Thursday, August 25, 2016

Campaign Status and the What's Next Conundrum

If you're a GM who's running an ongoing campaign you know there is some pressure to have some idea of what's happening "next" - next session, next month, next year, etc. In a heavily plotted campaign it's somewhat easier to manage as there's a plot to follow. With a sandbox campaign you might have the local region sketched out and some idea of what's going on there. You have to be careful though because players have a tendency to wreck detailed plans as fast as you can come up with them. My approach is not to waste time on a lot of detail for more than the next session or two and just have an outline, a sketch, of what's going on where and how the players might stumble into it. For me, the sweet spot is "I know where we are and I have some idea of where we might go next".

Right now the existing campaigns are in a pretty good place:

  • With Pathfinder we are working our way through an adventure path - no worries there. We'll be playing it for another year most likely.
  • With d6 Star Wars I know where they are going at the end of the current hyperspace jump and I have an idea of what is there. No worries here either. This will be a largely player-driven space sandbox with no particular destination in mind on my part. 
  • With Deadlands the Apprentices are in the middle of an adventure - a short one, but still - so the next session or two is pretty straightforward. Long term we will probably investigate some of the published adventures.
  • With ICONS I have an adventure I want to run so when we get time and interest that's what we will do.  It should be a single session so it will continue our nicely episodic approach to that game. Down the road I have several adventures I like plus some homebrew ideas to explore. 
  • With M&M I also have an adventure I want to run. It is not a single-session type and will probably take 5 or 6 to complete. The trick is finding a window where all of the players who start it could continue to meet every week or two in order to finish it. I really want to run it and I don't want it to fall apart or have a 3-month break in the middle so I'm being picky about starting it. It may be an "intermission" between the Pathfinder AP books 3 & 4. 
  • Marvel Heroic is one we only play every once in a while but we always have a really good time when we do. The good thing is that I have a definite (though pretty flexible) campaign in mind for it and we are ready to start the second chapter of that the next time we play. Plenty of material ready to go!
  • The best thing about Savage Worlds apart from the system itself is the plot point campaigns - typically it's a setting, a campaign outline, and supporting adventures all in one book. It means I always have "one in the chamber", ready to go, for at least six different campaigns.  
Before anyone gets too jealous let me say a lot of these games are not on any regular schedule. We played Star Wars d6 twice in July, and if we're lucky we will work in another session labor day weekend, and I'm not sure when the next one will be between then and Thanksgiving. The boys are still excited about it, I just don't have all 3 of them here very often. We had our second or third Deadlands session of the year then too, and the last Marvel game was in February. I tend to have one or two games running on any kind of regular schedule and the rest drop in when we can manage it.  

Other games on the horizon are a little less set:
  • For FFG Star Wars I have a pretty good idea of where and how I want to start and where I want to go after that but a lot of it will depend on actually getting a game started and seeing what the players want to do. I could probably summarize it as a 12-episode outline with some notes but that might be getting a little carried away at this point. 
  • The DCC RPG has a lot of published adventures but no particular, expressly stated setting. I have chosen one to use as a starting point (probably one good session) and then one more as a follow-up (probably 1-2 more good sessions). I figure 3 sessions of material is plenty for a new game. After that we will have to see how much everyone likes it and how we want to continue. If I need a world to play in I have a homebrew I have used for Basic/Labyrinth Lord in the past and I would likely just adapt it as it has some similar flavorings. I might also set it in Greyhawk. Not sure, have to see how it goes. 
  • Runequest: I have a nice retro-rulebook and an idea of what I would like to do with it for a session or two. That's enough to get a game going.
  • For Trek I have a fairly solid idea on where to start for a Next Gen campaign and I'm working on a TOS idea too.  
The odds that I will run multiple sessions of all 4 of these before the end of 2016 is slim. I'd like to at least have a try-out session of all of them but even that is tricky. 

