Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Return of Setting the Mood For Zombies

Tonight, in preparation for playing in the War of the Dead game at Armored Gopher Games, I decided to fire up the old Netflix yet again.  Netflix needs more zombie movies.  Really.

Tonight, I decided not to go as cheesy as to watch a bad remake of a Romero movie that wasn't anything like a Romero movie, and instead watched a bad authentic Romero movie that is nothing like a Romero movie.  A wise man once said that George Romero is the George Lucas of horror movies.  There may be some truth in that.

I don't want to spoil this movie for anyone, but . . . spoiler . . .

It's dumb.

Sorry, didn't mean to ruin that for anyone.  I particularly like the logic that if you can teach a zombie to eat some other form of meat, then they may no longer be a threat, and thus prove that perhaps we could learn to live side by side with zombie-kind.

Using that logic, the little kitties that end up eating grandma's flesh because she died and couldn't refill their dishes with Meow Mix proves that all cats have the potential to become dangerous man eaters and should not be allowed to exist.

At least I think you can assume that from the above situation.

Also, I love how the two old men in the movie are suppose to both be hidebound and unyielding in their "crazy" ideas, but one of the old men has the crazy notion that zombies should be hunted down and whacked, and most of the movie, and, oh, every other zombie movie ever, has pretty much born out the "crazy" zombie hunter's ideology.  Including this one.

I also like that everyone is waiting for the zombie to eat the horse as a sign of higher intelligence, while ignoring that same zombie's ability to RIDE THE HORSE!  I don't know about you, but I'm thinking it takes a little bit more higher functioning to ride a horse than to eat it.  Maybe I'm wrong.

I've got to fire up the original Night of the Living Dead sometime to wash the zombie equivalent of Jar Jar away, but not tonight.

Oh, originally, I was tempted to pick up one of the episodes of the Walking Dead from Amazon for a paltry two bucks, to see if I'm going to like the show  (which from everything I've heard is pretty solid), but I decided that I'm not going to watch the show until I read through my copy of the The Walking Dead Compendium Volume One, which should be arriving at my home shortly.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Games In Review, August 29th, 2011

Last Tuesday happened to be the day that I ran my DC Adventures/Mutants and Masterminds 3rd Edition game, and it went very well.  Essentially the PCs wrapped up a major plot point that has been hanging over the campaign for some time, as well as an important one that has been a cause of "in-character" stress as well.

The big problem?  An alien doomsday device that creates a plague that kills any one species with a specifically tailored virus that will spread across the planet in 3-4 days, but leaves just about every other species (except very closely related ones) alone.  Those rascally Dominators and their banned weapons.

The smaller problem?  Because the the unique circumstances of many of the character's return from death, Amanda Waller was hooked up to a doohickie that would snuff  66%  of the party if she dies.

But before all of that got resolved, the group went to rescue the citizens of Gorilla City from a floating interrogation center.  Gorilla City was involved, so Grodd was also involved, and the players did a very good job of keeping him off balance so that he couldn't mind control the prisoners, and had a hard time targeting the New Guard to boot.

Of special note:  Marathon took Grodd on a "fishing trip" by grabbing him with TK and going for a spin just over the water.  When Fahrenheit and Myrmidon saw the chance to finish off the flying ape, Fahrenheit used his "flame shapes" (Create) ability, and made a flaming staircase that lead to the dangling Grodd, allowing Myrmidon to run up the flaming stairs to wallop Grodd and knock him senseless!

This was the second "team KO" for a big bad guy in the campaign.  I love those.  Very much in genre.

Fahrenheit also got to thin the herd of Grodd's minions with his selective fireball ability, which as it turns out works really well on minions grouped together.  Plus I was nice enough to forget the really bad joke that Fahrenheit's player was afraid would get his actions excised from the blog post this time around.

Also of note:  Beorn almost let one of the apes fall to his death  (gorillas can't swim . . . . no, not just they don't do it well, I mean they can't physically swim), but Necromancer saw the guy take a header off the side of the boat and teleported to save him.

In fact, Necromancer was teleporting to save/heal people a lot.  With all of that teleporting, saving, and healing going on, you almost feel sorry for the way people get creeped out around him, just because he talks to dead people and shoots skull blasts at bad guys.

