Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Earth 52 Pre-Game Show

Since I'm running my DC Adventures Earth 52 campaign at Armored Gopher tonight, I figured I'd look at some inspirational material.  You'll read about the New Guard's exploits if I ever sit down and put the last two sessions on the blog, but (spoiler), the team now has access to the Hall of Justice and the Watchtower.


Now if there is one thing that DC Universe Online does right, it's give you a feel for unique locations in the DC Universe.  I love just flying around Metropolis, Gotham City, and the Watchtower in the game.  So for inspiration, I thought I might fly around the Watchtower in game, so I had some fresh impressions to throw out in game.



That's when I noticed that Metropolis is tricked out in Christmas decorations, with Christmas music playing.  The music playing was pretty traditional Christmas march type of music, suitably upbeat and life affirming.  There were lots of trees and lightposts decorated.  In general, a nice job portraying Metropolis at Christmas time.

Now I was curious, so I jumped to the Watchtower, then over to Gotham City.  In Gotham, the decorations were up, but the music, while Christmasy, was much more "Danny Elfman" style moderately ominous fair.  I loved it.  I honestly have to give the DCUO team credit for understanding the atmosphere and personality of the locations.



Oh, and the central hub of the Watchtower has Christmas trees up as well, with Hal Jordan hanging our near one.  No music though.  Watchtower is all business.

Honestly, I just wanted to give some props to some other MMO team besides the TOR guys this holiday season.  The TOR guys deserve the accolades, but, hey, credit where credit is due.

Star Wars . . . Nothing But Star Wars . . .

So, I know I'm still down two session on my Earth 52 DC Adventures posts, and I could do a better job of detailing our Deathwatch game.  Heck, there are even interesting developments in comics and tabletop RPGs that I could yammer on about.  However, none of that has happened because I've been playing Star Wars:  The Old Republic.



I caught the tail end of the beta on Thanksgiving weekend.  I enjoyed the game, but when I was playing the beta as a smuggler, I was a little disappointed that the mechanical side of the game was similar to World of Warcraft.  This certainly wasn't a deal breaker for me, because, honestly, World of Warcraft initially seemed a bit like Everquest.  What let WoW knock Everquest off the top wrung wasn't what was similar about the game  (essentially, what worked), but what was different.



Getting to play The Old Republic from the beginning, in the full context of how the game is suppose to be experienced, even my slight reservations about WoW similarities went right out the window.



Disclaimer time:  I have played lots of MMOs, and I've cut out on a lot of them due to my general gamer ADD.  I'm not a bit person for raiding or end game content or dungeons or the like.  So as soon as a game gets to the point to where I have to grind too much or the story goes flat, I tend to drift away.

I'm not sure if that will happen to me with this game or not, but I'm strongly leaning towards "not any time soon."  Are there "fetch" quests?  Yes there are.  However, seeing a really nice, fully voiced introduction to that fetch quest that gives a really in depth context for why the kerpluxus needs to be brought back to the quest giver does really help to keep the fetching from feeling old.

There are also "kill X number of Y" quests, but what is nice is that fact that these are usually presented in the context of "bonus objectives" to the main quests that you took.  For example, if you have to hack four consoles throughout a complex, while you wander the complex, you might run into Imperial troops, and you get the optional  "clear out the Imperial agents" bonus objective.  If you complete the quest before you complete the bonus, the story advances.  If you do the bonus objectives . . . more XP!

It's kind of nice, because the extra objective just kind of slides in there.  You don't talk to five different farmers asking you to kill slightly different versions of the same bad guys, all within a block of one another.

In a lot of ways, the game plays very much like Knights of the Old Republic, but with eight different campaigns  (four Sith, four Republic).  Multi-player really comes into play when you get special missions that are kind of in-between the rest of your game experience that you can take a vacation from so that you can wail on some bad guys and potentially get some better gear than you normally would.



There are also one or two side quests in each of the main story areas that are "Heroic 2" or "Heroic 4" side quests that generally require 2 to 4 extra players to work through.  These are full, major areas like the "Flashpoints" are, but a few interconnected rooms with extra tough bad guys that encourages you to ask some of the other people running around in your area to group with your for a little while, long enough to survive the side quest  (which you can skip if you don't want to talk to any of your fellow faction members).

