Vatican To Reboot Entire Catholic Faith

We’ve been hearing rumors for months now, but it’s finally been confirmed. Last Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI announced that the Roman Catholic Church would be undergoing “a complete and total overhaul” to make it more easily accessible to new converts. From the official press release

“While the Catholic Church is very proud of its accomplishments over the past two millennia, it is becoming increasingly clear in this fast-paced age of technology and social media that the current One True Faith leaves a lot to be desired, and can leave many newcomers cold. It is understandable, of course, that those who are newer to the Church may be confused upon initial entry. After all, our current canon consists not only of the Holy Bible, broken into the Old and New Testaments, but Sacred Tradition and countless Creeds. . . In the new Faith, all of this will be streamlined and made available in a much more organized and digestible fashion.”

On the one hand, this news is very exciting. It’s well known that the Church could use an overhaul. Coming into the Faith new, a convert has a lot to take in. There’s the Scriptures, the Sacraments, and the trinity; not to mention the nearly two-thousand year history. Who can really be expected to learn about the Crusades and the Great Schism just for a chance to get into Heaven?

Of course, with the new reorganization, Heaven may not even exist, at least not exactly as modern Catholics see it. When questioned about the afterlife, the Pope said “We have big plans for. . . Heaven and Hell. For the new direction, we are going to be trying very hard to distance ourselves from Dante and the like.” This comes as quite the shock. We don’t yet know what direction they’re planning on taking this, but there’s a very good chance they’re going towards something more akin to Hindu’s philosophy of constant reincarnation. That would definitely shake things up a bit!

While the Pope has made it clear that the fundamental tenets will still be pretty much the same, there seem to be no sacred cows when it comes to the reboot. Trinity? The Virgin Mary? Excommunication? All seem to be in a state of limbo at the moment.

The biggest change that has been definitively revealed so far is in the nature of the Church’s flagship property, God. Traditionally, God, and therefore the Church, is seen as infallible. This will not necessarily be the case in the future. According to the Pope, “Infallibility was a huge draw back when the disciples were writing. It was a much different time, when people felt they needed something very reliable to hold onto.”

“Not so much anymore,” continues the Pope, “The attitude these days seems to be to question everything. Question your teachers, question your parents, question your government, even question God. Rather than fighting this and driving away potential converts, we are adopting a policy of semifallibility. This way people, young people especially, can question all they want and still remain in good standing with the Church.” When questioned as to exactly how fallible God would become, the Pope answered with a wink and a nudge. “I think we’ll end up being right most of the time.”

To many, these changes may seem like a lot. To some, though, they are not enough. Detractors say that the Church has been tracing over its steps, retconning important developments since the First Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. Others point out that the foundation of the church itself was in a way a reorganization of the earlier Jewish religion, which shares much of the same continuity. One anonymous blogger wrote

“This is just yet another desperate attempt at siphoning converts off from the competition. The Holy See sees all these potential Catholics going off to Protestantism or Islam or countless until recently obscure Eastern faiths and thinks ‘We have to make ourselves more accessible.’ What they don’t realize is that those religions have just as much bloat as Roman Catholicism. The draw isn’t accessibility, those religions are simply better. Adding a shiny new paint job to a rotten core and calling it a reboot is not going to save their dying followerbase.”

Whether the reboot will be the breath of fresh air this religion needs, or just another flash in the pan is yet to be seen. You can go to their website to see a complete list of new Scriptures. Personally, I can’t wait to see the streamlined Pentateuch. Jesus Christ isn’t really my thing, but they’re keeping the Big Four gospels (though I don’t think there’s a single Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John on the writing team), so they seem to still think he’s pretty important. The Neil Gaiman-penned Revelation also looks extremely promising.

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Chainmail And Weapon Modifiers

In my last post I took a look at the Chainmail Man-to-Man tables and distilled each armor class down to a standard to-hit value. To spare you the pain of looking back over that rambling mess, here’s the table of to-hit values for every armor class, listed for 2d6 and d20 combat, as well as a straight percentage chance of hitting.

