Category Archives: TV

Musing about television, shows, and the medium.

Emerald Specter 106: The Haunting of Hill House

If you have been under a rock or haven’t decided to jump in on the Netflix train ride to glory, then you might have missed one of the best series to be produced in the last decade.

I’m talking about The Haunting of Hill House, an original series produced by Netflix that is gloriously eerie where it needs to be and is generally a spooky experience.

I guess if you’re not into horror, then maybe the series isn’t for you but overall, I’d say you should still give the series a shot because I’ve heard it described as “This is Us, but horror.”

Warning, there is no non-spoiler section in this one. Sorry.

The Haunting of Hill House, which is apparently based off of the novel by Shirley Jackson, is the story of the Crain family and their experience with Hill House. There are a ton of layers to what is going on and this review isn’t going to do the series justice but should be enough to get you interested in checking it out.

Just like This is Us, the story jumps around between the present and the past. The past is around when the Crains bought Hill House to flip it, with five kids to live while the process was going on. There are things that don’t make a lot of sense at first when you’re watching early on but will make you go “I didn’t see that coming” as the season wraps up. 

Again, I said that there are many layers to this show.

The present is about everyone all grown up and how they have developed over the years having experienced the house and are dealing with the consequences of what they’ve experienced.

Here’s where the spoilers come in.

The oldest son has written a book about their experiences and no one else in the family is real happy with that.During the flashbacks we learn that the mother has died, and you find out why in the last few episodes, but you also come to understand that the House is really the main reason why things are happening.

Each of the kids is dealing with the loss of the mother, dealing with how their dad has turned out, and is coping with the whole experience in their own little ways.

Needless to say, everyone is severely screwed up.

We, along with the family, start piecing together what actually happened in the house as the series progresses, learning about the history and events that have taken place in the past from both the past and the future perspectives.

A careful eye will find all the hidden ghosts in the series, too, though I haven’t rewatched the series yet to find them for myself.

Yes, this is something you’re going to want to rewatch at least a couple times because there is so much going on!

When my wife and I were watching, we made some guesses about some things and got just as many right as we got wrong. There are layers to this story and I’m so glad Netflix poured cash into this project.

This review isn’t as long as the last one because, though I have not bothered hiding spoilers, I don’t want to get too deep into the weeds here. Go watch the series.

I’m also excited for season 2, which I’m hoping will explore more of the past BEFORE the Crains get to Hill House!

Emerald Specter 105: Black Sails

Starz has had a stellar TV series that I happened across about four years ago and the show was Black Sails. If you like pirates and are interested in HBO level quality of a show about them, then you are in luck.

This is my review of the entire series (as the fourth and final season has long since ended). We (my wife and I) just finished watching the last episode a night or two ago (as you read this).

Black Sails is the story of how Long John Silver got to the point where he’s at in Treasure Island, along with a good mix of actual historical events as well as actual historical pirates.

Yes, Black Sails is a prequel to Treasure Island.

The non-spoiler review is actually pretty short. You get introduced to all of the “main players” right off the bat and some new ones straggle in after a season or two, then you see where the background of Treasure Island gets built, and finally we end up in a place that (for those who have read the book) is more familiar to us.

Starz, as an HBO-like channel, also went and added all the wonderfully adult language as well as plenty of nudity just like one would come to expect from a big budget production like this.

And now, I should move forward into the spoiler review.


Your warning is now, this is the SPOILER section.

Captain Flint (fictional, from Treasure Island), Billy Bones (fictional, from Treasure Island), and the crew of the Walrus (fictional, Treasure Island) end up with a passenger named John Silver (fictional, Treasure Island) who ends up becoming part of the crew.

They are all pirates from Nassau, a city in the Bahamas where the pirates have built their Republic (this is fact). In charge of the island is Eleanor Guthrie, the daughter of a man who organized the pirates into something less random and something more civil. Eleanor, as well as her unseen father, are real.

Among the other pirates that hang out in and around Nassau are Charles Vane (real life pirate) of the Ranger (his real ship was called Lark), Jack Rackham (real life pirate, known as Calico Jack), Anne Bonny (real life pirate), and Benjamin Hornigold (real life pirate and mentor to Edward Teach… Blackbeard).

Nassau has a brothel where a lot of scenes happen (both for the gratuitous nudity and the story development for meetings between characters) and Fort Nassau is under the control of Hornigold, who uses it to fend off ships who aren’t welcome on the island.

There’s a Spanish ship carrying a lot of gold, known as the Urca de Lima (real ship), which is discovered by the pirates and becomes the focus of their attention… because they’re pirates.

While the pirates feud amongst one another, there is an understanding that they are strongest when they are together, so don’t think that feuds will cause irreparable rifts between anyone. That mirrors real life… for more, you may want to read The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down.

The whole while, John Silver is slowly becoming the scary and powerful pirate we know he is in Treasure Island, which is a transformation worth watching as the series goes on.

There are spectacular naval battles, political intrigue, examples of what kinds of things people at sea faced in the 18th century, and for those who need a little nudity, there is some in every season (though, as is typical with HBO shows, the amount decreases as the seasons progress, giving way to the actual story).

As a series, this was surprisingly excellent in a way that I hadn’t expected Starz to produce. HBO has a track record of producing content like this, and I’m sure if I subscribed to Starz I would find more interesting content there (I watched Black Sails through my Hulu subscription). 

If I had to give the series as a whole a star rating, I’d give the series a 5 out of 5. Sure, there were some slow parts and drawn out pieces that took away from the spectacle. Some of the historical stuff isn’t accurate, either (like Blackbeard’s final appearance didn’t actually happen the way they showed us), some of the integral pirates necessary to be more historically based were missing entirely, and after we’re given some examples of what pirates dealt with we’re pushed into pure story instead of noting how those things didn’t go away. Overall, though, I’m still giving the series a 5.

There is so much awesome packed into this series that I can’t even contain my enthusiasm. I wanted more than 4 seasons but I understand that the story didn’t have more story in it… I would have been less happy if there was a season 7 that just sort of padded itself to last to get to the “good stuff” in a finale. 