Combat and combat skills look very similar to WoW.  You have a certain number of abilities.  When you get levels, you have to go to a class trainer to learn more abilities, and you pay credits to learn them.  You have skill trees that modify how those skills work depending on how you fill our your tree.  Your main attack doesn't have a refresh time, but a lot of your other abilities will.  It's really tempting to look at that overview and assume that combat plays out just like WoW.  It doesn't, or at least it doesn't feel like it does.



The first change is that there is no auto-attack.  You always have to click on an attack to make it work, so you always have to pay attention to the combat you are in.  Abilities seem to play off of each other much more dynamically.  Not only do you have to pay attention, but you have abilities that chain a bit more.

I've played as a smuggler and a Jedi Knight.  As a smuggler, I had to roll behind cover to activate some abilities, and other abilities were "set up" abilities, i.e. I'd throw a charge at someone that wouldn't go off until something else damaged the target.  As a Jedi Knight, I have to build up Focus with a basic strike in order to access other abilities, like a sweep that shoves multiple opponents back, or an elaborate master strike where you slash and stab your opponent in a sequence to do a lot of damage from "one" hit.

The voice acting and sound effects also go a really long way towards making this feel like a Star Wars experience.  Your lightsaber sounds like a lightsaber, and engine whine sounds like classic Star Wars vehicles going by.

It's not all rosy.  For some strange reason, some people have such bad lag that they have to run the game in windowed mode, which goes against all performance logic, yet it seems to be the only way to make the game playable in some areas.  And then there is space combat.  Yup.  Space combat.



You know how, in between major points in the movies, there were climactic space battles?  There are space battles in this game too.  Maybe I just suck, but if you are like me, you won't be completing many of these missions until you sink a whole lot of credits into your ship that you probably need to complete the main storyline, which means that space combat is kind of an add on if you want to mess with it and invest the time a credits it will take to have a competent combat star ship.

But despite those flaws, if you liked the KOTOR games, the only downside I can see to this game is if you don't have the $15 a month for the ongoing fees.  Heck, it's restored my enthusiasm for Star Wars that was heavily damaged by the Clone Wars cartoon foray through the EU, leaving twisted wreckage and Lucas-fueled ideas behind it.

Also, I didn't get killed by a Corellian Butterfly in my first combat.  So I almost forgot I ever played Star Wars Galaxies.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Games in Review: What Ever Happened to that Space Wolf Guy (December 19th, 2011)

Taking a slight break from detailing my insanity via DC Adventures/Mutants and Masterminds, let's take a look at that most heroic of Space Marines, Rangar Then, ten-thousand year old Space Wolf.  What's Rangar up to you ask?

Our group is playing through the adventure The Emperor Protects at the moment.


Spoilers:  We shoot things that are aliens and/or potential threats to the Empire.  Or things that may have looked at the Empire funny.  Or things that may one day grow up to look at the Empire funny.  No reason to take chances.

One of the awesome gamers in our group has been building our characters with 40K mini bits.  Here is a picture of some of the works in progress:


Above is our Dark Angel librarian.  Also, we go through cycles like other people go through ammo.  Possibly because they get used as weapons.  However, since we've gotten back on track with the actual adventure, I don't think we've destroyed any of our vehicles.


The cheerful fellow above is one of the most completed members of the group, miniatures wise.  That's Fray, our assault marine.  Fray had an amazing propensity for getting hit in the right leg.  Fray eventually got his right leg blown off as he dove into a horde of enemies, and died gloriously.  Thus this mini is more of a memorial than representational of the current team.


Above are the models that one of the guys in the group brought out for a scale comparison.  It also serves as an example of an encounter I don't really want to have.  Eh, maybe I do.  I really like playing Rangar, but if he's going to go out, I'd rather he go out BIG.

Anyway, we are investigating a cult that has ties to something that no one in the setting knows about yet, so we are absolutely certain that we know nothing about them.  I'm also pretty sure they don't have anything to do with these guys:


To be fair, we haven't seen "those guys," but we've seen those green bolts of nasty and those green bolts of nasty are even enough to mess up a Space Marine.

Currently, our team consists of me  (a Space Wolf Devastator Marine), a Ultramarine Successor Kill Marine sniper whose chapter has a skull with a worm burrowing through it as their standard  (I gave him a cloak that says "ask me about my worm" in Fenrisian), another "custom chapter" Assault Marine, a Dark Angel Librarian, a Dark Angel successor apothecary  (that I beat in naked wrestling), and an Imperial Fist techmarine.

