Thursday, December 27, 2012

Icon in Progress: Christ the Vine

Well, here we are! The icon's getting closer and closer to getting done. It's mostly touch ups at this point, although I'll have to put in all the inscriptions...

Here's a close up of Christ's face. I really like how soft He looks at the moment.

Amazing Spider-Man 700 Main Story Review (Spo-HOI-lers!)

Why did they ever prefer Kirby's cover to THIS?

The first time (of many) that I read the main story of this issue, I was in shock. I just sat there, looking at the comic book on my screen, staring into space. Maria can vouch for the fact that I wasn't truly... there... for the rest of the night. When I went to bed I just lay there, staring up at the ceiling. I waited until today to read the comic again, and I'm noticing I'm in a bit more of a commentary-ish mood, and well, I just wanted to share my thoughts on this, the most important Spider-Man story ever published(!), with y'all. Yes, I just said the most important. The best, really.

Cause it's the one where Peter Parker dies.

I've read the boards, and the vast majority of people just don't seem to get it. They rant and rave about how awful a story this is, how there's missteps in the pacing, and that it's the dumbest idea ever. I mean, you've got your death threats, your "I hate Dan Slott" idiots, the list just goes on and on. By making those comments, these people completely miss the point about who and what Spider-Man is, was, and always will be, even without Peter Parker. 

Spider-Man has always been about making the best of a really horrible situation that you're more than half responsible for. 

Uncle Ben? A really horrible situation that was entirely Spidey's fault.
Gwen and Gwen's dad? Spidey was directly responsible for those tragedies.
Kraven's Hunt? OK, that one stands a bit cause it wasn't really Spidey's fault, but check on the bad situation...

But you get the idea. Spidey's always been at his best when he chooses the noble route in the face of overwhelming tragedy.

And what's worse than the following situation?

Doc Ock has taken over Spidey's body, and he's running around with his life, intent on living it out in his own way. Ock has put Spidey in his own, dying, body, and skedaddled. Spidey attempts to get his body back, but Ock (who has always been smarter than him) has him at every point and turn. Peter tries to kill Ock, but even that fails, because Ock is using his abilities better than Peter ever thought to. Now Peter's lying on the street, and Ock's about to kill him with a car with his own body(!), so what does Spidey do?

He uses the telepathic link that Ock established to make Ock relive Peter's whole life, except that it's now Ock living his life. He knows Uncle Ben and Aunt May's love, he knows how the selfishness that Ock has shown only all too much of robbed him of his Uncle, and he shows Ock what... they... do because of it. Ock is overcome, and falls to his knees, saying that this wasn't what he wanted, he only wanted power, girls, and fame(sound familiar?)! But he agrees that with great power comes great responsibility. Peter asks to see his loved ones one last time, and dies in the street, leaving Ock in awe of what he has just been given. He promises to be better from that day on out. 

Did anyone else notice the parallels to Amazing Fantasy? Arrogant and bitter teen gets awesome powers, uses them selfishly, and has a massive shock which convinces him to use his powers for the betterment of everyone, despite himself, and that with great power comes great responsibility...

Yup, this was Ock's Amazing Fantasy 15. T'was bloody fantastic. I can't wait to see what Slott does with this, in The Superior Spider-Man! Unlike the majority of the morons on the internet, I'm pumped. This is gonna be awesome!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Pathfinder Beginner Box

So I bought this awhile back on a whim. I'd been curious about Pathfinder for awhile, if only because it's the successor to one of the worst balanced games I'd ever played which still has some nostalgia. But I waited awhile, reading reviews of what's been called one of the best beginner boxes of all time. People were commenting that certain rules were changed, tweaked, simplified... that intrigued me. So I looked for specifics, and found the key differences:

  1. Spellcasters couldn't cast while adjacent to foes. Just period, couldn't happen. This fixes pretty much all problems with spellcasters, cause all I have to do is base the poor spellcaster and spells are impossible!
  2. No attacks of opportunity. This lets combat move really fast, and moves the emphasis off of combat. 
  3. Max level is 5. No, not 20 (where the system breaks down so badly it's unreal), not 10 (which really is as far as the system can really go), but 5, right around the E6 idea!
... did they do this on purpose? Please tell me they knew what they did! They managed to fix all the problems that 3rd edition ever had, and put DnD back to it's true roots: a dungeon crawler, where combat was just one aspect of the experience. And since you couldn't get above level 5, the game stays at a very grounded stage, making the dungeon crawl is actually a dungeon crawl, not a cheap dungeon fly-by. 

And least, that's what I hoped it would do. This was all stuff I'd just thought about in my head. So I tried it. 

What can I say? It works. I ran a session of it, and it was AWESOME. The wizard was the perfect utility knife, the cleric healed and backed up the fighter, the rogue attempted to deactivate traps and  screamed in horrific pain whenever hit, and the fighter OWNED in combat, a veritable god on the battlefield! I ran them through a relatively tame dungeon, only killing two of their characters before they managed to beat the place. Everyone had a great time (even if the person "born of gamer aristocracy" complained that I was too tough. Bah, I took it easy on them!), and none of these people were newcomers.

The actual physical product is gorgeous. There's a player and GM book, and some of these AWESOME little pawns, along with character sheets, pregenned characters, dice, and battlemap. All the materials are well-made and durable. 

The player's book has everything a player needs to play, with a good variety of feats and other things. I found the GM's book to have an OK selection of monsters and traps, but nearly enough for what I wanted. Granted, I know it's a beginner's box and all, but I would have liked something to help people generate their own traps and monsters. The advice was of no use to me, because most of it was centered around a type of game I really don't think this rule's set was ever meant to actually play a narrative-based game. It would probably work out OK for beginners, but I'm afraid that they'd think this was meant RPGs could do, which is a horrible thought.

So, for all you people who ARE new to the RPG world, welcome! This product is really good,and I recommend it! But just be aware that the game will work out expertly for one thing only: dungeon crawls. If you like the idea of trudging through a dungeon so you can kill things and take their stuff then MAN this is the product for you! But if you're looking for something a little more story-oriented, I suggest picking up Mouseguard instead. It'll be much easier on you than this game when it comes to making stuff and, unlike this box, Mouseguard is meant to be self-sufficient. This game? Not so much.

Overall, though, an excellent product!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

On the Evolution of People and Churches

So I got into an argument with one of my friends at church today over Vatican II and whether it was a good council or not. Now, for all people reading this to know right now: I'm a Vatican II man. I say good riddance to Latin and scoff at the idea that Thomas Aquinas should be the go-to guy (especially in the Latin Church. You guys have other people who are just as insightful, even if not as prolific). I personally think that the changes that were begun at Vatican II are the most important changes for the entirety of the Church at large, and that it's truly a council for the ages.

Well, my friend disagreed, like a lot of young traddy Catholics.
I'm looking for the cymbals.

I asked him why, and his response was that Vatican II didn't actually fix anything. All the other councils had fixed things, and this council was a miserable failure at doing that, I mean, look at the chaos out there! People are pushing for women to be ordained (pft, that's so 5th century!), there's horrible liturgical confusion (what, scraping off the paint of icons into the sacred species too bland for you? Try clown masses), we've got heretical bishops (HA! That's definitely not new), and the list just went on and on and on. Oh, and don't forget about clergy not doing their job in propagating the true faith by bending over with skirts up for the politicians. I mean, heavens to betsy let's not forget about that. Now, most of my snarky-but-true remarks were my ready response for him, considering that he's not the first person I've debated that yearns for "the bad old days" of yore (I mean, back then people got things done, justice prevailed, and frauds like Obama were tortured and killed in the good old-fashioned Medieval style.)  But my father interjected, and inserted a comment that definitely made me think.

