Wednesday, August 31, 2011

d100 Room Types

Edit - not sure why Blogger keeps changing my numbered list into bullet points.  I guess copy/paste this into your word processor of choice and add numbering.  Sorry!~  L.G.

d100 room types

  1. Alcove
  2. Atrium
  3. Attic
  4. Balcony
  5. Ballroom
  6. Barn
  7. Bathroom
  8. Bedroom
  9. Billiard room
  10. Boathouse
  11. Boudoir
  12. Box room
  13. Breezeway
  14. Butler's pantry
  15. Buttery
  16. Cafeteria
  17. Chariot-port
  18. Changing room
  19. Classroom
  20. Cloakroom
  21. Closet
  22. Common room
  23. Conference hall
  24. Conservatory
  25. Courtyard
  26. Deck
  27. Den
  28. Dining room
  29. Doctor's surgery
  30. Drawing room
  31. Entryway
  32. Equipment room
  33. Fainting room
  34. Family room
  35. Forge/smithy
  36. Foyer
  37. Function hall
  38. Great chamber
  39. Great hall
  40. Great room
  41. Guest room
  42. Gym
  43. Hearth room
  44. Kitchen
  45. Kitchenette
  46. Larder
  47. Laundry room
  48. Library
  49. Living room
  50. Loading dock
  51. Lobby
  52. Loft
  53. Loggia
  54. Long gallery
  55. Lounge
  56. Lumber room
  57. Mud room
  58. Nook
  59. Nursery
  60. Office
  61. Pantry
  62. Parlour
  63. Portico
  64. Recreation room
  65. Refectory
  66. Restroom
  67. Root cellar
  68. Safe room
  69. Salon
  70. Saucery
  71. Scullery
  72. Secondary suite
  73. Security
  74. Servants' hall
  75. Server room
  76. Shrine
  77. Sitting room
  78. Smoking room
  79. Solarium
  80. Spear closet
  81. Spicery
  82. Stable
  83. State room
  84. Stillroom
  85. Storage room
  86. Storm cellar
  87. Studio
  88. Study
  89. Swimming pool
  90. Terrace
  91. Theater
  92. Toilet
  93. Undercroft
  94. Vault
  95. Veranda
  96. Vestibule
  97. Waiting room
  98. Wardrobe
  99. Wine cellar
  100. Workshop

The List

So a little while back I asked all you readers for some help, telling me what wuxia books, movies, video games, etc. you found inspirational, or at least cool.  I did this for inclusion in Flying Swordsmen RPG as a sort of "Appendix N" for the game.  I may have presented myself as less knowledgeable than I am in that post, in order to elicit more responses.  A lot of you recommended films that are already on the list.  Still, I did get some new ones, and I'll be trying to locate and watch them before this game goes to print.

And without further ado, here is the list:

Appendix I: Inspirational Media

Books, Fiction:
Cha, Louis (Jin Yong) The Book and the Sword, The Deer and the Cauldron, Heaven Sword & Dragon Sabre, etc.
Gu Long The Eleventh Son
Luo Guangzhou Three Kingdoms
Shi Nai'an Outlaws of the Marsh (also known as The Water Margin)
Wu Cheng'en Journey to the West (also known as Monkey)
Tony Wong/Jademan Comics The Blood Sword, Oriental Heroes, etc.

Books, Non-Fiction:
J.A.G. Roberts A Concise History of China
Charles D. Benn China's Golden Age: Everyday Life in the Tang Dynasty

Film and Television:
The Legend of Fong Sai Yuk (1993)
Swordsman Trilogy (1990, 1992, 1993)
Dragon Gate Inn (1992)
A Touch of Zen (1971)
Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Hero (2002)
House of Flying Daggers (2004)
A Chinese Ghost Story (1987)
Mr. Vampire (1985)
Drunken Master (1978)
The Bride with White Hair (1993)
Encounters of the Spooky Kind (1980)
Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1983)
Legend of the Liquid Sword (1993)
Ashes of Time (1994)
Enter the Dragon (1973)
A variety of adaptations of Journey to the West and Three Kingdoms for both film and television.

Dynasty Warriors series (Koei)
Jade Empire (Bioware)

Thanks to everyone who contributed.  If anyone else has something to suggest, or I left something out that you think needs to be there, please let me know.  There's always room for more.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Two things that bug me

Edit--note to self, don't post right before bed next time.  I may mess up the post title.  :)

Yeah, another 4E post.  Those of you who can't stand to hear anything negative about that edition (Woodstock, I'm typing at you) feel free to click that back button on your browser right now.

In my post the other day about the skill chapter, I mentioned the lack of a feel of progress in certain areas due to shifting goal posts.  Skill bonuses go up with level, but so do target DCs.*  They'd do just as well having skills linked to your ability score, with bonuses for training, and that's it.  Then just keep the DCs static as well.  Same difference, and it would save everyone time erasing and rewriting their skill bonuses every two levels.**

The other thing that's bugging me right now is the idea that every battle must be EPIC!!!  Seriously, do we need kobolds with 30-40 hit points?  Does a fight with kobolds need to take an hour or more?  I've still only played 4E at level 1, but wouldn't having these "epic" fights all the way from level 1 to level 30 make the ones up there at the top just feel like more of the same?

Basically both of these problems come down to a feeling of lacking growth/progress.  There's something to be said about starting out weak and ending up strong.  It felt good to have a 20-something level Fighter in BECM who only rarely failed saves and could face down dragons with relative ease, knowing that once upon a time he wasn't so strong and every group of goblins or giant spider potentially had his number.  Or having a similarly leveled Magic-User, with Death Spells and Disintegrates and Teleports at his fingertips, who used to venture into the depths with a single or small handful of spells once upon a time.

I used to be the weakling Bat-Boy.  Now, I'm Batman!

*I realize this was inherited from 3E.  It's one of the things that soured me on high level 3E play.
**Yes, there are some skill DCs that are static, you get better at them as you level.  Why not just add level bonuses to THOSE skill checks since they're in the minority?  KISS principle failure here.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mopping Up

We had our second session of the 4E game today.  It went fairly well.  We had a time limit, as Alex had to go somewhere this evening, so we only had 4 hours to play.  Still, within that 4 hours we managed to finish off the first section of the module.

