Monday, December 22, 2014

Movie Review: The Hobbit - The Battle of the Five Armies

Yesterday, my son and I went to watch the final Hobbit movie on the big screen.  We'd recently watched all of the LotR trilogy on DVD, and although he hadn't seen parts 1 and 2 of the Hobbit, he really wanted to go, so off we went.

Now, I enjoyed the first two installments while watching them, but on reflection found them tedious, drawn out, and full of sound and fury signifying nothing for a large part of them.  But then it's Peter Jackson's (and Weta Workshop's) vision of New Zealand-turned-Middle Earth, which is worth sitting through just for the amazing cinematography, IMO.  Anyway, I wasn't exactly anticipating the final chapter, but I knew I couldn't miss it either.  I'm that sort of completionist nerd.

And before we get to the interview proper, as always the title of the blog brings people wondering about swear (curse) words in films any time I do a review.  Here it is: Dain, Lord of the Iron Hills (Billy Connoly) has a few mild swears.  My son's favorite swear being "bastard," when Dain uttered it, he turns to me and laughs, "Did he just say 'bastard'?  Ahahaha!"  That's it.  And if you know Billy Connoly, you'll know that's pretty mild for him.

Now, what did I think of The Hobbit Pt. 3?  Well, as usual it was visually stunning in some parts, but the vast majority of the film happens on Erebor (The Lonely Mountain) which to be honest, looks really cool from far away but isn't that interesting up close. 

The story was more focused (mostly the eponymous battle, plus a short bit where the White Council confronts the Necromancer at Dol Guldur which was surprisingly brief considering the bloat in the first two films).  But that doens't mean it was necessarily better.  For some reason, the movie felt a bit underwhelming.  Where the first two were going out of their way to diverge from the book to "pump up the action" this one felt subdued in a sense.  There's some over-the-top action in it, but it wasn't quite as heart-stopping as some of the action scenes in the first two installments. 

Maybe I need to sleep on it a bit more to pin it down (thanks to the baby, I didnt' get much sleep last night).  Something seemed off about the movie, though.  It still had the PJ touches you'd expect (crazy decapitations - watch for Thranduil on his elk for a good example; modern cliches being mouthed by Middle Earth residents: "think of the children!" in this case; gratuitous fights with a video game feel to them).

Anyway, it was thankfully only a bit over two hours long, rather than three.  And it was Middle Earth on film.  If you enjoyed the other Hobbit movies, don't let this disuade you.  It's alright.  It just lacks the emotional oomph that The Return of the King had.  It's a weak climax to an overdone film series, but it's not completely terrible, either.  If you're on the fence about seeing it, though, I'd say you may want to wait for a cheaper option than a full ticket price.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I am NOT an ANIMAL!!!

I've been working bit by bit on my Mutant Future house rules for char-gen in GamMarvel World.  At first, for mutant plants and animals I figured I'd use what's in GW4.  But I had second thoughts. 

GW4 has about fifty animal types which can be used as is or as models for other types.  Well, the ability score cap is lower in MF (a good thing IMO) so I adjusted all the scores.  I was already not so fond of the fact that there are so many feline types in perticular on that list.  So I started making up a more general one.

My new list has forty or so animal types, mostly pretty broad, with some sample specific species.  So instead of having fox and wolf separate, there's one entry for Canine.

I still need to add specific animal abilities (senses, movement, etc).  When I do that, some types will get a choice of special.  So if you choose Snake, you might choose a poison bite or constriction attack.  If you choose Marsupial you get a pouch, and can choose from jumping, climbing or prehensile tail (kangaroo, koala, possum).  Something like that.

It may be more work than strictly necessary, but it is helping me consider just exactly what it means to be a mutant animal in the post-apoc future of the Marvel Universe.  Some may be uplifted animals (Rocket Raccoon types) while others may have originally been descended from humans with animal-like mutations (The Beast, Wolvesbane, Squirrel Girl, etc.).

Mutant plants will be closer to the GW4 rules.  "I am Groot!"

Monday, December 8, 2014

Tyrant DM!

Talking about myself, here.  Or at least my plans for when I finally get some time to run my Gamma World/Marvel Comics mashup campaign.

Usually, I'm sort of easy-going when it comes to players rolling their ability scores.  I let them make PCs at home, so they essentially get unlimited mulligans when rolling stats.  What the DM doesn't know won't hurt him, right?

