Watching Josie and the Pussycats

I’m not entirely sure why I’m doing this, but man, this is a treasure! I’m liveblogging, so this might be disjointed…

The movie first shows you an absolute inanely hyped boy band that has to die when they figure out some nefarious plan from their record company representative played by Alan Cummings.

How do they die? Plane crash. How does Alan Cummings order it? „Take the chevy to the levy“

We then get introduced to the titular girl band and learn that they don’t have any audience at all, but they are obviously cool, full of rock’n’roll and generally loveable. Also some interpersonal tension and we get to know the handsome but clueless love interest.

Then we realize how full of product placement the movie is. Like, two brands a second full. I think there is no shot that doesn’t feature an obnoxiously obvious brand logo. Apparently this ties in to aforementioned nefarious plan, but right now, we don’t know how. But an emo girl gets annoying enough that Alan has to order her kidnapping: „smells like teen spirit“…

A short 4th-wall break later the band is hired. (After a short gaffe by Alan which hasn’t memed at all: He says he’s so proud to meet all the Pussyhats) Everyone and the annoying hanger-on girl gets on a plane to New York. Why her? Because she’s in the comic, she tells us.

Finally we learn what the evil plan is: The Mixmaster 6000 adds in a bunch of subliminal messages to get kids buy lots of stuff. Evil. Genius. MTVs Behind the Music just exists to explain the downfall of those bands that don’t play ball…

A week later they are #1 on the billboard charts and the band will get a biopic, starring Drew Barrymore. Everything is peachy — or is it?

(also: It’s funny to see how many of the internet brands prominently displayed in the movie are defunct now. Everything non-internet is still relevant though)

Then the ditzy band girl ignores the creepy warning about the music and we cut to the romantic confusion between Josie and the loveable but dumb love interest. The sexual tension immediately gets defused by Alan Cummings bursting in and sweeping Josie away to some gala.

At the big party the girls get suspicious and the evil record label owner and Alan cumming plot murder and do dramatic evil laughs. But they can’t kill the whole band, because they have already ordered a gazillion electronic mind control pussycat ears

(also, there’s even advertising inside a frigging giant fishtank. Evian water, if you need to know.)

The murder plot is underway while love interest tries to get a gig and Josie soaks in a bathtub after being pressured into compliance by Alan Cummings. It gets foiled by „if I weren’t a key player in this nefarious plot to brainwash americas youth, we could totally date“, cued by ditzy bandgirl smashing some brains in.

But woe! The bathtub soak came with listening to brainwash-music, so Josie is now convinced that she doesn’t need the band, so DRAMA!

The band is broken up, Josie is slave to the brainwashing CD and who knows if friendship will ever prevail?

Ah, she is running, and then she falls, the CD stops and she finds the magical bus pass of friendship and ominous music shows us that things will get better!

Only that now the other two girls are gone, „like a flock of seagulls!“

To the studio to inspect the CD! And lo and behold, they find the hidden message, voiced by Mr. Moviephone. The plot is uncovered and what happens now? (they actually played the dramatic dun-dun-DUHN! jingle for this!)

Some blackmail about fiery car-death, Josie agrees to play the concert that will brainwash the masses. But not before some heart-to-heart friendship talk that hopefully will make things everything up. Shot while Mel and Bel are in a car that is slowly revolving on some presentation platter.

AND HERE’S THE TWIST!

The boyband from the movies beginning is NOT DEAD AND SAVES THE DAY! They landed the plane just fine, but they got beat up by Metallica fans, which is why they kept being missing.

Ok, they don’t save the day, but they were a good diversion and now we have a cat fight and can watch Rosario Dawson beat up Alan Cummings.

Josie is clever and tricks the evil record label lady into smashing the brainwashing machine.

Turns out, the actual evil plan was to brainwash everyone into loving evil record label lady, and to hide her lisp. And this is the moment where Alan Cummungs recognizes her as Lisping Lisa and reveals himself to be Whiteass Wally, so the two former high school losers admit their faults and love to each other. IS THIS THE TOTAL HAPPY END?

The government that wanted in on this shuts down the whole thing and arrests the bad persons because it turns out, subliminal messages work better in movies!

And then we do get the big final concert. Will the band actually rock, or was it all smoke and mirrors? (spoiler: No, everyone still loves them, after a short tense moment where the audience just stares wordlessly, now that the mind control headsets are off)

And then we get the inevitable love confession between Josie and Love Interest. They kiss, but Bel has to remind them that they are actually in the middle of a song and should shelve it for later…

And that’s it. Yes, you want to wach this movie. It is stupid, but fun.

Mail Order Apocalypse — Design Diaries

I can’t quite believe it, but it’s been one and a half years since I started writing my own RPG, Mail Order Apocalypse.

