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Saturday, December 30, 2017

On Praying for One's Enemies


"By praying for those who wrong us we overthrow the devil; opposing them we are wounded by him."
-St Mark the Ascetic, On the Spiritual Law






To be wronged by another or to witness wrong is a horrific thing. Even witnessing a wrong is an injury to the soul, because we're all human and share a common bond. But it's imperative that we forgive others because not only did someone do something unnatural to you by harming you but they committed something unnatural against themselves; evil hurts the perpetrator, not just the victim. But it's easy for the victim to forget this and twist the hurt to put themselves in a far worse state of hurt than what the perpetrator did to them. This isn't to downplay the original wound, far from it! But to hate the one who wounds you only makes the wound worse. Hate will not The only way to fix this is to repent of the hatred for your enemy and pray for them.








All people start off with a basic trust of others as children, who are aware of the bonds that are between all things. A lot of people later in life comes to think of as a naïve dream. They couldn't be more wrong; we are all connected by virtue of being human and sharing in the same nature. We are to see everyone and everything as intrinsically connected and therefore worthy of love, because to love others is to love yourself. The Fathers teach that only when we love everyone in this way, as God does, that we are purified of the passions, which are the thoughts and sentiments that stop us from objective thought.




But the offense and harm others give us tempt us to give up this love and objectivity. Being wronged by another creates a crisis within someone's soul. It challenges the basic trust that we all have in men, a trust that is only too easy to give up. We must not do this, under any circumstance, because denying that connection we have to others is only denial and is not an actual cutting of ties. You can't say "Because so-and-so hurt me I withdraw my connection from him". That's logically absurd, because your decision to say you cut ties with your enemy is only possible because you have a connection to your enemy in the first place! What sad folly, to accept the lie that we can forget the ones who hurt us, that connection is only determined by pleasure and happiness, when connection is gained by merely existing; by virtue of that person existing you are connected to them. All we do by denying this is to stop up our ears and eyes. But the tragedy grows. Denying something so obvious only makes us hurt worse and so, eventually, that person becomes a god to us, a god that we must run from at all costs. And so we board ourselves up in our own little private prisons, trying to keep the memory of that person from the rest of us, locking the portion of ourselves that is connected to that hateful perpetrator that we loathe. We then fracture and suffer a far worse wound than what was originally dealt to us. We then condemn ourselves to Hell.


This atrocity is committed with the sin of anger, of which St. John Cassian says there is no actually healthy variety in his work On the Eight Vices. "Leaves, whether gold or lead, placed over the eyes, obstruct the sight equally, for the value of the gold does not affect the blindness it produces." Anger can only be used against two things: the passions within us and the demons that cause those passions. Nothing else deserves our anger, nothing at all, even those that hurt us. And since, as St. Mark the Ascetic says in On the Spiritual Law: "Just as a thought is made manifest through actions and words, so is our future reward through the impulses of the heart. Thus a merciful heart will receive mercy, while a merciless heart will receive the opposite."






This, of course, is heard too late for majority of us so we can avoid anger. Generally speaking wounds that give us the opportunity to start denying connections happen when we're far too young to process what we're doing. Some of us lost this love of neighbor years, sometimes decades, ago and have trained hatred into our very bodies; habits have a physical component, after all. Sin is a lot more than a decision, it's a habit, a series of decisions ingrained into our nervous systems. The decision to not see God is a way of life. The only way to fix this problem is to change it back to the way God intended, to repent.


How do we do repent? The Fathers are very clear about what we should do, which is to pray for one's enemies. In "A Night in the Desert of the Holy Mountain" by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos the anonymous Gerondas advises to pray the Jesus Prayer as "Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on your servant" as the formula for praying for others. Names should be left aside, because God knows who you wish to pray for and what they need. And, as Saint Nicolai Velimorivich says in his classic prayer "Bless My Enemies, Oh Lord" enemies are the servants of God, our cruel friends. Our enemies still have the image of God in them and are, no matter their intentions, channels of grace from God.  We may not like what grace they impart, but it doesn't change that grace comes from them.


