How to Still Appreciate and Respect Your Games, Even After You’ve Seen Them Naked

meepleMy friend and I once derailed a Dungeons & Dragons session for 30 minutes while we argued over whether or nor my wizard could cast a “hold animal” spell against a human.  Geeks, amiright?  My contention was that humans are animals; in fact they are primates, which was one of the categories of “animal” listed in the spell description. His contention was that was not the intent of the rules, evinced by the fact that there was a separate “hold person” spell, in all functionality the same, but explicitly described for use on humans. Who won the argument? Who cares!? The moral of the story is we wasted 30 minutes of our lives and ruined the fun for everyone at the table.

All this was because, when I was younger, I used to obsess over the concept of the “official” rules to a game. It came from growing up in a family culture of vicious Monopoly play and other snide victories in games. Back in those days, the definition of what made you a “good” player had less to do with strategy and more to do with cheap tactics begotten by a better understanding of the rules than the other players had. Winning on technicalities. Winning at all costs, regardless of whether the experience of playing a game was actually any fun. I was very much a “letter of the law” kind of gamer; not so much “spirit of the law.” Really, I was the exact opposite of the kind of gamer I lauded in “There Is No Game.”

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REDSHIFT Issue Summaries

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INDIVIDUAL ISSUE SUMMARIES

#1: “The Pilot” by Geoffrey Greer (May 2016)

Reginald Eugene Dow, known sometimes as “Red,” is an American pilot who was serving in the British Royal Air Force (Eagle Squadron) during WWII. Though his memories of his mother are nothing but fond, Red’s relationship with his father was tenuous at best, as the man violently disapproved of Red’s sexual orientation. Once he was of age, Red left the United States to attend university in England. While there, Britain declared war on Germany, and Red enlisted.

During the Dieppe Raid (August 19, 1942), Red and his squadron are shocked at the Germans’ apparent readiness for the invasion. They seem to have been so prepared as to suggest espionage. Compounding matters, the German defenders deploy what could only be a secret and experimental weapon: a massive rail-cannon, whose blast is a column of violet light that disrupts atmospheric conditions and literally tears holes in the sky—dimensional rifts. In the combat, Red’s plane is among many (on both the Allied and German sides) that is drawn into the column’s apparent magnetism. He blacks out during the wreck, his last vision being of a giant black monster of some kind, stepping through one of the rifts into this reality.


#2: “Verwachsung” by Geoffrey Greer (June 2016)

Red regains his senses on the very same beach in Dieppe, though there is no evidence that a battle has taken place. His plane is gone, but he appears to maintain his clothing and personal possessions, including his military-issue fighting knife. He appears to be alone, save for a German officer who also lies on the beach, his health failing him. Seeing to the German officer, Red experiences a strange hallucination of sorts, wherein he is unsure whether he is performing CPR on the man or stabbing him to death. Simultaneously, Red vividly remembers the juvenile act of stabbing his father to death, although this stands in opposition to his equally vivid memory of leaving his father on the train platform before departing for England. The dream-state ends when Red, performing CPR, believes he actually delivers an electric shock from his own body and channeled through his arms, into the German officer. Now quite revived, the officer trains his service pistol on Red and they have an uneasy moment. A strange, oily black and acidic rain then begins to fall on them, which burns and drives them to both take shelter in a nearby grotto.

While they wait out the rain, they come to know each other, and the German man, whose name is Ernst, speaks English. Red learns that Ernst is also gay, and has similar mixed feelings about his own father. They ponder their bizarre circumstances, and Ernst suggests they have traveled through time, a consequence of barely surviving the attack from the experimental weapon, which he reveals the Nazis called the “Schlieffen Device.” Red mistakenly thinks they have travleled forward in time, but Ernst ultimately explains that they have gone backwards. He further explains that the Nazis did, indeed, have foreknowledge of the raid, owing to a corpse discovered in France in 1917, during the first World War. The corpse was somehow carrying intelligence that revealed the 1942 plan and provided the German government with research that made the Schlieffen Device possible. At length, and with despair, Ernst reveals that his name is Schlieffen; it is 1917 and he is the very man the Germans are about to discover. He realizes the SS have been grooming him for this mission for decades.

It is right about this time that the rain subsides, and Red and Ernst are discovered by German soldiers in hazmat suits. In a panic, the Germans open fire into the grotto, accidentally killing Ernst. Red responds with rage and uncontrollably produces an arc of lightning from his hands, killing the German scouts. He then blacks out again. Meanwhile, German authorities will come to discover not only the corpse of Ernst Schlieffen in the grotto, but another corpse on the beach: stabbed to death and badly decomposed by the black rain, but who an autopsy reveals to also be Ernst Schlieffen. It appears there are two copies of the same man.



