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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 84 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Noir: What Does it Mean?  (Read 6941 times)
Spikey
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« on: January 09, 2008, 06:32:11 PM »

Hey Justin. An apology back at you for my own delay in posting. I have been in similar straights and was snowed under. Also, I cannot reply to the PM you sent me, apparently I am not allowed to send PM's within this forum.

So in answer to the questions asked within that PM, yes I am that same Spikey from shadownessence.com. Lackluster head moderator of the Changeling the Dreaming forum and general layabout of infamy.

Anywho, the supplements sound interesting, I'll probably buy them. As you may have seen elsewhere I bought the game and am currently working on some plot ideas. I already run a Film Noir inspired Play by Email game (www.sodiumnoir.com) so the concept behind Fae noir hooked me. When I run it I will probably simply move the entire history forward 20 years and replace all references to WWI with WWII.

I would seriously encourage you to take up the other writers offer to do a 40's book because its just so much more fitting for the themes you are after. Doing Noir themes and concepts in 1924 is going to be somewhat problematic because of the zietgiest of the time. I think the false sheen of glamour you mentioned above is just too bright and at this time, too firmly clung to by the general public to allow a lot of what i see in the general theme and mood of Noir. Plus post WWI was much more a time of hope than it was despair in most places, simply because humanity had survived the unthinkable. Sure French cinema was inventing the earliest Film's Noir at this sort of time but they were not the stories we generally associate with Film Noir. I think only a few die hard fans would even grasp the 1920's noir influence.

That being said I could be wrong. If the companion was to include a chapter on fitting the theme of Noir (with or without the usual pulp and hard boiled sub themes) into both the default era and alternative times I think you could nicely sidestep the detractors (me included). Take some time to actually discuss what the themes are, what the effects of the Fae are without having to rely on the niche and genre we all first think of with the word Noir. Maybe an essay on the setting itself, on where you see the darkness so players can see it as well?

I really like the system and already being a fan of the White wolfs older games I find it a rather comfortable fit, even with D8's replacing D10's. It makes sense within the context of the setting and the power levels.
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JustinB
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« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2008, 09:46:31 AM »

This wasn't really about FAQ-related stuff anymore so I split it off into its own topic.

Hmmm. Did you log in and go to your personal messages? That's how you have to respond to PMs.

Yes, I saw your thread on FN on Shadowessence. I liked the thread and I'm glad you're digging the system.

In any case, I thought since we were discussing noir as a genre we may as well get a new thread out of it here.

The problem with noir is that it's a genre rather than a decade, in spite of being sort of irretrievably tied to a historical period. As such, I think that you can tell a noir story set in ancient Rome, or the middle ages, or as with the film Brick or the TV series Veronica Mars in a California high school. It's less about setting than about tone.
That said, the "age of noir" is really the end of the 20s up through WWII. After WWII you get into the beginning of the happy 50s. To me, saying that anything much post WWII is traditionally noir is just as wrong as saying that the 20s are a traditionally noir era.

The Companion is planned to be largely about GMing and playing FN, discussing themes like the tension between the ancient and the modern as well as what it means to play a "noir" campaign, certainly.

It's kind of funny, even though I have never planned on writing a 1940's book for FN myself, I have always had a definite concept of the general history up through WWII, including an alliance between House Fomori and the Nazis.

Pretty soon I'll be putting up a thread about turning fairy tales into FN plots and noir stories into FN plots. I hope you'll jump on in with some ideas.
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Check out Fae Noir, a game of 1920's fantasy. http://greenfairygames.com
ctone
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« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2008, 11:25:56 AM »

I guess I am having a problem conceptualizing what "noir" does mean.  From my basic knowledge of film, I thought that the french referred to american movies that were made in the 40s and 50s?

I've noticed that many noir movies have similar themes:  dream-like states, brutality, a sense of everything being weird or off.  I don't really notice many films from the 20s or 30s having these kinds of themes.  I guess there are a few examples I can think of:  Scarface and M being the only ones that immediately jump to mind.  However, when I think about movies in the 40s that have what I call "noir" themes, there are plenty of movies:  Double Indemnity, Postman Always Rings Twice, Maltese Falcon, Citizen Kane (which is kind of noir), The Big Sleep, Blue Dahlia. 

Maybe the problem is that I'm only familiar with "noir" in the context of film.  It's either that, or my "noir" concept is off. 

When did "noir" become commonplace in novels?
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Caesar_X
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« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2008, 04:25:10 PM »

Ctone, you are closest to the mark here.

I've done a lot of research on Film Noir, and I've noted that there's a lot of misuse of the word "noir" in gaming (as well as other media).

The term "noir" to mean something "dark" or "mysterious" or simply "B&W" is a contemporary usage.  The original term "film noir" came from French movie critics who were seeing a flood of American movies being released in Europe after WW2 was over.  They noticed the similarities in style, cinematic technique and feel of these films and coined the term "Film Noir", or "black film".

The essence of Film Noir is the average man caught in difficult circumstances which lead to desperation and often murder.  Usually there is a crime and a victim involved, and the guilt of the protagonist is an important part of the genre.  But even though it didn't have a name back then, this type of movie was popular with the US moviegoing audience as WW2 was ending, and for about 8-10 years it was a dominate form of moviemaking in Hollywood.  It's cynical view and powerful female leads seemed to resonate with audience who had experienced serious role reversals with so many of the men going to war and the women taking over what used to be termed "man's work", only to cede these jobs when the veterans returned.