"It was all in-process, the documents were just left as signposts for later."

Well that bowled me over. I'd never thought of that. Maybe, just maybe, these people didn't write everything down to commemorate the event of their victory (as I always figured), but they recorded their thoughts so everyone down the line had a chance to renew the fight should they fail. I mean, there were at least two(!) robber councils on Iconoclasm which cancelled out Iconodule statements! Arianism went rampant for a long time after Nicea I and killed a lot of people; that heresy was a bloodbath. The 2nd Ecumenical Council (I can never remember where it happened, sorry!) was called to complete the Creed because such a poor job had been done on it beforehand! And Saint Cyril of Alexandria ran a voter fraud scam that would have done Obama and the Democrats proud in the Council of Ephesus. I mean, our doctrine of the Theotokos was obtained via voter fraud! And yet here we are, 1600 years later, proclaiming her to be the Theotokos, and Cyril, a politician cut from the same cloth as Chicago's politicians, is a saint. He's got his miracles which confirm that he's up in heaven, and more than enough apparitions by the blessed Mother herself to confirm the title of Theotokos.

So the right side did win, it just did it the way any of us triumph over evil: step-by-step, inch by inch, and with a healthy dose of corruption and back-handed deals. Now, I'm not saying that the ends justify the means: evil is evil. But, ultimately, the Fathers really weren't any different from us. They had good, they had bad, and they just had to make do with what they had, like us.  They just pointed into the darkness and took the best shot they could, hoping that it would work. Did they expect things to work out? I have no idea of knowing, but when Saint Nick himself punches Arius in the face cause he couldn't argue with him you get the feeling that things didn't look all that great (I pray for that level of courage, BTWS).

Yeah, the triumph of justice and right happens just like it does in Christian fairy tales (and in a certain way it does, but more on that some other time), except when it doesn't. Somehow we have this idea that everything that happened in the past was part of a golden era that shouldn't be badmouthed (in the case of the traddies) or that everything that happened in the past was terrible and you better not try to do what those poor bastards did (not that I could blame anyone for this after WWI).

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The REAL Burning Empires Review

Some games play pretty closely to how they read (3rd edition, sad to say), some take a bit of time to get used to (Mouse Guard), and some really do not play how they look at all. The last type of game is the hardest to review and to get an idea of how it works in play. Games like 4th edition look really damn boring until you actually play the game and realize that it doesn't play anything like how it looks, because the parts are designed into a greater whole that you won't necessarily get until you play the game for a little while and get where it's going. 

Burning Empires is one of these games. There's reading this game, and there is playing this game, and there's a world of difference. It's really hard to explain just how bloody competitive this game is and how cutthroat it's intended to be unless you go and crush the other side. 

Honestly, when I first saw the rules for this game it reminded me of my true love Burning Wheel (I mean, favorite game. Sorry Maria!). I mean, the lifepaths, the Duel of Wits, character creation (Oh, how I missed you...), races, the PTGS (well, sorta, it is changed a tiny bit), all of it screams Burning Wheel  to me. Now, since my initial read-through review of Burning Empires I've played a single-phase campaign. During this time Maria expressed interest at seeing the game, so at some point she came over and studied while the rest of us played. When we got done with the session, I turned to Maria and asked "Kinda funny how similarly it plays to Burning Wheel?" She then commented. "It doesn't feel like Burning Wheel at all!"

"It plays like Mouse Guard."

And she's right. That's when I realized a few things

1) I wasn't playing Burning Wheel like Burning Wheel. I was playing it like DnD/Burning Empires.
2) Fortunately, Burning Empires plays so damn well I accidentally started playing another game in almost the exactly same way I was playing Burning Empires. 
3) This game plays like Mouse Guard in a really good way.

There are a few caveats I'd include for those who are looking at this game. Play this game if you like:

1) An actual story-game. Yes, this counts as a real one. No, I'm not trying to be a pretentious ass. This game has a lot of fiddly bits, but it all works out.
2) A heavy, crunchy, juicy awesome piece of awesomness.
3) If you love playing heavy intrigue, you're going to ADORE this game. I mean, seriously, the Infiltration phase alone is so intrigue-tastic you'd be nuts not to love this game.

But this game isn't for everyone, do not play this game if you:

1) Hate rules-heavy games. Hell, while you're at it avoid Burning Wheel too. And probably Mouse Guard as well. 
2) Want a game where you just shoot people. If you want that, go play Pathfinder or any of the WoTC games. This is game is incredibly tactical, but the tactics produce a story first, action second.
3) If you want a mindless dungeon-crawler good Lord stay away from this game!

Honestly, I'm pleased as punch I've got this game. Go check it out!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Isn't This Most Major News Media?

I mean, really, who ever took TIME seriously? I sure as hell can't...

Review: Marvel Heroic Roleplaying (Basic Game)

Well, Andy wouldn't stop praising this game, so I went and decided to try it out. I sat down with some of my old highschool buddies (I'm back in Chicago for my last Christmas break... ever!), they picked characters, and we ran the first half of Breakout! The session took about 2 and a half hours to conclude, and what I learned about this game was amazing.

  1. The rules are poorly written and organized. When I first started reading the dice rolling rules I was genuinely confused, and this is coming from someone who loves Burning Wheel's Fight! mechanics. The writing is abstract at best, and the organization of said rules had me jumping all over the book in a way that I didn't appreciate. I eventually gave up, called Andy, and had him explain how the damn thing worked. A ten minute explanation did more good for my understanding of this game than the actual rules text.
  2. As poorly written as this game may be, it shines in actual play. We played a 2 and a half hour long combat, and it didn't drag in the slightest. Everyone was engaged and having a ton of fun, deciding how they were going to be awesome for their actions and reactions. The fact that it took a little longer to resolve actions didn't matter, for the simple reason that everyone was working out a narrative amongst themselves, not just rules stuff. If I'd run the same scenario in 4th edition this game would have been a crawling, boring slugfest. Instead it was an exciting game of being as awesome as you could be. 
  3. The game is not easy on those who get hurt, and I mean that in a good way. This game has rules for injury that are intuitive and easy, allowing for the player to still do awesome stuff without getting rid of the drama of getting hurt, stressed out, or messed with. Again, the emphasis is placed on the narrative. 
  4. Convincing people to play characters that they had not made themselves was a genuine pain in the butt. I felt like I was pulling a two-year-old's teeth, except the two year old had werewolf incisors, not a baby's, so when they bit it hurt like hell. They simply did not get the concept that the game was about playing already-existing heroes and, when this was explained, one of the players bitched and moaned for quite awhile. Eventually he sucked it up and moved on, but for the simple reason that he was so uncooperative I feel even less inclined to let people make characters. Besides, I like the whole "pick your favorite character and move on" feel that this game has.
  5. Again, I like the pregen'ed events. I already have enough games that make the scenario on the fly, so I have no wish or urge to make up the narrative structure. Players do a better job of that in play, as do designers who have months to make all the groundwork and get paid to do so. So you better believe that, if I keep playing this game for any meaningful length of time, I'll get the events. 
Really, the highest praise I can give for this game is that the rules (once properly understood) are designed to get the hell out of your way so that way you can have fun. I've never run into a game that did it quite this, well, easily, in play as Marvel Heroic Roleplaying. It'll definitely be in my rotation of games from here on out. Now to just get my hands on a few more events, like Civil War. That should be interesting...