But anyone who tries this way of life figures out very quickly that it's not just hard, but impossible. What's done to anyone is too much to bear because, no matter what happens, a human cannot actually solve human problems. It's normal to feel heights of forgiveness, only to fall into something that looks even worse than what you were before. The key, as with anything, is to keep going. Don't deny whatever pain it was that was dealt, just refuse to stay in it, but forgive and ask God to have mercy on you for your cold hard heart. At the end of the day God is merely waiting for you to finally realize that you mean your forgiveness.



Monday, December 25, 2017

St. Joseph and the Nativity


When I first started hearing the story of the Nativity as a child I'd always wonder a bit about Joseph and felt intimidated by the "traditional" Roman Catholic take on him: that he was a young and virile man who, without question, took Mary into his home and provided for her, not sleeping with her, teaching and caring for this young child who he believed to be God. Try as I might, I couldn't relate to Joseph as a person. I didn't know if anyone could react the way he did. How could anyone hear such a story from a twelve year old girl and not feel at least a little doubt? I felt disconnected from the average Roman Catholic's thoughts on the matter.

Turns out the Orthodox Church has preserved the original story as it was told in the Proto-evangelium of James, which clearly outlines what Joseph did: doubt, and hard. When he heard that Mary was pregnant Joseph lost it. In this earlier account Joseph was an older man who had just recently lost his wife of forty years, only to be entrusted with Mary so her virginity could be preserved, by lot, after much protest on Joseph's part. So Joseph was more than a little upset when he found out that Mary was pregnant. He wanted to know why the supposedly most pure woman in the world had gone and turned back on her vow of virginity with a random stranger and wouldn't hear anything to the contrary, storming out on Mary. Joseph was done. He was an old man who missed his wife who just wanted to be left alone. And here he was, stuck in a bonafide first-century teenage drama.

It took Gabriel coming to Joseph in a dream to get him to not divorce Mary. And even then, Joseph doubted. Right up to the Nativity Joseph worried and fretted and wondered if he was crazy to trust his dream and Mary. Most of his family disowned him for being a dirty old man because, by adopting Jesus, Joseph communicated that he, an 80 year old man, had had sex with a 12 or 13 year old girl immediately after being entrusted with her, while still in mourning over his wife of 40 years. Not exactly a good look for him. Joseph was probably ruined socially by accepting Jesus. Only St. James, his youngest son, stood by him, having been comforted by Mary in the wake of his mother's death and therefore knowing her a good deal better than the rest of his family, who resented her for "replacing" their mother. But eventually Joseph did come around, he did believe that this strange child from this strange young woman that had been foisted on him was indeed the Christ and he spent the rest of his life defending that child.

But it did not happen overnight. Nor did it happen in a few weeks, or even a few months. So don't feel bad if, at times, you find yourself wondering if God is really taking care of you, even as He's doing it. Don't worry, you're in incredible company. Saint Joseph doubted and look at how it turned out for him. He got to live with God Himself, something that brought more comfort and peace to his old and hurting soul than he could have ever imagined. And that's what Christ has in mind for all of us.

Go ahead and doubt if you must. Just put the next foot down on the path.

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Last Jedi


A long time ago a director-writer by the name of Rian Johnson created an indie film called Brick. It's one of the most brilliant films I'll probably ever see in my life. The dialogue, the visual repetitions and puns, and the unnerving apathy about letting you have any closure, of any kind, are practically a song to me. It's a deliciously uncomfortable movie, not pulling any punches, emotional or otherwise. However, this was the only movie of Johnson's that left us in the lurch like this. The Brothers' Bloom and Looper, while incredible, felt much safer than Brick. Something in the visceral bite of this film had caught my attention and I missed it in Johnson's further movies. And while it appeared again in Breaking Bad I wondered if I would ever see a movie that presented us with the problem of the human heart in even a similar way to Brick.

