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Tag Archives: Superheroes

Random Thoughts

My schedule continues to be bad for blogging, but has improved on other fronts.

Gaming: Our gaming group had a rare double-header, holding games two weekends in a row. Our GM is running a GURPS Supers/Horror game, where the adventures feel like a mix between Justice League and Hellboy, and set in 1960’s Florida. For this game I also get to run one of my long standing desires in supers gaming, a heroic duo. My friend and I created two brothers who were subjected to experiments by a mad scientist. This gave them the power to take on the abilities of different animals, much like DC’s Vixen or Animal Man, and like those characters they don’t change shape. However they do take on some physical characteristics as a special effect, such as growing feathers when channeling a bird, fur when channeling a canine, scales for fish, etc…

Their powers are activated or deactivated when the brothers touch, bringing in the inevitable Wonder Twins jokes. The two brothers are polar opposites on philosophy and argue incessantly, but are also protective of each other. Their code names are War and Peace and the animals they channel reflect their differing attitudes. War is a hot head and channels animals like wolf, kestrel, and shark. Peace is a pacifist (and a communist) and takes on animal powers like bloodhound, spider monkey, and dolphin. Their flexibility has made them very useful heroes and a lot of fun to play.

We’re looking forward to playing War and Peace again soon. Of course in a horror game there is the strong possibility of one of us dying. What will the other brother do if this happens?

Well… we did both take the Leatherworking skill…

Projects: My schedule has been bad for a number of things, but it has let me get started on a few projects. One of which is Car Wars related.

My love for Car Wars is well documented. I picked up a copy of the Classic Car Wars box set and a .PDF copy. One of the difficulties with the Car Wars arenas of old is that they came as folded maps and could be a bear to flatten out for game play. Using my PDF I’m printing an arena out in card stock and plan to assemble it on foam core, then play some games using the classic scale and rules. I want a fresh look at the old game to compare with 5th edition. I still have my classic Compendium, but the new box set takes the game back to a more basic form, before there was too much bloat in weapons and equipment. I’m quite pleased with the set and eager to try it out.

I’ve also finally started working on painting miniatures, something I haven’t done since my undergrad days. There are some miniatures I’ve been wanting to acquire and paint, but I know my limitations and I don’t want to invest the cash in something that might end up sitting in the closet undone for years. So I made a deal with myself; if I put a dent in some of the miniatures I already own I’ll go ahead and invest in the ones I want to work on.

To that end I’ve pulled out a couple boxes of Renegade Legion: Centurion anti-gravity tanks that I’ve had sitting in the closet for years. Centurion was another outstanding game from FASA that evokes the feeling of science fiction classics like Hammer’s Slammers. In my opinion it’s a far superior game to Battletech, with tighter and faster rules than it’s stompy-mecha big brother. Once I have enough tanks painted up I plan to pull the game out of mothballs and fire it up. It’s a good goal to work towards and I now have several Renegade medium APCs primed and waiting to go.

What about the miniatures that I want to acquire after I finish my tanks? For that I’ll be turning to the golden age Sci-Fi goodness that is War Rocket.

Adventure Seeds: One of the podcasts/blogs I follow is Skeptoid, a site where they take a critical look at various events and beliefs including cryptozolology, alternative medicine, and urban legends. Recently they ran an article entitled Lost Treasures of the 20th Century, and it’s full of great plot ideas for pulp adventures.

Some of the stories covered in the post are well known to me, such as the lost Nazi gold in Lake Toplitz and the lost Amber Room of the Russian empire (a subject worthy of its own post). Others I had never heard of, such as Yamashita’s Gold and the vanished crown jewels of Ireland. The post gives a nice short summary of these and other lost treasures, any of which would be a great candidate for writing an adventure.

Kung Fury!

Kung Fury is out! It’s free on YouTube in HD! Go! Go now!

Centurion1

Soon my plastic brethren! Soon we ride!

 

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Justice League: Throne of Atlantis

I’m a big fan of the DC animated movies, so when I noticed that our library had a new one in I had to give it a try. The title sounded promising, Justice League: Throne of Atlantis.

