30 October 2008

One Oh Oh

This is blog post number 100.

The vast majority of these posts have been made since last March when I adopted Blogger.com to power my blog section. I'd never have been posting so actively without it. Writing the posts themselves wouldn't be that hard, but a large number of casual posts without a decent archiving and categorisation system would be rather pointless.

I don't have a huge amount of readers. I'm not sure if anyone reads this on a regular basis. But then again, most blogs probably don't have many readers. That's not the point. I write as much for myself as I write for others.

So what is it all about? In the end, I guess it's just Me. Most of my posts are related to my hobbies: RPGs, video games, comics, music, even spirituality. There's no one clear theme, but patterns are beginning to emerge in the chaos. Sum it all up, and you'll begin to see what makes me tick. And it won't end here.

28 October 2008

Surreal Parakeets

I've managed to not blog for over a week, so here's a couple weird haikus to break the silence:

Surreal parakeets
Prance upon rainbow highways,
Feathers like strange rain.

(11 Feb 2007)

After the kerplunk,
Eerie silence in the pond.
Dead frog floating, still.

(12 Feb 2007)

18 October 2008

Labels for All to See

Update: Added a label list

I've been wanting to add some kind of label list for quite some time. Once a blog has grown a bit, it can be very hard to find items of interest, unless you're looking for something very specific (in which case you can use a search feature). Of course you could browse through all the archives in order, but who'd want to do that? However, if you take a glance at a label (aka tag or category) list, you might well spot something interesting.

Now, blogs on blogspot.com can be easily customised with a label list widget, but that's not possible when you publish via FTP to another server, like I do. So I decided to write a little PHP code to do it. This was the first time I've ever tried my hands at PHP, so the process took a whole evening, even though the resulting bit of code is quite short and simple. It's very crude, but it appears to do what it's supposed to. You can navigate to the label list from the menu bar on the left.

17 October 2008

First Attempt at a Limerick

There once was a man from Helsinki
Who always looked broody and thinky
And a lady, of sorts
Said 'A penny for your thoughts!'
But didn't pay, as the thoughts were too kinky

15 October 2008

The Tell-Tale Hearts

Update: New episode of the Kin of Cerberos RPG online

Yup, after another break of several months, I finally ran another session of my current RPG campaign. Although a fairly simple scenario overall, there were some pretty big plot twists!

We've been trying to tweak the combat system, but I'm still not happy with it. We had one fight scene, not even a particularly tough one, but it must have eaten up half the time we played. Honestly! Ok, we spent some time reading up on and discussing rule details, perhaps partly cause it had again been a while since the last session, but still... I really don't know how to make the system lighter but still provide enough variety to keep the fights interesting...

11 October 2008

Comicsin' It Up Volume 6

Well, the pile of comics I accumulated from several local libraries has finally run out. Here are the last mini-reviews for now.

More albums by our own Petri Hiltunen. Riutta is a science fiction story about man's first encounter with aliens. It's a surprisingly happy and non-violent story for Hiltunen. Well, for the most part. Vala Auringolle is another historical story about the Sioux people, this one set in the 1860's. Unlike Aavetanssi, which focused on historical events, this one features entirely fictional characters and aims at describing Sioux life and culture, both the good and the bad. Because it's not forced around a series of historical events, it's actually the stronger story of the two, and really worth reading for anyone interested in Native American culture. Well, anyone Finnish anyway...

However, Hiltunen is arguably best known for his pulp fantasy stories. Kuninkaan lapset was the first Praedor story to be published in album form, and is, I think, the best of all the Praedor stories I've read. Mustan rannikon kuningatar is an adaptation of Robert E. Howard's Conan story Queen of the Black Coast. It's a faithful adaptation and very entertaining, except maybe it could have been a tad longer. Hiltunen, of course, is known to be a great Howard fan.

The Last Temptation, written by Neil Gaiman, is a comic book adaption of the Alice Cooper album of the same name, for which Gaiman and Cooper created the story together. Aside from that incredibly cool background, it's a very entertaining horror comic, even if the story itself isn't perhaps the most original ever.

Signal to Noise by Gaiman and Dave McKean, on the other hand, is very hard to describe. It's a very experimental work, in many ways, even though at its heart there is a fairly simple and touching story about a dying film director making his last film in his mind. McKean, of course, is one of the most original and experimental illustrators in the business and always manages to create a very surreal mood. I don't know quite what to think of this work. But that's really the whole point.

Memories is a collection of short stories by Enki Bilal from the 70's and early 80's. These are mostly science fiction and horror stories, often humorous, sometimes just plain weird or surreal. Not half bad.

