Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Wolverine (Movie 2013)

I've been dying to see Pacific Rim but one of the few people I hang with and actually do things with was like, "No hoss, we gotta see the Wolverine. You know what I'm saying hoss? Screw them Go-Bot rejects fighting Rodan."

Since he was driving I allowed him to sway my decision and will hopefully get to see Pacific Rim tomorrow or soon as I suspect it, like the Lone Ranger, will be out of the theaters relatively soon. Too much competition this summer I'm afraid.

The short review? Action packed with a few twists and turns that shouldn't surprise anyone whose paying attention. Uses a few different bits of source material, throws it in the blender and comes out with a movie that's highly watchable. I saw it in digital 3-D and while I don't think it took anything away from the movie, I also don't think it added anything. It's not like you see the Wolverine clawing at your face or anything.

Below I'll be discussing some specific spoilers of the movie and how they may apply to different role playing games. If you want no spoilers, read no further.

1. Break the rules. In Dungeons and Dragons, magic items by level are generally a must. In super hero games, characters losing their powers and overcoming that disability is a standard ploy. In this instance, Wolverine loses the ability to heal. I'd say he's forced to rely on his other skill sets but that doesn't really happen. Much like Superman plowing through something that should kill him, Wolverine does the same here. It's not necessarily a bad thing but beware that some characters are NOT going to work around any disadvantages you place on them and may just launch themselves forward. Depending on how you run your game, that may be a death sentence in and of itself.

There are times though, when if the players have a great plan, you should allow it to blossom. For example, Death's Head in one of his older incarnations, in the graphic novel The Body In Question, is in a techno-magic zone that changes power source from technology to magic seemingly at random. Death's Head however has been rebuilt in the future from where he was originally created and his future technology is able to determine when the switch happens allowing him to get the drop on the bad guy at the best possible moment. Let the players win when they've earned it.

2. Multiple Factions. Depending on the setting, there may be multiple factions at work that actually work for each other. In the Wolverine, we have Wolverine essentially as a one man army. His love interest is the granddaughter in the Yashida family. Turns out the husband has arranged her marriage with a political faction but has also used that political faction to hire Yakuza to kill her because the patriarch of the family has left everything to the granddaughter. Throw in the grandfather having his own group of ninjas unrelated to the Yakuza and his own mutant enforcer and you have a nice variety of opposition for Wolverine to fight. This bit with multiple factions also allows the GM to throw a variety of villains at the characters as opposed to the Ninja of the Week.

3. The Unexpected. Related to #1 the Unexpected is something that shouldn't happen. Marvel tends to showcase how 'serious' things are by breaking Captain America's shield. It's a trick they don't use too often so it still has some impact. You know when the shield is broken, or Thor's hammer is broken, that Marvel is going, "This is dangerous! For reals!" and trying to showcase the level of danger the characters are in.  In the movie, for me at least, the unexpected moment happens when Wolverine has his claws actually cut off. It's a bit of a power drain but not quite in the same league as the metal claws at least, were artificial to the character.

4. Character motivation. Wolverine's initial character motivation is initially to mope. Thankfully once he gets into mission mode that tends to fade until at the end Wolverine is... while I don't want to say back to his old butt kicking self, he is at least back in the game and is more appreciative of what he has.  What motivates the characters? If they're motivated by protecting the weak, give them someone to protect. If they're motivated by righting wrongs, give them some wrongs to right.

5. Visual Inspiration. I've mentioned before that the environment should play some type of role in the game. There's a great fight sequence here where Wolverine is fighting atop a bullet train using his claws to anchor himself to the train and jumping up to avoid various obsticles and then trying to anchor himself again. When you can have the characters fighting on a moving space ship, dueling on a submerging submarine or on the back or some monstrous creature, you're doing it right. In a similar manner, the Silver Samurai of the movie is a great visual for say a Silver Golem. Way back in the day, Palladium Games made 'Grypon Claws', gloves that became invisible and let you pop claws out.  I can't remember if the claws were indestructible or not but probably. I think they did like 2d6 or something. Sound familiar? Get that and a ring of regeneration and well, there you go eh?

