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Population: One

Hexhounds: Session Notes

I’m not even going to try and make sense of these. And, um, sorry about the handwriting. You’ll note that early on I just filled up index cards; later on I got smart and started dating them. If/when I do this again, I’m going to date every single index card I use — some of the threat clocks in particular are totally mysterious to me and I’d love to know which sessions they’re associated with.

Sometimes I meticulously recorded downtime actions. Sometimes I did not.

One might think that the Hexhounds never talked about anything but moral transgressions and Dock’s love life; that would be untrue. I just found those kinds of quotes really funny so I wrote them down more often.

Hexhounds: the Characters

Let’s look at some ephemera! We’ll start with the character and crew sheets. This first chunk is the crew in its current configuration, with Crowl possessing Helena and a Hawkers crew sheet. If I had to guess I’d say we played around sixteen sessions.

Now the original versions of — OK, it’s complicated. Sal was playing Cassilda, who was possessed by Crowl. When Sal decided to switch characters, she decided that Crowl was now the main character and they’d be possessing someone else’s body. In the end the host was Helena, mistress of an extensive information network.

The change from Shadows to Hawkers was much simpler. At one point, we realized the crew was more interested in selling mushroom wine than they were in selling secrets, and we just shifted the crew type over. I let them shift their advances to new choices.

Finally, here are the first of a whole bunch of index cards. These were my notes on the PCs and their close affiliates. Neither of Sal’s characters got good index cards because she started playing in the third or fourth session and I neglected to jot things down. I didn’t wind up referring to these a lot so it made no practical difference, but I wish I’d used them more.

Man, I didn’t use the crew’s enemies much. There was always something else going on! I should have pulled Celene in for the final few sessions now that I look at these again — see what I mean? I didn’t use these to refresh ideas as much as I wish I had.

Clive was this Skovlander thug whose mind was horribly damaged when the crew threw him into an extra-dimensional space for a few days. They felt pretty bad about it so he wound up living in their lair for a long time.

Astrid and Serk were Skovlanders actually living in Skovland. Astrid was a spy in a noble household, who didn’t wind up being particularly central. Serk followed the crew back to Doskvol and kept getting in trouble. Urchins!

Hexhounds, a Blades in the Dark Campaign

“They were four total strangers, with nothing in common, meeting for the first time. An orphaned cultist, a disgraced sailor, a fallen noble, and a demon. Before the day was over, they broke the rules. Bared their souls and touched each other in a way they never dreamed possible.”

Last night we wrapped up a Blades in the Dark campaign that had started on July 3rd, 2018. Sixteen months is not forever by some standards, but it’s a solidly impressive run compared to my usual track record, and it goes into the books as one of the three best campaigns I’ve ever run. (Huey Long’s Men of Action and Orlando Trash.)

One Year of AMC Stubs

I generally always feel like I want to see more movies. A year ago I decided that if I signed up for an all-you-can-eat movie theater membership I might actually see more movies. Mostly thanks to the sunk cost fallacy. Accordingly, I signed up for AMC’s version of the program and waited to see what would happen.

This cost me $21 a month. In order to avoid having to make a spreadsheet, I decided my break even target was 2 movies a month. In Seattle, the average ticket runs around $12, but matinees are like $6, so I figured 2 movies a month would be a simple target.

As it turned out, I saw 28 movies at AMC theaters in the following 12 months. Definitely worth the while! July was my most rapacious month, in which I saw five movies. I saw nothing at AMC in February, cause it’s a bad month for movies and I was busy watching noirs, and I saw nothing at AMC in September, because I spent two weeks on vacation and then got sick.

I only really regret one of them, The Hustle, not to be confused with Hustlers which I just saw and really enjoyed. Even the relatively bad movies like Glass or Godzilla: King of the Monsters — I mean, I’d take those four hours back but it was worth the risk. (I knew The Hustle was gonna suck and I saw it anyhow. I don’t know why.)

And man! I would not have stumbled across the dark slice of neo-noir, Destroyer. I would not have caught Overlord. I probably would have put off going to see The Favorite and it’s one of the best things I saw all year. The slight sense of wasting money pushed me to take more chances. That worked out perfectly.

