Sunday, July 29, 2012

I Have Become "That Guy."

If you would have told me five years ago that I the RPGs that most interest me did not include Dungeons and Dragons, I would have thought you had the wrong guy.  For years I can remember talking to gamer friends, and while I fully understood that people liked other RPGs, I was always a little confused by people that actively gamed but had no interest in D&D.

To me, it was the origin, the starting point.  Shouldn't everybody that has some interest in the hobby have a least a little bit of interest in the grandaddy of them all?

Now I find that I am "that guy."

I'm not all that interested in 5th edition.  Looking back, I got really worked up about 4th edition, but in the grand scheme of things, it didn't really matter.  You can like D&D or not.  D&D hasn't been where the energy in RPGs reside for a long time.  It has the sales, I'm not implying that  (although it certainly has abdicated a commanding share of it's leadership of the hobby to Pathfinder).  It's just that all of it's tricks are variations of the same things now.

It's almost to the point that 5th edition seems more about what percentage of other editions will be included in the game rather than what new ground can be struck.

Don't get me wrong, I still like D&D-ish things.  It just seems that other people are taking risks and doing more interesting things with the framework these days.  And I'm not talking about Paizo.  No offence, but while I was a huge fan out of the gate, Paizo is doing a slightly better tuned version of 3.5, including a slightly slowed down progression of splat books.

But they still make some awesome monsters.  I will totally give them that.

So what D&D is hitting the right cord for me right now?  Well, I've mentioned Dungeon Crawl Classics before.  I love that this isn't just a retro-clone.  That isn't meant as an insult, but I really like the fact that it has a similar chasis, but stuff like the Fighter's deeds and the magic system give this game it's own personality, and I like the the weird magic and sinister feel of the whole thing does what it says, it goes back to the pulp fantasy material that inspired D&D in the first place and puts a little more danger and weirdness back into the mix.

I've just started to read the 13th Age Escalation Edition PDF that I got for pre-ordering the game, but I'm liking what I see in this so far.  The idea that characters are either "Far Away," or "Nearby," and if you are "Nearby" you can also be "Engaged" is perfect for how I would rather movement worked in the game.  I also love things like the "Dying Earth Magic" that gives you a mechanic for having "Metrifion's Disks of Flaming Doom" without having to have 20 spells with minor variations for the sake of having unique, named spells.

I also really like the concept behind the Icons and having a relationship to them that can come up in the game and serves to remind you of the greater game world.  I posted this to my Google+ stream earlier, but it occurred to me that that "being tied to an element that moves the game setting to remind you of the game setting" concept is something that you don't even need to have Icon parallels to model.  My idea was that, for example, you could have power groups in the Forgotten Realms serve the same function, with a character that might have a positive, negative, or complicated relationship with the Zhentarim, the Harpers, the Purple Dragons, the Red Wizards, Cult of the Dragon, etc.

I also like the "one unique thing" part of character creation, although the mechanics are kind of murky since it's suppose to have some kind of mechanical effect, but non an overly practical one, but doesn't give you much in the way of guidelines or examples  (that I have seen yet, I've still got lots more to read).

I really hope that WOTC puts out a great 5th edition, and that people love it.  But it's probably not something I'm going to experience up close, because I have become "that guy."

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Pre-Experimental Experiment a Success! (Marvel Heroic Roleplaying)

Last Thursday a I ran an "orientation" session for the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game.  Essentially I wanted to make sure I had a handle on running a game in a Google + Hangout, that the connection was stable enough, that I could broadcast the thing via "on air," and that I could explain any rules issues that came up with my friend that wasn't as familiar with the game.

Most of those went really well.

I dropped a few times from the session, but I could log back in really quickly.  We were having problems earlier in the week with the IP addresses of the computers in the house, and I'm wondering if this was a factor.  Still, it was only a minor issue, as I was able to log back on right away and keep going.

The "on air" thing . . . well, it let me know what I need to do in order to do it right next time.  After all of the signing on and agreements and setting in You Tube, I forgot to actually start broadcasting, but now I know, and knowing is half the battle.