The real conundrums:
  • Savage Rifts: The rules look great and I have a bunch of material ... and that's the problem! I wrote up my previous experiences with starting a Rifts campaign here but I still haven't decided what I want to do with the next one. There are plenty of options, I just don't know where I want to start things up.
  • 5th Edition: I had mixed feelings about my first experience as a player but I want to give it another chance. I don't really like what I've read of the big published campaigns so I'l be homebrewing or converting some stuff that I do like. Part of it is going to be influenced by setting:
    • Back to the Realms? Maybe a Return to the Ruins of Adventure again? Give Haunted Halls a try? Finally try that Waterdeep game I think about every few years? Also - when should it take place?
    • Greyhawk? I haven't touched it in years but I've had a lot of fun there. Plus most of the classic adventures have a home there. Maybe run the Temple/Giants/Drow in the original setting?
    • Scarred Lands? This was my favorite 3E setting and there's a 5E version of it due out soon from a Kickstarter. Because Pathfinder exists I can't see us going back to 3E any time soon and I like running PF in it's own setting so Scarn is not likely to get attention that way either. 
    • Homebrew? I have more than a few worlds of my own, some of which were written for D&D games a long time ago. I could dust one of them off and see where it goes. 
    • Wild cards: Eberron? Probably not. Dark Sun? Nah. Primeval Thule? That one does look interesting. 

Beyond all this I still have other stuff I want to try. I'd like to introduce the boys to Traveller and Gamma World. I'd like to run through an old Marvel Super Heroes adventure. I'd like to play some old DC Heroes with the crew. FASA Trek sits there staring at me on the shelf. Champions awaits a rebirth for at least a one-shot. Then by next year we're going to have the Mutant Crawl Classics stuff from that Kickstarter, Freedom City for M&M 3E, a new Star Trek game, and I'm sure there will be a Savage Worlds Kickstarter of some kind because they seem to have at least one every year now. 

Then there are the mini's and the boardgames.

Man, I need more time.

Anyway, there's the present and the future and at least as many questions as answers. The good thing is that in between all of the grown-up stuff, work. relationships, and all of the kid stuff we still manage to find time to have fun with this stuff too. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Trilogy is Complete

I finally picked up the core book for Force and Destiny, completing the FFG trilogy.  Some thoughts:

They are very nice books. I really like the approach to the art this time. Using hand-drawn art, but in a fairly realistic style, keeps the look consistent throughout the game line but gives them a lot more freedom than limiting it to shots from the movies. The style is more consistent than I saw in the WOTC lines and much more true to the Star Wars look and feel than the black and white work from the West End Games line.  In both of those older games, the difference in style between the screen shots from the movies, the various composited still pictures presumably done by Lucasfilm, and the styles of the different artists could be jarring at times. The FFG art team is going in a different direction and I really like it. In fact, the Star Trek RPG's have had a similar problem with using screen captures alongside hand drawn art in the past and I hope the new one takes a direction more like this.

Nice-looking books aside I still am not completely thrilled with the approach. Dividing them up by character type still seems like the wrong tack to me. I know they position it as campaign type but I've never seen a campaign that was pure smuggler/scum types, pure rebel military types, and pure Jedi. In the campaigns I either participated in, heard about, or even read about online, there's always a mix of types. So despite their theory, this is not how people run Star Wars games. It's also not how the movies work either, which may be more or less important depending on how you look at it.  If you want to have a smuggler, a wannabe Jedi, a lost Alderaanian noble, and a bounty hunter you need 3 core rulebooks! WEG did it in one, WOTC did it in one, and I've had a good time playing in all of those systems so clearly it can be done!

I would have preferred to see a Star Wars core book with era-specific support books. A Rebellion era book to start, then a Clone Wars book, then an Old Republic Book and then for 2016/17 they could have done a post-Rebellion book with info on the new movies. The obligatory character type books and the adventures could be done just as they are being done now. That's how previous Star Wars games handled it and maybe that's the problem - I think it's likely FFG wanted to do something different after 25 years of other Star Wars games and so they did. It will work, it just makes the buy-in quite a bit higher if you want all of the options.

It's not like we haven't seen something similar before. Last Unicorn cranked out 3 full-color hardback core books for Star Trek back in the late 90's (and were working on a fourth when they shut down). The Next Generation, Original Series, and Deep Space Nine books all duplicated the rules content and all had their separate (thought somewhat muddled) lines of supporting products. While the TOS book kind of followed my preference for breaking the game up by era rather than campaign/character type the TNG and DS9 books were way too contemporary to justify separate core books - but that's what they did.

Regardless of my thoughts on the approach the games is out there as it is. Also, I do like the game - I mean, I already like the setting, and the new mechanics look like they have a lot of potential with my group. I have some ideas for a campaign - and yes it will likely be a "mixed" campaign. Between the starter sets, the GM kits, and a few of the published adventures there are some cool ideas and plenty of things to recombine for my own purposes. With our d6 campaign up and running it's not quite as urgent a need as it was but I still want to try out the new system in play for an extended period of time. I may try it as a limited campaign where we make up characters and play through one complete adventure with no further commitment but I have to see where we can fit it in.

