Thursday, September 30, 2004
And then there's Gen13. To be blunt, this stuff is wank material. Now, as a red-blooded het male I like the T-n-A as much as the next guy, but Gen13 seems to be nothing more than the puerile juxtaposing of scantily-clad babes and superheroic fisticuffs. Personally, I either want a good story with eye candy backing it up (sure I'm gawking at Wonder Woman in a copy of JLA, but I'm also enjoying the plot, both are important) or else I want actual porn, none of this coy "we're going to pretend to be writing a comic book while not quite showing you the nipples" stuff. Maybe I'm just getting old and jaded or maybe this Gen13 stuff is marketed to the demographic of horny guys who aren't old enough to legally buy a copy of Playboy. Either way it sits in the middle ground of not being good enough to warrant reading it as a comic book and not being explicit enough to waste my time on, especially in this modern intarweb era in which naked pictures of She-Hulk are only one Google search away.
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
- The Supertwins (SuperLad and SuperLass)
- Singularity Zero, bizarre posthuman from the far future
- DeadLass, the ghost that haunts Mars
Monday, September 27, 2004
- A team-up of the greatest villains of all time, composed of time-travellers and immortals.
- Solaris the Sun-Eater
- Per Degaton and henchmen plucked from various eras.
- The Crime Syndicate (the evil anti-matter versions of Superman, Wonderwoman, and Batman)
Sunday, September 26, 2004
called JSA: Fair Play. Good stuff. I really like this
incarnation of the JSA. The new Mr. Terrific and Dr. Mid-Nite kick
all sorts of ass. And WildCat is a hoot. I'd put this team right up
their with my favorite Justice League line-up. It might be worth the
money to buy the next trade or (dare I say it?) actually collect the
monthly book. The problem with going to a comic store and actually
buying a monthly is that last time I did it I didn't know when to
stop. If I get the JSA I will want to pick up the Authority and the
JLA books as well. And then the various Super-books. And maybe the
Bat-stuff. And then God knows what. It's like crack to me.
Saturday, September 25, 2004
I'm starting to agree with the folks who feel Fett is out of place in the Jabba scene, but then he always seemed a little out of place at Jabba's Palace in RoTJ. At least to me. I dunno, the whole Boba Fett thing seems weird nowadays, especially after Ep II. Back before Jedi he was this super mysterious figure, now I know more about his childhood than I do about Han Solo or Obi-Wan!
Everytime I watch an original trilogy flick I get the urge to go buy some action figures and toys.
Friday, September 24, 2004
Title: Justice League 5000
Description: Can the greatest heroes of the 51st century stop the greatest villains of all time?
Rules: Powergame 6.05
Experience: Younger players welcome.
Title: Synnibarr or Bust!
Description: World of Synnibarr is considered by many to be one of the worst RPGs ever written. Do you have the guts to take this system for a test drive?
Rules: World of Synnibar, 2nd edition
Experience: Some gaming experience assumed.
I'd like to run a third event, but I'm not sure what.
Thursday, September 23, 2004
Would I buy monthly comics more often (or at all) if I some good comics were stocked right next to the tabloids at the supermarket checkout?
Digest-sized manga are taking over the local bookstores' comic sections, why don't I see Marvel and DC comics in this format?
More and more all the serious comic fans I know get their fix from trades and graphic novels. Why do monthlies continue to be made?
If Superman or Batman comics came out in black-and-white, at a substantially lower price, would I or anyone else buy it?
How come the only comic subscription card I've seen in years is for Shonen Jump? Now that I can afford to have a monthly mailed to me, neither Marvel or DC seems to be trying to sell me a subscription. I only today discovered that Amazon will sell me some comic book subscriptions, but it hardly even looks like DC is trying.
Am I the only person who would like to see the return of the superhero anthology titles? I think a title in which each month different members of the Justice League had individual one-shot adventures would rock. Maybe this comic is being made and I don't know it.
Does DC comics buy commercial airtime during Teen Titans or JLU? If not, why not?
Did fan boys in ancient Greece get into arguments over whether Odysseus could take Achilles in a fair fight? Was the author of the Argonautica pilloried by armchair critics for violating the continuity established in the Iliad and the Odyssey?
I think the blue bennie machenic worked out well. People seemed to enjoy spending them. I think we'll use it again next time.
