Saturday, October 27, 2012

Milestones (Week of 10/27/12)

I'm not even going to pretend that I forgot it wasn't Wednesday this time around.  I did, however, get a few comics this week, so let's get into the fray with some milestones that popped into the dark, echoing recesses of my Watcher brain as I read them.

We'll start with the first issue of the new Punisher War Zone limited series, where in Spidey tries to convince his fellow Avengers that they need to take the Punisher seriously and bring them in.

This Has Gone On For Too Long

1 XP  When you mention a threat that your teammates dismiss as being beneath their efforts.

3 XP  When one of your allies comes around to your way of thinking and advocates your course of action.

10 XP  When the threat that you mentioned proves to be so dangerous that your allies agree that they should have listened to you in the first place, or when all of your allies abandon you and you have to face this threat alone.

Next up, we look at AvX #3, specifically a few of the examinations of belief and changing points of view, which affects several characters, including Iron Man and his acceptance of things beyond science and Cyclops, and has adoption of a political prisoner persona.

Matters of Belief May Lead to Dangerous Places

1 XP  When you make a comment about the world changing, or when you make a comment about how you have changed.

3 XP  When you gain a new ally because of your compelling new philosophy, or when you coerce, leverage, or force an old ally into doing something to aid your cause.

10 XP  When you refuse help from allies in a desperate situation because the help would undermine your new philosophy or belief, or when you abandon your new outlook and you entreat your friends to help you make your life go back to the way it was.

Our next stop points us to Guatemala and (way) beyond with Gambit #4, and the reason Remy ends up there in the first place . . .

A Sucker For a Pretty Face

1 XP  When you flirt with someone you find attractive.

3 XP  When you perform a dangerous action because of your romantic interest, and you take stress or trauma because of that dangerous action.

10 XP  When you save your romantic interest from great danger, and that romantic interest either returns your affection, or leaves as soon as they get the chance.

Now, we'll head back to New York City, to Shadowland  (and the Danger Zone) for Amazing Spider-Man #696, and his problems with having multiple Hobgoblins interested in him.

If There is a Knock-Off Here, It's You

1 XP  When you first realize that your opponents in an action scene hate one another as much as they hate you, and you point this out.

3 XP  When you complete an action because your opponents were more interested in one another, and they don't pay enough attention to you.

10 XP  When you manage to turn one of your opponents against the other fully, and you prevail over them both, or when your opponents realize that you are their greatest threat, and they vow to only act as a team against you until you are ultimately defeated, or they are.

At this point, let's head to the Secret Avengers secret base, for a set of milestones inspired by both Hawkeye's trust in Eric O'Grady and Captain Britain's trust in the Avengers of the Undead from Earth 666.

I Know How Much You Hate Betrayal

1 XP  When you put your trust in a questionable individual in a tough situation.

3 XP  When a more trustworthy ally questions your judgement in putting your faith in the questionable individual, and you champion your chosen individual.

10 XP  When your chosen individual comes through for you at a critical time and proves that they are worthy of your trust, or when they show their true colors and betray you, and you admit to your allies that you were wrong to trust them.

Finally, let's catch up with Captain America and Black Widow in yet another alternate dimension from Captain America and Black Widow #638, and look at a milestone inspired by their encounters with lots of different versions of different allies and enemies from across the alternate Earths.

Agent America Is Dead

1 XP  When you identify your opponents as alternate reality versions of allies or opponents from your home reality.

3 XP  When your opponents fail to realize some way in which you differ from your alternate reality version, and they fail an action due to that failure, or when your knowledge of the commonality between your opponents and their more familiar version gives you insight into their behavior, and it allows you to succeed in an action against them.

10 XP  When you find the source of the reality incursion that is allowing these alternate versions of your allies and enemies to invade other realities, and you shut it down permanently, or when you realize that the reality bleed is too extensive, and you decide to go on adventures across the omniverse.

As always, let me know what you think, any improvements that could be made, and if you might have used these and how they worked for your game.  Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Destroyer (and not the KISS album)

This is the Destroyer as I used him in last night's Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Event.  Essentially, it's a "Greatest Hits" version of the Destroyer, powered by a soul that animates it, and basically wrecking everything in it's path.

As a side note, the Destroyer can, as a technicality, hold Thor's hammer, since it's a construct and not alive  (not worthy or unworthy, just another creation of Odin).  