That’s the one thing I wasn’t disappointed in at all: there is very little stretching of the story for the sake of stretching the story.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 92: Building a Better Emerald Specter

Um… what?

This is a column I’m about to detail a whole bunch of things in and it’ll involve everything to do with EmeraldSpecter.com, the podcasts, the articles, BuJoRPG/BuJourneyRPG, and the future. This is a roadmap to getting me from where I’m at to where I want to be, which will include what I’ve done in the past that worked that I’ve stopped doing.

Despite my sincerest desire, “winging it” with a lot of my content isn’t working as well as I’d hoped. There are spurts where I can do just that but I also have the opposite, which is long periods where nothing works. This leads me to look back at what has worked, which means looking back to LimeFlavored.com.

When I started Lime Flavored, I literally just needed a place to do things online that entertained me… and hopefully along the lines someone else would be entertained as well. That philosophy has definitely held up for the years and has become a pseudo-business model for what I’m doing with Emerald Specter. There was a point, though, where things needed to have a little more structure.

Fast forward a few years (from 2000 to about 2010), where the Lime Flavored Podcast jumped into the world. The show started as a place for me to talk about this and that, sort of like how the Specter Show has been, and then I started bringing on guests to talk to… several episodes then were mainly about the conversation between two people. This eventually led to me having regular cohosts for the show, with two dominating the show for lengthy runs, but died down when excuses from those cohosts began to take down the recording schedule. That’s when I initiated “the show format.”

Rather than beg guests to come on, or talk about the random this or that, I came up with a weekly rundown of segments that would be structuring the show into something more… structured. This version of the show was the most popular, got the most downloads, and fell to the wayside when trying to edit the video content for episode 50… the LAST episode.

Lesson learned, although not immediately.

During the run of LimeFlavored.com, as well as falling well into EmeraldSpecter.com, was the Greatest Show (originally known as the Greatest Show Online). This was me and my best friend Bob getting together to talk about whatever we wanted to, which ran like this for a long time, including my wife into the show as something for us to watch (she cooked while we talked and filmed the cooking), turning eventually into inviting a few more friends on to turn the show into a round table discussion of the more recent years. Special guests have been had and though most of the hosts aren’t on most of the time, those that show up when they can are welcome. Guests have also started to become a big part of what the future of the show is going to be…

Back in the early days of Emerald Specter, I had a multitude of columns. There was the generic “Emerald Specter” column, Gaming Specter, UFC Specter, Storytelling Specter, SpecterFit (also known as Fitness Specter), and those are just the ones I can name without looking up the others. Each of these were short, primarily to keep content flowing, but all eventually started dropping off here and there in favor of a more generalized column… that would be the current Journal of the Emerald Specter (which you’re reading issue 92 of right now).

I’ve added the Specter Show as a podcast as well, doing the “winging it” audio I was in the early days of the Lime Flavored Podcast, along side the Greatest Show (which takes longer breaks between episodes than I’d like but as long as it keeps going I’m good).

This is a lot of unstructured things happening at once, most of which interfere with my ability to progress on structured things like life, BuJoRPG/BuJourneyRPG, and producing more content that I’ve wanted to start producing.

So, I am going to make some changes to streamline, structure, and produce higher content.

Starting with what has become the flagship content provider of the site, the Journal of the Emerald Specter.

Each issue of the Journal will be presented with a unique “cover,” going along with the comic book feel of the site’s aesthetic. This will more than likely convert to a square cover instead of a more comic book traditional shaped cover, but this will be the first step.

Next comes the banner topic, the “geeky thing on my mind” in a smaller than current segment. This could be about anything I listed above but will be concentrated on that topic alone. I plan on planning out these topics in advance, too, allowing for the research that might need to be done when writing.

After that comes the first ever serial fiction I’ll be writing. I will be writing an installment of a serial fiction story with the intent of finally putting out my fiction that I’ve wanted to create for a long time. Including this into the column will allow me to remove the self imposed requirement of having the story completely written before hand and just get my ass writing again. I don’t know how long the installments will be, I’ll let that flesh itself out after a couple of columns.

That is followed by a sports commentary of some sort. I often want to write entire columns about sporting items and rather than dominate a column like I have with chess over the past two issues, I figure I can throw a tidbit into this in order to quench my thirst. Ideally, I’d be covering whatever sports are actively happening but I am not going to limit myself to just that. I’m hoping that continuous commentary on certain topics might one day pan out into a paying gig on another site.

Next comes bullet journalling updates. I am going to include an update EVERY SINGLE TIME and that means I better be making progress on things in the background. Play testing the BuJourneyRPG hasn’t started as of this writing but I’m on the edge of actually being able to do that, and that means I can definitely have content for this segment of the column.

Finally, there will be an RPG tidbit included in each column. This might be a story hook, a review on a new game, a story about a game that I participated in, or just a general discussion about merits of why a certain system works well. This won’t be as big as the main topic but I want to start doing something gaming related and that means writing is probably the best place to start.

That is just the Journal of the Emerald Specter, folks. Let’s look at the Specter Show next.

Just like the Journal covers, the Specter Show will also be getting custom covers for each episode. You might be wondering why I’m interested in doing this for both of these and it’s because I’m interested in putting out quality content, meaning that if everything is planned ahead of time I don’t have to scramble to accomplish anything.

The show will be led off by a geeky topic of discussion, I’m thinking that this might be the place where I talk about my love of TV and movies (reviews, reactions, etc), but I am not locking myself into anything specific. Media seems to be big on the podcast scene so that is definitely where I’d be looking towards for inspiration on this.

Also like the Journal, there will be an installment of a serial (not the same serial), read aloud of course… and this would probably be on the shorter side but with this being altogether different than the written stuff, I’m interested to see what kinds of wonderful pours out of my head in the near future on the serial fiction front.

Finally, the show will include a “what to watch for” segment. The reason for the media being in the beginning could relate to what I’m talking about in the “coming up” section. Movies, TV shows, comic books… all that I’ll be consuming in the near future.

I also had a plan for the Greatest Show, but I won’t be locking anything down on that front because I don’t want to shoehorn anyone else into following a strict rundown. Time will tell what form the show takes but what we’re doing seems to be working for now.

