Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Doom Patrol on DC Nation

This clip of the DC Nation Doom Patrol short looks pretty cool.

I think Doom Patrol would make a great cartoon feature or movie. They are a really interesting mix of characters and they a lesser known than some others which I think would be a bonus in bringing them to the screen.



Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Fall Premieres

I don't really consider myself a big "TV watcher," but man there seems to be a lot of things coming up that are going to see me sitting my bum in front of the TV. Here's what I look forward to watching ... how about you?

Sons of Anarchy - Season 6 - Tues, Sept 10
Legend of Korra - Season 2 -  Fri, Sept 13
How I Met Your Mother - Season 9 - Mon, Sept 23
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 1 - Tue, Sept 24
Arrow - Season 2 - Wed, Oct 9
Walking Dead - Season 4 - Sun, Oct 13
Lost Girl - Season 4 - Sun, Nov 10
Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special - Sat, Nov 23
Doctor Who Christmas Special 2013 - Wed, Dec 25

Not sure on the Christmas Special date. It usually broadcasts on or around Christmas, but I don't think an exact date has actually been announced.

Let me know what you're looking forward to this fall season.



Friday, August 23, 2013

Lost in the Temple

So ... I don't think the game that I thought that I remembered buying and playing way back when was Temple of Elemental Evil at all ... I think it was actually, "Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor" and that game sucked and is universally despised. And, I think that it's the game that I was thinking of when I stumbled onto ToEE.

So, ToEE is awesome ... but, bad news it was $3.59 when I bought it, and now it's $5.99 ... not sure why I got so lucky to catch it on sale by accident, but $6.00 still isn't sucky for a computer game.

And yes, I said, ToEE is awesome. It's tough. But, I think the designers know that players will use every advantage. And you will want to save often (and in multiple slots) so you can go back if you need to. It's tough but rewarding. The story hasn't really grabbed me at all, but it doesn't matter ... the magic of the game is in the 3.5 character progression and turn based combat.

I was lost in the Temple of Elemental Evil. I spoke to a guard who said he would take me inside, but that he had to blind fold me first. Like a bozo, I went for it. And I couldn't find my way out. I couldn't rest because of wandering encounters. But everyone was hurt and I kept fighting and running and trying to find my way, and the deeper I got and the more combats I won, the less I wanted to load a save of the game that was prior to my going in.

I managed to rest once. My characters just hit 6th level and I managed to rest. I had my druid heal everyone as much as she could ... it was a help ... but not much ... we were in bad shape. Then I walked right into it ... the biggest damned encounter I had found yet. A guard barracks filled to the gills with elite guards.

I was in a panic ... I was F'ing screwed ... then I remembered ... My sorceress had just learned (and managed that one rest) FIREBALL. Oh, my F'ing Lord that was a sweet battle. I fire-balled that room full of guards twice before my weary little troop of adventurers entered the melee, and let me tell you, when it was all over, that was a sweet victory.

I did manage to make it out, and my party is 7th level now. The game is tough ... but it's worth it ... even at the inflated price of $6.00 should you decide to check it out.



Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ambition and Avarice

Christmas, 1981. I am 16 years old. I have been playing Dungeons and Dragons since the school year began, but I don't own any of the books. Under the Christmas tree is the Red boxed Basic Rules by Moldvay. I remember vividly the feeling of opening that book for the first time. It was the only connection to this new found passion that I could call upon when not actually playing. I read and re-read those pages hundreds and hundreds of times.

If you are like me and you can remember that special magical feeling you got from reading your first RPG book, then you will know that it is no small amount of praise that I heap upon Ambition and Avarice 1st Edition by Greg Christopher, when I say, "It felt like reading Dungeons and Dragons again for the first time."

Ambition and Avarice is but one of many, many second-generation OSR RPG's produced in recent years. I use "second-generation" to refer to a game that draws as much inspiration from other OSR products as it does original Dungeons and Dragons, as well as a game that is not meant to be a clone of Dungeons and Dragons but rather something new that still feels familiar and reasonably old-school.