Anyway, that's what I know about it at the moment. More when we do something with them.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Heroes and Rogues for West End Games Star Wars

The one sentence review: This is a lot like "Citizens of the Imperium" for d6 Star Wars.

(I thought I was fairly clever coming up with that. then I realized that most gamers under 30 probably have no idea what that refers to. So...)

Bonus mini-review!

When Traveller, the original hardish sci-fi RPG came out in 1977 there were 6 career choices: Army, Navy, Marines, Scouts, Merchants, and Other. "Other" was the shady criminal type career while the others were all military or big time corporate. So there was a heavy military/criminal bent to early groups to the point that some people referred to it as "Merchants and Mercenaries".   A few years later this book came out and added things like Doctor, Scientist, Pirate, Diplomat, and Barbarian (among others). It really expanded the types of characters you could play and helped bring the universe to life that much more. I still think it's a great example of expansion without power creep. It was a great book for most Traveller campaigns.


Getting back to WEG Star Wars the core concept of the entire line was Rebel-affiliated characters working against the Empire. Despite including templates like the "kid", the bounty hunter, and the alien force student, the assumption was that players would be involved with the rebellion in some way even if they were not a formal part of the military organization - kind of like "Rebels". As time went on there was some loosening of this approach and more neutral smuggler type campaigns were given some support. This book opens things up quite a bit more.

I admit I was surprised - I would have thought this book would have been held in higher regard amongst the d6 community but it doesn't really seem to have that. it did come out late in the game's run - 1995 - but I was impressed with what it held.

  • There's a roughly 25 page section on character backgrounds. This poses a series of questions players can answer about their characters from family and friends and major events of one's past to a fairly long section on choosing a homeworld. Now it does not have a nifty set of tables to roll this up randomly like some systems do but it does have a decent discussion of the kinds of things that go into each point of interest in building up a character's history. 
  • "Roleplaying Imperials" - say what? I've had players ask about doing this as a campaign (and largely declined it) but I had no idea there was WEG support for it of any kind. There's 12 pages of discussion about different kinds of campaigns from things like TIE Squadron pilots to an Imperial intelligence campaign. The TIE Fighter computer game is noted in this section as driving interest in this type of game and that's completely true - a lot of people liked that enough to consider doing it in a tabletop game. The discussion is followed by about 18 pages of Imperial character templates which are more varied than I expected. It's a solid start if you're interested in running that kind of game. Even in another system.
  • The third major section is Independent Templates - this is exactly what it sounds like. 30 odd pages of character types that are not particularly tied to either side: Scientists of various types, reporters, entertainers, corporate types, and a wookie bounty hunter as well.
  • The fourth section has roughly 15 pages of Rebel type templates, particularly New Republic types because that was a bigger deal at the time in the Expanded Universe material. It's alright if a lot less of an expansion than the prior sections.
  • Finally there are about 20 pages of NPC writeups. This was the least interesting section of the book to me but it does cover a variety of types and could be useful if you need an emergency drop-in NPC with some background information. 
Now to clarify - this is in no way essential in the sense that the main rulebook is essential or some of the other books are for Jedi-heavy or Smuggler-heavy campaigns are. If you would like to show your players some options beyond the core book I would say this is the single largest collection of templates in any other single volume. If you're contemplating an Imperial campaign then i would definitely recommend it, as well as if you're thinking of a d6 version of an Edge of the Empire style campaign. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

40K Friday - End of the Summer

School starts next week here. Red moved into a new apartment and has been working a lot while Blaster has had band summer practices 5 days a week so we've played zero games this month, Because of Red's move I've been moving the painting table into his old room and trying to organize paints, tools, and the miniatures themselves a little better so I've not done much painting recently either. I'm still focused on the Eldar, with occasional side trips to the Chaos Marines when I want a change of scenery. I still think I will have the spirit host, the all-reaper aspect host, and the dire avenger host all finished this year. That's the core of my force for now. I just need to buckle down and get some work done on them.

That latest box set looks like it could be fun. I am not very likely to spend over 100$ on Harlies and specialist marines but it's not a terrible start for someone looking for a second army.

Rumors of an 8th edition continue to bubble. Latest I've seen is here. I think the edition changes 2-3 years apart are ridiculous but that seems to be the direction they are going. Ah well.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Campaigns I Haven't Run: Ptolus

I was going to do this one next week to space them out a bit but it does tie in with yesterday's post so why not do them back to back?