When will all this go down? I did have specific issue/episode numbers for when I’m rolling this out but I want to make sure all the back end stuff is done before I roll out everything. There will be a few graphical updates to the site, too, but they won’t be monumental in difference.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 79: 13 Reasons Why… I Reflect on My Own Past

There have been multiple times I have wanted to write about the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why but I wasn’t done watching the show then. As I write these words, I’m watching the last episode and I’m far enough through the show where I can comment on the aspects of the show that I am going to end up commenting on.

So, there will definitely be spoilers in my column, so if you don’t want to be spoiled in any way, shape, or form then you shouldn’t read further. The point isn’t to talk endlessly about JUST the show, the show sort of sparked a thought in me to write about my experience growing up. This may also involve some current events, but I’m not promising anything.

If you have been under a rock, there is a Netflix show called 13 Reasons Why, which is about a teenage girl who committed suicide and left a series of tapes to the 13 people who basically caused her to go through with the act.

There is a central theme of the suicide, and while I’ve had my own personal tragedy in this area, that isn’t what I want to talk about. My primary concern here is really not going to talk about the suicide at all, but to talk about what the culture of the school is like and how that relates to what I experienced.

I may talk about more of the show, too, but that is why I’m putting words out there into the world. This goes under “Storytelling” because I used the show to launch into this and this is a story about my experience.

When people on TV talk about a “small town,” they’re talking about something in excess of 50,000 residents. I am from a small town, the population was roughly 3,100 residents. SMALL. If you did something, the “trope” of everyone finding out about it actually happens in a small town. A TRUE small town.

I graduated from high school before 1995, and that’s about as specific as I’m going to get in an open forum like this. My high school, which I’ll just call “Smalltown High School,” or SHS… there were 63 people who graduated in my class. There would have been more but some didn’t make the grade and ended up getting alternate diplomas after the fact.

When watching 13 Reasons Why, I see a class of kids interacting with each other in a large groups (whether or not they were really close or not) and I look at what I experienced. In the show, there were the tight-nit jocks hob knobbing with the cheerleaders and both groups would  routinely mistreat the nerds (or the “nerd-like”). Everyone generally treats everyone somewhat respectfully in the flashbacks, though things tend to be a little less so after the tapes start getting circulated.

How is this relevant to me?

When I was in high school, there were better than 75% of the class that I’d been in kindergarten with, so we basically grew up together. After we got into high school, we segregated into the social groups that existed with the rest the high school. At the time, those groups were jocks, preps, nerds, and “loads.”

The jocks were, predictably, the ones who participated in multiple sports throughout their high school years. Some were track, basketball, cross country, football, hockey… there may have been a few other sports back then that I can’t really recall, but they were primarily involved in the sporting events (often as many as they could be a part of).

The preps were the socially active members of the school, participating in all kinds of clubs, cheerleading, and they almost exclusively held the top slots in the “grade point average” race to be valedictorian. While not exclusively, this group was largely populated by the girls of the class… they were the ones who spent the most time concentrating on their studies and social interactions. I wasn’t ever part of this group so I only have an “outside looking in” perspective on them.

The nerds were the socially awkward group, very often only interacting within their own group and often being left out of the clubs and sports. Nerds were picked on relentlessly, depending on who they were and how much they would resist. Interests here revolved around things that have nothing to do with school and being at school very rarely played any part other than being a distraction.

Lastly, there were the loads. This was originally a derogatory term for the rebellious kids who participated in partying with drugs and openly with alcohol. I say “openly” because the jocks drank almost as much as the loads but their offenses were often looked past, looked over, and generally considered “too good to touch” when it comes to partying. Jocks and loads rarely, if ever, commingled. Jocks couldn’t afford the “bad press.”

I was part of three of these groups. The first two years of school, I fit tangentially into the jocks because of my participation in cross country. I say tangentially because I would really have called myself a nerd for the totality of my freshman year. That changed my sophomore year when I became a load, full force.

Let me step back a minute.

Everyone in my graduating class, for the most part, got along until we reached high school. Things really took a turn when we were full fledged high schoolers. Many of them got worse as the years went on.

On 13 Reasons Why, the class was far more intertwined than my own experience. I am not without a point of reference for the camaraderie the show displayed. The grade just below mine  were almost completely united in their caring about being friendly with each other. Watching them, honestly, made me a little ill… the show would be what they were dialed down and a bit closer to my own experience.

The group of people that I was hanging out with in the first year of high school with the nerds because I hadn’t really managed to be interested in many other things. One thing I was, though, was lazy and nerdy… so I wanted to get out of taking PhyEd and there were four classes one could take as well as two years of a sport. So, here I come cross country!

Did I suck? Yep, but I did my two years (and the four classes, by the way) to avoid PhyEd as I wanted. But during that whole time, I was picked on… though I’ll say that I was picked on by the worst possible people to be picked on by, so at least I was choosing the best… worst?

In the show, Tyler receives LESS torture than I had for the first year of high school. Then, something wonderful happened. A random person in algebra asked me what I was doing one Friday night. I’ll call him Smith, because it’s a generic last name and because it was his last name. That Friday night had me hanging out with the loads and I loved it.

And the bullies left me alone. Completely.

Did I do drugs? No. I did enjoy the hell out of some alcohol, though, and invented Dr. Peppermint (between one to two ounces of peppermint schnapps per 20 ounces of Dr. Pepper… and before you say “that sounds gross,” try it. I’ve introduced no less than 100 lifelong Dr. Peppermint lovers to my wonderful concoction who swear by it… and I discovered it by accident).

In the show, the class seems to be broken down into only two real groups: the jocks and the not-jocks. Granted, we don’t get to see a large cross section of the class, as I am sure there are more than 63 students in that class. We get to see the jocks (Bryce, Justin, Zach, Montgomery, Jeff, Marcus) interacting with some cheerleaders (Jessica, Sheri), some outcast types (Skye, Tyler,  Ryan), and a few people who fit into other categories of “not-jocks” (Sheri, Courtney, Alex), most of which end up working with each other in some form or fashion to keep the tapes a secret.

There wasn’t much diversity portrayed on the show. Real life was more broken down than that, as I explained.

