Monday, September 19, 2016

[Annual Public Service Announcement] Play Like A Pirate, Don't Talk Like One -- Or if You're Going to Talk Like a Pirate, Go Big!

In 2008, I began advocating that people should celebrate "Play Like a Pirate Day" rather than participate in "Talk Like a Pirate Day." My contention was that one of the most irritating things you can hear your co-workers say is, "Aaaargh, Avast, Ye Mateys" a couple times an hour in some half-hearted participation in a day of international live action role playing. Even worse are the inconsistent uses of "Yar!"

What makes it most irritating is the fact that these small offering of participation are lackadaisical at best. It isn't talking like a pirate that's annoying, it's an ironic detachment or lack of commitment that's annoying.

I would rather my co-worker show up dressed in full "Age of Sail" apparel, blunderbuss and cutlass in hand, and charge into the office while staying in character as much as is possible for the day.  A wholehearted celebration of Talk Like a Pirate Day, I can get behind.  It would be fun, in the "employees showing up to work in costumes on Halloween" kind of way. You know... like when a person comes to work in their full blown Optimus Prime costume -- one where they can actually "transform" from robot to big rig.  Things like that create moments where you are truly impressed with your co-workers commitment. On the other hand, when your other co-worker shows up with only a pair of "cat ears" on and a mild scowl on their face, it's annoying. 

Most participation in International Talk Like a Pirate Day is of the cat ear type, and not the Optimus Prime type. That's why I still believe that it is time for the phenomenon to die. That doesn't mean that we should no longer have a day "celebrating" piracy and the outlaw attitude, or as the founder of Talk Like A Pirate Day called it "Piratitude." Pirates are still awesome (though not as awesome as Transforming Psionic Robot Pirate Ninja Dinosaur Mutant Demon Hunting Vampires), it's just that inserting random "arrrrs" like a pirate that is lame. I think gamers, and geeks of all kinds, should lay claim the holiday and re-cast it as "International Play Like A Pirate Day." That way the costume role players can  cosplay pirate and other people can play pirate themed games, read pirate themed novels, or watch pirate themed films.

As I wrote a couple of yeas ago, "from now on September 19th will be a day when families and friends get together and enjoy some form of Piratical Recreation. Such recreation can include celebrating by talking like pirates, certainly role play (in the traditional sense) is play. Our celebration is inclusive, not exclusive. But families and friends will no longer be limited to listening to the 'yars' and 'aaarghs' of everyone around them. Some might choose more formal ludographic participation -- that's game play."

Here is a list of recommended activities for this year's festivities:

1) Play a pirate themed roleplaying game. In particular, we recommend Pinnacle Entertainment Group's excellent PIRATES OF THE SPANISH MAIN. This is highly recommended for those who want to talk like a pirate. It encourages such behavior in an appropriate venue. Besides, by role playing (in the game sense) participants can act far more Piratical than is allowed under modern mores and laws.

If you want a more heroic bent with mystical aspects, you can always play Pinnacle's 50 Fathoms instead. If you aren't a fan of the Savage Worlds system, but still want to play an excellent pirate/swashbuckling role playing game you should check out 7th Sea.

2) If you own a copy -- and not many do -- play an exciting session of the classic Broadsides and Boarding Parties

If you don't own a copy of Broadsides, try one of these two excellent pirate games from GMT Games.

3) Blackbeard: The Golden Age of Piracy. The game is a redesign of Avalon Hill's classic game of the same name. The new version is suitable for 1 to 5 players and has less "down time" for players who aren't in their current turn.

4) Winds of Plunder is a quick and fun game that is more in the style of the "Eurogame" than Blackbeard or Broadsides.

5) You can play the previously reviewed Sword and Skull.

6) Lastly, we recommend watching one of your favorite pirate films.  Classics include Captain Blood and The Sea Hawk with Errol Flynn, Pirates of Penzance for those of a musical bent, and the more recent PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN films. There is a long list of wonderful films filled with pirattitude, give one of them a play today.

Or you can sing "For I am a Pirate King!"