The genre mostly ended in the mid-to-late 50s, but neo-noir has continued to this day, and we've seen a real resurgence in the genre lately.  But as with much pop culture, the term "noir" has been genericized and is added as a label to many things that are really pulp or hardboiled or just dark.

So for example, Dashiell Hammett's books were not "noir".  But the movie 'The Maltese Falcon' (based on his book) certainly was.

If you want to learn more, this is a good place to start: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Film_noir
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JustinB
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« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2008, 08:52:30 AM »

Thanks Caesar, that was some good stuff and, I think, helpfully draws a line of separation between true film noir and the term as it's more generically applied to hardboiled or pulp material.
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Check out Fae Noir, a game of 1920's fantasy. http://greenfairygames.com
Dunefan
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« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2008, 08:39:41 AM »

I'm not sure I understand the "pulp" thing with regards to "noir".  Doesn't pulp imply only that the thing is cheap?
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Thenomain
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« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2008, 11:19:58 PM »

Whenever the noir/pulp question comes up, I point people to this post on Defective Yeti.  It's not one-hundred percent definitive, but it comes as a kind of research from a notable source and tries to distill it down into non-expert digestible chunks.

It largely mirrors Caesar's response, but may be in a different enough way to supplement it.
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JustinB
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« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2008, 09:50:50 AM »

I didn't mention this earlier, but thought I should point out that "Hardboiled Fae" may very well be the worst possible title for a game. though perhaps more strictly accurate.
Tongue
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Caesar_X
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« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2008, 01:50:40 PM »

Thanks for posting that link, Thenonain.  Definitely helpful to the discussion.

Dunefan, "pulp" seems to be related to "hardboiled" much more than it is to "noir".  Sure, pulp is referring to magazines (and paperbacks) printed in the early-mid 1900s made of cheap paper, filled with fantastical and bitter stories by authors who weren't paid much.  But like noir, the term "pulp" has been stolen by pop culture and turned into an adjective meaning "anything fantastical or looking back to the halcyon days of the 20s and 30s and 40s."

For those looking for pulp and hardboiled source, I recently bought a book (http://www.amazon.com/Black-Lizard-Book-Pulps-Age/dp/0307280489/ref=pd_bbs_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1203025517&sr=8-2) containing a *lot* of crime stories from the classic pulp era.  Sure Hammett and Woolrich are in there, but think of it more as a precedent of noir.
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JustinB
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« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2008, 06:59:52 AM »

Ooh. Black Lizard published Chandler too. If they did a compilation like that, I've got to get my hands on it.
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Check out Fae Noir, a game of 1920's fantasy. http://greenfairygames.com
Dunefan
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« Reply #10 on: February 15, 2008, 07:20:03 AM »

Hardboiled Fae sounds like a Troll delicacy, not a game.

Based on Caesar_X's definitely of "pulp", Fae Noir does strike me as a strongly pulpy game. 

Anyways, I've been reading about the Pulp Call of Cthulhu game that is supposed to come out soon.  It strikes me that this will be similar to Fae Noir, although, obviously, that game is going to likely be more horror than pulp.  This brings me to my question:  is it possible to have a good "horror" noir story?  One of the campaigns I'm considering is a horror game set it in the 20s, as I really enjoy the noir type of setting.  Am I biting off more than I can chew trying to mix two things that don't necessarily mix?
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JustinB
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« Reply #11 on: February 15, 2008, 10:03:08 AM »

Hardboiled Fae sounds like a Troll delicacy, not a game.

Based on Caesar_X's definitely of "pulp", Fae Noir does strike me as a strongly pulpy game. 

Anyways, I've been reading about the Pulp Call of Cthulhu game that is supposed to come out soon.  It strikes me that this will be similar to Fae Noir, although, obviously, that game is going to likely be more horror than pulp.  This brings me to my question:  is it possible to have a good "horror" noir story?  One of the campaigns I'm considering is a horror game set it in the 20s, as I really enjoy the noir type of setting.  Am I biting off more than I can chew trying to mix two things that don't necessarily mix?


Isn't the default setting for CoC the 20s? I don't see that there's anything inherent to the 1920s that would make a horror game set in them particularly more difficult, although I'd probably try to keep it away from New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Probably also Paris. But that's just because of the way I think of those cities being in the 1920s.
I think there are a lot of really great ways that you could contrast the greed and abandon of the Roaring 20s as representations of human darkness against otherworldly evil. I also know that a friend of mine played in a CoC game set in Singapore around 1923-1926 and he really dug that, although I don't think he found it very horrifying.
Speaking from a FN standpoint, there's a lot of really terrifying things you could accomplish with careful use of trods and evil critters popping over from Arcadia, not to mention demons.
Any specific plans you're making?


I'd certainly describe my vision for FN as being a combination of fairytales and hardboiled stories, though I did try to lean it more heavily towards hardboiled/noir material with the Personality Flaws and the lethality of the combat.
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Check out Fae Noir, a game of 1920's fantasy. http://greenfairygames.com
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