Review: Amazing Spider-Man 695-697 "Danger Zone"

Now that THAT joke is outta the way, on to the actual review.

Danger Zone is the 3 parter that leads up to the insanity that is the end of Amazing Spider-Man and it's... OK. There are some good beats here (and some awesome characterization) but really, this is the calm before the storm, and it shows.

The story revolves around a suitcase, which has...something... in it that everyone wants. Spidey's trying to stop the Hobgoblin (Phil Urich) from getting it, and is successful in stealing it. But that's when Tiberius Stone, the "shady guy" of Horizon, activates a device that ramps up Spidey's spider-sense. At first it's a nice bonus, until, well... Tiberius jack it up all the way, puts Madame Web in the hospital for an overload of "the web of life", and leaves Peter incapacitated. That brings Max Modell into the picture, as well as the original Hobgoblin (the real one this time, good to see you again Kingsley!), all of them getting mixed up into this whole stew of a mess.

Overall, the three issues are OK. The story itself is pretty easy reading, and while some of the stuff have some nice gems of characterization (particularly for Kingsley!), this story comes off as a distraction play. I'm betting we'll look back on this story after Superior Spider-Man 1 a bit more fondly, but without the context about what exactly we're being distracted from the story's a bit flat...

(And NOW with the knowledge that it was a distraction story I can say "brilliant job, Slott! This was a pretty well-executed in betweener!")

Monday, December 17, 2012

The City's Lights; Yoshino and the Creative Process, Part 3: What the Hell Have I Gotten Myself Into???

One of the things I hear a lot as an art student is "try and be different and original". It's the most damning phrase I can think of, really, for quite a number of reasons that I'll get into at the end of the blog post.

So last time I ended my post with a question: is there a collective unconscious? The evidence I've seen gives off a resounding yes, we tap into something universal when we try to create. I mean, look at all the myths that have been made over all the course of history. There are patterns, there are themes, in evidence between cultures that never had a chance to meet, but somehow had stories that are very similar. The themes mix in and out of different characters and make for a... well.. universal approach. Now the psychologists and scientists aren't coming out and saying it, but the last time science was sure of something they had to change their minds pretty quickly (I mean, bleeding people was a scientific thing), so I'm going to ignore them while they bicker about procedure.

The fact of the matter is, somehow we tap into the same myths, over and over and over. George Lucas figured this out with the highly successful Star Wars. He made a myth that, love it or hate it, you can't forget it. Luke's journey, while "typical", was the best selling trilogy of it's time. We can all connect to it in some way, shape, or form, whether we wanted to admit it or not (yes, I know people foolish enough to dislike Star Wars. No, I do not take their opinion seriously, especially when they're avid fans of Clannad). The story resonates with us and sticks there, deep in our souls, and we can't forget the story because we all know it, all believe it, and all want  to emulate it somehow, even if we hate the execution!

Clannad does a lot of the same stuff, strangely enough. It's the classic coming-age tale for a particular person, and what it means for him to grow up and have a family. Tomoya goes through the typical hero's journey, it's true, but what seems to strike the vast majority of Clannad fans isn't it's originality, but it's absolute sincerity. Like Star Wars, none of us give a damn if it's original, because we find it to be true.

Now, don't get me wrong, originality isn't the bane of all existence in art. I just happen to hate that particular line, because I like originality. But only up to the point where you're not trying to snub the universal rules. Because, like it or not, humans are creatures constrained by laws (otherwise there wouldn't be a concept of evil and moral good). Breaking those rules only works if you're trying to assert a "higher" rule, something people assert by intuition is more important. Something that's true.

And it's this quality of truth that's really the most important thing about the process, isn't it? I mean, with the possible exception of fans of 300 (and Zach Snyder's other putrid crap we call work) people want something that's real. Something that, even if we know it's not factual and doesn't actually exist, reminds us of those things we all hold in common, and that there are more good things than bad things. I know that, whenever I look at a piece of art, I look to be reminded of those things. I mean, it's already hard enough to find it in the "real" world, so it's nice to relax back into the truth, even if it's not see-able all the time in the factual world.

I guess I'm just glad it's a shared dream-space, and not a solitary one. I mean, how badly would it suck if our myths weren't universal? We'd all be alone.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

New Contributor to the Blog:SpiderBob!

So, y'all, I have a new contributor to the website (in case you can't read titles, I'm just going to regurgitate info and hope you can read what's under this nice pic of the Amazing and Superior Spider-Men.... although if you can't read the title I have no hope of you actually reading this page!), I've got a new contributor, SpiderBob! He's here to, well, he says talk comic books with me, but I probably won't screen his calls, so it's whatever he decides to put up besides child porn (which is legal in New York apparently. Yeah, it's legal to screw kids and video tape it for people to jerk off to in New York! SO DON'T DO THAT BOB!). We'll be doing some joint work after I'm done brain-washin... I mean.... talking... with him. Dunno when he'll post, but he's here, watching.... waiting.... 

I creeped myself out.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

On My Tastes in Writing and Writer's Block

So I've been having a horrible writer's block for a while now, as far as fiction is concerned. I've been trying to figure out what makes me tick, and what I'd like to write about.So I started thinking about the types of stories that I have written. I've written stories about death: the process of facing it, mourning the life that you had, and being ready to move on. But recently I've found that that doesn't do it for me anymore.

I want a real bad guy. Real evil. Y'know, the guy who you look at and flinch, and realize that you're seeing a demented version of something real. The one who doesn't want to kill you because his wish is to see you like him. He wants a friend, not a corpse, and he'll do what it takes to make sure that you change to fit him.

He's alone, and wants company.

And he sees all the quality of a "friend" in the main character.

See, that would be a story I'd like reading.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The City's Lights: Yoshino and the Creative Process and... August Rush

Art is a very tricky thing to write about, because its complexity. You've got someone who hears something, sees something, views something and you find that you have to record it somehow. It may be something that seems rather sane to other people and yourself, or it may be incredibly off the wall and just insane to experience. But you have to record it, hell you may even have to show it to other people, to have them look at/listen to/ read this thing that you know is truth. Then you pray that everyone else isn't crazy and can see what you've made. Or that you've made it right. 

There's no doubt as to whether or not what you've seen is true, it's all in the communication, and in whether or not others can see it. To you, it is truth.

Now there's a reason I included August Rush in this, a Clannad post, because he really is the younger (and purer) Yoshino. He hears something, and realizes that he wants to reproduce what he hears for someone else. He never once loses sight of the fact that it is something that he hears, that he finds beautiful, but it's something he has to share with his parents. Yoshino's story is almost the opposite, it's the dark mirror of it. He has songs, but doesn't know why he's singing them, and realizes eventually that he was only making songs for Kouko Ibuki and himself. That was the audience that mattered to him. The fact that other people heard was really inconsequential to him, and to August as well.

Does this make artists selfish, considering that they only really make things for themselves and a select group of people most of the time? I don't think so, to be honest. Human beings have a need to take what's inside their own private worlds and bring it to the outside, into the outside world. I know that when I make an icon I don't make it to horde, I make it because it's inside of me and I want it to be around me, not just inside.

The inner world and the outer world need to be the same. We all feel this. And that leaves me with a question, one that directly relates back to Clannad: do we all share in the same inner world? Are we really tapping into the same place?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The City's Lights: Yoshino and the Creative Process (Part 1)

So, I was watching After Story episode 12 yesterday, which has a pretty heavy significance for me, and I felt a bit of a blog post about Yoshino's backstory as it's presented here, in episode 12. 