What I wanted to cover, I have. I didn’t have an experience in high school that was portrayed in the show. I don’t have friends from high school I still talk to (the last one turning out to be a social justice extremist who doesn’t listen to reason)… the ones that I still talk to, mainly those of the “load” social group I belonged to, all have their own things going on and we are cordial.

The closest experience I have to relate to what I witnessed in the show was the Navy. Even though I fundamentally disagree with some of the views of my brothers and sisters in the Navy, I would still rather hang out with and talk to them than some of those people I was in high school with.

This was a longer post and didn’t really fully explore what I had on my mind. Honestly, I could write a book on what I had on my mind and unfortunately I know that I won’t really get that done, either.

Hopefully someone gets something out of this, though.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 67: Resurrecting Awesome IPs Part 2!

After writing the last column and stating that I would love to continue with this line of thinking (basically converting IPs I love or a no longer “a thing” into solo RPG settings), I started making a list of what else I wanted to cover…

That list is very long.

Not only do I have a few more to add to the mix, but I came up with some other examples of ones I wish I would have included in the previous column. There are enough of these that I might have a part three, too, and if I keep coming up with them, a part four!

First, the “space series” that I mentioned in the previous column (the one more Firefly than Trek or Wars), another great property that is long since dead but much beloved by me is Earth Star Voyager… this one is about a ship heading to a new planet for colonization, but it was designed as a series pilot that was never picked up. There are so many questions left unanswered: why is there an OTZ? What reason do the ships have for weaponry being installed on them? What exactly was the reasoning behind the Triton Corsair’s master plan?

There’s also a similarity with Interstellar, which could fit into the puzzle nicely, too.

On to the rest of this column!

Continuing on with my look at properties that can be used for settings, I came up with Final Fantasy… a perfect video game franchise that, while not dead, presents itself as a “world that is unveiled through play” that would be well suited for my solo RPG purposes.

In some installments, the characters kind of know what is going on with the world and basically have their “railroad” to follow to the end of the line. There are examples of the “I don’t know what is going on” scenario (in two of my favorite installments of VIII and X), with a world of fantastic possibilities to delve into (summon creatures, Chocobos, etc).

This is a setting I can use to flesh everything out with minimal preparation (world background, historical information, power limits, extras, etc). I can literally start rolling die with the Mythic Game Master Emulator and get to moving in the right direction… of playing an actual game.

The Final Fantasy franchise is large and would allow for a lot of expansion as far as a solo RPG goes, but that can also tie into another franchise that runs with a large “amnesia” angle through many of the installments… that being Legend of Zelda.

Digging back into the “I was going to write prose” options, Heroes is a great place to point at for ideas.

The direction I’d go in, rather than having the “secret society after secret society” layered on without much of a plan, I was thinking more along the lines of the 4400, where the super powers come out and people are challenged in moral and ethical ways on how to use that power. You’re going to have a nut job who wants to rule the world and you’ll have other strange things going on around you that are tangentially related to the goal of stopping the “big bad,” but will ultimately reveal what the hell is going on.

What I was essentially going to prose write was something happened, globally, that gifted a lot of people super powers… while there were a few characters who really wanted to use their abilities for good, there were a large set of groups that wanted to fight to control vast stretches of population across the globe. There were strange things going on around the world, too, like a half sphere-sized hole in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, a suddenly tropical location in Antarctica that is impenetrable by modern scanning devices, strange creatures running around altering DNA, and more. Hell, the very reason people got the power was geared towards a specific end goal (something like an alien invasion).

In this setting, the world is already technically fleshed out (because it is our world) and the powers would be discovered along the way. The Walking Dead uses a definitive formula that would fall right in line with how my Heroes-esque version would be: survive, discover civilized folk, discover those folk aren’t so civilized, destroy, move along… that is the Walking Dead model. How many times can that be done before people stop being interested?

What about the lovely Black Sails?

Living on the high seas, as a pirate (not terribly unlike Pirates of the Caribbean), experiencing the pirate life and fighting for survival. Black Sails is specifically a “prequel to Treasure Island,” which mixed real and fictional pirates together… I liked that version better than Disney’s because it is more grounded in realism.

Unless I could really come up with a few “grand scale” ideas about a long arc, the story would be mainly about plundering the odd ship’s stores, sinking the enemies of piracy, and just living through life that way… interesting, yes, but is it solo RPG worthy? Sure is!

Continuing with a “treasure hunting” theme, I present Indiana Jones!

I love me some treasure hunting movies. I love the National Treasure series, the Robert Langdon series, Goonies, and basically I’m saying if there is a treasure to be sought out through figuring out of clues, I’m probably going to like the property.

As a character, obviously I’d come across some long lost thing that leaves me a clue to go somewhere, which leads me to more clues, which lead me to more places, and I eventually come to the end of the line where I find the treasure (or whatever that treasure ends up being) at the end. With Last Crusade being my favorite installment of the Jones series, I think that finding a “Grail Diary” type prop would be a great way to start out that type of adventure.

Moving right along, I will dive back into the “I had a series idea” pool… with Knight Rider.

This idea was fleshed out in the late 90s and early 2000s… where a team of scientific types designed some artificial intelligences to helm vehicles to aid with crime fighting. We’ve advanced well past the point (technologically speaking) where my original premise for the story would work (plausibly), and that leads me to look for a means of making it work in today’s world a little better. So I decided that maybe taking the Airwolf model would benefit the story.

If you are unfamiliar, a top secret helicopter was stolen and two operatives were tasked with retrieving the chopper. Once they get it back, they decide that the technology shouldn’t be in the hands of reckless government types and they opt to use the helicopter FOR that government if they deem the situation bears the necessity of using Airwolf.

Tying that in with the Knight Rider idea, there would be a special operations group that runs missions with the aid of artificial intelligences that can transfer between all kinds of vehicles (choppers, cars, etc). This ties in with the military unit style game that would interest me and it could always branch out as the “the government shouldn’t have this, we’ll go on the run” type storyline.

Speaking about “going on the run,” how about Doctor Who?

I have, many times and in many ways, created alternate versions of the Doctor (and Doctor Who universe) to tell stories in. First I named the main protagonist the Stranger, then Inspector, then Agent, back to Inspector, then to something else and so on… always existing in the same general backdrop with the stories being “rejiggered” to work with the new mythology that was modified.

