Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas, Everybody!

Whatever your destination might be, have a holly jolly one.
And many happy returns!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Friday, September 20, 2013

And now... Mariachi Beluga

I dunno... I appreciate the spontaneous appearance of mariachi bands in random contexts as much as any mammal, but this whale seems more like he's nodding politely than enjoying the show.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Saturday, August 17, 2013

And now... A wiggly pup.

Can't help but grin while I watch this vid. This little guy's got a lot more energy than I'll ever have.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

And now... An arabic alligator singing acapella.

(It's apparently the channel owner's 1 Million hits celebration video, but dag if'n that 'gator can't belt out a tune.)

Saturday, August 3, 2013

And now... A word of encouragement from our friends in Japan.

Well said, fella. Now go get yourself some hot cocoa or something.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Dodecahedrons of Detective Work

Just the facts...

    Running games where the focus is investigation are tricky, or at least they have been in the past for yours truly. They require a lot of planning, and sometimes your players just don't catch the clues. Plus they have to sit there and listen to you describe every detail to hear those clues in the first place, which is more like being read to from a book than playing a game.

    Pondering the problem, I hit on what might be a different approach to the issue. Using Jeff Rient's infamous carousing rules as the germ of an idea, I put together some tables to serve as sort of a framework for either coming up with investigative adventures or running them on the fly. I'm attempting to make these system neutral, so anybody who might want to use them can flesh them out with their specific game of choice.

    Now to be clear, the sort of investigation I'm talking about is field work. Canvassing neighborhoods, searching wilderness areas, patrolling a planet's surface in your scout ship. The Lovecraftian method of "Quickly! To the library!" is peripheral to this kind of search at best, beyond the assumption in modern crime contexts of searching a suspect or victim's belongings for a paper trail.

    The general method of using these tables is based on two factors. Time spent searching or investigating, and the detection skills of the individuals doing the investigation.

    Time is divided into four hour chunks spent searching a given area, be that a house, a neighborhood, a street, or a hex of wilderness. This allows the GM to track for story related events and exert some pressure (find the bomb in 4 hours or the whole installation's gonna blow, find the kidnap victim before the kidnapper's deadline, etc.) and also, if they're so inclined, the GM can add fatigue factors if investigators are spending whole days and nights in a row searching.

    As for detecting ability, if the system you happen to be using has an Investigation or Search type skill, use that. Streetwise or Wilderness Survival and their like are good too for specific environments. Otherwise, I'd suggest averaging a character's intellectual attributes, be it wisdom, intelligence, perception, smarts, or what have you and rolling an attribute check based on that.

    The basic method is to roll a check for each 4 hours search. If the check suceeds, roll on the Success table, if it fails, roll on the Complications table. The character group can split up, each rolling their own checks, or they can work as a team, rolling a single check with bonuses as deemed appropriate by the GM for recieving help. A successful group effor allows a roll on the Success table for each member of the group, but the group only suffers one Complication if they fail the check.
    GM's may use these tables either proactively or reactively. On a basic level they might look at the different results and plan out assorted clues and encounters based on the tale they wish to tell and their campaign world/genre, and have them ready to slot in when they come up. Or they could use the tables to manufacture an adventure with the "exquisite corpse" method, letting the dice assist them in planning their mystery. Or they could improvise what the results mean on the spot. It all depends on how you roll.

    Happy hunting, gumshoes!

Just one more question... What's a dodecahedron?

Investigative Complications: Roll 1d12

01: Complete waste of time
02: Get lost
03: Trapped/Stuck
04: Property Damage
05: Trespassing
06: Wild Goose Chase
07: Caught in the middle
08: Tempting Distraction
09: Unrelated Evidence
10: Implicated in Unrelated Event
11: Implicated in Investigation
12: Trail/Evidence destroyed

01: Complete waste of time:
     That's 4 hours and however many layers of shoe leather, horseshoe wear, or vehicle fuel you're not getting back.

02: Get lost:
    Roll a second check to find way back to HQ or lose another 1d4 hours. 1 in 6 chance roll on Run Ins Table
    EXAMPLES: "Boy, all the streets in this neighborhood start to blend together, don't they?", "Forsooth, all these glens in the misty wood bear a marked resemblance.", "Zarking fardwarks. All these asteroids are starting to look alike."

03: Trapped/Stuck:
    Investigators are stuck in one location unless they can contact friends or allies for a rescue. If they can't, roll on Run Ins table every 4 hours.
    EXAMPLES: You accidentally lock yourself in the building you were searching. Your jeep gets bogged down in a mudhole in the middle of the Everglades. Etc.