Yoshino nails the journey of pretty much creative person... ever. You start out just wanting to make cool stuff, and eventually realize that what you make effects other people in a pretty serious way. Unveiling yourself in front of people causes them to change, and usually for the better. I mean, how could that not happen? Even if you're showing something really horrible (like a horror movie, say) it still hits people right in the heart and can get them to change. Self-revelation is relational, it's just that in art you don't necessarily know that you're relating!

Of course, finding out that you've been relating to a whole bunch of people without knowing it is paralyzing. I mean, you've just been told that playing in your sandbox and having fun is changing people's lives or (in the case of my iconography) realizing that people can glean information about you that you didn't necessarily think was obvious... yeah, paralyzing. What people do with that information entirely defines the rest of your artistic career. You can either realize that you should still focus on what you love and the others will relate to you focusing on it, try to make things specifically for the people watching, and/or just shut down immediately.

Well, Yoshino arrived at the first option after doing the last two, which is probably the worst route to take. Yoshino didn't do the right thing, didn't realize that his stuff needed to stay essentially self-centered, or... is it really self-centered to not focus on the others who are looking in on your creativity?  I mean, you're relating to things that you like, you're essentially relating to God and letting people watch.  Maybe that's why art is so beautiful. You're watching someone attempt to reach out into the black and get rewarded for it.

Hhhhhm... this requires a follow-up post. I'll get to that later.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Some House Rules for 13th Age

So, one of the wonderful things about 13th Age is that it's intentionally open and allows for houserules. Here are a few that I'm thinking about.

Fate Points
Pick three traits such as Courageous, Forked Tongue, Wise, or whatever. Whenever you use one of these traits to alter the story in an unforseen or troublesome way you get a Fate Point. You may use a Fate Point to add a +10 Fortune bonus to any d20 roll. You may never have anymore Fate Points than your level.

Fate Points are awarded at the end of the session by popular vote.

Action Points
Everytime you do something heroic that makes everyone else say "Wow, that's AWESOME!" You get an Action Point. Action Points are spent to gain either a Standard or Move action or a reroll on any damage roll (take the higher of the two).

Unlike Fate Points, Action Points are awarded on the spot and can be spent immediately. You may only spend one Action Point an encounter, and you may only keep your level in Action Points in between sessions.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Gaming Update as of November

Revolution! (Burning Wheel): This is the rebooted Revenge of the Countess of Fire. The players are actually running the game now, and it's going really really well. Granted, we only have one more session until we're done for the semester, but with that I eagerly look forward to everyone coming back next January...

Galactic Bastille (Burning Empires): This game ended Monday of Thanksgiving week, with the whole frickin planet blowing up!

So what'll be happening next? Well,  I really need to finish the online Mouse Guard game, and after that I'll be running an online Misspent Youth game. But as for in person, I'll probably run 13th Age next, and see how that little beauty plays over time.

But first....FINALS!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Playtest Review: 13th Age, Escalation Edition v5

So, Andy (CarpeGuittarem) came over for Thanksgiving day (Happy Thanksgiving BTWs!!!), and we had a blast! There was guitar playing, turkey eating, TWO, count'em, TWO Fiasco games, and much fun was had by all. We also finally tested out 13th Age, which I had pre-ordered and am waiting for oh-so-patiently.  I liked what I found.

The players were Andy, a human rogue with a complicated relationship with the Elf Queen, and my youngest sister, Naomi, who played a drow paladin (who's unique thing was that she was the last drow on the face of the earth). We amped this game all the way up to 10th level, since it was going to be a one-sbot, and we decided upon a suitable storyline for our game. The Dwarf King had wiped out all other drow for taking over his old kingdom, and only Irene, Naomi's drow, had escaped his wrath. The Dwarf King had given over his allegiance to the dark and evil Crusader, if only it meant that last damn drow would die. Well, the Crusader took him up on the offer. Incidentally, Andy's character had a very negative past with the Crusader as well, and was very... well... well-known.

Character creation took about as long as expected, considering I had them make the top level characters. This is one of the points I already like about the game: there are only 10 levels, and each level really actually counts. Neither of the players had any trouble, and put characters together relatively easily. The talents are concise, easy to explain, and are presented well in the PDF. While the rogue came out as an incredibly competent (and AWESOME) character, Naomi's paladin didn't seem to have a very defined niche, being more of a utility class than a straight damage class.

Overall, the mechanics are my favorite rendition of the d20 engine so far. There's an awesome escalation die, which makes the combat easier for the PCs as the fight goes on if they work together. I really enjoyed the Icons mechanics, and they help the GM not have to prep beforehand. Battles are easy to prep and run and considering that this is a combat game that's a really good thing.

On the whole, I really recommend getting this game when it comes out. This is very much so the definitive d20 fantasy game, and I know I'll be running this instead of 4th edition from here on out...

UPDATE: Since the writing of this review v6 has come out, and things have changed a little bit. Paladins are now officially the "you can't kill me or anyone else class". Awesome.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Icon: The Holy Trinity

Acrylic on board with silver leaf, 2'x3'

When I first started iconography, I knew what icon I wanted to do as soon as I was done with my iconography workshop, where I did this icon:

I wanted to make a Trinity icon! So, being the precious teen that I was, I sat down to pray one out. It was an unmitigated disaster. It was so bad I gladly gessoed over the board and turned it into this Christ icon:

I didn't attempt the Trinity icon since, until a few weeks ago. I'm really proud of it, and glad I had an option to finally do an icon that was a principal reason I got into iconography in the first place.

New Art: All the Stars in the Sky

The entirety of my time at Benedictine College as an art major, I've never made any non-iconographical piece that has actually stuck with me as something I was proud of. It's not that I've produced bad work, I just don't enjoy it.

Thank goodness, cause I finally made something I like. All the Stars in the Sky was based off of Five Centimeters Per Second's night skies. I've always enjoyed that man's work, and I'm glad I could make something I'm actually proud of.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Fiasco RPG Review

So, after a number of months, I've finally started to "get" how to play Burning Wheel. Standing back and only challenging the players when they fail a roll is a bit challenging, but so incredibly worthwhile... except for one thing. Burning Wheel is a long term game, and I am not known as the most patient person on the face of the planet. Sometimes I just want something NOW!


I apologize for that outburst of evil laughter, but Fiasco is so damn evil that it makes me giggle. But then again, I like Oh Brother, Where art Thou?, Raising Arizona, and The Ladykillers.

That's right, this a game that's made to emulate Coen brother movies. Be afraid, people! Similar to another favorite game of mine, 3 Dragon Ante, this game seems to take the worst of all humanity and makes sure that you have to indulge in it as much as possible to get ahead. The game is GM-less and, while it doesn't look it at first, this can be a ridiculously competitive game. Why? Because in the first half of the game you can help determine how crappy of an ending your "friends" have. In the playtest game I completely screwed over a friend of mine, and we both enjoyed it immensely, if only because I managed to get the upper hand through good play. 

I'm not gonna lie, this game probably doesn't have to be so damn competitive. But, but... why would you play it any other way?

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Feast of Saint Josaphat and Ecumenism

So today is the feast of Saint Josaphat, a man who was killed by an Orthodox mob shortly after the Union of Brest. In the history of ecumenism, Josaphat isn't exactly something new these days: both sides of the Catholic-Orthodox "discussion" (proclaiming "we are right" isn't a discussion) have their share of holy men who died to the other side.