The Destroyer


Solo d10 
Buddy d8 
Team d6


Powered by Souls
Dire Purpose
Asgardian Doomsday Machine

Power Sets

Asgardian Superweapon

d12 Godlike Durability     d8 Subsonic Flight     d12 Psychic Resistance     d12 Mystic Resistance     d12 Godlike Strength     d12 Transmutation     d12 Blast

SFX Area Attack Add a d6 and keep an additional effect die for each additional target

SFX Disintegration Beam In any roll that includes a blast dice, double blast dice and step up effect dice, then shut down Blast. Recover on an opportunity.

SFX No One Can Stand Against the Destroyer Step up or double a Godlike Strength die against a stingle target.  Remove the highest rolling die and add 3 dice for your total.

SFX Weapon of the Gods Add a d6 to your dice pool for an attack action and step back highest die in pool by –1. Step up physical stress inflicted by +1

SFX Enduring Body Spend a die from the Doom Pool to ignore stress, trauma, or complications from any attack that targets metabolic function

SFX Invulnerability  Spend a die from the Doom Pool to ignore any stress or trauma unless caused by Uru weapons or Asgardian magic

Limit Growing Dread Both 1 and 2 on your dice count as opportunities when using a Asgardian Superweapon power.

Limit Vulnerable Body If the body belonging to the soul animating the Destroyer takes stress, apply that stress as a complication to the Destroyer.  If the body is killed, the Destroyer is shut down.


Combat Master d10      Menace Master d10

I was tempted to give the Destroyer the rumored d12 "Supremacy" specialties that cosmic characters in Annihilation might have access to, but I decided against it, for two reasons.  This is the Destroyer powered by an "average" soul, or by Loki by remotely projecting part of his soul into the construct.  

The "Supremacy" dice should probably be reserved for when the Destroyer has been prepped to do something really major by the Powers that Be.  Still, I can almost see a Menace Supremacy for this thing . . . 

The other reason I held back was due to the fact that I'm not quite sure if you will be able to do the full march down the die scale.  For example, will you be able to split a Supremacy into 2 d10s, or 3 d8s, or even 4 d6s?  

As it stands, the Destroyer seemed to be plenty formidable last night, and that was without me using any Doom Pool dice to shrug off stress.

The Breakout is Over . . . Liberation in the Savage Land! (Thursday Night Marvel Heroic Game)

For those of you interested in such things, you can view the final installment of our Breakout event right here on YouTube:

The bullet points version of this session:

  • Doctor Strange sees a vision of an army of Destroyer like constructs marching across the globe, and a vision of a burning sword.
  • Doctor Strange pops in on our captured heroes in Magneto's abandoned fortress, where Sauron and his Savage Land Mutates are holding court.
  • Wolverine and Deadpool start with the emotional assaults upon the Mutates, distracting them from Doctor Strange's surprise Shock and Awe entrance, essentially giving them a glimpse into a horrid Hell dimension and scaring Vertigo, Brainchild, and even Sauron silly.
  • Lots of naked fighting, especially by Hawkeye.
  • Wolverine ends catches up with the last fleeing Mutate, Amphibius, and sneaks up on him, sinking his claws in real good, and getting a tongue lashing from Iron Man.
  • SHIELD One shows up, and gets ready to bombard the innocent, enslaved Vibranium miners and all evidence of what was going on.
  • Doctor Strange and Hawkeye head to the mines to free the miners and secure the evidence, while Iron Man, Deadpool, and Wolverine take the fight to . . . Maria?
  • On the flight deck, the mastermind of the whole plan turns out to be Loki, using the Vibranium to build an army of Destroyer-lite constructs, and who is currently using Maria Hill to power the rebuilt Destroyer using her soul.
  • Doctor Strange creates a dome over the workers to save them, and Hawkeye secures the evidence of the Vibranium mines and what they are being used for.
  • The Destroyer melts most of Deadpool, throwing him out of the Helicarrier.  He eventually "survives," but it takes him a while to pull himself back together.
  • Loki takes out Iron Man by conjuring a swarm of gremlins to disable his armor.
  • Thor brings the Thing with him to back up his Avenger allies.  Thor misses Loki due to Loki's crafty illusion work, and the Destroyer catches Thor's hammer to prevent it from returning to him.
  • Wolverine nearly takes out Maria Hill, on the off chance that killing her would shut down the Destroyer, but is unsure if this would work.  He tears open the Destroyer with his claws, and the Thing punches it's head off.
  • Loki attempts to disable Thor with visions of the fall of Asgard, but Thor resists the images, grabs Loki's arm, and channels lightning through his body and into Loki's until the God of Mischief is out cold.