I picked up Ptolus years ago. Not right when it released but not too long after. I thought it looked like a setup for a cool campaign, it was a really nice product as far as presentation and content, and it was the incubator for 3E D&D in a big way and I wanted to see what my group could do with it.

To date, I've run zero sessions in it.

I still feel the same way about it - I just haven't made it the top priority that it needs to be in order to get it on the schedule.

  • I picked it up when we were still playing 3E. We were already in a campaign and I wasn't going to quit in the middle to start a new game. 
  • When we went to 4th I had a certain campaign in mind and that's what I ran. 
  • When we went to Pathfinder it was to run a specific adventure path. I'm still running this and there's not a ton of room for other ongoing games with the same group.
So Ptolus has always been in that category of "things I'd like to run next" but it's never been the obvious choice.  I have several games like that.

The attractions here are similar to those with Waterdeep: big city, literally built for D&D and all of the assumptions that the D&D rules imply about a world, and tons of supporting material. This campaign specifically calls out, assumes, and drives the "city is the adventure" approach and that's what I am looking for.

In contrast to Waterdeep there is a lack of a) game history, b) major NPC's, and c) all of the other distractions of the Forgotten Realms setting. In short: There hasn't been a 50 book novel series written about Ptolus so there's less clutter/baggage to worry about, if you/re one to worry about such things.  For me, the main effect of this is that it's a lot less "known" to my players so there's a lot more exploration to do and fewer assumptions walking in. Waterdeep does have the history and fame (infamy?) and that can be a plus, but it has its downside too and that's where Ptolus can step in front. 

Rules-wise it is built for 3E but it is still an interesting enough place that I would not feel bound to any particular set of rules. Pathfinder is the obvious choice but I could see running it with anything from that to 5th edition to 4th to Savage Worlds. If it was one of the 3E versions I'd likely add in Arcana Evolved classes and options too since they're form the same author at the same time. There's a big bad guy at the top of that spike that would serve as a worthy opponent to even an epic level 4E party. There's enough going on that I think you could run an ongoing campaign for years without feeling constrained regardless of system. Heck, with some of the weird technology that you can find in some of the material I think it would work pretty well with the Dungeon Crawl Classics game.

Again, the map is inspirational for me - heck the whole book is inspirational! There are tons of notes on local color, the flavor of each neighborhood, smaller maps of buildings and neighborhoods - it's just really well done. Plus it's organized in a way to make it fairly easy to use in play- well, I suspect it is. As I mentioned, I haven't tried it yet. 

In general I don't buy RPG books to sit on the shelf. I know that's a thing with some people and I won't say I'm immune to the collector mentality, but typically I buy books that I think I will use and I've run at least a try-out session of most of the games I own. With Ptolus I thought it looked cool before I owned it and once I started reading it the wheels started turning almost instantly. The big constraint is time of course. I expect the city by the spire will continue to percolate in that upper part of the ocean of "what we could play" until one of these days it snaps into place and we finally roll some dice in the streets of the city.   

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Campaigns I Haven't Run: Waterdeep

I've run quite a few campaigns across different systems, genres, settings, and time periods and I've talked about a lot of them here. Over the past week I've been cleaning up the library and the wheels start turning whenever I start going back through the books in depth. Because of that I thought I would post a little bit about some of the campaigns I haven't run but would like to, and why. First up: Waterdeep!

One of the first FR supplements after the box

It's the big city of the Forgotten Realms; the Greyhawk; the Lankhmar; the New York! It's a big, busy, potentially dangerous place. It's always been one of the more detailed areas of the Realms because it's one of the regions where Ed Greenwood actually ran games. It sits on top of a megadungeon, the infamous "Undermountain". It has intrigue with all of the guilds and with the rulers of the city being masked with secret identities - an interesting approach to local government.

I thought this was a pretty solid one-volume rundown of the city

It's also been the subject of focused supporting material in multiple editions of the game from the original module type booklet up above to the boxed sets of 2nd Edition to the hardcover book of 3rd edition. There's certainly no lack of material to explore. Beyond the books there is of course plenty of online material as well.

The maps are insane! This could easily cover a wall of a room.
Maps are an inspirational thing with me and they reach Ridiculous Level with the City System box. Seeing a good map makes me want to go exploring. Above ground ...

These could cover the other wall of the game room

...and below! I think most people are aware of the massive poster maps of the dungeon levels for Undermountain as well.  They're pretty cool and inspirational again for the sheer size and scope, especially of what you could do.