And that's the rub. We both have holy men.

This is something that I honestly wonder why we don't think about too often. Catholic and Orthodox have saints, with confirmed miracles. This isn't me being wistful, people go out of their way to verify these things. We have miracles, we have saints, on both sides. God favors both. God has not taken a side in this puny little debate we holy Christians have taken up. If He had there wouldn't be an argument about who was right, like with the Arians or any of the many heresies we've had over the centuries.  I mean, for all the people from Facebook who are reading this and who care about the schism, take a good hard look at the fruits of the other side. Yes, you will see mistakes, killings, scandals, government take-overs, etc. But you will see genuine saints, if you look hard enough and if you swallow your own pride for two seconds.

It almost doesn't matter what we're arguing about, because God does not seem to care about who's right in the Catholic-Orthodox split. He still considers us one, so what is with this incredible hubris?

Because that's your only excuse.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Christ the Vine: Underdrawing

This may not be the final image, but I'm so excited I HAVE to show you guys! Isn't it awesome??

Morris's Family

All these are watercolor and ink on watercolor paper.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Review: Fate Zero

Based off of the visual novel, Fate Zero is the prequel for the critically acclaimed visual novel (and mediocre anime) Fate/Stay Night. This anime focuses on the fourth Grail war, where 7 masters and 7 legendary figures ("Servants") fight for the ultimate wish-granter: the Holy Grail. It's rather hard to talk about this anime without spoiling everything (which is something you DON'T want with this anime, the surprises are amazing!), but I will say this: there is NOTHING this anime sets out to do that it does wrong. Nothing. All the characters are relatable, the music and visuals are amazing, and RIDER IS THE MOST AWESOME ONE OF THE WHOLE DAMN BUNCH! Watch for him alone, if for no one else. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Apparently My Burning Empires Players LOVE the Game...

Because one of them made this meme to commemorate our tense session.

Thanks Hannah! This made me smile.

Friday, October 19, 2012

My Disgust with Ecumenism and a Resolution (Rant)

As a Byzantine Catholic I find myself highly concerned with Catholic-Orthodox relations, which only makes sense. I am an Orthodox in communion with Rome, it would be good to know when I get to rejoin my Orthodox brethren! And the only way to get this to happen is to hit people at the ground level and help them understand from where the West and East come from, in as charitable a way as humanly possible. With that in mind, I recently joined an ecumenical Facebook group to see what people were discussing and its...

Discouraging is an understatement. The arguments are about who's right and who's wrong, which is exactly the wrong way to go about it. You wouldn't do that in a friendship, would you? You wouldn't go and tell someone that the entire way they've come to live is wrong if they're your friend, right? You would try and understand why they think so differently, and how it might benefit them, before you open your mouth. If you lay blame in a marriage often enough it's going to just destroy the relationship. These are basic human principles that we can all agree to?


Trust me, I'd understand a little more friction in a Hindu-Christian ecumenical group. Those two groups really don't have all that much to discuss without coming to blows. But the holy, apostolic, and catholic Church? We are ONE body! ONE! But instead we let the cancer of our preconceptions and past experiences get in the way of what we're supposed to be doing, which is healing the greatest cause of scandal we have! We have an incredible amount of work to do, and not a lot of time to do it in, and we sit around bickering about whose theology goes which way when I can guarantee that most of the people making these comments have done no serious amounts of studying?

Well, if you want change, be that frickin' change. From here on out I resolve to know East and West like the back of my hand. I want everyone reading this post who has a book or a source they think is relevant to either East or West to post it up on here or on the Facebook link. Doctrinal explanation, mysticism, apologetics, doesn't matter. Someone has to read the information and get it out there for people to read, and it may as well be me! 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

4E MOD: Player's Handbook 2

Ha! Thought I wouldn't get back to this series, now didja? Well, I'll admit, I spent some time oggling Burning Wheel, but I've still got a series to put out and I will, gorramit.

Player's Handbook 2 had significantly less issues than Player's Handbook 1. The V-class structure was nowhere to be seen, and the Striker mechanics were different. But the defender in the book, the Warden, left a bit to desired, and the Barbarian was a bit lackluster...


This is a nit picky change, but Avengers in my version get a free bonus Domain feat from Divine Power that matches one of their deity's domains. It's just a nice way to further customize the divine classes, and isn't strictly necessary. But it's fun. Oh, and Avengers us their Wisdom to make Melee Basic Attacks.


Barbarians' defenses are... well, too low seems redundant, but it's true. Giving them higher HP doesn't help the fact that nearly every shot that gets thrown at them hits, and hard at that. There are two ideas that I have to help with that: up the Barbarian's AC and punish people for hitting the Barbarian.

Presence of the Savage
If you're wearing light armor or no armor (cloth) you may use either your Constitution or Charisma modifier instead of Dexterity or Intelligence to AC.

Whenever you are hit by a melee attack the attacker is dealt damage equal to either your Constitution or your Charisma modifier+3. At level 11 this damage becomes 6+Constitution or Charisma, at level 21 it becomes 9+Constitution or Charisma modifier damage.  This rule has not been playtested. I'm pretty certain it'll work out pretty well, given that it's just the melee attacks and that'll make people dance away from the barbarian and, given that the Barbarian can get places pretty easily that means you give him another charge!

Horrific Charge
Whenever you charge you add either your Constitution, Dexterity, or Charisma modifier to your damage roll. This increases to mod+3 at 11th level, mod+6 at 21st level. You may also use any At-Will, Encounter, or Daily powers on a charge.

God, that looks terrifying. The barbarian is now a charging engine of destruction that'll mow down anything in his path. Again, this stuff isn't playtested, so please try it out and let me know what happens. I look forward to it!


Druids' only real problem lies in their inability to deal damage while in Beast form, so augment all their damage a step as done in the Player's Handbook 1.


As a matter of fact, I think the Invoker's powers should be Charisma-based, not Wisdom-based. A mouthpiece of the gods that isn't Charisma-based? Riiiiiiight...


Wardens are so... there's so much potential there, and it's all in their marking powers, which are held back. They really shouldn't be Immediate reaction, because that means you can only use them once a round, which is very limiting. Move it to an Opportunity Action for both of them, and things will become more interesting on the battlefield. Promise.

These are the basic modifications I'd make to each of the classes. They make the classes more effective and flavorful, and give relevance to the tactical situations you'll run into in play.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man #694 Review (Or Thank You, Spider Bob)

I have not owned a Spider-Man comic since One More Day, 2007. I won't lie: that stung, HARD. Spider-Man was the fictional love of my imagination since four years old, and still is. A guy who can swing high above buildings, climb walls and get out of the way just in time, plus he's wicked smart? Sign me up. But One More Day changed that. In my anger I threw away every comic I ever owned and swore off anything to do with the things.

Time's passed, and I stuck true to my promise. Well, sorta. See, while I never bought a comic in those five years I certainly kept up on Spidey's exploits. I regularly haunted SpiderFan for news and reviews, and watched Spidey evolve from afar. And believe me, I was not terribly impressed. Most of Brand New Day seemed... off. The constant juggling of writers and feels of Spidey wasn't something I really wanted to deal with, and this whole "Peter has to sleep with anything that moves" philosophy of the writers was... unsettling. But this Dan Slott guy? He was alright by me, cause he seemed to get the ol' Webhead in a way I hadn't heard anyone else really talking about since The Spectacular Spider-Man tragically ended. He knew the Spidey I knew, the one who had a wise-ass comment and then went home and worried about things like the rest of us. Now, if Marvel got THAT man to write a Spidey book? That I would buy.