I modified the original sequence of events both from the comics and the event as written, in part because I liked the symmetry of having Loki being somewhat responsible for the New Avengers forming as well.

I used the Loki datafile from the Plot Points blog  (which has some awesome content . . . you should check it out).  The Destroyer was my own creation, and I'll be posting it here sometime this weekend.

I also wanted to let the players pull in their other unlocked heroes if their current heroes got stressed out.  Thus Thor and the Thing got to show up to reinforce the team when Iron Man and Deadpool dropped out of the fight.

I used the "spend a plot point to just do what your power does" rule from the Operations Manual a few times last night.  Our Doom Pool was fairly large for a while, and it made sense to keep the story moving by giving the players an option to just spend a power point to accomplish something.  For example, Deadpool and Doctor Strange teleporting, and Wolverine cutting Maria Hill out of her crystal prison.

Overall, I think it felt like the event built to something, and that this was a nice conclusion for the event.   The players seemed to be happy with Loki being the big bad, and with the Destroyer as his "muscle" to help him in the scene.  And there was much desire to off Maria Hill, which made for some nice tension as well.

One thing I did notice.  XP built up to be insane.  Part of that, I think, was my fault, as I lost track of something very important.  I am almost certain I forgot to limit the 10 XP trigger to once per act.  I am also thinking that with longer acts in Civil War, those 10 XP triggers won't be generating nearly as much commensurate to the length of play time.

There was also some concern that some of the heroes are kind of powerful, for example, Doctor Strange.  While I think the character is a serious threat, I also think that some of the dominance of that character comes from the fact that most of the villains in the Breakout event are built to go down fairly quickly.  It's an introductory event, and many of the villains seem to be built to be effective with lots of friends or with lots of help from the Doom Pool.  With opponents built to be major threats, I don't think characters like Doctor Strange will be quite as effective.

I also laid the seeds of a few things that I'm planning on building on for our Civil War event, which I'm planning on running in the same continuity as this game.  In keeping with the event structure, what happened in this event happened, and will influence Civil War, but the players start over with Civil War datafiles, fresh, with no XP or the like from this event.

I'm really looking forward to our next event.  The players have all been great, and Marvel Heroic is working very well for telling these stories.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Deep Thoughts, by Dr. Henry McCoy, Part One (Marvel Heroic Roleplaying)

The following is my journal for our Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game being run via Google+ Hangout on Tuesday nights.  As you may have figured out by the title, I'm playing Beast.  For more information on the campaign  (not much yet), check out the excellent blog The Doom Pool.

Life is interesting at the mansion these days.  Scott has decided to refocus the X-Men and reorganize us based on his personal plans.  There are three groups, but I must admit that one of Scott's groups is secretive to the point of being maddening.  I cannot say that I'm comfortable with the level of skullduggery surrounding that particular aspect of the Scott's plan.

Regardless, the remaining groups have the following functions: One of Scott's teams is designed to be up front, operating in a manner similar to the Avengers.  Their purpose is to be straightforward superheroes in the traditional sense.  Scott believes, and I agree with him (in this instance), that a public team of this nature will do much to engender good will among the human population.

The third team, to which I find myself assigned, has the same traditional purpose that the X-Men have always had.  We are to protect humanity from malevolent mutant threats when they appear, and we are to aid mutantkind whenever hardships befall them, good, bad, or indifferent, for the betterment of all.

Scott has assigned Sam Guthrie, who goes by the nom de guerre Cannonball, to lead this team of X-Men.  I have the utmost faith in Samuel, having watched his progression from student, to student leader, to X-Men over the years.  Sam, however, is intimidated, and the reason is at least in part due to others that might have had the same position assigned to them.

Not only does Samuel have the inenviable task of leading the team with two others who sought a leadership position on the team (those persons being Emma Frost and Bishop) but he also has our own problem child Quicksilver on this team as well.  Pietro is a talented man with many good qualities.  Unfortunately, one of his many talents is to hide those good qualities under a veneer of disdain and vitriol.

