Entropic State Report 4th September 2022

Well, that’s summer just about over. A record-breaking heatwave, some muggy, humid weeks and now into September – rain. And more rain. Feels much more traditional now.

Accompanying the change, a good dose of lurgy has landed in this house and every couple of hours I’ve been alternating between teeth-chatteringly cold and slowly cooking in my own seepage. Not covid though so the D-Squads haven’t got to me yet. Hussein suggested that I must be possessed and there’s a battle going on between good and evil jinn for control of my weak human flesh.

Plausible.

I just wish one of them would hurry up and win or at least come to some form of compromise, the shirty fuckers.

Anyway, I used these past few days to do a lot of reading. Most of it bad. I was curious about the novelisation of Alien Isolation (although a video game, it is for my money the best tie-in/spin-off from the Alien franchise). As I’m a mug for a bargain I picked it up in a pack of 7 Alien tie-in novels and, long story short, they’re mostly incredibly mediocre. The exception is Alien: Cold Forge by Alex White, largely by dint of the fact that the central conceit is – what if a financial auditor visits a remote research station to cut costs and streamline operations. On top of that, what if the auditor is essentially Patrick Bateman in space.

Very entertaining.

It just so happens that, as I was ploughing my way through them, Ted AKA @tedankhamen sent me a link to his blog sharing his thoughts re gaming within established IPs (in this case Star Wars). His take really resonated, particularly given our previous shows on gaming, but I think those points apply across all expanded fiction based upon established IPs. Those Alien tie-in novels are a great example and they reinforce the beliefs Clarky, Dave and I expounded in the last show – make new shit. Take the themes and tropes and flavour, but freshen it up. Those Alien novels all revolve around the same tired, rote elements. Weyland-Yutani… colonial marines… ‘bug hunts’…

MAKE NEW SHIT!

I am of course guilty of this myself. The first section of The Journal of Gerard Arthur Connelly is set in Tragic Millennium Europe. In my own defence though, that was a write-up of a couple of Hawkmoon RPG gaming sessions so it is faithful to that at least. But I’ve tried beyond that point to diverge a bit. Wait… am I comparing my nonsense to licensed, published fiction? No. I’m just trying to not be hypocritical I suppose. And I’m not a writer. I’m a hobbyist. So I’m giving myself a pass.

That said, I entirely understand that being commissioned to operate within a juggernaut IP means that one must tick boxes. I do wonder if that’s why the Alien Isolation novelisation, based upon a game that does a nice job of expanding some universe details and features no mention whatsoever of colonial marines or any trappings thereof, introduces colonial marines elements by the fourth chapter.

All of this also leads me to a long sigh of sadness and some regret.

Ridley Scott’s Alien deservedly led to an initially modest but eventually pretty enormous  expansion of the canon and a multi-billion dollar IP. Sequels, comics, video games, novels, cross-overs (Judge Dredd vs Aliens!) and an upcoming TV show.

Meanwhile, Britain’s (the world’s?) greatest living fantasist can’t catch a break in any medium outside of comics and tabletop games, and in the case of the latter only currently in France. The Runestaff TV show is apparently still in development but the Elric project appears to be dead in the water. Unsurprising given that The Witcher and GOT/House of the Dragon have effectively taken screen ownership of so many of Moorcock’s trappings (sadly, whilst entirely jettisoning the themes). If a Warhammer 40,000 show or movie ever emerges then the gig is truly up.

That’s something to explore on a future show for sure.

Anyway, I’ve obviously had too much time on my hands (and brain). 

Fucking germs. As a result I had to postpone a couple of visits to Derry and Toms this past week, so apologies to Derek and Steve. We can hook up in the future ASAP.

On a positive note, two shows are already in the can. The first is the second part of our summer gaming diptych, recorded with the aforementioned Ted, where we look at his extensive take on Moorcockian gaming. That will be out in the next day or two.

The second is Book Two of The Mad God’s Amulet with Dave. That will follow in a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, our patron poll for the looming Halloween episode has been live for a couple of weeks and James Herbert’s The Fog maintains its healthy lead. Still plenty of time for patrons to vote though and Shaun Hutson’s Slugs finally got a couple of sympathy votes.

Right. My Lemsip is wearing off.

Stay safe, avoid lurgy, see you again soon…

…on t’Moonbeam Roads.

