About this blog

This is the official blog of Phoenix Roleplaying, a multi-genre simming site, created in August 2010.

Run by the players, we hope to achieve great things.

Where our journey takes us, who knows.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

The Magical Trees of Androzani (Review: 'Doctor Who' 33.X, "The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe")

There’s always one Christmas present that you really weren’t expecting, either in a good way or a bad way. This year, it was Androzani popping up again in Doctor Who.

“The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe” is clearly inspired by the Narnia novels of  C.S. Lewis (who died on 22 November 1963, a day before the first airing of “An Unearthly Child”), where a family go to a country house and discover a doorway into another world – Moffat has stated as such and is clearly a big fan of the series, although he doesn’t like the religious bits. I like the religious bits as a Christian, but we’ll have to agree to differ there.

This story starts slowly and rather patchily – the pre-titles sequence is rather poor, but things get better once Madge Arwell (Claire Skinner from the wonderful comedy series Outnumbered, turning in a great performance), a recently widowed mother of two takes her two children to Uncle Digby’s house and one of them decides to open their Christmas present early.

“Space Narnia” is a wonderful setting and a great environment, playing host to a story of great pathos [Are you sure you know what that means? – Ed. Oh, stop being such a Scrooge!], humour (the trademark Moffat wit is fully present, especially with the three soldiers) and adventure. The climax is a bit predictable and some of the stuff might not stand up to a second viewing, but I enjoyed the second half considerably, making up for a lacklustre second half. Glad to see Amy and Rory – they’ll be missed once they go. The sets are great and it’s a shame that Doctor Who Confidential is no longer with us to explore the making of this special in more detail.

Matt Smith’s performance is highly praiseworthy. He’s really established the Eleventh Doctor as a unique character, being his own manic style to the role in a way that you can’t imagine David Tennant doing. Long may he continue in this role.

It’s not perfect, but the few sprouts are balanced out by some truly great turkey. A lovely Christmas treat – it’s just a pity we didn’t get a little after-dinner morsel, e.g. an episode title, to whet our appetite for 2012.

8/10.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Merry Christmas

I would like to wish all the readers of this blog a Merry Christmas.

May God bless you all at this time and always.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Mischa Brendel interviews Jason Andersen - Part Two

For roughly how long have you been playing with Phoenix and its predecessors?
Based on when I saved Brandon's file, I joined AJJE in late May or early June 2010. Not long after that came the Schism, and for many reasons, one of which was that Ash and Deb welcomed me unreservedly when I first joined, I followed them to Phoenix. Since then I've started a few Sims of my own, taken over GM duties, made all those characters I mentioned before, ran for office (and was thoroughly beaten, and rightly so), and have taken over the Phoenix wiki. I have also taken on the position as the Awards and Rewards Officer.

Not only do you play different characters in different sims, but you also have a few NPCs that you have created and control as the GM of a few sims. Could you tell a bit about these NPCs and how they came to be?
One of these NPCs is Jane V. Johnson on the Firefly sim Odyssey. Designed as a recurring antagonist for the Odyssey crew, Jane is a cold businesswoman whose ambition sometimes blinds her to danger. She is based off of the wonderful Jane Badler and the V character, 'Diana', she portrayed (both in the original series and the short-lived reboot).

As a player on the Odyssey myself, I've had the pleasure (although my character certainly wouldn't use that word) of running into Jane. I immediately got the impression that you've taken a lot of time to design this character and the company she represents. Is that true? Would you say that she took about as much time coming up with as other characters, or did it take you longer, or perhaps shorter?
Actually, Jane came to me rather quickly. I knew when I took over as GM for the Odyssey that I wanted to introduce some kind of pirate or bounty hunter type that would be a recurring nemesis for the Odyssey crew. This idea came out of my brainstorming how I was going to get one of the characters in that sim, Ayla, ‘home’ to find out that her stepfather was still alive and looking for her. I figured if I were Buddy, an important person in Ayla’s background story, the easiest way to find her would be to put a bounty on her. So that's how I came up with the concept of Jane, although I didn't know who she'd be then. One night I was watching the remake of V with Jane Badler in her role as Diana. As a kid, I remembered being intrigued by the original Diana (also played at that time by Jane Badler), and knew that she would be just cold and heartless enough to pull off what I wanted to do with the character. It was also my homage to Jane and the overall V series (Jane's middle initial, for instance, points directly to the series), and because I knew the new series was soon to be cancelled because the writers were just terrible. The company Jane Johnson works for is also a nod towards the series (and the other major actor in the original V, Marc Singer), and her ship (The Devils Double) is named after the musical album Badler released [You learn something new every day – Ed.]. The company itself took longer than Jane's character, since I was already using the Diana character as a template (although Diana was a seductress, she never actually fell in love with anyone, but I wanted Jane to have a bit of vulnerability as well, especially after the Captain sweet talked her a bit). I spent an evening researching bounty hunters and how one gets into the business. Since the company is relatively new to bounty hunting, I needed to know how a small company would organically grow into it. The idea that they were originally dealers of information made sense, as gathering information is probably the most important step of trying to collect a bounty (that is, information on where your target is located).
Another group of NPCs I’ve created is Edward Carter and the NPC senior staff on the Star Trek sim USS Repulse. All of these NPCs were pre-designed prior to Phoenix, because they were used in one-off Star Trek tabletop adventures I have run. I actually have a full set of senior staff that were used as pre-made playable characters, each with their own backgrounds and motivations, but I have limited playing roles that are already filled (such as the Tactical and Science officers). Each has their own personality and background.

An entire NPC-staff? Wow! You had already created these NPCs before you joined Phoenix. So before you joined you already had experience with RPG gaming, although tabletop and screen RPGs aren't of course exactly the same. Nevertheless, do you feel that your experience in table top RPGs helped you a lot with creating characters? Or was it different to create a character for computer than for a tabletop RPG?
I've also had previous experience with freeform simming. They really aren't that much different, especially if you've done ‘old’ table top RPing that actually requires imagination and creativity instead of pushing miniatures around a grid on the table. Some of my favorite RPGs have been Cthulu games, because it is almost ALL roleplaying - there is very little combat involved because in a Cthulu game, you have no chance to fight the monsters! So that experience has definitely helped me. I've had the pleasure to know a lot of really good role-players over the years, from tabletop RPGs to computer RPGs (I spent a few years following the development of Neverwinter Nights, and met a lot of great friends during that time). I've role-played with kings of the RPG industry (living so close to the Wizards of the Coast HQ helps - for those that don't know, WotC is the company that produces D&D ever since they bought TSR back in the 90s), and those experiences have all helped. I also took quite a few acting classes in high school, enough that I considered majoring in Drama in college and pursuing an acting career (the desire to actually make money and put food on my table made me decide on a different career path, though). So, to answer your question, I don't think that creating a character for a table top RPG is much different than for an online sim. Both characters will have motivations and aspirations, life lessons they've learned and mistakes they've learned from.

Both your playable characters as your NPCs are very detailed in regards of background story and personalities. Could you describe the difference in creating a playable character and an NPC?
For me they are one in the same, at least for NPCs that I know I'll be using a lot or that will be interacting with the party a lot. There will always be bit characters that are background, which may have only a line or two in the story. I don't detail them out unless they start becoming more prominent in their roles. The idea is to provide a believable backdrop, not detail everything completely. So many have little more than a name and the role they play, and perhaps a few lines about their personality or relationships. Most other details that may be needed can be made up on the spot, but usually it doesn't come up. As much as I'd like to do have full backgrounds on everyone, I just don't have the time! So I provide the illusion that the world is very deep in detail, when in reality if you peeked behind the wrong curtain you'd find an incredibly blank slate.

How did you come up with each character? Are they for example something you’ve worked on for quite some time, building them bit by bit, or did they simply come to you at one point, or is it something else entirely?
Some of them I've worked on over time - the entire crew of the USS Repulse, for instance, I worked on over a long time. Most of the others just kind of came to me. I usually start with at least a basic character concept, then I find a picture to help me get a visual image of them. Sometimes I don't fully flesh out their backgrounds, only giving it a slight structure so I can fill in details as I go. Some of them, such as Carolyn or Elizabeth, inspire me so much that I do create very detailed backgrounds for them. Most of the time the characters form in my head as I'm researching their backgrounds. I think about small details such as where they went to school, what kinds of friends they had, how did they grow up. I can spend a lot of time researching backgrounds for characters if I let myself. Doing so makes the character more believable, and I can portray the character in a much more consistent manner the more I know about them.