While Emma is clearly upset over Scott's decision, Bishop is, as is his nature, unreadable.  Pietro is verbally abusive and dismissive.  I have tried to inure Sam to his barbs, having felt them myself as both an opponent and teammate of Quicksilver's over the years.  Rounding out our merry band is my long time friend and fellow founding X-Man Bobby Drake (also know as Iceman) she of the many code names, Katherine Pryde, and my fellow fuzzy blue mutant Nightcrawler.

For our first mission, or missions as would be the case, Kurt was otherwise engaged, and we found ourselves needing to respond to two separate instances of alert.  A powerful mutant signal originating in China provided the impetus for one emergency, and a distress call from a remote mutant utopia commune founded in a fortress in Antarctica provided the other.

Sam split our teams, traveling with Kitty, Emma, and myself to China, while sending Quicksilver, Bishop, and Iceman to Antarctica.  Alas, the strife began almost immediately, and we found ourselves, to borrow the Chinese proverb, in interesting times.

Arriving in China, Emma alerted us to the fact that the mental signature of the mutant we were looking for was familiar, someone she had been in contact with before, though somehow obscured from her psionic abilities.  We were also met with a team of Chinese military in powered armor.

(I must make a note to send the readings we garnered during their approach to Tony.  He's always interested in finding instances of his proprietary technology being purloined, and there was a certain familiarity to the function and design of those battlesuits.)

Sam's immediate plan was to draw off the Chinese "Men of Iron" by himself, wagering that he could outfly them, and counting our ability to take the Blackbird I into stealth mode and outrun our pursuers.  While I don't entirely disagree with his decision, I felt a certain anxiousness from Sam, as if drawing off our pursuers himself and "solving" a problem on his own would alleviate some of the stress of leadership.

I managed to find a proper aerial course away from our pursuers, Kitty engaged our cloaking device, and Emma aided us by clouding the minds of those following us.  Once we had landed, we made sure to hide our vehicle, and attempted to contact Cannonball and give him our position.  Where we landed there were massive scorch marks, as well as a score of unfortunate individuals who had been reduced to little more than carbon.

Kitty set up a beacon for Sam to follow, and I managed to scramble the communications systems of the pursuers, thanks to a few electronic modules that I packed into the Blackbird I for just such a circumstance.  Emma, of course, assumed that her mental meddling was the deciding factor, and I will decline from adding any fuel to the fires of discontent, especially with Emma and Kitty remaining surprisingly civil to one another  (meaning that only mild invectives were in evidence between them).

Team two in the Blackbird II apparently had run into some issues in Antarctica.  Pietro called in to Sam, reporting that the poor unfortunates there had been infected with some kind of mold that was making them act erratically as well as robbing them of their faculties.  He advised our leader that the Blackbird II did not have the capability to hold all of those suffering from the affliction, but suggested  (in Pietro's inimitable way) that "his" team bring back as many as they could secure in the Blackbird II and that they secure the rest as safely as possible in the fortress until we could retrieve them.

Sam ordered that Pietro and the others bring none of the infected back, as the danger was too great.  I respect Sam, and I will not rail against his orders in public, but the thought of turning anyone that is suffering away, when our medical and scientific facilities might have the ability to help them . . . well . . . I need to speak with Sam when there is some time to separate him from the others . . . and when I can put up some psi-dampers so our former White Queen can't eavesdrop on the conversation.

Pietro killed the communications link, so I can only imagine that he was upset over Sam's orders.  Unfortunately, we had an uncomfortable situation on our own to deal with.  After Katherine had scouted out the military compound, she found it relatively safe, and Sam ordered me to stay with the Blackbird Mark I, while he and Emma would, directly, go to speak with the Chinese military officials, offering any help that they might need, given the instances of devastation before us.

I don't know that I would have made that call, but I respect the courage it took for Sam to walk into a potentially hostile military base with Emma as his only immediate ally.

To our surprise, the ranking officer handed over the source of their woe.  Inside the base, in very poor condition and apparently not in full command of his own faculties, was Shiro Yoshida, our former teammate also known as Sunfire.  We were told that we should take him, and leave.

So many mysteries, so little time.  I can only wonder what will happen next.

For what it's worth, this particular account is only from Beast's point of view.  There was a bit more that happened in Antarctica that Dr. McCoy was not privy to.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The State of Gaming (for me), October 2012

What I'm Doing

So, where am I and where do I want to be when it comes to my gaming habits?