04: Property Damage:
     While investigating you break something in a way that may come back to haunt you if you choose not to acknowledge what you did and make restitution. Roll 1 in 6 chance each subsequent day that someone on the Run Ins table takes notice. When rolling, ignore wildlife, security measure, or mugger results.
    EXAMPLES: You trample someone's flowerbeds while searching a suburban neighborhood. You prang your speeder on someone's moisture harvester while searching the desert at the colony's perimeter. Etc.

05: Trespassing:
    Whether you willfully ignored the signs or didn't notice them, you are someplace you shouldn't be and you must roll on the Run Ins table.

06: Wild Goose Chase:
    Come across a false lead that causes you to waste 1d8 hours chasing it down. Roll on the Success table to determine its nature. Roll another investigation check as appropriate to system or spend another 1d8 hours. Repeat as long as the dice don't bounce your way.
    EXAMPLES: The missing cow had been mistagged and was grazing happily on the north pasture, not abducted by aliens. You find the dreaded bandit cheif's hideout and it's a burnt out shell and picked bones from an orc raid. The distress signal was really coming from a shorted out diode in your navitron. Etc.

07: Caught in the middle:
    Roll twice on the Run Ins table. Results are in conflict with one another when you turn up. What do you do?
    EXAMPLES: Local is being assaulted by Mugger. Criminal Element is rolled twice, you've just stumbled into a gang war. Wildlife and Security system, you find a wolf caught in a bear trap. Etc.

08: Tempting Distraction:
    Encounter something that could cause you to blow 1d4 hours of investigating time on frivolous pursuits. It's strongly suggested that the GM offer some kind of irrisistable lure, like an exp. reward a'la the Carousing Rules, or something pursuant to their general goals, like treasure for the taking or the chance to aquire knowledge or skills, to make it hard for players to say no.
    EXAMPLES: $5 Dollar shooters at that strip club across the street. You come across a beautiful, pristine fishin' hole while searching the national park. "My goodness! A greater crested crimson podsucker! The Imperial Xenobiological Society would pay top credits for a live specimen!" etc.

09: Unrelated Evidence:
    You find evidence or information of an unrelated affair. Roll on the Success table to determine its nature. Properly reporting it to the authorities is gonna cost you 1d4 hours. Not properly reporting it could get you in trouble with said authorities. 1 in 4 chance the GM rolls on the Run Ins table and the result spots you around this evidence.
    EXAMPLES: You don't find where the killer stashed the murder weapon, but you do find evidence that a bike was stolen out front. Your search of the deceased's records doesn't turn up a motive, but a wanted fugitive is visible in the background of a recent photo taken at the club. Etc.

10: Implicated in Unrelated Event:
    Witnesses spot you at location where something unrelated to your investigation is going on. Roll on Run Ins table for witnesses, ignoring wildlife and muggers.
    EXAMPLES: You're poking around the body of a mugging victim, just as the cops arrive. A car matching your car was involved in a robbery across town. Etc.

11: Implicated in Investigation:
    Your actions during your search raise some suspicion as to whether you're more involved with the object of you inquiry than you'd be comfortable with. Roll on Run Ins for the source of this suspicion, ignoring wildlife, security measures, and muggers.
    EXAMPLES: You seem to turn up pretty quickly after the masked villain makes his exit, as far as the cops are concerned. The only footprints at the crime scene are size ten boots, and guess what you happen to wear as well. Etc.

12: Trail/Evidence destroyed:
    Through some sort of terrible blunder, a useful lead is eradicated. If you are investigating under the direction of some higher authority you will spend 1d4 hours filling out reports and getting called on the carpet for it. 
    EXAMPLES: You accidentally roll over some vital footprints in your ATV. You leave a window open and the wind blows away some suspicious wood shavings. Etc.

Run Ins - Roll 1d12
01: Wildlife
02: Security Measure
03: Guards
04: Stranger
05: Local
06: Authorities
07: Muggers
08: Criminal Element
09: Rival Investigators
10: Noble
11: Adversaries
12: Crazy Person

01: Wildlife:
    Roll on encounter table and play out encounter. Creatures encountered are non-sentient and will fight/flee as their instincts dictate. They are incapable of giving testimony.
    EXAMPLES: A pack of stray dogs in an urban setting. A grizzly bear in the wilderness. A brain wiped wire junkie in a gritty cyberpunk setting, A cleaning robot that doesn't care if it picks up trash bags or unconscious investigators in a futuristic setting.

