For Your Viewing Pleasure

Hey folks! I missed the last couple weekends because, frankly, I’ve been busy as a one-armed paperhanger lately. I work in economic research in commercial real estate, so you can imagine that the business closures over the last few weeks have made for a very interesting (to use a very nice word) business environment. We don’t have much economic data to plow through yet, but I’ve been writing numerous articles for my people to help them better understand the situation. As a result, I needed a couple weekends away from  writing.

But now I’m back … with a pretty easy post to write. Today, I’m going to direct your attention to a few old shows I’ve found episodes of on Youtube. You might already have seen them, but they were new to me, and I found them fun. This isn’t a RPG post per se, but half the challenge in running RPGs is finding new sources of inspiration – hopefully this post will give you some ideas you can use, especially for modern games.

Sapphire & Steel

A British sci-fi show that ran from 1979-1982, I can only say that the vibe of the show is a little bit X-Files and a little bit Doctor Who … and that that description is completely worthless in describing this show. It’s really it’s own animal. The show stars David McCallum and Joanna Lumley, and the concept is sort of bizarre. They are agents, who might actually be personified elements, sent to contain weird distortions of time that are trying to force themselves into the normal time stream. I love that they are very circumspect, at least in the first series, of explaining just what the heck is going on, but the show is creepy and wonderful and McCallum and Lumley are excellent in it. I dug the show so much that I hit Zia Records and ordered the complete series. By the by – if you’re looking for cool stuff, sometimes pre-owned, I suggest Zia. I absolutely love going to their stores and browsing, but right now their online ordering is all I can do.


Another British show, Zodiac ran in 1974, and thankfully has nothing to do with the Zodiac Killer. This show stars Anouska Hempel as an astrologist who helps her paramour, a detective inspector played by Anton Rodgers, solve crimes. It’s not a bad mystery show, really, though it’s more in the vein of the shows, like Columbo, that showed you who the villain was at the beginning, rather than letting you figure it out along with the detective. I dig it because it comes from that mid- to late-70s period when things like UFO’s, astrology, psychic powers and big foot gained a weird legitimacy in popular culture – not as elements of speculation, but as things that were on the cusp of being made matters of fact. If you’re my age, you probably remember watching In Search Of, with Leonard Nimoy (I don’t mean watching the show WITH Leonard Nimoy, whic would have been great fun, but rather … oh never mind).  In Search Of was dedicated to pushing pseudo-science over the goal line into the realm of main steam science, and I really love that old vibe. Zodiac does the same, and I’ve had fun watching a few episodes.

Burke’s Law

A wonderfully weird show from 1963-1966. I’ve only seen the early episodes, which follow Captain Amos Burke (Gene Barry) of LAPD homocide and his lieutentant and sergeant solving murders. The twist is that Burke is a millionaire – I think he inherited it – who shows up at the crime scene in a chauffeur-driven silver Rolls Royce, and that the suspects are all pretty eccentric, not unlike the Emma Peel-era episodes of The Avengers. I also love that they re-use actors from episode to episode in different rolls, kind of like using a troupe of favorites. It’s a weird show filled with crazy characters, beautiful women and tangled cases that are fun to solve along with Burke. On a side note, one episode has Barbara Eden in essentially a genie costume showing off her belly button. Apparently just a few years later that was going to be a problem for prime time TV.

So there you go folks. If you were running low on things to watch, now you have some new old shows to check out. Up next, I present some stats on a few heroes of myth and legend – a little preview of my Gods & Heroes book. Have fun!

How to Referee a Murder

One of my favorite genres of movie is the mystery. I’m not talking about film noirs and gangster pictures – though I love them as well – but the films in which a wealthy man or woman is found dead in her mansion, and a detective has to weed through a bunch of suspects to find the real killer, all the while more victims are piling up.

This sort of plot can be a fun diversion for a game of Grit & Vigor, provided you have players interested in such things. A small group of players, from one to three, works very well with such a mystery. Usually, one player is the head detective and the others are his or her assistants. To get you started, here’s a handy list of potential suspects. Roll as many times on the table as you see fit, but the more suspects there are, the longer the mystery should take.

1 The man-child – always large, strong and dangerous
2 The devious woman – manipulative to the extreme, and after money
3 The wayward son – wealthy young man, usually with a drinking problem
4 The genius – a house guest, usually a scientist, psychologist or doctor … with a secret
5 The housekeeper – an older woman, cold in demeanor
6 The playgirl – female version of the wayward son, she loves “unwisely”
7 The maid – a young woman of common parentage, either stalwart or superstitious (or maybe a mix of both)
8 The caretaker – an older man who looks after the grounds, suspicious of everyone
9 The chauffeur – usually seems worried that he is suspected
10 The ingénue – young, pretty and destined to inherit a fortune
11 The butler – did he actually do it?
12 The ardent – a foolish young man in love with one (or more) woman in the cast of suspects

Each suspect should have two of three of the following – motive, means and opportunity. One suspect, the murderer, has all three. Each suspect should also have a piece of information useful for solving the crime. It is the job of the detectives to clear the suspects and gather the clues, all the while running against the clock as suspects (and their information) are eliminated by the murderer. The murderer will try to eliminate the most useful pieces of information first.

The action should all take place in a mansion, with nobody permitted to leave. In a pinch, use a Clue board for the first floor, with note cards to represent the cellar, the attic and the upstairs bedrooms and any other rooms you want to include. A few useful clues should be spread around the rooms, so detectives have a reason to search them. The least useful clues should be the easiest to find.

And don’t forget secret passages!