As far as the game went, this is one of the few times that it really felt like the game played exactly how I expected it to play in my head.  Not so much that the players all did what I expected them, but that the mechanics and the ebb and flow of how that worked all worked the way I thought they would.

Spider-Man always has to horn in on these shots, doesn't he?

My friend, the one that just purchased the game, was playing Captain America.  Another player had Wolverine, and the other player, that joined a bit later, was playing Iron Man.  My friend listened to a few dice pool constructions between the player with Wolverine and myself, and he more or less had it down fairly quickly.

The group was investigating a warehouse that Tony Stark set up, marked as dangerous, that he had no memory of due to his memory reboot during the Dark Reign storyline.  Turns out, the warehouse was full of dangerous robots that Tony was studying and keeping on ice.  Entering the warehouse triggered a power surge that woke someone up . . .

The first threat was a mob of small Spider-Slayers, in order to explain the mob rules, and there was only minimal stress to be had.  Mob rules seemed to make sense to everyone, and as minor characters, only having to stress out d6 dice for team wasn't too hard.

Cap's player wanted to make an asset based on his Covert Expert trait, since Tony showed them all a map of how his warehouses are normally laid out, and I was good with that.  When the group hit the next floor, and found Ultimo, Cap tried to sneak past.

While I'm a big proponent of using complications to do just about anything you can think of that isn't just beating someone up or inflicting emotional or mental damage on someone, complicating out the dice of a large scale threat is kind of hard.  I don't think I'm wrong in using the mechanic this way, but it does make it more of a challenge.

This isn't how things unfolded, but I can see using "sneaking" to get rid of a die, someone else popping out of the shadows and hitting it, and someone else using the computer to complicate it out by shutting it down.  So it still makes sense, it just means that if your guys still wants to be part of the fight, he's not going to sneak straight past the bad guy in one shot.

What did happen is this . . . Cap failed, Ultimo accidentally slammed into him.  In fact, Ultimo did a lot of stress in this fight.  What I really love is that the Doom Pool kept growing, but I kept using the dice to inflict stress on the characters when Ultimo resisted their damage, as his own attacks weren't doing much.

I like this because Ultimo still had them almost on the ropes  (Cap's second wind and Wolverine's healing factor mitigated this a bit), so he felt like a big deal, even when his own attacks weren't doing much.

It puts me in mind of some of the complaints I've read about the Doom Pool getting too big and villains going down too easily, especially when the complaint encompasses both of those issues.  Add dice to your total.  Inflict counter attacks.  Spend those dice!

The scene with Ultimo ended with Iron Man shutting down everything to get one really big blast from his uni-beam, and using it to power a massive EMP blast, taking out Ultimo's last two dice.  It was great, and the whole fight seemed very much like what someone would read in a comic with Iron Man, Wolverine, and Captain America fighting Ultimo, which means the game is doing it's job.

Iron Man's player attempted a recovery roll, which worked for him, and the group headed to the next act . . . the warehouse's security hub.

In the security hub, Wolverine took off while the other two were talking about the wisdom of Tony keeping all of these robots around to study, so Wolvie was acting solo when the security system complication attacked him, but it was a d8 and he took it out handily.

The next transition scene, Iron Man found out that he had a version of Ultron on ice, so he used his Tech Master to create a resource for him, Ultron 11 Specs, and Cap's player wanted to limber up and practice to give himself an Acrobatics resource.  Given the number of times I've seen Cap doing backflips and training while talking to other people and while planning his next move, I said sure.

I described Ultron's lair, complete with a machine that utilized Pym Particles  (the warehouse was, unbeknownst to the players at first, miniaturized on the inside).  Iron Man threw a device on Ultron to disrupt his programming  (Complication, d8), and the fight was on.  Again, Ultron inflicted a lot of stress with counter attacks, and I grew the Doom Pool up to 2d12 while spending the little dice a lot.