You mention pictures to go with characters. You say that finding a picture might help you get a visual image of the characters. So when you set out to design a character, you only start out with personality and not with a rough idea of how the character will look like?
I generally have a rough idea of what they look like when I start my search. That's what makes finding the picture easier. Long hair or short hair, handsome or ugly, tall or short. As I'm creating their backgrounds, the come into my head and I begin to formulate a sense of who they are, and what their appearance is.

Has it ever been the other way around with a character for you? That you started out with the idea of how a character should look and then build the rest from there?
I'm sure there has been some time in the past that has happened, but not with any of my current characters. Fiona Sang may be the closest, I knew she would be Chinese, but I also wanted to capture the western flare of the Firefly universe. You'd be surprised how few images there are of Chinese actresses in Old Western garb. So I had the image before fleshing out her background, although I already knew the niche she was going to fill in the Cydonia sim. Maybe the closest to having the image first was Ensign Roux, one of my NPCs on the Repulse. I think I found her picture when looking for some of the other Repulse characters, and it was such an intriguing, alluring image I had to make her into a character. At least, that's what I think happened; it's been a long time. It's also possible I simply had searched for "French Model" and her image came up. That's how it tends to work.

Where do you find inspiration for your characters? For example, are they based on existing persons, or are they completely original?
I take inspiration from a lot of sources, such as TV (V, Castle), movies (Hamlet, Galaxy Quest), and video games (Alan Wake). However, much of the time as I develop a character I get a certain sense of what I want them to look like in my head, and then I go out and find pictures to match. Sometimes those pictures can really help define more details about the person - especially if I am using an actor or actress that has done a lot of TV or film work that I can use stills to define their history. That's how Carolyn's detailed background came about, from me searching around the web for pictures of Kate Beckinsale  [Background research? Is that what they’re calling it these days? – Ed.]. However, I never tie myself to that, and in fact most of the time I already have a rough idea of what I'm looking for when searching for pictures. But occasionally a picture is so good I'll want to use it, and so I'll add or modify a bit of something to make the history fit the picture. Even so, I feel all of the characters I have are completely original. Some who share similar names to their inspiration (Richard Keep) may look alike, and at times even act similarly, but I could just as easily have separated the two completely to begin with (i.e. not used the same name or image) and I don't think anyone would necessarily know just from the characters behavior who I took inspiration from. In fact, most of my characters aren't inspired by anyone, but I simply find the images to represent them after they are fully fleshed out (Mei-Ling, for instance, was this way, although I am really happy with using Zhang Ziyi for her portrait, she is just gorgeous).

Again I get the impression that you spend a lot of time coming up with characters and 'tuning' them. Have you ever come up to a point where you said: 'no, this isn't right' for a character? Have you ever had to throw away some of the things you'd come up with and rethink those traits for your characters?
Oh, I'm sure there has been, although I can't think of any examples off the top of my head. I usually tweak the backgrounds as I'm writing them, so instead of a major overhaul of a character, it usually winds up being a bunch of small changes along the way. One small example came with a recent character submittal for a sim, where I had created an event around an aspect of the sim that didn't mesh as well with the world. The GM/SO let me know, and I had to tweak the encounter so it made sense for the behavior of the inhabitants of that sim. This happened as well for the After the Turn sim - Sarah hadn't originally been abducted by a demon, but working with the GM/SO it made sense for the sim (and to fit her into a more modern world). That's generally the nature of the changes. Since I try to make the characters develop organically, it is difficult for me to say ‘no, that's not right’, because I'll usually not get into that rut to start with - trying to shoehorn in something that doesn't fit.

And this concludes our interview. Thank you Jason for letting us get to know a little bit more about how all these wonderful characters of yours have come into existence.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Phoenix's Diamond Geezer: An interview with Kevin "Zuzutoo" Diamond

I’m here with one of Phoenix’s founder members. From a Skyplex orbiting Greenleaf to the waters of the Gulf, Kevin Diamond, or Zuzutoo as he’s known, has made his presence felt on a number of our sims.
So, Kevin, how did you get into RPing in the first place?

Wow, Founding Member, I feel rather important with that title. Unlike a lot of people, I did not have much RP experience prior to joining up with all of you in the old country (do we name names here?). I had played a couple of MMORPs but that's about it. I was playing City Of Heroes for several years and found I liked writing up the origin stories for my characters on there. Add to that a tremendous love/obsession with Firefly and I went hunting for an online Firefly game. I tried one that nobody ever seemed to post on that used canon characters and gave up and tried out the old country. And that is where I fell in with the bunch of you all. I made my way up the leadership hierarchy under the Plom administration and became one of the Sim leaders on several different genres there. The support and bonds between players from a year of playing there is what really got me to join the rebellion and migrate over to Phoenix. When it comes down to it, the quality of our playing is from the personalities of the people involved, and you, my friends, are more important than having a shiny badge and a fancy title.

So, Firefly. Who is your favourite character?

Isn't that the worst question you can ask a Firefly fan? Firefly impresses me because it is one of very few shows that has a terrific ensemble cast. Every character intrigues me, entertains me and makes me concerned about what is happening to them. I can't claim one is my favorite without short-changing my love for the rest of them. I do have a deep affection for Kaylee. I am always drawn to characters that portray innocence. River is close on the heels of that attribute too, but Kaylee, mercifully, never gets to be a trained killing machine. I've never bothered to go too deep into it, but I'm pretty sure the whole cast makes up an in depth psychological study of the human mind in all its facets. 

Kaylee as a killing machine would be a true nightmare to behold that’s for sure.
Since we’re on the subject of women, I notice that you play a lot of female characters in Phoenix. What advice can you give male players who wish to play female characters?

Geez, I've been wondering about that little issue of my own for a while now. I like strong female characters, be they in books, comics, movies and certainly RP. I think I only have three male characters and two of them aren't human. I think I find the female personality more fun to play. When it comes down to it the people I have loved most in life have been female. So I tend to make them into my characters. Poppy Brandes on Atlantis is a complete embodiment of my wife, minus the avatars of Georgia Moffett.
I'm not sure if there is a 'way' to play a female. I just tend to make them less inclined to shoot first. I think of how the women I know in life would react to a situation. How would they talk? What would they think of the people around them? I am very intrigued how Princess Noshin on Fighter Ops is going to react to where that plot line is going. She has a tendency to get very punishing and vindictive on people or in this case nations that cross her. I also like characters that are out of their element, and most Sci-Fi is in very masculine environments. The difference on how they perceive the situation makes them interesting characters to write for.

Moving on to Sci-Fi; what is your favourite piece of sci-fi work that most people would not have heard of?

Hmm.... so Firefly is out with this crowd then. Heh. No honestly most of my likes are fairly mainstream, although I do have a distinct love for 1970's sci-fi. Somehow their aesthetic of the future still is more visually striking than anything we seem to come up with today. Modern costuming seems content with black leather to mean all things action and sci-fi. I have been having a focused love affair with Gerry Anderson's UFO series lately. While cheesy beyond belief, it is impressive what they did for so little with such primitive special effects, but still pushed boundaries on social and political commentary. Plus silver miniskirts and purple hair cannot be improved on. Go swanky 60's & 70's!
Of the slightly more modern era, I love Chris Carter's Space Above & Beyond. While more of a military show, it was a refreshing ride through sci-fi dogfight style shows. I would like for a whole new era of sci-fi shows to start showing up that are not meant to be Lost or 24. On a personal and professional level, Edgar Rice Burrough's sci-fi series need to get more attention, and I'm talking Amtor not Barsoom.
Also Sanctuary is a fabulous show that more people need to watch. No really it’s on Friday nights. Watch it.