First off, I'm having more fun that I have a right to with my Marvel Heroic Group.  I've padded the Breakout event a bit to fit my tastes and to give it a little more depth, and we'll be diving into Civil War after this.

I'm thinking that Civil War will be in the same continuity as our current game, let's call it Earth-3432  (I rolled dice for that).  We'll reset things a bit for the event, but what happened in Breakout won't be staying in Breakout.

In order to facilitate running this, not only did I reread the actual event, but I picked up the novelization, which I'm interested to read, because it doesn't follow the continuity of the comics.  This is actually particularly useful to a Watcher running this event, because it serves as another perspective of "what could have happened."

And to be really obsessive and cover things from all angles, I was trying to watch the cut scenes for Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, but I haven't quite put aside the time to do so yet.

On Tuesday night, I'll be starting up as a player in an online Marvel Heroic game featuring the X-Men and I'll be running Beast.  To be properly prepared to play Dr. Hank McCoy, I printed out a few sheets of Shakespeare and Voltaire quotes.

On the Thursday nights that I'm not running my Marvel Heroic game, I'm in a friend's Pathfinder game, which is fun because:

1.  The game has some gamer friends that I haven't gotten to game with recently in it.

2.  The game is set in a post-apocalyptic Golarion overrun by demons and undead, and all of use are children of gods.

3.  We get to use Super Genius Games products in the game.

What I Still Wish I Could Do

So many good games I still want to play or run!

Dungeon Crawl Classics looks like a blast, and I would love to play and/or run that system.  It's so gonzo and over the top, and it just sounds like familiar with a touch of crazy.

Unfortunately my schedule didn't line up to be in a friend's Star Wars Edge of the Empire game, so that's still on the "I really want to play or run this" list.

I really, really want to get involved, on either side of the "screen" in a 13th Age game.  It's like the saner, more modern flip side of the coin from Dungeon Crawl Classics.

Lower on the list are games I'd like to give a shot, but I don't have the same level of excitement over as the above, including:

1.  The One Ring.  The more I hear about it, the more it sounds like it really emulates the source material well, and we all know Hobbit fever is rising.

2.  Deathwatch/Rogue Trader/Only War.  I like the setting and the system, but it's not as high up on the list because I have at least gotten to play in a Deathwatch game and run a Rogue Trader game for a while.

3.  Fiasco.  This one has taken over my previous spot for Call of Cthulhu, as something that sounds like a lot of fun, but that I know I'd probably be happy just getting a chance to play it once to get the feel of it.

Ah, to be a gamer with Jamie Madrox's powers.

In the Wee Hours of the Morning, I Remember What Wednesday Was Like (Wednesday Milestones, Slightly Late)

Its that time again  (it's actually well past that time) when we look at the Marvel Universe as seen through the comics that came out this past Wednesday, and then mercilessly strip mine them for ideas for milestones.

Our first stop on our tour of the Marvel Universe on Wednesday is a trip to outer space and a look at Avengers Assemble #8, with a set of milestones inspired by Thor's valiant actions to help his friends figure out what to try next against Thanos.

This is Not Up For Debate

1 XP  When you order an ally out of harm's way.

3 XP  When your allies leave you using your Solo affiliation against a major foe or threat.

10 XP  When you survive a major encounter while using your Solo affiliation, and you reunite with your allies, made safe by your actions, or when you bravely suffer defeat or death at the hands of your opponent, but bought your allies time to formulate a plan and fortify their defenses.

The next set of milestones is inspired by the events of Avengers versus X-Men:  Consequences #2, and the confrontation between Cyclops and Wolverine.

I Die Now, and I'm a Martyr

1 XP  When you first explain to your allies that you may need to make an unpopular decision for the greater good.

3 XP  When an ally tells you that your actions are too extreme, or when an ally leaves your team to oppose you.

10 XP  When you achieve a goal through unpopular actions and you can only make your cause stronger by becoming a martyr, and you allow yourself to be killed when you take trauma, or when you decide that your actions (if not your goal) was wrong, and you apologize and begin to take actions to atone for what you have done to anyone affected by your plans.

Jumping through the Darkforce Dimension, we cross over into Daredevil's territories, with milestones inspired by Daredevil #19.

I'm A New Man

1 XP  When you dismiss the abilities of a super villain that you are fighting as you take an action that defeats them.

3 XP  When you encounter that super villain again later, and you mention his previous defeat at your hands.

10 XP  When you face that villain again, and you either admit that he has become far more dangerous when you have taken trauma or have been complicated out of a scene by the villain, or when you finally dismiss them as being waste of time when they fail to defeat you for a third and final match up, and you cause their defeat yet again.