Notable moments from the game:  A cliff face nearly killing two of our Kill Team, via a steady stream of unfortunate events.  Also, our sniper literally turning someone into a fine red mist right after that NPC made a proclamation of "no more games!"

Also, our apothecary shot a citizen in the head in the middle of the market square for selling alien artifacts.  I'm not sure why we didn't see it coming.

It's been a fun group, and a nice spread of different chapters.  Of course, after First Founding came out, we had some rethinking of concepts and potentially of characters, but so far, we haven't switched out any more characters  (besides Fray's demise, our previous Devastator marine left to make room for the Kill Marine sniper).


I didn't rethink Rangar after getting the book, I was just thrilled that my previous (somewhat joking) question about "can I requisition a Fenrisian Wolf" is answered with a yes!  Or at least I can burn xp to buy one as a follower.

I have very little profound to offer about my experience playing in this game, except to say that I'm having fun.  Oh, and I have a few words of wisdom, as imparted by Rangar, over the last few sessions:

"I have to quit ending my stories with balls getting torn off.  It seems to turn off the listener."

"Shoot a fat one.  More of a chance that the others will trip over him."

(Upon arguing about the proper use of a requisition servo skull, which Rangar was using to tip his drinking horn when he was having a hard time lifting it due to his Terminator armor, upon discussing that the skulls were made into servo skulls as an honor to faithful chapter serfs that has served with distinction):

"And what did that chapter serf do in life?  Serve me ale!"

Friday, December 16, 2011

Games in Review: Out of Order One Shot Fill In Justice League Mayhem! 12-15-11

Our GM for our Pathfinder Shackled City campaign had a family obligation for the night, but many of us can't quite bring ourselves not to hang out at the coolest game store ever, the beloved Armored Gopher Games.  No one managed to plan out a game to fill in our GM vacancy, and those of us planning on showing up figured we would just be screwing around most of the night.

But then, for some reason, on the relatively short drive from my work to the game store, I had an idea.  I still had my Mutants and Masterminds/DC Adventures books in my car.  Could I be crazy enough to plan out a one shot in ten minutes and be able to run a fun game?  Why not find out.

It was a simple, oft repeated story.  The PCs would be established DC heroes, in this case, a character with stats in the DC Adventures Hero's Handbook  (because I could pass that book around while running the game out of the M&M Hero's Handbook, and run the bad guys out of Heroes and Villains Volume One).  There is an alien invasion, and the PCs have just recently formed the Justice League to turn back the invaders.  In this case, the alternate reality of the session would see whomever the player's picked as the founding members of the Justice League.

The very simple plot would be that there would be a starting round of challenges for the PCs to build up hero points, with a raging city wide fire, a tidal wave, crumbling bridges and buildings, and people in immediate danger.  After saving the city, the heroes would face the lead ship in the invasion, which just happened to be Brainiac's ship.



Now here I'll point out that I was assuming someone would take, say, Superman, Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman, someone like that.  With this assumption in mind, our alternate fledgling Justice League was going to raid Brainiac's ship, and have Brainiac unleash a Kryptonian artifact on them in the form of a cryo-frozen Doomsday.



Now, let's talk about what the actual composition of the Justice League was in this case.  Green Lantern, Aquaman, Robin, Flash, and Batman.  Hm.  Realizing that they might be outgunned, the group recruited another regular from the store to play someone else to be the cavalry.  He picked Plastic Man.



Now that we know our line up, a note about how these heroes were portrayed.  Green Lantern was Ryan Reynolds, Aquaman was the Brave and the Bold version, except with the Peter David hook, Batman was Batman from Frank Miller's All Star Batman and Robin, but worse, and Robin was a terrified abuse victim.



Starting out with the various challenges saving the city . . . Green Lantern turned aside the tidal wave with a giant Hot Wheels track to shunt the water away, and then absorbed the rest of the water with his second construct's toga  (a construct of his character in my Tuesday night game, Ares' son Myrmidon). Flash used his super speed and quickness to rescue trapped people.  Aquaman summoned squids to catch trapped people and shore up bridges.



While this was going on, Batman was letting Robin drive.  Robin crashed into a building with the Batvan  (don't ask), contributing a failure to the attempt to save the city.  Batman also failed to jury rig a fire fighting device, but didn't fail badly enough to contribute another failure.  The next time around, Robin contributed another failure by backing the Batvan into another building.  Batman spent his next turn shoving Robin out of the van.  Then Robin attempted to throw a sleep pellet into the van to knock Batman out because he shoved him out of the van.