Interesting choices. If you could travel to any sci-fi setting, which one would it be? No, you can’t say the ‘Verse.

I'm not really dating myself, because this stuff was old when I first watched it on video, but the George Pal "The Time Machine" has a wildly intriguing ending to me. The rebirth and re-emergence of a fairly innocent society into a world ready for them to grow up is very appealing. Despite H.G. Well's rather grim view point towards human progress, I think the Pal version gives a great sense of optimism and hope for mankind. So yeah, I'd love to exist in that setting. I envy the age of exploration when there was a new world to explore, colonize and experiment in new forms of social freedom. Ok, that's a bit too rosy of a review of the past, but I do like the enthusiasm of mankind for doing something new, persevering through challenges and achieving what was thought to be impossible.
If that's too esoteric of an answer... then Star Trek.

OK, let’s move back on to Phoenix. What do you feel has been the best RPing moment you’ve participated in?

My favorite moments have been nearly all my posts involving the illustrious Elli Hol'liz on the hopefully soon to re-launch Accipiter. Particularly fun are the ones where she is playing off Aidan Fal's Leolacir or dratliff's Shadra. In the words of Ash, "This one is damaged." Elli is terrible fun to play, because I really have no idea what she is going to do next. She is the impulsive Id of my RP characters. That and she is rather complicated from the abuse and horrific life she has been put through. I hope folks re-launch Accipiter soon, I truly miss playing her.
I also miss the love/hate relationship between Poppy Brandes and Mike Palmer's Captain Lindemann on the Atlantis. I'm sad it never got to the embarrassing screaming match that she was headed towards with him.

Of course, you’ve created Greenleaf Skyplex. Where did the idea for this sim come from?

Greenleaf fell together very easily for me since I had a fairly well developed back story about it when I created the Scarlett Newman Wilson character to be the Dockmaster on Aker's Bluff. I always like to have my characters have non-traditional points of view and backgrounds from which to frame the Verse (or any other sim). Greenleaf was supposed to be a Skyplex with some of the dazzling technology of the future, but located on the Rim where there isn't a lot of money. It's not a military base, so it should keep money as the primary motivation for what happens there. Mix to that the hustle of the shopping scenes seen in Firefly, a 1980s Mall-rat attitude and an 1880s western outpost and you get Greenleaf.
Every space station needs to have a purpose to exist in space, this one has commerce. The Rim planets are struggling and require extensive goods from the inner planets to maintain themselves. I built the concept of a Blue Sun Mega Hauler with the creation of the un-launched Blue Horizon sim and my character Poppy Brandes as large company ships running from the Core to the Rim loaded with lots of essentials for survival of the colonies. They had to leave from and stop somewhere. So I made Greenleaf a terminus for that quadrant of the Verse. Nobody would hire the small freighters such as Serenity to take 3 Million tons of grain from Bernadette to Shadow. Not to mention she couldn't hold it. So the bigger hauler, like a tanker, takes the goods to the distribution point and the smaller ships take it from there to a thousand destinations. Cash is exchanged and goods are brought back to sell in the Core. A smaller ship such as those in our fleets could work out of Greenleaf indefinitely if they wanted legitimate jobs.
Add to this economic engine the tension between the orderliness of the Alliance, the chaos of the RIM, a community of shop owners and lucrative gambling and smuggling businesses and you have a great backdrop for storytelling. Anything you want can happen there. There is room for tales of innocence and kindness, there is room for depravity and darkness. It all depends on you folks... and staying above deck five.

Tell me some more about the non-traditional backgrounds of your characters.

The background of my characters is just as intriguing as the sim for me. I like characters that pose a problem with the commonly perceived way people look at a sim. It’s almost a granted that if there is a way that most people play a character I will choose the opposite, or at least something totally off.
Poppy Brandes on Atlantis is completely in
favor of the Alliance. She served in U war, but not as a combatant, but as a researcher in foodstuffs. She is a long time employee of Blue Sun and thinks highly of how the company helps people all over the Verse. She is not overly political and is just a girl with a job that wants to see the Verse. She views Browncoats as terrorist thugs, and sees the Alliance as the Good Guys fighting for decency and civilization.  Joss Whedon saw the Firefly Universe the way he wanted to see it, and said that it could be possible that all the events of the Verse is seen through the misinformed perspective of individuals on the fringe of society. Poppy is one of the people he didn't write stories about.
Ta'ask on USS Repulse is a dinosaur. He does not act or think as regular people. He thinks in terms of Hunter, Prey and Clans. He is a deliberate outsider that plays against what most people see as human norms. He also has to suppress urges to eat most of the bridge crew.
Princess Noshin bin Sultan Al Qasimi on Fighter Ops is a Muslim woman from the upper class that has been blended into a British fighter squadron as an exchange officer. She deals with issues of trying not to conform to western lifestyles, being an independent woman from a conservative paternal society and of course fighting fellow Muslims in a conflict alongside western outsiders.
Elli Hol'liz on Star Wars: Accipter is a former slave turned actress that has no care for Jedi or Sith. The affairs of Galactic Politics and to a degree good and evil are irrelevant to her. Just because she is Force Sensitive doesn’t mean she is in any hurry to associate herself with the Jedi. Her motives are quite selfish but not necessarily evil. She is an outsider pulled into the conflict of other people and trying to escape or at least survive.
Myfanwy Villar on Beyond the Veil of Truth, is an orphaned teenager with remarkable but odd abilities that has found her way into the care of Paranormal research Institute. She has no practical training or skills for combating the weird and unknown. She answers phones and spends her time on the internet. But her hidden abilities are useful enough that she is being trained or at least taken along as a field agent.
As I said, they are mostly all oddballs. And I like it that way.


When not on Phoenix, what do you like doing?

Geez, that's hard to qualify. In my offline time, I greatly enjoy drawing, film making, traveling and spending time with my wife and daughter. I met Poppy, my wife, the last day of Jr. High and she has been my best friend pretty much since then. Our daughter (13) is blossoming into an avid con goer and is a delightful little geek. Not so little in that she is rapidly approaching six feet tall. Almost all of our extended family live in town, so we do a lot with them. We watch a frightening number of movies, albeit my wife and I have wildly different taste in films. I enjoy costume design and make several each year for my daughter and myself for cons and Halloween. I love building props.
I work with High School students in my local parish and tend to do a lot of things they like to do. I have teach weekly classes, and have to plan social events every month. And we are long standing Disney Season Pass holders and are at Disneyland about every two weeks during the winter months (summer is too crowded).
I have never been a huge gamer, we don't even own a console. I tend to play games on my computer. I'm back on the City of Heroes MMORPG again now that it is free, but I find I don't have as much time for it as I used to. Good thing its free now.
Oh yeah, I have jobs too.

Tell me about your prop building. Sounds interesting.
Given time and available cash I can make just about anything. I tend to work on the lower side of expenses. I've built crossbows, armor, Ghostbusters proton packs, 13 ft. foam dinosaurs and a whole mess of other things. I work heavily with woods, foams and resins. I really want to build a vacuum form rig, but don't have the time or space at the moment. Back in the day, I used to work in theater and did this for a living, now it’s mostly for fun or when our props guy gets lazy and I have to show how easy it is to make something. Needless to say, our garage has some bizarre stuff in it. I work with my father building sea kayaks from wood strips/foam and fiberglass. We just finished the sixth one. As for my wish lists, I've been wanting to build a hovercraft for my daughter for years, but haven't gotten around to it yet. Our house always has some project or another taking up way too much space.

So, speaking of projects – what are your plans for the future at Phoenix?
Good question. With all the transitions and complications of the past year, I am looking forward to things calming down and getting into some solid RP on the many sims I'm part of. There is a lot to do with member retention and recruitment, but I'd just like some time to enjoy really building the stories we have going. I am very glad to have Accipter re-launched. The Academy is looking to get very bloody in the coming weeks now that we have passed through the introductory chapter. I am looking forward to Princess Noshin going to war on Fighter Ops and I want to see what horrors await on Beyond the Veil of Truth. I worry about having enough time for all the sims I am involved in, but there is no one I would willingly quit right now. I am enjoying the curious dichotomy of playing the uber-virginal Princess Noshin and the ultra-flirtatious Elli. Its rather fun to have characters running the whole gambit of personalities. My greatest fear is them blending together and having one voice. I can't let that happen.
I do think I have a lot of work to do in getting new members integrated into games. The ones we do get that have stuck around are fabulous, but I still think the pacing we set is a bit odd for many people to overcome. Phoenix is a work in progress and I look forward to helping shape it into a better community for everyone that stops by. (Evil spambots not included).

