Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Unrelated Chatter

First off, GO JOSS! This is exactly the sort of series he would be excellent at doing, and I'm big fans of  his brother and sister-in-law, so I'm excited for that.

Second, I might be starting up another Burning Wheel game this Friday, depending on a few factors that are outside my control. CAN'T WAIT.

Thirdly, I have decided that washer and dryer machines are epically  important. I seriously hate not having them right now.

Fourthly, I am hungry. Someone make me a sandwich.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Why Turn Structure's Important

So, Saturday night all my friends and I get together, and my roommate (known to y'all as Sparky) declares he wants to run a short one-shot for all of us. Eager to play for once in the last few months and help my roommate out with getting started at one of the most difficult but rewarding hobbies there is (GMing), I jump up to the challenge. We were told to make any character we wanted in a modern setting, so I decided to make "Dexter Morgan", the infamous serial-killer-vigilante.  Now, as you can tell, I'm a rather chatty guy. I'm so extroverted it's actually a bit of a disadvantage sometimes.... like when you're playing an RPG with a bunch of introverted people.


Fortunately, Dexter took a head-shot about half-way through  the game session and died on the spot, allowing the quieter people to step up and actually get in a word edge-wise. Now, it wasn't just because I was a hog, mind you. I did try to step down. The problem, however, was that once someone steps up to lead a certain part of the session everyone sort of assumes that they'll continue to do so. And in a narrative-based game that means that one person leads the narrative.

This is not OK.

One person should NOT dominate game sessions, and I say that as someone who accidentally did! So what should be done? Each player should have a set of priorities that, when it's his turn (and there should be actual turns, a person, once done with a certain amount of actions should step down and the next person should be allowed to go), allow him to start sorting out the problem of the session in his own way, or to strike out on his own and figure out his own thing, and alter the story in... it's... own... direction...


Sunday, August 26, 2012

The City's Lights: Some Clannad Questions From Josh

I'm not sure how active the blog is, so I will just email you some questions I thought of,
Hope you don't mind,

Well, sir, you'll find that this blog is pretty damn active, and I most certainly don't mind. I'll answer as best I can.

Tomoya/Robot collects pain/junk, and takes it to Ushio/Girl, who turns it into actualized dreams/new things.

"She has the ability to collect junk and make something new"
"It's something special I can't do"
"If junk only takes shape by wishing from one's heart, then I couldn't do it alone...because I'm...not human."- Robot

All of the painful changes Tomoya has experienced, Ushio is able to take and finally make a good change.

Children do that, sir. Most of the show is about how children save their parents, showcased by Ushio.

[Also, potentially correlation between "finding our own tools to live" and "finding our own happiness"? I don't want to over-analyze, but there are so so many correlations I want to mention them all in case.]

[Also, what is the significance of "a world that HAD ended"? Two things, it seems like the Robot previously was in the other world, then went there, then returned. Anything to that? Then, why is the world "ended" and "sad"?]

[It's interesting how the girl is looking after the robot just as much as the inverse.]

Welcome to parenting, where the children save the adults while the adults protect the children. I honestly believe that children are God's gift to humanity and, without them, we'd all be lost. Fresh souls are necessary to help us remember all the truths that we forgot because idiots got to us and convinced us we were wrong to believe how good the world is.

[I think it only showed three sheep. What are the best parallels to them you have heard?]

Honestly, the best I've heard is that the sheep are Akio, Sanae, and Fuko. Beyond that I haven't really thought it out much.

[More potentially forced parallels: The other doll they tried to make, does it represent Nagisa? Then, specific relevance of the see-saw and the helicopter? I don't remember what events these were shown during, but these are just more thoughts.]

I would posit that the doll just represents them trying to form a family without Nagisa, which doesn't work. Or you could say that they're the dangos they hold to themselves and wish that Nagisa is there. I dunno, to be honest.

[Oooh, I noticed an inconsistency. The girl says "if only I could shed tears", but previously she did cry. I'm going to pretend this contradiction doesn't exist...]

Girls are contradictory. Feelings are contradictory. Funny how that works :P

[When the girl says she can't do anything anymore, does that have any connection to Ushio needing Tomoya to give up his bitterness before she can implement her wish? If not, what does the coming winter in that world represent?]