Imagine a game taking it's cue from the Eternal Champion. One of the characters has "the sword" and knows that they are doomed. An old ally actually takes that doom and the sword away from them but turns out the character needs the sword.

Or go "before" the movie. The characters are hired to retrieve large amounts of adamant and mithril with no questions asked. What will their mysterious employer do with all of these rare metals? Why has the cambion alchemists been seen working with him?

The Wolverine has a lot of things to consider for your own games and a lot of those bits may fit into different genres.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Answering the Troll

When I start seeing some of the blogs I follow all start answering some specific questions, I figure it's time to tune in.

(1). Race (Elf, Dwarf, Halfling) as a class? Yes or no? No.

(2). Do demi-humans have souls? Yes and they're delicious.

(3). Ascending or descending armor class? Ascending.

(4). Demi-human level limits? No.

(5). Should thief be a class? Yes.

(6). Do characters get non-weapon skills? Yes.

(7). Are magic-users more powerful than fighters (and, if yes, what level do they take the lead)? Trick Question.

(8). Do you use alignment languages? Depends.

(9). XP for gold, or XP for objectives (thieves disarming traps, etc...)? Objectives.

(10). Which is the best edition; ODD, Holmes, Moldvay, Mentzer, Rules Cyclopedia, 1E ADD, 2E ADD, 3E ADD, 4E ADD, Next ? Whichever one you and your amigos get the most mileage out of.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Four (Movie)

Based on the recommendation of +Gareth Skarka , I fired up the old Netflix to watch The Four. In short, if you enjoy Wuxia style films and always wondered what it would be like if the X-Men were in Ancient China, this movie is right up your alley. Indeed, there are elements of the plot that could easily be filed off and run as a whole adventure.

I'll be discussing some specifics below so if you'd rather avoid spoilers, read no further.

1. Source Material: When I did a quick search for the Four after watching the movie, I found manga but didn't see the novels. In addition, there is a television show. One piece of source material may lead to many different interpretations. Unless you're doing something strictly by one portion or interpretation steal as much as you can.

2. Mixing Genres: While I'm only half way kidding when I speak of X-Men in Ancient China, the main characters are essentially super heroes in terms of their powers. What if they were in the Wild West though or Victorian England? In such cases, how do you adjust the setting to account not only for the existence of such individuals, but their role in society? One of the things I enjoyed about The Four is that there isn't a lot of time spent on why and how of each person's special abilities. It's almost a "gimmie" in that "This person is trained and has mastery of X and is therefore quite powerful."

3. Main Foes Becoming Minions: I've mentioned this before, and some games like Mutants and Masterminds allow you to do so but having a foe that is almost unstoppable and then shows up in large numbers? Well, looking at the X-Men, we see that happen with things like the Sentinels all the time. Here it's a special type of zombie that can really only be stopped by a powerful blow to the skull. If your game system has rules to simulate the different stats for monsters you can make a creature into a minion just by changing it's type. Otherwise provide it a huge damage penalty to it's 'soft spot'.

4. Legal Immunity: There are two organizations here that seek to discover the villain in the show. While the rivalry does have it's potential problems, the political levels involved showcase how difficult it can be to take down someone whose in a favored position. This is probably more true in today's modern society with catch phrases such as "Too big to Jail" and "Too big to fail" tossed around. Think about it. Billions of dollars gone from the economy in a heartbeat and no one goes to jail for it? Think about how slow things move in terms of corruption cases as corporations go back and forth and laws themselves are changed around it. Depending on the nature of the game, you can tweak the players a bit by having their opponent so high up the food chain that unless all of their is are dotted and their ts crossed, or their can force their opponent into doing something  clearly illegal, that their efforts will require a lot of preplanning.

