Month: May 2015

Blowing Up The Movies: Punch. That. Shit!


Thanks to the phenomenal success of Atlas Games Feng Shui 2 Kickstarter the companion ebook Blowing Up The Movies achieved all of its stretch goals, covering a wide range of action movie genres from both East and West (including at least one film that the author didn’t want to cover).

I’m a big fan of Robin D. Laws’ conversational style both in speech (the excellent Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff podcast) and in print. I got on particularly well with his style in Hamlet’s Hit-Points, so if you do too, you can expect more of the same from Blowing Up The Movies.

As such it’s possible to read the book as a critical analysis only (and enjoy it!), but since this is a companion to Feng Shui 2 Laws is already preaching to the choir. Some of the titles were selected by backers and the rest will make up the core of the typical action cinema fan’s DVD collection, making BUtM one big gratification beat where the reader can smile to herself and nod in agreement with the author.

The essays typically home in on the selected movie’s defining points, narrative structure, symbolism and political/historical context &c. Laws then drops in hints for FS2 GMs on how to take those moving parts, motifs and themes and make them work mechanically with that game. This part I could take or leave — most of the time if I’m invested enough in a genre to run it, I’ve selected/hacked a system to represent it. More interesting were the suggestions for melding the action with two of Laws’ other games: Hillfolk (for a drama focused game) or GUMSHOE (for a detective game). The mechanical mis-matches were kind of glossed over, but the principle is good, and the section on melding detective work with action (Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame) is one of my favourites. And naturally Laws is going to pimp, I mean turn to his other titles when considering system.

The essays are short, incisive and mostly positive (one exception being Equilibrium, the film Laws didn’t want to write about, but it’s a good essay on what not to do when pacing your plot). The staples of Eastern MA cinema are there (Hard Boiled, Once Upon A Time In China), the modern cinematic nods to the Wuxia genres (Crouching Tiger and the slew of films in it’s wake) and a mixture of obvious and less obvious SF (The Matrix, Equilibrium, Star Wars). There’s also Die Hard which Laws declares “the quintessential 80’s movie” which would make a certain friend of mine happy. Me, I was over the moon to see Hot Fuzz in the list.

In summary, if you like Feng Shui it’s a must-read, if you like action cinema it’s great fun even without the game, and if you like Robin D. Laws it’s more of the same.

And it’s in a device-friendly format (epub/mobi) too, so it gets bonus points from me. If only the Feng Shui 2 pdf were in a tablet-friendly or even a print-friendly format… one of those would be nice.

On Violence

Guy Windsor has been thinking about violence lately.

I’ve also been thinking about violence. I started when Jeremy Clarkson punched Oisin Tymon; before Ken MacQuarrie’s findings on the incident around the 25th of March, even before the petition to reinstate Clarkson passed the million mark on the 20th.

I have no opinion on the BBC’s handling of the case. I don’t care if the BBC used this altercation as an excuse to rid themselves of Clarkson; it’s far more likely that they tried everything they could to avoid sacking him, given his export value.

These are the interesting facts:

  • 1,000,000 people demanded Clarkson be reinstated before they knew the facts
  • Clarkson showed almost immediate remorse, took responsibility for his actions and took steps to make amends
  • Oisin Tymon offered no resistance, and afterwards wanted to put the whole thing behind him
  • Before the full facts were known The Times ran a lifestyle article on celebrity meltdowns and how Tymon’s case wasn’t unique… and how any producer worth their salary would have a contingency plan — by bribing a chef to stay late, etc. (unfortunately I expect the link is behind a paywall. But here’s Katie Hopkins blaming Tymon and telling him to “man up”)

What was in the minds of Clarkson, Tymon, the Times editors, and the 1000000 people asking for Clarkson to be reinstated?

(I won’t ask what goes through Hopkins’ mind)

Windsor’s thought experiment considers three different instances of a broken leg, where the emotional response can be neutral, negative or positive; he then applies this logic to Buzz Aldrin’s punching of a certain conspiracy theorist:

I suggest that your emotional response to the injury is at least as important as the injury itself. Deciding whether Buzz Aldrin’s punch was right or wrong requires that you take the context of it into account (I was careful to link to the version of the video that shows the build-up); and determining the damage done necessarily entails finding out how the prick (I will not call him a victim, because he was the victimiser, neither will I mention his name) responded emotionally to the violence. Did it give him nightmares? Probably not. He probably went back to his posse wearing his aching jaw as a badge of pride.