But in this new campaign, I'm thinking of taking a hard line.  Why?  Well, because I actually want to give players a choice of how they roll their stats, and need to be able to enforce it.  I'm going to give my players a choice of rolling 3d6 six times and arranging to taste, or rolling 4d6-L (or with slight differences depending on character type) but in order down the line.  This choice becomes meaningless if they just ignore the first set rolled and do it again, or roll both methods and take the better set.

Anyway, I'm thinking of possibly going so far as to suggest they tell me what PC type they want to play and which method of rolling they prefer and rolling the numbers myself.


Will the players revolt against this power trip of mine?  Possibly.  And I'll be the big softy I am and let them do it how they want in the end, because playing it their way is better than not playing at all.  Besides, who cares if you've got an 18 Strength when you're facing off against a cyborg tyrannosaurus? 

Monday, December 1, 2014


I've been reading a lot today about people...well, not just normal people really, Star Wars fanboys...offended by the idea of a black stormtrooper.

Seriously, even if all the stormtroopers in Episodes 4 to 6 were still clones of Jango Fett twenty years or so after he died, this new movie takes place another 30 YEARS after the fall of Palpatine and supposedly the Empire at the end of "Jedi."  Why do they still have to be using clones of Jango Fett fifty years or so later?

If you've got problems with a black stormtrooper (to misquote Jeff Foxworthy), you may be a racist.

If somehow you've actually got quibbles about the actor's performance in the five to ten seconds we see him, rather than the color of his skin, then maybe you're not a racist.  You may want to withhold judgment until you see more of his acting, though.

On the other hand, the soccer ball droid looks ridiculous.  Feel free to bash on that.

Sailing the Seas of Weird

Got to play!  Yes, that's right, after a four month break for fatherhood duties, I finally managed to work in a session of D&D last Saturday!  It felt a bit rocky at first, partly because Jeremy (who was the DM) was starting us in a new game world and partly because I'm feeling a bit rusty and was sometimes distracted by my family duties (they didn't stop just because I was gaming, you know). 

Anyway, Jeremy's pitched this idea a few times in the past, so I know he's got this idea fairly well developed (or at least he appears to).  I played Uwynn Glynddwr, a Psychic (sort of a Cleric with combination MU and Cleric spells), while Dean played Friar Little Sparrow (a Specialist, sort of LotFP style, devoted to scholarship, music and herbalism) and Justin played Storm (also a Specialist, devoted to scouting and ranged combat).

We are agents working for Jarl Knute in a post-apocalyptic fantasy realm where the various islands have been separated by a sea that is now part Astral, and haunted by weird psychic threats and mutation-inducing agents.  We piloted a bathysphere to an allied island that we'd lost contact with, and commenced an investigation/salvage operation. [Hey, they may be allied, but if they've been wiped out, Jarl Knute could use whatever's left over!]

The beginning of the session involved me making a lot of piloting rolls of which the purpose/consequences were murky [constructive criticism to Jeremy, as I'm pretty sure you'll read this: too many rolls.  Encounter/mishap rolls may be best done behind the screen rather than forcing them on the players.  I didn't feel "empowered" by all that rolling, nor did I get a sense that the outcomes of my roll had much to do with my character's ability to pilot the craft]. 

OK, complaint finished.  When we reached the island, things went more smoothly.  The place was deserted, and plants were dead and brittle to the touch.  A purplish tint colored everything in the place.  Not a purplish light, everything's color had shifted towards purple.  And there were moving objects watching us from the orchards that surrounded the 'castle.'

The castle itself was a reclaimed apartment complex, and the Jarl of this place had a penthouse suite as his throne room.  We had to penetrate the orchard, make our way into the complex by defeating a raised drawbridge/moat.  Luckily, Dean's character, the Friar Little Sparrow, had an artifact digging hand that gave him burrowing speed.  He used it to dig our way past the barely seen entities in the orchard.  Then, either Justin or Dean (Justin I think) had the idea that I could try to reverse my Hold Portal spell to open the drawbridge (yes, on the fly conversion of a L1 spell to a related L2 spell).  Jeremy had me roll an Int check, which I passed, and the drawbridge came down.