Paradox played liberator by phasing through the floor, short circuiting the cells, and setting King Solovar free, as well as turning the floor under Grodd intangible and letting the big lug fall, setting him up for Marathon's "fishing line."

The drama on the false tanker seems to be a distraction, and the party finds out that the shell game of finding the device has been a game between Blaze and Trigon  (with Black Adam as Blaze's pawn and Psimon and the Fearsome Five as Trigon's), and they find Waller and Task Force X helpless in a van set up to nullify powers.

There was lots of debate about how to handle the device and "disarm" it, and there was even a lot of talk about self-sacrifice, but Fahrenheit decided the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one, and drew blood on Mongul while he was unconscious.  Mongul's response to the Kobayashi Maru was to keep snoring due to the neural inhibitor the interstellar despot was hooked into.

(Fahrenheit wasn't especially bloodthirsty, but he figured that sacrificing one psychotic alien tyrant for the fate of the Earth was worth it, since there was only one of Mongul's species on the whole planet)

Necromancer being opposed to needless killing teleported Mongul to the bunker for safety, then realized he couldn't get into the thing, got Myrmidon, Myrmidon opened the bunker, grabbed his Black Lantern ring  (just in case), Paradox temporarily turned Mongul intangible so that he couldn't hammer anyone on the team, and the door to the bunker slid shut.

The group got Waller to take out the "failsafe," and all is right with the world.  Except that apparently the heroes that didn't disappear during the altercation with the Sinestro Corps appear to be trapped at the Rock of Eternity, and Black Adam is pissed off at Blaze and has just returned to his home away from home for some revenge on the Old Wizard's prodigal demonic daughter.

Now begins Act II of our campaign . . . let's hope it turns out as well as this act did!  And thank you to all of my players for just generally being awesome and giving me so much material to work with.

How about mechanics you ask?  The best thing, in my opinion, that a game system can do, is get out of the way of the story when it doesn't provide you with a means of supporting the genre you are using.  The minion fight went quickly, but allowed for enough drama that the minions weren't dismissed too easily, and the rules, including the universal measures table, helped come up with outside the box ideas.

The only real disappointment, to me, was that I can't seem to hit a good balance for hero point awards.  Last time I know I gave out too few for the Rogue's battle, but this time, even with scene editing and clues being handed out, it felt like we had a few too many left around the table by the end of the night.  Not a horrible problem to have, though I do find myself often wishing there were perhaps a more in depth guide to Gamermastering M&M 3rd edition.  Hm . . . I wonder when such a product might come out.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Games in Review, August 22nd, 2011 (Hoo Boy)

Since the last time I checked in, I got to play in one game, and run another  (after a fashion).  So let's see what I was up to last week . . .

I started playing in a War of the Dead game this past Wednesday.  I needed to get back into my "player groove" as well as running games, and I figured, why not pretend to run from flesh eating zombies?  So I made up my character and set out to help the last vestiges of uninfected humanity survive.

I made up my character fully intending him to more or less be an everyman character.  The character type is certainly a trope of the genre.  My character was a mechanic in his 60s who was a Vietnam vet, justifying a few d4 skills in some things that might not otherwise make sense, but without making him seem like anything other than just a guy that was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As it turns out, a zombie apocalypse is really a proving ground for survival of the fittest.  Except for that damn kid and all of his bennies.  Do I need to point out that my poor guy got bit?  And by a zombie baby, no less.  We ended up fighting a zombie baby inside a church while one of us was outside challenging a biker leader to a duel, one on one.

Also, crossbows aren't nearly as good against zombies as they are against vampires.  Especially not against zombie babies.  By the end of the night, our body building nun was dead, as was our mystery man that carries a flashlight in his empty eye socket, and my old mechanic has been bitten and has about two and a half weeks before the infection runs its course.

So I'm thinking next time I'm making a former mafia hit man.  That's real good at shooting.  I'm sure someone like that would have survived for a while in a zombie apocalypse, right?

Now, about my Hellfrost game.

I'm not even sure I can encapsulate the experience.  One of my players,  Loquacious, has posted her view of what happened in the session here:

World of Wonder Blog--Are We Being Punk'd?

Long story short, while it's hard to describe in words, I've never quite had that kind of impasse with a player before, and it really threw me off my game.  Then, as things started rolling again, I had some personal family issues come up.