Ambition and Avarice scores high on all counts. It manages to feel like the Dungeons and Dragons that I grew up with and remember fondly from my youth, and yet it manages to do just about everything just a little bit differently. I find myself reading my favorite game again for the first time, and scouring over every page. It's not sufficient just to "browse" certain sections. Every word has value and every little change serves to make a better game.

This is the Dungeons and Dragons of my youth and yet it is nothing like the Dungeons and Dragons of my youth. The fact that Christopher can somehow solicit both reactions from my brain is testament to his skill as a game author. His text is comfortable and familiar but the content is evolved. This game is the perfect example of what the OSR should be doing. Blending the "old" and the "new" to produce something that is only the best of both.

I purchased both the color print and PDF copies of Ambition and Avarice from RPG Now and I would encourage anyone else to do the same. The use of color text throughout the book adds more to its presentation than I would have thought possible. The printed book is just beautiful.

The whole thing is just under 100 pages. This, for me is a boon. I tend to resist RPG books that are much bigger than this. For me, ultimately I want to "play" these games. And for the sake of play I believe in a concise presentation of information. Ambition and Avarice hits that "sweet spot" for me.

As I said, I found myself reading every word of this as if I were learning about RPG's again for the first time. The INTRODUCTION contains some of the best, most usable advice for both players and referees that I have read. The analogy to role-playing as "sport" rather than as a "game" was refreshing and useful. Christopher pretty much had me hooked from the first page.

CHARACTER CREATION begins with the expected six attributes, these can be generated a number of ways. The attributes themselves are well presented and everything is explained well. There are a few new things here. Under Constitution we are introduced to the "Rest Die" which is the die you roll to determine how many lost hit-points you are able to recover after a night's sleep. I also liked the explanations of language and literacy and their connection to the Intelligence attribute.

Next we have character RACES. The standards are here, and more. The way Race impacts your character and the way you play the game, much of this is new, and for me every change made perfect sense. Saving throws for example are based on Race, not Class. As is your character's Hit Die.

There are 10 Races total, 5 civilized and 5 barbaric. The referee can opt to limit a campaign to one Race subgroup or the other, or melt them all together. The variety of choices is something that OSR products of the past have often shied away from. Here, variety is abundant, without increasing complexity. The division of the Races reminds me of the "Hoard" versus "Alliance" division in World of Warcraft. I could see a group playing an Ambition and Avarice campaign set in the world of Azeroth quite easily.

There are also 10 CLASSES to choose from, 5 mundane and 5 magical. There is no limitation of Race / Class combination so 100 different possibilities exist. Magical classes can cast spells, Mundane classes cannot, but have a small number of "character points" to spend on DUNGEON THROWS. Each class has an "Expertise" a special task that defines your class, the ability to "Identify" some specific thing unique to each class, "Proficiencies" which define combat training, and "Companions" which specify a type of NPC follower that your class can acquire.

Dungeon Throws are like skills that are defined in the same way as Saving Throws are in other OSR systems. Everyone has the same set of six of these: climb, force, locks, notice, sneak and traps. But each of varying ability based on the character's class.

Spells are defined by level and use the old-school method of Vancian spellcasting, but interestingly the spells like the Dungeon Throws are not defined by class. Each magical class gives you a set of "starting spells" to choose from, just as the mundane classes give starting scores for Dungeon Throws, but beyond initial character creation, the selection of spells, or development of Dungeon Throws is left entirely to the player without restriction.

Proficiencies define the weapons you are skilled at using and anyone has the option to learn more by either spending character points or through play by using the weapon (and suffering the unskilled penalty) for a period of time in actual combat. Any armor can be worn by any class. There are no "armor proficiencies." But, armor can negatively effect Dungeon Throws, and cause spell failure.

The spell descriptions themselves are another highlight of the game. It seems like every spell is new and unique, yet familiar. Like everything about Ambition and Avarice, it felt like reading Dungeons and Dragons for the first time. Spells are different and new, but they feel familiar and right. Nothing here had me scratching my head or questioning the logic of the choice.

Armor class is ascending, so attacks are roll d20+ vs. AC. Other rolls work the same whether they are Saving Throws, or Dungeon Throws. Some Racial Abilities use an X in 6 roll, which works for me in making them distinct from the other types of throws. I found all of it very easy to grasp and comfortable. I wonder how much of this is my old-school background, and how someone who's first experience with Dungeons and Dragons was 4th edition might view the game.