9

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

2d6

7

7

8

8

9

9

10

11

d20

10

11

13

13

14

15

18

19

d100

0.57

0.5

0.42

0.42

0.35

0.29

0.15

0.1

Recall that, in Chainmail, AC 9 represents an unarmored opponent, AC 8 represents leather armor, AC 7 a shield alone, AC 6 leather and shield, AC 5 chain mail, AC 4 chain and shield, AC 3 plate armor, and AC 2 plate and shield.

This table shouldn’t be too big of a shock. It follows more or less the progression suggested in the “Alternative Combat System” in Original D&D, with the caveat that plate is significantly better than chain mail. Now we’re going to move on to weapon modifiers. In Chainmail, every weapon has a certain chance to hit each armor class. In this distilled system, this is represented by a table of to-hit modifiers, where the weapon is compared against the armor class, and a certain bonus added to the to-hit roll. Below is the table used when the 2d6 combat system is used.

Reach

9

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

Dagger

1

1

0

0

0

0

-1

-2

-1

Hand Axe

1

0

0

0

-1

-1

-1

-1

-1

Mace

3

-1

-1

0

-1

1

1

3

3

Sword

4

0

-1

0

-1

1

0

0

0

Battle Axe

5

-1

-1

0

0

2

2

1

1

Morning Star

6

1

1

1

1

3

2

2

3

Flail

7

0

0

1

1

3

2

4

4

Spear

8

-1

-1

-1

-1

-1

-1

-1

-1

Polearm

9

1

1

2

1

1

1

1

1

Halbard

9

-1

-1

0

1

3

3

3

3

Two-Handed Sword

10

1

1

2

2

4

4

4

4

Mounted Lance

11

2

2

3

3

2

2

2

2

Pike

12

-1

-1

0

0

1

1

1

1

Any positive numbers are simple bonuses to be applied to the to-hit rolls, while negative numbers are penalties. Using this table, we get exactly the same combat odds as in the original Chainmail. It’s obvious from the above table that some weapons, especially bigger ones such as the two-handed sword and the mounted lance, are simply better than their counterparts. To get a feel for exactly how much bigger, in a language that D&D players are more likely to understand, here is the same table converted to the d20 system (following the to-hit numbers stated earlier in this post).

Reach

9

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

Dagger

1

3

2

0

0

-1

-3

-2

-1

Hand Axe

1

0

2

0

-3

-4

-3

-1

-1

Mace

3

-3

-2

0

-3

1

2

9

6

Sword

4

0

-2

0

-3

1

0

0

-1

Battle Axe

5

-3

-2

0

0

5

6

2

1

Morning Star

6

3

4

3

3

7

6

5

6

Flail

7

0

2

3

3

7

6

11

10

Spear

8

-3

-2

-2

-3

-4

-3

-1

-1

Polearm

9

3

4

6

3

5

2

2

1

Halbard

9

-3

-2

0

3

7

9

9

6

Two-Handed Sword

10

3

4

6

6

10

11

11

10

Mounted Lance

11

5

6

8

8

7

6

5

4

Pike

12

-3

-2

0

0

1

2

2

1

Now it should be a lot clearer exactly how much better than your standard weapons the two-handed sword, for example, is. To penetrate plate and shield a standard character with a two-handed sword needs to roll a 9 or higher on a d20.

You’ll notice also that weapons have a “reach” value (this is called “class” in Chainmail, but I think “reach” is more descriptive). This has the following effects:

  • In the first round of melee between two opponents, the attacker (being the one who moved into melee) strikes first unless the defender has a weapon whose reach is 2 greater than the attacker’s. This simulates the defender setting his spear or whatever against the charge.
  • In the second and each subsequent round of melee, the same person who struck first last round does so again, unless the opponent has a weapon whose reach is 2 lower than the first combatant’s. This simulates the added speed and maneuverability that having a lighter weapon gives you.
  • If combatant A’s weapon has a reach of anywhere from 3 lower than combatant B’s to 1 higher than combatant B’s, combatant A can parry his opponent’s attack, forcing him to subtract 2 from his to-hit roll, though combatant A can not make his next attack.
  • If combatant A’s weapon has a reach from 4 to 7 lower than combatant B, then combatant A can either choose to strike first or parry combatant B’s blow. If the parry is successful, combatant A still gets to make his counterattack.
  • If combatant A’s weapon has a reach of 8 lower than combatant B, then combatant A gets the first blow, plus he has the option of striking again or parrying.
  • Any combatant whose weapon’s reach is at least 4 lower than his opponent’s gets another blow in addition to the benefits listed above.