I called the game at about 8:30, with the new party just about to set sail with the remains of one of the old party members, on the way to inter him at a site holy to his god.  Best part of the night was the player, whose character was made without knowledge of the details of the trip, that has a phobia of water.  When the mean, spiteful party member started teasing him about the sea voyage, he asked to ride on a separate ship from the rest of the party.  It was great.

So the campaign reboot doesn't quite have the boots laced up yet.  More on that later.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Comic Book Update (Call it Comic Book Day #0)

Since I decided to diversify from my DC Comics obsession, I've picked up a few collections to see what I like when it comes to those comics as potential future obsessions.  A lot of these babies have come from Thwipster (click the link to check it out, and, full disclosure, if you buy from them, I get a dinky bit more to spend on my collection), and I've been pretty happy with the service thus far.

So far I've checked out Invincible:

Quick verdict:  Most likely to pick up another collection.  Enjoyed it, and it had a lot of "old school" super heroics on top of a distinctly unique voice.

I have also picked up Irredeemable:

Quick verdict:  I liked it enough to read more, but it's not light reading.  This isn't just a simple "good guy gone bad" concept.  It's a pretty dark look at a guy that kept spiraling further down a dark path.  It's the kind of book that I want to keep following, but I need to clear my palate before jumping into another volume.

On a lark, I picked up Northlanders, since I'm running a Hellfrost game (which is heavily Norse inspired):

Quick Verdict:  I liked the book, but it's on the second string.  Not because it's not a quality story, but I'm not always in the mood for a gritty viking story told in more modern voice.  Still an interesting read, and after I cycle through a few more series, I might pick up another collection to see what the subsequent stories are like (this volume is a complete story arc, and the other collections pick up on other characters not originating in this storyline).

So far, I'm pretty happy that all of the books have been worth both the price I paid for them and the time I invested in the books to read them.  Next up on the list:

1.  Astro City

2.  The Walking Dead

3.  Incorruptible

Any other suggestions would be welcome, and one I cycle through those three, I'm thinking I'm going to hit round two of Invincible, and then the next round of Irredeemable.

For anyone that's interested, I'll play pimp now.  Thwipster has the following things for sale right now:

FF Collection Volume One, by Jonathan Hickman

Nifty Flash Statue based on his appearance in DCU Online

Criminal Deluxe Edition by Ed Brubaker

Now I can't directly speak for any of the above items, not owning them myself, but I can say that Thwipster is a really neat site to look around for deals  (which shift every 24 hours, except the weekly deal), and I've found some really good stuff there so far.

And, hey, if you go there, why not use this link so the pimp can make his bread . . . or something:

KnightErrantJR's Pimp Link to Thwipster

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Gaming Concept: Stat as You Go

Today, my daughter and I were watching the movie Pandorum.  It's a sci-fi horror movie, but the cogent information for the purposes of this blog has to do with the fact that the characters in the movie, when they have been in "cold sleep," wake up without all of their memories.  Those memories come back to them slowly over time.

Now, given that I've seen a lot of characters built on the fly lately, and have had several discussions about what concepts to build characters on and what skills characters should take and the like, a thought occurred to me:  could a campaign that builds "on the fly" work?

There have been other attempts to start at nothing and build a character from the ground up.  TSR did the module Treasure Hunt, which featured 0-level characters that had no class abilities, and over the course of the adventure, the character picks up points towards certain character classes, and eventually they have their class.

While it is an interesting approach, my personal thoughts are that this kind of open ended building in a very closed level based system like AD&D kind just added an extra step to character creation, with the option of having some minor ability from another class, which later versions of D&D made much easier to pick up.

(Goodman Games also put out a "start at 0-level" adventure for 3rd edition under the OGL, with Heroes are Made, Not Born, though I'm a bit less familiar with the process by which the characters end up mainlined into their eventual 1st level classes.  Super Genius Games also has a supplement for 0-level Pathfinder characters, and Spycraft makes provisions for starting out at "less than one," but this is drifting a bit from the concept.)

Despite the options in d20 games, I think the biggest potential you would have for a game like this would be in a very simple game with quick character creation to begin with.  I may be biased, given that I've been running it a lot lately, but I think Savage Worlds works really well for this.