In the last session, we'd fought some pugwhampees, small jackal-headed humanoids.  They give off a bad-mojo aura, so everyone needs to roll to hit twice, take the lower roll, if you're near them.  That made me fairly valuable fighting them, as I'm ranged so I was usually out of their aura, and when I was in it I had auto hitting magic missiles.  Adam, playing a Warlock, is similarly ranged, and was doing good as well.  Our Fighter (Jeremy) and Warlord (Alex) were doing well when they could hit, but that aura is nasty.

At first, we spent some time investigating the alter the pugwhampees had desecrated, and I found a gem in a gnoll skull decoration.  Then a pugwhampee started sniping at us from behind, so we bashed it pretty good and made it run away.  Of course we followed.

Well, we finished off the last of the little beasts, then fought some stirges and found a bit of treasure.  There was also a statue of the monastery's patron saint, with hands upraised in offering, and scratch marks on the floor showing that something's underneath, but we couldn't find the key to open it. 

We went to the next section of the monastery.  The first door was to a library, where there were swarms and swarms of rats.  We thought about trying to just shut the door and run away, but I used my daily power, Phantom Chasm, which made a zone that made any rats moving into it fall prone.  How can a swarm fall prone?  Who cares.  Say they're stunned, or temporarily disoriented, or whatever.  My Icy Blast that lets me slide targets hit was handy after that, as I could slide them out of the zone and when they re-entered they fell prone again.  So with bashes from the fighter-types and zaps from the Warlock, we finished them off.  The only book that was intact was a book about elemental creatures.  We saved it for later.

Time was running a bit short, so Enzo decided to just narrate the rest of the search of the first floor.  No more monsters, no more treasure.  The caravan arrived, we were congratulated, the prodigal NPC Cleric returned, and we took an 'extended rest' to recharge.  During the rest I read the book, which was about powerful djinn warriors of wind who fought evil with four legendary weapons (one of them being the patron saint of this monastery). 

Our boss then showed us how to open a sealed door with stairs leading down behind it, and asked us to clear out these crypts.  We were expecting undead, but instead encountered a weird SCIENCE!!! type lair with all of these strange vats and devices with greenish goo inside.  Alex's Warlord Minotaur found a big cleaver with a syringe attached, and we thought it would be fun to fill it with some of the goo.  Turns out (likely you saw this coming, I sort of did) the stuff was Green Slime, which attacked.  It was a long fight, but we managed to put it down without serious injury (the slime's attack is toned down over Old School versions for sure, but man did it have lots of hit points!).

We then got rewards from the boss lady (I got a Staff of Wind +1, not sure what the others all got yet), and we advanced to Level 2.  And we managed to finish right at 5:00 when Alex had to leave.

Enzo, Jeremy, Alex and I are all now getting the hang of our characters and how best to use their abilities and powers.  That made the combats go faster.  Fighting things besides pugwhampees was nice, because those re-roll auras were annoying!  The stirges went down fast.  We're coordinating out attacks better, and remembering to use those encounters and dailies.  That helps move things along faster. 

It was fun today.  Enzo is a pretty good DM.  He's still not completely familiar with the rules, but he did a good job of making rulings and moving on if we couldn't find a relevant rule quickly in the books.  He was really encouraging us to describe our attacks more, and that makes a difference.  The first combat against the remaining pugwhampees was long, as was the green slime battle, but the stirge fight and rat fight were both fairly quick affairs, and we had some good chances to roleplay our characters during combat.  I'm still not quite sold on 4E, though.  I'm seeing the system and the play-style it's designed for better, and while it's not bad, it's really not what I'd prefer.  But the group is good, and it is fun, so I'm definitely not going to quit.  

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Dull Reading

Finished the next chapter of the 4E Essentials Rules Compendium, the one on Skills. 


But anyway, it's out of the way.  4E, like most successors to 3E, has pared down the number of skills, combining similar ones into one bigger skill.  So "Athletics" covers running, jumping, swimming, climbing, and the like.  "Thievery" covers most of your typical Thieves' Tools operations (find and remove traps, open locks) with Pick Pockets.  3E's Knowledge skills are for the most part now subskills of other areas.  "Nature" covers survival and Knowledge: Nature, and IIRC Handle Animal. 

So they've made improvements on the skill set, and the system.  Automatic level bonus (1/2 level, round down) to all skills, and training gets you a +5 bonus to that skill.  Much easier than trying to assign skill points.  I'm sure this is a big benefit when designing NPCs.  Skills were one of the worst things about NPC/monster design in 3E.

Still, it was pretty dry reading.  Glad it's over with.  And if we have another skill challenge in Enzo's game tomorrow, I'll have a much better idea of what that entails.

Friday, August 26, 2011

My project for next week

The Flying Swordsmen draft is coming along nicely.  I've just finished an alphabetical listing of spells.  I still need to add page numbers, but until I get into the formatting phase (still a while off), there's no point in doing that.  I've also decided to nix the appendices with the "100 Chinese family names" and the Pinyin/Wade-Giles pronunciation guides.  This is a fantasy RPG, not a history text.  Who cares if people pronounce Cao Cao so it sounds like a pair of bovine?  Or if they name their character Sum Yong Gai? 

So that frees up a couple more pages for other stuff (probably more art).  I'm shooting for a 120 page book when this is all said and done.  Although a switch from single column format to double column format might allow me to reduce that further.  I'm still not sure about that.  Printed, I like double column, but if most people are reading this on computer screens, single column is better. 

Anyway, that leaves me with really two more big projects to complete.  One is adding in some descriptive flavor text at the beginning of each chapter.  The other, the one I'm gonna try to tackle next week, is designing a character sheet that's both simple and complete.  Oh, and that looks good.  We'll see how well I do on that last part.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Badges? We don't need no stinking badges!

Someone had to say it.
So, many of you have likely seen the DM Merit Badges over on Stuart's blog Strange Magic.  If you haven't, go take a look.  They're designed to be a visual shorthand to show players how a GM likes to run their games.