Ray once again didn't show up. Both times that I have run Mob War he has been absent. I'm kinda curious to know why. I don't think he has simply been unavailable, as his attendance to Dave's Avatars game was as good as anyone else. Does the gangster setting not suit him? Maybe he can't stand straight historical type games. I know some players need cyborgs or wizards or vampires or whatever for the game to interest them. Or maybe he thinks I'm a jerk. I dunno. Ray's certainly free to play or not play any game he wants. He does not owe me an explanation, but I am curious.
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
Today I took the day off. I spent a good deal of my time updating my info for the Mob War! mini-campaign. I'm hoping for a real rock'em sock'em time tomorrow night. I'm thinking about trying out a new house rule tomorrow night, just 'cause I can. I'm gonna give each player an extra bennie of a different color than the others. This bennie can only be spent on the rolls of other people. Want to save a buddy from certain fate? Throw your blue bennie his way. Want to make the bad guy reroll his soak roll or damage roll? Drop a blue bennie down on his ratsoup-eating no-business ass.
Earlier today I came up with an idea for a Justice League 5000 villain: The Kryptonian. This guy believes that the House of El should be ruling humanity with an iron fist in order to fufil the goal of 'protecting' it. Oh yeah, and the puny humans should all adopt Kryptonian language and culture ASAP. I imagine his outfit being a riff on the later versions of Jor-El's outfit. Though using the earlier green Jor-El uniform might be delightful as well. I think the Kryptonian could be easily played as a noble-but-misguided Magneto type. Or just as a no good sum of a batch.
Monday, September 20, 2004
I've got several irons in the fire on the gaming front. Tonight is my weekly boardgaming get-together. Carl can't make it, so we'll have to find a game that plays well with three players. I wouldn't mind playing Puerto Rico again. Maybe I'll bring my Carcassonne set. This Wednesday is the second session of my Mob War mini-campaign. In the first session the O'Connor Boys busted up the Tolino Mob's bootlegging operation and "Big Al" Tolino will be looking for revenge! I'm taking a vacation day tomorrow to work on the game. Another thing I've been working on is HeroMachine2 character pics for my Justice League 5000 idea. I think I may end up doing this thing as a WinterWar one-shot, maybe using Mikko Kaupinnen's Powergame, a nifty little rules-light supers game. I'm kinda tempted to pursue using Blood of Heroes (the modern descendant of the original DC Heroes rpg), assuming I can track down a copy of the BoH Special Edition. Finally, Pat continues to help me refine my ideas for the 6 Islands Campaign.
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Is the old way unrealistic? I suppose so. Of course, I do occasionally toy with the hidden TNs. "This secret door is extra well hidden. Players must roll a d8 to find this puppy." But most of the time I leave them alone. I like the systems where the only issue most of the time is how good the PCs is at the task they are attempting. That's what I like about Call of Cthulhu. You don't need to hand out stupid skill roll modifiers in that game. The PCs will rise and fall on their own skill ratings. I honestly don't know if I can do this. Running D&D 3E is okay, but writing my own dungeon is driving me nuts. Maybe I should find a system that doesn't make me nuts, even if I lose players in the process. Or maybe I just need to get some modules and run 'em. Neither solution is ideal.
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
Monday, September 13, 2004
Pat was over yesterday. Foregoing our normal session of just Talking About Games, we actually played something! Pat whipped up four fantasy adventurers for Savage Worlds and I threw some monsters at him. First I unleashed a band of orcs, then a trio of ogres, and finally a dragon. The fight with the dragon took two freakin' hours! All this was meant to be a sort of playtest towards Pat converting G1-3 Against the Giants to the standards of Dungeons & Savages.
Friday, September 10, 2004
Thursday, September 09, 2004
- I really ought to watch the rest of the Lord of the Rings movies. They are the Star Wars of this generation of young geeks and I am making myself irrelevant by blowing them off.
- I need to figure out what the crap I want to run for Winter War and then get cracking on some char sheets and adventure notes.
- My blogging started as a way to get my writing chops in shape. Time to stop screwing around and get some non-blog writing done.
- My website hasn't been updated in a long-ass time: My BattleTech page still has only one scenario up and the Comics page hasn't been updated in years.
- The Erol Otus Shrine needs work, too.
- Hey, howzabout I stop jibber-jabbering about campaign ideas and actually work on a game?