Savage Worlds Stat As You Go Rules

Very simple.  You don't start out with anything filled in.  In Savage Worlds, that would give you a d4 in everything, a Toughness of 4, and a d4-2 in all of your skills.  

You have your standard 5 points for attributes, and 15 points for skills.  At any point in time before you roll a die, or before the GM rolls a die that affects one of your stats, you spend points.  Once you spend the points, you can't reassign them.

You can still get a few points later in the process, before things are final. If you take a hindrance, you get the benefits of taking the hindrance, which may let you increase skills or attributes.  If you raise an attribute later, and you have already paid for a skill at a higher rate because of your attribute, you get your points back, but you cannot lower the die type once you buy it up to a given value.

Thus, your character's first action in the campaign leads him to a band of thugs.  Instead of  fighting them, he wants to sneak by them, so you buy up your stealth to d10.  You spend 7 skill points at this point because you haven't assigned your agility yet.  If you later assign your agility to be higher, you get the extra points back, but your stealth must still be at a d10 and paid for.

Once you have spend all 5 attribute points, all 15 skill points, and chosen one major hindrance and two minor ones, the character is locked in.  You must lock in the character before you gain your first advance at 5 xp.  If the campaign is also using the "many languages" option, you have to assign you "one half smarts" languages before your first advance as well.

So what does this do for me?

One of the reasons the above outline appeals to me is that it allows you to pick up skills organically.  The first person that wants to sneak around can be the sneaky person.  The first person that wants to pick up a giant club and cronk someone over the head can be the berserker.

Similarly, it allows for drawbacks to be chosen organically as well.  If a character falls off of a boat in the course of an adventure, he may develop a fear of water.  He may leap into combat with an orc chieftain with only a broken chair leg, and assign himself the heroic hindrance.

Finally, it can let you jump into a campaign even more quickly when people don't quite know what they want to do yet with their characters.  Conceptually, it does demand a bit of pre-existing reason for the whole group not to know what the rest of the party can do.  The above Pandorum idea, characters that had skills before, but forgot them due to some external force, is one way to do it.  Characters could be "commoners" that just dabbled in some activity or another, only to become "instant experts" when pressed into a dangerous situation.  

I may actually try this method out if I end up running another Savage Worlds one shot in the future, in lieu of creating the very skeletal pregens that I make up for those games.

I'm also curious, if anyone does read this and cares to chime in, what other systems besides Savage Worlds would accommodate this kind of character building.  

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Setting the Mood for Zombies

Tomorrow night I start playing in a War of the Dead Savage Worlds game.  I'm really looking forward to it, in part because I haven't had a player outlet since my Pathfinder burnout kept me from wanting to continue on in my friend's Shackled City campaign.

Daring Entertainment's War of the Dead for Savage Worlds

After making up what I hope is a good character for the genre  (and I have to say, I spent more time on the character background than on the stats, which is a plus for me), I decided that tonight would be a great night to watch a zombie flick and get in the proper mind set for the campaign.

(See what I did there.  Up there . . . that is not the film that I watched)

What follows is a lesson in doing research before one "assumes" anything based on copy text.  I called up some zombie flicks on Netflix, and saw the 2008 version of Day of the Dead listed as being available for streaming.  Hey, it even says its based on Romero's classic, and it has Ving Rhames.  Wait . . . and Mena Suvari?  Eh, whatever, let's watch this thing.

Let me skip ahead a bit here . . . after the movie I read the reviews  (you would think that I would have done that the other way, but, hey, sometimes you have to play celluloid roulette).  I also Googled the 2008 movie.  Turns out, a movie studio owns the name of Romero's #3 Zombie movie, and decided it would be fun to take the script, run it through a paper shredder, then tape together three random parts from the original film to use in this one.

As a result, we have a character with the same name, a domesticated zombie, and an underground military base.  We also have Ving Rhames doing his best three stooges impression after becoming a zombie.  Seriously, if you ever wanted to know what Curly would look like if he were a zombie, and black, this movie has it!