Welcome to The Last Jedi, the most divisive movie of 2017. And what a wonderful surprise it is. Not only does Johnson have his bite back, but he unloaded it on the franchise that inarguably needed it the most: Star Wars. The iron focus on the central conflict and the refusal to focus on anything we might think is important has been divisive. And that can only be a good thing and, historically speaking, par for the course. The middle acts of Star Wars have always been about overturning what came before and intentionally making people uncomfortable, the actors included; James Earl Jones thought Vader was lying when he recorded the famous line, after all. So the fact that Last Jedi has created the same controversy right down to the plummeting second week sales of its previous installments can only mean the movie did its job. But that's not what's really important, is it? People complaining about Star Wars, horribly missing its point, and feeling instead of thinking about what's been presented them is nothing new.


SPOILERS START HERE. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED






When I wrote my last post about Luke, I was fairly certain I had it right. And I did, right up until a point. But there was something incredibly important that I'd missed: Luke doubted his way. Him staring down at his lightsaber, trying to figure out if it's worth it to kill a sleeping boy? For just that one moment he almost gave into something lesser. But that doubt destroyed his temple. He faltered and lost everything.

Yeah, I'd wanna die too.

There's something ironic about Luke, the person who everyone thinks of as "the hero", managing to do something none of us could, making him all the more heroic for staying his hand, even against what he must have thought to be his better judgment. But that's a level of subtlety I suppose most people didn't catch. And  that level of deftness in handling the characters is the hallmark of this movie. These are people, not your idols. The movie knows it and handles them. There is never a moment where someone has been dropped, where they have a neutral reaction to anything.  Everyone is always moving, going after their agenda, regardless of whether you see it or not. There is so much packed into this movie it will, not can, take multiple viewings to catch it all.

Each character is given an arc. Note that I didn't say main characters, but anyone who is on the screen at any given point in time is going through some form of an arc: Rose is trying to understand Finn, who is learning that some things are worth fighting for, while Luke is fighting his richly-deserved nihilism while Rey is learning to accept herself without her parents while Ben is refusing to let his be... you get the idea. You could go on and on. As a Luke fanboy I of course glomped onto Luke's the fastest, although subsequent viewings will unpeel the layers from everyone else for me.

By the time I got to the end of the movie I was overwhelmed. Luke's passing on was so beautifully done I could hardly believe Johnson had done it. In peace Luke finally became one with everything and passed on, similarly to how Obi-Wan and Yoda had moved on when they realized that they were not necessary corporeally anymore. I could hardly process it, honestly. I'm barely doing it now. So, as time progresses, I'll continue to unpack what I saw and, after a few viewings, y'all will be hearing a lot more.  But that ending fight with Luke was, by far and away, the best part of a genius movie.

Before I end this post, I'll draw my line in the sand. The Last Jedi is the best Star Wars movie, period. The characters, the plot, the intricacy, the foreshadowing, it's as close to perfect as we're going to get before the next Rian Johnson trilogy. Cause that's what we'll be getting, and for that I can't be grateful enough. I understand people disagree, and quite viscerally at that. But, again, par for the course. Twenty years from now this movie will be in the slot that Empire currently is in for most people: the best Star Wars movie, the one that redefined the franchise.

Or it'll be the Rian Johnson trilogy instead. Either way the people who hate this movie are wrong.

Now excuse me while I go and think about this a ton more.

House Rules: The Despair Deck


4e DnD had a lot of really interesting ideas, one of which was the Despair Deck (complete card list at this lovely person's blog here) . Made for their Shadowfell boxed set the Despair Deck was supposed to model walking into the Shadowfell and absorbing the energies of a world that was death itself. Each card had two sides: up and down. The up-side had a vice that the player had to roleplay with some mechanical impacts for said vice, which is essentially a Die Trait from Burning Wheel. Once you fought off the effects you rotated the card and got a positive mechanical effect for the rest of the day.

Well, 4th is dead and gone for the majority of people, myself included. While the majority of people have gone to either Pathfinder or 5th, I went more of the Indie and OSR route, where these cards can have surprising utility. Anyone who has ever been severely injured or almost killed in real life can attest to the effects of PTSD from those situations. Does everyone get it? No, but no one I know has a goblin screaming at them in the face as they get stabbed either. Plus it gives combat a real edge in that characters change from the effects of being dropped.

