Thursday, October 29, 2009

Crowning Moment of Awesome

So, I've been running my Rifts-like RPG - the second session was this past weekend. Having acquired their giant mysterious robot suits, the players were in for a VR training session. The cockpits of the robots were re-wired for simulations and we kicked things off.

The 'training session' adventure served the dual purpose of helping me and the players get used to the mecha rules, too.

The first scenario - a black and white battle against Godzilla - went off as planned, but unbeknowst to the players/characters, the second VR scenario was pre-empted by something like a shared hallucination of as-of-yet undetermined origin. They found themselves in an Earthlike but unfamiliar landscape, battling large bio-robotic alien things.

Now, these things were Power Level 17, and the mecha they were piloting were calibrated around PL 15. So the first one they took out was a little tough. Then they tried taking on two at once. It was a good fight for a while, but Eric's mecha took a damaging hit that forced him to make piloting checks to keep the thing moving, and then Veronica's took a disabling hit. Both creatures were still active, though both had some injuries and one was pretty badly off.

Eric got his crowning moment of awesome, though. He makes a piloting check, attacks the least damaged alien thing using Power Attack, and manages to get a critical hit - the creature fails its toughness save by enough to go down. Then the badly damaged remaining alien attacks, disabling Eric's mecha.

At this point in the narrative, I should take a moment to describe Eric's character.

Eric's character is loosely based on Apollo from the Star Trek episode 'Who Mourns for Adonais' and Goku from Dragonball Z. On his homeworld, the character was a powerful champion who ruled over vast numbers of 'ordinary' folk. His abilities were diminished when he came to Earth (since I have them at Power Level 8) but he is the kind of guy who used to wrestle dragons for a living.

So, instead of letting what they thought was a simulation end, Eric's character pops the hatch on his mecha (which would not have worked had they still actually been in a simulation) and gets out, engaging the PL 17 ginormous alien in hand to hand combat.

And wins.

The thing was on it's last legs, so the penalties to its toughness save actually made it a relatively even chance for him, but it was still surprising when it blew its toughness save and dropped into unconsciousness. With power attack, he had just enough damage to overcome the impervious rating on the creature's toughness.

Very cool little session.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

New Comics Day

Biiig week!

  • Invincible Presents : Atom Eve and Rex Splode #1
  • Guardians of the Galaxy #19
  • Fantastic Four #572
  • Incredible Hercules #137
  • Jack of Fables #37, #39
  • Madame Xanadu #16
  • The Web #2
  • Gotham City Sirens #5
  • The Last Days of Animal Man #6
  • World's Finest #1
  • Detective Comics #858
  • Teen Titans #76
  • Superman #693
  • Batman #692
  • Wonder Woman #37
  • Superman : Secret Origins #2
  • Justice Society of America #32
  • Ambush Bug #7
  • Blackest Night : Titans #3
  • Green Lantern #47
  • Blackest Night #4

Whew. Still reading..

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Chopping Block

I rarely cut titles from my pull list. Once I get started on a series, I find it very difficult to convince myself to drop it - it's the completist in me.

That said, with as many titles as I collect, there will be occasional drops. Today, I'm going to discuss the two most recent.

Vigilante - Holy 1980's, Batman! Marv Wolfman returns to the character he made.. readable.

Okay, maybe that's not fair. The 80's incarnation of the Vigilante was, essentially the Punisher - if Frank Castle were sane enough to contemplate the awfulness of his actions. It's a niche that was worthy of exploration. The 50 issue run of that version of the character culminated with the Vigilante committing suicide - which, again, is novel.

So, I guess DC was either A.) envious of the success Marvel has with the Punisher or B.) really struggling to find something for Marv Wolfman to do, because they decided to reintroduce the character. The person behind the mask is the brother of the 80's Vigilante, taking up his sibling's crusade against crime. Trouble is, there's no more of that nuance left. Dorian (the new guy) gets a few self-analyzing voiceovers every issue, but he's not really grappling with the problems of vigilantism so much as simply acknowledging them.

The emotional crux of the main character and the main appeal to the series seems to be nostalgia : "Remember that other Vigilante? This guy's not as interesting as him, but will think about him - a lot." I dropped the title after it finished the little crossover with the two Teen Titan titles.

House of Mystery - I just dropped this one this week. I may end up with another issue or two as the comic shop has likely ordered the next month or two worth, but I'm done. I badly wanted this title to be a new Sandman, and it just isn't. It started out promisingly enough as a kind of horror/fantasy/science fiction anthology title, with an interdimensional bar as a kind of framing sequence. Relatively entertaining.

Then, the series started to change - focusing more on the POV character and her strange imprisonment in the bar / house, and we get more of her backstory, and it's all interesting, but not especially entertaining, anymore. I almost dropped this series a few months back, but then they revealed that the titular House was, in fact, Cain's House of Mystery. And he's been looking for it. And he's pissed. So that renewed my flagging enthusiasm for a while, but I think it's time to let this one go.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New Comics Day

And here's this week's!

  • Invincible #67
  • Ex Machina #46
  • Final Crisis Aftermath : Dance #6
  • Azrael #1
  • Superman/Batman #65
  • Outsiders #23
  • JSA vs. Kobra #4 (missed it previously)
  • Brave and the Bold #28
  • Supergirl #46
  • Batman : Streets of Gotham #5
  • Power Girl #6
  • DC Universe Halloween Special 2009 #1
  • Justice League of America #38
  • Blackest Night : Superman #3

Supergirl just keeps growing on me..

Sunday, October 18, 2009

New Comics Day (Belated)

I was out of town, and then I've been sick. So, a belated list from last week!

