Pie in the Skyrim

i herd u believe in ghosts lol

I haven’t talked about the Xbox in a while, but I have been playing it. The game du jour is Skyrim. I’m a noble warrior maiden named Hedruga, who wears heavy armor and smashes around with a two-handed hammer. I don’t use much magic, and only go with archery when it has the possibility of being funny. I’m level 20 at the moment, and no idea how far I am into it.

I’m going to be honest, I’m largely playing out of inertia. The game isn’t doing much of anything for me. I absolutely could not care less about this world and its inhabitants. There’s some kind of war going on that I fall asleep every time someone tells me about it. I’m a “Dragonborn” which means I can learn Dragon shouts and absorb Dragon souls and zzzzzz. I really think I’ve reached my absolute limit on fantasy stuff.

It doesn’t help that it takes place in the Land of Assholes. Everyone is either a jerk or a moron and the developers assume you want to be a jerk as well. Case in point: I got to a town that is corrupt, being run by a crime lord and the Thieves’ Guild. Everyone in the town hates the thieves, and there’s even a person in the town who says she wants to bring them down, but that isn’t an option. There’s no quest to clean up the town. Instead there’s a long (and apparently stupid) quest to join up. Last night I found out that the guy who’s fighting the Evil Empire in this dumb war is hell of racist. So yay, let me mos def choose a side there. The entire game is full of ugly, hopeless bits like that, with little humor or levity to offset it. I just got a quest to go murder an old woman because she’s a bad orphanage-runner.

Not giving a damn about the world or its inhabitants, I’m a tourist, just wandering around discovering places. But there’s only so much of that that’s interesting, since what you discover is yet another spider cave, bandit camp, or skeleton tomb.

(Now here’s one bit of humor I found. I went to a town and this guy tells me not to go into the barrow nearby, as it’s haunted. Of course, I go, and it turns out there’s this other dude who’s been pretending to be a g-g-g-ghost to scare away people from a treasure he thinks is down there. He laughs at the townsfolk for being superstitious, and when I put an end to this (with my hammer) the original guy feels dumb for falling for the ruse. But this is a world where there are alive skeletons and necromancers and zombies and other creepy stuff. They thought the barrow had spooks in it because THAT IS WHERE SPOOKS ACTUALLY LIVE. I go there looking for them! Assuming ANY barrow has spooks in it is perfectly rational behavior!)

I have more money than god and very few critters I’ve encountered give me a hard time, but that could be because I haven’t progressed the main story too far. Giants can kill me by looking at me crosseyed, but then again they leave you alone if you leave them alone, so giants are cool by me. As I say, I haven’t done anything with magic or stealth. I’ve done a little bit of alchemy just for something to do and I’ve enchanted a couple things, but nothing major.

Bethesda Studios did Skyrim and it looks a lot like Fallout 3 in many ways, but all that does is make me wish I was playing Fallout 3 instead. In that game, exploring turned up cool places and bits of story. Here it’s just more of the same.

I feel like bagging it in favor of something else, but I don’t know what that would be, other than Fallout or Borderlands, the only games I seem to enjoy. On the other hand, the only food item my character carries around is an apple pie she’s saving for when she finishes the game. If I don’t finish, I deny Hedruga her victory pie, and I don’t want to be the person who does that.

Posted in Videogames | Tagged , ,

Marrying Mr. Darcy

Despite playing a lot of boardgames, I have only Kickstarted a handful. For a long time I didn’t see much reason to Kickstart any, as I already have a ton of games, and more to choose from to purchase, all of which have the added advantage of already existing. The game that first convinced me otherwise was Marrying Mr. Darcy, a card game based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, by Erika Svanoe.

Now, despite this being the second Pride and Prejudice game I own, I’m not a huge fan of the book. I’ve tried to read it twice and I’ve never gotten more than 20 pages in. It’s just not a world I care at all about spending a lot of time in. (Becky is a fan, though.)