Always those ideas ended up failing… but there were points that I continued to use and have developed into something that I’d dip my toes into here with you.

One concept was the possibility of regeneration into either sex (something Doctor Who finally did with the Time Lords). Other ideas related to more “investigating mysteries” without so much of the science, leaning me always towards the “Inspector” role… which was ruing in parody for me with Inspector Spacetime on Community.

My most recent iteration, though, ties all of the ideas I’ve ever had into one… continuing through my “adventuring time traveler.” I won’t name that traveler, as there is a distinct possibility that will come up in play during one of my solo RPG games, which I would love because then I’ve tied another thing into that item… which would then allow me to flesh out that character in detail through the same means of discovery!

I wasn’t sure how to broach this particular subject, but the idea of not being an amnesiac and discovering the setting through play relates to two properties I love: Terra Nova and Lost.

The premise I’m looking at exploring is the “I end up someplace I don’t understand, which looks familiar, but isn’t what I think it is” type game. No amnesia. Lost uses the plane crash as a means of getting people corralled on an island, where weird crap is going on and no one really understands what is happening… then they go exploring and they discover the secrets of this magically impossible island.

As far as Terra Nova goes, fleeing the future (which is in a state of disrepair and destined to cease existing), people travel back 65 million years to set up a new civilization and save the human race… except, there are weird things going on here, too, with random factions, rogue future elements that are altering the course of things, discovering they aren’t the first civilization to end up in the past like this (due to a boat being found), and finally learning that the past they are in isn’t the same past they thought they were in…

Fun times! Sadly, Terra Nova will never be explored out and I’ll never learn where the weird boat came from, but that doesn’t stop me from using the same basic premise as a game setting to play in.

Next I’ll draw way back from science fiction and get into police drama, like the Chicago Code.

I’ve long liked good police dramas. One series of books I was fond of (until the author changed) was the Badge of Honor series by W.E.B. Griffin. The focus is crime fighting with a good helping of understanding about the cops involved doing the job. While you could also include Hawaii Five-O in this listing (I haven’t watched the original), my hope would be to be as exciting as the Shield without the untoward shenanigans going on in the background.

Police drama these days, though, concentrates a little heavily on murder… which is all well and good, but there is so much else out there to explore. What about what Miami Vice did without needing to rely heavily on homicide? How about Nasty Boys? Hell, even CHiPs managed to have several great seasons of entertainment without needing to have a dead body every week. I love the NYPD Blue aspect but I think having a far more well rounded “not just homicide” department would work better for my gaming needs.

Finishing up with one more property, I’d like to explore the ideas in Smokey and the Bandit.

Generally speaking, Bandit (who is a trucker) is approached by two rich guys who make a bet whether or not it’s possible to bootleg beer from Texas to Georgia in a specific (technically short) amount of time without getting caught. Bandit gets his friend, Snowman, to run the rig while he drives the iconic 1977 Pontiac Trans Am as a “blocker” to attract all the cops his direction. While there were two sequels and a TV series that loosely followed the same logic, I’m going to concentrate on the original film. (Note, in finding the link for the movie I learned that Edgar Wright is doing a reboot in 2019 of this movie, so with any luck, it’ll stay basically the same premise rather than it being some modern version of the same story, ruining the entire thing.)

Having someone who is running illegal things from point A to point B is a great idea for a game. The concept allows for an episodic feel, or can expand out to the “big screen” feel of the movie. The setting will be key, whether it’s in the 1970s bootlegging or running moonshine like the Dukes of Hazzard was originally supposed to be about… the setting will inform the types of things being done.

This would definitely be a different type of game and would allow for more action than dialog, keeping the pace of the chase up throughout. I don’t think I’d want to have this as some sort of government operative escaping with things from other countries, I would really want to have the looming threat of being imprisoned for doing things I shouldn’t be doing at speeds which attract a lot of attention… in the end, the idea is heavily under consideration.

Again, I’m over 2,000 words already and I still have more properties I’d like to cover. Sure, some of what you read has devolved into less about what the original column was and more speculation, but I can get back on track with the next edition.

If you’re curious, the list I made is currently sitting at 17, with me remembering other properties I’d like to include on that list. These are all settings for RPGs, basically, with my own spin on making them as great as they can be…

Hopefully you’re enjoying the ride.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 66: Resurrecting Awesome IPs

The title will be a little misleading but I wanted a means of drawing your eye in to read a little more, so hopefully you’ll forgive me a little. I will actually be talking about a great many intellectual properties (IPs) but that talk will be done in a little bit different way than you might be expecting.

In order to ride a little bit of the “nostalgia factor” that everyone is experiencing with Stranger Things, I wanted to talk about turning those IPs I love into RPGs or prose fiction.

Yes, this may technically be another “RPG” centric column but I’m going to label this one in the more broad sense of being… 

If you can’t see the title, there, it’s “Storytelling.” I guess I shouldn’t just let that be without explanation.

There are a lot of IPs that I’d love to see brought back, or continued, that are sitting in development hell, are already completed (as far as the story goes), and didn’t have the “multiples of billions of dollars” made in their one attempt so they just put it on the shelf.

I’ve got a little bit of a history of making a fairly entertaining version of a property that I would never be able to gain the rights to, so I made my own… this was when I was younger, much younger, and I would like to resurrect that piece of my history to give something like this another run.

Let’s start with Tron (as well as Tron: Legacy).

Creating this particular IP back in the early 1980s, Disney took the “computing terminology and technology” of the era to come up with a digital world where games were real and programs were humanoids with real problems. This all fell under the control of the company’s “overseer” program, which in the digital world was the “big bad” of the story. In the sequel, many of the terms (which were long out of date) were still being used and the general concept was similar in nature to the original, just updated for the new technology to make everything look prettier.

That being said, I love Tron and I loved Tron: Legacy… so much so that I really wanted there to be more sequels to Legacy that are just never going to happen because Disney didn’t make a bazillion dollars and had to settle for a few hundred million. What will they do now? Reboot it, most likely, and try again.

