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Jessica Jones and Hunter: the Vigil




Greetings, readers of the Fandomentals. The topic of today’s article is fairly specific – I would like to explain why I think the Netflix show Jessica Jones, which my fellow writers have gone over in detail, is a great, unintentional companion to Hunter: the Vigil, a tabletop RPG in the Chronicles of Darkness system. I have described it once, but looking back, I think I should have included more specific examples of what playing is like. I will try to remedy that now.

Hunter or superhero?

Now, I can hear you asking – “But Michał, doesn’t  Jessica have superpowers? And Luke as well? How do they compare to mortal hunters?” That is true, which is why I want to focus on the atmosphere and experience, not direct parallels between the two. Jessica Jones and Hunter: the Vigil present two different worlds, but they evoke some very similar emotions.

Jessica is strong enough to lift a car and throw someone twice her body mass across a room. But it doesn’t really help her against Kilgrave’s mind control. She’s as vulnerable to it as a regular person. Same with Luke, despite his physical near-invulnerability. Jessica’s other allies (loosely speaking…), Trish and Will Simpson, are entirely normal people (maybe not entirely, in Simpson’s case), who can’t resist Kilgrave’s voice either.

Thus, trying to capture and detain Kilgrave becomes a paranoid mind-game. The protagonists must outthink and outmaneuver a man whose power they can’t resist directly. A direct approach is impossible, because as soon as Kilgrave is close, he can take total control of them.

They must also contend with the fact that anyone they meet could be Kilgrave’s slave. A breakthrough occurs when Jessica discovers that Kilgrave’s powers cease to function when he’s under anesthesia. Which includes releasing his victims from his control. However, Kilgrave manages to stay one step ahead… by hiring guards, instead of mind-controlling them. They save him after Jessica drugs him, since their motivation is money, rather than control.

Once we take out the name “Kilgrave”, what I just described may well be… a Hunter: the Vigil chronicle, where a lone cell opposes a powerful vampire with mind-control powers. I say vampire, because of all the different supernatural beings that populate the Chronicles, it’s the Kindred who have the most direct and convenient methods of mind control. They’re also perhaps the best-known.

The monster

Mages, mummies or demons can have similar powers, or greater ones, but they operate on a level no mortal human could even approach. Demons and mummies are also psychologically detached from humanity. Demons were never human to begin with, while mummies were human millennia ago and are now undying demigods. And the reason Kilgrave is so viscerally repulsive to the audience is that his evil is so human and close to home. A Mage’s motives remain human, unless they slide down some darker paths. But their power and innate traits render Sleepers (that is, regular humans) completely helpless.

If we go by Vampire: the Requiem rules, a vampire has one power to instantly control someone – the Dominate discipline. It has some restrictions Kilgrave’s power doesn’t have. For one thing, it requires eye contact, and a vampire can only issue orders to one person at a time. More importantly, in a combat scenario, using the power is an action, and giving the order is a separate action. If the victim has friends, this gives them crucial time to act.

This is significantly less versatile than Kilgrave’s ability to walk into a room and instantly bend everyone there to his whims. Of course, if someone is alone with the vampire, the difference lessens. If they’re among other people, it’s still not necessarily a problem, as the use of Dominate is subtle. Most humans, ignorant of the existence of the supernatural, will not notice it. Under certain circumstances, other vampires, supernatural beings and hunters can fail to notice this as well.

Controlling many people at a time can be accomplished with the Majesty discipline, which is a more subtle form of control. Instead of breaking someone’s mind like a toy, the vampire radiates irresistible charisma. They can walk into a party uninvited, splattered in blood, and everyone will just shrug it off. Once someone falls to their charm, they can twist their infatuation in powerful ways. A vampire with Dominate and Majesty is a terrifying puppet-master – and thankfully a rare one. Dominate and Majesty can be resisted every time they’re used, unlike Kilgrave’s power, but the odds are heavily stacked towards the user, particularly if the victim is a mortal. That being said, supernatural beings are also very susceptible to them; they have more tools to resist it. More importantly, they’re more aware of their existence so they have the potential to be better prepared.

That being said, a Storyteller (Dungeon Master) is under no compulsion to use rules from other games in the series. Hunter: the Vigil includes Dread Powers, which is a toolbox the Storyteller can use to create their own supernatural beings and creatures. Their main purpose is, of course, to allow Storytellers to run games without purchasing all of the other source books and expansions. But even if someone has them, we often want to create our own denizens of the Chronicles’ deep shadows, without shackling ourselves to other rulesets. For example: if we want to create a terrifying mind-controller who isn’t a vampire, mage or another established supernatural entity, we can do that.

Kilgrave is, after all, physically a human – and not an imposing one at that. It wouldn’t take much of Jessica’s strength to overpower him. Vampires, however, are undying predators, and even those who doesn’t focus on physical prowess are shockingly resilient. Additionally, Kilgrave’s only ability is his mind-control, whereas any member of a supernatural group within the Chronicle games have many others at their disposal.

Using Dread Powers to create someone whose mind control goes beyond even vampiric domination, but who is otherwise physically human, would be very simple. In the end, Kilgrave is an antagonist, while characters created with the main books of the game are protagonists. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re heroic by any measure, just that their powers have a different structure.