Now, let's pop over to Captain Marvel #5 for our next milestones:

Option Two

1 XP  When a friend charges into trouble, and you decide to follow them in order to keep them from getting into even more trouble.

3 XP  When you take stress or suffer a complication while trying to keep the friend you followed into danger from suffering harm.

10 XP  When you either decide to leave your troublesome friend to their own fate, or you finally resolve the danger that threatens them and you deliver them to safety.

Now we will take a detour back to Hawkeye for milestones inspired by Hawkeye #3 and Clint Barton's really bad decision making abilities.

Today I Have Had Exactly Nine Terrible Ideas

1 XP  When you state a mission that you will accomplish, and you explain how a past decision led to a failed action that you attempted in the course of completing that mission.

3 XP  When an opponent that is attempting to stop you from completing your stated mission uses stress or complications in an action against you, and you explain how your bad decisions directly led to this point in time.

10 XP  When you accomplish your stated mission without any stress, trauma, or complications, or when you complete your mission with multiple forms of stress or stress and a complication in place, and you vow to make better decisions next time.

Next is a milestone inspired not so much by Marvel Now Point One #1 so much as it is inspired by my absolute wonder at why I spent so much money on this issue and wondered why this issue even exists.  Sorry, usually keep the critical commentary far away from the milestones . . . sometimes it's hard.

Who Will Shape the Future?

1 XP  When you ask a time traveler or precognative a question about threats from the future.

3 XP  When you take emotional stress because the precog or native of the future gives you a vague or frustrating answer to your question.

10 XP  When you manage to piece together what threat your time traveler or precog was warning you about, and you stop that threat, or when you give up on chasing shadows and retire from hero business.

And last but not least, we'll visit the Micorverse to see how Venom is doing in Venom #26, with some milestones inspired by Flash Thompson's awkward first visit to a tiny little dimension.

This Science Fiction Mumbo Jumbo Would Be Right Up Parker's Alley

1 XP  When you announce your discomfort due to your environment and it's alien nature.

3 XP  When you first perform a support action for a native of this alien place, or when a native grants your an asset and you use it to successfully perform an action.

10 XP  When you overcome your discomfort with this strange new environment and manage to help the natives overcome a grave threat to their existence, or when your very presence becomes a threat to the natives and you leave the place before you do any further harm.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Latest Marvel Heroic Session (Breakout Session Six)

Wow, where does the time go?  I'm almost closing in on the next session without having this recap posted!  Bad Watcher, bad!  Well, let's fix that now, shall we?  As per usual, if you are interesting in watching the session yourselves, the video is posted to You Tube, right here:

You may remember from last time that the group had a rather unfortunate problem with the Hulk going wild and dropping a SHIELD base on the party and the villains both, and Tony had to call Cap and have him call in a favor from Dum Dum Dugan, bringing the Leviathan Helicarrier to help out, dropping the Hulk with a squad of highly trained SHIELD Hulkbusters, and bringing Hawkeye as a reinforcement.

Not wanting to come in conflict with his boss, and because the group is close to the "hands off" territory of the internationally protected Vibranium mounds of the Savage Lands, Dum Dum Dugan took the Leviathan behind some mountains to wait for any other potential problems.

Keep in mind, my Doom Pool is starting at 5d12 and a d10.  No one is attempting to recover, and Hulk isn't coming out to play any time soon  (for those keeping track at home, Hulk immediately rampages at 2d12 dice in the Doom Pool).

I decided to spend down the Doom Pool a bit, and had a pack of raptors ambush the group, and they nearly tore out Deadpools entrails . . . not that torn out entrails is a long term problem for Deadpool.  The group closed back together, Wolverine and Hawkeye climbed some trees to get away from the raptors, Iron Man missed them with a salvo of micro-missiles, but eventually the party took them down, with Hawkeye firing an Adamantium arrow through the heads of three raptors at once, but not before a raptor crept up behind Deadpool and stole his equipment, which, like having his entrails ripped open, isn't a long term problem for Wade.

After a few moments of rest, the group forges on, then gets attacked by a mob of mutates.  The New Avengers  (and Deadpool) weather that storm fairly well, but then I spend yet another dice from the Doom Pool to have Brainchild get the drop on the group, and then add a dice to boost Vertigo's mental blast ability.