Enter SpiderBob, a former roommate of mine. See, he had the balls to not give up on our Webhead. A SpiderFan is a SpiderFan, damnit, and he was gonna give his money regardless. Well, he kept telling me about how great Dan Slott's run was, and how much he enjoyed it. And I smiled, remembered One More Day, and listened to him. Then he brought the comics to our house. And I read them. I haven't told anyone this up until this review, but I remember going upstairs really quickly so I could cry. I know it sounds silly, but that's really how much it hit me. I realized that I missed buying and enjoying comics. But, me being me, I didn't do anything about it. I couldn't afford it at the time, and that was that.

SpiderBob wasn't done, not by a long shot. I have, in my hands, the first issue of my subscription to The Amazing Spider-Man, a gracious gift from SpiderBob. And, my friends, it feels GOOD to be reading Spider-Man again. I realize this probably isn't Dan Slott's best issue of the run. I mean, the whole thing with Alpha was resolved a little too quickly for my liking. But the dialogue, the action, the character work, they were all bloody spot on. Say what you will, this man's mediocre work is so good that I can honestly say that I think I'll follow this guy for a long time to come, come what may. I've already ordered the Spider-Island TPB hardcover, along with a lot of his Big Time run. And after hearing about the Superior Spider-Man I know I'll be getting it. Hell, I'm even getting back into comics in general, starting with Batman's Court of Owls storyline and subscription to Batman.

It's good to be back home, honestly. Even if Joephisto's stench is still on Spider-Man you've still got Dan Slott there to make it seem as if I'd never left at all.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The French are Idiots... But We Already Knew That

Jeez, what is with people wanting to terminate their own race? I like human beings, why don't these idiots?

Seriously, it's worrisome when a civilization is so fixated on murdering their children. Europe's not doing too great with reproduction as it is, it doesn't need the help...

Friday, September 28, 2012

Player Dickery and Drama

A nice post about player dickery by Roblin D. Laws...

The State of Childhood, and Thus the State of Humanity

Kinda chilling, ain't it? This is pretty much what society wanted my parents to do to me when I was a kid, since I couldn't sit still for longer than a half hour at a time (and still fidget a bit even at 24). It's ridiculous, because the only thing "wrong" with me was an overabundance of energy and the need to express it at every single moment. This cartoon is what's SO frickin' wrong with society, and makes me so damn angry that they want to repress our base urges, except of course for the sexual one...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The REAL Burning Wheel Gold Review

OK, so I posted a review of Burning Wheel Gold at the beginning of the year, but it was based off of a few read-throughs and playtest reports from forums, so no personal experience to really relate to anybody. It's been 10 months and I've had quite a bit of time to run not just Burning Wheel but Mouse Guard and Burning Empires. So, here's my review, after 10 months of being soaked up in Luke Crane's work, and what do I think?

This is a truly remarkable game. There are some parts of the game that I'm not a particular fan of (character creation, you giant pain in the ass you), but the things that Burning Wheel sets out to do it does so well that I'm in awe of it. What does it set out to do? An RPG that will make stories similar to Lord of the Rings, the Earthsea Cycle, the Count of Monte Cristo. What does this mean? The RPG is designed to give you a story that will be long, character-driven, and fun, while keeping the sanctity of the character not being you, but someone who you watch develop and become attached to. This last point is probably the most important difference between this and other RPGs. We'll get back to that in a little bit. 

Burning Wheel is a D6 dice pool-based system. You roll a number of six-sided dice equal to your number in the skill, and try to roll a number of successes equal to the obstacle number, or Ob. If you succeed you get intent that you originally stated, carte blanch If you fail, however, the GM instead gets to muck with your original intent while making sure the plot still moves forward. Failed your Power check to knock that door down? Oh, you get the door down, but you attract the attention of your hated rival, who has been following you the whole damn time. Or the guards. Or your father, who owns the facility. Y'know, something awful and unforeseen but that doesn't get in the way of the narrative. These results stand for the entirety of the session, thanks to the Let It Ride rule, which states that all die rolls, unless changed, stand. So if you failed that Power check, all applicable Power checks fail until the situation changes or the end of the session. If the GM can't think of an interesting failure for your task, you automatically succeed.  Notice that interesting should mean something linked to your Beliefs, Instincts, and Traits, also known as BITs.

Oh, right, BITs. I should probably explain those. 

Beliefs, Instincts, and Traits are the things that make the wheel turn! These determine not only characterization, but where the plot will go, and what hooks the players and GM will be able to pull on to make the story move. Beliefs are an ethical statement with a specific plan of action attached to said Belief. This is where you get to state what your character is about and what he is going to do about it. Instincts are those little things your character has learned to do in the course of his life that aren't necessarily the best things to do, but he does them anyway (like "Never accept an insult"). Traits are personality traits that you are the embodiment of, for good and for ill. 

You then get rewarded for playing out your BITs with something called Artha. Artha are points that you get for role-playing in such a way that the story moves forward. There are three types of Artha: fate (for playing out your BITs, especially to the point of trouble!), persona (for fulfilling personal goals and breaking free of your BITs), and deeds (going beyond your own problems and helping everyone in a heroic fashion). Artha may then be spent to improve your dice rolls so you can get what you want. If you're playing the game correctly you find that you've got a good story-game, filled with drama and tension as you earn Artha for playing out your flaws and spend said Artha so you can get your goals accomplished. 

That's essentially the game in a nutshell, folks, but there's a bit more to it. Burning Wheel has a lot more to offer, and this is where a lot of people have issue with the game, because Burning Wheel refuses to do anything like any other RPG I've ever seen. This is good, because the mechanics are exactly suited for the game, but bad, because the mechanics are just enough out of the norm to get some rather significant balking from people, particularly RPG vets. If you've never played an RPG before this won't be as much trouble, but the next section is a bit more for the people who have issue with the following mechanics. 

Burning Wheel has a series of extended conflict resolution mechanics that are based off of the same basic idea. You construct a series of actions from 3-9 moves ahead of time, and play them out against your opponent, who has done the same. These moves are then resolved in a rock-paper-scissors format. This is done for two very good reasons: it puts a very strong tension into the conflict and it keeps the sanctity of player-character separation completely intact. I have never had so much tension as I've had in a single Fight! or Duel of Wits, because you genuinely have no idea what is going to happen next. I've seen conflicts turn around so quickly it makes my head spin. And again, this reinforces the fact that you are not your character, something that is critical to making this game run. Why is this critical?

Burning Wheel is designed to be resolved in 30+ sessions, and some games last years. You are watching a character evolve for a very long time, and, quite frankly, that can be a little dangerous without the proper distance.People get all wrapped up in their characters all the time and that's a bit unhealthy. Burning Wheel recognizes this and makes sure that you will always be a spectator of your character's actions, not a perpetrator.

Now, on to the thing I don't like about Burning Wheel: length of character creation. What you do is you put together a basic history of what your character has been doing all the way up to the beginning of the story in what's called Life Paths. It's a fine system, and is frankly quite awesome, I just don't like how long the ****ing thing takes, especially with beginners (myself included). It's taxing and exhausting, and sometimes is just infuriating how detailed it is. But, the thing is that all these parts are necessary to make the game work in this particular way. 