There's some new rules on drugs and toxins here that I really liked. There are rules for creating and reskinning monsters, but no monster lists within the game. As an OSR compatible product, I don't see this as a problem. There are plenty of monster books available to steal ideas from and good advice here for keeping things fresh. Magic Items are also lacking here, but again I don't see this as a problem as numerous sources for these things already exist and these omissions have helped to keep the page count of the game down.

All in all, Ambition and Avarice may be the best OSR product I have bought. It combines diversity and simplicity with a Dungeons and Dragons "steak and potatoes" like flavor that's unmatched by any other RPG that I've read ... And, I can't stop reading it! It's made my old familiar game feel new again and I can't recommend it highly enough.



Friday, August 16, 2013

Temple of Elemental Evil

I could have sworn that I bought this game ... Temple of Elemental Evil.

It remains one of the only games to use the D&D 3.5 rules set. And if you like those rules (and I know that you do) the implementation was supposed to be pretty darn good.

Problem was the game was "buggy" as hell.

Interestingly, I decided to look into the game again ... (has to do with work I am trying to do for the game design project I am involved with right now.) And what did I find?

Apparently an aggressive modding community surrounding the game.

Never underestimate D&D fans with computer savvy.

Since it is in fact the only computer game implementation of the 3.5 rules (and as I said, according to what I have read, a very good one) D&D fans have decided that it's up to them to make the damn game work.

There are fan patches to fix almost all the bugs and in fact new content that takes the game from it's level 10 cap all the way up to level 20. I even saw a "Keep on the Borderlands" module patch.

The "modding" community is a crazy concept to me ... awesome.

Anyway, the game seems like it might be an entirely new experience if a person would care to give it a fresh look (10 years after it's initial release.)

And like I said ... I know that I bought this game ... but darned if I can't find it.

So, I looked and GoG (Good Old Games) has it on downloadable install for less than $4. Less than $4?  Less than coffee and a doughnut?  I just went ahead and bought it again ... what the heck.

So, just thought you might be interested to know ... I am playing Temple of Elemental Evil.

I will let you know if my second experience with the game is any better than my first.



Wednesday, August 14, 2013

DC Nation Wonder Woman Complete

So DC Comics released the full run of Wonder Woman shorts on You Tube. There is only the three, but the clips I shared earlier were incomplete and it was pretty obvious if you watched them back to back that there were holes. Well the "holes" have been plugged, and these complete "shorts" fit together nicely. Well worth a second look.

DC Nation - Wonder Woman - Part 1 (full)

DC Nation - Wonder Woman - Part 2 (full)

DC Nation - Wonder Woman - Part 3 (full)

Very excited about these. I feel like although DC comics have not shown too well in the live action arena, that it's animation work continues to be innovative and fun!



Friday, August 09, 2013

September ...

Keiko Tatsu - Sample Five by Five Charater

This is my friend Starbuck's write up for his character for an upcoming Five by Five campaign ...

Keiko Tatsu (means Shining Dragon)
Attack: Journeyman - Daisho (4)
Weapon: Katana and Wakisashi (10)
Armor: Light - Studded Leather riding jacket, gloves, helmet, boots (1)
Preferred Combat Style: Dual Wielding.
(Keiko uses a katana in her left hand and a Wakisashi in her right hand)

Expert Lead Guitar/Music (6)
Adept Resilient, resist (5)
Journeyman Daisho, Attack (4)
Apprentice Japanese sword making/metal smith  (3)
Novice Computers (2)
Trouble Speaking (Doubles) ... Keiko has Selective Mutism

Keiko was born in Japan to a traditional family. Her father is a grand master in Daisho and Japanese sword smithing.  At an early age Keiko lost her mother and her younger brother in a massive earthquake that she and her father barely survived. Since then she has been almost totally unable to speak a word.

In his grief and as a way to protect his last remaining daughter, her father migrated with her to the United States. There he continued his practice and began teaching his young daughter his trade. Keiko grew up isolated and persecuted in this strange land because of her affliction. Keiko is not naturally aggressive but often having to defend herself from bullies caused her to become fiercely independent and very resilient.