Yes, yes it does. Without Tomoya Ushio can't do anything anymore.

[Then there is the brilliant parallel between the Robot's regret of bringing the girl out, and Tomoya's regret of meeting Nagisa.]

More specifically Tomoya regretting ever having Ushio. Ushio's existence was something Tomoya regretted so strongly he abandoned Nagisa.

What is that world, and when is it?
It's heavily implied that each world is a separate mind of a person. Time doesn't exactly count in the mind, so the "when" doesn't really count. Tomoya and Ushio are connected supernaturally, thanks to the efforts of the town.

I'm hoping those questions were answered alright for your taste, Josh. Thanks for being so patient as I was on vacation in Colorado and I started the first week of school!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Two RPG Kickstarter Projects

Guys, try and support these two particular Kickstarter projects, if you can, they look awesome and I really wanna see these games made!

Genesis Gaming System: This fantasy RPG is centered around using a deck of cards instead of dice to resolve actions. They've got some previews up at ENWorld, and so far the game looks incredibly innovative and well worth the time and investment.

Revelation: A post-apoc zombie game. It looks pretty interesting, and is centered around each character finding a sense of purpose in the new world. While it doesn't look "original", it does look like it's well done, and has some good ideas in it.

Back these games up, people! They look good, and I'm hoping they get made on time...

So Why Do I Do This? Part 3

Warning: I'm in a bit of a melodramatic mood. I mean, it's been a pretty melodramatic and philosophical summer, so you have been forewarned.

As I sit here at the local Micky D's, taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi, my brain has turned to that question: why do people play RPGs? I mean, it's escapism, at best. I've gotten repeatedly warned of the bad mythology that shows up in Dungeons and Dragons all summer long, to the point to where it's pretty discouraging to even thinking about it. Why leave this world for another one, no matter how long?

Funny, that reminds me of a story... the late and great Jack "the King" Kirby did a lot of tours in his later years, visiting with people and talking to him about his art. One day he wound up at a library, where a bunch of people his age started looking at his exhibition. One of the older ladies walked up to him, and asked him why he always did fantasy, since it was obvious that none of this stuff had a basis in reality almost anywhere. Jack's response was essentially this: Trying to reflect on reality itself will get you a flipped image, and you won't actually see reality. It's only by trying to transcend what's real that we understand what reality is. 

OK, so that's not an exact quote, but it's pretty damn close to what he said. People look for experiences that help them hang on a little longer, that give them that oomph that they need to get through the rest of the day, hour, or minute. Hell, without those experiences life just doesn't move forward for me. You know the moments I'm talking about, right? Where nothing exists but that moment and what you're doing right then and there. Time stops, and you exist. For whatever reason time takes it's five minute break and you can enjoy not having it around for a little bit. I think it's called joy.

Well, that's what RPGs have always done for me. And considering that there's very few things in this world that this happens with, I figure that it's kinda imperative to keep doing it. Joy and timelessness are so rare in this world, and, as someone who doesn't just want to survive, I find that getting together with my friends, throwing dice, and making up a world between the bunch of us that, even though it's not real, is still impactful and meaningful. I mean, that's why we watch movies and plays and opera, right? Cause, even though it's not real, we all connect to it as if it is, and we're changed for the better. There's nothing better than the shared fiction of a group of friends.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Holy Shi.. I Mean... Dollhouse

Imagine, if you will, your TV shows as being like food. Your common sitcoms are the basics you find at any grocery store: they'll do, but you know you can find better if you look a little bit harder. Soap operas are the White Castle of fast food joints, attracting a particular taste, but being awful overall. You can find some foreign food sitting around, but it's probably a bit harder to find in it's "native" setting. With me so far? Good.

Dollhouse is that five-star course meal which is made by the finest chefs in all the land, and it's SO good and SO awesome that you go weak in the knees when you taste it, because you only thought you knew perfection before, but by God you know it now. There's a little bit of everything in this meal, but the meal itself is so frickin' rich and good that you really don't need all that much to begin with.

In other words: Dollhouse is the best American TV show I've ever seen. You really can't do better in terms of plot, characterization, twists, and just sheer bad-assery. This is science fiction at it's best and finest, and quite frankly blows anything more well-known out of the water, Firefly included.

Yes, you heard me. Joss Whedon finally one-upped himself.