The rest of the team managed to erase the mistakes of the Caped Crusaders from Hell, and Green Lantern flew them all up to Braniac's ship.  Batman power stunted his equipment to make a "Bat Scanner" to use his technology roll to point out a weak spot in the shield, granting the heroes a +5 bonus on their attempts to break down the shield.

In the ship, they bantered with Brainiac  (including Green Lantern making a construct of Brainiac to taunt Brainiac), and Brainiac unleashed cryo-stored Doomsday.  At this point the Plastic Man cavalry arrived by slinging himself into the ship.  Flash used a hero point to go before Doomsday was thawed out, using quickness to try and figure out the code to reset the cryo-chamber using his technology roll.

Flash didn't manage to do it, but Green Lantern threw a construct over the chamber, and Robin stood on it to brace it with his staff.  Yup.  That was his tactic.  After the chamber already opened, Flash figured out the code, and a plan was born.

Doomsday shattered the construct, and swings at his nearest target, Robin.  Robin dodges.  Robin throws his tracers in Doomsday's eyes, keeping him busy.  Plastic Man stretched out behind Doomsday's legs, and Green Lantern slammed into Doomsday with a Superman construct, knocking him over, while Flash used his quickness to input the code he figured out to re-freeze Doomsday.



I actually really loved how the players defeated Doomsday.  Green Lantern was the only heavy hitter in the group, but the plan was text book "how do we beat someone that we can't fight toe to toe."  Robin even contributed because Doomsday couldn't hit him  (granted, if he had, Robin would have been a red smear, but hey, no risk, no reward).

Batman's chance to shine kind of left him behind, because by the time Batman hacked the lock, with Robin's help, Plastic Man slid under the door and opened it from the other side.  Then he needed Robin and Flash to help him to give him a +5 in order to disarm Brainiac's "flood the corridor with deadly radiation" trap.  But, hey, in the end, Batman still got to shine, right?



In the final room, in the battle with Brainiac, Flash spent several rounds unplugging conduits and replugging them in randomly.  Brainiac was plugged into his invasion fleet, and with multiple successes with Flash's quickness for juggling cables, I gave Brainiac a -2, and then a -5 on his checks due to being disoriented by the crossed conduits.

Green Lantern countered a pulse of energy that was a power stunted area attack by Brainiac.  Robin tried to blind Brainiac, to no avail, and then Batman saw another chance to shine.  Batman's player decided that he was going to train all of the invasion force's missiles on Brainiac's main ship, thus ending the invasion even if the heroes couldn't defeat Brainiac.  Unfortunately, Batman seemed to be stuck rolling 2s and 5s for his Technology checks, and he gained two degrees of failure.  I ruled that the missiles on the other ships armed, but were trained on the major cities that the ships were hovering above.

Plastic Man launched himself at Brainiac, turned himself into a sheet, and blinded Brainiac.  Then Aquaman charged Brainiac, and Brainiac rolled a 1 on his Toughness check, and with the -5  from Flash's conduit shuffling, this got Brainiac four degrees of failure, dropping Brainiac.

Then the crowning moment of awesome happened.  Batman failed another technology check.  No stopping the count down.  Hero points flew for re-rolls.  Aiding another happened from everyone that Technology as a skill.  And in the end, after surviving Doomsday, and defeating Brainiac, Batman managed to set off the missiles that destroyed all of the major cities on Earth.



Green Lantern apprehended both Brainiac and Batman for sentencing.  It was great.  One of my players even asked if we could visit this alternate Earth in my regular DC Adventures game on Tuesday.

Armored Gopher Games has the best gamers in the world.  Thank you to my fellow Gophers, and to Gopher Dave, his lovely wife and family, for hosting such an awesome community.  These are the kinds of experiences that gaming memories are made of.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Games in Review: Back on Target! (December 10, 2011)

Let's get back to recapping.  Due to some real world conspiracies to keep me from gaming, I had all sorts of disruptions and derailments from my regular gaming schedule, but I'm sort of back on track, and we'll start things off with a recap of the DC Adventures campaign!  Hooray!