In the U.S. Keiko’s father was able to get her help in the form of therapy. Although it took many years for her to open up at all again, she finally began speaking in small amounts to her father. Later on she befriended a girl in her music class named Lacy and began speaking to her. However she still cannot talk to most others beyond the rare occasion where she has utters a single word or sometimes a growl if she is surprised, irritated or upset.

She just barely managed to make it through high school with one exception. She has an affinity for music and easily picks up new instruments and writes amazing songs. Since leaving school and with the help of her best friend Lacy, Keiko has formed, and become the lead guitarist, in a rock band she named in tribute to her ancestors called Dragonborne. Lacy, whom Keiko met in a music class, is lead singer. They play almost nightly and have a small but growing following, mostly because of Keiko’s amazing guitar talent.

By day she works for her father in a small knife shop he owns. She also trains with him in the art of Daisho (The Japanese art of two handed sword fighting) and is his apprentice in the art of Japanese sword making. Her father has been her greatest supporter but she knows he will not be around forever so she has also recently picked up some computer skills as a means to help her communicate better.

Keiko has just turned 20 and is heavily tattoo'ed with long shocking black hair and exotic green almond shaped eyes. Her rare eye color is the one remaining thing she has to remember her mother by, a gift of DNA from her Icelandic born parent. Keiko stands just over 5 feet tall, is 105 pounds, wears deep burgundy biker’s leathers and rides a Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 Motorcycle.


In searching for an image of a Japanese Schoolgirl with a guitar to top this post, I discovered the anime character Nakano Azusa ... Including some awesome COS Play pics.

Not sure what Starbuck had imagined, but I think she fits the above character descriptions nicely. Hmm... except the absence of tattoos ... she must have added those after high-school when she bought the motorcycle.



Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Peter Capaldi - The Doctor I've been hoping for?

So this news has been reported to death, but I wanted to blog about it anyway. Peter Capaldi was announced this weekend as the newest Doctor for Doctor Who. I'm afraid that I am not very familiar with Peter's body of work. I remember him from Fires of Pompeii and as Sid's dad in Skins. Despite my lack of exposure to the actor, I am pretty excited about the choice.

I had blogged previously about my hopes that the next Doctor might be played by an older actor. I believe that Peter fits that bill. He seems old enough to pull off the "older actor" requirement that I was hoping for, but young enough to keep up with the physical demands of the role.

I haven't gone back to watch Pompeii or Skins, but I don't remember the plot of Pompeii giving the actor a whole lot to work with. I do remember the character in Skins a bit better. A troubled man, struggling with his responsibilities as a father and ultimately not up to that challenge. The actor brought an incredible sense of vulnerability to that role. I hope that's part of the reason he was cast. I like the idea of a Doctor who is more vulnerable. I see a sort of Patrick Troughton like timidness.

This casting could do everything for Doctor Who that I was hoping for in my previous post, and I find myself looking to the future of what was for the majority of my youth my favorite TV show with "guarded optimism."


Jeff Moore

DC Nation - Tales of Metropolis - "Lois"

A cursory search of YouTube revealed no new Wonder Woman short this weekend, but I did find this:

Not as fun as the Bizarro short perhaps but still fun. I hope that the absence of WW this weekend doesn't mean that they are done with that series of shorts already.


Friday, August 02, 2013

Original D&D Premium Set

I hadn't seen news of this making the rounds ... maybe I've been sleeping ... but it looks really awesome!

I think it's fantastic that the popularity of the OSR has made WOC realize the value in making products like this one available. I am not sure that I will get it ... it would ultimately just be a display piece ... but it sure looks gorgeous.



Thursday, August 01, 2013

Narrating Combat in Five by Five

The Five by Five core rules, define the combat sequence as: 1) Players Roll to Interrupt,  2) Players take Interrupt Actions, 3) The GM takes Action for NPC characters, 4) The Players take Action for their characters, 5) Repeat as needed.

I wanted to take a moment to look at step 5. The exact wording is: "(5) If there are still combatants that wish to fight, return to segment 1." While that gets us where we need to go as a final step. I realize as I play Five by Five and move from "Player Actions," to "Rolling to Interrupt" that step 5 is severely lacking.

