Saturday, June 30, 2012

Women in Entertainment: Glass Ceilings and Floors

Disclaimer: I'm on some meds that have a me a bit out-of-sorts just currently. So pardon me if this doesn't make a lick of sense.

Over at Observations of the Fox, Mr. Wenman bemoans the lack of female-lead nerdtastic action/adventureentertainment and toy tie-ins. Being a not-quite-powerful-and-influential member of the blogosphere, I have some friends who would desperately like to be movers-and-shakers in the Hollywood scene. And they fairly consistently point to a glass ceiling/glass floor dichotomy in how women are treated in popular entertainment. For while, yes, Arwen must now wield a sword and be the one who carries Frodo in the chase to the ford, and the engineer or hot-shot pilot must now be a tough-as-nails or ice-princess woman, the leads must still be male. The successful woman must still be defined by her relationship to a guy. If two female characters are alone and chatting on the screen, they must be talking about a guy.

And this isn't likely to change. As movies go international (if there's ever a “John Carter” sequel, it'll be because of the international audience), as the tastes of the American public continue to diverge and broaden, the fabled Taste Makers have become befuddled Taste Chasers. What does the American public want? Nobody seems to know, and that's not even tackling the Russian public or the Chinese public, or the French public or... So is it any wonder that the people who are risking their own cash swerve towards conservative, tried-and-true options at every decision gate?

There is some grounds for hope. We will get sequels to “The Hunger Games” and there's a chance that Joss Whedon might get a freebie from the studios after “The Avengers.” I don't buy toys and I don't understand that market, but it does seem to me that the gender bifurcation there is a defensive crouch as well. How does that market even work without the solid, five-hour block of Saturday morning cartoons they had when I was a kid? Is everything movie tie-ins now? LEGO certainly seems to have gone that route.

Hollywood is trying to give us decent sci-fi (and is almost succeeding; “Prometheus” I am so looking at you), which is more than I expected from them. Maybe they'll drag the toy manufacturers with them? In the meantime, however, the day when there's one of these in every home can't come fast enough.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Spending Money in Pitsh

I use a cash-for-EXP system in my Doom & Tea Parties game currently. Spend a single gold piece on anything except hiring hirelings, anything at all, and you get 1 experience point.

Getting to the mid levels means dropping some serious coinage. In the Cook Expert book, a fighter needs 16,000 EXP to achieve 5th level. That's a series chunk of change, and the fighter's on the low end of the scale.

This has created a situation where my players actively look for opportunities to spend money. Equipment for hirelings, extra rations, identifying treasure, treasure maps, buying a round for everyone at the Oarsman's Rest, it's all fair game. However, it can be a challenge at times, so here follows some more practical options for spending money:


There are some potions available on the open market. Healing potions are pretty important to the current crew since they don't have a cleric among them. It is possible to commission the crafting of a potion not generally available in Pitsh, but the price is considerable, generally clocking in around 200 gp for the simplest to make.

It's sometimes possible for sorcerers, elves, and pixies to buy new spells, though its extremely rare for these to be available. And most would rather trade spells for spells.


The PCs already own a ship and rent an apartment. Generally speaking, every year, they can spend 10% of the original purchase cost of any piece of property to maintain it at its peak condition (in the case of ships, this means scraping the hull of barnacles, replacing the rigging and sails, and stuff like that). This will generally take a week's time for every 200 gp spent.

The same can be done for mundane personal gear like clothing, armour, weapons, ropes, and the like, but in general it's easier to replace rather than repair. Most magical gear doesn't require this sort of upkeep, though individual pieces may have their own special needs.

As time goes on and the PCs become more (in)famous, they'll need to worry about their property in town while they are away. All sorts of protections are available, from the mundane (better locks and bars on the windows) to the magical. Guards and guardian monsters are also possibilities.


The PCs have already made something of a splash in town as good employers (they only ever so rarely lose a hireling on an adventure these days). Spending coin to attract new employees (rowers and sailors for their ship as well as retainers) attracts attention and gets you talked about. But it's entirely possible to take this to the next level.

Pitsh is a new city, growing on the ruins of an older one. As it grows, it requires all manner of public works, from expanding the city walls to paving the streets. Keeping the sewers clear is vital as the city exists in a tropical zone and sees rain almost daily. Various services, from the magical to the mundane, are required to keep disease from spreading through the population.

More focused gifts and donations can result in improving a character's relationship with any particular group. The three temples to the gods within in the city and the temple of Tiamat outside the city will all gladly accept donations from individuals (though at this time none of them are hurting financially). There's a loose association of merchants and ship captains in town, as well as other trade groups, some fairly ad hoc (the farming community outside the walls, for instance) and some more organized (the Guild of Non-affiliated Scribes, for instance).


Spending coin on presents, fancy meals, fine clothing, minstrels, etc. in amorous pursuits can chew through coffers fairly quickly. Maintaining a mistress (all the PCs, though not all the players, are currently male) can be even more expensive. Of course, if you can't win love, you can always buy it...


They cost coin to purchase, coin to house, and coin to feed. However, they can do a lot for a PC, including spending coin doing and managing the options mentioned already while the PCs are away. Of course, these sorts of things can also be done by hiring free folk, but they don't come with the guarantees of loyalty that are the hallmark of the stock of the Shkeenites.


I'm thinking of using something similar to the investment rules from Lamentations of the Flame Princess.  They look pretty gambly to me, which would be just fine.  I also need to peruse the rules for these sorts of things in Adventurer Conquerer King.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Prometheus Review: I've Got a Bad Feeling About This...

The good news: movies based on comic books keep getting better and better. I loved “The Avengers” and the audience I saw it with clearly loved it as well.

 The bad news: sci-fi movies are getting dumber. Well-read audiences are not, apparently, inspiring well-written scripts. I've already expressed my lack of respect for the “Avatar” script. So when I say that “Prometheus” is better, but only barely, that should be understood as damning with faint praise.

Visually, it's gorgeous, and, like “Avatar” is probably worth seeing in 3D if that's not too expensive in your neck of the woods. But understand, going in, that you're about to watch a film which includes scintillating (and revealing) dialogue like, “This is a scientific expedition; no guns.” This is a movie where someone dies because they apparently forget they can turn left or right. This is a movie where a guy with a PhD in biology, in a dangerous environment, decides to pet an alien creature he can't see most of. Where the guy who's directing the hovering drones mapping out the alien complex gets lost. Where emotionless androids enjoy classic cinema.

 As others have noted, the entire third act hinges on everyone acting in the best interests of the plot-beats instead of like self-interested (or even compassionate) human beings. I'm leery about declaring the movie has an overt Pro Life chip on its shoulder only because I have a hard time believing Hollywood would purposefully make a Pro Life movie. And yet, the only way to make sense of the last act is to say all things moved in service to heavy-handed allegory.

 That said, some of the acting is excellent, the scenery and props look great, and the body-horror is pleasantly spine-shivering. I can see myself watching this one again, but I'd only own it if the remaining films in the series (the ending invites, nay, demands at least one sequel) are compelling.  

PS - Yes, I know, actors hate to work in helmets and masks, but seriously? My respect for Hugo Weaving continues to skyrocket.