I don't wanna give too much of the show away, but Dollhouse is about an organization that takes volunteers, wipes their minds, and imprints them with new personalities to suit a particular client's wishes. Each episode you mostly follow the adventures of Echo, one of the volunteers who does a rather phenomenal job of getting things done. The show's major focus is on free will and whether it's real or not.

The only complaint I have about this show? Due to people not liking it (for reasons that I STILL do not understand) it only lasted two seasons, when it's clearly supposed to go for at least four. That means the ending's rather rushed, but even there Dollhouse manages to produce a better ending than almost all the American shows I've ever seen (short of Scrub's season 8 ending, however. Kinda hard to top that one).

FIND THIS SHOW, AND WATCH IT. I would program you to do it, but I don't have Topher's mad skillz.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

House Rules: Weapon Reach

One of the things that I've noticed about d20 combat is that it becomes desperately dull. Round to round, there's really nothing for d20 melee classes to do. Deny it if you will, folks, but there just aren't enough interesting things to do. The games that try to fix this problem give all sorts of powers and special abilities to fighters, thinking that making them more like spellcasters will make them more interesting. This, of course, just leads to homogenization and people complaining that they didn't want to play a spellcaster. The problem, of course, isn't with the classes, but with combat itself.

One solution? Houserule in melee weapon reach. Almost all combats in real life are decided by whether you can close in to hit your opponent with that critical strike, but if you can't close that gap then you're screwed. That's why the spear was the common weapon back in medieval times, not the sword. It was cheap, deadly, and the reach to ensure that people couldn't just close without some issues first. The strategy then shifts from trying to hit someone as hard as you can to getting in close and staying there.

These rules assume 3rd edition/Pathfinder/Star Wars SAGA as the base rules being modified. These rules haven't been playtested yet, this is merely a thought exercise.

Whenever you become adjacent to an opposing character the two of you must make an opposed Dexterity or Acrobatics+Base Attack Bonus roll. The character with the longest weapon gets a +3 bonus to this roll.  The winner of this roll gets a bonus to attack and damage rolls, equal to triple the difference of weapon length.

At the beginning of each round all characters engaged in melee must make this check once again, with the winner of the previous round getting a +1 bonus per round that he has had advantage.

The following actions are modified as to fit with this system.

Charge: You must make the engagement check as part of the charge, but you gain the weapon bonus as if you'd already won the engagement. If you fail this roll your opponent's next attack against you is an automatic critical hit.

Grapple: The grapple move ignores all advantages and disadvantages. If the target of the grapple is wielding a longer or longest weapon the attacker gets a +3 bonus to his roll.

Sunder: You don't get the bonus to damage rolls from advantage when sundering a weapon, although you do keep the bonus to  attack rolls.

Disarm: Keep the advantage bonus. If a character is trained in Bluff he uses that bonus instead of his Base Attack Bonus, whichever's higher.

Weapon Length
1. Shortest: Hand, dagger
2. Short: Short sword
3. Long: Longsword, Axe,
4. Longer: Glaive, Spear
5. Longest: Bow, crossbow

Example: Xenith, a 4th level paladin with a longsword, engages Xellus, a 3rd level rogue with a dagger. Xenith has a bonus of +7 (4 BAB+3 Longer weapon+1 Dex mod) vs. Xellus's +7 (2 BAB+5 Acrobatics). Let's say, for the sake of the argument, that Xellus wins the roll. He gets a +6 to his attack and damage rolls because his dagger is 2 weapon lengths in difference from Xenith's longsword. 

However, the next round they have to make the check again, although Xellus has a +8 bonus because he had won the previous engagement's roll.

Called Shots
Whenever an attack roll is made two things must happen: the target must declare what part of his body he leaves open. The attacker then declares what part of the body he's aiming for. If hit the target must make a Will Save with the damage dealt as the DC. If the save is failed, an additional penalty happens to the target:

Legs: Target falls prone.
Arms: Target drops whatever he's holding on that side. If a shield is strapped to his arm he receives a -3 penalty to using that arm for the next round.
Torso: Target takes a cumulative -1 penalty to all physical rolls until he takes a full-round action to recover.
Head: Target loses his next move action.