I've been told my DMing style is like a Mel Brooks movie, so the picture and quote above are rather appropriate.  But what the heck, here are my DMing badges:

Gonzo, with a map but improvisation is important.  I tinker with the rules rather than by the book, and don't always make every encounter "appropriate."  I make most rolls in the open, and don't fudge them.  PCs can die, and players need to use their brains to keep them alive.  And if the players come up with a good idea, I'll be sure to use it.

Hey, and I get to use my "Mel Brooks" tag again!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Homework Complete

Next Sunday we'll be playing Enzo's 4E game again.  He let us know that we'll probably level up in the middle of the session, at the end of the module's chapter.  Knowing it takes some time to choose powers and feats, he asked us all to decide in advance what we'll take to make the process go smoother and allow us to continue the game.

So I've decided on my Level 2 Utility powers and my next feat. 

Feels like doing homework. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Potion by any other name would still smell...

[rolls dice] like goat piss and cinnamon.

I've been planning to do something like this for a while now.  Here's a short list of some alternate 'potions' for D&D.  All follow the normal rules for potions as far as usage and duration and effect.  Only the form has changed.

Xi Wang Mu's Peaches of Immortality/Apples of Idunn: potion of longevity
Egg Shen's Steaming Gourd: potion of heroism
Gummi Berry Juice: potion of giant strength (unless you're a Gummi Bear, then it's a potion of jump)
Black Lotus Flower: potion of poison
Atalanta's Golden Apple: potion of speed
Rapunzel's Tear: potion of cures (or specifically cure blindness)

Got more?  Feel free to add to the list in the comments. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Movie Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

The Korean theaters are frustrating me.  We had planned to go see Cowboys and Aliens, but for some reason they're only showing it at really late showings.  The grandparents don't mind babysitting in the afternoon/evening, but want to go to bed early, not stay up watching our son run around not going to sleep while we go enjoy a movie.  So that was out.  Next movie on the list?  Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  So we went to see it yesterday instead.

Minor Spoilers Ahead!

I really enjoyed the movie.  My wife's initial reaction was that it wasn't so good, but she keeps talking about it, so it's definitely made an impression on her.  It was not a perfect movie, but it was a fairly good movie overall, and much improved over the Tim Burton reboot Planet of the Apes from 10-12 years ago. 

The basic plot is that Harry Osborn and Gollum battle Agamemnon and Draco Malfoy.  Just kidding!  I actually did NOT see the actors as their more famous prior characters (well, except for Brian Cox but he seemed more like William Stryker from X-Men 2 than Agamemnon, but then he's pretty much a character actor, isn't he?)

The real story is that a company trying to come up with a treatment for Alzheimer's Disease finds a formula that not only works, but actually increases intelligence.  An accident involving the first test chimp, Bright Eyes (wink wink, nudge nudge, get the reference?  There was a lot of that in this movie.), causes them to scrap the serum, but then the lead scientist finds out that Bright Eyes went nuts because she'd just given birth.  And the effects of the viral gene therapy had passed to her son.

Scientist and Alzheimer's affected dad raise the baby chimp in secret, naming him Caesar.  Caesar is a smart ape, and develops rapidly.  But an incident causes him to be locked in the San Francisco ape sanctuary.  He uses his smarts to become the alpha male, and plots an escape.  He escapes, only to steal more serum from the scientist's house to uplift all the other apes.  The second dose improves Caesar's intelligence again.

And the virus that uplifts the apes just happens to be fatal to humans...

Don't want to give away too much of the ending, but I'll just say that it ends a lot earlier than what I was hoping for, being that the title is "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."  We don't really see the rise, just the very beginnings.  It's more like "Inception of the Planet of the Apes," but maybe they didn't want to get into any skirmishes with the folks that made Inception.

There were a couple of big plot holes that I noticed, but for the most part the story is solid.  The effects were good.  There were only a few times when the various apes looked overly CGI.  The acting was pretty good.  It actually took me most of the movie to finally place where I'd seen Tom Fenton before (Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies), hence my little joke above.  All in all, it was entertaining.

I don't know that I really want a sequel to be made, though.  Even though I said above I was hoping to see more of the actual formation of the Ape world, I don't know if we need a reconceptualized remake of Battle for the Planet of the Apes.  There's something that just can't be recaptured from the original movie, and while it's likely going to be entertaining watching a new series of films, doing them in chronological order instead of more or less reverse order could make the latter films less entertaining, I'm guessing.  Well, we'll see.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Help me, Internet Hivemind, you're my only hope!

OK, not my only hope, but you awesome and wonderful readers can sure save me a ton of time! 

I'm starting in on the Appendices for Flying Swordsmen (still got some campaign setting work to do, and the sample characters to write up, and some more exposition/flavor vignettes to help explain the way I see the game being played, but I'm working on the Appendices now as well).  My Appendix I (Roman numeral I, not letter I) will be inspirational sources.  I'm not gonna get all the way up to N with my Appendices, so I'll start with this one.

Anyway, I've seen plenty of wuxia/martial arts movies.  The original game, Dragon Fist, only listed wuxia movies in its inspiration appendix.  I want to expand that to books, comics, video games, whatever.  That's where you all can help out.  If you've got a favorite wuxia/martial arts movie, book, comic, or game, please let me know in the comments.  Even if it's only tangentially connected to wuxia (like say, TMNT comics), go ahead and let me know you like it or find it inspiring. 

I can't guarantee everything will go in the book, but it will give me a bit of help trying to find things I'm not familiar with but should be!  I'm not the world's #1 expert on martial arts or wuxia, I just find the genre really fun and thought Dragon Fist was a cool game that never got a chance and would like to give it a bit of a revival.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Megadungeon Campaign Conventions

So reading, and agreeing with, my buddy Dave's comment to my last post, and reading the FLAILSNAILS Conventions over at Jeff's Gameblog got me thinking about what I'd do if I ever had my new Busan group ready to try an Old School game run by yours truly. 

First off, I'd sign off on the FLAILSNAILS thing, except for two reasons.  One, there aren't enough RPGs going on in Busan for it to matter.  I think there's one other group besides ours.  MAYBE.  Oh, possibly two if the group of Korean college kids we saw one night nearly 2 years ago playing 4E are still at it.  But my Korean's not good enough to be a player or DM for them, and I have no idea how good or bad their English may be.  So it's pretty much the fellow ex-pats for me right now.  Secondly, is anything in there any different from what anyone would do if they had a PC from another campaign entering their game?  It pretty much just reiterates what both Gygax in the AD&D books and Mentzer in his box sets said about allowing visiting PCs.  I guess the value is more in declaring your game open to such, more than the lists of actual details of how it's to be done.