So, at least in future games that I'll run, if you are rendered unconscious you have to make a Wisdom check (or a Steel check if it's Burning Wheel or find another corollary). Fighter types or anyone with a trait that makes it harder to scare them get a bonus on this roll. If you fail this check you have to draw a card from the Despair Deck and apply its mechanical and role-play effects. The first conflict that is faced by the party after the Despair Card is drawn must always be played with the Despair Card in its negative position. At the end of every conflict the player may make another Wisdom (or analogue) check. Make this check harder for every time they've failed it. Friends may help, but that help had best be roleplayed. You may also make this check anytime a friend is injured, with no penalties from previous failures. Success means that the card is flipped and stays with the player in its positive form until they go to sleep for that night.

Example for Burning Wheel: Telos takes a Mortal Wound and is down. His player makes a Steel test (with the appropriate 5 dice penalty) and fails, thus making him draw a card from the Despair Deck. The card drawn is Wrathful, which in 4e terms makes you grant Combat Advantage to enemies who are adjacent to you until you overcome the despair effect. In Burning Wheel terms that would probably be a +1 Ob in conflicts where you have to get close to your opponent (so any social and melee situations). The GM makes this ruling and Telos's character agrees to it. Angered by his helpelessness Telos rages at the slightest drop of a pin, making him unpredictable and unhelpful on purpose.Finally, however, an argument comes up and Telos runs right into the Duel of Wits. He pushes the wrathful aspect of his personality but loses the conflict. That still means that he gets to roll however, and he passes with flying colors. Something about the conflict has appeased Telos's rage and, as the card's positive side states, no one can gain advantage over him in close situations until he goes to sleep.

And since it's Burning Wheel the GM rules that these cards give you an extra Persona point whenever it gets you in trouble as compensation for an additional burden. Yeah, make sure to slip the player a bit of extra love. It'll go a long way.

Obviously there will be some issues in making the mechanics transfer over. Not every game has combat advantage and the numerical bonuses can really gimp some varieties of d20 or just be nonsense in a non-d20 game. The onus of interpreting the card rests on the GM, who should check his interpretation with the rest of the players and have them agree if he's reasonable or not. And, like the example for Burning Wheel says, make sure to give extra XP or rewards to make this rule go over smoother. It's not a natural thing for people to put their characters in trouble, so make sure to compensate them for their efforts. This particular rule hasn't been playtested in DnD so GMs, be kind.

This idea probably won't be for everyone, specifically roll-players. But the effects of combat are a real thing and I think it's fun to play that out. This rule will be rough on those players but will add a layer of characterization that will pay off as players are get into their characters as they have to face their mortality and pain. And, provided you have good players, that's a good spot to look into. But, again, don't try this rule if you think they won't enjoy it. But for those people who love character this will provide a wonderful progression as they deal with pain in a way they wouldn't have expected.




Saturday, December 16, 2017

No, I Didn't Like Wonder Woman




If you're wondering where my review of The Last Jedi is I had to get called out of the theatre about 45 minutes in to deal with some family stuff. Everyone's definitely OK, but it did require my undivided attention. I'll be getting to see the rest of The Last Jedi sometime this coming up week. Ironically enough I'd planned this review of Wonder Woman anyway, so here's what's definitely the minority opinion on Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman is not a mediocre movie. Mediocrity happens when the film makers phone it in or are so inept that everyone is left scratching their head, wondering why they bothered to say anything at all. Mediocrity is not Wonder Woman's problem. It shoots high and misses. But it's better to have great aspirations and fail to achieve them than to have none at all. And Wonder Woman definitely has a great and beautiful vision in its sights. But the problem is that Wonder Woman tries to stick to the explicit formula of a superhero film while trying to complete its vision, which is actually a clever subversion of the superhero formula.