This movie also has fast zombies.  Not zombies that can run.  Zombies that move so fast that the only way to emulate their fast movement is to momentarily speed the film up.  Thankfully, these zombies had the previously unknown weakness that caused them to suddenly become uncoordinated stiff zombies as soon as they pick up guns.  Honestly, I haven't seen such unintentionally amusing gunplay since they gave Dick Cheney that hunting show.*

The movie did really scare me at one point, however.  For a brief moment I pictured the armed forces being populated with people like Mena Suvari and Nick Cannon.  Still, I really can't blame anyone but myself, given that I didn't want to spend the 30 seconds it would have taken to look up stupid film online.

I hope I don't run into any of those wall crawling ninja zombies tomorrow night.

So, why isn't the Walking Dead streaming anywhere right now?

*Dick Chaney didn't really get a hunting show.  I make things up.  I'm a bad person.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Games in Review, August 15th, 2011

On top of my DC Adventures game, I got to run a fill in one shot for a friend last week on Thursday as well.  Since I got the call on Tuesday, and I was a little busy, I started working on my one shot, oh, about 10 at night on Wednesday.

As I have mentioned earlier, my go to game for one shots is Savage Worlds, and I had been kicking around an idea about doing a Ghostbusters one shot for a while.  I was greatly inspired by the old West End Games Ghostbusters RPG.  The starting conceit of the game is that you are opening up a new Ghostbusters franchise, and not playing the established characters in the original New York branch.

I also wanted to give a shout out to this site:

Savage Ghostbusters Fan Site

While I didn't use all of the rules, it did give me a quick reference as to how equipment should work without forcing me to think too much on my own.

In order to get the game up and running, I handed out the pregens, and asked the group where their new franchise was based from. We already established that this was the Chicago branch of Ghostbusters, International, but I wanted the exact place that the new franchise set up shop.

After only a few suggestions, pretty much everyone settled on the HQ being an old Dogs n' Suds eatery.

The next step was to determine what kind of transportation the group had.  It actually didn't take very long for the group to come up with their chariot, a refitted school bus of the shorter variety.

It didn't take very long at all of me to realize this might possibly have been one of my favorite one shots ever to run, despite the outcome (more on that later).  The group was hired by an actor famous for playing a "sparkly" vampire because of a death threat he received, which led him to assume the vampire community of Chicago was out to get him.

By the time the initial hiring was over, the PCs had made opposed reflex checks, multiple times, to steal food from a buffet that the actor's agent was guarding, parked illegally and gotten a boot put on the bus, illegally changed the ID of their vehicle, and assaulted an officer.

Upon learning that there was an Italian restaurant that used to be the home of Chicago's mafia vampires, the Ghostbusters headed to the establishment, all "discreetly" in full gear, while one of them loudly asked where the vampires hung out.

Escorted to the back room, they meet an alderman, who happens to be a vampire, and while the "face" of the group tried to talk to the alderman about what was going on, two other members of the group pulled their wands and pointed them at the vampire politician, and his henchmen flooded the room.

A fight ensued.  Lots of carnage.  Some vampires trapped in mist form in ghost traps.  One member of the team blowing a hole in the wall while running out with an unconscious member of the team.  That same member trying to drive the bus through the wall, hoping to run over said alderman, and oddly, not harming the vampire while running over all of his team members that were still in the office.  Oh, and one of the Ghostbusters was dual wielding positron colliders at one point in the fight?

Did I mention that one of the guys had an imaginary friend, and eventually the entire party was talking to said imaginary friend?

The adventure went way off track  (I really never intended them to fight the vampires, for example), the party almost all died, and everyone still seemed to have a blast.  Truly, it was a night to ham it up and come up with some out there ideas.  Everyone seemed to run with the comedy nature of the material, and we had a blast.

However, if we try this again, I'm pretty sure Chicago is going to be a Ghostbusters International-free Zone in the future.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Games in Review (Early), August 14th, 2011

I've run two games since the last "Games in Review," and both turned out really well, so I decided to break up the old blog post into two separate posts to give each game its own chance to "breathe."  The first game we'll be ruminating about is my Earth 52 DC Adventures game.

First, I missed a session of this game, and am still trying to live this down.  On one hand, I'll never hear the end of  missing that session, but on the other hand, I'm pretty humbled that my guys keep telling me that I have to make up a session of the campaign because they missed that week's adventure.  Thanks guys!  Oh, and sorry again for missing the session before this one.  Ahem.