And that's the last thing you need to know about this game: it is NOT for everyone, and was never intended to be. Burning Wheel is heavy, crunchy, finicky, intense, and very particular. If you read this review and find that some of the things in this game really don't jive with you, that's fine! Burning Wheel is not the only story-based game out there, but it's a really awesome one. Do NOT buy this game looking for a catch-all RPG, because this isn't it and, let's be honest here, such an RPG doesn't really exist (no, not even DnD). But if you're looking for a game that will give you a story like the Lord of the Rings, the Earthsea Cycle, and the Count of Monte Cristo, this is that game. It's only 25 bucks for an awesome hardcover, and I cannot begin to tell you how excited this game makes me on a weekly basis.

The City's Lights: The First Episode of After Story

Well guys, it's that time of year again: yet another person borrowing my Clannad DVDs and watching the show. It seems to happen once or twice every quarter, so I was happy that this time it was my roommate, the inestimable Sparky. Maria and I got him to watch Angel Beats first (we convinced him by telling him there were guns) and, once he was hooked on that, I gave him the Clannad DVDs to watch. He got through the first season relatively quickly for someone on 18 credit hours and about 20 hours of work a week. So, he started After Story earlier this week, and Maria and I had the joy of watching the first episode of After Story with him. 

First things first: THE SHEEP ARE DANGOS!!! THE SHEEP ARE DANGOS!!! HOLY SHIT THE SHEEP ARE DANGOS!!! I can't believe it took me this long to figure it out, but to be honest I didn't really care to think about it until Josh emailed me and asked what the sheep were about. Now I look at them, and it makes perfect sense! They're the right shape, size, and the smell is what tipped me off... (the girl says they have a nice smell, like another certain little girl who says the dango has a nice smell). Anyway, now that that mystery's been solved...

This show has a special genius to it: it takes the final plot of the show and finds ways to repeat it throughout the show. Fuko, Kotomi, Tomoyo, Nagisa, the entirety of the first season repeats this cycle of introducing characters, identifying the problem, trying to solve the problem with just your own strengths and failing, and then calling upon the larger world to help in solving the problem and succeeding.  It's a beautiful cycle, one that writers should pay special attention to. 

The first episode of Afterstory manages to do this all in one episode with the awesomeness of a baseball game. Everyone gets together and plays for the common and personal good, and everything falls to Tomoya. Despite whatever misgivings and deficiencies he has, he is told that he can do it, and that Nagisa depends on him to get her home. Tomoya hits the homerun, much to his incredible surprise and joy, and logs in yet another memory-light for the robot to notice in the other world. It's a reflection of the last episode of the show in the clearest way, and is honestly the best bit of foreshadowing in the show.

Tellin'ya, people, the show is GENIUS.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Brief Gaming Check-In

So, my brain's fried and I'm pretending to type notes for AnP, but I want some amount of brain activity. Is it bad that the most difficult thing I can think to do is blog on what I've been doing for gaming recently? Well, currently I've got two live games, and an online game that needs to be finished up.

Revenge of the Countess of Fire, Burning Wheel
Based off the Count of Monte Cristo, Revenge of the Countess of Fire has had three sessions so far and, while it's first two sessions were a bit low-key, has begun to pick up with the last session (which I still need to do a write-up on). I'm  really liking playing Burning Wheel with a smaller group, because I can finally have the feel of a larger novel where there's just character-building chapters. The game has this feel of "we'll get there eventually" and I'm really liking that. I finally have my epic-story-line-game that'll take years to play. Aaaaaaah... the water's so nice and warm...

Thrawn, Burning Empires
Gosh, this game has been awesome right out the gate, for exactly the opposite reasons why Revenge of the Countess of Fire is awesome! This game has gone through one not-world-building-session, but it's extremely focused and fast-paced with more frequent awardings of artha. From a mechanical standpoint this game has been surreal, and the story's going pretty well so far too (I have to do a play report for this game too).

The Happenings at Port Sumac, Mouse Guard
This is the online game I was running over the summer, and it got this close to being completed, but then life happened.. yeah, we still need to finish. The game has had a lot of technological issues to such an extent that the game has suffered as a result. I hope to get the game done soon, though. My players deserve a good ending.

So, as you can see, I'm spending a lot of time with Luke Crane's games What can I say, the man's a genius and I'm having a blast!

What might be coming up for the online gaming community is a game of Misspent Youth, and My Life with Master is in the mail, and coming to my door.... oh! Andy owes me a Burning Wheel game! I wish to collect. Not that he's ignorant of it, by now. I did post on his Facebook demanding my game. We'll see if he's like a PEZ dispenser in that regard.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Commentary on Mike Mearls' Thoughts

Mike Mearls comments on the new packet that went up a few weeks ago for DnDN, and finally addresses the principle problem of DnD: healing. Well, actually, sorry, that's not the principle problem that DnD has when it comes to injuries, it's hit points. Let me explain.

When DnD was in it's old school phase up through 3rd edition, hit points were very low. This represented a character's ability to take a death blow and turn it into a scrape with armor, luck, and skill. Obviously, most people don't have a lot of luck, because eventually your HP went to 0 and you got hit, at which point your poor character would go down. HP makes sense when it's not very high, because you could conceivably say that your character isn't actually getting hit and believe it. 10-50 HP allows for a pretty good representation of a person's luck, endurance, and skill.

So what's that got to do with healing? No actual damage has been dealt, so why bother healing? Why not regen your HP fully? I mean, it makes sense in the middle of battle for a cleric to restore your.... gah.... story stuff is SO CONVOLUTED!

Remind me to never use HP in any game I design in the future, guys. Not without seriously taking it apart and thinking it over again.

The Nature of Most of the Issues Most People Have with Burning Wheel

Thank you, XKCD. You may not have meant to start a rant on my end, but you did. I hope that makes you feel good about yourself.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Legend of Zelda: The Broken Condom

... I now have a morbid desire to see this game come to pass....

Modern Art- First Impressions

So, one of my classes for my last semester of college (WOOT! WOOT! WOO....wait, a job?? What's that?) is History of Modern Art. The class is pretty fascinating, covering the advent of the modern movement in the 19th century to it's.... whatever it's at right now. Yeah.

Please keep in mind that I have not completed the course and (even when I do) I have not a complete knowledge of the history of art. That would take... more time than I have to invest.

Just to let you all know, I am a hater of modern art. It's weird and boring and depressing and I'm not here to find out about the personal psychosi of the artist and I just wanna see something beautiful, damnit! So most of modern art is not only alien, but it's offending. I took the Modern Art class because it was required but also to see why art has become the domain of the snobbish and obscenely rich.

What I've discovered so far has not helped.

Turns out that the reason why this whole thing started was because international trade on a huge scale began, and so art began to be swapped around the nations. The art that took Europe by storm was Japan. So a lot of artists abandoned their training and started to emulate the woodcuts of Japan. They wanted to do this because it was beautiful, something I can appreciate. Abandoning a rule set to do something good is something I can appreciate and like.

I mean, wow, that's beautiful!
The issue I think I have is when the artists decided to abandon form, because warping the form is clearly not the problem. Technically no artist has ever faithfully rendered the human form ever, Michelangelo and the Greeks included! But going away from form and making... this?

Jackson Pollock, Number 8, BTW'S

It's paint splatters, nothing more. He's not describing anything in the painting. "But, but his artist's statement! You need that!", I hear the modern artist crying. Here's a secret, you guys: no one gives a shit. "Educate" me all you like, you're not going to get rid of my common sense observation that an object that I view is complete and total, and should require little to no explanation, cultural explanations excepted. The un-educated, unwashed masses know this, and I see no reason why I should have to raise from their unwashed level, smelly as they are, because I'm making art for them.