However, a game by a woman developer, with an atypical theme, at a reasonable price with attractive artwork? That’s something I could definitely get behind. I backed it and a while back received my copy.

Now, the problem with a light, Pride and Prejudice-themed card game is finding the right people to play with, so it didn’t get played right away, but this weekend I broke it out and we gave it a go.

The game is divided into two parts. During the Courtship phase you draw Event cards and all kinds of things happen to you. You can go to parties, have tea time, play the pianoforte — there’s just no limit! You also can improve your character by playing cards to increase your Wit, Beauty, Friendliness, and Reputation. Also your Cunning and Dowry, which are sort of separate things. The goal is to try and meet the standards of your dream suitor, of whom there are six. You can also scratch the eyes out of your rivals, except we’re all ladies here, so you just whisper damning indictments of their qualities over scones.

When the events run out it’s Proposal time. In order of Cunning, you see which suitors you can qualify for, and roll a die for each one. On a 1-3, they tell you to hit the bricks, but on a 4-6 they propose! You can accept the proposal or turn them down, hoping for a better one. If you end up without a man, you roll on the Old Maid table to see your ultimate fate. You see how many points your mate or Old Maid-ness scored you, add up your character points, and high score wins.

If it sounds incredibly random, it is. You don’t have a lot of control over your fate, though there is enough to make things interesting. I’ve described it as “Pride and Prejudice and Talisman”, where you run around drawing cards and trying to beef up your character for the final showdown. It’s more of what’s called (often condescendingly) an “experience game”.

If you get into the theme, it’s a lot of fun. In our game I was Jane Bennett, and I was the odds-on favorite to win. Matt had been forced into a marriage with Mr. Wickham that he couldn’t spare the Reputation to get out of, and I had more feminine qualities than Becky or Satoko (their characters, I mean. They’re both lovely women.) However, my perfect match, Mr. Bingley, ended up going off to London and never came back, the cad! I wasn’t particularly Cunning, so by the time my Proposal phase came up, everyone had been cherry-picked and I only had one possible suitor, who rejected me. I ended up an Old Maid and even rolled poorly on that chart, so I was alone and miserable (though Beautiful and Friendly) for the rest of my short life. Satoko’s Caroline Bingley ended up winning.

However, in that game, nobody Married Mr. Darcy, so could we actually claim we’d played Marrying Mr. Darcy??

It got another play yesterday with my regular game group. This time Mr. Darcy did get married, to Chris, through a Surprise Proposal.

The fact that Darcy went for a scandalous hussy known for wearing low-cut gowns and shamelessly flirting with soldiers made me question whether or not he’s such a catch after all. Meanwhile, I, also playing Caroline Bingley, won by gold-digging and settling for Mr. Denny instead of holding out and risking Old Maiditude for Col Fitzwilliam.

Marrying Mr. Darcy is a feather-light yet fun game. The artwork is great and the card text is completely charming and hilarious. I’m totally pleased with my backing of it. If it sounds like something you might enjoy, you can get a copy at the Marrying Mr. Darcy website.

Posted in Boardgames | Tagged , ,

I Had That! #21: Shogun Warriors

Those of you who were around during the time period I’ve been documenting knew this would be an eventual entry. When the Shogun Warriors hit America in 1979, they hit hard. There was no way to be 11 years old, see one of these, and not instantly make whatever unholy pacts it took to get one. Two-foot tall cool looking robots fitted with missiles and little tiny spaceships and spring-loaded fists and axes? If J.R. Ewing on Dallas wasn’t spending his millions on these, why did he even have money?

My first experience with them was seeing my friend Scott MacDonald’s “Mazinger” (the middle one above) figure and being bowled over by it. I hadn’t yet seen these things in the store yet, so when he wheeled this toy out I couldn’t even process it. Such was my envy that I went home and attempted to build as big a robot as I could out of Legos. Somehow my squat, square, sad little thing failed to capture the magic.