So now we have different weapons that feel completely different, so while a burly fighter wielding a two-handed sword might make mincemeat out of a scrawny magic-user with his dagger, the magic-user still gets two chances to strike the fighter before the fighter even makes his first attack roll. Under the Chainmail rules, weapons are all different, many weapons having certain advantages over others. We’ve given weapons character even though they all deal 1d6 damage with a successful hit.

This also goes a long way towards differentiating classes at lower levels. I’ve often heard the complaint that, at low levels, there is no difference in fighting capability between fighters, clerics, and magic-users. Now the difference is clear: fighters can use any and all weapons, from the lowly dagger to the mighty two-handed sword, while magic-users can only use a knife. Not only would these two classes have different results in combat, playing them would feel very different.

Now what of when PCs are fighting monstrous creatures that have no immediate analogue in the weapon vs. AC table? I think the best solution is to give each weapon a simple modifier to hit to be used when facing monstrous foes. This modifier would be used regardless of the opponent’s armor class, and would simply be a reflection of the overall effectiveness of a weapon. Or you could just leave that system the way it is, and give those magic-users a fighting chance against a dragon.

You may notice I haven’t covered ranged weapons. This is because ranged weapons suck, and the math involved sucks, and I haven’t had the drive or opportunity to do it yet. I also haven’t talked about combat progression yet. I’ll get to that as well, but again the math is a bit wonky, or at least it seems that way to me. As it is this post pretty much outlines an entire combat system that you can plop into a D&D game. I plan on using this in my next game, whenever that happens, either in a 2d6 or a d20 form.

Whew. That was a lot of post with very little fluff. Here are some pictures to make everybody chill.

My latest D&D-related acquisition.

My current sci-fi reading.

Lumpy Space Princess

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This Is Chainmail. This is D&D.

[WARNING: This post contains nerdery and numbers. Proceed at your own risk.]

About a year ago I wrote this analysis of the Chainmail mass combat rules. I have this on-again off-again project I’m working on, which basically amounts to a retroclone. Basically I’m looking to write a system that stays very true to the original rules as written, with cool things added on from later iterations of the game in a way that they don’t upset the original spirit. Yes, this is more or less a set of house rules, that I at one point tend to write up in some sort of organized book-like file, more for my own gratification and the people I game with than for public consumption.

This is pretty long and rambly, so here's a picture of what Google assures me is Harold's death as presented in the Bayeux Tapestry.

One of my primary concerns in the crafting of this system is adhering to the rules as presented in Chainmail since the original rules for Dungeons & Dragons mentioned explicitly many times that the rules were to be used in conjunction with Chainmail. For those unfamiliar with that game, there are basically three different levels of combat detailed in Chainmail. The “standard” game is played between armies with figures representing twenty men apiece. The “Man-to-Man” rules deal with skirmish-level combat, where each model is an individual combatant. Fantasy combat deals with contests between fantastic creatures, such as dragons and trolls and the like.

In the post I referenced a year ago, I dealt with the standard 20:1 rules. That post was more-or-less a distillation of the base system, but my thinking at the time was to use that, along with the “Fighting Capacity” designations for each class as detailed in the LBBs, to fight smaller-scale conflicts. I dedicated a great deal of time and effort into making a combat system that would closely follow the guidelines laid down in that post. However, in so doing, I gradually came to the realization that, for the typical combats that my players tend to get into, those rules are just not fun, and any alteration I made to them took them farther from the spirit of the original. I often found myself stuck between that which is true to Chainmail and that which is fun.

So I’m abandoning that train of thought for the time being to focus more on the Man-to-Man rules. Looking at these, it’s much closer to the standard D&D combat with which we’re all familiar. In fact, one could easily just pick up the rules wholesale and drop them into D&D and have a perfectly workable system. So why not just do that? There are two problems.

  • The rules assume all combatants are of equal skill, with the only difference being equipment. Keeping this standard would basically make leveling up a simple matter of better saves and better hit points for the fighter, with no improvement in fighting capability whatsoever.
  • All attacks are rolled on a table, where the attacker’s weapon is cross-referenced with the armor of the defender. This is wonderful for two humanoids in battle, but it is completely unworkable for creatures like dragons, or creatures wielding exotic gear, or bears.