Then I realized that this was a sequel to Justice League: War, a movie that I have little affection for. How did this new movie turn out?

I considered summing up the movie in one sentence but I couldn’t decide between, “Not as bad as War,” and, “The fields of Atlantis are burning.”

The characters are not quite as unlikable as they were in War, but I’m still left with the feeling that if these are the heroes defending my world I would not sleep well at night. It’s enough to make me think that Lex Luthor has a point. Unfortunately this is what DC thinks we want in our heroes.

Buried within this mess of sub-plots that go nowhere is a serviceable origin story for Aquaman. One that would be better served if they cut out all the parts with the Justice League and used that time to flesh out Aquaman, Mera, Ocean Master, and Black Manta. It’s a standard plot of treachery, usurpation of the throne, and the true heir fighting to claim his birthright, but there is little time left to connect with the Atlantian characters and the central plot feels rushed.

Among the more glaring plot problems with Throne of Atlantis are several smaller points that bother me:

When on the ocean floor Cyborg and Flash need masks. Hal does not, which makes sense, but neither Superman nor Wonder Woman need them to breath or talk normally. This is never explained.

Several league members are very liberal (one might say gratuitous) with the use of lethal force. This is never commented on.

Superman and Wonder Woman go out on a date in their secret identities. Lois Lane shows up and cattiness ensues, because of course it does. This has no bearing on the story.

When Ocean Master invades Metropolis he leads off with a massive tsunami, but then casts it aside before it hits the city. I’m okay with this because it’s a great evil villain move. “I’m so powerful I don’t need to flood your city! I have eeeeevil showmanship skills!” However he follows this up with an invasion force that isn’t very large and whose technology isn’t that much better than our own. I was left wondering why the Justice League was needed to repel the Atlantean forces.

Black Manta initiated the war by launching a torpedo attack on Atlantis and blaming it on the surface dwellers. In the process he wipes out many Atlanteans who were out tending their crops. The fields of Atlantis were burning.

The fields… of Atlantis… were burning…

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2015 in Movies & TV, Reviews

 

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Batman Story Cubes

The Fractal-family are big fans of Rory’s Story Cubes.

If you’re not familiar, they’re sets of dice with symbols on each face. You roll the dice and then tell a story that somehow incorporates each image. It’s good fun for kids and adults and the implications for gamers should be obvious.

Via Purple Pawn I see that this Fall they’ll be releasing a new set of Batman Story Cubes!

Have I ever mentioned that my gaming group loves superhero RPGs?

What would make this even more fantastic would be a comic introducing a new Batman villain who uses Story Cubes in his crimes. Just a one shot tie-in issue like they used to do in the 70’s and 80’s. It’s the perfect gimmick for a Batman villain.

I dream of a day when they start making Rory’s Story Cube sets for other genres; Dungeons & Dragons, Stars Without Number, Call of Cthulhu…

Okay, maybe that last one is a bad idea…

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2015 in Cool Stuff, Gaming

 

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Super Shows

Currently I’m trying to keep up with three TV shows, which is a lot for me. It should be no surprise that all of them are based on comics.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – I continue to love this show. I was hooked from its slow and rocky beginnings, when I considered it the Coulson and May show and couldn’t even remember Agent Pretty-Boy’s name. My how things have changed. Ward has become one of my favorite villains and the additions to the cast have been excellent. The guest stars haven’t hurt either and they are taking full advantage of their connections to the greater Marvel cinematic universe. That’s something most shows can’t draw upon and I’m glad to see them leverage it for all it’s worth. It also helps that since the ending of last season they’ve kicked the pacing into high gear.

I like the characters, I like the setting, I like the action, and I like the twisty plots. I’m also very glad that they’re moving ahead with the central mystery. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the show I’m most invested in and I love it.

The Flash – Wow, a DC superhero property that manages not to suck all the fun out of comic characters? Could it be that they’re finally catching on that “grim and gritty” is not the only way to present heroes?