So please, keep your deep explanations of the meaning of reality, keep your hatred of the established Western order, keep your "we're educated so we know better" crap and shove it where the sun don't shine, cause that's where it belongs.'s THAT for diplomacy, people?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Misspent Youth Read-Thru Review just wow. That's what I think after reading through the rules of this game. There are some games that you find yourself liking because of nostalgia, some because of your friends, and some because they're just frickin' AWESOME.

Misspent Youth is in the last category.

First, let's get the bad out of the way: the physical product. No, I am not talking about the artwork or the layout or anything like that: those are good, if a bit confusing at first (more on that in a second). The actual book was shipped in a comic book sleeve and backing board. While this makes sense (given that the book's only about 100 pages and it's softcover) it's extremely flimsy, a factor that almost no RPG book should be! I'm afraid of taking the book out of its bag because I might damage it or destroy it and, given what sort of accidents can happen to RPG books, that really may not be too far off. I can understand wanting to keep the print cost down (and really, considering the production values on the book in general, I'm grateful), but this book really could have used an actual hardback.

Speaking of production values, WOW, this book's got some nice layouts and art. While most of it's just photos and a few pieces of line art, the book feels like a punk song (notably Blink 182): it's jumbled, raw, honest, and glorious (yes, I just used "glorious" to describe punk music). While the layout of the book is a bit difficult to get used to, it's only because of it's unusual orientation of text, and not because it doesn't work. Which it does, and gloriously at that (notice a pattern here?). I mean, if the type was straight the book just wouldn't... work. The only trouble I had with this was that I couldn't really read the Eye-bleeding edition PDF (which Mr. Bohl, the writer of the RPG, gives for FREE! So check it out!). So the book is very pretty, in it's own dysfunctional and nutty way.

What about the rules, though? Misspent Youth is an indie mostly-rules-lite RPG, that focuses on a group of friends from 12-17 trying to take down The Authority, a person or a force or a government that's screwing up the world. The group collaboratively decides what's screwed up and how, and assigns one player to be The Authority (the GM). The Authority's job is to provide adversity and be that pain in the ass of the players.

Each of the players pick a series of traits that represent their youth and innocence. During play, in the midst of one of the seven conflicts you'll have in a session, you can sell out one of these traits to a trait more like the Authority so you don't fail a check. The game is over when one of the characters is entirely sold out, at which point you determine whether the characters or the Authority won. It's a game that gets steadily darker and darker, until one of the characters looks almost exactly like the threat everyone's been fighting. The game is mostly free-form RP with a few minutes given to the conflict resolution mechanic, which is very simple and unobtrusive. The sessions start off with a bit of ad-libbing, which will decide what goes on during that session. NO PREP WORK FOR THE GM IS GOOOOOOOOOD...

OK, by now you can tell I think the game's awesome, at least from a read-thru. Despite my misgivings about the durability of the product I really like the game. I'm definitely going to try and run it soon, and if I do I'll letcha know how it works in play!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Revenge of the Countess of Fire, Chapter 1

So here's the opening session of the campaign. We were all tired so it was a bit flat, but ultimately it worked out pretty well. Nothing beyond the basic rules were used, so there were no extended conflicts. This session happened two weeks ago, so my notes aren't that complete, but I wrote up what I could remember.

Here's the players and characters:

Elenor Grinslow: Played by Maria. Here's her Beliefs and Instincts. Elenor was a noblewoman who ran away from home to escape an arranged marriage. She became a criminal fence, and only recently came back to head up her family, due to the death of her parents.

Belief 1: My purpose is to further my business ruthlessly.

Belief 2: I will protect any secrets of my family.

Belief 3: I will deny my criminal past.

Instinct 1: Always have my weapons ready.

Instinct 2: Never depend or trust people without proof of their credibility.

Instinct 3: If people approach me, I pay strict attention to their non-verbals.

The Hungry One: Played by Eric. Wolf, who was at first caged. He escaped by eating his feeder. He's been part of the criminal element ever since.

Belief 1: I want to steal the item to hurt a human and bring me profit. And it's fun!

Belief 2: Talwyn is the only person I am afraid of. I will put up with the girl for the moment.

Belief 3: I will find my old captors and I will kill them.

Instinct 1: If I see a human I don't know I will deal with them aggressively.

Lena Mekish: The daughter of the Vermin Lord. She's aware of her ancestry, but no one else is. Is currently in a romantic relationship with Aldwynn, the leader of the criminal element in their town. Played by Martha

Belief 1: erased from the character sheet, but it had something to do with retrieving the item in question.

Belief 2: I will do anything for Talwynd as best as I can because I want him to stay in love with me.

Belief 3: I will talk to Kincaid in order to see if he knows anything about my father's demise.

Instinct 1: I always make sure I am safe before I think of anyone else.

Instinct 2: I draw at least two kunai at the slightest sign of something looking out of place.

Kincaid: played by Julio. Stock: spider. The husband of Honey, who's the leader of the revolutionary spider movement, whose aims are to liberate the spiders from their slavery. Kincaid's a bit of a nut.

Belief 1: Honey's beliefs are always my beliefs, her goals are always my goals.

Belief 2: Talwynd suggested I couldn't pull off this job, so I will do it anyway!

Belief 3: The only way to gain power is to gain a reputation.

Instinct 1: A challenge is something that will always be accepted.

Instinct 2: If there's any chance of danger stay in the shadows, and watch.

-Aldwyn gathered Lena and The Hungry together, and told them that there was an item in Elenor's basement that he needed. The characters were not to know what the item was (and hell, even the GM didn't know!), but Aldwyn was told it was an item of enormous value. Camren decided she was going to infiltrate the house as a new maid.

-Elenor was visited by Honey, the leader of the spider resistance movement, and was asked (aka forced) to buy a shipment of especially absorbent wood. Elenor attempted to find out what the shipment was for, but was unsuccessful in getting any addition information. She accepted the job, and Honey left, promising to keep in touch.

-Kincaid broke into Elenor's attic and bumped into another thief, a woman!

-Camren then snuck into Elenor's house as a maid and stole downstairs, taking The Hungry One with her when she was sure no one else was watching. She broke into "the room", and discovered that the package was a man who was able to control electricity! He cowed Camren and the Hungry One into stepping aside and letting him go.

-Meanwhile, Kincaid made a ruckus up in the attic, causing everyone to run upstairs, facilitating the mysterious stranger's escape from the house. The woman thief escaped as well.

-The Hungry One attempted to follow the stranger, but was caught and forced to run for his life in fear from the obviously superior being.

-At about the same time, Elenor realized that someone was trying to break into her recently-closed shop, and she fled out the back door. It was the mysterious stranger, of course. Kincaid saw her leave, and watched as the stranger burned the following words of the store: "Adrick Grinslow, I will kill your daughter for what you did to me".

-Kincaid followed from a far distance the stranger, who got on board an airship, which took off a few minutes later.

-Elenor arrived at her house, and found out about the chaos that had preceded her coming. Her head servant revealed that the stranger was being held by Adrick, Elenor's father, and he had no idea as to why.

-After a convo with Aldwynd Camren and the Hungry One headed back to Elenor's and checked in on her. Kincaid revealed that it was Camren and the Hungry One who had let out the stranger in the first place, and then offered Honey's protection to Elenor. Elenor declined.

-Everyone parted ways to try and figure out what the hell they were going to do next.