02: Security Measure:
    This creature or device was placed to protect a given area, like a guard dog or a burglar alarm. If you fight them or remain in the area the authorities will arrive in 1d20 minutes with some strongly worded questions for you. If you vacate the area the passive security will not identify you as the interloper.
    EXAMPLES: A guard dog in a junkyard. A robotic gun turret in a futuristic military installation. A motion sensor in an office complex. Etc.

03: Guards:
    One or more individuals employed to guard an area will spot you. They will follow you to observe your actions, and will confront or attempt to detain you as appropriate. If violently resisted or evaded, they will contact authorities with your description, leading to complications down the line.
    EXAMPLES: Rent-a-cops. Groundskeepers. Yeoman warders. Etc. 

04: Stranger:
    A random bypasser spots you snooping around and becomes suspicious. There's a 10% chance they will follow you to see what you're up to, and a 10% chance beyond that that they will confront you. Roll reaction check appropriate to system. If friendly, they may have some small bit of info. If hostile, they will leave and contact the authorities (50%) local residents (40%) or local criminal element (10%)
    EXAMPLES: Vacationing hikers in a national park. Random foot traffic in an urban location. Itinerant traders on the king's highway. Etc.

05: Local:
    Someone who lives in the area you're searching sees you snooping around. Roll a reaction check appropriate to system. If friendly, they may have information. If hostile, they will contact authorities (70%) defend their home with force (20%) contact local organized crime (10%) These percentages may be altered depending on what sort of area you're searching.
    EXAMPLES: Shopkeepers and residents in civilized communities. Farmers and foresters in wilderness. Planetary colonists or station dwellers in space. Etc.
06: Authorities:
    A patrol from the local government or similar power structure spots you and asks you some pointed questions. Roll a reaction check. If you have authority to investigate they will accept it and be on their way unless they come up as hostile, in which case you may be asked to go to HQ to speak to someone in authority, burning an additional 1d4 hours of time. If you don't have legitimate authority you will be arrested unless the result is Friendly.You may be detained from 1d4 days to several years depending on what they might have caught you doing.
    EXAMPLES: The police in any modern or futuristic urban setting. The town men-at-arms in a medieval setting. Park rangers or game wardens in a wilderness setting. Etc.

07: Muggers:
    Encounter with random criminals who wish to rob, kidnap, or otherwise harm you. Fight or evade. 20% they will subsequently be arrested by authorities and tell them about their encounter with you.
    EXAMPLES: A small gang of meth addicts in a gritty urban setting. Bandits in a medieval wilderness. Organleggers in a future setting. Etc.

08: Criminal Element:
    Encounter territorial local gang who want to know why you're snooping around in your territory. Roll reaction check. Anything but friendly will lead to a violent encounter. Friendly result will let you off with a warning, and the next time they see you it will be a fight. Presenting official credentials will cause them to attack or flee depending on relative position of strength. If investigator has criminal contacts they may bring these into play for a more positive reaction.
    EXAMPLES: Street gangs. Organized crime syndicates. Thieves guilds. Spy rings. Supervillain's secret world domination organizations.

09: Rival Investigators:
    Encounter group who are after same quarry you are. Depending on situation, may contact authorities or local criminal element about you, might fight you, or might flee the scene.
    EXAMPLES: A competing band of treasure hunters. Agents from a different govt. agency. Your contemptuous time clones sent back to get it right this time. Etc.

10: Noble:
    Encounter with someone in power in area. Roll reaction check. Negative results will result in the authorities being called, which in turn may result in arrest or trouble from higher ups if you are part of that authority. A positive result could garner more assistance from said authorities, or at least more information. For good or ill, this personage's attention can have a big effect on your investigation.
    EXAMPLES: The local duke and his huntsmen chasing game on horseback. A city councilman out watering his flowerbeds. The colonial administrator touring the new oxygen conversion facility. Etc.

11: Adversaries:
    Some party in opposition to your investigation is encountered. They will attempt to eliminate clues or evidence (30%), attempt to mislead investigators by planting false leads (40%), or attack (30%). These percentages may vary greatly depending on the nature of the adversary.
    EXAMPLES: A supervillain's quirky miniboss squad. A mad scientists' hunchback. A dead bank robber's old gang. An fugitive murderer's wife and son. Etc.

12: Crazy Person:
    A random individual who thinks they know something about the investigation but are completely and utterly wrong. They will hound the investigators, slowing the search down by 1d4 hours.
    EXAMPLES: A wild eyed town drunk who says space pixies told him who the killer is. An earnest amateur detective who swears their cockamamie computer model will predict where the monster will strike again. A bored kid who wants to be your sidekick. Etc. 