Give these rules a try, and let me know what you think of them. I'll be trying them tonight, and I'll post about what I find.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man Movie Review

So, thanks to a wonderful gift from a friend I was able to see Maria on Thursday, and off we went to see the one movie we'd promised to wait to see together: The Amazing Spider-Man! We got into the movie theatre, sat down, and well... gosh, I like this movie. So very, very, very much... I'll break it down into a few parts: story, casting, and accuracy. I'll use this review to refute a few of my friends who did not like the movie as much, and use this as a platform for why I think this really is the best Spider-Man movie ever made.

Webb took a very unexpected direction with his reboot by going back to Spidey's origins and working his own story within it. The story is no longer just about "power and responsibility", but about Peter's maturation into someone who no longer uses the abandonment of his parents as an excuse to have a low self-image. Peter's powers are not there for their own sakes, but are used to further highlight Peter's exploration of himself as a maturing adult. Every element of the story serves to show Peter's self-exploration, and the movie really only makes sense in that context. It's a story about being a teenager, really, and the fact that Webb knows this and makes sure that everything serves that end is nothing less than stellar.

Oh.. my... God... THAT WAS PETER PARKER, FOLKS! That was  him! YES! You have no idea how happy I am that someone finally made a movie that actually showcased Peter Parker, and not some whiny boy pretending to be him... oh wait... that's not what I'm supposed to be saying, is it? Oops, too bad. Andrew Garfield is Peter Parker. I officially cannot imagine anyone else playing Spider-Man, not ever again. Everyone else's casting was pretty damn good (especially Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy), but it's Garfield's casting as Peter Parker that makes this movie so damn good. If it had been handed to anyone else, it just wouldn't have worked the same way, and considering that I like this way, that'd be a crying shame. Garfield gets Peter Parker and Spider-Man, and that's something that's beyond beautiful to watch on the big screen.

Seriously, props to the whole damn cast.

This is the only movie I've ever seen where Spider-Man moved like Spider-Man. From fighting like a little chicken-shit to his webslinging to his wise-cracks to his heroism, this Spider-Man looked like, sounded like, and felt like Spider-Man in a way that no other film has ever been able to achieve. While they took more than a few liberties with the story (like not having the criminal show up ever again in the movie) it made me believe in Peter Parker in a way the comics never did. It may not be 100% accurate, but like the Nolan films I find that The Amazing Spider-Man got Spider-Man so well that I frankly couldn't care less.

The only thing holding this film back? There were three films before it, all of which presented a very different (and flawed) vision of Spidey that's going to stick in my mind no matter how hard I try to get them out. Seriously, I'm thinking of junking my original Spider-Man DVD just so I can replace it with this movie when it comes out...

8/10, for being awesomesauce.

The City's Lights: Tomoya

There are a lot of reasons why I like Clannad, but I really think the primary reason is because of Tomoya, and the conflict that is within him, and within the hearts of every single character examined in this story. What's the conflict?

Accepting love.

It's probably the most difficult thing in the world to do, and yet so few stories talk about it. But how many people do you know that have good lives and yet are miserable anyway? Tomoya's story is their own, that of the person who has something in their life that makes the rest of it seem unbearable, no matter how small it may appear to the outsider. But the outsider's opinion really isn't what matters, is it? You have your issue, and until someone takes it seriously it's not going to be resolved. Clannad is about Tomoya's attempts to change his life so he can finally accept the love of those around him. And the world/God is willing to do everything it takes to help him do this, even rewind time itself when Tomoya finally realizes that he won't regret being with Nagisa.

See, the reason why Tomoya got his rewind was because he had a wish, and refused to use it. The episode where Nagisa dies is where Tomoya's real issue with life comes out.

Bad things happen to good people, and some people can barely take that. Tomoya happens to be one of those people.

Fortunately, however, Ushio gives him the opportunity to use his wish again, and Tomoya FINALLY makes the decision to bring Nagisa back, but at the cost of losing his internal bitterness that bad things have to happen for good things to flourish all the more in this world. This isn't some cliche "you have to do bad things for good reasons" bullcrap, but the legitimate knowledge that bad things that happen to you can lead to even better things in the future. It's a message that's extremely hopeful and, ultimately, really touches on what all good stories are about: good prevails, even if it takes a little bit of time to get there. As the Count of Monte Cristo says "Wait and hope"...