5. Rivals. There are several rivalries that move throughout the story. One is of the love interest and another on the group level. The interesting thing here, is the writer's didn't go for making one group bad and this makes it more difficult to have any permanent resolution in terms of just pulling the swords out and finishing off the other group. When two people are trying to do the same job, it can create extra levels of stress, especially if the rewards for success or failure, are high.

6. Subterfuge. While rivals are seeking to outdo each other and high placed merchants have their way, there are also double agents involved. While one of these double agents is essentially known from the start, there are others who are not. Having motivations that are below the surface for characters below your games can provide another layer of game play as the players seek to understand who is with them and who is against them. Depending on the ruthlessness of the opposition, their enemies may be willing to sacrifice those spies they have in order to show the surviving spies are 'really' on the character's side.

7. Multiple Motivations. In the original Star Wars trilogy, Darth Vader's ultimate motivations or drives aren't fully known until push comes to shove and instead of ruling the galaxy by the Emperor's side, he decides to essentially kill himself and save his son. His motivation to rule the galaxy, to serve, and to have his son at his side were all in conflict. Using a flow chart, you can map out several motivations for the non-player characters and draw their personal conflict into the game in such a fashion. In Dragonball Z, Piccolo is out to destroy Goku but when they discover there are bigger fish to fry, put aside their hostilities towards one another. During that time, while Piccolo and Goku don't necessarily become best friends, Piccolo's loyalty to Goku's son, Gohan does, which provides Piccolo a different set of motivations then he had previously. Character growth occurs when multiple desires come into conflict with one another.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What is going on with D&D Next?

This is just me wondering aloud what is happening over at WoTC.

Monte was on D&D Next for like, what? Five minutes or something?

And now Bruce Cordell, a man whose been at the company for almost 20 years and produced some of my favorites books, both in WoTC official products and out of them, is out? Of his own will mind you, just as Monte was.

But what does this say about the 'staying' power of D&D Next? Who are the 'stars' left in it? I know that a lot of the former ones are doing their own thing, some on Kickstarters. I know a lot of the Novelist are doing work for Paizo, including Ed Greenwood and others.

Honestly, I don't do the role playing thing that much anymore. The guys I normally hang with do to so have shuffled from Pathfinder in the Shackled City to Vampire Rome to Earthdawn and while I was in the first, I dropped for the later in order to work on my Privateer Press miniatures so I can actually get some Warmachine games in.

I know there's always a lot of talk about the game in terms of what people are seeing and hearing and well, it's the internet. It's all noise to me. I

So whose still working on D&D Next?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Late Kickstarters: July Edition

Usually I hit the lateness before the start of the month but I was lazy.

So let's see what's what thus far eh?

Project Name Estimated Delivery Time Date Late Days Late Months
1650s Rulebook 9/1/2012 7/6/2013 -308 -10
28mm Demons & Devils 3/1/2012 7/6/2013 -492 -16
A Gallery of Rogues 6/1/2013 7/6/2013 -35 -1
Assimilation Alien Host 5/1/2013 7/6/2013 -66 -2
Dwimmermount 8/1/2012 7/6/2013 -339 -11
Imbrian Arts Miniatures 3/1/2013 7/6/2013 -127 -4
Midgard Tales 12/1/2012 7/6/2013 -217 -7
Reaper Miniatures 3/1/2013 7/6/2013 -127 -4
Relic Knights 5/1/2013 7/6/2013 -66 -2
Steampunk Musha 10/1/2012 7/6/2013 -278 -9
Tectonic Craft Studios 6/1/2012 7/6/2013 -400 -13

Some of these are on the way to other people: 1650s Rulebook, Imbrian Arts Miniatures, and Reaper Miniatures.

Some of these are essentially done and in final prep stages: Midgard Tales, Tectonic Craft Studios.

Some of these well, let's see where they wind up: Assimilation Alien Host, Dwimmermount, Relic Knights, and Steampunk Musha.

And I still haven't fully learned my lesson yet because I keep backing.