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had pacing problems when it started. Appropriately enough that has not been an issue for The Flash, which dove straight into superheroic action. Giving Barry Allen a healthy dose of Peter Parker-like luck and background hasn’t hurt the story either, making Barry Allen more relateable and interesting. Another interesting difference is that while S.H.I.E.L.D. hides the major plot twists to surprise the viewer, The Flash is telegraphing them. The audience already knows who the evil mastermind is and we get to enjoy watching the chess game between him and the unaware good guys.

They’ve also done a good job of putting Flash up against a strong stable of his classic Rogues Gallery. One of my biggest complaints about a lot of past superhero TV shows is that they lacked supervillains. The Flash does not have this problem, with Barry squaring off against new metahuman challenges each week.

However I still have some complaints. The first is that they keep killing off their villains. This has improved somewhat by the introduction of the metahuman prison under the ruins of STAR Labs, but they’ve still killed off most of the villains they introduced. The prison also introduces an ethical question that hasn’t been touched on. Our heroes are imprisoning people indefinitely and denying them any due process. I wish they would at least address this, make it an ethical dilemma, and let them argue about it. Instead they ignore it, and that bugs me.

They’re fallen into “Villain of the Week” syndrome. I do love that they have so many super battles, but so far each villain has been neatly dealt with in one episode. They could stand to have a two-part episode once in a while, or a villain who escapes to come back later. Also they waited way too long before they gave the titular hero his correct name. Until the most recent episode they were calling him “The Streak”. Why they waited this long to call him Flash is beyond me.

Of course we need to have a love triangle, which is a plot cliche I have no interest in. Though I am happy that the other guy is a good character. I like him and I don’t think he’s going to turn evil, which means he’ll probably die.

Constantine – Back when Vertigo Comics first launched, John Constantine’s Hellblazer was the title that I latched onto and couldn’t stop reading. I was a teenager and the anti-hero in Constantine blew me away. He was a jackass, he had crushing self-doubt that he covered with bravado, he would win but take so much of a beating that it didn’t seem like a victory. The plots were graphic, dark, raw, and more explicit than what I was used to seeing in comics. It was also very much a product of the late 80’s and early 90’s, channeling the feel of the black magic horror movies tof the time. Movies like The Serpent and the Rainbow, The Prophecy, and Prince of Darkness.

When I heard they were bringing Constantine to TV I had my doubts. I wondered how well it would translate to television.

As it turns out, not too bad. First off, they nailed the look. From how the actor talks and dresses to the colors that they use, John Constantine looks like he walked out of a comic book. The atmosphere is fatalistic, with foul rituals and dark magic at every turn. Many classic characters from Hellblazer have shown up, including Chas, Zed, and Papa Midnight. John is a jackass, full of himself and milking a reputation that is far more fearsome than his actual abilities. Despite the dark and horrific nature of the world, they also manage to inject a sense of the absurd and dark humor.

Constantine is also not without a few flaws. Stories feel rushed and the characters feel a bit unnatural. I never quite forget that I’m watching actors when I should be connecting with the characters. I also worry that the show might turn modern audiences off due to its irreverent take on various religions, which gives me concerns about its future. There are things you can get away with in a niche comic that won’t fly in the mass media. We’ll see what happens.

*****

That’s what I’m watching, and for me that’s a lot. I’m getting good mileage out of the superhero boom and I can’t remember when we’ve had so many good non-animated genre shows on the air. Honorable mention also goes to Doctor Who, which I don’t so much follow as DVR and binge-watch once the season is over.

What have you been watching?

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2014 in Books and Comics, Movies & TV, Reviews

 

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Sentinels of the iPad

They have shut up and taken my money.

I now have the Sentinels of the Multiverse app for my iPad and it is excellent. I don’t have a lot of experience with board-to-iPad conversions for games, but I have a great deal of experience with Sentinels of the Multiverse, and this conversion feels great.

The graphics are straight from the game, the music is good without being obtrusive and the sound effects are nice. The interface does a good job of keeping track of everything that happens in a Sentinels game and thankfully they made sure you can double tap cards at just about any time to review them. This is particularly handy because some cards put into play vanish from the screen a little too fast to read, so being able to review them is essential. One particularly clever addition is that with each phase of the game it reconfigures the screen by “turning the page” giving it even more of a comic book feel. Another nice touch is that the pictures of the heroes and villains show increasing amounts of battle damage as the game progresses.