Cap's player decided to inflict physical stress on Ultron, he was going to jump over him and randomly press buttons on the console to fire the Pym Particle Accelerator.  He succeeded, and I described the physical stress as Ultron warping along his seams as parts of him grew larger than others.  Wolverine then finished him off with his claws, stuck right in the gaps that the warped shell left.

It was better than I had hoped.  They didn't just pound on Ultron, and Ultron didn't just pound on them, until one side or the other dropped.  I had plenty of tools at my disposal to keep a solo villain dangerous  (by the way, Solo villains really need to counter attack, as long as you have the Doom Pool dice for it, because it eliminates the action economy issue from other games).

Since I had the 2d12, even though we weren't going to continue this event past this evening, I used them to describe Ultron's head as separating from his body and rocketing into orbit to escape the heroes.

It went great, felt like comic book action, and the powers and SFX really seemed to guide you into playing characters the way they have been portrayed in the past.  We did talk a bit about how it might be challenging to create a new character, not because the game needs character creation rules, but because you need a strong sense of how your character approaches things, which might be more challenging when you create a character from scratch.

Some other things I really liked.  Not everyone always used something they were "allowed" to use, because it didn't make sense in the narrative.  Particularly this came up with distinctions.  The other thing that I liked was that the players nixed one of their own advantages, because THEY ruled that the computers on the level with Ultimo would have been fried by Tony's massive attack.

Overall, I'm very pleased with how the night went.  I'm satisfied that this will work as a good venue for gaming.  I'm satisfied that the game itself does what it is suppose to do, and does it well.  I've got good, fun players signed up for this.  I am really looking forward to Thurday night's official kick off.  Hopefully I'll remember to record this time.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

It's In My Head! (Engine Publishing's Never Unprepared)

So I'm running a one shot as a prelude to running the Breakout event for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying on Thursday night.  Just a session to throw some of the game's rules out there for anyone that isn't that comfortable, and a chance to see how the Google Hangout format is going to work for the group.

Originally I was going to make a very plot-light scenario.  What I have in mind isn't deep or anything, but the more I thought about it, the more I didn't want to not tell a story at all in a game that is focused on narrative.

When I started to think about how I wanted to structure the event, it occurred to me that I was naturally running through Brainstorming-Selection-Conceptualization-Documentation-Review  (although I admit that my Brainstorming and Selection still get muddied, and my review is fairly cursory).

If nothing else, it once it becomes a habit, it does seem to just naturally flow in that order.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Okay, So I'll Talk About Dark Knight Rises

For some reason it's hard for me to write a review or an opinion of Dark Knight Rises.  It was easy with Avengers or Amazing Spider-Man, but this one is tough.  I felt very similarly after the Dark Knight came out.  There was so much going on all over the place in the movie, I almost had to let my brain settle before I could sort things out.

If you are a Batman fan, and you can sit through three hours of movie, I certainly recommend it.  I think what makes me reticent to throw out a "go see it now" or "it was okay" is that all of Nolan's Batman movies have been very much an exercise in tone and theme and symbol.  That doesn't make it better than Avengers, by a long shot, but it does mean that it's a lot harder to just sit down and watch.

Once these things get to cable, if I see Avengers on, I'll dead stop and watch it from wherever it's going when I see it.  I've been that way with most of the better Marvel movies.  On the other hand, you almost have to get invested and into the right mindset to watch the Nolan Batman movies.  I watch movies while I'm doing other things a lot of the time.  I can't do that with the Nolan movies.

Nolan's movies remind me of things like Full Metal Jacket and the Passion of the Christ.  They are movies I really like, but I can't casually watch them.  

It's probably just me.  I know plenty of people that can probably jump in on a Scarecrow or Joker scene and just start watching.  There are just certain movies that take up a lot of mental bandwidth for me, not because they are deep, per se, but because they just get tendrils into parts of the brain that I can usually consciously choose to engage or not engage, if that makes any sense.

What's weird is, as much as I enjoy the Nolan movies, and think they are a really interesting, complete saga, and something that a Batman fan is probably well served in watching, I really want something a little more . . . comic book? . . . in tone next time out.  In fact, I was kind of disappointed that the trailer for Man of Steel looks so much like the Nolan Batman movies.  