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Mischa Brendel interviews Jason Andersen - Part One

[I would like to welcome Mischa Brendel to this blog with this interview of Jason Andersen. Due to length, it has been split into two parts – Ed.]

Jason Andersen is one of the most active members of Phoenix. He is the Award & Rewards Officer and he also  Administration Officer of the Phoenix Wiki page. But first and foremost he is a role-player. He plays both several characters in different sims and GMs several others. This is an interview with this active member of our community, in which he elaborates on the characters he has created for several sims as well as his GM skills.

You are one of the most active players around on the Phoenix forums. How many characters do you play?
I have twenty or more – I’ve sort of lost count – characters that I play directly, and a handful of NPCs for the games I GM.

Good grief! Over twenty characters! How do you manage to keep up with it? How much time do you spend on playing those characters?
Keeping up with the characters isn't that tough once they are actually made. Because I spend time working on backstory, they become very vivid in my mind. It makes it fairly easy to switch to their personalities when it comes time to role-play them. Having done a lot of table top RPing since I was a kid has really helped to hone these skills. I usually spend a little over an hour each day posting for the characters I have, and GMing the sims I am GM for. That doesn't include weekends - I usually don't get online on weekends because of personal commitments. The pacing of the forums is slow enough that I usually only have to post for one or two characters per day, so my posting rotates based on what is happening in each sim and how active it is.
In fact, most of the time I spend on the forums is on GMing duties, rather than as a player. I knew early on when I first created my character Brandon Miles and was waiting days between interactions that I was going to need a lot of characters to keep me checking back on the boards every day. Developing characters takes a lot more time, and I usually have to carve out time outside of my normal forum reading to do that, which is why some Sim owners have been kept waiting on me for weeks at a time. (Gomen! [That’s Japanese for “Sorry” – Ed.])

So let’s stick to just the characters you have created for active sims at the moment. Could you tell us a bit about each of those?
Okay. Let’s start with Brandon Miles on the Firefly sim Atlantis. Brandon is my oldest character and was first introduced in Deb's Akers Bluff sim back on AJJE. After Phoenix split off from AJJE and Akers Bluff was retired, he joined the crew of the Atlantis. Brandon is an engineer and a good-natured guy. He comes from a farming background, has lived a relatively simple life and takes pleasure in simple things. He wears his heart on his sleeve. Although he fought in the War, he doesn't enjoy fighting, and would rather spend time tinkering with some broken device than shooting a gun. He has become enamored with Atlantis's gunner, Morgan O'Doyle, and they have just recently taken their relationship beyond one of furtive glances and flirtation.

So Brandon Miles is the first character that you've created. Does he therefore hold some special meaning? Is he different from your other characters?
He has special meaning in that he was the first character I ever made for Firefly simming. He's probably also the least fleshed out, as at that time I was eager to just start playing. All of my characters are different from one another, so that isn't what makes Brandon special. What makes Brandon really unique among all of my characters is that he is probably the closest to my own personality. If I had to pick one of them to represent "me", Brandon would be it. Although we look nothing alike. I'm much more handsome. :)
The next character is Carolyn Annesly on the Firefly sim Umbra. Carolyn is the character I've spent the most time on developing. She is Brandon's polar opposite, designed specifically to be a ruthless pirate. She had a hard childhood and that has made her cold. She is bent on revenge for the theft of the last ship she was on, the first place she truly felt at home. Deadly and beautiful, she'll smile and flirt with you one minute just before she puts a knife in your back the next.

You say that Carolyn is the polar opposite of Brandon. This sounds rather like an RPG game on the computer: on the second play-through, players often take their character in the complete opposite way of their first play-through. Is this how you came up with Carolyn as well? Did you want to create a character which would be Brandon's polar opposite, or is it a coincidence that she came out that way?
Interesting, I never thought of it that way. It could be I did that subconsciously, but I didn't set out to do that when I created her. I think it had more to do with that I had already created a badass girl to join the Umbra (Mei-Ling), but she was too kind hearted to fit well amongst the ruthless crew. So I needed to create someone who truly was ruthless, and only had (mostly) selfish intent. Some of that goodness still crept in, like how she is seeking revenge for the murders of the crew of her last ship. She would never openly admit that she cared about them, though. She's too good at lying (even to herself) for that.
Then there is Mathek from the sim The Triple First, which is set in the universe of Doctor Who. I knew I wanted to create a special and memorable companion for a Time Lord, and thus Mathek came to be. Mathek is a human from the distant future, brought to Romana's TARDIS for some unknown reason (well, unknown to him, anyway). Because he is from the future, he actually has some knowledge of how the TARDIS works - or at least parts of it - and I imagine if he needed to, at some point, he'd actually be able to pilot it. He's a curious scientist type, a bit slow on social interactions. A veritable nerd with his very own sonic device.

He sounds a bit like another engineer, although opposite to Brandon you say he is a bit slow on social interactions.
Heh, well maybe he is a bit like Brandon. Both are intelligent, that's for certain. But I imagine Brandon as more of a Steve Jobs kind of nerdy - he has charisma that people naturally want to gravitate towards, and Mathek is more of a Bill Gates kind of nerdy. Super smart, but super nerdy too. Brandon is more of a tech/hardware kind of guy, good at tinkering with natural ability, while Mathek is a scientist with book smarts.

The biggest difference of course is that this character is set in the Doctor Who universe, whereas the other two were both set in the Firefly universe. Is it very different playing characters in different universes?
I don't find it that different, actually. People are people, and react in similar ways no matter the setting. They have the same motivations - money, love, friendship, revenge - as anyone in any other universe. There may be slight differences based on setting - Star Wars characters, for instance, are influenced greatly by the Force, even if they can't use it themselves - but most of the time it comes down to asking what I would do in a particular situation, with the circumstances the character is in and what they've experienced before. Determining that kind of behavior is setting independent.
Then there is Cody Zenteno from Beyond the Veil of Truth, a sim created by Aidan Fal and probably easiest summed up as The X Files. We play as agents investigating the odd – paranormal activity, creatures of legend, monsters, aliens, those sorts of things.
There is Josh Cooley in the sim Fighter Ops. He is a US Air Force officer. Josh is actually a flavor character from another character I designed for a Stargate RPG (I'm keeping that character in reserve if we ever have a SG sim set during the Goa'uld time period). He's an Aeronautical Engineer & USAF pilot who enjoys playing water polo in his spare time. Friendly and outgoing, always willing to lend a hand to a friend and doesn't take kindly to bullying.

A flavor character from another character?
A good many years back I played in a tabletop Stargate RPG and created an USAF officer named Robert Goldsmith. In developing his background, I had him attending the USAF Academy where he met and became friends with Josh Cooley. From Robert's background, I know a few things about Josh already - he attended the USAFA, of course, and majored in Aeronautical Engineering. He was captain of the water polo team, and introduced Robert to the game (Robert ended up joining the team, and brought another friend onto the team as well, whom Josh also became friends with). I know that Josh is still friends with Robert, and that Josh is stationed at Tyndall AF base in Florida (where Josh and Robert both attended flight training school). Beyond that, I'll need to fill in the gaps. But any good character background is going to include these ‘minor’ or ‘flavor’ characters that they have as allies, enemies, or whatever. Sometimes they remain in the background, but other times, like this one, they come forward and become full characters in their own right.
And finally there is Aidan Dunhill (Sierra Charlie Four) - a cool, suave young British detective. Aidan is friendly with coworkers and friends, and smiles in his off-hours, but when it comes to doing his job he becomes focused and serious.