Investigative Success - Roll 1d12
01: Clue to whereabouts
02: Eyewitness
03: Clue to Identity
04: Clue to Upcoming Occurrance
05: Trail
06: Evidence
07: Accomplice
08: Find Victim
09: Object of Interest
10: Clue to Motive
11: Loot

12: Quarry

Critical success, my good Watson!

01: Clue to whereabouts:
    You learn the general location of your quarry, allowing you to half the time spent searching.
    EXAMPLES: The deed to a farm outside of town. An envelope full of dated taxi reciepts. Crumbles of clay on the suspect's shoes that point to them visiting the riverfront often. Etc.

02: Eyewitness:
    You find someone who can give you information about the investigation and fill in gaps or make connections. Roll a Reaction check or interrogate as per the system.
    EXAMPLES: A building custodian who happened to be napping in the supply closet when the heist went down. A security camera's video cache from the prior night. A jogger who passes the crime scene every night but was delayed on the night of the crime by a cramp. Etc. 

03: Clue to Identity:
    Something that indicates the identity of an unknown subject.
    EXAMPLES: A photograph. Ripped off threads of a trademark item of clothing,. Footprints of the proper size. A preferred brand of cigarettes. Etc.

04: Clue to Upcoming Occurrance:
    Something that gives you preknowlege of an incident relevant to the investigation.
    EXAMPLES: A group photo with the faces of murder victims crossed out. A circled date on a day planner. Transportation tickets with dates and times. Etc. 

05: Trail:
    The subject of the investigation leaves behind signs of its movement. Roll again at end of trail.
    EXAMPLES: Blood drops leading away from crime scene. Occasional claw marks and freshly snapped branches from something large. Etc.

06: Evidence:
    Different than clues or objects of interest in that it implicates a specific individual in the eyes of the law, and thus has value beyond the investigation.
    EXAMPLES: A murder weapon with fingerprints. A recording of a phonecall. The severed paw of a werewolf that becomes a human hand with a signet ring upon the sunrise. Etc.

07: Accomplice:
    Someone who's in cahoots with a sought after individual. If detained and interrogated, can provide information about quarry.
    EXAMPLES: One of a supervillain's squad of mooks. A kidnapper's wife. A poacher's lookout. Etc.

08: Find Victim:
    May be the end goal of an investigation. Can provide forensic evidence or testimony depending on their state when found.
    EXAMPLES: A corpse drained of all its blood. A trussed up security guard with a bump on his head. The missing heiress in a ransom case. Etc.

09: Object of Interest:
    Also known as a macguffin, this object provides some plot motivation, and may be the end goal of the investigation.
    EXAMPLES: The famous Tiger Heart Ruby. An enemy spy's transmitter and codebook. The deed to the old Cranston place. Etc.

10: Clue to Motive:
    A piece of information that leads to an individual or group's possible involvement with the investigation.
    EXAMPLES: A missing executive's financial records offering proof of embezzlement. The revised will of a murder victim. Someone's typo riddled revolutionary manifesto. Etc.

11: Loot:
    This is a cache of fungible material that has value but isn't particularly identifiable. The investigators might be tempted to claim it for themselves depending on who they work for and the nature of the investigation.
    EXAMPLES: A chest full of gold coins. A cache of ammunition hidden in a bandit hideout. The PIN number to an offplanet bank account. Etc.

12: Quarry:
    You find the object of your search. The jig is up and its a fair cop. Time to read them their rights or open fire.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Astro Activate GO!

He comes from a shining place, he will defend our earth!
Astroman, Astroman, please fight with vigor!
Vanquish the invaders with a flash of light! Go!

From out of Dimension A he is summoned by brave souls in their hour of greatest need. By pressing the blue button on the mysterious Astro Capsule and saying the words "Astro Activate Go!" in unison, this titan of justice may be called from another dimension for a short time to battle the monsters of chaos that encroach on our galaxy.

Astroman requires between three and seven brave souls to provide him an anchor to our world. These worthies are transported to a swirling, luminous extra-dimensional space where they are aware of each other and of Astroman's actions.

Only the pure of heart or clear of purpose may combine to summon Astroman. No evil or chaotic beings may gain his power. (Lawful or Neutral only. Only player characters may be used as components. NPC's will be rejected by the capsule's unfathomable workings.)

He appears as a towering, silvery being that can be anywhere from 8 to 50 feet tall. He may remain for as many rounds as there are mortal components who called him. He does not speak, but instead gestures and lets out an occasional thunderous HAH! while fighting.