Watching the Nolan Batman movies, I felt like we knew what the "right things" were going in, but it was an endurance feat to make to the end, to ride out the storm, to hang on and see what needed to be done to it's conclusion.  You felt battered and relieved in the end after all of the pain and tribulation.  You feel tired after the movie, but the good kind of tired.  Worn out from the rollercoaster ride.

It's not a bad thing, but it's not the kind of thing I want to do all of the time.  I think you really need a break between movies with this kind of pacing and tone, and DC should probably tread carefully before deciding that every character in their stable is best served with this same treatment in mind.

I will say, however, that it's very, very nice to get to see Bane as a tactical genius and an all around bad guy, and not just a very poor afterthought thrown into an already bad movie.

I Object! (Marvel Heroic Roleplaying)

I'm seeing a few complaints here and there about Marvel Heroic Roleplaying not being good at anything outside of combat.

I'm really kind of perplexed by this.

I remember the same complaints leveled at D&D 4e, but agree or disagree, I could understand that one a bit more.  A lot of "non-combat" but still mechanically resolved items in 4e didn't have the same kind of in-depth coverage that combat did.

Lots of what you could do in 4e didn't play into "social" things like skill challenges, so it hinged on a skill and it's associated stat.  In effect, if you wanted mechanics for social matters, you had part of one game mechanic  (skill challenges) to model that.

You could do it, but it is easy to see it being overshadowed.

On the other hand, I can see so many ways to use the same rules for different, non-combat situations in the game.  And it's not just using one trait.  Lots of the rules that apply for combat can apply to other situations as well.

Let's say you have to disarm a big old bomb.  The scene starts with a complication  "Big Old Bomb, d12."  You roll against the Doom Pool, justify your dice, and step that dice down the way you would any other complication.

And if the Watcher wants to add tension, the "bomb" or the "situation" gets a turn every round where the Doom Pool acts against the players, using the complication, to inflict emotional stress.  Someone that gets stressed out is so shaken by the situation that they are pretty much useless for the rest of the scene.

Let's say you are being placed on trial for a crime you didn't commit.  You can treat the jury as a mob, and maybe add a dice as a scene complication "Long List of Charges."  If you "take out" each die of the mob with your actions, and you reduce the list of charges to nothing, you get off.  Again, you could let the "situation" act against the team once per round to inflict emotional stress on the effected characters.

I also heard that the game doesn't do chases well.  On one hand, I can see that multiple people running from the same guy doesn't work quite as well, but you can easily create complication "Running Away" on your opponent, and "stress out" their complication to get away from them.

I don't know, the system seems really flexible and open, and maybe that's what's confusing a lot of people.  I know most of the examples have to do with combat, but even without the rules expressly calling out the kinds of things that I mentioned above, they do mention how to use emotional or mental stress for arguments or how to inflict complications.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Rumination on the Bat-Movie Rises

This week has me thinking back to the ghost of Bat-Movies Past.  Specifically the 1989 Tim Burton Batman movie.  I remember it well.  I was a young lad of . . . an earlier age, and I had hit the teen years that make you wise beyond your knowledge of how wise you aren't.  I had loved the Batman television show as a child, but now I wanted a grim and gritty violent Batman to show all of the non-comic book types that Batman wasn't funny.

What is amusing, in retrospect, is that reviewers tripped over themselves to reference Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns as the inspiration for a "darker, more violent Batman."  Mainly because they hadn't been reading comics for decades.

Batman had been, if not darker, more serious in tone and more in keeping with his earlier appearances since Denny O'Neil got his hands on the character in the 1970s.  The mainstream press didn't notice until Frank Miller put swastikas on a woman's rear end and had everyone cussing.  Suddenly this must be a "new" Batman.

Although, to be fair, O'Neil's Batman is way more sane than Miller's.

But wait mister blogger that I'm not really paying attention to, says the fictitious reader, what does this have to do with Batman movies past?