OK, so that first problem can probably just be fixed by giving higher-level fighters some sort of bonus to their die rolls or whatever. I’m not dealing with it at the moment.

The second is more problematic, seeing as how the game is Dungeons & Dragons, and a combat system that doesn’t let you fight dragons doesn’t really gel. So how do we deal with it? One option is simply to assign those monsters the armor that most closely approximates their natural defenses. A troll, with its thick, rubbery hide, might be given a leather armor class, whereas a scaly dragon would get plate. I imagine most animals would be assigned leather or no armor under this system, and we can tack on additional rules, such as small creatures forcing the attacker to subtract 1 from his to-hit roll.

That might be one way to go, but then what happens when those creatures attack? Do we likewise assign them a weapon? What would a dragon’s bite be? The system as written has the effectiveness of certain weapons versus certain armor deeply entrenched, and it seems like trying to shoehorn a bunch of non-humanoids into the mix takes away from the original intent.

The alternative that I propose is to assume that the system as it stands represents not only a weapon’s inherent usefulness against a certain armor type, but a combatant’s knowledge of how exactly to use such weapon to its greatest advantage (and perhaps the defender’s ability to counter those weapons which are easily countered). If we give each armor type an armor class (say, between 9 and 2), we can give each armor class a certain percentage chance to hit, which is used universally. If the combat is between two humanoids, we then have a separate set of modifiers for each weapon against different types of armor. When humanoids fight fantastic creatures, there are no modifiers, representative of the fact that the combat tactics to fight, say, a dragon, are quite exotic to the warrior, so he can’t make use of any inherent advantages his weapon may have over the opponent. If this seems familiar, it’s because it is basically the system used in 1st edition AD&D.

To find the baseline probability to-hit for each armor class, I took the average of every weapon’s ability to hit every armor class, percentage-wise. The results are as follows:

Unarmored (AC 9): 57%
Leather (AC 8): 50%
Shield (AC 7): 42%
Leather & Shield (AC 6): 42%
Chainmail (AC 5): 35%
Chain & Shield (AC 4): 30%
Platemail (AC 3): 15%
Plate & Shield (AC 2): 10%

You’ll note that in the original rules wielding a shield alone is on average better than wearing leather armor with not shield. These percentages can be converted into target numbers. Here I converted these into the number one would need to roll on 2d6, since this is the type of roll used in Chainmail.

AC 9 and AC 8: 7
AC 7 and AC 6: 8
AC 5 and AC 4: 9
AC 3: 10
AC 2: 11

Since the range of results is fairly limited using only 2d6, there is not much variation in targets. These are really approximations of the true average odds, but I think they are the best approximations we can have. Here’s the same table with target numbers using the more familiar (and more granular) d20.

AC 9: 10
AC 8: 11
AC 7: 13
AC 6: 13
AC 5: 14
AC 4: 15
AC 3: 18
AC 2: 19

Basically, we have the standard combat table for 1st level characters, with the exception of AC 7 and the jump to plate mail.  I think this goes to show that Gygax and co. were either very careful to map out the combat table so that it fit with Chainmail, or very careful when writing Chainmail in the first place to have a steady progression. I believe the jump between chain & shield and plate mail is a product of the bell curve distribution of 2d6 versus the linear distribution of the d20, and likewise with the blip at AC 7.

So that’s everything you need to fight those fantastic creatures and bears and whatnot. Roll a die, find their AC, and see if you score a hit! Then, of course, roll 1d6 damage and deduct it from the opponent’s hit points. Rinse and repeat. Soon I’m going to write a post looking at the weapon modifiers, once I figure out how to make nice-looking tables. That’s where things get interesting.

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Dumbledore, HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE SPOILERS AHEAD

How the hell do I keep getting so many views even when I haven’t updated since September 4th?  People don’t even like me!  What gives?

Anyway, I don’t really have much substantial to write about, just a simple observation which I’ve never seen made before.