Not only do you play many characters, but also most of them are in different sims? Isn't that complicated? Don't you ever mix things up, both regarding storylines as characters?
Most of the sims are sufficiently different - or my characters in similar sims are different enough - that I don't do that. Early on I did confuse the Atlantis and Elemental sims at one point when talking with Ash about something. I also do a lot of back reading again and again to keep the story fresh in my head, that way my responses are based on a scene that may have been happening for 5 minutes, rather than 5 weeks.

When I look back to your character list, I get the impression that you've taken quite some effort to come up with their backgrounds. Is that right? How important is a character background to you? Does it need to be completely finished by you before you start playing with these characters, or do you make (some of) it up while you play?
I like to think I put in a lot of effort to make believable characters. I hope that shows in my roleplaying. It also helps keep responses consistent. It would be odd for me to have Brandon act as if he knew nothing about farming in one post and then have him growing up on a farm a few months later. But just because I flesh out their backgrounds significantly before I start playing, it's never a block - I started playing Brandon before I sent the background to Deb. I knew in general what I wanted, but I hadn't put it to paper yet. And then there are always small moments that you make up in the course of actually playing the character. Brandon related a story of his childhood just recently where he would lay on his roof and watch the cargo ships come and go at the nearby port. His sisters would be catching fireflies in the yard, and sometimes his father would join him on the roof and watch. Brandon would wonder if perhaps his father hadn't dreamed of flying through the Black at some point, but something in his life had made him become a farmer instead - perhaps the idea of settling down with Brandon's mother. Anyway, these are the kind of details that just evolve naturally through the course of play, not something you detail out beforehand. Another example would be that I know Brandon had friends in the war that were killed in action. I don't know exactly how that happened, but Brandon knows and carries it with him. Maybe one day he'll relate the story so that you and I will learn more about it.

[To be continued – Ed.]

Monday, 5 December 2011

Roles & Responsibilities, Admin Policies and Member Policies up for discussion

The proposed "constitution" of Phoenix Roleplaying, the Roles & Responsibilities Bill 2011, along with two sets of policies for the administration and member behaviour have been put up for discussion in the Management forum.

The plan is to put the legislation to a vote from 15 December.

Silent Hunter
Acting General Coordinator
5 December 2011

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Two tips to ensure you never miss an IC post

  1. Subscribe to the threads that you're posting in - you can just click at the bottom of the thread for this. That way, you'll instantly get an email if someone replies when you're off the site.
  2. If you have an RSS reader, you can add your favourite threads to it. It'll take a while for the posts to get through, but you can see all the posts in your reader.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Fighter Ops looking for more people

Photobucket Silent Hunter's high speed air warfare sim is looking for players to join the Royal Air Force as it gets involved in a Middle Eastern crisis. Please PM him today!

Firefly with Time Travel (Review: 'Doctor Who' 8.15-8.20, "Colony in Space") - Part One

[For most of its history, Doctor Who was split into serials each under one title with multiple numbered episodes, usually four or six, but ranging from one to fourteen over the classic era]

A group of intrepid colonists leaving an overcrowded world are facing crop shortages as a mining corporation tries to get rid of them. Suddenly, a spaceship arrives.

It sounds like an episode of Firefly – in fact it’s a serial of Doctor Who aired in 1971, before Whedon had even turned seven years old.

Series 8 of Doctor Who, the second colour season and the second featuring the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) would introduce two of the show’s best known characters, both of whom made appearances as recently as 2010. One of these was Jo Grant. The other was the Master.

Roger Delgado’s portrayal of the Master (it is not a spoiler to say he appears in this story, as he’s on the DVD cover) is a marked contrast to Simm’s madder than a roomful of Victorian hatters approach. He’s urbane, witty – but still utterly insane (telephone cable strangulation, anyone?). Think of Moriarty to the Doctor’s Sherlock Holmes – the writers certainly were.

Before we begin, it’s worth setting the scene. After having to call the Time Lords for help (their first actual appearance) in “The War Games”, the Series 6 Finale, the Second Doctor was put on trial for meddling and convicted. His sentence was to forcibly regenerated (a word not yet in use) and exiled to Earth in the 20th century, losing his ability to control his TARDIS. He crash landed, ran into UNIT and the Brigadier, dealt with the Autons (Series Seven’s “Spearhead from Space”) and got a job as their scientific advisor, with a scientist assisting him called Liz Shaw. She lasted for one season – mainly because the new production team (Producer Barry Letts[2] and script editor Terrance Dicks[3]) felt they needed someone who could better act as audience surrogate – i.e. ask the Doctor what’s happening. The team also made the show lighter and more fantasy-based than the “hard sci-fi” Season 7 [1].

With Liz gone, the Doctor found himself saddled with a new assistant, who had used good old fashioned family connections to get herself a job with UNIT. Josephine “Jo” Grant (Jones these days, as she recently appeared in The Sarah Jane Adventures), a sometimes ditzy blonde who had failed her Science A-Level, proved her worth in other ways, being not too shabby in a fight.

“Colony in Space” is Jo’s fourth story and her first trip in the TARDIS – in fact she’s never even been in it up to his point and doesn’t believe it’s a time machine that’s bigger on the inside. In fact, it’s the first off-world story since “The War Games”, as the Letts-Dicks team were worried that the show was losing its best selling point and came up with a solution to work around the exile….

 

[1]That’s not to say it isn’t a good season – “Doctor Who and the Silurians” and “Inferno” are rightly considered classics.

[2]Letts died in 2009 – “The Waters of Mars” was dedicated to him.

[3]Still alive. Wrote an awful lot of Target novelizations and other tie-in books.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

A Category 2 Show (Grand Review: 'Torchwood: Miracle Day')

Apologies for the delay in this, I’ve been very busy.

 

Russell T Davies OBE can be a notoriously variable writer when it comes to actual quality of work.  His four season and four specials tenure on Doctor Who saw him write classics such as “The Waters of Mars”, mediocre stuff like “New Earth” and stinkers like “Love and Monsters”.

 

While his time as lead writer on the show has now ended, he is still involved in the Whoniverse with two of his own creations, although one of these, The Sarah Jane Adventures, has now been ended by the tragic loss of Elisabeth Sladen.

 

Torchwood, his first spin-off, revolves around a secret organisation of alien investigations led by pansexual immortal former companion to the Ninth Doctor, “Captain Jack Harkness” played with considerable matinee idol swagger with by John Barrowman. Being a far more dangerous organisation than even 24’s CTU, at the end of Season Three (Children of Earth) only two of the “original” five members were still alive, with Captain Jack going off-world to get away from what he’d had to do at the end of that event.

 

As we begin this season, Gwen Cooper, now with baby Anwen and husband Rhys, is living in a remote area of Wales. Jack is somewhere.

 

In the USA, convicted paedophile and child murderer Oswald Danes is about to get a lethal injection and a man called Rex is about to crash his car and get a pole through his chest. Neither actually die. Nor does anyone else.

 

You see, humanity suddenly stops dying, which is going to cause some problems. Not so much in the field of overpopulation (we’re already heading for a population of 9 billion by 2050 as is) but in the situation of a huge number of people who should be dead but are still in some form functioning. The solution will not be pretty. It’s up to Jack, Gwen, Rex, Dr Vera Juarez and a CIA analyst named Esther to get to the bottom of all of this.

 

It’s an intriguing, globe-trotting tale that uses both its US and Welsh locations well, but it runs into problems – lots of them.

 

One thing that became obvious during this ten episode run was that it shouldn’t have been ten episodes. This story could have been effectively told in eight and stretching it to ten caused a lot of unnecessary drag. This especially applies in the closing episode, where I was mentally wishing that they’d just get on with it. There’s keeping the audience in suspense and then there is frustrating them – this entered the latter. The “solution” is unconvincing – yes, I know this is a show that involves a time travelling police box.

 

There’s other problems too – some of the characters aren’t all that good. Oswald Danes, while well played by Bill Pullman, seems ultimately unnecessary to the plot. We didn’t need an evil paedophile here – it’s like he was added solely for ratings. Jilly Kitzinger was better, but still lacked something.