Anyway, back to what Dave said.  If a GM wants to run a certain kind of game, they need to be up front with the potential players about what sort of game they want to run.  Players need to be up front about what sort of game they'd like to play, and what sort of character (if they've already got an idea or two).  And both need to be open to the possibility that some characters aren't really appropriate to certain games.

So, if I ever get the guys interested in running through my Megadungeon, here's a first draft of some of the "Conventions" I plan to give them.  It's a work in progress, so if any readers have any suggestions or ideas for other things I should mention, please chime in in the comments below.  Thanks!

Conventions for "The Great Dungeon Campaign"
  • All the action is in the dungeon.  You can spend time role playing in town, or exploring the wilderness, but most of the good loot and interesting encounters will be underground.
  • NOT a hack-and-slash game.  Yes, this is in a dungeon, but that doesn't mean it's only combat.  There are factions, potential allies, puzzles, mysteries, and plenty more that may require you to think and act in character.
  • The DM doesn't have all the answers...yet.  The dungeon is the DM's creation, but fleshing it out will be a group effort. 
  • The DM is not out to kill the PCs, but is under no obligation to save them.  The dungeon is dangerous.  Players will need to be cautious and clever to survive.  PCs will die, but a replacement is just a few die rolls away.
  • Players need to be proactive.  It's up to the players to decide on a purpose for any delve, goals to shoot for, and the like.  Rumors are available in town and research is possible.  Hirelings and any equipment you might need (within reason) is available in town.  Utilize them.
  • When the session ends, so does the delve.  To facilitate irregular player participation, the joining of replacement characters, and the like, it is assumed the party leaves the dungeon at the end of the session.  If this is impossible, the Triple Secret Random Dungeon Fate Table of Very Probable Doom will be used.
  • You earn it, you keep it.  XP totals are kept by the player when a PC dies.  Replacement PCs begin play with XP equal to the total of the lost character at the start of the delve.  Yes, that means if your Elf bites it you could create a Thief several levels higher.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dungeons and Dissenters

A couple days ago, Eldrad Wolfsbane over at Back to the Dungeon blogged about those gamers who think dungeons suck.  Not the troll who thinks YOUR dungeon sucks, just gamers, like my buddy Alex in the Board Game Group, who dislike the dungeon as a setting for adventures and dismiss the genre as simple and lacking in RP elements.

Bear with me, folks.  His post is a couple days old, but it's been on my mind since I read it the other day.  It's been a busy 3-day weekend (so no post since last Saturday's rundown of the Gamma World Game).  We were busy taking our son to the beach, a picnic, the beach again...  Thanks, Japan, for surrendering to the U.S. on what was a Monday this year, instead of a Sunday!  Not so good for blogging, good for the family.  But I digress.  Majorly.  Back to dungeons.

So Eldrad gives some good advice for spicing up dungeons and making them feel like living places, where you can roleplay to your heart's content.  Still, though, I get the feeling that those gamers he decries, who sniff at the very thought of entering a dungeon, wouldn't give it a chance.  Or they'd be pretty hard to convince, at least.  I've blogged about the phenomenon before.

I really don't see a dungeon adventure, let alone an entire dungeon campaign set in a megadungeon, as any less worthy of providing role play opportunities than a city campaign, or a grand save the world quest (cue Tolkien/Brooks/Eddings/Jordan/Goodkind reference here).  It's got the same opportunities for RP as an urban cyberpunk game.  As a space opera.  As a stone age survival game.  As a 20's/30's gangster game.  As any other genre.

Because that's the point.  It's its own distinct genre, but it's not that different from the games the 'dungeon haters' want to play.  A dungeon game supposes certain forces will motivate the PCs.  Exploration, treasure finding, and monster slaying. 

What does a grand quest to recover the McGuffin of Pelor, in order to slay the evil overlord Drolrevo suppose?  Exploration, treasure finding, monster slaying.

What does a city campaign of rival factions and backhanded politics involve?  Exploration (social often more than geographical, but exploration no less), treasure finding (maybe not gold, but secrets or alliances are a form of treasure), and monster slaying (come on, this is an RPG...are you really gonna let the evil mastermind behind the grand plot to steal the city's chamber pots walk?).

Yeah, a lot of us, when we were young and inexperienced, just drew rooms, populated them randomly with monsters and treasure, then let our friends wander aimlessly until they had filled their bags or exhausted their spells and hit points, fighting any old monsters they came across.  But most of us, especially those of us in the OSR who've been doing it for a long time (or are newer but have the wealth of knowledge provided by the OSR blogs/forums/wikis) aren't doing it like that any more.

We're also not creating dungeons the way the old TSR modules were created, for the most part.  I know I'm spending a lot of time working on special treasures that would be worthy of searching for, special monsters that would make one legendary to slay, and also populating the dungeon with factions that aren't always hostile to the PCs.  They can be bargained with, fooled, allied with, double crossed before they double cross you, ignored, or even helped.  I'm trying to come up with trap and "special" encounters that will lead to role playing, not just problem solving.  I'm trying to make my megadungeon a cool place where fun things can happen, and players don't just need to kick in doors and roll initiative.

Too bad those anti-dungeon players will probably never give it a chance.  Oh well, their loss.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Survival of the Fittest on Gamma Terra

Or, how to almost turn friends into enemies, and just barely influence them in the end.

We finished up Josh's run of Gamma World module GW6 Alpha Factor last night.  WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW!

Read about our previous adventures in the prelude, here, here and here.

So, having made it back to the Restorationist town in our hot air balloon, we were treated for radiation exposure and injuries, and spent a month recovering.  Linka found out she could now project illusions into people's minds -- useful for an Esper, too bad she's got Int 5!  Wing Lao, my Examiner, found himself with a second brain!  And it gave him direction sense, telekinetic flight, and illusions as well!  John Smith XXXII managed to survive unmutated.  We were joined by Hornsby, a Mutant Rhino Enforcer, bought some supplies, and headed back to the Mind Keep in the balloon.