Now, Justin was worried that we'd be trapped inside.  I was worried that the things outside would try to come in.  So our next order of business was to deal with the drawbridge.  Justin wanted to jam the works so no one could close it behind us.  I suggested we raise it to about a 20 degree angle first, then jam it.  That would give us about a 30' drop, roughly 5' away from the normal far end of the drawbridge when we wanted to leave.  Enough to keep baddies out, but allow us to climb down easily enough.

Getting there was the tough part.  There were two towers flanking the drawbridge (apartment towers, not medieval style castle towers, remember).  As we went up the first, the way was blocked by a large fleshy thing.  It turned out to be some sort of six-limbed mutant bear, which was too tough for us to fight.  After engaging it and getting sorta beat up, we retreated and tried the other tower.  In the second, we ran into a mutant wolf thing (beat it), and some undead children (the things that had been lurking in the orchard).  Luckily, my starting "artifact" was a mace with advantage vs. undead.  Little Sparrow and Uwynn both took a fair amount of damage, but we managed to defeat them.  Also, I forgot that the wolf thing had some sort of funky biomechanical bracelet, which Uwynn took and is hoping will give him an corrosive breath attack like the wolf mutant had.

We were pretty beat up, and hadn't fond the drawbridge mechanism, but needed to rest.  We found an apartment inhabited by an old withered woman, a survivor, and after Justin managed to successfully negotiate with her, we were able to use her apartment to rest and recouperate. 

It was a fun session, and Jeremy definitely has a gift for creating interesting weird-punk settings.  I'm looking forward to playing more of this, and hopefully getting my GamMarvel World game going soon as well.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving week back in the U.S. and for the umpteenth time I'm going to miss all that delicious turkey, potatoes, PIE!  Really miss the pie.  My mom's a damn good cook.  Since it's the season for giving thanks, I just wanted to express a bit of gratitude here on WaHNtHaC...

First off, it's been 2 1/2 years since I released Flying Swordsmen RPG.  Thanks to everyone who's downloaded it, checked it out, and offered comments or criticism.  I've gotten more positive than negative feedback on it, which is nice, but I've appreciated the people who've taken the time to point out flaws and weaknesses, or even simply didn't find it to their liking. 

Huge thanks also go to those who helped me putting the game together:  Daxiong Guo, who generously granted permission to use the awesome cover art.  Lee Barber who took time to arrange the layout on the cover AND create the character sheet, gratis.  Matt Stater and David Brawley who took time to help me edit the manuscript.  Dylan Hartwell who did the sample character portraits, again for free.  And lots of readers, and members of the Dragonsfoot community, who offered suggestions and ideas all through the creation process.  Thank you all!

Next, I'm thankful that I've found a fun RPG community (semi-)locally.  We haven't been playing much lately, but I'm hoping to turn that around soon, since my final grad school semester is almost over.  From the original Board Game Group to the current Saturday Night G+ crowd, I've had some great gaming over the 6+ years I've lived in Busan.

Finally, thanks to all of you reading and responding to things I write here on the blog.  The comments, and even the anonymous G+ "+1s" aren't the reason I do this, but it does give me a boost to see that other people enjoy my writing or find it useful.  Especially thanks to those, like Alexis, who I tend to disagree with.  If no one's challenging my ideas, I'll never be able to improve them.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Hex vs. Point

Two posts in one day?  You'd think I was a blogger or something. 

Some blogs I read* have been debating the merits of the point crawl, where instead of a hex map to laboriously trudge across, there are flowcharts superimposed on a map (not necessarily to scale) between points of interest.

Now, I already made a map for my GamMarvel World game (one of the first things I did), and I used a hex overlay filter on it (but still have the hexless version as well), so if I need some carefully measured overland travel, I've got it available.

But I'm thinking of doing a new map on my drawing pad, and using it as a point crawl.  While I want exploration to be important in my game, skipping over the boring parts might not be a bad idea, either. 

My recent Isle of Dread session spent a bit too much time counting hexes moved per day.  When I was a kid, we had all afternoon (or sometimes all night) to play, so it was never a problem.  Now, though, with limited time to game, I'm thinking a Point Crawl would be better.  Skip all the walking to Mordor and all that.  Plus, it's more like comics, which focus on action more than logistics.

Then again, part of me thinks logistics are an important part of play in a post-apoc game, where supplies are limited.

Well, we'll see.