  • House of Mystery Halloween Annual #1
  • PS 238 #41
  • Fables #89
  • Incredible Hercules #136
  • Liberty Comics #2
  • Final Crisis Aftermath : Escape #6
  • The Shield #2
  • R.E.B.E.L.S. #9
  • Titans #18
  • Green Arrow / Black Canary #25
  • Red Robin #5
  • Batgirl #3
  • Detective Comics Annual #11
  • Batman #691
  • JSA vs. Kobra #5
  • Action Comics #882
  • Secret Six #14
  • Booster Gold #25
  • Adventure Comics #3
  • Blackest Night : Batman #3
  • Green Lantern Corps #41

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

New Comics Day

New stuff this week! Next week, I'll be picking them up later because of my vacation.

  • House of Mystery #18
  • Absolution #2
  • Angel #26
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer #29
  • The Incredibles #1
  • Irredeemable #7
  • X-Babies #1
  • Planetary #27
  • Strange Adventures #8
  • REBELS Annual #1
  • Magog #2
  • Red Tornado #2
  • Justice League : Cry for Justice #4
  • Batman Annual #27
  • Doom Patrol #3
  • Superman : World of New Krypton #8
  • Batman and Robin #5

Pretty big week. The REBELS annual was actually more interesting than I expected.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

4th Edition : History and Multiclassing

First, a bit of background. I started with roleplaying games in the late 80's. My first forays into the hobby were the Marvel Super Heroes game by TSR and Mayfair's DC Heroes. I quickly expanded beyond that, with the oversized Basic Dungeons and Dragons box sets and then the D&D Rules Cyclopedia, and then Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, 2nd Edition.

I was pretty content with AD&D. I logged a ridiculous number of hours playing it with my friends - running adventures, building my own worlds. There were quirks to the system - a dozen different things would each have a completely different mechanic. Multi-classing and dual-classing were just bizarre. But the game had a good overall feel. I wasn't sure anything could be better.

When 3rd Edition was announced, I was extremely skeptical - D&D had only recently changed hands from TSR to relative upstart Wizards of the Coast. The internet was abuzz with speculation that D&D would become 'Magic the Gathering : The RPG'. I am a cautious sort, but I like to give things a chance - actually read the final printed editions of the books myself, that sort of thing.

And I loved it. All the same feel and flavor was there, but the system was unified. The contradictions removed. Instead, what I had was a versatile toolbox for building exactly whatever kind of characters I could envision. I was a big fan of 3rd Edition. Later, the so-called 3.5 revision felt like to small a change to justify the new core rulebook release, but I could see that the changes were necessary.

So then 4th Edition was announced about six months after it was said there were 'no plans for starting a new edition until next year at the earliest.' Hrm. Off to a bad start, but I was willing to give it the same chance I'd given 3rd. I'd buy the books, and check them out. So, I did.

Needless to say, I've got a lot of issues with 4th Edition. Whereas the negative buzz that circulated around 3rd Edition was wholly unjustified, with 4th, I found that the criticisms were fairly spot-on. Now, I'd like to offer my thoughts on 4th Edition, somewhat belatedly. (Hey, I didn't have a fulltime nerd-blog then - cut me some slack!)

I'll cut right to the most damning flaw of 4th Edition in my mind - multiclassing. To wit, the absence thereof. 3rd Edition had blown the doors of what was possible by allowing one to pick and choose different classes at different levels, resulting in a virtually infinite number of possibilities. With 4th Edition, you were stuck in your cookie-cutter mold from birth - you could dip your toe into the powers of a single alternate class, but never undertake any serious combination. To make matters worse, the base classes all have a very similar feel. There's no escaping the sense of sameness that pervades the system.

Here's a fun little math fact for you. The 3rd Edition Player's Handbook has 11 Base Classes. Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorceror, and Wizard. The number of distinct second-level characters you can generate (ignoring races and feats) is 66. Granted, 5 of those are forbidden by alignment restrictions (Bard and Barbarian don't go with Monk or Paladin; Paladins and Druids don't mix) - but that's 61 distinct characters out of the basic book. In 4th, you can't even look at multi-classing until the mid-levels, so the number of distinct 2nd level characters is the same as the number of distinct 1st level characters - eight.

Oh, sure, there are additional base classes becoming available with additional book purchases - and cynically, I think that's the motive. D&D 3E was a modular thing of beauty - you only need one core book to play whatever kind of fantasy character you want. D&D 4E straitjackets the characters so that if you want to play the rogue/warrior or the wizard/rogue or the warrior/wizard, you'll buy the new sourcebook containing a whole new base class that synthesizes the two.

When it comes to the flexbility to make distinct characters - both as a player and someone who enjoys worldbuilding for running campaigns - 4E is useless, and 3E is the platonic ideal.

Friday, October 2, 2009

4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons - Prelude

I've been puttering around the blogosphere, and I've been able to find several folks who have opined at length regarding just what 4th Edition is missing that sets some gamers' teeth on edge, including mine.

Is D&D 4e Really Role-Playing?
Losing My 4ginity
Dissociated Mechanics
What's Wrong With MMOs? D&D 4e Has Answers
My Stance on D&D 4th Edition
Why Complain About 4e? Stop The Edition Wars!

I'll get into my observations and thoughts soon, in another post.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

New Comics Day

I was just too busy to get this up yesterday.

  • Jack of Fables #38
  • The Last Days of Animal Man #5
  • Gotham City Sirens #4
  • Teen Titans #75
  • Superman #692
  • Wonder Woman #36
  • Justice Society of America #31
  • Justice League of America 80 Page Giant #1
  • Blackest Night : Titans #2
  • Green Lantern #46
  • Bomb Queen Vol 6 #1
  • Tarot #58
  • Knights of the Dinner Table #154

Surprise of the week - the cameos in Superman #692. Not the extra Legionnaire, but the robots stored at Project 7734. Was that Gernsback?