Blindingly fast for a creature of his size, he may make as many attacks as there are components each round (ranging from 3 to 7). Components may forgo a normal attack to combine and power Astroman's special moves, the searing Astro Flash, the crushing Astro Ray, and the wily Astro Shift.

When the time limit of 3 to 7 rounds is reached, Astroman will vanish in a spiral of light and his components will manifest, unharmed even if he has taken damage. If Astroman is reduced to 0 hp, he vanishes, and his components must make a save or check (depending on rules set) or disappear with him into dimension A. If the bearer of the Astro Capsule fails this check then they appear as normal but the capsule may disappear into extradimensional space, never to be recovered.

Astroman was the star of a tokusatsu themed mini-campaign I conceived and ran about 5 years ago with my gaming group. In honor of "Pacific Rim" being so cool, I thought I'd dig out the material and post it up here on my site. Below you'll find Astroman statted out for Savage Worlds, which was the original game I used him in, and for a more generic Labyrinth Lord/Mutant Future game. Consider using him for your more gonzo fantasy/post apocalypse efforts, or stay tuned over the ensuing weeks for more of the silver guardian of peace's adventures in a mythical Japan protected by the awesome technological prowess of the Science Patrol! 

There's more Science Patrol! Go! action coming to this very blog, so stay tuned.

Please look forward to it!

ASTRO MAN - Labyrinth Lord/Mutant Future rules

HD: 16, AC: 2, Saves: CL16, Move: 210'(70')
HP: 16xNumber of Component Souls (i.e. if there are 3 components, he will have 48 hp)
Attacks: Punch 4d12, Kick 8d6
Can throw boulders for 4d6 damage at 200' range
If Astroman is reduced to 0 hp, his components must each roll a Save vs. Death or be lost in infinite dimensions of non-space. 

Special Abilities:

Astro Flash: If two components give up their action, Astroman may create a burst of light that all foes must make a Save vs. Wand or be blinded for 1d4 rounds.

Astro Ray: If four components give up their action, Astroman may fire a bolt of concussive force that does 3d12+1d12 per component composing his summoners.

Astro Shift: If three components give up their action, Astroman may teleport anywhere within 100' of his original location. This action may be taken on the enemy's turn, with the actions being lost on the next player's turn.

ASTRO MAN - Savage World Rules

Rank: Legendary

Agility: d12, Smarts: d12, Spirit: d12, Strength: d12, Vitality: d12

Derived Statistics:
Pace: 8", Parry: 8, Toughness: 22(4)

Fighting d12, Guts d12, Indimidation d10, Shooting d8

Special Abilities:
Gargantuan Size +10, Heavy Armor, Heavy Weapon, Huge, Fearless

Fist damage: Str +d12. Add size to Str. roll when stepping on targets

Astro Flash: If two components give up their action, Astroman may cause a burst of light that forces foes to make a Vigor check or be Shaken for one round.

Astro Ray: If four components give up their action, Astroman may fire a beam of concussive force that does 4d12 damage.

Astro Shift: If three components give up their action, Astroman may disappear and
reappear anywhere within 10" of his original point of origin.

If Astroman is reduced to 0 hp, his components must each make a Spirit check or be lost in infinite dimensions of non-space. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Who is this mighty warrior?

He waits outside space to save our universe. 

Find out tomorrow. Please look forward to it!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Pacific Rim...

... on the other hand, was AWESOME!

Go see it frequently!

The best part of it was that while the plot touched on several very familiar tropes from these sorts of things and of action/scifi/dramas in general, it was all handled with a wonderfully light touch that didn't drag or bog the film down in angst. The interactions between the characters were genuine and didn't feel like the screenwriters had never met a human before.

I guess any criticism I have is that some of the action scenes were hard to follow in a way that's typical of modern CGI driven movies. Too much swooping about and difficulty in focusing on what was happening. Some distance shots, or daytime action would be nice. I understand that night time and close focus helps hide the seams, but a little bit of clarity would help.

Anyway, the performances were solid. The plot progressed nicely and didn't drag out the movie. You liked the characters, and found yourself caring about them. And the giant robots were frikkin' cool.

Go and enjoy the best movie they've come out with this summer.

Please look forward to it!

Oh, and make sure you stay past the main credits for a fun little stinger. That seems to be the thing these days and it's worth it. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

And THAT is how Superman is supposed to handle a spaceship full of goons!

If only the makers of "Man of Steel" had watched this, then maybe they would have gotten a handle on the whole Superman thing a little better.

Cribbed from the mighty Bully who's philosophy about comics is something Hollywood really needs to learn if it's gonna keep chuckin' superhero movies at our heads.