Let's start with what's good about this movie. Diana and Steve are the core of this movie. Their chemistry is genuine and propels them both into the plot. Steve manages to inspires Diana while still being flawed and normal. And, even though Steve is intimidated and impressed by Diana, he's not overwhelmed by her power. He doesn't see her as a hot goddess, like any other man would, but as a person. To actually pull off that relationship is an amazing thing. Ares had the potential to the best villain I'd ever seen in any superhero movie. Those moments when he first introduces himself are incredible. My jaw dropped when he was revealed and I loved his motivations and methods. When I think God of War, I don't think of what they revealed and that's what made it work. The subtlety, the performance, the whole thing... up till a certain point.

Those are pretty much the only things I liked about the movie. The Island of the Amazons struck me as silly. I get it: Gadot's Israeli and they wanted to keep her accent, but literally nobody else in the movie pulls it off and it destroys my suspense of disbelief every time. I hated slow-mo in 300, I hated it in BvS, but I hate it here the most. And that's because this movie doesn't jive with slow-mo. Unlike BvS and 300 there was actually potential in Wonder Woman to be a good movie, not some two-bit trash that doesn't have any coherent thought behind it. And then there's the ridiculous end fight with Ares, where you realize that WWII happened without Ares and that's incredibly depressing and upends the movie.

But that's not what sealed the deal. As much as the formula grated on me throughout the movie Wonder Woman was doing pretty well, all things considered, and especially for a DC film! The Snyder-ness was almost gone and I could kind of enjoy it! But then the movie had the audacity to tell me how to feel. From the explanation of Steve's good-bye to the ending spiel about hope and all the garbage that I was feeling until they told me to feel it. Show, don't tell, is Film 101. Apparently the last third of this movie forgot to do it. They didn't need to tell me to hope in a corny over-dub, the story was telling me that on its own quite admirably, thank you very much! But the overdubs and the explanations and the "Please hope!" ruins it for me. Instead of it being genuine it was just corny and hackneyed. Wonder Woman didn't need a huge ending fight, nor does it need fancy action, nor does it need a stupid "I'll hope no matter what" speech that sounds like something Snyder would write in a vain hope that you'll ignore his inherent nihilism. The core was so solid. Nothing else needed to be done.

This movie could have been incredible. It really could have. All the ingredients are there, despite a set up that left much to be desired and the shoehorned superhero antics. But the ball is dropped every time, just as I'm about to believe in it. And that's a crying shame. Despite my (obvious) hatred of anything Zack Snyder touches I really wanted to like this movie, and  DC almost had me on this one. Almost. I know I'm in what's probably a very vocal minority. But here I sit. Wonder Woman is certainly not a horrible movie, it's not even a "bad" movie. But it's certainly not a good one. And that's a shame.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

How I See Luke on the Eve of The Last Jedi


I've watched Star Wars way too many times to not go see The Last Jedi tomorrow night, despite my wife's pleas to get more sleep after a rash of 24 on 24 off shifts courtesy of my last month in the Army. Is that unwise? Yup. Am I doing it anyway? I got the ticket in my car, yeah, I'm gonna go see it. And that's definitely because of my unabashed fanboyism for Luke Skywalker, who I think is one of the most under-appreciated characters in all of cinema, particular in the wake of the Prequels. I was one of the people who, upon learning the Luke had abandoned everyone he had ever loved, was not surprised to a degree I found shocking. Luke, the hero, abandoning everyone? I found myself able to believe it, because of the character I'd gotten to know from obsessively watching Star Wars way too many times would totally do that.

When we first encounter Luke, he's just a farmboy on Tatooine. Most of his friends have left the dustball and Luke's feeling justifiably angry at his aunt and uncle for stifling him and not letting him ask questions about his father or the rest of his past. Then Ben Kenobi reveals that his father was actually a warrior, a bad-ass, someone who died by treachery, and that Luke had potential, just like his father, if only he would leave his family behind. Interestingly, Luke does the exact opposite of his father Anakin: he refuses. Yes, Luke would like to leave and go on his grand adventure, but in the end he's a farmer, like his uncle. 



Luke's support, his rock, is gone, burned up in front of his eyes. Just try and imagine that for a moment. People have needed years of therapy for far, far less. Luke, however, copes by choosing to make another rock: to be like his father and be a Jedi. He adopts Ben as a surrogate father and they're off to save the princess that he has a crush on. But then that black monster that he hates for betraying and killing his father kills Ben too. But there isn't time to process that either, because now the people that he's left with are in danger and Luke can't stand still.