We first went to the room with all the records and spent a lot of time investigating them, learning of a secret base to the south designed to fight an alien invasion the purpose of Mind Keep (to create psionic super-soldiers to fight the aliens), and some other stuff.  Then we went to the basement level 1, but didn't find anything useful.  We decided to skip the rest of basement level 2 where we had met the obbs that caused our long convalescence and new mutations.  Now we decided to climb all the way to the top.

On the top floor, we found a locked door with some sort of odd panel and slot opening mechanism that we couldn't decipher.  The next door opened easily, but a security bot was right behind it, and came out shooting!  Luckily, it was only using a stun gun.  Hornsby took a hit, and was out for the combat.  Pat had the good idea of trying to lure it into the elevator shaft and drop it. 

We retreated to the elevator shaft and split up.  Linka went right, John Smith left, and Wing Lao flew to take cover behind all the cabling in the center of the shaft.  The robot came in, and Linka used her teleportation to appear right behind it and tried to knock it into the shaft, but failed.  It took a swing at her, but missed.  John Smith fired on it with his sniper rifle, and Wing Lao flew in and tried to stab it with his sword/electrical generation mutation combo, but both missed.  The next round, Linka had a couple of good rolls, and managed to shoulder butt the bot down the shaft. 

It fell, smashed, but wasn't destroyed.   Terminator-like, it then started its slow way up the long ladder with a bad leg and arm slowing it down.  Being at the top of a 12 story building, it had a long climb but we knew we had to think of something to stop it.  We decided bombarding it with heavy objects would be best. 

The room the live metal was guarding was an office with a large desk.  It was booby trapped, but for whatever reason fragmentation grenades only do 3d6 damage in this version of the game, so we took some minor damage opening the desk.  We found a hidden button that opened a hidden safe, but we had no way to open it without the combination.  Another room had the computer we were looking for, but it had no interface.  The final door on the floor was also locked, this time with a circle of eight buttons.  Stymied, we descended to the next level down.  Here we found the Alpha Factor chamber, where genetic modification experiments were carried out, a medical bay with a droid that would cure our two human characters (who had ID bracelets), and medical supplies.

Nothing to drop on the robot.

One more level down, we found Jeremiah, the lone survivor of Mind Keep, who was totally insane, and accompanied by a pair of demon-dog things.  Expecting him to be a very powerful Esper, Linka used her mental boosting power on Wing Lao, who caused an illusion of the giant flying weasel thing to appear.  Luckily, our own party managed to avoid panic, while Jeremiah and his rhino-hide mutts began running around in a panic themselves. 

While Jeremiah was occupied firing his musket (he only had a musket?  Strange module, but oh well...) at the illusion and usually missing, Hornsby was following him and doing a charge/gore attack.  Linka circled around the other way, then added some claw-claw-bite attacks to the mix, and every time she tried Mental Blast failed.  John was taking pot shots with the sniper rifle.  Jeremiah kept reloading and shooting, or making swipes with his rifle butt, but not hitting very much.  Finally, we took him down, and then had the dog things to worry about.

John Smith started worrying about the robot at this time, too, and decided to try to use our final mortar shell (explosive) against it.  He needed Linka's help, though, so she disengaged from the battle (she'd been trying to knock the dog things over the edge of the pit -- she got one, but the other kept at it and eventually started trying to knock our guys over the edge).  Hornsby and Wing kept up the attack on the dog, while John had Linka hold the mortar shell in place with tekekinesis while he aimed and fired on the robot.  Linka, not being too bright, failed to let go of the shell at the right time, causing the shot to miss and blast a section of the ladder below the security bot.

We managed to kill the last dog thing, and dropped its carcass on the robot.  It connected, doing some damage, but failed to dislodge the bot.  We then gathered all the heavy junk we could on the level, and bombarded it.  We smashed it up a bit more, but it kept on coming.  Linka remembered that she had a bomb (as a Zoopremist, she could make them herself).  She went down a couple floors and set it, then we waited for the robot to hit that spot.  When it did, we set off the bomb, but it also failed to knock it off the ladder (good grip on that robot!).  Eventually the robot got to our floor, but it just kept climbing, trying to get back to the top floor.  We made a few more attacks while it was climbing past, and finally managed to shut it down!  Big XP award ensued, leveling up the three survivors of the previous adventures.

Amid Jeremiah's stuff, we found he had a few useful things, but the best IMO was a nice futuristic assault rifle that Linka got to keep.  Hornsby inspected the body of Jeremiah, and found suddenly that his telepathy didn't work any more.  Strange... 

Anyway, we then proceeded to search the lower floors.  That part was a bit of a blur in my memory now, as there were a lot of rooms with nothing much of note in them.  We eventually found the ring that opened the weird panel and slot door above, the combination to the safe in the CEO's office, and the combination to the 8 circles door as well.  Still no computer interface, but it was getting late and although we had only one more floor to explore, we decided to go back up to the medical bay with the medical droid to camp for the night. 

The next morning, Hornsby felt sick, and had a -1 to all checks and what not.  The droid refused to treat him, though, as he didn't have an ID card (and it had taken photos of John and Wing when they presented their cards to prevent trading).  Anyway, we checked out the CEO's office first, and in the safe we found the CEO's level 5 security card and a letter with the location of a secret military base to the south.  The ring we found opened the weapons locker, granting us several grenades, a vibroblade each (sweet!) and a plasma gun (very sweet!).  The next room, with the 8 circles combination code, had a suit of power armor and nuclear fuel cells, but was guarded by two highly armed security robots.  Pat wanted to attack with our new-found weaponry, but I suggested we wait.  Josh suggested Hornsby use his size-up opponent skill, and he learned we'd be out of our league even with the new weapons.  So we finally went back down to the 4th floor, the only one left to check, and finally found the keyboard we needed, and fought a couple of snake mutants. 

Going back up, we accessed the computer, got the info we needed, and left Mind Keep.  We then debated whether to return the mortar to the Ranks of the Fit in Oskar village, or just go back to base.  Linka wanted to go back to base, but Wing didn't mind returning the stuff (in other words, didn't bother me either way).  Pat then decided to go ahead and return.  I suggested we didn't land, but just drop the borrowed gear over the side.  Unfortunately, the leader Timon then threatened to shoot us out of the sky if we didn't land.