Currently the game encompasses all the heroes, villains, and environments of the base game. The app also has an impressive encyclopedia of the characters which includes the ability to look at all the cards in their deck. Given the wide range of powers the heroes and villains have in Sentinels it’s impressive how well the application handles everything. It also has a randomizer allowing a mix-and-match of villains, heroes, and environments. Although for someone not familiar with the game this may provide unexpectedly difficult or exceptionally easy battles. For example, three heroes matched against Citizen Dawn have little hope, while six heroes vs Baron Blade will be overkill. However the randomizer isn’t locked in and you can modify the results before launching the game.

No word yet on if they will expand the game to include the expansion sets, though I would be surprised if we don’t see them coming down the pipe.

If you are a fan of Sentinels of the Multiverse and have either an iPad or Android tablet I can’t recommend the game highly enough. The only thing I can’t vouch for is how accessible the game is for people who aren’t already familiar with the card game. There is a tutorial and Sentinels isn’t a very complex game, but there are some nuances that are easier to understand when looking at a real manual. Someone new to the game will have a harder time picking up what is going on even with the tutorial.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have more justice to dish out!

Or rather I will have justice to dish out, once my battery recharges.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2014 in Computer Games, Gaming

 

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Sentinels of the Multiverse – The Video Game

Ahem….

SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!!!!

I’m not a Sentinels’ addict. I can quit any time I want to.

I just don’t want to.

 

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2014 in Computer Games, Cool Stuff, Gaming

 

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Sentinels Tactics Has Arrived!

Joy!

Yesterday I came home to a big box from Greater Than Games. My Sentinels Tactics set has arrived!

Wait, let me back up a little.

Sentinels Tactics: The Flame of Freedom and all my add-ons is in my hands four months early!

I don’t know what dark magic Greater Than Games has that lets them nail every Kickstarter project but I’ll donate a pint of blood to it in thanks.

Sentinels Tactics is the new tactical combat game based in the Sentinels of the Multiverse universe. Unlike the card game, where the players work cooperatively to defeat a super villain, Tactics pits the players against each other in comic book battles. This is the project I blew all my discretionary gaming money on so I could fund it at the $100 level, and boy was it worth it. I got the core game, the Uprising expansion, two boxes of miniatures, a deck of additional cards, and a fun art print of the Sentinels characters.

I’d hoped to be playing it for Christmas. Now it shows up right before I celebrate my birthday by having a bunch of friends over for a day of board gaming.

I can’t say enough good things about Greater Than Games. They put out high quality products, well designed, with good components, and great customer service. They have nailed the superhero genre in ways no other non-rpg tabletop game has. In my opinion better than Heroclix from the, “makes you feel like a superhero,” standpoint.

I can’t wait to get this game to the table.

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2014 in Gaming

 

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Justice League: War

I love the DC animated movies.

They have a few clunkers, but they also boast some of my all time favorite superhero animated movies. Some of which, like Wonder Woman, I’d put in the same league as the live action Marvel movies. One of the most amazing things they have ever done is take the Batman: Under the Red Hood story, which I hated in the comics, and turn it into a fantastic animated movie.

So even though it was based on the New 52 continuity, I decided to give the adaptation of Justice League: War a try.

The results?

 

Congratulations!

I have found my new least-favorite superhero movie. Compared to this, Braniac Attacks is a Kurosawa flick.

I’m going to need to marathon watch Justice League to recover from this.

 

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2014 in Books and Comics, Movies & TV, Reviews

 

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Gaming!

Despite a crazily busy weekend, I managed to get into some gaming.

First, my son wanted to take another crack at Sentinels of the Multiverse and this time my daughter joined us. My son has fallen in love with Ra, I use Haka, and my daughter picked Wraith, who she took to with great glee. The three heroes faced off against the nefarious La Capitain and her time pirates, who sought to plunder the Tomb of Anubis. The heroes took a good beating, but triumphed before any of their number fell.