Hi Biggs!


Bye Biggs!
So, let's count: Luke has lost not one, not two, not three, but FOUR friends and family members in the space of about two weeks, give or take. And he's one of two X-Wing pilots to escape the Death Star. Most protagonists crack after watching one person go down, nevermind four of the most important people in your life. But Luke keeps going. He has to, otherwise literally everyone else dies. And then someone's pinning a medal on him and he's got a new family and quite honestly it's a marvel that Luke didn't wind up a basket case by the end of A New Hope. 

Skip forward two years. Luke's become a confident commander of his own unit of pilots, named in honor of the people who brought him the Death Star plans so he could blow it up. Ben shows up from beyond the grave and tells Luke to go to Dagobah, so he can learn from a real Jedi master. Luke doesn't even get the opportunity to jump at the chance cause of the wampa, but then the Empire shows up and he loses practically all of Rogue Squadron in the escape at Hoth. Once again, Luke keeps going. 

I have to mention the cave in particular in my sketch of Luke's personality, because it's here where the first crack in Luke's seemingly impregnable armor shows up. Luke wonders if he's turning into Vader. It's not an idle thing to wonder, either: with all the death and destruction Luke has seen in two very short years he's become a very different person from that whiny 19 year old we knew at the beginning of A New Hope. Is Luke losing touch? Is he becoming what he hated from the start: a killing machine that only deals in death? Being in the military has a tendency to dull spiritual sensitivity and it's only fair to wonder if you can ever go back to what you were after seeing as much death as Luke has in such a short amount of time.

But all this soul searching has to come to an end quickly, because Luke realizes his friends are in danger and thus goes off to save them, his mentors' reservations be damned. And that's where the rug really gets pulled out from under him. Not only did Ben lie to him, but the monster that Luke was so afraid of turning into is his father. The greatest killer in the entire galaxy is his father. And right after that Ben refuses to help Luke (something I think he was more than capable of doing) and the very people Luke was trying to save have to come and get him.



Is it any wonder then, that a year later when Return of the Jedi picks up, Luke is Force Choking opponents without a thought, wearing all black in the middle of a searing desert, and trying as hard as he can to stick with his friends so he can feel something other than the burning anger that he has against Obi-Wan and Yoda, the two who strung him along and lied to him so they could turn him into a killing machine to point at his father? Turns out his "family" was just priming him to be what he never wanted to be in the first place. At this point Luke just wants real family. He's lost so much and the thought of killing his father is too far for him. Luke's lost enough family. He doesn't need to lose more.

Which is why Vader threatening his new-found sister is such an interesting twist for Luke. Here's something new, something that actually gets Luke truly angry: corrupting someone's soul. It's a bit much to put on a person who's already had enough stress to last him for a lifetime in three years. What were you doing at 22? Probably not trying to kill your father for threatening your twin sister. Hopefully not. But Luke finally gives into rage built up over the course of three years of constant war, lies, and death. And right after that he loses his father. 

But the most interesting thing to me in this sketch is Luke's declaration when he spares his father. "I am a Jedi, like my father before me." Anyone who's watched the Prequels knows what a joke this statement is. Luke is nothing like any Jedi with the exception of Qui-Gon, and even that comparison's thin. He's not an indoctrinated brainwashed machine wearing fleshy clothes, he's a young man that's got all the attachments that no Jedi in their right mind would even think of cultivating. And like his father? Even less so! Luke's choices put him in a camp that his father could only dream of being in. Luke's declaration is inherently flawed. He doesn't understand what makes him so special but associates himself with a group that would have thrown him into the nuthouse sooner than admit him to their little exclusive club of pricks. But Luke doesn't catch this problem and no one can really correct him on it. 

No, Lucas: replacing Sebastian Shaw was not OK.