 

It’s not all bad though. People still get “killed” in this and some of the deaths are truly shocking. There’s also a particularly disturbing scene involving a broken neck. The overall plot is good and has a few nice red herrings – it’s just a pity it wasn’t shorter. Eve Myles is particularly good in this and sparkles in her scenes with John Barrowman. There are some very thrilling moments and some truly great humour. Also, the end scene is rather interesting and sets things up for another season…

 

If we get another season – the continued existence of Torchwood as a viable show remains clear. Certainly, with the mediocre performance that was Miracle Day, I wouldn’t be upset if it didn’t come back.

 

6/10.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Amanda Bond wins Banner Design contest!

Amanda Bond was today announced as the winner of our banner design competition - you can see her entry above.

The new logo has already been integrated into our blog banner alongside the Buccaneer bomber that is this blog's only symbol and will soon be added to the site proper.

Congratulations, Amanda!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Site back up

We do not yet know how it happened, but the site is now up again.

-- Silent Hunter UK

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Phoenix forum down

Seems something has happened to our site. We don't know what.

Shape the 'Verse!

We're currently discussing just what effect the events of the ending of the Serenity movie (i.e. the Miranda wave) would have had on the Firefly universe. The decisions made will shape the entire RPing "canon" of Phoenix and affect all of the sims to a greater or lesser degree.

The discussion thread is here.

Please, let your thoughts be known!


Monday, 3 October 2011

The second question is... (Review: 'Doctor Who' 32.13, "The Wedding of River Song")

What is Steven Moffat smoking?

 

In an episode that brought us cannibal skulls, people being killed by eye patches and Winston Churchill as the Holy Roman Emperor, disembodied talking heads was actually pretty sane, if only because I’ve seen it in Futurama. Even by the Moff’s trippy standards, this was far out.

 

“The Wedding of River Song” answered a lot of questions and left others unanswered; as is the way with the season finales since 2005 (the concept didn’t really exist in the era of the First Seven). We finally found out the truth about River Song and the whole thing with “The Impossible Astronaut” (got to say this: the Moff does simple but great get out stuff, even if this sort of thing has been done before in Who). Then we got stuff unanswered about the “Fall of the Eleventh” and “Silence must fall”… Hey, RTD didn’t answer everything either, like who was that woman in “The End of Time”?

 

As season finales go, this was a mixed bag. We had a superb performance from Matt Smith, who despite being the youngest man ever to take the helm of the TARDIS (I believe he’s still younger than Davison was in his first season) plays a 1100 year old man with aplomb. The other leads were great and Amy’s particular decision re a certain character was very well-played. The last scene where the first question was asked – a great ending.

 

However, a lot of this seemed to flow poorly and a case of throwing in creatures just for the sake of it. “The Big Bang” used its menagerie far better and while the Moff clearly loves his alien creatures, you can do the Mos Eisley Cantina one too many times. We didn’t need Winston Churchill either.

 

I’m not saying this was poor, but it could have been a lot better – only the brilliant ending scene put this into the 8 category.

 

Finally, I must thank Steven Moffat for mentioning the Brigadier in this story. I know a lot of fans were upset that Nicholas Courtney didn’t get an on-screen tribute caption this season, but I feel that the scene when the Doctor is informed of the Brig’s death (a key turning point in the story) was a wonderful tribute to the man and the character.

 

8/10.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

New sims arrive at Phoenix

We've had some new sims arrive here in the last couple of weeks:
  • Greenleaf Skyplex: A new Firefly sim set on a space station
  • D'ni: Infinite Ages - Prison Break: A sim set in the universe of the Myst games.
  • Stargate: Resistance (coming soon) - set in an alternative reality, where the Goa'uld have conquered Earth.
More information on these sims will follow - and I intend to do some interviews too!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Mass. Effect (Review: 'Rizzoli & Isles' 1.1, "Pilot")

Since September 2000, when CSI first arrived on US screens, forensics has become sexy. You could fill a Tube carriage with the glamorous pathologists, anthropologists and trace analysts that now parade across TV land. From Nikki Alexander to Danny Messer to Temperance Brennan to Nick Stokes, people who die in crime shows can be assured that someone pretty good-looking (and sometimes inappropriately dressed for the job) will help bring them justice.

 

Rizzoli & Isles is not really an exception to this. Dr Maura Isles, played by Sasha Alexander (Kate Todd in NCIS back in the day) is a tall bottle blonde who in the words of another character, always looks like she’s about to do a photo shoot and wears high heels to crime scenes.

 

Enough about her for the time being though. R&I, based on the novels by Tess Gerritsen, is another one of those buddy cop shows where two chalk and cheese characters trade witty remarks while solving relatively fiendish crimes. There’s Isles, a slightly odd coroner and Detective Kate Rizzoli, a short-tempered world-weary cop, who solve murders in Boston, hence the Irish jig theme tune.

 

This opener doesn’t waste time having everyone meet everyone – we’re straight in with a rather grisly plot involving a serial killer’s apprentice and the serial killer himself, played by a guy who I think was Ira Gaines in the first season of 24. The latter, you see, once almost killed Rizzoli and she still bears the scars from where he nailed her to the floor. The only reason this guy hasn’t got a needle yet is that MA doesn’t execute people and so he’s in jail. You just know he isn’t staying there for long…

 

I’m going to call this show Grizzly & Smiles. A dark plot involving horrific murders is counter-balanced by Rizzoli getting saddled with a mangy dog (she’s got an allergy) and the two leads eating cat food. There’s the second best tactical use of a flare I’ve ever seen and a rather chilling/thrilling climax as the serial killer decides to finish what he started. Much of it is telegraphed, but so was ‘Allo! 'Allo! (RIP David Croft).

 

Only real gripes with this were firstly the slow pace and the lack of any explanation of what happened to the old detective who get a cut on his throat.

 

A show with real promise – it’s already got a third season in the States. I’ll be along for the ride.

 

8/10.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Another case of sequelitus (Review: 'Doctor Who' 32.12, "Closing Time")

“The Lodger” was one of the surprise hits of Season 31 and so it’s not too surprising that James Corden was asked to reprise his character in this season.

 

In retrospect, it might not have been a good idea.

 

“Closing Time” sees the Doctor, nearing the encounter with the Impossible Astronaut as seen in the season opener, take a trip to Colchester to meet up with his mate who I have now managed to completely forget the name of. They investigate some mysterious activity at a department store and encounter Cybermen, where the guy learns the power of love.

 

I wasn’t too impressed with this episode – while there were a lot of good elements in it, they didn’t really gel into a coherent whole.  Matt Smith was excellent, but James Corden lacked a certain something. The plot seemed pasted on for the humour, when the humour should have been integrated into the storyline (see “The Empty Child” as a demonstration of how to do this properly). The best bit was the ending, despite feeling a bit tacked on.

 

All in all, this was a poor episode made average by Matt Smith and quite frankly the worst one of this half of the season.

 

Suppose we’ll find out how Amy Pond became famous next week.

 

5/10.

Monday, 19 September 2011

That's going to scare some adults (Review: 'Doctor Who' 32.11, "The God Complex")

It’s a good thing I don’t suffer from a fear of clowns, Weeping Angels or gorillas, because I might not have made it through this episode, which was seriously freaky – and rather hard to understand (more so in some areas than Inception).

 

The Doctor, Amy and Rory end up trapped in a bad 80s hotel with a Muslim nurse, a mole, a Trekker and a gambler, which also contains a minotaur. This really strange plot description hides what is actually a rather good episode. [To be honest, Silent, you can describe many greats in strange ways -Ed]

 

In fact it’s very good – not a classic, which it would need to be to warrant a 9 or a 10, but a good old-fashioned romp (albeit a disturbing one) with a lot of running around identical corridors [Perhaps they’ve got budget problems – but then again judging by the CGI… - Ed]. There’s a real sense of terror and the gradual killing of the characters a la certain Agatha Christie novel, Alien or other things like that.

 

The supporting cast are very good; David Walliams excels as a mole and the first Muslim in Doctor Who since well, “The Crusades” (I may be wrong on that) also comes across a well-rounded character. Yet again, the dialogue from Toby Whithouse (who gave us Sarah Jane and Rose’s memorable verbal one-upmanship in “School Reunion”) sparkles and produces memorable one-liners. Plus Caitlin Blackwood as Amelia, who must be considered a recurring character by now, was great without even saying a word.

