Monday, April 22, 2013


Well, I never got around to the third post, on the neighborhoods of Porto Liure.  Honestly, that post will take some work, and I haven't had the time or resources available to me to do it easily.  I've also been distracted by what happened in Boston last week--my boss actually ran in the marathon and finished less than half an hour before the first bomb went off.  He was only a block or two away at the time.  I've been spending more time trawling the news than is normal even for me.

Because of this, I'm not really ready to make that post right now either--I've got to spend a fair bit of time actually developing the content of that post.  Maybe I'll get to it tonight, but I'm not promising that--merely hoping so.

Two quick comments instead--one of them off topic and one of them on.  First the off-topic.  In the wake of the release of Delta Machine I've been listening to a lot of the more recent Depeche Mode--particularly that one and Sounds of the Universe, which I never allowed to grow on me when it was new, so I hadn't really liked it or listened to it in a long time.  Delta Machine right now is kinda in the same boat--I haven't heard it much yet, but I'm not exactly loving it.  I'm trying to keep a more open mind, because listening to Sounds now, I don't think it's all that bad.  It's also, however, not that great.  It reminds me greatly of Exciter, when I was really hoping for something that reminded me more of Playing the Angel.  For my money, Depeche Mode really lost their way when Alan Wilder left.  I read a review recently of Delta Machine and one thing that the review said finally clicked with me why Depeche Mode has largely lost me.  It didn't make any reference to their music as synthpop.  I had thought that that was maybe because synthpop is an esoteric indie genre label that the writer was either unfamiliar with, or didn't want to use because his audience would be unfamiliar with it, but the more I think about it, it's because Depeche Mode's music really doesn't resemble synthpop very much at all anymore.  I'm not just talking about the preponderance of guitars (that's been true since at least Violater maybe even Music for the Masses, and didn't fundamentally change the nature of the music too much.)  I'm talking about how Depeche Mode has largely morphed into a bluesy alternative band that uses synthesizers and samplers somewhat as a legacy element of their electronic music past.

Needless to say, I was a huge fan of Depeche Mode as synthpop. To me, they were key in defining the sound of the genre. Depeche Mode as something else is still interesting to me, but I don't like it nearly as much.  The evolution is somewhat gradual, so maybe there's not a lot to be gained by trying to determine a cut-off point, but I see the departure of Alan Wilder as the defining moment when Depeche Mode became a band that I was significantly less interested in than I had been.  This isn't exactly fair, because I thought both Violater and Songs of Faith and Devotion were disappointing.  To say that Ultra and then Exciter were even more disappointing is just evidence of that continued arc, and regardless of the presence or not of Alan Wilder, that arc was probably still happening.

Playing the Angel was kind of the "back to basics" album for Depeche Mode, but it now looks more like an anomoly than a change in direction.  A momentary throwback, or something.  Of all the post-Wilder albums, it's the only one that comes close to matching even the least of the pre-departure albums (and the least of the pre-departure albums is probably A Broken Frame which was made before Wilder was integrated into the band in the first place.  The more I think about it, the more I think Wilder was hugely instrumental in making Depeche Mode into the band that I loved in the 80s and 90s, and his absense is keenly and disappointingly noted.  Repeatedly.

The on-topic comment.  Being older doesn't necessarily make one more mature when it comes to role-playing games.  In our ongoing Star Wars game, in which most of the party is playing jedi knights (newly minted, in fact, as knights), we're still capable of causing comedy of errors type chaos; real Keystone Kops moments.  This weekend, while walking through an open black market of sorts en route to our actual objective, we got distracted by lots of cool loot.  One of the Jedi was smitten with an assassin droid that folded up into a briefcase, a la Iron Man's armor.  Lacking money, he decided on trying to figure out a way to con or cheat the salesman out of his stuff.  Simultaneously, one of the non-Jedi members of our party was smitten by the wares of a weapons salesmen.  He didn't have any money either, but the dealer he was talking to said that finding some way to get rid of his competitor who was flooding the market with stolen thermal detonators would be worth a couple.

The poor GM, at this point, saw the entire affair, which was only meant to be a colorful little description on the way to somewhere else, go completely off the rails.  While my character and another Jedi staged a fake lightsaber fight as a distraction (echoes of the Michael York Three Musketeers running through my mind), someone else set up a spot where he could pick off the corrupt arms dealer with a sniper rifle, and two other Jedi were running a con game in the droid shop.  The distraction proved to be a little too good when the market was flooded with the better part of twenty guards, and the droid guy clamped up and told his existing battle-droids to be on the lookout for potential theft.  Things weren't looking good, so my character, now doing an extremely quick scan of the dead arm's dealer's kiosk/tent made an somewhat impetuous decision that another distraction was needed to extricate ourselves from our dilemma.  Setting a thermal detonator with a short timer on a crate that I presumed was full of stolen thermal detonators and then running, a massive explosion killed six guards, blinded almost everyone in the entire market (including the rest of the guards and three of the PCs--including the one who was skeptical of this entire affair and holding back.)  The jedi I had been fake fighting took that opportunity to loot a jewelry store.  The jedi attempting to con or steal the assassin droid was getting beat up by the combat droids, so he force jumped out of the tent with the briefcase.  Except... he was blind.  And the tent was on fire.  So, he made a big parabolic arc through the air as basically a flaming piece of tarp with a jedi in it, and crashed into another stand.  Me and the sniper looted the arms dealer's kiosk.   Not the one that was dead--his entire kiosk was vaporized--but the one who initially asked us to get rid of his competitor.

The assassin droid, in the end, was not successfully stolen, and the PC who force jumped in the air with it is now blind and in jail.  We're fairly confident he can beat the rap.  We're also fairly confident that his sight will return.

I'm not sure which emotion was more prominent on the GM's face during the evening... complete frustration, or bemusement.  No doubt, he was struggling between the two extremes himself.  We're also hopeful that Master Luke, who championed our would-be Jedi's cause against the will of the rest of the council, doesn't find out what we did.  That was, after all, just last session...


Joshua Dyal said...

I wonder, in retrospect, if this kind of thing is almost a guaranteed occurance in an overly scripted, pre-determined campaign. Folks pretty much always react badly to feeling constrained and controlled and even when you mostly buy into the premise, it's hard not to occasionally passive-aggressive and strike against the feeling of constraint. Especially in an environment like RPGs (in real life, such lack of control is correctly viewed as immaturity, for the most part. In your hobby, if you can't have fun, then why do it?)

Our email inboxes have also "blown up" with a bizarro discussion on alignment. One character said that he's chaotic good, therefore he doesn't have any qualms about theft, only murder. I don't know how that's good by any kind of rational point of view. I even said so--considering theft good is the purvue of objectively evil radicals like Lenin, Stalin, Moussolini, Hitler and Occupy Wall Street thugs.

Although I do admit that that was specifically said to try and goad a response from my mostly very liberal gaming buddies. :)

Joshua Dyal said...

I've also gone a bit further and gotten all of the Depeche Mode albums and put them in my car in CD format. I listened to everything from Violator and beyond and just finished Delta Machine on the way into work this morning. Started over again all the way back with Speak and Spell.

Fun stuff. Especially listening to the later albums, though--it's painfully obvious that the Martin Gore ballads just need to stop. Those are, without fail, the worst songs on every CD. He hasn't had a good one since Black Celebration way back in 1986.)

Joshua Dyal said...

OK, maybe that's a wee bit harsh. "Things You Said" and "Blue Dress" weren't bad.