We landed, he captured us, and forced us at gunpoint to join his army.  That night, Gene Pool and the Restorationists raided the village, wiping out their army and capturing us.  Gene was about to banish us from the Flower Lands when we managed to persuade him that we were under duress, and would have tried to flee the RotF at the first opportunity.  We finally convinced him, and that concluded our adventure.

An awesome series of games, Josh, and if you feel like it, I'd be up for continuing it with the next module next summer. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

NPR Listener Poll of the 100 Best SF/F Novels

[Saw this mentioned on Jeff Grubb's blog.  Thanks, Jeff!]

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert
5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin
6. 1984, by George Orwell
7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov
9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan
13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson
15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore
16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss
19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
22. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King
24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke
25. The Stand, by Stephen King
26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
28. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman
30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein
32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams
33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein
35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne
38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys
39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells
40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny
41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings
42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson
44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven
45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin
46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien
47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White
48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
49. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke
50. Contact, by Carl Sagan
51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons
52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
54. World War Z, by Max Brooks
55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett
58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson
59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold
60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett
61. The Mote In God's Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind
63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist
67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks
68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard
69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb
70. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne
73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore
74. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi
75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson
76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke
77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey
78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin
79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson
82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks
84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart
85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher
87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe
88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn
89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan
90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock
91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury
92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge
94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov
95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson
96. Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville
99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony
100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Not sure what to think of this

I acquired the 4E PHB 2 and PHB 3 on pdf yesterday.  Spent a bit of time looking through them briefly (pain in the but on pdf, but I'm not shucking out cash for physical copies of gaming books I don't really want or need).

Anyway, I was struck by the massive apparent overlap in many of the new classes presented.  Here's a couple more divine casters who fulfill the "Leader" role, just like the Cleric.  Here are some variant wildernessy classes that duplicate the Ranger.  Here are some more arcane strikers similar but different from the Warlock. 

I mean, it's bad enough that the classes' powers are more or less really similar within just the PHB.  I'd have thought they'd have gotten a bit more creative.  I mean, it's really just flavor text anyway, but why not have an arcane caster Defender?  Why not have a martial Controller?  Hasn't 4E broken down the class niche protection enough that it really shouldn't matter?

Anyway, I was mostly doing it because I was curious about how they did the Monk class.  I was thinking about the 4E Power system, and comparing it to what I'm doing with Flying Swordsmen.  Something like that (without all the grids and tactical minis focus on combat) might work for a Wuxia type game. 

No, I'm not considering a revised edition of Flying Swordsmen before I've even got the original completed.  Just pondering.  The way it works now is that every level each character learns a certain amount of maneuvers.  Some are attacks, some are static bonuses and some are situational bonuses to movement, defense or some other aspect of the character.  Once you've got it, it's always on, like 4E At Will powers.  The idea that a character might have certain more powerful abilities only usable once per encounter or once per day could be an interesting addition, but not one I'm planning to make at the moment.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


I've been jotting down ideas for adventures to write up for Flying Swordsmen during the commute lately. 

And the other day I finally got to fill in one of those gaps in my cultural knowledge.  I finally watched the original 1971 film Shaft.  And funny thing, one of the ideas I've got in the notebook is fairly similar to the plot of Shaft.  Now I know how to flesh out the rough ideas I've got for the module.

This... this. Win?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Gamer Rock

Paul and J.D. of the Yamanashi Group have a new garage band with a suitable gamer name, Critical Hit.  Here's a video from their performance last Saturday.  The audio's not so good, but oh well.

Paul, if you're reading this, tell J.D. the band needs... more cowbell!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

My Map-Making Method

So I got some good positive responses about my last post, where I was showing off my hand-drawn map for Flying Swordsmen RPG.

I think the biggest key to making that map look so good was that I took my time with it.  And believe me, being my own biggest critic there are some things I wish I could have done better with it.  But once I started inking parts, there was no going back unless I went pretty much ALL the way back.  So I just kept on rocking with it until I got it done.

Before I started the actual map, I'd been considering what sort of map I wanted.  Zhongyang Dalu had a predecessor, an old d20 OA game I ran in Japan.  That continent was a self-contained great island, like Australia.  I didn't want that any more.  I wanted more landmass off the map connected to the setting.  And I wanted lots of coastline, peninsulas, and the like.  Basically, the ecosystem mirrors China (deserts NW, steppe N, high mountains and plateau SW, jungles and mountains S, sea and islands E, with two major rivers), but the topography is more similar to Europe. 

To start, I made quite a few sample sketches in my pocket notebook or on scrap paper.  I used that to get the general idea of the shape of the continent I wanted in my head.  Then when I finally knew what it was I wanted, I started sketching rough outlines of the coast in my sketch pad with a mechanical pencil (easy to keep the marks light and erase as needed that way).

I made quite a few changes during this sketch phase.  When I more or less had it the way I wanted, I went over it again with a normal pencil, and added detail to the coast.  I added small inlets, bays, and peninsulas or headlands here and there.  I just generally broke up any areas with straight lines.  I started adding in some of the islands along the coasts at this point.  I also used the mechanical pencil to plot out where mountains and hills might go.  This allowed me to add more islands in logical places.

I went over the coastline one more time in pen, and actually ended up adding even more detail the third time through.  I erased the pencil before inking, to avoid the chance of smudging the ink. 

Once I had the coasts finished, then I sketched in the rivers using the exact same three step process.  The only difference was that I used blue ink for the rivers.  Most of the lakes were added after the fact, when I had inked the rivers and thought that I needed lakes here and there.

My next decision was how to draw the mountains.  I used Google to look for some actual ancient Chinese maps, and found one that used the style I copied for mountains.  After erasing the first roughly sketched (in mechanical pencil) mountains, I just used a ballpoint pen to draw in the mountains in that style.

Before I drew the provincial borders, I just looked at certain features to decide where would be logical places to divide things.  Rivers, mountain ranges, and the like usually are good for that in real life.  I tried using a highlight pen (orange), which on the map looks fine, but it didn't scan well.  So I went back and used a red ballpoint pen and traced the highlight lines with it.  I used a red felt tipped marker to write in the province names (and practiced that on scrap paper first to get the capital letters right).