- [top secret project]
We talked about future plans. I'm going to run my "Mob War" mini-campaign next time we get together, and maybe for a few sessions after that until we used up all my material. Although Necessary Evil has been delayed again, Pat might still run a supervillains game under these rules. That would be cool. Last night after large amounts of general dicking around (which itself was pretty fun) we eventually decided to use Savage Worlds to play out a professional wrestling battle royale. What a hoot! Dave did a great job with coming up with rules adjudications on the fly. My guy, a retread of my e-fed character Kid Skull, got eleiminated pretty early in the match. Pat's wrestler, The Amish, went on to win the match after a slobberknocker ending against Jimmy "Mack Truck" Henderson. Nifty! We may do some more of this rasslin' stuff.
Wednesday, September 08, 2004
Probably my eyes hurt from a combination of getting up too early (woke up at 4:445am; couldn't get back to sleep) and staring at this cathode ray tube all day. Probably. But my attempt at lunch to read the 3rd edition Player's Handbook certainly didn't help. Setting aside the horse-choaking quantity of rules and the too-cool-for-moi dungeonpunk art sensibilities, what really put an extra dose of hurting on my ocular orbs was the damn lined-paper effect behind the text. I hate these sorts of effects! One of the few things SenZar loses big points on is the grayscale art obscuring the text. (The other main deduction being for the lack of monster stats in the corebook.) But at least SenZar has some white pages. Here at my desk, under the merciless glow of multiple neon tubes, the PHB is pretty easy to read. Under anything less than ideal conditions it becomes a major pain in the ass. Is the text of the 3.5 books similar hosed? If it is, then I can see some possible solutions to D&D-induced eyeball ache:
- Mongoose's Pocket Player's Handbook (Upside: Only 20 bucks new, chock full o' 3.5 goodness. Downside: May have eyestraining layout issues of its own.)
- Professional pdf of the SRD (Upside: Cheap and easily available at RPGnow. Downside: Must print & bind. "SRD pdf" sounds stupid.)
- Make my own book using the SRD. (Upside: Totally customized rulebook. Downside: It will look like ass. Readable ass, but ass nonetheless.)
- D20 variant, such as BESM d20 or Castles & Crusades. (Upside: In different ways both seem to scratch my itch better than mainstream D&D. Downside: Finding players is harder the further you step away from mainstream D&D.)
- Old school D&D. (Upside: I love this crap. Downside: Do I want to stretch myself a bit, or simply spin my wheels?)
- Savage Worlds. (Upside: Readily available player base. Kickass rules-medium system. Downside: It ain't D&D, thus kinda missing the whole point. The local player base may burn out on the system.)
- SenZar or World of Synnibarr (Upside: Designed for nonsensical, wahoo adventure. Downside: More hated than loved. Virtually no player base.)
It's easy for me to fall into the trap of waiting with baited breath for the next game that will finally be the perfect fit for me. HackMaster was the last such game for which I pined. It was a great game, but not a perfect fit for me. My new last best hope for peace is the aforementioned Castles & Crusades. Why I let myself get all worked up over these forthcoming products I'll never know. Even if they meet my expectations building a game group around them is like pulling hens teeth, especially when we are talking about substitutes for good ol' D&D. A different genre is much easier to sell. But when you are talking about a game that focuses on killing orcs and stealing gold you have to work extra hard to come up with an answer to the dread question "Why don't we just play D&D?" That's a hard question to answer. "Because I don't like the graphic layout" ain't much of an answer, nor is "Because I'm a lazy DM."
Last session Dave introduced some a Beetle Rider of Doom, developing an insectoid theme beyond the known Antish Menace. I'd like to capture one of the riders and find out more about what's going on, but can't stand the sneering "We're right, you're wrong, just kill me and be done with it" attitude typical of any prisoners we take in the course of this campaign. You'd think that once in a while the other team would be scared of the psycho with the axes, but they all got their Uber-Fanatic grooves on. I suppose that this devotion is meant to makes our heroes stop and consider their actions. But as a player, it just makes me feel less sympathetic for the plight of these imaginary warriors. I'm more likely to go easy on some poor slob who's shitting himself with fear. This "I'm so macho in the face of imminent death" thing just turns me off.
Still these prisoners aren't my main issue with the campaign. My main issue is "What the hell am I supposed to be doing?" Is it implicit, given the title of the campaign and the Edge available, that we should all be chasing Avatarhood? Are we supposed to be rushing into the lair of the Ant Riders, saving the world despite clearly overwhelming forces aligned against us? Are we meant to bounce around the map, doing the good deed of the week like on The A Team? I'm just not sure where I stand. For the most part the individual atoms of actual play are fun as all hell, but I fail to grasp my position in the overall scheme of the campaign. Are the other players asking themselves these questions, or am I overanalyzing the situation?