And against him is… a private investigator who was once his victim, a popular radio host with a connection to the private eye, a policeman who is clearly more than just a beat cop, and an invulnerable ex-con bartender. That’s a first-tier hunter cell if I ever saw one. And like I said before, the methods they use strikingly remind me of hunters. They avoid direct confrontation, where Kilgrave can overpower them easily. Once they find his weakness, they ruthlessly exploit it. They risk conflict with law enforcement to attack him. All of it costs them physical, emotional and mental damage, and they come into conflict with one another.

I should note that when I say “first-tier”, I mean hunters who operate on their own, on a local level and without the support of any larger group. They also don’t have access to any special equipment or powers that hunter conspiracies typically provide their members. Which, again, might seem to clash with the fact that Jessica and Luke do have superpowers. Despite all of that, the mood and structure of Jessica’s struggle against Kilgrave is quite reminiscent of a first-tier Hunter game.

The victims

Still, that’s the major dramatis personae. What about the world around them? In Hunter: the Vigil, mortals are ignorant of the supernatural. Or rather, they are aware of its existence on some level, but most simply repress it, rationalize it away or just outright deny it. There’s a supernatural energy pervading this world that makes them forget. Many magic beings have traits that more actively obfuscate them – it’s literally impossible for a Sleeper to remember seeing a display of Supernal magic, for instance. Vampires, if we’re sticking with treating Kilgrave as one, notably do not have such traits, which means they must take more active measures to keep their existence secret.

In Jessica Jones, it’s clear that people do know superpowers exist. The series takes place in the same universe as Marvel’s superhero movies, meaning everyone saw aliens, gods and superheroes tear New York City apart. Nonetheless, most people don’t believe in Kilgrave’s mind control.

It’s not quite the same situation as it is in Hunter: the Vigil, though. People who witness Kilgrave in action generally believe it. He very rarely displays any sort of subtlety. And when his victims come together to recount their experiences, they remember them clearly. Still, how many of them had spent years wondering if they had simply gone insane? How many were blamed for people who only saw mind control as a ridiculous excuse? Particularly since when Trish puts out a call for Kilgrave’s victims to come forward, there are those who try to blame him for their misdeeds, or are simply mistaken.

So even though there’s no overreaching conspiracy, or innate energy that makes people forget, the sense of isolation that hunters, and monsters’ victims (categories with significant overlap), feel is still present in Jessica Jones to a degree. Jessica doesn’t find much solace in the support group for Kilgrave’s victims. Her reasons are her own, of course, but it is a bit reminiscent of the isolation hunters feel from other mortal humans.

Jessica’s reluctance to be a hero, even though she has superpowers, isn’t particularly relatable to Hunter. The player characters of Hunter: the Vigil are mortal humans who either chose or were forced to stop ignoring the truth about the world around them. They take up the Vigil, which is a dangerous obsession to do something about it. Jessica has her share of struggles with the concept of heroism and eventually decides to act against Kilgrave, even though her first instinct was to run. But it’s not really the same thing.

In the end, Jessica makes sure Kilgrave won’t destroy another life, but it’s hardly a happy ending or heroic victory. Which is also true for most successful Hunter: the Vigil campaigns. Hunters can eliminate a monster that preys on people, but the toll on them is considerable. That’s if they don’t simply act in their own interest, or become fanatics who attack any supernatural being, no matter how innocent. Which brings the parallel to an end. I hope that, by drawing a similarity between the show and the game, I managed to help you understand what playing Hunter: the Vigil might be like, using a seemingly unlikely source.

Images Courtesy of Netflix and White Wolf

Michał is a natural meddler, driven to take fiction apart and see how it works. In The Fandomentals, he examines fantasy and gaming with a critical, and somewhat cranky, eye.

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Lara Croft Returns in this First Trailer for Tomb Raider





tomb raider featured

As one of the biggest and most recognizable video games of all time, with two movies starring Angelina Jolie already in the bank, it should come as no surprise we’re getting a Tomb Raider reboot already. The first trailer dropped today, and it hopes to reboot the franchise’s movie chops much the same way the game inspiring it did the video game series.

Tomb Raider looks to reboot the story as well, taking us back to the origin of Lara Croft and her tomb raiding adventures. After finding a hidden message from her missing father about an apocalyptic threat, Lara travels to stop the threat and solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance. This leads to her ship wrecking at a mysterious island and battling a group already there.

So basically, Tomb Raider 2013. Watch the trailer, and you’ll see that’s hopefully a very good thing.

Alicia Vikander’s Lara Croft looks good, the action looks sharp, and I absolutely love how much influence the movie takes from the best of the Tomb Raider games. Walton Goggins is amazing and should make for a quality villain. All the pieces are in place to finally give us a good movie based on a video game. Tomb Raider being the franchise to break the crap streak would certainly be fitting.

After so many promising failures, however, it’s hard to get my hopes up. After all, this movie apparently adapts Tomb Raider 2013, but I see no Sam Nishimura anywhere. Big mistake, movie. You don’t make something inspired by Tomb Raider 2013 without including the mountains of subtext between Lara and Sam. Hopefully they just kept it out of the trailer.