For cities, I used a felt tipped marker and just made dots on the map where I wanted a city to go.  I put on about 25 cities the first time, then added more later.  I'll have to count again, but I think there are about 40 on there now.  I took all of the names from my old OA campaign's maps.  The names are in black ball point pen.  I thought about adding Chinese characters to the city names, but decided that would both make the map too crowded, and be too time consuming, as I'd have to look up characters that matched each pronunciation.

For the colors, I used color pencils in various shades to try to depict different types of landscapes.  Mixes of various greens and blues make up the forests (and I think I used some yellow as well for what's supposed to be bamboo covered hills in Qin province).  Yellow and brown for the desert.  Straight brown for the arid mountains and plateau.  The grassland/steppe used an olive green with some darker green and a bit of brown.  I'm not too fond of the color pencils I've got now (bought here in Korea).  I miss the ones I had and left behind in Japan.  I got better color from the old ones. 

Finally, I added in the names of the rivers, lakes, mountain ranges, seas and bays, etc.  I used a blue ball point pen for this, and decided, since I was making all these up instead of importing from the old setting, to pull out the Chinese dictionary and add in the characters for the names.  That did end up cluttering the map in a few places, but I like the touch it adds to the map.

I've still got the problem that the sketch pad is too big for my scanner.  After piecing the two scans together and adjusting brightness and contrast to try to hide the seam a bit (not so well, I know), it looks better.  I think I'll still see if I can locate a print shop where I can scan it in one piece before I put it in the book.

And as I mentioned at the beginning of this long post, I took my time with this map.  Most of the steps were done one day, and then the map would sit for a few days, or a week or more, at times, before I went on to the next step.  Especially early on, this allowed me to evaluate what I'd done before I started inking, and change things I didn't like.  I posted my first "Cartography" post here back in June, when I'd gotten the coasts and rivers inked.  So all told, this map was made over the course of about three and a half to four months.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Cartography IV

Here's the final map for Zhongyang Dalu, the world of the Flying Swordsmen RPG.  Now that I've got the map done, I feel like I can get to work on detailing the setting.  The goal is to just provide a bare-bones setting, maximizing opportunities for conflict and adventure, rather than present a likely boring socio-cultural overview of what's basically China with magic and monsters.  If anyone playing the game wants to bone up on Chinese history, culture, and all that, I'll be providing a "recommended reading" section in the appendices.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

More Gruesome Death on Gamma Terra!

This afternoon, Josh, Pat and I got together to play some more Gamma World.  Jeremy and Adam had to work, and Adam seems to be no longer interested in the game due to the long gap in play.  Anyway, you can read about our previous exploits here.

We quickly ret-conned the ending to the last session.  It was Wing Lao, my Altered Human Examiner, and John Smith XXXIV, Pat's PSH Examiner, who showed up in the balloon.  Tom Petty was ret-conned to have died along with Saeng the Minotaur in the blast (read the previous post for details on that hilarious episode!).  Wing and John joined Jar-Jar-Jar, Pat's Altered Plant Scout, and Linka, my Mutant Cougar Esper.

Well, we found out we couldn't get into the Mind Keep from the roof, where we were, so we climbed down the side of the tower to a plateau below.  We tried to get in a door, but there were motion sensors all around and a live-metal guard (security bot) sent us on our way since our keycard got vaporized with one of the two above fatalities.

We explored a hangar and found a wrecked aircar with a full tank of fuel and a few other goodies, after defeating a flying Grey Ooze type creature.  There were some stone huts out back, which we next explored.  The first had some kind of growling animals, so we left it alone.  A few were empty, one collapsed as soon as we touched it, and another was home to a pair of Jaggets, mutant cheetahs.  The female was home, and scared, and lashed out with a mental blast at my cougar, Linka.  It missed, so Linka fired back with her own mental blast, hurting the Jagget.  Someone else (forget exactly who) also attacked successfully, and she died.  Just then, her pissed husband attacked from behind, but he went down quickly as well.  We searched around, and found some goodies, including a generator buried in the dirt, another key-card, and some various random goodies, including car keys.

Our weather indicator told us bad weather was approaching, so we took shelter in the hangar while it rained torrentially for a week.  Then we got a blizzard for anther week, but this time we sheltered in one of the stone huts to conserve fuel.  We were now officially low on food.  We found another small building that was full of boxes to the south, but it was also home to some weird humanoid mutants with rock-covered skin and lots of hit points.  We had a long fight with them, but Wing's Confusion ability and Linka's mental blasts worked well on them, as they had high AC but low Mental Defense.  Jar-Jar-Jar was severely wounded, down to only 1 hit point by the time we finished them off!  Inside the building, though, we found an intact ground car!  Keys fit the ignition, and we could transfer the generator and fuel from the hangar to get it working again.

Well, now we tried the door to the Mind Keep again.  The security bot accepted John Smith's key-card, and ignored Jar-jar-jar, so those two went inside.  Linka and Wing had to figure something else out.  Inside, the two J's fought another of the flying blob things, and discovered a strange crystal cone creature that ignored them completely.  And they found out that the elevator wasn't working.  Meanwhile, outside, Wing circled the tower and investigated another of the sensors, this one wasn't on.  They were pretty flimsy, so we thought we'd try to destroy the one by the door to keep the robot from appearing.  We fired on it with our muskets, with Linka's shot hitting and destroying the sensor.  Then we waltzed in unopposed and met up with the other two.

While searching that floor, we found more loot, including another security card and a chemex grenade.  We also opened a door to a room full of black mushrooms that began spreading exponentially when exposed to new air.  One chemex grenade later and the mushrooms were no more (Josh letting us know that was a very good thing!).  We still couldn't find a way to get the elevators activated, so we pried open the doors and used the ladder to descend into the basement.

Well, in the bottom floor, the first room we explored was home to three Obbs.  Yikes!  One super-radiation blast from them finished off poor Jar-jar-jar (he'd had so many close calls, and finally met his match).  Wing and John were incapacitated by the radiation.  Linka was merely weakened, so she grabbed up Wing and John and ran out of the room.  She waited until the Obbs quieted down, then quickly opened the door and used telekinesis to get Jar-jar-jar out (luckily Obbs are carnivores, and didn't want to eat a cactus mutant).