Then again, Jim Pinto's Toolcards came on time if not early. Wicked Fantasy appears to be well on time. I'm not one of those sitting around going, "Well, it's a Kickstarter. I have no expecations." Rather, I'm going, "Hmmm... this guy isn't updating his KS. He's updating his Facebook account. He's making other stuff. I'm not supporting him in the future."

I once mentioned on good old G+ the "Know What It Takes to Sell Real Estate" quote from that famous movie. Some think it a bit crude but... if you fail to deliver and you fail to update your backers, you are essentially committing hari kari on your RPG career. Anyone remember the original drama of Razor Coast? Ncolas was off the grid for a long time and I still believe if it wasn't for the whole anniversary of the original Pathfinder Adventure Path, may very well still be there. In the KS, we've seen it hit a few times now for a few different people.

It's the difference between Fate, which was a few months late, and Steampunk Musha which is going on many months late but has had terrible updates.

These things can also have effects that go beyond the person who failed. For example, Monte Cook recommending an Infinite Dungeon style adventure that failed. Does that give Monte a good reputation or a bad one or does it put Monte in the position of NEVER recommending a Kick Starter again?

I'm also going to recommend, again, that when you do your updates, save the negative drama. How's this comment from the creator, not in the update section, but in the comments: "I've been sick all week and haven't had the energy to open Indesign, but will be getting that pdf up as soon as I shake this miserable cold." and then no update for a month.

So you could log on, put that comment up, but not open InDesign? Not open any update for a month? Yeah that's real professional man.

Don't get me wrong. The person may have had real life issues. May have been very sick. He's not doing himself any favors by posting that and then posting nothing for a month while at the same time selling other material and promoting it on Facebook. Sorry. It's not helping.

When thinking, "Man, I have NOTHING to update on..." think again. One of the 'defenses' I keep seeing for late Kick Starters is that you're not backing or preordering a product, you're funding 'the process'.

If that's the case, show me the process. Don't give me some lame ass update that you've got the flu and explosive crap and you can only update from Twitter. Provide some "Appendix N" style reading material to the people who backed your project. Talk about other games or ideas you've had in the vein. Go back to the well in terms of what made you want to do this project. Talk about unofficial miniatures that would make good use in the game. Talk about movies that inspired you. Do not fail to provide updates for months because you can't figure out what to update because you're in grid lock waiting for someone else to provide the material. Failure to update is failure.

How about some video of you playtesting the material with your friends? How about some mock cover ups? How about some links to the artists you've got working on the project? Do something useful that engages the audience and provides them with more information on your project.

Just in case you Kick Starter managers didn't know it, it's the era of instant communication and good communication with the people who funded your project is the quickest way, even when you're behind, to make sure that you're building that community for future projects as opposed to passing the torch and the buck off to someone else in the hopes that they'll soon forget your style.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Magic the Gathering Nemesis: Masquerade Cycle Book II by Paul B. Thompson

Another quick read from the Half-Price dollar spinner rack.

I'll be jumping into spoilers right away. If you're looking for just an overall yeah or nay, I'd say yea. It's usually a fun read when you get to see what the villains are up to and the heroes aren't the 'main strays' of the series.

Anyway, the book is indeed about villains and fallen heroes. Two of the main villains, Ertai, and Crovax, were former heroes aboard the Weatherlight. Two of the others, Greven, and Volrath should be better known as villains since they've been around for a while. The new piece to the game Belbe, is added. This provides a nice range of characters who for the most part, have their own methods and abilities, but are eager to see who the new champion of the machine made plane of Rath will be.

In a role playing game, it can often times be difficult to play as the villains if its a standard game. In a setting like this though, where all of the characters and enemies are villains, it makes it a little easier. No matter which side you turn on, they probably deserve it. It can act as a guide to running a quick mini-campaign of sorts that sets up the background events.

This can allow players the change to see how the other side lives and works and while it can be hard to keep the meta knowledge out of their hands, it can also be fun if they know what a struggle they've have in the upcoming events.