ever get a goddamn clue for once.  I mean, who can't identify with that noise, am I right?  And all in a misty soft focus that made it seem like a nostalgic dream probably two years before it was even made...

I heard there was a spec script for a new revival of the series where Angela marries Jordan Catalano, but when he returns from the war in Afghanistan no one is sure whether he's a sleeper agent for the terrorists or not...  But that seems far too utterly ridiculous to me to ever work on TV.

(PS:  He's the Joker now.  Process that.)

#4 - Porno

Trainspotting is one of the pivotal landmarks of my personal development during the 90's and still counts among my Top 5 greatest films of all time.  It was for me a near-perfect cinema moment that encapsulated (as much as a UK movie about heroin could) the frustration of my post-college Midwest Yankee inability to break away from my old life.  Furthermore, it was my first introduction to the young Obi-Wan, Capt. Jamie MacLean, Lucius Vorenus, the Full Monty, and, not least, Mrs. Nucky Thompson, in all her fully knee-weakening Scottish-accented glory. 

Also Spud.  You had to hand it to Spud, right catboy?

Shortly after this film, a rift reportedly arose between filmmaker Danny Boyle and regular collaborator Ewan MacGregor after Boyle chose to break form and cast Leo DiCaprio as the lead in his following film, The Beach.  From what I am led to understand, it's this rift that more than any other factor has prevented a follow-up from being made since.  And while they have both had remarkable careers on their own since, I for one wish they would just get their shit together and try to get along for the two hours it would take to film the damn movie.  Am I so wrong?

Author Irvine Welsh, who wrote the original book the film was based on, also penned a 10-years-later sequel called Porno, wherein Sick Boy attempts to get rich producing... well, you know.  I fully realize I could check in on the whereabouts of my favorite characters just by checking the book out from the library.  But I haven't had the nerve to try to bring it up to the circulation desk yet.

#3 - Master & Commander 2:  The Fortune of War

One A&W, neat
With the noted qualifier that I haven't read more than the first book of Partrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series, in my opinion the film adaptation of Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is perhaps the perfect action-adventure film, rivaled only by the likes of The Hunt For Red October or Jaws in its brilliance.  It ages well, is perfectly paced, aspires to higher ideals than the thrills it consistently delivers, and never has a missed or clunky moment.  And unlike all the other rivals in this category, it manages to pull all this off while being a PERIOD PIECE.  At sea.

Think the logistics of that through.  That's like the movie version of reciting "O Captain, My Captain" while gargling root beer and riding a unicycle.  And nailing it.  Or something.  Honestly that simile made a lot more sense in my head before I typed it out.

I've been told by those who have read the full series that the adaptation made enough of a hash of the overall timeline to make a follow-up entry problematic at best.  I will take their word for it, though it seems a seamless enough story to a casual viewer like myself.  (I guessed at the sequel title above randomly based on list of books in the series.)  Suffice it to say however, if Russell Crowe ever decides to use his Hollywood clout to demand a second installment be produced, I'll be beating to quarters opening night in a heartbeat.  No matter how wrong that sounds.

#2 - Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension is one of my ultimate guilty geek pleasures.  The brilliant cast and no-prisoners blend of 80's pulp sci fi adventure with full deadpan camp hit a sweet spot that should make it a thoroughly enjoyable and highly quotable flick for thinking people of pretty much all ages.  Except my mom's age probably.  But that's ok really.

Why?  Because they're Perfect.
At the end of the film, just after BB gets the girl and restores our faith in heroes, but moments before the catchy-as-hell end credits victory dance/walk of the surviving (and some miraculously resurrected) Hong Kong Cavaliers, we are cruelly teased with the title card "Watch for the next adventure of Buckaroo Banzai / BUCKAROO BANZAI AGAINST THE WORLD CRIME LEAGUE".  Talk about Babe Ruth calling your shots.  But as Tiffany once so heartrendingly sang to us in those same 80's, "What could've been is better than what could never be at all".  

Part of what I love about the BB property is the creators' 100% commitment to the joke in the face of any and every piece of sanity available to the contrary.  The DVD commentary of the first movie for example features fully straight-faced discussion of Dr. Banzai's reaction to the film made of his life, and the novelization expands the plot to plants seeds of the coming conflict against his true arch-nemesis, Hanoi Xan, leader of the World Crime League.  Alas, nobody else seemed to get the joke however, and so for thirty years the dream of this team of actors and creators being allowed a follow-up film to explore some even more far-fetched but shockingly brilliant insanity has been naught but a poignantly sad could've been

Damn you almighty box-office dollar.  Damn youse to hell.


It's recently come to my attention that this last sequel (Buckaroo Banzai) may actually have recently happened in a direct-to-video feature (which strikes me as an increasingly anachronistic designation as time goes on).  In any event, I am unsure quite how to process this news, and for the time being I've chosen to follow a course of complete and utter denial until I get any better ideas.  I seriously need to think this through for a while.  

But I suppose that's not as bad as it could be, all things considered...  I mean if  Twin Peaks Season 3 actually happened, for instance, I'm relatively sure my nervous system would go into spontaneous meltdown.  My eyes would roll back and I'd just collapse limply and ignominiously onto the sidewalk to face the taunting and denigration of random passersby.  So let's be glad that one's still a fairy tale.

I wear the cheese.  It does not wear me.