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
Finally got my copy of the WLD...
But am I bit shocked at the number of changes and hacks at makes to standard D&D rules:
* No PC teleportation. (The DMG says, "Don't design dungeons that ban fly and teleport spells just because doing so is hard." Why should the paid designers not be held to the guidelines given for amateurs?)
* Don't use the standard XP progression. Use something else instead. Dunno what. The guide says the PCs should advance twice per map, but not what points system to use to ensure they do so.
* No entangle/web spells.
* No summoning spells for PCs.
* No druid PCs.
* No take 10/take 20.
And the PCs are trapped in the dungeon for the entire campaign!
Now all these items are merely recommendations, but I'm still scratching my head. Trapped in the dungeon I'm okay with, though it's not my first choice. But that's a pretty long list of rules changes to be applied to a a frickin' dungeon adventure. Dungeons is what D&D 3.x was designed for, right? Am I the only one who remembers the "Back to the dungeon" tagline for 3.0? I do not understand why someone would tackle a project like the World's Largest Dungeon if they couldn't get it done while sticking to the rules as written. What's the point? The no teleport/no druids/no summonings rule looks like sheer laziness. No web spells? WTF? And screwing with the XP system is asking for trouble. The only changes I would ever brook to the current XP system would be to add ways of earning points. Like re-introducing XP for treasure. I thought it was ass-tastic to remove loot XP from the system. Yes, getting the gold and xp both seems like double dipping, even moreso for magic items and XP. But so what? In my experience chests full o' XPs are a much bigger motiviation for PCs than chests full of mere coins. If anything, the WLD (and maybe dungeoneering games in general) should be giving a bonus for clearing a level, on top of anything else earned the usual ways.
Hmmm. I rushed over here to blog about my indignation over these discoveries. Obviously the people behind WLD can design anything they want, but I'm still worked up that this product doesn't seem to quite meet with my simple expectation that it follow the frickin' rules. My sensibilities are offended. Nevermind the fact that last 3E campaign I wussed out long before anybody could cast teleport. Still, at least this list crazy no-no list gives me things to think about when designing my own dungeon.
Monday, September 06, 2004
Sunday, September 05, 2004
More importantly, I've come to a conclusion regarding my Game Mastery skills. I like to try lotsa different things, but I really only have my "A" game going when I am running a classic fantasy dungeon crawl. I look back over my years of GMing and I see things like the Dungeon of Doom as the high points. I put a lot of work into the Dungeon of Doom and it played out very well. I'd like to rebottle some of that lightning without it being a dusty old system that "nobody" likes to play any more. The solution seems to be to sit down and write a multi-level underground extravaganza for 3.0 or 3.5 D&D. The alternative systems (earlier versions of D&D, fantasy-flavored Savage Worlds, Castles & Crusades, BESM d20, SenZar, World of Synnibarr) all shrink the potential pool of players for relatively little gain. Savage Worlds at least gives me a readily available player base, but how long will it be before it is no longer the local flavor-of-the-month?
Pat was over today and he and I talked this situation out a bit. As usual, he is uber supportive of whatever direction I want to go. He referred to Black Fire, the draft game linked from Ron Edwards' Gamist Essay. I went back and re-read it but I don't see how it fits into a proposed 3E campaign. Pat, if you read this, could you drop a note in the comments section explaining what you have in mind?
One of the things we discussed was the perennial problem in modular games: what do we take out, what do we put in? Pat lobbied for a serious consideration of some of the materials in the new Unearthed Arcana. I'll have to take a look at that. Another factor to consider is what will players be able to use for making characters. I bounce between the two extremes of "three corebooks only" and "any published classes and races are fine". One option helps keep a tight focus to the game, the other really allows the players to cut loose.
If I'm really going to tackle a 3E campaign the first thing I need to do is re-read my copies of the core books. Right after I'm done putzing around with SenZar.
Saturday, September 04, 2004
I haven't started the sci-fi short stories yet. I'm not sure if I'll get to it or not. I seem to be on a big sequential art kick lately. "Are you obsessed with comic books?" -- my wife.
Friday, September 03, 2004
Role-players have long enjoyed big projects like the monster games. Even today people are still gaga over playing T1-4 The Temple of Elemental Evil followed by A1-4 Scourge of the Slavelords and topped of by GDQ1-7 Queen of the Spiders. That's approximately eighteen levels of adventure in 3 big fat supermodules! Time for that disjointed and flawed (but still classic) series to step aside for the new kid on the block AEG's World's Largest Dungeon.