Well, there is a secret about the 1989 Batman movie that a lot of people that read all of those articles about this "new" Batman wouldn't know.  Burton, and screenwriter Sam Hamm, really weren't doing a book inspired by Frank Miller.  From the old school origins of Joker, the gangsters, the look of Gotham City, the machine guns, and the casual tossing of bad guys down shafts in abandoned churches without regard to their survival, this Batman was a bit older than Miller's Dark Knight.

Seriously.  Read some of the earliest Batman strips.  The movie is much more influenced by the 1930s and 1940s Batman comics than it is by Frank Miller's dystopian vision of Bruce Wayne's retirement years.  There might have been some high tech gloss on the character, but this was pretty much old school Batman to the extreme.

To this day, I enjoy the 1989 Batman movie, but years later, looking back on it, it's not as great as I thought it was in the theater lo those many years ago.  Tying Batman's origin to Joker bugs me.  Killing off Joker bugs me  (much as it's kind of in character for the earliest Batman strips).  James Gordon is a walking exposition factory that doesn't do much  (and is actually probably the element most similar to the TV series, what with him just kind of being there and not really helping out all that much).  And my Batman didn't kill people.  That's a big one.

I was spoiled for the Batman crafted by Denny O'Neil  (and lovingly maintained by people like Doug Moench, Alan Grant, and especially Chuck Dixon).  Grim and serious but every inch the hero, and with people like Gordon and Alfred  (and Harvey Bullock and others) as a strong supporting cast.

It became very apparent with Batman Returns that Tim Burton didn't make Batman like Batman because it was his natural inclination.  Anyone that thinks Burton was influenced by Frank Miller's vision of the Dark Knight need look no further than Batman Returns to see what Burton wanted out of the franchise.

I'll contend that if Frank Miller had never written a single Batman story and Tim Burton only knew of Batman through the 60s TV series, Batman Returns would have been the exact same movie that we saw.  How do I know this?  Look at any other property he has adapted.  Anything that he's worked on that isn't his own original story.  Everything that he adapts, he turns into a dark twisted comedy.

Because there is no way this could lead to Bat-Nipples

Make no mistake, Batman Returns was a comedy.  It was exactly like all of Tim Burton's comedic endeavors.  If you don't want to believe me, just look at Christopher Walken's hair, or the procession of penguins that guide the corpse of Oswald Cobblepot to his final resting place in the sewers.  Really, before you point out the splinter in Joel Schumacher's eye, make sure to pay attention to the great big telephone pole in Burton's.

While Christopher Nolan's movies have been predicated on being "realistic," you can definitely see the inspiration from the comics.  Ra's al Ghul was virtually unknown outside of the comics page, and was one of Denny O'Neil's greatest contributions to Batman's history.  But more than that, Henri Ducard, one of Bruce's teachers, shows up.  Henri is a pretty obscure character.

More proof?  The whole concept of the Batmobile being a military project that Bruce's company "lost" is straight from Detective Comics #0.  Joker's multiple origins  (and the possibility that even he doesn't know what's true) comes from multiple sources, including the Killing Joke and Mad Love.

Nolan may be making his own version of Batman's universe, but it's clear that he's building that universe out of the same elements that Batman has been synthesized from for the last several decades.  Using Bane, as well as elements from the "No Man's Land" storyline are just more proof of that.

I don't know if I'll be wowed by the Dark Knight Rises.  Nolan pulls off some spectacular successes, but at the same time, he gambles a lot, and one of those times, it may not pay off.  Still, for the chance to see Bane on the big screen, the way Bane really should be portrayed, I'm willing to bet on Nolan one more time.

But for the record, Julie Newmar is still my favorite Catwoman.

Experiment Time! (Google+ Hangout Gaming)

I'm trying to get together a group to play through the Breakout event on Google+ through Hangouts, to get a better idea of how online gaming will work in this venue, and also to get a chance to run Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.  Yes, I know.  Poor scientific method going with two variables.