On the upside, it is mostly done by now. What is left is a lot of editing and layout, both things that will mostly be done by people better at these things than me. Looking back to the past 18 something months made me realise quite a few things though:

  1. Commissioning artwork for your prospective new game is a neat thing to kick yourself in the butt and get going, but it is no cure all. I commissioned mine from Alex Mayo — that man is a pleasure to work with.
  2. MOA started out as a „powered by the Apocalypse“ game. I wrote a all the basic moves and a lot of the class-specific ones, but eventually hit a dead end. My main problem was that I had nifty ideas for a „Desperation“ status, which never quite came together.
  3. So, when Paolo Greco mentioned Into the Odd to me, I got me a copy (thanks Harald!) and things immediately clicked. This is the simple basis I was looking for.
  4. Simple“ means that MOA is a great pick up game. A new character is made within a few minutes and the rules are super easy to grasp.
  5. Providing simple stats and a randomized but eclectic starting equipment also means, that players have just a handful of things to grab on to when starting the game. But these things are evocative and inspiring. Every player I had so far did something interesting with the starting equipment within the first hour.
  6. The loot and encounter tables started out as an exercise of coming up with „silly, but believable“ stuff. But in the end, they have constantly created a set of loot that felt rewarding enough and also inspired players to, again, do something interesting with it.
  7. One leftover from the games PbtA roots are found with the referee instructions. Adhering to them ensures that the game coasts along the fine line of forcing the survivors to constantly do something, but never made them succumb to desperation.

I look forward to finishing this, and who knows, maybe more than a handful of people will buy it.

hacking Into the Odd

Life is full of coincidences: As I am reworking Mail Order Apocalypse into an Into the Odd hack, Norbert is tinkering with the same rules too: He is adding active parry to the game.

The rules he adds are pretty straightforward, but while I wouldn’t go as far to call them heresy, I won’t adopt them. It’ll make a „roll once to determine damage“ thing into three (the number gets significantly higher if you add initiative) rolls with a bunch of arithmetics.

I can understand what Norbert wants to achieve here, but it is way too much dice rolling for my taste. One of my core tenets for a good roleplaying game is that it should be fast. The faster I know what is happening next, the better. And this bogs things down. Still: Hooray for tinkering. Tinkering is what brings us forward!

Playing Mail Order Apocalypse

Yesterday evening, I spontaneously joined the monthly RPG night at our friendly local game store Otherland. Without any real preparation I offered to run a game of Mail Order Apocalypse and actually got 5 players. To cope with the minimal prep, I again used the simple „let’s rob a train“ starter scenario that I also used at the last LasagnaCon. This is what happened:

A Barn Rodent, the Equity Scion Baron Monsanto-Unilever, his court Genealogist, a Preacher of the machine cult and one daring Post Robber faced the ugly truth that their small settlement only had enough cans of mediocre Chili con Tofu to last them over the next three days.

Being thoroughly sick of the stuff anyway, as this was the only food option they had for the last month, they decided to get proactive. The Post Robber got onto his motorbike to scout out the train tracks, and check if they could use the same ambush spot as last time.

The spot still looked useable enough, but there was also a squarish looking droid working on the tracks. The Post Robber made a daring jump from his speeding bike onto the back of the droid. There he could see the stencilled logo: „Grip-Master-3000“. Apparently, the box was busy making the tracks more „grippy“, so trains wouldn’t have to slow down on this slope — foiling just the thing the Post Robber used to exploit on past heists!

So, the decision was made: This droid had to die. Or at least be stopped! So he took his trusty halberd and smashed it right into the control panel — stopping the Droid dead on the tracks.

This apparently triggered some emergency notification system: For the next few minutes, signal flares got fired from the Grip-Master-3000, undoubtedly calling for more droids to help it.

Thankfully, this was also seen by the rest of the merry gang, who soon joined the Post Robber. Together, they soon came up with a plan: Use the Genealogists blowtorch to cut the tracks, make the grippy tracks extra slippery with the hydraulic oil from the damaged Grip-Master-3000 and thus make the next freight train run off the rails.

It wasn’t too hard to enact this, but in the middle of all the cutting and oiling, the Barn Rodent heard an electric whine of an armed surveillance drone coming closer steadily…

In the end, the group managed to defeat the drone, derail the train, disarm the trains self-defense mechanism, use dry ice to create an impromptu bomb, blowing up the second surveillance drone while hiding from the blast in king-sized fridges and made off with 144 cans of spam, barrels of light beer, half a ton of frozen peas, and novelty bow ties for everyone!

The players had a great time. Shifting the underlying rules from PbtA to the really simple OSR-rules of Into the Odd enabled me to get the players started within a few minutes with minimal introduction. My new random tables to pick archetypes and their gear gave everyone just enough things to have a feel for their survivors and the varied equipment made them come up with quirky solutions to the problems they faced.

I did realize though that the loot table needs to be seriously expanded to be not too repetitve, and some extra notes on how to create more complex scenarios need to be included too.

Nonetheless, I am very pleased about yesterday evening.