The 16 poster-sized maps make quite an impressive display, eh?
This puppy is over 800 pages long, over a million words of text! It contains nearly every monster in the SRD! Even a Terrasque! This huge and mighty tome has an MSRP of a cool one hundred bucks, but Amazon will part with one for only $68.
I'm not a huge fan of the current incarnations of Dungeons & Dragons, but holy crap does this product get my blood a-pumpin'. It's like WLD is the Mount Everest of dungeoncrawling. I want to tackle it just cause it's the biggest, baddest dungeon around. I'm not sure I could DM it, but I sure as hell would love to be a player in a campaign that focused exclusively on tackling this module. One of the things that has fallen out of D&D for me is a sense of purpose. Back in the days of 1st edition Advanced and especially the Basic/Expert era every campaign had an implicit goal: Level up until you build a kickass castle and retire surrounded by minions and henchmen. Maybe you fought some wars or something but basically your adventuring days were supposed to be mostly over at that point. If you played the Mentzer edit of D&D or was a big Deities and Demigods fan you could tackle the more ambitious project of achieving divinity. Either way when playing earlier versions of D&D it was always easier for me to see a clear victory condition that I could strive for. Whether I suceeded or not was secondary, I needed an overall challenge to test myself against.
For much the same reason I've always been drawn to the idea of a campaign centered around looting one exceptionally large dungeon, whether it be the originals (Castles Blockmoor and Greyhawk), my own meager efforts (particularly my Dungeon of Doom) or this new World's Largest Dungeon. Unlike the boilerplate "what is an rpg" text I've always felt as if a good role-playing campaign ought to have a goal. Just buttknockering around a large campaign map getting into trouble seems insufficient for me these days. "Here's your mission this week" gaming seems equally incomplete. I guess maybe I let superhero games slide on this count, because superhero comics are so darn reactionary in nature. Apart from supers though I tend to favor building a winning condition into a campaign, if for no other reason than to give the campaign an endgame, a limit, a sense of closure.
One way to construct such a game would be to focus on one mega-dungeon and when that dungeon is cleared the campaign is over. If you're going to play the kind of campaign in which dungeoncrawling is the main activity of the group, why not make that activity the centerpiece of the campaign? I tend to suspect that a lot of groups engage in what I might call "abashed dungeoncrawling". These folks construct elaborate plots which inevitably lead to some form of dungeoncrawl. Find the Dingus quests are often like this. By having an elaborate backstory on hand the group can convince itself that they're not really dungeoncrawling hackmonkeys. "After all, we are only going into this ruined temple because our intricately crafted plot demands it. Not because we like hacking orcs for dollars. No, that can't be it. We're grown up gamers."
Well, funk that. I like measuring my D&D success by killcounts and gps looted. And few things feel better in a game than discovering that you have successfully cleared another level and found the stairs down to boot. I want to descend into hell, kick some ass, and win fabulous prizes. Maybe that makes me a hack-n-slashy munchkin, I dunno. I'd like to think that it makes me a Gamist. Either way I know that it would be about the coolest thing ever to be able to some day say "World's Largest Dungeon? Been there, done that."
Thursday, September 02, 2004
Of course, once all the setting details are thrashed out we still return to the age old question for supers games: What system? Most made-for-supers systems don't do a very good job of tackling the high power levels of Superman and his ilk. I can let that slide for most supers games, but I think this concept calls for cosmic level powers. The aforementioned DC Heroes game and its descendant Blood of Heroes ought to do the trick, but I'm not sure I want to tackle an old-school crunchy system like that. I owned one of the DC boxed sets at one time, but back then I couldn't wrap my head around the system. Maybe all these years later I could do it, but do I want to? The new Authority rpg from Guardians of Order takes their Silver Age Sentinels system and dials the power level to eleven, so that might work. After those two their a zillion other supers games, generic systems, and doing wierd things like ripping off non-supers games. I'm sure I could find some folks on RPG.net that would urge me to use Nobilis or Exalted for the task. Maybe I could tackle this project as a one shot or a con game, in which case I the ideal system would be A) popular, B) easy to use, and C) already in my collection. I wish I could think of a game like that right now.
Wednesday, September 01, 2004
Up until this point the cat's adventures had all been very domestic and kinda goofy, but night falls and the comic becomes darker and more dangerous.
Perfect use of a silent panel to set up a great understated punchline!