Here’s hoping for the best. There’s a decent amount to inspire optimism here, even without a Sam around for Lara to gal pal around with.

tomb raider lara sam

Just gals being pals.

Tomb Raider is scheduled for release on March 16, 2018. Along with Vikander and Goggins, the film stars Daniel Wu, Dominic West, Hannah John-Kamen, Antonio Aakeel, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Nick Frost.

Video and Images Courtesy of MGM and Square Enix

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine Should Let Rosa Date Gina





Gina and Rosa

Google most non-canon LGBT ships, and you get results for various fanfiction sites, maybe an article or two about why they should be canon, why the show is clearly missing the opportunity of a lifetime. Google Rosa/Gina—dubbed Dianetti—and you get tweets from the two actresses involved.

Though media has made huge strides in the past decade or so with LGBT relationships, there is still a lot to be done. Queerbaiting remains common, as does the bury your gays trope. Relationships—especially wlw ones—are still seen as less valid, less possible, than their straight counterparts; this is in part due to many writers, actors, and showrunners continuing to tease of F/F relationships. By creating a dynamic where two women are clearly not just friends (and, of course, never making that dynamic explicitly romantic either), they get the best of both worlds: LGBT viewers who crave representation with none of the potential backlash for so-called political correctness.

The Beauty of B99

Brooklyn Nine-Nine, however, has never fallen into that trap. Holt and Kevin may be the subject of many jokes, but they are never the butt of any. Similarly, topics like racial profiling and police corruption are taken seriously. It is a comedy show, but it is also a show that recognizes the power of its platform. Where another show would tease these topics and turn them into a punchline, Brooklyn Nine-Nine turns them into a discussion.

Holt and Kevin marry each other as quickly as possible.

(Source: tumblr)

So, of every show on television, I know that Brooklyn Nine-Nine would treat Rosa and Gina well. That is an important part of the discussion that is oft forgotten: representation does not end when it begins. Instead, it is an ongoing process, most successful when the writers and showrunners make continued efforts to deepen and better their characters and relationships. When we ask for representation, we are asking for a commitment: at the very minimum, do not kill them. Because that is still often too much to ask, we never get to the next step: do not cheapen them, do not forget them. Do not let them be a checked box on a list of things a show needs to have.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine has proven they can do it. So why don’t they?

The Case For Dianetti

Over the past four seasons, we have seen Gina and Rosa flit in and out of various relationships. All the while, however, they have been there for each other.

Rosa is closed-off, awkward whenever the slightest hint of emotions are involved; Gina, on the other hand, is as open a book as she could possibly be. In the same way that Jake and Amy build on each other and make each other grow, Rosa and Gina could do the same.

In the past, the show has paired Rosa with men who are too different or too similar. Marcus was very openly emotional, and while the importance of having such a character cannot be understated, he was not right for Rosa. Adrien, then, had the opposite problem: he and Rosa never truly get to know each other during their relationship because both were content being unattached in that way.

Enter Gina. She is the perfect option, the perfect mix of emotional and independent; she is the one who can make Rosa consistently smile, the one who isn’t semi-scared of her at all times.

There are not many women on television that are like Rosa, and to give her a chance to find true, lasting love would be very valuable to many viewers. Having her and Gina both go through several unsuccessful relationships is good—it’s realistic and done well. But just as Jake and Amy found each other, just as Kevin and Holt found each other, I would like to see Rosa and Gina do the same.

In a world where F/F ships are punchlines to jokes that weren’t funny the first time, it is a rare and very special thing to see such an opportunity supported by both actresses involved. We have the support, and we have the chance; all that remains is for Brooklyn Nine-Nine to take the leap.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine consistently surprises me with the topics they are willing to tackle and the grace with which they do so. So, as it returns this month for its fifth season, I hope that they will tackle Rosa/Gina next.

Images courtesy of Fox

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Jumanji’s Second Trailer Spoils Everything





It’s a common thing for trailers to show too much these days, especially with action movies like Jumanji. I come to expect it at this point. Still, I’m disappointed to walk away from this trailer feeling like I saw the best parts of the movie condensed to two minutes.

The sequel to the Robin Williams starring meme classic, Jumanji 2: Welcome to the Jungle trades in the board game for a video game. Four high school students warp inside and become the characters they chose to play as. Predictably, the geek becomes Dwayne Johnson, the popular girl becomes Jack Black, the athlete becomes Kevin Hart, and the nerdy girl becomes Karen Gillan in skimpy clothes.

Because of course. It’s a tale as old as time. Pretty sure one of the Amendments to the U.S. Constitution covers this.

It all looks fun enough. The action looks cool, the jokes mostly work for me, and the cast is one I’ll find entertaining, at least. You know where the movie will go from a mile away. Sometimes that’s okay. Just throw a fun cast and some decent action in a movie, and I’ll have a good time.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle releases on December 20 and is directed by Jake Kasdan, whose previous work includes the fantastic Walk Hard.

Video and Images Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

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