Hawkeye, Iron Man, Wolverine, and Deadpool faced off against Vertigo, Brain Child, Lupo, and Barbarus.  Not exactly the Masters of Evil.  How did it turn out?  Not good for our heroes, surprisingly.

One lesson learned?  A really effective character in some instances may not be in other instances.  Wolverine and Deadpool could resist Vertigo, but Hawkeye and Iron Man were getting lots of mental stress from Vertigo.  Plus, we figured that Tony and Clint were both pretty distracted by Vertigo, since, you know . . . female.

Wolverine managed to intimidate out Brian Child to a gibbering wreck, Hawkeye took out Lupo's summoned wolves with a teargas arrow, but amazingly Barbarus  (with a d12 expended boost) complicated Wolverine out by tying him up in knots.

Barbarus went down, but then Lupo took out Hawkeye and Vertigo took out Iron Man.  That left Deadpool to face off against Lupo and a newly summoned pack of wolves, and of course, my remaining 2d12 in the Doom Pool.

Deadpool took the opportunity to kill off Lupo's wolves to make fun of him and taunt him, the two go back and forth for a while, and ultimately, I spend the 2d12 to bring in reinforcements for Lupo, so that as Deadpool takes out the wolf themed mutate, the whole party is waylaid and dragged off to Magneto's old fortress in the Savage Land.

Doctor Strange's player was buying a car, so Stephen was busy having yet another vision, which we'll narrate at the beginning of the next session.

What I continue to enjoy about the system is how I can see a comic book style narrative develop.  Seeing Tony vulnerable to someone that isn't based around brute force or technology makes perfect sense, and while 90% of the time this group of characters should be able to take out the Savage Land Mutates, when the story calls for them to "just barely lose" or for an ambush to be especially devastating, the Doom Pool can really help to convey this feeling.

Elminster's Forgotten Realms Remembers the Past

I was at Gen Con 2008 when WOTC decided to celebrate "20 years of Drizzt" a year early instead of 20 years of the Forgotten Realms.  I remember very clearly purchasing the long awaited Grand History of the Realms, a massive timeline of every major event in Realms history, consolidated and annotated. This book was primarily the work of Brian R. James, a fan who diligently worked to make all of the pieces fit.  You may have seen his name on a few Realms and D&D products since then.  Brian is a hardworking and diligent guy, so he deserves the bump and the freelance jobs, and none of this debacle has anything to do with his passion for the Realms.

What debacle?  When the WOTC hardcover version of the Grand History of the Realms was released, the last two pages or so weren't timelines that Brian had assembled from various products over the years.  Instead, they were a rundown of what was currently going on in the novels, and what was about to be unveiled.  And the last entry essentially said "everything you know is gone, come back to see how horrible the Realms are in 4th edition!"

No, I'm not kidding.  It was a dire message that said that a terrible new age had begun.  Not exactly the kind of thing you do for a setting that has been around 20 years  (much longer if you count Ed Greenwood's home campaigns and even longer if you count his unpublished short stories).

Even that wasn't quite enough to get me off the band wagon.  The final straw was the Secrets of the Realms seminar that WOTC put on at Gen Con 2008.  Dragon Magazine . . . not the traditional one, the one that was only made up of electrons . . . put out a really interesting article on 4th Edition Cormyr that detailed lots of what happened in the intervening 100 years in the Realms, who was in charge, what wheels were turning, etc.

Backdrop: Cormyr, Dragon 365

At the seminar, we got to hear "hey, did you guys like that Cormyr article?  Great.  We're not doing articles like that from now on, but it's great that you liked it.  Vague stuff that lets us stuff 4th edition core concepts is much better for what we have planned.  But, hey, Drizzt is still alive, so you have to love that, right?"

All of that, coupled with a fairly candid post by one of the designers that flat out said, "we aren't designing this version of the setting for you, because we know you buy Realms stuff, but we need new blood, so long term fan concerns aren't what this is about.  Be thankful there is still a Forgotten Realms to buy," convinced me I was out.  The marketing strategy was pretty much, "there are people that don't like the Realms, so to get them to buy the Realms, we need to make the Realms more generic with more D&D generic stuff in it, and 90% of the old Realms fans will buy anything with Realms on the cover, so we should easily make up the difference."