Also a hat tip to the equally mighty Delta who pointed me back towards Bully's write up about the movie. Seems that there are a lot of things a big fella like me and a little stuffed bull can see eye to eye on.

Several Reasons why "Man of Steel" was a terrible movie.

              So I just sat through "Man of Steel" last night, and since the purpose of the internet is to gripe about movies, I thought I'd use this poor neglected blog to take a crack at it. I sat through most of the showing feeling rather angry and resentful at the movie, and thus I give vent to my spleen.

There's spoilers in this, but by my lights the movie was already pre-spoiled so proceed as you may. I haven't had a movie piss me off this badly in a long time.

 Big Problems: 

1:            Postmodernism is the primary kryptonite that makes this movie not work on a fundamental level. Writers who have marinated in that philosophy are left with the belief that the only people with clarity of purpose and motivation are villains. Everybody else, especially those who take the hero's role, have to wallow in angst until enough atrocity has been committed to finally spur them to action. Superman took way too long to get his act together and stand against the evil Kryptonians. I spent most of the film wondering when "The Man of Steel" was gonna show up.

               Writers don't seem to understand aspirational role models anymore. The role of a Superman type character is to demonstrate the values that help us want to be better people. Superman is supposed to be an example of using strength to help and protect others, he's the guy who runs into the fire instead of away from it because he can. The contrast between Kal El and Zod should be the contrast between protector and bully, but Superman dragged his feet for so long and struggled so much it really seemed he wasn't very good at his role. His struggles with the invaders bring me to point 2.

2:            Part of the postmodern view of Superman that hinders contemporary works about him is the view that he's overpowered, that you can't get good drama out of him because he can solve every problem instantly. The writers tried to compensate for this view by piling on the disadvantages for our hero.

               He's facing not one, not three (as in Superman II), but a whole starship full of evil Kryptonians who are born fighters armed with battle armor and an arsenal of terrible weapons. He keeps getting dumped into situations where he's exposed to the power sapping effects of the Kryptonian atmosphere, while any points where Zod & co. have to deal with the problems of Earth's atmosphere are glossed over and discarded. At no point does his long, painful process of adapting to his new home serve to give him advantage over the invaders. The bit where Zod struggles with the sensory overload and pain of adapting to Earth should have been a game winner for Supes. It would have shown a nice contrast between the assimilated immigrant vs. the conqueror, but again they blew it off.

               My big problem with this dramatic deck stacking is they piled on so much of it that it went from "How's the hero gonna get out of this?" to "The hero clearly can't win, so when are they gonna get around to flipping the "hero wins anyway" switch and ending this?" Thus, I was bored out of my freakin' skull waiting for the denouement.

               I guess the makers of this movie thought that having Supes flail helplessly against overwhelming odds some how made him more "human" and "believable". Here's a little tip, o makers of movie "magic". WE DO NOT COME TO SUPERHERO MOVIES TO SEE "HUMAN" OR "BELIEVABLE". WE COME FOR THE OPPOSITE OF THAT!

3:            Collateral damage. Soo much collateral damage. Pursuant to my point of Superman being a defender and protector, he sure as hell didn't do a good job of it. Vast swaths of Smallville and Metropolis were crushed, but only Lois Lane and the handful of Daily Planet staffers were deemed important enough to focus on. Soldiers were casually crushed and killed by the bad guys. Planes were shot down over populated areas. Are we to believe all those skyscrapers falling in a very crass attempt to evoke 911 had been evacuated beforehand? Superman let a LOT of people possibly die (but it's offscreen, so it's okay. Idiots.) while the Kryptonians slapped him around in their overpowered, overdesigned armor.

               Superman's supposed to STOP wanton destruction, not be an accessory to it. Again, a difference between him and the villains that the makers of this film didn't bother with as they gave in to their need to dazzle us with gobs of cgi carnage. It pretty much got to be like drinking from a firehose.

               Supes' little angst spasm, complete with "NOOO!" at snapping Zod's neck at the end was particularly gratuitous and lame. Buildings full of ostensible dead, and he gets his absent little red shorts in a twist over taking out the evil space bastard that caused it all? I can't articulate how much contempt and disdain I have for this sort of wankery.

4:            Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) had the stupidest, most pointless death I've ever seen in a movie. He runs out in front of an onrushing tornado to save a dog, then stands there and forbids his superpowered adoptive son to save him as the storm engulfs him in a "poignant" scene.