What I’m considering doing with one of my solo RPGs is run in a world very similar to Tron. Yes, I said similar.

I’ve spent a bit of time coming up with how I wanted to run this thing. I’m going to concentrate on the story, rolling a set of dice with the Mythic Game Master Emulator as the GM, to determine the outcomes and general direction of the story. I am literally going to “wake up without a clue as to what is going on.”

Like Tron, there will be (generally) black clad programmed entities that will glow with a light or color and my goal is to figure out where I came from and whether or not something more to be discovered in this digital world. Unlike Tron, I’m not going to have an “outside world” component to the story. This will be more “program dealing with programs,” though I’m probably going to update the terminology to be more like what we actually use today.

No “User,” now it’s Developer. No “Program,” now it’s Application. No “Grid,” now it’s probably going to be something witty that I haven’t come up with, yet… but you get the picture.

And the beauty of this is that I don’t have to come up with a vast amount of history or anything because I don’t know any better as a character, I get to discover this along with you (because I’m publishing the results in a prose-like format).

Before I move on to the next IP, what if my “Tron” ends up being somewhat like The Matrix? I love the Matrix, all of them, and I wouldn’t mind if that ended up going in that direction… but I’ll let play determine that.

Moving right along, let’s talk about the Bourne series.

Derived from a series of books that are as blandly written as one can experience, the film series features a super spy who is seeking out his origins and a means of freeing himself from the ones who put him into the position he’s in of being a super spy. We even had a single “non-Jason Bourne” movie that delved a little into a spy who wasn’t the titular character, which much like the Disney “Tron: Legacy” example above, didn’t perform as well as they’d hoped so they scrapped all future editions that didn’t feature Jason Bourne.

I’ve loved the idea of being a super spy, amnesiac or not, and working my way through a world who is out to get me because of one reason or another. This also technically fits into the John Wick mold, being in a world that is awesome and having awesome skills as I try to get the hell out of my predicament! If I go with the amnesiac angle again, sure it’ll end up being somewhat of a trope, but I can discover the world along with you, the reader.

Or I can develop a little bit of the basics and move along from there… which is far more likely than the not remembering thing… but we will figure that out before play actually begins, I just know I’d rather be more Jason Bourne than James Bond.

How about going with a property that you might not expect from a grown ass adult? I’m talking about Centurions: Power Extreme.

The cartoon was a “far off future” where technology was running rampant over the globe and a special force of three guys wielded awesome weapons against a cyborg evil doer and his dolt of an apprentice.

In no way, shape, or form does the premise or the technology hold up, but the overall idea has lasted… and this fits into another wonderful solo RPG idea, where I would play as one of the weapons specialists fighting against something more sinister than a couple of inept cyborgs to save the planet… and the weapon systems would have to be far more generic and be far more diversified than they were in the cartoon.

Yep, this was a cartoon, dear readers… go watch the five part series opener and the five part series conclusion to experience some of the most awesome parts of the show.

My version wouldn’t be called Centurions, they’d be fighting something more realistic (or at least more along the lines of what G.I Joe: the Rise of Cobra did as opposed to the actual cartoon’s “far future” premise)

Sticking with the cartoon factor, I’d like to hit on Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light.

As with all hokey 80s cartoons, a planet of highly advanced technology did something to screw themselves in some way and magic returned to their world, controlled by a wizard who granted a bunch of Medieval-esque knights the ability to change into animals and whatnot.

My own concept would be more akin to Samurai, as I’m a bigger fan of Eastern settings than Western settings, and the magic would have already been there and not gone away… maybe the wizard is someone who is actively removing the magical abilities and the Samurai have to go and knock the crap out of him so they can retain their hard earned magical abilities.

Yeah, that sounds like an idea I wouldn’t mind running through. No amnesia, which means I’d have to have a basic understanding of the background of the setting, but that shouldn’t take too much of the fun out of the adventure of going up against a nearly omnipotent foe for the greater good.

What about a space themed adventure? I could go with a Star Trek-like experience, or a Star Wars-like experience… but I’m going to actually delve a little more closely into a Firefly experience.

But DJ, you hate Firefly! Yes, I do… but that’s because it’s a Western… that happens in space, and I don’t care where a Western happens, I don’t like Westerns (generally, there is always an exception to the rule).

The basic idea that I’d be interested in exploring is a crew on a ship, doing something innocuous like shipping freight from one location to the other, but belonging to some form of official government in a limited setting (like the Solar System) and getting drawn into some sort of conflict that is a little bit bigger than the crew of the ship.

I like the idea of a small crew, of a military nature, operating in a “small but powerful ship” that is doing things and gets called into service. Star Trek, in this case, is too vast as far as space as well as ability. Star Wars is a little to fantasy for the science fiction I’d like to be doing, though I’d take away the “ships just do stuff” aspect from the Wars. As much as I don’t like the series, the Firefly move Serenity was great, and I really do like the “comfy little crew” aspect of the dynamic.

Since I mentioned the franchise earlier, I’d like to draw from the G.I Joe: Retaliation installment of the seemingly dead movie franchise.

The idea I’m going with, here, is the idea of a military unit being hunted for a reason and that unit being forced into action to defend itself.

Well, this kind of relates to the Bourne idea above, as in there is probably a secret we (as the unit) know something about something that we go into hiding for, only to be flushed out by over zealous people who just can’t let sleeping dogs lie… and that forces said unit back into action, exposing that secret while killing all the bad guys in the process.

This is actually a story I developed for a prose novel I wanted to write and never did… if I turn this into an RPG setting, I can leave the secret up to the game emulator. I gave a link earlier, and it’s the one I’d use because it’s the one I own.

Since I love me some Vampire the Masquerade and Vampire the Requiem, why don’t I look a little bit at the Underworld franchise for the next idea?

I’m looking at the “war versus another supernatural creature” aspect of the vampires in my own solo RPG experience. I’ve toyed with the idea of the “brand new vampire discovering the world they actually live in” angle, and I’m not necessarily ruling that out, but I’ve also recently wanted to do the “ancient vampire rejoins the world and discovers they’re really an overpowered child learning the ropes of the society they’ve created” angle…

One of my favorite series of novels from the VtM line was the Masquerade of the Red Death Trilogy of books, which were almost immediately made “non-canon” because of whatever reasons… they are a damn good story, a little on the long side, but at no point are you sitting there thinking “when are we going to get to the damn action.” They also contain all of the major supernatural splats from the game lines (vampires, werewolves, and mages, though I don’t think the werewolves did a whole lot in the story now that I think about it).