Throughout the entirety of the Harry Potter series, we are made to assume that Dumbeldore is the wisest person at Hogwarts and never makes mistakes, confessing to the very few mistakes that he does make.  Harry sees him, and thus we, the readers, see him, as infallible, at least for a big chunk of the series.  But what nobody ever seems to make mention of is that the very first thing we see Dumbledore do is make a mistake, and a pretty big mistake at that.

When he leaves Harry with the Dursleys, he also leaves a letter, which he claims will explain everything.  He leaves it so that Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia will one day tell Harry everything that he needs to know about his history, so as to make his transition into the wizarding world as easy as possible.  But, as we all know, they do no such thing.  Rather they keep it a secret, tell Harry his parents died in a car crash, and actively try to dissuade Hogwarts from sending the letters.  McGonagall, who has been observing the Dursleys all day, even warns Dumbledore against leaving the boy with the muggle family.

So the very first thing that Dumbledore does in the very first book is wildly misjudge the character of two individuals, and ignore his colleague’s warnings that he is doing so.  And then everybody reassures Harry that Dumbledore knows what he’s doing, that if he trusts somebody, then they are most likely trustworthy.

I don’t really have a point to all this, I just thought it strange, and too long to post as a facebook status, so there you are.  Thoughts?

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So Many Things, So Little Information

AUGUST 13th???

No, Cody, that’s just unacceptable.  That’s three weeks with absolutely no new exciting content!  But what to do?  Oh, whatever to do to rectify this grievance?

I can rant!  Hmm, let’s see, what’s pissing me off right now…

The Ground Zero Mosque!!!  Well, I mean, it itself is not pissing me off, the controversy is.  But I don’t really like getting all political.  Besides, Keith Olbermann already covered the issue much more eloquently than I ever could.

So if not that, then what?  Could I criticize some movie?  Could I heap praise upon a movie?  Could I make my own movie???

No.  I mean, I suppose I could, but I don’t like making comments on things I’ve seen once (or never, for that matter), and the only movies I’ve seen recently are The Lion King, Spaceballs, and 8 1/2, two of which I feel no need to comment on at the moment, and while watching the other I was too distracted by the fact that the dialogue did not sync up to the actors’ mouthing of the lines, only to find out later that this was in fact not my computer being its normal bellyaching self (Bellyaching?  Really?) but rather the practice of recording the dialogue in post-production, which was apparently quite common for Italian films of the era, especially those directed by Fellini.  Clearly, I am referring to Spaceballs here.

Yeah, this is some good stuff.  We’ve got some pretty sweet stream-of-consciousness going on here.  What next?  How about a picture? Yes!

Bam! Dylan!

Hmm, music?  Yeah, I recently came into possession of quite a few splendid albums, among them the above-mentioned’s Blonde on Blonde, The Mars Volta’s Frances the Mute, Ida Maria’s Fortress ’round My Heart and Mumford & Sons splendid Sigh No More.  Currently, in order of preference they are rated, in my mind thusly:

  1. Blonde on Blonde
  2. Sigh No More
  3. Fortress ’round My Heart
  4. Frances The Mute

Although they are all fairly great for what it’s worth.  Plus I slipped in a numbered list there, and numbered lists always grab my attention, so maybe as a result of including a numbered list I will attract NEW READERS and some of them will be ELIGIBLE ATTRACTIVE WOMEN some of whom wouldn’t mind dating a DEEPLY FLAWED BUT SELF-AWARE ABOUT IT SEMI-ATTRACTIVE OVERLY-CRITICAL D&D-OBSESSED UNPOPULAR BLOGGER.

Why don’t we embed a video now? (Do you like that I included you, the reader, in my plans?  Respond in the comments!)

There’s some Mumford & Sons!  They’re British, and quite awesome.  And they have a dedicated banjo player.  And no dedicated drummer.  And they are awesome, but I believe I already made mention of that fact.

IT’S SATURDAY NIGHT AND I COULD BE AT A JERSEY SHORE PARTY BUT INSTEAD I AM WRITING SOMETHING THAT NOBODY WILL READ ON THE INTERNET.

Sorry, lost my mind for a moment.