Overall? Well, I’ve watched 51 movies this year and it’s not over yet. Last year, I watched 49 movies total. Year before that, just 37. That was about typical, so looks like the membership paid off in general. That’s a happy ending!

Europe Thoughts

What do you know; it’s a different culture! Um.

That was a pretty great trip. It was really satisfying to find out that I’m still able to do a 14 day trip with one bag successfully; I’m getting older but still pretty functional. We saw places I’d never seen, which is always awesome. My backpack was stolen on the way to Budapest (literally from three feet above my head, kudos to the thief) so that was sad, but I had my electronics and passport and credit cards on me at the time so it could have been worse. I’m lucky to be able to take that kind of loss in stride.

I did find out something interesting about my resilience. I can be very minimal if I’ve planned for it, which I knew. However, as it turned out, the thought of figuring out where to buy some replacement clothing and toiletries and a bunch of other small things was daunting for me. I didn’t mind being bare bones, I minded having to reconstruct my framework for travel on short notice. In the end Delta rebooked our flight at no cost so we could cut the trip short and not spend any additional money. Right call, and we’ll revisit Budapest again some day.

Cologne Dom
This is a thing I liked.

Things I liked a lot, in rough chronological order: Paris croissants, Disneyland Paris (the main park), the Amsterdam houseboat we stayed in, pannekoeken, rijstafel, Amsterdam museums, Utrecht city center, Cologne Cathedral, drinking kolsch in Cologne, the train from Cologne to Vienna along the Rhine, Vienna cafes, Vienna ferris wheel, apple strudel, and a fake ruin bar in Budapest.

Things that were underwhelming: Walt Disney Studios Park, the Disney hotel, the Imperial Quarters in Vienna, and food at Disneyland Paris (worse than Disneyland or WDW’s food).

One Bag: Midway Point

A casual goal for the Europe two-week trip was trying a one bag approach to packing. Context, in case you’re randomly wandering across this: I’m nearing 50, I’m not in particularly great shape, but I have decent tolerance for roughing it. I’m also in the big and tall category, and was still able to find technical clothing that’d fit (albeit not with a ton of variety).

I brought an Osprey Farpoint 55 backpack, which is 55 liters of capacity spread among a main pack and a zip-on day pack. It doesn’t have as many interior compartments as I’d like but I made up for that with some packing cubes and all’s pretty well. I checked mine but I’m pretty sure I could have gotten away with carrying it on the plane.

Packing list (all clothing made with technical quick-dry fabrics):

  • 3 long sleeved shirts and 4 plain T-shirts
  • 3 pairs of pants
  • 3 pairs of socks plus 1 pair of compression socks for the flight
  • 4 pairs of underwear
  • iPad, Smart Keyboard, iPhone, lots of cables, and a universal charger
  • toiletries including a bottle of Dr. Bronners peppermint
  • Allbirds sneakers and a pair of sandals
  • Bathing suit
  • Light rain shell
  • Fold up travel hangars and a travel clothesline
  • Travel towel (invaluable for drying hand-washed clothing)

This all fits neatly in the Osprey with some room to spare. My plan was to hand-wash laundry every night or every other night. After a couple of iterations of this I think that would be perfectly possible but better to save it for necessity. We probably had to hand-wash at Disneyland Paris since it’s not a great place to find a laundromat, but I’m currently sitting at a brown cafe in the middle of Amsterdam drinking coffee and waiting for a laundromat dryer to finish up and that’s working out just fine for me.

Next time out I’ll add a pair of socks and a pair of pants so I can go a bit longer without feeling grotty. The shirt load out depends on the weather. If I expected to need long sleeves every day I’d want an extra long sleeved shirt. As is I’ve been fine.

The Allbirds aren’t great walking shoes but they’re okay. The ankle support is fairly poor. On the other hand, they’re very light, which is why I chose them. I’ll stick with them for travel purposes. Conversely, I wouldn’t bother with the pair of sandals under similar conditions. No point bringing something I’m only going to wear around hotel rooms.