I won’t spoil the story for you, but there is a ton of stuff in there to mine as far as story possibilities… but that doesn’t relate, necessarily to the Underworld aspect.

One thing I didn’t like about Underworld is the lack of super powers by the vampires. The lycans had all kinds of abilities (well, the ability to transform into a monstrous killing machine) and I would want to expand on that a bit… which means the “new vampire discovering the 411” is probably the best angle for this one, as well as one of the VtM or VtR splats being the best place to host the story in (at least the framework of how vampires and other supernaturals work).

There IS another variation of this, which I’ve created a vast and wonderful world around, that I could do and have some form of “random learning” going on… and that is a werewolf version of Vampire Diaries or True Blood but with more focus on the wolves than anything else. I have named this venture Moonrise, because the story was originally about the heir to the werewolf throne in a time when the politics of the society are starting to unravel… and that would be what I’d consider using as a basis for a story along these lines.

I’ve covered a lot of IPs… not all of the ones I was thinking, but with a column word count over 2,000, I think it’s time to wrap this edition up and consider a sequel (once I write down another series of possible IPs I would love to turn into my own little creations as possible solo RPG options).

The biggest reason for my concentration on solo RPGs is that I can’t get anyone else to play with, reliably. There are groups in my area but I’m not super interested in playing D&D, Pathfinder, or anything like that… I don’t want to necessarily physically go somewhere, either. Online, I don’t have anyone who can meet regularly enough in order to run a game more than just a week (see Greatest Show episode 109), where I reference Green Team that ran exactly once… and the entire cast has never been all on at the same time since. Hence, my point.

So, until I find a crew (hopefully containing a GM so I can be just a player once in a while), I will look into the solo RPG avenue.

Stay tuned for a second part if I have enough material!

Thanks for reading.

The Specter Show 036: A Warm Place

Who’s life got all out of whack in the last six weeks? The Emerald Specter returns to the basics, discussing how bullet journaling without the BuJoRPG system is going to get him rolling back in the right direction. There is chess, conversation about getting healthy again, focusing on what matters, moving towards self improvement again, being a better person, getting out in the world more, some Greatest Show talk, an introduction to the introduction of the new PRO Chess League Podcast, and there are a couple of tangents that actually relate to the main topic!

Host: DJ Allen
Intro Music: The Idea of You by Nine Inch Nails (from Not the Actual Events)
Outtro Music: The Perfect Drug by Nine Inch Nails
Intro Lead in: Theo Rossi

Contact:
Email: EmeraldSpecter.com@Gmail.com
Twitter: @EmeraldSpecter
Instagram: @EmeraldSpecter

Support Emerald Specter at Patreon!

Thanks for checking this out, you can find more at EmeraldSpecter.com!

Hashtags: #TheGreatestShow #Podcasting #TheSpecterShow #chess @TheoRossi #BuJoRPG #BuJoRPG2 #bulletjournal #bujoideas #bujoinspiration #bujogaming #bujoimprovement #bujofun #bujodesign #selfimprovement #PROChessLeague #PROChessLeaguePodcast #SpecteroftheGalaxy

The Greatest Show 139: I’m Not Giving It Seven Episodes (Audio)

A game of chess is played, drunken ramblings return to the show, we discuss a plethora of 80s movies, Underworld’s new TV series, Watchmen, I bequeath Preacher unto Jon, and a little bit of randomness.

Hosts: DJ “Emerald Specter” Allen, Tricia Allen, “Metal Jesus” Kevin Lama, and Kevin Couick (with guests Jon Cabral and Steve!)

Contact:
Website: www.EmeraldSpecter.com
Email: emeraldspecter.com@gmail.com
Twitter: @LPOKMNJ @MadeByTricia @EmeraldSpecter
Instagram: @MadeByTricia @EmeraldSpecter

The Greatest Show 139: I’m Not Giving It Seven Episodes

A game of chess is played, drunken ramblings return to the show, we discuss a plethora of 80s movies, Underworld’s new TV series, Watchmen, I bequeath Preacher unto Jon, and a little bit of randomness.

Hosts: DJ “Emerald Specter” Allen, Tricia Allen, “Metal Jesus” Kevin Lama, and Kevin Couick (with guests Jon Cabral and Steve!)

Contact:
Website: www.EmeraldSpecter.com
Email: emeraldspecter.com@gmail.com
Twitter: @LPOKMNJ @MadeByTricia @EmeraldSpecter
Instagram: @MadeByTricia @EmeraldSpecter

Here’s the SHOW!

Journal of the Emerald Specter 55: The Actual Journey

I have returned to talk about a plethora of topics, or at least that is the intention laid out in front of me. I have to touch on certain things, I want to touch on other things, and I am fairly hungry as I write this… so that will be fun. Why does my appetite matter? Well, I can get distracted easily.

What about just getting going with the column? Ok… 

Coming out of the “summer” TV season, I wanted to talk about a few things that my wife and I have been watching as well as what we’re looking forward to getting into for the fall season.

If you aren’t watching GLOW on Netflix, then you’re just plain missing out. One of the best things I’ve enjoyed is, while I never watched GLOW when the company was actively on in the 80s, watching a few episodes and then watching a YouTube video of one of their actually produced events is an eye opening experience. Terrible, but eye opening. I recommend you give GLOW on Netflix a chance, I think that the building of this company is interesting and a great watch.

Game of Thrones season 7 has ended and there is only one season left. If you haven’t watched the latest season, then you’ll want to skip to the next section of this column (or at least the next paragraph). Where we left our characters in the finale, I don’t understand why a little bit of humility on the part of Jon Snow (Aegon Targaryen) will go a long way when he learns who he really is, considering he was “giving the sword” to Daenerys as someone who has “bent the knee,” but actually is the heir to the Iron Throne. I don’t know why lineage matters with all we’ve been through because the removal of the Mad King should have removed the line of succession completely.