Anyway, I'm looking to start up Thursday, August 2nd, from 7 pm (Central) to 11 pm  (Central . . . yeah, I know, why would I switch up the end time).  Also looking at running this every other Thursday, until the event is through, at which point, we'll see what we've got, yea or nay, for another event/campaign.

If you are interested, let me know.  Please be reasonably sure that you'll be able to commit to the every other week schedule before you volunteer.  I'm looking for a group of about five, and if we have three or more, the session goes off, and if we drop below three for the night, the game, she is not happening.

I'm looking at running this with some of the extras from online that MWP has put out, and with some of the datafiles from the Civil War event  (and a few from the Breakout event restricted).

If the gaming side of things seems to gel well enough, I'm thinking of coming up with a schedule for a Dungeon Crawl Classics game and/or a Pathfinder game running the Way of the Wicked campaign, though I'll likely do those on a Tuesday night.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Mea Culpa, I Think (Marvel Heroic Roleplaying)

My initial post about Marvel Heroic Roleplaying was generally negative.  I was skeptical, I liked how my supers RPGs worked up to that point, and all of the reviews and even the actual play podcasts that I listened to early on did little to dissuade me from my initial impression.  Since I already had my DCA and M&M3e, I didn't need to spend money on another supers game, especially one that sounded so . . . alien.

With all due respect to the podcasts I listened to early on, there was a lot of confusion on the rules, and even the Watchers in most of those games seemed to not quite fully comprehend the rules.

In a moment of weakness, I bought the PDF of the game, read through it, and became much more interested in how this thing would actually work.  On top of that, I found a few more actual play sessions that, while not perfect, seemed to be giving the game a bit more of a shot, and seemed to understand the rules a bit better.

I was holding off on posting anything further on the topic until I had a chance to actually run a game session or two, but time, tide, and player interest don't seem to be with me on this one.  But since I see people consistently looking at my first Marvel Heroic post, I feel bad that the impression that I'm giving out is entirely negative.

Also, one of my ongoing concerns, even as I became more interested in the game, has been campaign play.  One of the potential issues that I had with the game was simply by brilliantly addressed in some of the house rules posted at the Doom Pool blog.

Default game structure is to run an "event," broken up into acts and scenes.  While I may have a long term idea of where a campaign is going, the event structure works much better if you know where your acts break down, and have a fairly detailed structure for the whole she-bang.

Writing out a whole event, as in a long term style event that would serve as a campaign, is daunting.  Thankfully, the guys at the Doom Pool came up with a very simple suggestion that is brilliant and still completely appropriate to the genre.  Instead of breaking down into events, acts, and scenes, you break things down into series, issues, and scenes.  What normally happens between acts happens between issues, and a nice good length game session works perfectly as an issue.

And while I'm giving my allies resources  (see what I did there?), I also wanted to shout out to the Doom Pool Podcast.  No relation to the Doom Pool blog.  Other than that they are about Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.

I can't tell you that you will like the game.  It is very dependent on players that get into describing exactly what they are doing and how, and if you have players that don't really want to ham it up or a least spend some time explaining what their character is doing and why, it may not appeal to them.  Some people are less comfortable doing this than others.

It looks really fun on paper.  It sounds really fun when you listen to people that are excited and buy into the premise.  It sounds like crap when just roll dice and announce numbers, because so many of the mechanics depend on narratives.

Maybe someday I can tell you if it works as well "live" as it does in theory, but I did want to amend my initial assessment of the game so that my previous statement wasn't my final word on the subject.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Game Night--"Here We Are, Destined to Be Kings, We're the Princes of the Universe!" Pathfinder RPG (July 7th, 2012)

Nope, that song didn't come up in the Pathfinder session.  We didn't particularly live up to being Princes of the Universe either, but I had the song in my head, so you're stuck with the title.  Apologies if the build up ruins the recap for your . . . ;)

Our band of godlings god schooled at the monastery, learned about the greater world and vague notions of when and how demons and undead popped up everywhere, and we learned that our order of monks that are feeding us information and other things were established at the beginning of this whole mess and don't know much about what's going on in the current world.  They also seem to have been magically cut off from the brunt of it to await our coming.