#3: “The Plague Doctor” by Geoffrey Greer (July 2016)

Red awakes in a small Jewish hamlet outside London; the year is 1666. The city and surrounding areas are in the throes of the Great Plague, and the Jewish community here is harangued by Christian marauders from within the city limits. Red seems to catch the attention of a certain plague doctor who is tending to the sick, but their encounter is interrupted by a raid, during which Red is once again struck unconscious. His sleep is addled by dreams of his mother and her affinity for lavender, as well as they abuses of his father.

Upon waking once more, Red befriends an orphaned Jewish girl named Amira, the last survivor of this community. He can speak with her clearly, but he does not understand how. She informs him of the their plight and that she is fearful of the plague doctor he noticed earlier. She claims that the man is making her sick rather than healing her. As for healing, Red discovers that his body now manifests rapid healing and possibly even regenerative qualities. Together, Red and Amira tend to the dead and gather food. Having nowhere to go nor any clear plan what to do, they make camp in the hamlet, and Amira dies in the night, succumbing to the plague.

In the morning, Red buries Amira. He is then harassed and attacked by two wandering marauders, whom he kills in combat. One he dispatches with his fighting knife; the other he debilitates with the shovel he had used to bury Amira, then executes a coup de grâce by means of his realized electrical potential. He discovers that the plague doctor has returned and has witnessed the melee, but rather than seeking a fight, the plague doctor unmasks himself. He is Reginald’s identical twin.

Red comes to call the other man “Eugene,” which is his middle name and the name by which his mother used to call him. Eugene leads Red away to a cabin in the woods where he has secluded himself from society. They take tea together and talk at length, Red learning much. The two men are different versions of the same man from two alternate realities. The event of the Schlieffen Device and its damage to space-time has caused the two realities to collide in unpredictable ways, accounting for not only Reginald’s duplication, but also that of Ernst Schlieffen in Issue #2. Red and Eugene have shared recollections of one another’s past, and in his relative past, Eugene did in fact stab their father to death. While it has only been a matter of days for Red since the Schlieffen Event, Eugene explains that he has skipped aimlessly about history for nearly ten years before learning how to control his latent abilities, and especially how to time travel with deliberate intention—a feat he now accomplishes through the use of opium. Among the many time periods and places he’s visited, Eugene indicates specifically that he began to experiment seriously with his abilities in 19th Century China, 6th Century Constantinople, and 14th Century Eastern Europe. Eugene explains that Red’s abilities will likewise continue to improve. Specifically, he explains that communication is largely mental, and that the language barrier is superficial, easier to overcome with children like Amira, and will ultimately resolve itself completely.

Eugene perceives himself as a scientist, and as a special being selected by Nature or by God to evolve into a superior form of human. He believes that his abilities, and especially his sexual orientation, are the furthest thing from mistakes, and that they are in fact God’s way of experimenting with new variations of species in the continual struggle to produce what is “fittest.” He extends these beliefs to include Reginald, and he wishes for them to be companions in an eventual communion with God. Red comes to realize that, in his travels, Eugene has not only inspired Nazi racial propaganda, but was in fact the source of Bubonic Plague in ancient Rome, feudal Europe, and Qing China. Having mastered molecular agitation and manipulation among his latent abilities, Eugene actually created the plague as an experiment, repeating his experiment in these variable times and locations. Red is horrified now, but he cannot hope to fight or detain Eugene. Not only is Eugene more experienced and more powerful, but Red’s tea has been laced with opium, and he is losing consciousness. Angry that Red does not share his worldview, Eugene becomes threatening, but he declines to hurt or kill Red, partly out of a sense of affinity, but also because neither of them knows what will happen if the one should kill the other.

Red goes into an opium-induced, hallucinogenic coma. When he regains himself, Eugene is gone, having left behind a decorative opium kit and a baiting note for Red to pursue him.



#4: “The Pilgrim” by Samsara (August 2016)

Reginald spends several weeks living alone in Eugene’s cabin in the woods. Eugene does not return, but Red spends the time acclimating, resting, thinking, and generally beginning to find peace. In London, the plague seems to be contained, and the city begins to thrive once again, at which point Reginald decides it is time to leave. He gathers a few provisions, including his fighting knife and the opium kit, into a makeshift travel bag. He thinks perhaps his best source of information on how to safely and effectively use the opium will be found either in the culturally diverse Mediterranean region, or in the far eastern land of China whence it came. Therefore, he enters London in hopes of securing passage by sea back into mainland Europe.

In the city, though his comprehension skills seem to be improving, communication is still difficult or impossible, and he strikes a suspicious character. Being also broke, he resolves to stow away on a dilapidated ship called the Pilgrim, which is docked alongside several military vessels. He hides away in the storage hold for the next several days of the voyage, enjoying further solitude and contemplation.