Eventually I would be the owner of a Raydeen (left) and Dragun (right). I don’t remember what they got up to in their adventures, but I’m sure it involved numerous disputes to be solved through missile-firing combat. In addition to the big figures I also had a little die-cast guy named Poseidon.

Apparently he came in different sizes, and I had the smallest one, with the non-firing missile launchers on his shoulders. Wait, there are no missile launchers on his shoulders! That’s because one broke off accidentally, and as I would rather have a broken toy than an asymmetric one, I broke the other off. That story right there tells you a lot about me as a kid.

One memorable Christmas my Aunt Zu gave me the companion to the Shoguns, Godzilla.

Image: Wildtoys.com

I instantly ran over to her and hugged and kissed her and showered all the affection I had, as this was clearly the Best Toy Ever. He spit a tiny tongue of fire and shot his fist off, just like the real Godzilla! (Very disappointed the most recent movie once again failed to acknowledge Big G’s fist-firing ability.)

Interestingly, although Marvel Comics had a Shogun Warriors comic book, I’ve never read it. For some reason, I wasn’t interested in hearing more about them.

When did I get it? According to sources, they came out in 1979. I probably got them in that year, and Godzilla for Christmas of 1980? I don’t really remember too well.

Do I still have it? The giant robots and Godzilla are all gone. The only trace that remains is this:

That’s one of the plastic spaceships Raydeen shot out of his chest. I’ve held on to that all this time. I also still have the Poseidon in the image above. I do have, however, more recent (smaller) toys of both Raydeen and Dragun, up on the nerd shelves.

Posted in Toys | Tagged , ,

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America is 238 Today

Perhaps it could stop acting like a child?

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Hobby Lobby

Today, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court stated that religious belief (backed with a lot of cash) is more important than actual scientific and medical fact.

Hobby Lobby, a chain of craft stores, decided it didn’t want to cover birth control in its mandated employee health insurance because its owners oppose abortion and felt that birth control pills were an abortifacient. These beliefs are wrong — that is, factually incorrect — but nevertheless we had to let the Supreme Court decide just how important actual facts are.

Turns out, if the facts can be ignored in favor of wealthy corporations and against women, they aren’t that big of a deal. So Hobby Lobby is now free to execute its religious freedom in denying health care to women.

Some other facts that need to be ignored:

1) Hobby Lobby does the bulk of its business with China, where abortion is mandated by the state, but that doesn’t seem to compromise their beliefs.

2) Hobby Lobby invests, as part of its pension plan, in companies that manufacture birth control pills, but that doesn’t seem to compromise their beliefs.

3) Hobby Lobby’s employee health insurance covers vasectomies, as that doesn’t seem to compromise their beliefs.

These firmly held religious beliefs only seem to matter when they both affect women and make instead of cost money.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “What if the boss is a Jehovah’s Witness? Are they exempt from paying for blood transfusions? Scientologist and psychiatrists? Christian Scientist and any health care at all?” You’re right to wonder that, but don’t worry; the ruling specifically says those don’t apply here. Why? I don’t know, but I can guess. For one thing, religious beliefs are varied, and there are differing opinions on what is and isn’t permitted, but one thing they all seem to agree on is that women are filthy whores whose slut-holes must be vigilantly monitored by their male superiors. Also, and this is a sort of by-the-by, but I guess the Supreme Court can now decide which religion is true and right (conservative Christianity) and which are bullshit nonsense we don’t have to acknowledge (all others). No big deal there.

We know that Corporations have Freedom of Speech. And they’re people. Now they have Religious Beliefs. It seems like they can do just about anything these days except go to jail when they break the law.

This was a golden opportunity for the right wing. It simultaneously got to help a corporation do whatever the hell it wanted to do AND state how unclean and wanton women are for thinking about non-procreative sex. It came as no surprise to anyone who has had to make herself content in the knowledge that Corporatism and Corporate-friendly Christianity get the last word on anything in this country anymore. We don’t need facts, we don’t even need common sense, we just need whatever Milton Friedman and Wall Street Jesus tell us they deeply believe.