               They really garbled the hell out of the message of Superman's upbringing. The classic version is the Kents taught Clark to value life and freedom and to stand up and do the right thing. In this movie Jonathan Kent's lesson was one of uncertainty, don't do the right thing if it could get you in trouble. The lesson of his stupid, stupid death should have been "Inaction when you can help causes tragedy." which should have spurred Clark to step up to the plate and become committed to saving people no matter what, but apparently the lesson, like most of the plot points in this muddled mess, didn't take.

               Clark still had to go ask his mom, his pastor (who we only saw once so they could slather on the film school 101 Christ symbology), and others if he ought to do something about these aliens and their looming doomship and their "surrender or die" talk. My conception of Superman: As soon as they said "We want Kal El." he would have been there with his hand crimping shut one of their gun barrels telling them to get the hell off his planet.

5:            Art direction. Apparently Naboo and Gondor had a baby and they named it Krypton, but the kid looks suspiciously like the milkman H.R. Giger. One part I actually liked was the bit where the ghost of Jor El does his big infodump for Clark, and the whole room becomes this flowing heroic art deco monumental sculpture to illustrate. All of Krypton could have looked and worked like this and it would have been awesome, and a worty successor to the glowing, crystalline Krypton of the Richard Donner version. The whole Krypton as sterile technocracy idea kind of fell apart seeing Russel Crowe in renfaire garb riding a dragon to get back to his lab. Muh. (Meh + duh)

               Everything was too busy and too derivative and too dark. We're going through another baroque period (if not full blown Rococo) and I can't wait until we as a culture don't need everything in a fantasy or science fiction movie to be loaded down with knobbly loopty pointlessly organic art nouveau spluth. How about you present us with images we can make sense of without having to squint, Hollywood?

6:           The whole "Kryptonian Codex" subplot was a garbled mess. So Clark's got the genotype of all of Krypton in his cells and Zod wants that to reproduced Krypton and is gonna kill of the human race but he's pissed at Jor El so he'll make Kal suffer bla bla bla. How about he's a jerk from space who wants to kill us all and needs to be punched?  The krypton scene's dragged on for WAAAYYY too long, and it was a big goofy, ultimately futile and distracting wad of cinematic padding.

7:          Speaking of Krypton. I'd like to join the chorus of voices in the comic/fantasy/sci fi community in begging Hollywood to please. Pleeeeaaase. PLEASE spare us recounting the hero's origin. There are anaerobic bacteria clinging to thermal vents in the Marianas Trench who might not have heard Superman's origin story, but the rest of planet Earth has it covered.

               We know it. Really! And for anybody who might have missed that bus, there are entire stores full of colorful, fully illustrated books, that can spell it all out for you in the time it takes to eat your lunch.

                I want to see Superman, not Clark Kent in a bad beard and hobo outfit re-enacting the first half of "Batman Begins". Plus the repeated flashbacks all the way through the movie, especially rehashing things again and again, really broke up the narrative momentum.

What little I liked. 

                I guess I should be a mensch and say some positive stuff, but there's not a lot to go on.

                I thought the scenes where Supes was dealing with the gov't were in the vein of what I was looking for with the character. He can't be intimidated, harmed, or controlled, but he's a good guy and he wants to help and he's not going to hold it against us that we're nervous little primates. Too bad all that wisdom and self assurance boiled out his ears whenever Zod and his pods showed up.

                Again, the art deco heroic sculpture thing in Jor El's infodump was a nice bit of design, and it would have been cool if all the Kryptonian stuff was that way. (Although in a better Superman movie you wouldn't have seen much of it 'cos you wouldn't be spending a quarter of the film on back story.)

                I thought them wrapping up with Clark Kent hiring on at the Planet was nice, and actually was refreshed by the idea that Lois knows it's Supes under those glasses. Some traditions don't need to continue, and it was as refreshing as Tony Stark looking at the camera and saying "I'm Iron Man." at the end of his movie.

In conclusion:

Long winded, bombastic, tedious, and completely missing the point of what Superman is supposed to be about. Give it a pass. It's everything that's wrong with superhero movies today.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Dodecahedrons of Doom!

Hey look! I'm posting again.

Hoping to be less of a lazyman about this blog and my gaming. So here's something that's maybe possibly useful. I'll get around to rambling about Helgacon and other stuff soon. Got a nice write up of my games from Delta today, so go check it out.

I've been asked to run a game for my coworkers, and so to spice up their first foray into old school gaming I made some Critical charts. (Most of the folks are 3rd. or 4th. ed players, although one guy is an old hand at 2nd. ed. like me.) These are designed to run with Labyrinth Lord, which is my axe of choice in these sorts of situations.