We found out about a town that they used to trade with, that survived the initial onslaught, but that hasn't be heard from for a while, so we decided to head that direction.  We also ran into another godling on our way out, a daughter of Sarenrae the goddes of fire and the Sun.

Immediately our Asmodean scion took a liking to her, and began referring to her as his consort, then future queen, and showing her a whole lot more respect than the rest of the party has garnered thus far.

On our way to the town, we saw that there will be a rather nasty bit of the journey through a tunnel that will be pitch black for a few days, but before we got there, we ran into a river drake  (i.e. little dragon, little being a relative term) that liked to spit acidic mucus as us.

The rest of the party effectively dealt with said monster while I swam back and forth across the river to catch something that could fly and move much faster than I could swim.  It's okay, though, because when the rest of the party had driven it off, I used my ability to taunt it to convince it to come back and fight me.  I nearly got myself and our goblin friend drowned, but I did managed to kill it, then failed to drag it's corpse from the river depths  (about 10 feet, go figure), but eventually we had dragon flank steak.

Once we were in the tunnel, we realized that the majority of the party has a low wisdom score.  We have few light sources, and halfway through the tunnel, we were mauled by small, smelly, ragged creatures that I know were dark creepers but that poor Mario  (my character) has no idea about.

Because we are dumb  (at least those of us that can't see in the dark), we are now camping in the pitch black after getting savaged by the little balls of dirty laundry.  Fun times!

I had a blast chasing after the drake, and trying to make sure that I didn't know anything that poor Mario didn't know.  I'll likely get killed because of it, but I'm having a lot of fun with this character.

Since I Asked (The Amazing Spider-Man)

Others will likely pontificate and elucidate in a manner far more satisfactory than what I can aspire to in my humble blog, but since I posted a bit on the subject previously, I'll go ahead and toss my two spider tracers into the hat as far as my thoughts on the Amazing Spider-Man.

Worth seeing.  Not bad.  Better than Green Lantern, but nowhere near Avengers, and not even quite up to the "second tier" Marvel Studios movies  (as I see them, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, and Thor, none of which are bad, but not the top Marvel movies either).

Pete is too motivated by anger in this one.  Sure, Pete gets angry, but Pete is motivated by guilt and it's slightly more attractive twin sister responsibility.

Pete is too distant from Aunt May in this one, and Aunt May isn't the doting surrogate parent she normally is.  It's not that she doesn't care, but she's very distracted and confused, and her concern and adoration of Peter doesn't come through first and foremost.

Ironically, in the other Spider-Man movies, I always felt that they gave all of the bad guys a little too much slack when it comes to their villainous tendencies.  Doc Ock was a victim.  Sandman wasn't such a bad guy.  Heck, even Norman seemed to be a "not nice" guy that was driven to being a villain by the goblin mist and his greedy, uncaring board of directors.  Venom is probably the least sympathetic villain of the original trilogy, but he also gets the least screen time and Raimi was pretty clear in stating that he hated the character and didn't want to use him.

That having been said, I think it's strange that poor Doc Connors is portrayed as being borderline sinister, corrupted, and compromised before he ever becomes the Lizard, even though his comic book counterparts is one of the most sympathetic villains in Spider-Man's rogues gallery.

While I was initially concerned about playing up Pete's parents in the movie, I think if the above things had been dialed in a bit better, this alternate angle wouldn't be that much of a problem.  As it is, it's one too many loose ends in a movie that really seems to have been built to set up future movies.

On the plus side, Dennis Leary makes for a good Captain Stacy, and Emma Stone knocked it out of the part as Gwen Stacy.  I also like that Norman, while remaining in the shadows, is set up to be pretty villainous in his own right, even before any goblins enter the mix.

This may serve to be a solid foundation for future movies, but I wish it had been a bit more complete in it's own right, and that Pete had been just a wee bit more likable.  As it is, I feel like I'm only friends with him because of his girlfriend.