To recap, the New Guard  (Beorn, Fahrenheit, Marathon, Myrmidon, Necromancer,  and Paradox) had cut a deal with Neron  (former ruler of Hell) to steal the crown of Hell from Blaze  (current ruler of Hell) in exchange for transport to the Rock of Eternity and two boons to be named later.  The party eventually gave in to the little red versions of themselves on their left shoulders and went to the Rock of Eternity.



There, they found Composite Superman  (who was included in the scenario because I told one of my players that I would include something from the Hero Clix booster I just bought in the next session) and the Fearsome Five.  Long story short, the group beat the Fearsome Five, Myrmidon got Composite Superman to squish his own head with his impenetrable logic, and the group went on to find out that Blaze was actually trapped by Shazam and the Fearsome Five was trying to teleport the Rock of Eternity to Hell to free her.



My players managed to make almost all of the wrong choices, and, long story short, they almost lost the crown, freed Blaze  (but managed to get the crown), and freed Black Adam, who, through some soul side trading managed to get Isis' soul and get Black Adam to swear fealty to her.  On top of all of this, Jason Blood was running around in the background trying to do . . . something.

Before Jason Blood could do anything to explain his skulking, Myrmidon utilized his new power that essentially either really intimidates an opponent or pisses them off so much that they attack him.  Thus, the power triggered Blood's alter-ego:

Change! Change, O form of man!
Release the might from fleshy mire!
Boil the blood in heart of fire!
Gone! Gone! — the form of man —
Rise, the Demon Etrigan!!





So, quite literally all Hell is breaking loose, and Black Adam uses his super speed and strength in conjunction to hit the whole team  (I power stunted a burst area damage to simulate Black Adam using his super speed to to hit everyone in the room).  What is interesting about this is, for months my players have been very hesitant to get into physical altercations with Black Adam.  In one action, he completely justified their fears by knocking three of them unconscious and knocking the other three for a serious loop.

Thankfully, Etrigan jumped on his back to distract him, the PCs loaded up the "Harry Potter Train" from the Rock of Eternity with missing "B list" superheroes that Black Adam had been collecting, and the group headed back to Earth just as they saw Etrigan being punched through a wall by Black Adam.

At the end of the night, they briefed all of the heroes on what had happened while they were gone, Marathon got into a fight with Geo-Force of the Outsiders, and Neron showed up later to collect the crown.



Highlights:

1.  Marathon taunting the Fearsome Five after they were launched into the void surrounding the Rock of Eternity.

2.  Beorn telling Marathon that he understands how he ended up divorced, but not how he got married in the first place.

3.  Necromancer falling for Shimmer.

4.  Myrmidon hitting on Jinx while attempting to knock her unconscious.

5.  Fahrenheit getting to be all sorts of awesome shooting at Fearsome Five members.

6.  Paradox getting trapped on the other side of a wall with the Fearsome Five while the group was fighting Composite Superman.

7.  Preserving the Black Adam mystique by knocking out half of the team in the first action of the first round of combat.

And for those of you keeping track  (and I'm hoping I remember this), the "cashed in" boons from Neron include:

Marathon:  Control over the Crown of Hell  (i.e. he can summon it to his hand to "dethrone" whomever is currently wearing it . . . I'm telling you, my players practically write this campaign for me sometimes)

Myrmidon:  To be as powerful as the heroes on the Justice League  (boost to PL 14)

Beorn:  To be as powerful as the heroes on the Justice League  (boost to PL 14)

Necromancer:  To be 100% human again  (no New Gods/Apokalips DNA), to be as powerful as the heroes of the Justice League  (PL 14 boost)

Fahrenheit:  For his parents to be safe  (they were, under a technicality, under Neron's control, and were moved to Purgatory after Fahrenheit's intervention), to be as powerful as the heroes of the Justice League  (PL 14)

So Fahrenheit and Necromancer have cashed in both boons, Myrmidon, Beorn, and Marathon have cashed in one, and Paradox is a bit paranoid about cashing any of them in, at all, ever.  Those Canadians . . . always cautious.

Oh, and we started using the "borrow a hero point for a complication to be named later" rule from the Gamemaster's Guide . . . more on that when I recap the next session  (which already happened).  Necromancer cashed in two hero points and got some interesting results.  Paradox didn't even borrow a hero point and created some nice ill will with Geo Force.

Good times all around.  One recap to get caught up, but I'm not sure that I'll be caught up before we play the next session.