My daughter loved Wraith’s combat stance power, that lets her do damage to a target that damages her. She decided that the power let her punch the villains in the face and proudly announced, “I have anger issues,” while occasionally growling. I am such a proud geek dad, though I wonder if there will be any “stories” from the playground from this. I can imagine her leaping from the monkey bars shouting that as her battle cry.

Our normal Sunday night G+ game was broken up due to people’s holiday schedules, but I got in a small G+ game on Monday night. We decided to kick the tires on Stars Without Number, which I’ll be running when we resume our normal session. This is the first time I’ve run the game and the first time my players have had a crack at it and I’m pleased to say that everything went well. I had two players and they each created two characters in a little over 20 minutes, not bad for a first time.

I based the adventure on Dungeon from a Distant Star, a great one-page dungeon that’s free to download. I’ve been wanting to give it a try for quite a while and this was the perfect opportunity. As things turned out we got a good look at how Stars Without Number worked and had fun doing it. The party explored a good chunk of the crashed spaceship, got into one fight, and made plenty of skill rolls. Through good fortune they avoided most of the more dangerous encounters and got to play with several alien artifacts. In the end one character was both seriously wounded and suffering mental trauma from one of the alien devices, but at least he survived.

I am definitely looking forward to running the game. It plays fast and easy, and while combat is lethal it does offer ways to mitigate the risk for groups that play smart.

If you’re not familiar with the game system, you should be. Stars Without Number is one of the crown jewels of the OSR movement. It’s a science fiction game based on original Dungeons & Dragons mechanics, but it offers more than that. It also offers a fantastic toolkit for building space sectors, worlds, cultures, adventures, and alien species. The tools are system agnostic, which makes the whole package even more useful.

And you can get the core rules for free. Not a stripped down starter version, not even a complete version without artwork. The whole game book is available as a free download. There is a paid copy of the core book that adds a few chapters on robots and mecha, which I own in print and PDF format, but those are extras.

Stars Without Number can be downloaded here. Be warned, once you read it you may find yourself collecting everything Sine Nomine Publishing puts out.

An affliction I enjoy greatly.

The Wraith(1)

 

“I HAVE ANGER ISSUES!”

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2014 in Gaming, Science Fiction

 

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Good Weekend for Gaming

It was a nice weekend for gaming.

Saturday my son was in the mood to play some games, so I convinced him to try Sentinels of the Multiverse. He can be picky about trying new games and in the past he’s been reluctant to try this one, but this time he was intrigued. So we whipped out the cards and went to work. He played The Wraith and the might Ra while I ran Legacy and Omnitron X, and we engaged the nefarious Baron Blade in combat. The Baron put up a good fight, but in the end our heroes triumphed over evil. My son loved the game!

I’m a big fan of Sentinels of the Multiverse and I’m delighted that my son has taken to it. Plus the next time we visit Dad in a Cape, we can play with him and his girls, who are all big fans of the game. Five player Sentinels for the win!

After our superhero antics my son wanted to play Nuclear War and my daughter decided to join us. Another first! She is also rather picky about games and had been uninterested in this one, but this time she gave it a try. It was the first time she’d played and she did quite well, dropping bombs with glee from her Orbital Space Platform. In the end there was a wonderful chain reaction of final strikes, leading to everyone being vaporized in atomic fire.

On Sunday we squeezed in our weekly G+ Hangout game, though it was abbreviated due to Mother’s Day activities. Still, it was a welcome does of gaming, as my face-to-face group hasn’t met in over a month. The current game is Call of Cthulhu, based initially in 1985’s Miami, Florida. Our characters are now lost in the Dreamlands. Having escaped the doomed city of Sarnath we’ve learned that we may actually be natives of the Dreamlands who were sent to Earth for protection. We may be the only remaining members of three royal houses.

Initially our goal was to get back to Earth, though my character is now considering staying in the Dreamlands and being royalty. However at the end of last night’s session we followed an Ultharian cat through a portal into the realm of Bast. Are we still in the Dreamlands? Are we about to be made into squeaky toys for a cat goddess?

That remains to be seen.

The Wraith(1)

 

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2014 in Gaming

 

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