 

Only real issue I have is the ending. I mean it’s obvious that’s not the end for Amy and Rory. Right? Right?

 

8/10.

Monday, 12 September 2011

For the fourth time: Two is better than one (Review: 'Doctor Who' 32.10, "The Girl Who Waited")

Since Steven Moffat arrived as EP, this show has been getting seriously, seriously timey-wimey. This episode is a case in point and it wasn’t even written by the Moff, but by Tom Macrae.

 

I’ve got a feeling that this episode was the cheap one, although the large amounts of CGI in part refute that conclusion. Mind you, this is the most white we’ve seen in Who since “Warrior’s Gate” and arguably the most TARDIS time we’ve seen in years.

 

The story is a very interesting one – with Amy getting stuck in a separate time stream to Rory and the Doctor, then the two arriving 36 years too late to rescue her. Mind you it lacks something in the execution – perhaps a general pacing issue. If I notice the time during an episode and how long I’ve got left, then something isn’t working.

 

However, there’s plenty that works. The idea that a person in an alternative time stream might not want to erase themselves from existence isn’t that common in these sorts of stories – I think the only other time I’ve seen it recently is in the Stargate SG-1 movie The Ark of Truth. The concept of Twostreams is interesting, even if I can’t get my GCSE in Science Possessing head around it. However, the best part of this episode was undoubtedly Karen Gillan, who definitely proved once and for all that she is more than a pretty face and a nice pair of legs. Getting to wear a good amount of ageing makeup, Gillan had the hardest job of the episode and pulled it off with aplomb. Plus I’m sure she enjoyed decapitating robots – who doesn’t?

 

The ending was something of an issue for me – Amy Future’s decision seemed a bit off after the rest of the episode. Matt Smith does one of those alien moments that every Doctor gets every so often, which doesn’t quite work here.

 

Overall, this story lacked a certainly something to make it great. I’ve seen better, I’ve seen worse. It’s good though.

 

Next week, a nasty hotel.

 

7/10.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Set Europe Ablaze is now up!

Silent Hunter's new Second World War sim Set Europe Ablaze has been created. To get an idea of the setting, here's the description: The flak flashes in the distance. It's not aimed at you, but the other poor guys heading for the Ruhr. If things go wrong, not for you the flames of a burning Lancaster. As your Lysander flies low over the French coast, you remember the code words and who you're supposed to meet. The radio in your bag could save your life - or end it. You know your mission, you have your supplies. In an hour you will be there. You will meet people ready to die on their feet rather than live on their knees. You will meet some of the most evil people ever to have lived. Your life and the lives of thousands of others will depend on telling them apart. It's January 1944 and the Prime Minister's instructions are clear. Your mission - Set Europe Ablaze.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

That's going to traumatise some kiddies (Review: 'Doctor Who' 32.9, "Night Terrors")

Seeing Amy Pond turn into a wooden dolly is the stuff of nightmares. It was disturbing even for a seasoned adult who finds The Omen to be a comedy. I’ll get to that in a minute.

 

Mark Gatiss has been a bit of a hit-and-miss writer for Doctor Who – with works varying from the good “The Unquiet Dead” to last season’s stinker “Victory of the Daleks”. “Night Terrors” will definitely be considered one of his successes.

 

The Doctor, Amy and Rory are summoned through the psychic paper to help an eight-year-old kid who seems to be scared of everything (and suffering from OCD to boot). Shortly after their arrival, while looking for said kid’s residence, Amy and Rory have a frightening lift ride and end up in a creepy house. The Doctor finds the kid and discovers a truly scary cupboard…

 

After some initial comedy with the search for the house, this episode gets very creepy very fast. The fact that nearly all of the episode takes place in darkness massively helps with the atmosphere. The plain face dolls also qualify as horrific in a way that a Sontaran doesn’t quite do – the lack of expression makes them scarier. There are some very interesting horror/sci-fi concepts here, but that’s not what people will remember. This episode enters Moffat levels of scary; many kids were probably scurrying behind the sofa at much of this. The tension is racked up throughout and there aren’t even any spring-loaded cats to provide a temporary respite. The horror is genuine, not comical gore, especially the people turning into dolls.

 

I’ve gone on record as saying I prefer two companions to one as it allows for separation of one them while keeping the other two to have chemistry with each other. This is further demonstrated here with Amy and Rory, who get on well together (of course, they are married to each other) and have some great dynamic in the house.

 

While everyone does well, special pride of place in the acting department must go to Daniel Mays as Alex, a “muggle” who just thinks that his child is strange and, as we discover, has a bigger effect with that thought than he realises. It’s a far cry from his great turn on Ashes to Ashes.

 

Only flaw in this? The climax was a little overlong and predictable. It’s not too bad, but you have to be pretty near perfect to get a ten from me.

 

In summary, this is an excellent episode, which is well written, well-acted and well-paced, with a great hook, line and sinker. It’s one of the best episodes of Season 32.

 

Next week looks very interesting too.

 

9/10.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Your existence will continue (Review: 'Doctor Who' 32.8, "Let's Kill Hitler")

Well. Well well well well.

 

That was not your usual episode of Doctor Who, to put it mildly. You don’t usually get that many revelations in a single episode.

 

Shortly after Steven Moffat won yet another Hugo,  one approaches “Let’s Kill Hitler” looking forward to an excellent romp with a very interesting title. We got a romp alright, but it was rather a lightweight one. The fact that the story hung together at all was because of the chemistry of the three leads and Alex Kingston.

 

The pre-titles sequence is classic Moffat-era. Amy and the Doctor creating a crop circle to call the Doctor is something that wouldn’t have happened in the RTD era, let alone the pre-1989 show. Then having their sparky naughty best mate Mels show up and comment that “You never told me he was hot” adds another strange dimension to things, as after the titles we look back at the past of Amy, Rory and Mels.

 

Crashing in Hitler’s office in Berlin in 1938, where they stop a robot full of tiny people from killing the Fuehrer, things then starting getting very arcy. Mels gets shot – and then regenerates into everyone’s favourite time-travelling archaeologist – River Song. Then the robot decides it’s going to kill River/Melody for the crime of killing the Doctor. Cue some fun in miniature, River stealing people’s clothes and some very polite homicidal security robots.

 

Alex Kingston is great in this episode. Time Lords do tend to go a bit funny post-regeneration and she is very funny after this one; demonstrating a woman who ultimately is changed for the better by a “good man” (I can see some feminists having a go at the entire River Song arc now).

 

Gillan and Darvill just go with the flow of the crazy story and demonstrate that they’ve thoroughly settled into the TARDIS by now.

 

Matt Smith manages to get upstaged by Alex Kingston and to be honest spends much of the time gurning. While he’s certainly proving to be a superb Doctor, this isn’t one of his finer performances, especially nearer the end.

 

While there are certainly some very interesting science-fiction elements in the plot and the comedy stuff is a treat, there’s a good amount in the episode. Hitler only serves to appear for five minutes and get shoved into a cupboard – this episode could have worked without him and it’s clear the title was just to draw people in – many of whom were going to turn up even if this was called “Tiny People in a Robot”. The whole thing seems to be a mishmash of popular Moffat and even RTD elements, trying to play to the crowd without actually providing a good story. It’s got to rate as one of the Moff’s worst eps.

 

It’s not to say it’s not good; it definitely creates some interesting plot points and it’s definitely entertaining. It just could have been better – Steven Moffat can do so and has done so. The show will survive at this standard, but it is capable of much more and hopefully we’ll see that.

 

One last thing – I really like the Doctor’s new coat.

 

7/10

Saturday, 20 August 2011

The main forum is back up and running

I am pleased to announce that our main forum is back up and running. While we did lose the posts from 19 March to 2 April, everything else appears to be functional.

I'll be moving over my sims ASAP.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

'Carrier' becomes 'Fighter Ops'

Silent Hunter's new naval and aviation sim Carrier has been renamed to Fighter Ops. The reason for this was that the prologue story that he was creating became so well developed it was worth a campaign of its own.