I'm not sure what the actual numbers told them, but I suspect a lot more people said, "hey, this Golarion place looks interesting" than they expected.  I have said before, while it's not my favorite ruleset, I would likely have been playing 4th edition if the Realms had been more recognizable to me.

I know there are people that really don't like the Realms.  I suspect in some cases this is fueled by the feeling that the Realms "killed" Greyhawk as the default D&D setting.  I disagree.  Internal politics killed Greyhawk as the default setting, and none of that has anything to do with the Realms, or the fact that it turned out to be popular.  Heck, I like Greyhawk, and played a few characters in the setting, but as a DM, I customized my own weird, cobbled together setting right up until the Forgotten Realms came out, and from that point on, I knew I wanted to run games there.  I didn't leave Greyhawk, as a DM, I never went there to begin with.

I've also hears over the years that in the dark days that were the last gasp of 2nd edition, the only products that turned a profit were the Forgotten Realms products  (I've been called out on this before, and I'll only say two things . . . I don't have the figures, I'm just relating what I've heard, and also, the products turned a profit, not TSR, i.e. they made more money on the Forgotten Realms products than it cost to produce them while they were bleeding money on a ton of other projects).  It makes sense that while the Realms may not be universally loved, it does have a dependable installed base that seems to call for a certain amount of respect.

TSR and WOTC have both contributed to their own PR issues with the setting.  Not only have they both put out way too many products that focused squarely on the wrong aspects of the setting  (powerful NPCs that are suppose to be background players, gods that get personally involved with events, continent wide magical conflicts that should either have way more or way less impact on the setting than they end up having), but they have designers that get a bit too candid in explaining how they personally don't use the Realms or have issues with the Realms and are going to fix it for people that don't like the setting.

I'd be willing to bet that while they may have picked up some 4th edition Realms fans that had no opinion one way or the other before it launched, I don't think they moved too many "no setting for me," or "Greyhawk or bust" types over to the FR column with their changes.  I could be wrong.

Elminster's Forgotten Realms at Miniatures Market

What is all of that long winded wall of text above me about?  Well, it's about the fact that, due to the release of Ed Greenwood Presents Elminster's Forgotten Realms, a book that is edition neutral, and a least somewhat era neutral, I looked back in on the Realms for the first time in a while.

Before I picked up the book, I finally watched the Forgotten Realms seminars from Gen Con 2012.  I still could care less about the main D&D presentation.  There will be a new edition, and it will have rules and stuff.  Okay, cool.  Wake me up when it gets here.  But the Realms seminars were eye-opening in that this was not the normal corporate spin of "when the new Realms products launch, it will be awesome, just wait and see while we tap dance."  In fact, there was a fairly solid amount of "we screwed up, pushed the setting too far, and we know we have to fix it, and by fix it we mean make it more like it used to be."

The first step is admitting you have a problem.

I now have the book.  Its actually a very pretty release.  Excepting the weird grainy-smooth cover, the art is nice, the font is nice, the pages are pleasant to look at and kind of in the old world tradition of how Realms books have looked since the FR series and continued on through the 3rd edition releases.

What I have read so far reminds me of the Volo's Guides, and has a lot to do with capturing the feel of the setting, rather than explaining rules changes between editions or trying to shoehorn in new concepts.  It's the kind of thing that made me really like running games in the Realms back in the old days.

Neverwinter Campaign Setting at Miniatures Market

I hope this is indicative of Realms products going forward.  I had very briefly thumbed through the Neverwinter Campaign Setting a few months ago, and what little I read made me think, "if I had to run a 4e Realms game, I would use this over the original Campaign Guide," but I chalked that up to being a bit of a fluke, perhaps because it was being tied to a computer RPG.  But after Elminster's Forgotten Realms came out, I started looking at the Menzoberranzan book that just came out, which is also edition neutral, and has notes on various eras of the city's history.

Menzoberranzan at Miniatures Market

This could be a good sign.  Especially if they go back to making the books look more the Elminster's Forgotten Realms and less like the huge white space impregnated Star Wars Sage/4th Edition layout scheme that lets them pad out about 33% of the book with formatting decisions.

Still, WOTC did a LOT to damage goodwill towards this setting.  I know the authors and freelancers want the best, but I don't blame anyone that wants to wait and see how the decision makers will actually influence the development of the setting going forward.  Until then, I'm going to go read the four paragraphs on Realmsian underwear.