So I give you, the dodecahedron of doom charts, so that the poor neglected 12 sider can take its sweet revenge. These may be pretty simple compared to other critical charts, but they oughta be worth a few laffs for my purposes.

CRITICAL COMBAT FAILURE TABLE: roll 1d12 on a natural 1 in combat

01: You are thrown off balance and fall prone, lose next attack getting up again. Temporary +2 to AC.

02: You swing wide and leave yourself open. +2 to AC for next round.

03: You lose your grip on your weapon and drop it at your feet. Draw a backup or spend your next turn retrieving it.

04: Your strike rebounds wildly from your foe's defense, doing 1d4 damage from your own weapon.

05: You sprain your wrist, -2 to hit until you can stop to bind it.(This action takes at least a turn to do right.)

06: Your grip loosens in the midst of a powerful swing, flinging the weapon for distance. 1d8 direction 1= forward. 2d10 Feet.   

07: You twist an ankle. Movement reduced by 30'(10') until you can bind it.

08: You swing wildly, dealing a glancing blow to a nearby ally for 1/2 your weapon's damage. If no allys in proximity, lose weapon.

09: Your weapon gets entangled with enemy weapon or shield, wrenching it out of your hands. Now they've got it.

10: Your weapon breaks, rendering it useless. Magic weapons will not break but their plus becomes a minus for duration of fight.

11: You trip up an ally with your clumsiness, knocking them prone. If no allies present, fall down and stun self for 1d4 rounds.

12: You manage to hold on to your weapon and not hurt any friendlies, but you look like such a dork that any retainers are reduced in morale by -2 until you manage to land a hit on the foe. If reduced to 0 they flee.

CRITICAL CHECK FAILURE TABLE: roll 1d12 on a natural 20 or 6 on attribute or other checks

01: Throw back out. -2 to all actions until a night's sleep on a level surface can be had.

02: Pull hamstring. Reduce movement by 30'(10') until you can rest for 1d4 hours

03: Sprained wrist. Lose Str & Dex bonus until it can be bound. If no bonus, suffer -1

04: Bang funny bone. Loud cry of pain causes wandering monster check.

05: Wardrobe Malfunction! Split pants, pop bodice, or snap loincloth string. How embarrassing!

06: Piece of fragile equipment (Lantern, potion flask, etc.) works free and hits the floor, breaking.

07: Bonk head on something. Take 1 pt damage and suffer -1 penalty on surprise checks and saves vs. spells until you can rest for hour.

08: Fall down. Roll again on this table, suffer consequences in addition to being prone. Some situations may make this more dangerous.

09: Random pouch, pack, or sack rips open, spilling contents on floor. Roll saves for fragile items.

10: Hit head really hard. K.O. for 1d10 turns, suffer -2 to surprise and saves vs. spells until full night's rest attained

11: Loaded weapon or charged magic item fires off! If none such carried, melee weapon slips from sheath and clatters on floor.

12: Groin smack! Unable to do anything but curl into ball and wheeze for 2d8 rounds. No picnic for lady types either, but effect only lasts for 1d4 rounds. Any monsters or retainers present can't help but point and laugh.


Players may opt to substitute roll on this table for extra dice damage on a crit. Can be dialed up or down depending on how ruthless a GM you feel like being. Roll 1d4 for mild, 1d6 for mean, 1d8 for not jokin' around, or 1d12 for deadly serious!

01: Disoriented! Foe loses next attack from having its bell rung.

02: Disarmed! Non weapon using foes suffer -2 to damage from erosion of attack method (broken teeth, shorn claw, etc.)

03: DisArmored! Damage to armor reduces AC by +1

04: Scared! Foe must make a morale check from puissant attack.

05: Humiliated! Clothing sliced open, or decorative feature like horn, crest, or tail lopped off. -2 to Morale score. AC unaffected

06: Tripped Up! Foe is knocked prone, loses next attack getting up, suffers temporary +2 to AC

07: Right in the Face! Foe is blinded (-4 to hit, 1/2 Movement)

08: Right in the Goolies! Foe doubles over and wheezes for 2d4 rounds. Female foes for 1d4. Oozes, mindless undead, and constructs unaffected. Enrages self aware undead, who remember having a groin and now burn with jealousy toward the living. 

09: Literally Disarmed! Foe's weapon hand or one of their claws lopped off. Roll Morale check.

10: Crippled! Blow to foe's leg reduces their movement by it's percentage of total limbs. (50% for bipeds, 25% for quadrupeds)

11: Run Through! Foe is impaled. Save vs. Death or die instantly.

12: Beheaded! Instant death! Allies must make Morale check.