San Andreas

I really enjoyed San Andreas. I went in expecting to see a ridiculously over-the-top depiction of an earthquake, and I was not disappointed.

There was also a surprisingly good human story in there—surprising because while I could see the formula, and while everybody played straight to type, I didn't care. I was engaged, and had a good time. They did screw up the last line of the film, missing a great opportunity that probably wasn't obvious to them until after all the set dressing had been added, but still, they missed it. Oh well. 

San Andreas enters at #8 on my "how much fun did I have at the theater" scale for the year, and the unexpectedly enjoyable character story (visible recipe pages notwithstanding) squeaks it in above my Threshold of Awesome.

(cross-posted from


The cautionary tale, in which we are warned that something bad might happen, is one of science fiction's most venerated traditions. Another one, of similarly honorable and established pedigree, is the sense of optimistic wonder.

Tomorrowland is both of these, and more because it pits them against one another from the very first act. It's also many other things, including, and I'm not sure how I feel about this, an opportunity for Disney to turn "It's a Small World" into a ride more like Pirates of the Caribbean with the aesthetics of Space Mountain and retro-futurism.

It's troubling, and delightful, and though it clumsily wields plot devices, and is downright silly in some places, I found myself sitting back at the end and realizing that the tropes and absurdity were there on purpose, and the clumsiness was more akin to that drunken master martial art.

Tomorrowland is definitely a film that my tribe of futurists and science fiction aficionados should see, and I expect us to argue passionately about it under the right (wrong?) circumstances. This film was made with us in mind, and while it's not exclusively for us, there are things in there that the pop-culture, Johnny-come-lately science fiction fan will miss entirely, and I really like a film that will go out on that kind of a limb.

It clears my Threshold of Awesome and comes in at #4 on the fun-in-the-theater scale. More than that, however, it spoke very powerfully to Sandra and to me, and it's one we'll be picking up on disc when it's out.

For the record, I want one of those pins. Not because I want to go to Tomorrowland (though I do) but because I want to be seen as somebody who wants to go there (which I most certainly am.) It's silly, perhaps, but it's one of a very few brands I'm actually willing to wear.

(cross-posted from

Thank You

Thank you.

—Howard, Alan, and Sandra (plus a cast of dozens of others soon to join the project...)

Last Chance! Final Push! Do You Have a Dollar?

The Planet Mercenary Kickstarter closes Monday Morning at around 2pm Eastern time.

If you're still on the fence, and don't want to miss out, pledge a dollar.

We'll be using Backerkit to allow people to increase their pledges, and to specify the things they want, and you'll have until at least mid-June to settle up. 

The Kickstarter page is a long, involved, possibly confusing thing. Here are some easy links:

Seventy Maxims: Click here if you want to pledge for the hardback copy of The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries. It's $20 in the US, with additional shipping for Canada and the rest of the world.

Company Commander: Click here if you want everything—RPG book, cards, dice, screen, PDFs, the Seventy Maxims book, and more. It's $75, and you'll need to increase your pledge by $10 to get the RiPP token add-ons, but that can wait until June if you'd like. This is by far our most popular pledge level. Again, additional charges will apply for shipping outside the US.

RPG PDFs only: Click here for the "Air Dropped Grunt" level. This gets you the core RPG book and the cards in PDF format. This is $20, with no shipping charges at all. Note that this does not include the Maxims in PDF format, because we're not doing those as part of this Kickstarter

Foot in the Door: Again, here's the $1.00 pledge level, the "Forward Observer." It gets your foot in the door so that you can increase your pledge to cover any of the rewards I've listed above. If you decide you don't want this stuff after all, well, you're out a dollar, but at the very least you'll get some nifty wallpapers for your trouble.

If you don't play RPGs, but have been looking for a good encyclopedia of the Schlock Mercenary universe, the core Planet Mercenary book will deliver that in spades. It's an in-universe artifact, written by the R&D team at Planet Mercenary. Their CEO's commentary will appear in the margins (she was promised those would not go to print, but somebody screwed up) and we'll have plenty of references to things that have happened in the Schlock Mercenary comic strip, as told from the perspective of folks on the outside. 

This Stuff Ships In April of 2016

We have a lot of work to do before we can deliver the goods you're pledging for. The artists have barely started their work, and at least one of the manufacturers has a 26-week cycle. The Planet Mercenary Team (Howard, Sandra, Alan, Jeff, Ben, and a bunch of other folks) will be working on this for the next ten months. 

Between now and the shipping date we'll keep you in the loop with regular blog posts here, in the development journal (, and via Kickstarter updates. We'll post lots of digital goodies between now and then, including pre-release rules, draft images (like this early draft of Jeff Zugale's cover art) and probably plenty of fun desktop wallpapers. 

Thank You

This has been one of the most successful role playing games to appear on Kickstarter. Your faith in us is humbling and a bit intimidating, and we promise that you have not misplaced it. You backers have made this crazy, wonderful thing possible, and in about three days we'll start our journey to carry it from "possible" to "wonderful and in your hands." 

Thank you for giving us that opportunity.

This is going to be so. much. fun.

Mad Max: Fury Road

This is the Mad Max movie I didn't know I had always wanted until I saw it. Tom Hardy plays Max as crazy-mad instead of angry-mad, and it's the "seeing things that aren't there" crazy instead of merely being angry with grief (though, he's that too. And unhinged.) Also, we see him employ some skills beyond simply driving, taking a beating, and shooting things (though he does plenty of all three of those.)
Max's world is a familiar sort of wasteland, but it has an actual economy, requiring a bit less suspension of disbelief. Which is good because we'll need that stuff for more important things than "how are people still alive at all?"
Plot-wise, I loved how the fairly straightforward, convoy-on-the-run story has some actual, human motivation beyond "let's steal gasoline." I say "fairly straightforward" because there are a couple of twists in there, but I liked them, too.
I've heard that some folks are complaining that Charlize Theron's character was somehow too bad-ass, and was upstaging Max. 

I looked for that, and am happy to report that Max was every bit as awesome as I hoped he would be. If his star seems to shine a little less brightly, it's because that wasteland is chock-full of crazy-capable bad-asses (including Theron's Imperator Furiosa,) which makes sense since these are the people who are still alive.
Still alive at the beginning of the movie, anyway.
I love comprehensible action scenes, and MM:FR was full of them. The camera gives us several "savor the moment" shots where the action is so iconic we need to slow down a bit and soak it in before the flames and the dust muddle it up.
The post-apocalyptic aesthetic of the film has its roots in the original Mad Max film, obviously, but that aesthetic has passed through a number of hands over the years, so that by the time it arrives back home in the Mad Max franchise you can taste all kinds of things in the dust, including Fallout: New Vegas, Defiance, and Borderlands. I did not hate that one bit. If Gearbox ever makes a Borderlands movie, I expect it will look like Mad Max: Fury Road with better weapons and more hockey masks.
Mad Max: Fury Road comes in at #4 for me so far this year, clearing my Threshold of Awesome with room to spare. Extra headroom was added by the guy playing a flamethrower guitar while chained to the front of a stack of speakers on top of a vehicle that has an entire kettle-drum battalion banging away in back.
(That dude convinced me that post-apocalyptic role playing games have room for a bard, provided he has an electric guitar that shoots fire.)
(crossposted from
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