But that's not the real problem. Luke ascribes his father's eventual salvation, not to his relationship with his son, but to the power of the Force, to being a Jedi. Don't believe me? Let's look at the next thirty years in brief. We know that Luke was present at the battle of Jakku, where he was pulling Star Destroyers out of orbit, an act with a scope unheard of in canon and, while approached, not rivaled in the EU (to the best of my knowledge). We're not talking about Starkiller's cop-out, which was a damaged and sinking Star Destroyer, but shutting down and pull ing out of the sky a fully operational gigantic engine of death. That's one year post-ROTJ.

Luke continues on to grab as much information as he can about the Jedi Order. He's hardly present to his old friends, who miss him and wish he'd come home. But Luke's found his answer, hasn't he? The Jedi must come back, he owes Yoda and Ben that much. So when Leia brings her son, who's been messed with by Snoke since conception, to Luke he assumes he can deal with it. He converted Darth Vader, after all, how hard can it be?


After all this time, it all ends the same way it began for Luke: in fire and death. Only this time it's definitely his fault. Luke got arrogant and didn't respect his nephew's formidable power and it got a lot of people killed. Luke had formed a new family of Jedi. He sought them out and trained them and poured everything he had into their hearts, only to lose them in exactly the same way that he lost his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. Coming full circle, Luke realizes what a waste thirty years has been. Thirty years of advancement and adventure, his whole life and its meaning, is gone. He had abandoned the only people who had actually meant anything to him, Han and Leia and Chewie, and it ended in fire and death. And it's entirely his fault. At the end of it all he's not even a 19 year old boy who just lost his aunt and uncle, but an old man who wasted his life on a wild goose chase. He's just an old fool who's done no good for anyone, anywhere.

Yeah, I'd leave for parts unknown too. I wouldn't want to look my sister and brother-in-law and friend in the face and admit that I'd screwed up after all those years, I'd want to leave and try to clear my head. Maybe somewhere there's answers to help me figure out who I'm supposed to be now.

Because, ultimately, power means nothing to Luke, only relationship holds any sway over him. But you can't relate to anyone if you don't know who you are. And I highly doubt Luke has a clue, even now, who he is in the wake of Ben Solo becoming Kylo Ren.
More after I've watched the movie. We'll see if Johnson is thinking anything close to what I am.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

House Rules: Burning Situations

In the Burning Codex basic outlines are provided for the types of stories that can be told in Burning Wheel: Quest, Struggle, and Intrigue. In what's more of a thought experiment, I wonder if you can add to the Artha rules via these Situations. This is rough and most definitely not playtested, but if you try these rules and like them please let me know!


Quest
If you are the reason why everyone gets lost you get a Fate point.


If you find an object or information of importance but are the reason why the opposition gets it you get a Fate point.


Whenever the group finds an object or a location of great importance the whole group gets a Persona point.


Struggle
Whenever you act on an idealistic or naïve Belief (and thus rewarded for it) and it screws the whole group you get an additional Fate point.


Whenever you do something that gets someone else injured you get a Fate point.


Whenever the party sacrifices something important for a characters'  ideal they all get a Persona point.


Intrigue
If you get your information from someone at the cost of one of your ideals you get a Fate point.


If you cover up a secret that could harm a fellow Player Character you get a Fate point.


If the group covers up a scandalous incident that they were involved in they get a Persona point.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

HI



Over the past few years I've written two blogs, The Kitchen Sink and The School's Trees, which were really good experiences, but for some reason I moved on from them. It probably had to do with the fact that each one expressed something very different for me and when I was done expressing that thing it was time to end the blog.

I'm really hoping this isn't the case for this particular blog, mostly cause I'm tired of doing this over and over again. And why oh why don't I go back to The Kitchen Sink, which was a mishmash blog anyway? I wish I could give you a deep answer about moving on and maturity, but the simple fact is that I got locked out of that Google account while overseas and am tired of trying to get it unlocked so here we are. With a new blog.

What is this blog about? Well, all the things that I love or like. That's a pretty intensive list, but that includes Orthodox theology and iconography, Star Wars, role-playing games, painting, movies, books, pretty much anything that pops into my skull that I want to write about. If you like any of these items or want to be surprised by what I might write about in a given month then please, tag along.