So, the team, newly dubbed the New Guard, had just finished their new headquarters.  Marathon and Myrmidon were flying back from Zandia, which took about four days or so.  In the meantime, debates continued between Fahrenheit, Necromancer, Beorn, and Paradox about the viability of staffing the headquarters with strippers.  

Pretty much everyone but Fahrenheit was against it.  But that was because Myrmidon wasn't there to back him up.

When everyone was home again, the action started, with Flash's Rogues deciding they needed to save face and making a scene in Central City.  Abra Kadabra broke the Rogues out of Iron Heights, and Captain Cold put together a team of Rogues that would be better suited to handle the New Guard.

The final lineup was Captain Cold, Heatwave, Abra Kadabra, Tar Pit, Girder, and Weather Wizard.  The fight started out rather amusingly.  I was really hamming it up with Abra, and Necromancer teleported behind him and managed to one shot him with is necrotic blast.

While it initially looked like it would be another bad showing for the Rogues, before the day was done, several wounds were handed out all around, and Myrmidon was actually knocked out, set on fire, and had an armored truck dropped on him.  He lived.

At the end of the fight, Agent Liberty shows up, berates the team for not noticing that Task Force X had an invasion plan for Gorilla City, and tells them there is a tanker ship full off captured innocent intelligent gorillas that Waller wants to question in case there are any Grodd sympathizers among them, since the buzz is that Grodd was hot on the trail of the Reckoning Device.

The group decides to set out to free the poor Gorilla City residents, but not before Marathon discusses the viability of going to Belle Reve to threaten Waller, which the rest of the team is concerned about, because it might:

1.  Result in Waller's death, and . . .

2.  Result in Necromancer, Fahrenheit, Beorn, and Marathon dying, since Waller has a dead man's switch on her linked to the above named heroes.

I will fully admit this was a fun session to have a full on team versus team fight for the New Guard before advancing the plot a bit further down the field.  What I really liked about this session was that a lot of rules got used to reinforce comic book tropes in the session.

Necromancer teleported in and did a one shot to Abra when he was unaware.

Beorn used a power stunt to thrown an armored car to create an area attack on a group of multiple Rogues.

Paradox used a lot of variety in his attacks.  He grew in size to slam an opponent with a giant sized fist.  He became intangible to allow a bad guy to hit one of his own buddies, and he made his fist super dense to land another blow.

Marathon made great use of throwing one opponent into another, especially when one had a damaging energy aura.

Fahrenheit got to use his nullify ability in combat against another flame based opponent, then got to throw fireballs and fire direct blasts.

Myrmidon got to . . . well . . . bleed and get a bit toasted from the fire.  Sorry about that.  

While I think this was definitely an example of a session where the rules supported tropes from the genre very well, I will fully admit that I noticed a flaw, with the help of a comment from one of my players.  I was so wrapped up on hamming up the villains that I didn't look for enough times to hand out hero points.  I was too stingy, and I freely admit I need to keep closer track of people's motivations and complications and rewarding them, especially in these long fights.

At any rate, I really enjoyed the game.  It was a long fight, but it felt like a lot was going on.  It never really felt like a grind to me, but a chaotic, "multi-page" comic book melee.  Not only was the fight something that felt, to me, like a good comic book fight, but the story advanced nicely towards the end, and the group provided their own complication at the end do to tactical discussions, and I'm excited to play again next time.

I hope everyone enjoyed the game as much as I enjoyed running it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

It's Comic Book Day! #11--The Irredeemable Comments of Grant Morrison

Originally I was going to yammer on and on about how I've been trying out a few new series that I never got around to reading while I was following DC Comics.  In short, it's working out rather well, but that is neither here nor there.  In the midst of trying out new titles, I ran across the afterword written for Mark Waid's Irredeemable by none other than Grant Morrison.

The premise of Waid's book is to present a Superman like character that isn't as psychologically well grounded as Clark Kent/Kal-El.  Waid posits that we tend to see people in comics that are at least reasonably well equipped to handle the stress of being superheros, but what would happen if someone a little less grounded were put in that same situation.

What issues would start to undermine the heroes morality?  What would get on his nerves?  What if the things that are usually a given  (good friends, stalwart allies) don't quite pan out?  How long would it take for a hero to become a villain under these circumstances?