He does not understand why, at first, but the storage hold is laden with nothing but explosives and seems to be serving as the ship’s magazine. As they approach the Dutch coastline, the ship and crew join a military engagement, at which point he realizes they are making a raid against the Dutch, and the Pilgrim is intended as a fireship. He does not know it, but this action is the English raid on the Vlie estuary, which was to become known as Holmes’s Bonfire, August 1666, part of the Second Anglo-Dutch War. Choosing arrest over certain death in the ship’s magazine, Red surrenders to the skeleton crew. They shackle him but then leave him for dead on the main deck as they torch the ship and abandon it. To save himself from the inevitable explosion, Red jumps overboard, still shackled, and there beneath the water is rained upon by shrapnel. He begins to drown. Struggling to escape the shackles, Red manifests a new ability: molecular agitation, which he subsequently uses to disintegrate the irons and swim to freedom.

Once on the shore, Red escapes inland through the coastal town, indifferent to the outcome of the raid and concerned only with self-preservation. He happens upon a horse that has been lost from its stables in the frenzy. Apologetically and with some clumsiness, he manages to control the animal. He rides off into 17th century Germania, bound for the Mediterranean.


Cheating: Accusations and Confessions

self-flagellationThere’s an old story within my family about my uncle and a now infamous game of Clue. The game had begun without any fanfare, and when it came to his turn, my uncle proceeded immediately and with clear and deliberate intention to a particular room of the mansion. Thereupon, at the earliest possible moment and on his very first attempt, having conducted no interviews whatsoever, he correctly declared the killer, weapon, and location, winning the game. When the accusations of cheating were leveled at him, he stated quite plainly: “Of course I looked in the envelope! We’re trying to solve a murder here, people. If I need to break into a lousy file cabinet, I will!”

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Hadrian’s Wall: First Impressions

hadriansStory: Kyle Higgins & Alec Siegel
Artwork: Rod Reis
Publisher: Image Comics
Issue #1: September 2016

THIS PREVIEW IS SPOILER-FREE

From the publisher:

When an astronaut on HADRIAN’S WALL is murdered, pill-popping detective Simon Moore is dispatched to investigate the ship’s crew… including his own ex-wife. But if Simon’s not careful, what he finds could make the interstellar Cold War go red hot. From the creative team behind the critically-acclaimed series C.O.W.L. comes a gripping, locked room murder mystery where the secrets of everyone involved are as dark as the space that surrounds them.


hadrian-3I’m loving the fact that more and more comics seem to be taking a page out of the tradition of manga—by which I mean: they plan to END. I love spandex-wearing super heroes; there’s no denying. But one of the biggest turn-offs for me as a comic book reader/collector, and one of the strongest barriers to my buying a given title, is the terrifying prospect that the writers (a) have no intention of ever arriving at the resolution, and (b) they may even intend to further complicate matters with endless spin-offs, cross-overs, and alternate versions. That’s a big commitment, like a marriage, so I’m very discriminating when it comes to comic book serials. I hate divorces (see my rant on my now terminated Howard the Duck subscription). Therefore it was happy tidings when I learned a month or two ago through Newsarama of the upcoming, 8-issue arch by Higgins & Co. How could I not be interested in a combination of science-fiction, alternate reality, film noir, murder mystery, and historical reference? Issue #1 hit the stands this month, and I’m happy to report, even though I’m already married to several other titles, this tryst to Hadrian’s Wall looks like it’s going to be a wonderful love affair.

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Redshift #4 Released

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The August 2016 issue of Redshift, entitled “The Pilgrim” is now published. For those of you who might not know, Redshift is the title of a serialized work of fiction that we are publishing monthly here on Past Go and on our Patreon site. Issue #4 is our first contribution from a guest writer.

Please click below to read the current issue or to visit the Redshift main page.
Interested in becoming a contributor? Visit the main page for submission guidelines.

Redshift #4: The Pilgrim

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If you enjoy what we produce here at Past Go, please consider becoming a patron of ours on Patreon.  Even the smallest donation is gratefully received.  May you be happy.

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Pax Romana: Where Have You Been All My Life?

paxor “A Love Letter to Jonathan Hickman”

I like graphic novels. I like that they are a complete story and don’t suck me in to an endless commitment to purchase more and more and more and more comic books. Believe me: I already have enough “serials” on my monthly pull-list at the comic shop, and for some strange reason, the list keeps getting longer every time I go in there. Graphic novels are either self-contained or don’t span much more than a few sequels, so the canon is easily consumed, like traditional novels or movies. Graphics also tend to be more on the “serious” side in terms of tone, which I relish. So when I’m browsing the shop aimlessly, I will inevitably end up at the shelves of graphics, and it is thus how, a month or two back, I accidentally discovered Pax Romana by Jonathan Hickman. Continue reading

On Technology in Tabletop Games

towerThis past weekend we connected with some old friends for a game night; the main event was my maiden voyage into the cult classic Dark Tower. My buddy had recently gotten a refurbished electronic tower to replace his old broken one, which had prompted us to the occasion. Of course, by the time the date finally arrived, his family had gotten all of one play out of the replacement tower before it malfunctioned as well. Alas, we were left to play with the app simulator anyway, but I was glad to have experience this well-loved game either way, having never had it as a kid.

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