Defenders (as well as Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist) series on Netflix continue to rock. I think Defenders ran a little weird as far as pacing but ended fairly decently. The character of Danny Rand just seems completely out of touch with what actually needs to happen and that is a little disappointing.

Things that are coming back on that I’m amped to get back into: Agents of SHIELD (as well as the Inhumans TV show coming out, too), Star Trek Discovery (which isn’t “coming back,” it’s bringing Star Trek back… and I’m hoping it IS a reboot, because the franchise really needs it), Westworld (well, it’s coming back next year, but I’m still waiting anxiously), and those are just some of the “big shows” making a comeback.

I can’t wait!

The Aki Basho starts on Sunday and since I’ve been following as closely as I have, this will be the first Basho that has the potential to really not be as exciting as the past shows.

Hakuho, the best in the world right now, may not be up to full health… Kisenosato and Kakuryu might be out due to health issues. Ura is in a need to sit out early, and for the love of Pete, that is a lot of the talent to be following sitting out if they either don’t show up or bow out early.

I’ve wondered if Hakuho would retire once he set the all time win record (which he did last Basho) but he appears to be continuing on. He is really going to bury that record, I guess. If he’s healthy enough to keep going, I hope he keeps going, but I am interested in seeing how his absence would be filled once he leaves (as with any top tier competitor in a sport).

Kisenosato and Kakuryu need to rest. I really want to see Kisenosato compete fully healthy because I think he’s the next best thing to Hakuho. Harumafuji has made a statement as of late but if Kisenosato is up and running, I think he’s really the next best thing in modern sumo.

Ura, the “biggest thing since sliced bread” rikishi, also needs to heal up. He popped into the top division and made a big splash and I think he’s honestly going to be an Ozeki a lot faster than we’ve seen in the past, but he needs to be healthy in order to perform. Ishiura is almost as good as Ura but we’ve already seen the holes in his technique, so he has a lot to work on.

All in all, Sunday starts the Basho and I’ll be watching. If I had a means of putting money towards watching this in a high quality, I’d PAY FOR IT, but sumo outside of Japan seems to be nearly impossible to accomplish. Really, though, take my money.

A couple of months ago, I made an offer to my wife that has resulted in my trips to the theater descending exponentially. I ordered to not go to every single Marvel Studios movie (like we had been) and we haven’t been to a movie since Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. When Spider-Man: Homecoming comes out on iTunes, I’ll buy it (like I did with every other Marvel Studios “Phase” movie). That will be the first time I see it.

I decided a long time ago that I don’t care about spoilers. Movies, when spoiled, become a “I want to see how they got there” rather than a “I want to see what happens” thing.

More to the point, though, not going to the theater has saved me a sum of money already and looks to be giving me a chance to go to a different type of movie from here on out. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan 30th Anniversary theater run is coming up (starting next Sunday) and I am going to see it. I love that movie, I can almost quote the whole thing from start to finish, and it’ll be something that is different than superheroes.

My wife has complained in the past that I choose all the movies, and going to more than just superhero movies is too many times at the theater. She’s now got the chance to name her choices and we’ll see what we end up going to, which so far isn’t anything. I’m sure something will pop up but nothing so far.

Jon Jones loses his championship due to drugs. He comes back, almost fights DC for the belt and gets suspended for drugs. He comes back, beats DC to regain his championship, and gets stripped for drugs.

When is Jones going to get the hint to stop doing drugs? When is the UFC going to stop allowing him back in because he’s always on drugs?

Over the course of the last few months, I’ve been longing for a few “lady fights.” UFC can have 7 events completely scheduled out and of the potential 77 fights, they’ve only got 3 lady fights. There are a lot of women on the UFC roster, so why aren’t they fighting more often?

I understand that I’m a rare breed, wanting to see the women fighting where most people just want to watch the men, but for the love of Pete, why have women’s divisions if you aren’t going to have at least 30 fights a year? You’ve got 3 divisions, start ramping UP your women fights instead of “treading water.”

The men’s fights are starting to get “watered down,” so if you’re going to tout them as the main attraction, start giving me bigger matchups. When was the last time the UFC Heavyweight Championship was defended? I can’t even tell you.

I’m going to be podcasting a little about BuJoRPG2 but writing about if more often than not. If you only get your information from one source, it’ll be in written form. I can reach a larger audience that way, though the upcoming Specter Show (episode 32) talks all about BuJoRPG2. Check it out.

I’m going to be out in the open about my developing B2, so hopefully the feedback starts coming to me as I start releasing and developing this further.

Listen to that episode, it’ll explain more and what the plan actually is from here on out.

Serial fiction report: I have started a mind map of what needs to happen.

Wait, what?

A mind map is basically a visual representation of what needs to happen, who is involved, where things are going, and helps cohesively put together the story I’m trying to tell. I have three main characters we’re following, I’ve shifted the focus to different parts of the world (as opposed to being stuck in my initial location, which I completely biffed) and help me plan out the future.

Initially, I had all three of my characters stuck on an island. This time, three of the characters start on the island but two of them immediately move to different areas of the world so I can expand the rest of this world for you. I’ve even done a few more things based on what Game of Thrones did, to properly set you up (as the reader) for what is going to happen down the line.

Yeah, I’m referencing one of the best TV series of our time for my serial fiction.

This mind map is almost complete for “season 1,” then I’ll rewrite episode one and start working my way into the next episodes… which I’ll also be developing “season 2” and expanding the character focus from three to five or six (which will have you going in more directions, learning more about the world, and really getting the gist of what is possible in this series).

I just need to write this damn thing, too. Not having a goal in mind really is what has been holding me up.

There is a podcast that will be created in reference to my Masonic research (no, I am not a Freemason) but it isn’t anywhere near ready, yet. It’ll be a longer form than the Specter Show or Greatest Show, but hopefully you’ll be as interested in it as you are in the other two shows. I also think the show will be monthly, no more often than that, because of the research and write up that needs to go into producing it.

I said I want to write the comic book of my dreams and I’m still not ready to do that. I want to try this mind map serial fiction and if that works I’ll see what I can do with a “second project.”

Thank you for reading and see you next week.