It's pretty interesting, but what is almost as interesting is how Grant Morrison takes the premise posited and makes it about how bad comic book fans are on the internet.  For such a chemically enhanced, brilliant, post modern comic book genius, Grant Morrison sure sounds like a grumpy old man telling comic book fans to get off his lawn.  Not just in this afterword, but also in some of his Comic-Con comments and in articles he has written for various comic news sites.

Grant Morrison Versus Geek Culture--Quote of the Day

Grant Morrison Supergods Interview

Morrison's position is that the nagging issues that don't quite go right for the Plutonian in Waid's comics are similar to the complaints of comic book fans on the internet.

Now, to me, seeing what causes someone to go down a certain path is different that condoning that path.  Understanding is not acceptance.  However, Morrison, in his need to decry the state of internet fan discourse, seems to dismiss the culpability of subject going down the dark road, because hardships visited upon the subject.

So many thoughts run through my head on this topic.  But as an aside, before I stray too far, I have to say it's pretty amusing to see that Morrison is very upset by the concept of "patterning," basically meaning that once someone believes that something falls into a pattern, they always perceive the subject as following that pattern, even when they don't.  Morrison points out that he's upset that he's been "patterned" as "incomprehensible" no matter how hard he tries to write a coherent story, and he tries to rope Waid in with him, saying that Waid has been "patterned" as a Silver Age apologist.

Essentially, Morrison wants to dismiss any criticism as unfounded.  The masses of comic book fans are unenlightened people that "pattern" people rather than appreciating them.  Using his analogy, of course, comic book creators would be the equivalent of the Plutonian, i.e. gods among men.

Between this and a recent article talking about the dust up between Scott Lobdell and Ron Marz on Twitter, there is a disconcerting trend among comic book creators to see the internet as something to be derided and ignored.  Except for when they need to vent.  I seem to remember a term called "projection."

Now, for my part, I will admit that the internet has a lot of jerks in residence.  Many people say stupid, hurtful things without thinking about them.  Other people like to spout off like they are experts on a given subject and even have blogs . . . er . . . I mean, they take their blogs way too seriously.  Yeah.  But I would contend that, from a comic creator's point of view, there is value in the internet.

It may take time, and some of them may be busy stemming the tide of mighty rivers or actually delivering a book on time, but if a creator has time to actually spend some quality time online, you can start to sift out the venom and the stupidity, and see some comments that are actually well reasoned.  There are two things to keep in mind, however.

1.  Not everyone agrees with you.

2.  How someone feels isn't wrong.

It's easy to lump comments that fall under 1, 2, or both into the same category as people saying "Grant Morrison is teh suxxors!,"  but there are subtle differences.

Now, the disclaimer that all comic book fans should take to heart, and not just because it sounds familiar.  With great (or really moderate) power comes great responsibility.  If you are a comic book fan, or a fan of anything, and you decide to weigh in on something, please, please, try to keep some things in mind.

1.  Don't get personal.  You don't know Grant Morrison in real life, and if you did, you wouldn't need to post about him on the internet.  What you know is what he makes public, so only comment on that.  (Grant is probably a bad example, in that I think he does mention about everything that comes to mind somewhere, in some venue, but that's a whole other kettle of fish)

2.  If you know something is an emotional reaction, own it.  Don't try to make your opinion representative of some phantom constituency.  It's probably a lot easier for the Plutonian to read internet forums when a post says "I've never been a fan of your work, it just leaves me cold," than to read, "no one in their right mind would ever be a fan of yours."

3.  Try very hard to make specific points, if you aren't just citing your own emotional response.  Using a second hand source, or worse, someone else citing a second hand source, isn't good.  People will call you on it, or more likely, dismiss your point entirely.

Supergods Audiobook on Audible.com

And as a parting shot, so that Grant Morrison can completely disregard this blog, I picked up the audiobook of Supergods.  I have no idea why.  I will admit I did not make it through the book.  I had an emotional response, which was to ask myself, "why didn't I trust that damn patterning in my brain and assume that this was Grant Morrison being incomprehensible?"

Disclaimer the First:  I really liked Grant Morrison's run on JLA.