Journey of the Phoenix can reveal the dramatic opening story for Fighter Ops- FE@R.

FE@R

2015. Israeli aircraft destroy Iran's Natanz nuclear enrichment facility. A furious Iran reacts by threatening to close the Straits of Hormuz.

With the global economy in turmoil, an elite squadron of RAF Eurofighter Typhoons is deployed to the Middle East to assist in keeping the Straits open.

As war breaks out, they will need all their skills to defeat a determined enemy.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Site clean-up and reinvigoration

You may have noticed that a number of sims have disappeared - Rob has deleted all the boards that had no posts in.

This is part of a general reinvigoration of our fine site; we're trying to get activity levels back up and sims more active, so we're mothballing the inactive ones.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Carrier arrives at Phoenix Roleplaying!

Silent Hunter's latest original sim, Carrier, has been created!

If you're looking to take part in this high-speed air combat sim, please go here:

http://phoenixrp.forumotion.com/f37-carrier

Monday, 4 July 2011

Monday, 27 June 2011

Krista Bäckman leaves Phoenix

Krista Bäckman, long-standing member and SL of WW3 has left Phoenix Roleplaying for personal reasons.

She'll be missed and hopefully we'll see her back one today.

Silent Hunter will take over the leadership of the currently suspended WW3.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Roleplaying tips series

I'm planning to do an irregular series on tips to improve your RPing experience here and elsewhere. If you have any of your own, please post in the comments.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

My rating system

For those of you who are looking at the reviews: this is the system I use – a modified version of the one used by Gallifrey Base in their rating threads for Doctor Who episodes.

 

·         10: Fantastic! The absolute pinnacle

·         9: They don't get much better than this!

·         8: It's certainly worthy of very high praise!

·         7: Well above average, but no masterpiece

·         6: Just a cut above average

·         5: Can't find a better example of average media

·         4: It's below average, but only just!

·         3: This one's bad but it's got some good in it, just there.

·         2: It's not the worst, that's something else. But...

·         1: I'd rather listen to a tape loop of leaf blower noise!

A very shiny book: Episode 2

The Good

Firstly, there's a refreshingly different style to this book to the other core rulebooks I've read (although admittedly, that's not that many). To give a sample:

Drugs & Poisons: Alcohol, drugs and poison are fought with a Resistance (double Vitality) roll, with difficulty and effects adjudicated by the GM. This could lead to a mild buzz, certain death, or you might start seeing little lights in front of your eyes before you collapse onto the cockpit floor in a puddle of your own drool.
Secondly, the system for character generation is simple and relatively easy to use, encouraging, strong vibrant characters rather than power-gaming (if you want a really powerful character, you'll need to give him a few complications. Having pre-made stats for our heroes as well as another group of people gives you a clear idea of what to aim at in the event that you wanted to create a highly chirpy mercenary who likes to paint her guns pink (hey, who doesn't?).

The background stuff is excellent, adding considerably to already existing canon material and provides valuable help to free-form games as well as games using this system. This especially applies to the ship material; a deck plan of a Firefly will be much appreciated.


The Bad

The style occasionally goes into the condescending; particularly in the GMing section, although this is aimed at a wide audience.

There are some avoidable typos, especially in the ship section.

I would have appreciated a Space Chinese - English dictionary as well as one going the other way, as well as a definite ending to the two "stories".

Finally, space combat could use a better description; it's not clear what positioning reference if any, you are supposed to use - operating in 3D is a nightmare for any GM and 2D isn't too realistic.

Overall

9/10. Definitely worth getting.

Two further notes

The Margaret Weis licence expired on 31 January 2011; no further official books to the ones already out will be released. In addition, it is getting increasingly hard to find this book for sale in Europe; be prepared to import if necessary.

PS: If anyone spots the Blake's Seven reference in my previous post, I will give them some reward in any game I run.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Interview with Amanda Bond

I’m here with Amanda Bond, GM of ‘The Elemental’, one of our Firefly sims and also player in a number of other sims on our site.

So, Amanda, tell me a little about yourself.


I started writing this in paragraph form and it sounded too much like I needed to end it with "And I like long walks on the beach" so without further ado, here are ten Fun Facts About me you didn't know:
-I grew up on a cattle ranch in Washington State
-I majored in theater and broadcasting and have worked in each of those on and off since graduating from Gonzaga University back in 2001. Currently I am working for an exhibit house coordinating booths for industry trade shows.
-I have been married for coming up on six years this July 2
-I have a Pembroke Welsh Corgi named River.
-I live in Las Vegas, Nevada with my father and my paternal grandmother, who my husband is the main care giver for.
-I've studied ballet since I was five and currently take ballet, cabaret (think like burlesque mixed with a bit of jazz dance), and yes pole dancing and strip tease (it's Vegas!)
-I turned 31 this past December.
-I used to be part of  demo team for White Wolf Games who published Vampire: The Masquerade.
-I am really awful with FPS and MMOs because with both I have a lack of focus and concentration needed for them. I end up wandering off in the middle of raids and things. Set me down with Dragon Age though and I am all set for the next twenty-four hours.
-I am a weekend Steam Punk person and have a variety of costumes for many occasions.

So, how did you get into Firefly?

The series or RP?  I saw previews for the movie in the theater and I said 'we should go to that' to my husband but when the movie came out for some reason we missed it. My husband was working at Best Buy when the movie came out on DVD so he bought the movie and brought it home. We watched it with a friend who started raving about the TV series. We bought the TV series on DVD and have since bought it for presents and loaned my set around the office.

A friend of mine started a Firefly table top game over AIM but as his law school took off he had to stop running it. I did a search for Firefly games online and that was how it all began.

Who is your favourite Firefly character?

I really had a hard time with this question, but I think my favorite character is Captain Malcolm Reynolds. He really honestly wants life to be simple, but he keeps making it more complicated because of his heroic and misguided impulses. I always enjoy rogues with hearts of gold and I definitely think Mal fits that description.

So, how did The Elemental come about?

The really neat thing about the Elemental was that the crew came together in game on the planet (Akers Bluff) in a really organic, natural way. The crew formed IC, then OOC we talked about a ship. The back story of the Elemental as a ship itself was one of those things that really came about as a team effort. The design of the ship led to this story of this old salvage ship that was once used by pirates but has been drifting in space. Naturally that led to a ghost story on board the ship. If I remember correctly Ash Plom was the driving force behind the schematics of the ship, we had a player who's no longer with us do some mock ups of this cool ship with claws, and then they let me go crazy with a back story based loosely on The Pardoner's Tale and a little bit of steam punk inspired tech.

The Pardoner’s Tale? That’s Chaucer, isn’t it?

 

Yes, that's one of Chaucer's more famous tales from the Canterbury Tales. As a note, it's been used before for inspiration - Exalted a game from White Wolf used the Pardoner's Tale as basis for their fiction for one of their cannon heroes called Swan and more famously JK Rowling used it as a basis for the Deathly Hallows.  My father was an Old English Major in school so I was reading Canterbury Tales by the time I was ten or twelve? I know I read it around the time I read the Count of Monte Cristo and that's when I was reading that.  He did not believe in Children's Literature per se. It is amazing how that sort of background sticks with you throughout life.

So, what are you reading at the moment?

Well this is a busy season for trade shows so I am reading a lot of manuals on the rules at various conventions and convention centers. I just finished setting up for E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) and am in the process of setting up for Infocomm. The most I get to read during this time of year is the occasional Dr Who  forum as fans go nuts with speculation and of course http://jotpuk.blogspot.com/ which is the official blog of the Journey of the Phoenix. 

The last book I read was Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential earlier this year. 

Very interesting. Finally, what are your RPing plans for the immediate future?

The Elemental is going to land on Santo and have an adventure worthy of being the lovechild of the movie The Hangover and Hearts of Gold Episode of Firefly.  I love playing the Naboo Ambassador Merisee aboard the West Star. After running through the Harry Potter experience at Universal Studios in Orlando I am debating another sim - have to see though if I have time for it. 

We hope to see these soon. Thank you for your time!

 

 

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