So how ’bout that D&D? Well, currently, both books that compose the B/X series are sitting on the floor to the left of me, along with modules B2 and X1.  I really don’t know why.  It’s not like I’m going to be running anything other that 3.X any time soon.  Which is a shame, since I’ve been itching to run a game in which the PCs are colonists of a new world and go on spaghetti-westernesque adventure across the countryside, which I simply can’t fit into the established framework of searching for a lost city wherein they hope to find a large quantity of gold. (Yet…)

Also, ChicagoWiz has been posting some awesome concept fiction for a modern D&D game, which is just stimulating my imagination like a beast.  But noooooo, we have to continue following the antics of george THE forge and Obtaria and the fluxtuatingly-named halfling and the currently-absent-thanks-to-the-demands-of-study-abroad Charlg as they plod along with their Unicow and Mysterious Eggs Which They Don’t Know What They Do Yet But I Do And I’m Looking Forward To Them Finding Out.

Meh, maybe I’ll be fine running 3.X for a while.

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The Good, The Great, And The Greatest

I have had the pleasure over the past few weeks of partaking of a fabulous selection of films, both in theaters and at home.  Along with finally getting around to watching Children of Men, as well as re-watching District 9 last night, I saw three movies multiple times on which I would like to comment.  They are Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, a good movie that achieves exactly what it was going for, Inception, a great movie that fails to achieve what it was going for, and Let The Right One In, a great movie that seems to achieve what it was going for superbly.

Scott Pilgrim is the most straight-forward to write about, so I will cover that one first.  I fell in love with the graphic novels a few months ago, and as such was primed to love this movie.  And love it I did, although I have no delusions that it is, in and of itself, any sort of classic, nor will it even achieve cult classic status.  It is a fine adaptation of the comic, and by-and-large nailed the tone and style perfectly, while making necessary sacrifices to the pacing in order to fit seven evil exes into two hours of film.  Like most reviews that I read, I found the action to get a bit tedious by the end, but the film seems to know when it’s starting to overstay its welcome.  I do highly recommend it to people who aren’t afraid of a little off-the-wall action and intelligent-sarcastic humor.

Inception, from what others have said, seems to be the most mind-blowing thing since the Matrix.  It is a strange film for me, as most films like it (ostensibly high-minded action films, such as the Matrix movies, V for Vendetta, Dark Knight and the like) seem to leave me emotionally satisfied directly following my first viewing, but break down upon closer examination.  Inception bucks this trend by leaving me wholly unsatisfied upon leaving the theater, feeling betrayed by what appeared to me to be an emotionally manipulative ending which lacked true profundity, while at the same time the pieces manifest into a cohesive whole in my head as time goes on and I further discuss the film and read reviews.  There are two ways I can look at this admittedly supurbly directed and acted film (although Christopher Nolan cannot direct vehicle sequences to save his life).  Either the director, Nolan, knew exactly what he was doing, and put the utmost care into placing every detail and bit of imagery, in which case I pretty much proscribe to the interpretation posited by this reviewer (warning, link contains spoilers), or he is extremely sloppy in his execution and description of the film’s internal logic, as he was with Dark Knight and, to a lesser extent, Batman Begins, and the ending is left ambiguous not because it carries any meaningful significance to the filmmakers, but because those kinds of endings are proven to illicit emotional responses from most audiences, regardless of their depth of meaning.  I may not be too cynical yet to give Nolan the benefit of the doubt here, although I feel that Shutter Island explored similar themes better, with a deeper performance by DiCaprio, and I trust Martin Scorsese to put more thought into the details than Christopher Nolan.  Regardless, Inception is a great film that should be seen, although I would urge you to watch it with a more critical eye than you might otherwise.

Now, and this is what I really wanted to get to, we move on to Let The Right One In.  Do you know the feeling of falling in love with a work of art?  Where after reading a book or watching a film or experiencing a piece of music for the first time, that piece permeates your mind, forcing you to look through the world through the lens of said work?  I believe the last time this happened to me was when I saw Psycho for the first time, almost two years ago, and fell in love.  I had similar experiences with Fritz Lang’s M, Isaac Asimov’s The Mule, and the entire Beatles’ catalog on that fateful night some years ago when my dad let me stay up well past my bedtime to listen to those records.  It’s an overwhelming desire to experience nothing but that work.  You wish that every movie or book or album were as good in all the same ways as Psycho.