It’s hard to find any winner other than Corporatism in this ruling. Even the evangelicals who have been fooled into thinking the GOP gives a damn about their sincere religious beliefs don’t win, because let me assure you, if you sincerely believed that Jesus would have wanted capital gains taxed at a higher rate you’d find out in a second what your allies think of you.

It’s am embarrassing mess of nonsense, this ruling. It follows the trend of corporate entities gaining more rights and actual human beings losing them. And I don’t see how we’ll ever retreat from this “progress”.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to fill out my What I Did With My Genitals This Weekend report and get it onto my boss’ desk.

Posted in Politics | Tagged ,

I Had That! #20: The Twilight Zone Companion by Marc Scott Zicree

I’ve said before that I was something of a coward when I was a kid. I was scared of everything, especially the supernatural. Fear of demons bedeviled my nights, and I didn’t sleep with a light off until well past the age I should have started. But I was still fascinated by such things, which is why I kept reading the ghost and “true exorcism” stories in the National Enquirer. It’s also why I stayed up late on Friday nights to watch reruns of “The Twilight Zone” (followed by cool-down reruns of “I Married Joan” and “My Little Margie”.)

I loved “The Twilight Zone”. Even the boring ones that didn’t have aliens or monsters or robots in them. The ones that terrified me were “Night Call”, “Little Girl Lost”, “Living Doll”, and “The Howling Man”. Others I just thought were a lot of fun.

Around this time (10th grade or so) I was taking computer programming classes at Tulane through a special program there (later, this would be my first experience in flunking out of a college class due to depression, but that’s another story.) It was Summer, and ‘d spend entire days in the computer lab. Every now and then I’d take the streetcar over to the Little Professor Book Shop (on Magazine Street?) and browse there. That’s where I saw The Twilight Zone Companion, by Marc Scott Zicree, a book that not only talked about the show, with behind-the-scenes information, but also had a complete episode guide. I had to have it, even though it was crazy expensive by my standards.

Somehow I eventually got it, and I pored over the thing. It was, essentially, a cereal book, one where I could randomly open it to anywhere and start reading. I learned all about the show and, more importantly, about the episodes I hadn’t seen. I marked off the ones I had seen with a pencil in the margins. It wasn’t my first stab at compulsive fandom (one of the projects I did in the Tulane computer labs was a similar checklist for Doctor Who episodes and Target novelizations), but it was a significant one.

Later, my dad saw my interest in the show and remarked that when he was younger he enjoyed reading the short stories of Charles Beaumont, one of the three main writers for the show. It had somehow never occurred to me to grab books by the TZ authors, even though I knew they wrote them. In a Serlingesque bit of synchronicity, I shortly thereafter discovered a newly published collection of Beaumont’s work, Best of Beaumont, and bought and devoured it as well.

This was around the time of the Twilight Zone movie, which I eagerly saw, but was completely unmoved by. I knew these stories, but this just wasn’t the same thing, not by a long shot. In fact, the “It’s a Good Life” segment baffled me. Why would you do that to such a great story?

Similarly, by the time that horror anthologies were getting another heyday on TV, including a new Twilight Zone series, I just wasn’t interested. I still considered myself a fan of the original series, but for some reason I didn’t care about any of the new stuff. I can’t tell if that made me a good fanboy or a bad one.

The Twilight Zone is now available on Netflix and I’ve thought about running through the series again, on demand, the way younger me would have dreamed of doing. I re-watched “It’s a Good Life” recently and it still holds up.

When did I get it? The Twilight Zone Companion was published in 1982 and Best of Beaumont in November of that year, so that seems to be about right on target.

Do I still have it? Still have them both, though the Companion is beat to hell and falling apart.

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