Thursday, September 15, 2016

'Moana' had Me at "Murderous Anthropomorphic Pirate Coconuts"

The murderous anthropomorphic pirate coconuts come in around minute 1:26. I'm all in.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

New 'Warlock of Firetop Mountain' Video Game Available on Steam

When the first 'Fighting Fantasy" gamebook The Warlock of Firetop Mountain was published in 1982, it helped to create an entirely new entertainment market. Fighting Fantasy gamebooks built upon the innovations of earlier interactive fiction like the Choose Your Own Adventure series and the solo role playing game adventures designed by Ken St. Andre and his compatriots for the Tunnels and Trolls roleplaying game.

Taking these two literary innovations as their inspiration, Games Workshop founders Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson created a line of books which contained both the narrative adventure and the rules for a complete role playing game. The game rules were simple, but very flexible. Throughout the series, Fighting Fantasy authors have found ways to add on subsystems that have allowed the basic mechanics to cover various magic systems, super powers, chambara-esque samurai abilities, science fiction, werewolf transformations, and much more. A complete history of the line of books can be found in Jonathan Green's excellent book You are the Hero! Green is the author of several books in the series and a fan turned professional.

The plot of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain is simple. You are a hero, or at least an adventurer, who seeks to locate and acquire the Warlock of Firetop Mountain's fabulous treasure. The adventure itself was quite challenging and required players to carefully manage resources, develop mapping skills, and have more than a touch of luck. As difficult as the adventure was, it helped to spawn a total of 57 sequels and numerous books by competitors. Additionally, Warlock as been adapted as a board game, a D&D compatible adventure module, an interactive kindle book, and a couple of video games. Some of those games captured the excitement of the original, while others were less successful.

Tin Man Games recently released a new video game adaptation of the book and the results look promising. Rather than merely "converting" the book to graphic form, it appears that Tin Man has followed the lead of some of the best books in the Fighting Fantasy series and used the book and the rules as a skeleton on which to build a meatier product. This looks to be especially true with regard to the combat system. It appears that they've added maneuvers and other options to make the game more appealing to the modern PC gamer.

 You can see the framework of the original system, but options like "quick jab" and "piercing strike" add options unavailable in the original print book.

The game is currently available on Steam for the reasonable price of $19.99.

Have a look at the trailer and see if you want to risk the dangers that await you in Zagor's mountain stronghold.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Ghost House Pictures' 'Don't Breathe' Reunites Fede Alvarez and Jane Levy

In 2013, Ghost House Pictures rebooted the classic horror comedy series Evil Dead with a new director (Fede Alvarez) and a new star (Jane Levy). The film attempted to balance itself between the two horror/comedy extremes of the Evil Dead franchise. It was less creepy and haunting than the original film and focused less on humor than Evil Dead 2 or Army of Darkness. In attempting this balance, the film selected a talented comedic actress whose prior work included the short-lived and entertaining series Suburgatory.

The pairing was a success. Rotten Tomatoes ratings show that many critics and audience members found the Alvarez/Levy Evil Dead to be a worthy addition and the film is by a large margin the most successful theatrical release in the series. This success was in no small part due to the cult classic status the movies have attained as they have continued to build audience. The box office success of the 2013 Evil Dead film doesn't in itself answer whether audiences truly liked the new vision or whether the success was due primarily to the power of the brand. The film was polarizing among some of the fan base who thought the film was too gory and lacked sufficient humor. Ghost House Pictures has an opportunity to prove that Alvarez and Levy have appeal outside of a strong brand with this year's Don't Breathe. This film is an original story that features no supernatural elements and promises to focus on suspense rather than gore.

Don't Breathe opens with a premise similar to that of In Cold Blood, but turns the tables on the criminals in a fashion common in horror films like You're Next. The filmic twist in this case is that audiences are supposed to sympathize with one of the home invaders as she realizes that she and her friends have invaded the home of someone who, though blind, is freakishly good at killing people.

The film is slated for wide release on August 26th, right in time for the new school year and a good lead into Halloween.