This is what happened to me with Let The Right One In, the 2008 Swedish vampire film which deserves none of the scorn or apprehension that might come with the label “Swedish vampire film.”  This is a film that is not about vampires, at least not in the Twilight or even Dracula sense of the term.  It is not about what vampires do, or how people fight them, or what happens when a vampire moves in to the neighborhood.  It is more of a tone poem than a narrative, a meditation on what a vampire might represent, rather than how it might act.  It is the best directed film I have seen since Psycho and features a similarly tight economy of action, with nary a wasted frame.  It is an absolutely brilliant film, and I do not want to spoil anything in this so far relatively spoiler-free post, but I will say that I first watched it at 1 in the morning, and was very worried that I would have trouble sleeping after it.  Two hours later, I felt not dread or fear, but euphoria.  I have since watched it two more times, and plan on showing it to anybody who will watch.  It is, quite simply, a film that you can not afford not to see.

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World Action and Adventure (or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Pointless Tables)

On a recent visit to the mall to go see Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (which was very entertaining, despite including nothing from the last volume of the comics) I stopped in to one of those sports memorabilia stores that also has a small section of comic books and Magic: the Gathering cards and their ilk.  While there, I discovered this wonderful roleplaying supplement from 1985 for a game called World Action and Adventure.  This book is so obscure, I couldn’t even find a picture of the cover on the first 14 pages of Google Images.

We'll have to make due with Quasimodo (page 13)

The supplement, which is subtitled “Actor’s Book of Characters,” is not something that I would typically associate with a product named “World Action and Adventure.”  I mean, that’s a title that you look at, and you know exactly what you’re getting.  There’s gonna be action.  There’s gonna be adventure.  They’re going to be together.  The action is going to be… worldly?  I don’t know, but what I do know is that you can’t go about calling a game “World Action and Adventure,” and duping people expecting some manner of Indiana Jones-style romp through – well, the world, I guess – into purchasing a book filled with bland descriptions of different careers throughout the ages and various tables to aid players in selected said careers for their characters.

That’s right, it’s not enough to decide “I want my character to be a baseball player.”  Nope, you have to choose to be an athlete.  Then, you get to either roll on a table, or choose on the table, depending on the results rolled on a completely different table at the beginning of the book (of which there are seven, one of which the DM specifies at the beginning of the whole process).  Then you get to read such brilliant descriptions as, “Basketball can be a rough game.  The players there have the same span of years that they can play as their football counterparts.  But when a top basketball star is on the court, he is the highest paid professional athlete in the United States.  Earnings of one million per year are the rewards for the best of the basketball athletes.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love randomized character generation, but this whole thing is an exercise in pointlessness.  In “World Action and Adventure” (which, by the way, calls its players “actors,” calls the GM the “Action Guide,” and features a back-of-New-York-Times-bestselleresque picture of the game’s creator, Gregory L. Kinney, on what appears to be his yacht, wearing what appears to be an epically douchey expression) I want to roll up a character capable of taking on Nazis or fighting evil voodoo witch doctors, not accurately filing tax reports or executing a bitchin’ triple-axel (that’s a thing, right?).

If anyone has any information on this game or how it came about or who this G. Kinney guy is, it would be very much appreciated.  To give you the ultimate sense of how pretentious this book is, I leave you with the following quotes, which are taken in order, in their entirety, as presented on the “World Wisdom” page, which comes just after the table of contents:

“The great creative individual . . . is capable of more wisdom and virtue than collective man ever can be.” – John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)

“One man with courage makes a majority.” – Andrew Jackson (1767-1845)

“Act well at the moment, and you have performed a good action to all eternity.” – Johann Kaspar Lavater (1741-1801) [I have this sinking suspicion that Kinney though he was talking about acting in the sense of theater, but I could just be projecting]

“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates’ loot on Treasure Island . . . and best of all, you can enjoy these riches every day of your life.” – Walt Disney (1901-1966)

“Patriotism is the same as the love of humanity.” – Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948)

“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.” – Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

“As life is action and passion, it is required of man that he should share the passion and action of his time, at peril of being judged not to have lived.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. [so perhaps Kinney used Action in the title simply in the sense of the act of doing anything, be it exciting or or otherwise?]

“God so loved the world . . .” – excerpt from John 3:16

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