Linka got everyone into the balloon outside and with our NPC scout companion (who did nothing but hang around away from danger and offer occasional advice) we floated back to our starting base to heal and regroup.

We decided that was a good place to stop, and spent the rest of our session time just talking and Pat rolled up a new character.  We needed a new Enforcer, so he choose a Mutant Rhino.  But then he rolled poorly for Str, and also got a Size Reduction mutation which upped his poor Dex (but not enough to give a bonus) and reduced his Str even farther!  He also got a Gas Generation mutation (hallucinogenic!), which of course Josh and I insisted to Pat must be a flatulence attack.  Add in a dual brain (Josh again said it must be located in his ass), and telepathy, heightened Intelligence, and I don't remember what, and we've got a fun new character to join the expedition for what will likely be the final session in a week and a half!

[Jeremy, if you read this, don't worry, your new character can rejoin us easily next session.  If Adam decides to come, that's fine, but Josh had Pat erase the Tom Petty character sheet for Pat to make his new one though...  Hope Adam doesn't mind!]

[Barking Alien, if you're reading this, this session I'd say qualifies for 'super-fun.'  We had a blast.]

There's just something about dinosaurs

There really is, isn't there?

Yesterday we took our son to a dinosaur exhibit at the local convention center, BEXCO.  It was half strange insert yourself into Biblical art thingy, a magic show, and giant robo-tronic dinosaurs.  My son was pretty much only interested in the dinosaurs and the obligatory toy shop set up inside every children's event there.

Preparing for Module X1

When I heard the exhibit was on, sometime last week, and we decided to go, it got me thinking about the good old thunder lizards. 

Specifically, about all the OA games I've run in the past.  Why did I never include dinosaurs in them?  I mean, really, Isle of Dread is based off of King Kong, which is a modern pulp story, so doesn't that mean it translates just as easily to a "katana and kung fu" setting as it does a "swords and sorcery" setting?

I've never pitted samurai and Taoist magicians against stegosaurus and T-Rex.  Why not?  I don't know.  It's not like other people haven't thought of the idea already.  I've just never utilized it.  But I'm tempted now to include some sort of Lost Valley in one of the Flying Swordsmen modules I'm planning for when I finally get the rule set finished.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Very superstitious, writing's on the wall

I'm not actually a very superstitious person, but I do have a few.  My one dice superstition is that the old dice I collected from my TSR box sets are now MY dice.  No one else gets to touch them. 

Back in the day, we just didn't have that many dice.  KillingMachine, my cousin Ben, and I each had two sets from our Basic and Expert sets, an extra pair of d10s each from Star Frontiers (which usually stayed in the SF box), and whatever extra d6s we scrounged from old board games.  And if one of us was at another's house and didn't bring our own, of course we shared our dice.

Now, though, I've got more than enough other dice that the old ones stay safely far from others in their own little gray dice bag.  And I mostly use them when rolling up my Megadungeon encounters or monster hit dice or number appearing and all that, not much for actual gaming.

Anyway, last Saturday, for some reason I brought that set of old dice to the 4E game.  And they were rolling quite poorly.

I wonder if my dice were trying to tell me something.

Just in case, I'll be bringing a different dice bag to the next game.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Movie Review: Captain America

Yesterday we went to see "Paseuteu Abenja" as it's called here in Korea, Captain America: The First Avenger everywhere else.  I'd been really waiting to see this movie, although I did have some doubts about the casting of Chris Evans as Cap.

For those of you arriving here from a web search with the keywords "Captain America Horrible" I hate to disappoint.  I really liked it.  If you googled "Captain America curse words" or something similar, the language was mostly tame.  Don't worry.  The name of the blog gets a lot of those searches.  Now to continue the review.

As most of you likely know, this is the final lead-in movie to next year's Avengers movie, which will bring Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, and Captain America together (along with some of the other Avengers, like Hawkeye, who didn't get their own films).  I've enjoyed all of the previous four movies (Iron Man, The Hulk, Iron Man 2, and Thor) but each had a very different feel (well, the two Iron Man movies were of course similar in style).  Captain America had yet another style of its own, this time doing a good job of blending the tropes of super hero films with a fairly solid war movie framework.

Aside from the first one and last two scenes, all of the movie takes place in World War II.  The Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) is the leader of Hydra, Hitler's super-science program.  Red Skull believes that Norse Mythology is real (and of course, in the Marvel Universe, it is -- see Thor) and wants to tap the super-science of the Aesir for his weapons.  He locates the Cosmic Cube in Norway, and decides he doesn't need Hitler any more and embarks on a quest to destroy the world so that he can take over the remains.

Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, shrimpy wimp Steve Rogers has tried everything he can think of to enlist.  His buddy Bucky is ready to ship out.  They visit the Stark Expo, and there Rogers is approached by Dr. Erskine and talked into joining the Super-Soldier Program (although he doesn't realize it yet).  Of all the super-soldier recruits, Rogers is picked to be the first experiment because of his sterling character.  And of course the procedure is a success, turning him into Captain America.

However, things don't quite go according to plan.  He ends up performing in USO shows to raise money through War Bonds.  Eventually, though, Rogers really becomes Captain America, showing his prowess and his brains to battle The Red Skull and Hydra. 

There are some very cool action scenes, reminiscent of films like The Dirty Dozen, as Cap and his team take down one Hydra location after another.  There's a bit of romance.  There's some good comedy, a lot of it revolving around Howard Stark (Tony Stark/Iron Man's father for those who don't know).  Evans did a good job of making Steve Rogers seem like a real person, and Captain America as a believable hero.  There's always a risk with characters that are so archetypal as Cap that they seem two-dimensional in films, but that didn't happen here. 

I thought it was a well done film over all.  I liked it better than Thor and The Hulk, although I still enjoyed Iron Man and Iron Man 2 better (I think it's the snappy banter that Robert Downey Jr. does so well).  Captain America was top notch, though, and now I'm really excited about The Avengers.

Oh, and if you didn't know, stick around through the credits for not only a teaser scene link to The Avengers, but a trailer as well!