Step 5 should read more like this:

(5) GM narrates and either concludes (if combat is ending) or escalates the action. If the GM escalates the action he will call on the players to "Roll to Interrupt." ... return to segment 1.

Then I will want to add a new section header: Escalating Combat.

After all the players have taken action in segment 4 of the combat round, it's time to pause the action for a moment to recap the events and take stock of the situation.  
As GM go back over the actions in the round to help create a visual for the players of how their combinations of actions played out. Embellish the actions with graphic descriptions. It's much better to say, "Jon charged up on the Goblin screaming as he brought his sword down to split his skull open with a sickening 'krack'." then to say, "Jon hit the goblin." 
Paint the picture, and use this time to think about how the NPC's ... how the monsters that the PC's are battling, will react to what's happening. Monsters don't like being attacked or losing in a combat any more than the players do. Allow your monsters to get angry ... to rage against the players and retaliate. Segment 5 is your place to do this.  
Raise the stakes. Make things seem more dangerous (or maybe things actually do become more dangerous!) Remember, unless combat is ending, you are going to conclude this step by instructing your players to, "Roll to Interrupt." Give the players something to interrupt! ... give them a reason to worry ... a reason to leap into action Give yourself something to do in segment 3 by describing the impending threat in segment 5.

This is how segment 5 in the combat section should be described. I don't plan on making any drastic changes to the core rules document just now, but I will definitely include this information in my upcoming Five by Five Fantasy supplement.


Jeff Moore

Arrow vs. Flash

This news has been making the rounds this week. The Flash is slated to appear on an episode of Arrow (or more than one) and then spin-off into his own series. Google can find you some good articles or you can click HERE for the article from ScreenRant which is where I got my information.

I loved the first season of Arrow, and I didn't mind that one of the show's mantras was "no super powers" limiting their characters to people who might use technology or near superhuman training to emulate powers, but who were still always meant to be normal people. This was okay with me. Not awesome, but accepted.

The introduction of the Flash breaks the "no powers" rule and opens some doors which, I think is a good thing. Starting in a grounded universe where only "normal people" are "super" but then gradually adding super natural or super human aspects to that (while keeping even that as grounded as possible especially at this stage in the game) is a great way to go.

It feels like what Game of Thrones has done with magic. At first we are introduced to a gritty real world which was grounded firmly in it's own unique historical reality. You could believe the world could exist on earth. Then gradually they introduced magic and the rules began to change. And we get to see the "real world" people react to that. And it feels right. It feels real.

I am all for this type of evolution on Arrow and based on these quotes from Arrow producers Andrew Kreisberg and Geoff Johns it seems that is exactly the kind of direction they are going.

Kreisberg: When we first meet Barry Allen, he’s just a forensic scientist working for the police department. He’s just an ordinary man, when we meet him. As we always do on ‘Arrow’, we try to keep things as grounded and realistic as possible. That’s how the audience will be introduced to Barry and get to know him, before his life gets a little bit faster. 
Johns: We looked at it as Barry Allen. When he first appeared back in the ‘50s, he ushered in the Silver Age of DC superheroes. In the same way, he’s going to usher in some new and pretty insane concepts to the Arrow world, but in a very grounded way. 
Kreisberg: The important thing is that our characters, who people have really come to know and like, will react to the extraordinary changes to their world, hopefully in a very realistic way. These “powers” won’t be treated as commonplace, on the show. They will be extraordinary events and the world, and our characters in it, will react accordingly.

I am actually a tiny bit apprehensive about the spin off series. I worry that "too many" superheroes on TV might compete with each other for audience and weaken the ratings for all. We also have Joss Whedon's Agents of SHEILD coming in the fall.

All in all, I am very happy that Arrow is making this move. I was happy when Smallville allowed itself to become more "Superheroey" but I thought they waited far too long into the show's run to do that. Arrow seems to be pacing things just right, (Man, I loved it when Arrow and Huntress appeared in costume together ... give me more of that!) and who knows what Arrow might look like by the end if it manages to evolve it's universe for 10 seasons the way Smallville did.


Jeff Moore