Those involved in the Clarkson case will also have gone through this process of wondering whether the violence against Tymon was justified. In that process some people downplayed the severity of the attack — James May called it a “dust-up” and “not that serious” but that was probably because he’d been doorstepped and sensibly avoided saying something inflammatory. But what about the 1000000 who petitioned for Clarkson, or The Times, or Katie Hopkins? Do they really view physical and verbal assault as the cost of doing business?

And of course we don’t have Tymon’s view on it. He just wants to put it behind him; no doubt it’s been remarkably stressful on him and his family, no doubt it was a horrible incident both physically and psychologically, no doubt he’s wondered if the violence he suffered was somehow justified because of a personal failing. Of course we don’t think about these questions — because he’s a man and men should “take it”, because it’s “not that serious”, because he’s in the realm of Celebrity and Celebs… just do that kind of thing.

And that’s also the Clarkson Effect. People justified on his behalf, even without the full facts, because of his following, and they blamed Tymon and the liberal BBC, not him.

Back to Col. Aldrin, I don’t like to think about whether the punch was justified. That’s a matter for the law. But as Windsor puts it “the person who got punched was using our culture’s restrictions on violence to get away with a different kind of violence”, and I’d probably want to punch him too. Nevertheless I’m glad Col. Aldrin did and not me.


Recently Ione Wells spoke out about her sexual assault in an open letter that made national news.

Ms Wells’ letter talks about the way violence is an attack not only on persons but their communities.

I don’t know who the people in your life are. I don’t know anything about you. But I do know this: you did not just attack me that night. I am a daughter, I am a friend, I am a girlfriend, I am a pupil, I am a cousin, I am a niece, I am a neighbour, I am the employee who served everyone down the road coffee in the café under the railway. All the people who form those relations to me make up my community, and you assaulted every single one of them. You violated the truth that I will never cease to fight for, and which all of those people represent – that there are infinitely more good people in the world than bad.
This letter is not really for you at all, but for all the victims of attempted or perpetrated serious sexual assault and every member of their communities. I’m sure you remember the 7/7 bombings. I’m also sure you’ll remember how the terrorists did not win, because the whole community of London got back on the Tube the next day. You’ve carried out your attack, but now I’m getting back on my tube.

I wouldn’t dare compare her ordeal with a celebrity punch-up. But the responses to #NotGuilty say a lot about the culture of entitlement and tolerance for psychological violence towards — which is I think exactly the same root as dismissing the violence towards Tymon and telling him to “man up”, because 1000000 people feel entitled to Top Gear.


I was going to say something about martial training — which is necessarily violent, but the intent is not to terrorise or cause injury. At least, not in any decent school. But this post is already a bit long so I’ll save that for another day.

National Stationery Week Day 7: All Rolled Up!

Whoops! I missed day 7. So belatedly let’s look at All Rolled Up’s dry erase cards:


They come in two sizes.


This Staedtler Lumocolor correctable marker was the one they recommended — it comes off with a bit of elbow grease, meaning it won’t just be wiped off by mistake, and I could prepare tiles in advance.


Two packs of cards and a marker cost me a little over a fiver — great value.

National Stationery Week Day 6

Sometimes you just need a pencil.


National Stationery Day 5: Bottling It


The cool thing about Waterman’s ink is the fact you can tip the bottles on their side:


This makes getting the last of the ink from the bottle fairly easy. South Seas Blue (now “Inspired Blue” after the EU made them reformulate without phenol) is the only bottle I have on the go at the moment. It’s a really nice shade of turquoise that gets very exciting with a flex nib.


Even better, if you lay it on very thick you get a fantastic red sheen at the edges:


It’s pretty but not something I would write with often. And I found that it had flow issues in an Ahab.

Waterman inks are good, cheap and generally safe. Richard Binder recommends them for vintage pens (along with Diamine). If you like their limited range of colours they’re a safe bet. But that bottle design is just great, which is why I’m hanging on to my empties.


200 Word RPG Challenge: Muun

This is my entry for David Schirduan’s 200 Word RPG Challenge. It’s a supplement for Into the Odd.

PDF here.

Into the Odd: Muun


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