Disneyland Paris Notes

We did a quick two-day visit, which is not all that long, but I think we gave the parks a pretty good once over. Disneyland Paris itself — the castle park — is spectacular. Walt Disney Studios Park is pretty dead but has a couple of excellent rides. And Disney Village is a dull shopping area.

As hotels go: I’d kill to have enough money to stay in the Disneyland Hotel casually. It’s literally part of the approach to Disneyland Paris, and it’s gorgeous. Sequoia Lodge was fine: less polish than I’d expected from a Disney hotel but I have no serious complaints.

I am really glad we made it out for a two day trip and would recommend it if you’re a big Disney fan and have the ability to get there. In more detail…

Super J-Cup 2019: Night One

Professional wrestling is both a commodity and an art form, and that’s why I can sit in an audience of less than a thousand people in a small ballroom in Tacoma and watch one of the best wrestlers in the world do his job.

Will Ospreay is a British wrestler. He’s 26 years old. In 2007, he was a 14 year old watching this Latino kid called Amazing Red, who in turn was wrestling up and down the East Coast in a string of independent promotions and, for a while, in TNA. Whether or not TNA was the big leagues depends on who you ask. Either way, Red had the room to stretch the boundaries of his craft and Will was soaking it all in. He dressed like Red. He recorded YouTube videos of himself replicating Red’s moves.

I know this because Will Ospreay told us so the other night, after 27 minutes of passionate wrestling against his idol, his voice cracking with emotion. Red felt it too, but he didn’t want to put what he was feeling into words. He just wanted to hug Will Ospreay and speak directly to him, whispers in his ear.

The aftermath

“Look at the names on this belt,” said Ospreay, as he held aloft his IGPW Jr. Heavyweight Championship belt. “Look at them. It’s a crime that your name isn’t among them.”

From time to time someone asks me why I like professional wrestling. It’s a good question, especially since sometimes I don’t like it very much at all. This is the answer. There are so many stories being told at once in a classic wrestling match. Some of them are fictional.

The other night, Will Ospreay and the Amazing Red told a story about a smaller, semi-retired guy battling one of the best wrestlers in the world. Will Ospreay wrestles as a junior heavyweight, but this summer he also competed in the G1 Climax tournament. That’s for heavyweights. Will won 4 out of his 9 matches against some of the best in the world. He’s over six feet tall. Amazing Red is 5′ 4″.

Unsurprisingly, Red wrestled as the underdog and came spitting distance from winning. That’s a pretty great story. Also great: watching these two master craftsmen sell that story. It’s not even remotely believable, except that they both knew how to make each other look good. At one point, Red hit his big match-winning move, his finisher. Ospreay didn’t kick out of it, because that would have established him as clearly superior. He just barely managed to get his foot onto the ropes, which breaks the pin without diminishing Red. Subtle stuff.

Ospreay, near-exhaustion

They also told a true story about a younger man and the veteran he idolized. Ospreay spent months begging Red to come out of retirement for this match, and obviously succeeded. That emotion was all over the match, and that post-match promo. It was also entwined in the fiction. Would Ospreay forget that he idolized Red and fight as hard as he could? Would he realize that he needed to stop idolizing Red in order to beat him?

They also told a story about two athletes and artists working their hearts out to entertain us. Under a thousand people in the room, and S. and I were in the front row. At one point Red wound up in the lap of the guy next to me. He reached up, grabbed my hand, got ready to pull himself up.

“Should I help?” asked the guy whose lap he was in.

“Nope, let it play out,” murmured Red. He was smiling so hard.

Why do I love professional wrestling? Well.

Amazing Red, pre-match

Review: Yesterday

That was sure a couple of movies jammed into one two hour window!

And I liked it. Danny Boyle’s a great director working with stylistic flair. The primary beats of the movie are completely fantastic. It’s a dream, perhaps literally: it’s constantly playing with space and time. The titles tell us we’re in Los Angeles before we get there. Conversations don’t miss a beat while characters instantly teleport over the space of miles.

Kate McKinnon is playing a Suffolk schoolteacher’s imaginary version of a music executive. It’s a fantasy! If you’re critiquing this movie because it doesn’t make sense, well —