The Complete Alan Moore Future Shocks is a collection of short science fiction stories written by (you guessed it) Alan Moore for the 2000AD magazine back in the early 80's. The stories are humorous and mostly quite clever. In fact they often reminded me a lot of Douglas Adams.

And that pretty much wraps it up for now. Sooner or later I'll probably wander into a library again, but hopefully won't be getting piles of books this size again very soon!

7 October 2008

Aimless Steps

aimless steps
in brightness, pale blue
and not a wisp
but yellow leaves and brown
abound
feeding a cold, cold unflickering fire
of melancholy
in a place that can't be a heart
because hearts beat

6 October 2008

Comicsin' It Up Volume 5

My quest through the comics departments of local libraries continues.

This time I've read several more domestic albums by Petri Hiltunen. All of them were perhaps a little out of the ordinary. MacBeth should need no introduction. This is a fairly faithful adaptation of the play (adapted by Petri Hannini), but with a typical, dark Hiltunen look and fairly graphic violence. Aavetanssi, on the other hand, is a historical story about the Sioux Ghost Dance cult and the tragedy at Wounded Knee. Asfalttitasanko ja muita kertomuksia is a collection of short stories, mostly science fiction. Many of these were pretty cool, including one or two hilarious parodies.

Fantastic Four Visionaries: Walter Simonson Vol. 1 is another collection of (surprise) Fantastic Four stories, this time from the turn of the nineties, written and also (for a large part) drawn by Walter Simonson. I'm not quite sure how to feel about this. The first three issue story arc was mediocre at best. The second, longer story was over-the-top enough to be quite entertaining, but the storytelling wasn't exactly the strongest I've seen. It's also a lot campier than one would expect from 1990. Galactus disguising the ultimate weapon as a broken light switch? I mean, give me a break!

But I've saved the best for last. Neil Gaiman's The Books of Magic is a masterpiece! This wasn't the first time I read it, of course, but the time was just right to revisit it. The story's really very simple. Just four magicians from the DC universe (including John Constantine and the Phantom Stranger) introducing the universe to a kid who's got the potential to become a great magician himself. Even though not much really happens, it's just so well written and the characters are so cool! The art is also excellent. Each of the four issues is illustrated by a different artist. The continuation (not written by Gaiman) was pretty entertaining, but never quite got to the same level.

Well, I'm all out of Marvel and DC comics for the time being. Which means no more superheroes. Still got a pile of other stuff, but next time we should be getting very near the end... Unless I happen to wander into a library again and find some interesting comics I haven't read yet.

1 October 2008

Welcome to the Benverse

Update: Added (the beginnings of) a Benverse Encyclopedia to the RPG section

Many of my RPGs in recent years have been set in the modern day, including my current campaign, Kin of Cerberos, and past games New Angel Evolution and Beyond the Bridge: The House. I didn't design these settings to be compatible to start with, and indeed there are some elements in their backgrounds that are quite different. However, the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that it would, in fact, be better if the games, and possible future games set in the modern day (or recent past/near future), took place in a shared universe. Not only would it make crossover scenarios possible, but I'd have a wealth of ready material, characters etc. that I could potentially use in future games.

So, as of today, my past and current modern day games officially take place in the same world, which I'm jokingly referring to as the Benverse, for lack of a better name. This move should actually have very little bearing on my current campaign. The characters will be aware that a nuclear bomb exploded in Alaska in 2003 (as told in my earlier campaign, New Angel Evolution), but that's pretty much it. To help bring these game worlds together, I've written the beginnings of an 'encyclopedia' that describes crucial concepts, events and characters from the various games.

I should carefully read through all my old plot synopses, to see if anything needs retconning, as the campaigns weren't initially designed to be compatible. But there shouldn't be anything major, I think. The greatest differences are probably in the backgrounds that I'd thought of in my head, rather than the details given to the players. You can't tell an audience too much, after all. You've got to retain a feeling of mystery.

So what is the Benverse like? It is an alternate Earth, very much like our own, but with some crucial differences. Namely, the existence of various supernatural forces. It also follows a different timeline from ours, including, for example, the nuclear explosion mentioned above.

As I've made clear in my blog, I've been reading a lot of comics recently, both from Marvel and DC. I'd be lying if I said this had nothing to do with my desire to have a larger, shared universe for my games. But the fact is, it makes sense, for reasons I described above. So far I've run, and am running, too few games for there to be much interesting crossover in them, but who knows what the future might bring?