Disclaimer the Second:  Irredeemable is an interesting read, but depressing.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Games In Review, August 8th, 2011, or, I'm a Mean GM

Last week was my Hellfrost campaign's second adventure.  I was going to post some pictures that I took of what I take to the game these days and discuss some physical stuff about what I carry and where things sit.  On the other hand, once I killed over the half the party in one shot, I figured that, perhaps, I should move away from any sagely trappings.

Thankfully, we avoided the . . .

So what happened?  Well, investigating the cult that the party was tangling with last time, they were directed towards a mysterious house out in the wilderness, and well, let's cut to the chase.  Sometimes, zombies aren't enough, and a GM uses zombies that explode.  Sometimes, when a GM uses zombies that explode, those zombies bunch up in a hallway with some players.

Sometimes, player character attempt to blow up zombies, and then zombies explode, and start a chain reaction when all four bunched up zombies go off in close succession, and then player characters are reduced to a smoking ruin, unless they were hiding in a chimney or outside of said house.

Anyway, the catastrophic culling of player characters led to me rethinking how I was handling the campaign, and since two of the survivors are fairly certain their characters would take the money they found and retire, we'll be moving forward with but one "original" cast member going forth.

I've been trying to get a handle on this new campaign.  I've been approaching it in much the same way that I did two of my really successful and enjoyable Forgotten Realms campaigns, but I think, especially in light of the nature of Savage Worlds, that I was a bit too open both with the campaign theme and with my opening session.

I didn't go with quite the restrictive theme that I originally thought I was going to, but I am going to have the new party go on a bit of a longer, more obvious job to do some team building, and hopefully to throw some interesting plot hooks and NPCs at them to see which ones they nibble on.

And if I'm lucky, I won't off five PCs in one night again.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Games in Review, August 1st, 2011

Sorry I missed the update last week.  I must admit that last week was a bit . . . eventful, but only on the non-gaming side of things, so I'll refrain from sharing the details here.  At any rate, due to those hectic circumstances, my DC Adventures game didn't go off as planned, but I never got around to posting any details on my Hellfrost game, so here goes.

I'm pushing my comfort zone a bit by taking on seven players, but I'm hoping that with a simpler system like Savage Worlds, it won't be quite as problematic as it would be in a more rules intensive system.

Starting out, I really wanted the players to have some kind of stake in where the campaign starts and what the PCs are doing, but given that most of the players aren't that familiar with the Hellfrost setting, I just looked for common themes of what races and specialties were present.

In the end, I settled in on Aspiria in the setting.  It's a fairly standard middle ages style kingdom with good ties to the settings past allowing for some plot hooks here and there.

The session started with a creepy ghost herding the PCs together for the first time to solve a murder that didn't appear to be a murder at first glance.  This led to the group hunting down a cult, one member of the group trying to join, and the rest of the group opening up a blood bath on the cultists.

On top of that, the group burned down anther house that the cult was associated with, but thankfully, there was a handy noble that wanted to scoop the PCs up as his own personal hired agents and he snatched them off the streets before the rampant killing and burning caught up with them and they had to explain too many things to the authorities.

One thing I hate when taking on a brand new campaign that is entirely my own brainchild is to find a place to start.  I can see the middle and the potential ends to the campaign, but it's so hard to figure out where the beginning is.  I have to say, the Gnome Stew book Eureka! came in very handy for this to at least nudge me toward how to introduce the characters.

In the end, I think the session went pretty well, especially as an introductory adventure.  It seemed like everyone was having fun and was involved in the plot to one degree or another.  That having been said, I'd not be me if I didn't see where I needed to improve right out of the gate.

1.  I made a General History nobility title gaff that was pretty rudimentary and yet my brain didn't register the gaff right away, and said history/title gaff was enough to cause commentary, and as such, was a least a bit of a speed bump in the group's immersion in the game.

2.  I made a detail ruling that wasn't as wrong as it appeared (I did kind of know what I was talking about historically speaking), but was still wrong and poorly detailed setting wise, and again, it was enough to cause some discussion and bump everyone out of their mental gamespace.

Long story short, I need to keep my head in the game and make sure I don't make simple gaffs that are going to draw attention to themselves.  Nothing major, but certainly "needs work" on my part.

Once we had our first session, a lot of details about what I want to do in the campaign started to fall into place, and I'm excited to get the ball rolling further at this point.