4 thoughts on “Entropic State Report 4th September 2022

  1. Gaming in established IPs is something I’ve done a lot (I think most of us have). Why only yesterday I ran a game set in Space 1999 and previously I’ve run Dr Who, Star Wars, Star Trek and, yes, Stormbringer. With all of them, the challenge is always that precarious balance between ‘Things that I know.’ and new stuff. I think the line between them is drawn in different places for different people and I’m not sure it’s a war that you can win comprehensively.
    Certainly it’s a pit trap that Star Trek and Star Wars shows and movies fall into repeatedly. too many ‘things that I know’ and folk start getting huffy. ‘You’re just doing the same old shit. Do something new.’ So the studios do something new and the response is, ‘That’s shit. It doesn’t feel like the same universe. Where are the things that I know? Why do you hate the fans?’
    For roleplaying I find a similar problem. The Stormbringer game I ran revolved around a group of Young Kingdom ne’er do wells escorting a dream thief to a tower on an island in the east, wherein lay a thousand year old sleeping princess, within whose dreams resided the secret location of old Tanelorn. An original scenario but made up of some of Moorcock’s greatest hits. I was quite pleased with it and I thought it would appeal to Elric fans (and I think the players did enjoy it on the whole), but your man in his blog there tells me not to do that. He says to use the tropes but not established people, places and events from the IP.
    Perhaps the distinction is between a trope and just plain old fan service. I’m not sure I can always define the difference. When it comes to the Young Kingdoms, should I not use Tanelorn or a Dream Thief? They are established elements of the Young Kingdoms. Should I create my own additions to Moorcock’s work? That feels a little presumptuous and arrogant. Why play in a setting if you want to change everything about it? Or, at least not see the things that you know and like about the setting? Players usually sign up for a game set in an established IP because they want to fly an Eagle Transporter, fire a Phaser, use the Force or visit Tanelorn. However, I agree, too much of that can set eyes rolling.
    I agree with you on the Aliens IP too but then, whilst I adored the first two movies, I was bored shitless of it by about half way through Alien 3 and haven’t really bothered with it since Alien 4.

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    1. The perennial cause of disagreement between roleplayers seems to be what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’. I just tend to read these things as ‘this is the way I like to do it’ and sometimes I can relate to it. You’re right on the trope thing. It can only be defined by each of us according to our preferences. For myself, just because I don’t want the price of canoes in the Purple Towns to be a particular feature of an Elric! game (for example) I play in or run doesn’t mean I would balk at the Isle of the Purple Towns being in a game, I’d just like an element of freshness. And that’s the balance. I’ve probably defeated myself there because perhaps arguing over the price of clay jars DOES bring a different slant to a Young Kingdoms game. It just might not be the right one for the table (although the Thursday night crowd I game with could probably create an entirely entertaining evening around that very thing).
      For the Stormbringer game I ran a while back to test GW 3e (after Loz and I looked at it in a previous show) I started it in the Sighing Desert on route to Quarzhasaat, so the setting was implied and the world was established, but in terms of the content I approached it like I was reading a Moorcock book. So new folks/peoples, new threats, new monsters and a sort of loose tie-in to some elemental/Quarzhasaatian sorcery/ancient weapon fusion shenanigans. Whether it was any good or not as a genuinely faithful Moorcockian experience is for the players to decide but we all had good fun with it. I don’t think creating additions to anyone’s work or IP for your own tabletop experience and your group is arrogant or presumptuous. I see it as fun and creative. It’s not like you’re publishing it. Or writing for Games Workshop.
      Also, I would totally play in a Space 1999 game but the whole set up of that is specifically to recreate an episodic short form storytelling experience and that maybe feels different to me from a free-wheeling, universe/multiverse. I’ve played similar one-shots at cons and they’re good fun.
      That pit trap you refer to is the curse of modern media, particularly in the internet/rotten tomatoes age. I think that’s why the Alien tie-in stuff is so dull. There’s a huge fanbase that only want Colonial Marines and bug hunts. That’s where the money is, not with old grumps like me that would prefer their Alien spin-offs to be more like Hard to be a God or some other grimy, lo-fi effort. But around our tabletops we can please ourselves. We can sandbox it, or we can recreate something we love. That’s why roleplaying is so fucking cool.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think I agree on all those points, really. Certainly I nodded sagely all the way through reading it 🙂
        You’re quite right regarding adding your own content. I’m not sure why I felt adding new things to Moorcock’s setting would be sacreligious. I have no qualms about adding new places and peoples to Star Trek, for example, and I’m sure the great man himself would be all for it.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I think you’re talking about my blogpost. I’m not trying to prescribe or tell anyone “not to do that,” quite the contrary. If you can have your tropes and keep an eye on themes too, you can enrich the experience by playing the hits plus a few new tunes. It’s a sticky wicket, but I find there is more commonground with an IP everyone at the table at least has a shared base of knowledge of, vs lore that the GM knows from some overpriced tome.

      Liked by 1 person

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