If you don't feel like Undermountain there are always the ... well, you know.

I've never really run a fantasy big city game but looking back through these books and boxes really flips the switch. You could run it as a total sandbox as there's all kinds of space, power groups, smaller dungeons, the mega dungeon - there's no real limit here. I can also see plenty of plots to flesh out and use as the spine of an ongoing campaign. Long term goals for old-school characters in a D&D game might include carving out a barony in the wilderness somewhere - here you could aim to become one of the lords of Waterdeep instead!

Now it is the Realms so there's plenty of gods and powerful NPC's running around and Waterseep tends to be an area of focus for big events but so are big cities in fiction and in the real world so a lot of the trappings of the Realms that some see as a negative make a ton of sense here, moreso than most places  - it's the big leagues! If you can make it here you can make it anywhere! I'd say it's a feature not a bug.

The main thing to keep in mind is that despite the history and popularity of the area quite a bit of it is only broadly described. There's plenty of room to carve out a neighborhood or three of your own design. Your players will get to know familiar NPC's, organizations, leaders, enemies, and eventually be experts on the region.

I also think it would be a great area to try running multiple simultaneous campaigns - one group might be mainly focused on Undermountain while another gets involved in politics. There are a ton of other options and they're all in a small enough area that the opportunities for crossovers are numerous.

There's also a lot of interesting stuff near the city so if your players get tired of urban adventures they can head outside for a special two-part episode in the High Forest or the Serpent Hills. That said my main focus would be the city itself. Kind of the opposite of the West Marches Mantra - here the adventure is in the city. Outside is where new characters and new threats come from, but it's not where you go adventuring.

So while I've never run or played in this kind of game It looks like a lot of fun to run and play.  A lot of my focus in recent years has been in shorter, limited campaigns like the Savage Worlds plot points or the Pathfinder Adventure paths. This is one of those long term no particular end in sight type of games I have not run in quite a while. It's on the short list for the next D&D type campaign I run.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Stuff You Don't Need to Actually Run a Game - Deadlands Edition

I saw something online and it immediately called out to me as a nifty item to have for my Deadlands stuff:

Short of a bloody handprint I don't think there's anything else you could add to make that more Deadlands. I've been fiddling around with the game for close to 20 years now and I have no plans to give it up so I figured I could afford to go sideways instead of getting more books.

My second thought was "ok how can I use it?" - or really, "how can I justify buying it right now"? I do have some cards I plan to use only for Deadlands, and I was looking at some dice for it and I was going to get a new dice bag for those and, well ...

There's plenty of room in ti for some cards and a dice bag.

I showed the Texas Star deck in a prior post but the 1800 deck is new.

I really like that look. That's my main deck for Deadlands now.

Dicebags: I've only used a few over the years - for the longest time my D&D dice traveled in an index card file box  - but I thought a leather/rawhide//buckskin look fit this game pretty well and it's big enough to hold quite a few dice. The best thing about it is that if it gets dirty/sweaty/grimy over the years it only looks that much more appropriate!

Dice: I co-opted the orange and yellow dice from my pile of Marvel Heroic dice, then added in the copper-colored set. The color choices are a nod to all of those blazing orange and yellow covers and boxes sitting behind me when I run the game. When I think "Deadlands" those are the colors associated with it in my head.

Yeah - that.

Originally I had thought I would keep bennies in the box too but bennies for Deadlands are poker chips and they live in a cowboy hat (lower right in the pic above). We throw it out on the table and use as the fate pot for the game. So no chips in the box.

So that's my little detour into useless gaming crap that you really do not need. I justify it all in the name of "atmosphere" and ... because I just like it. I suspect my teenage self would have looked at it and said "sure, that's cool and all - does it mean you've bought all the games then?" Well no, let's not get silly. I probably could have bought another game book or three instead of getting the box, the cards, the bag, and the dice. Sometimes though it's about making the games you already have better in some way other than more books. Sometimes it's just because it's cool.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Mid-Week Media: Suicide Squad

I went in with low expectations as a) I don't really like the concept that much of trying to turn supervillains into sort-of heroes as a pop-culture thing and b) I haven't seen anything terribly interesting in the trailers yet. Oh it's colorful! Oh it's got Harley Quinn! - yeah yeah. I wasn't pushing to see it in the theater but the kids wanted to so we went.

The opening hour or so is decent. I won't say great but I had some interest in seeing what they would do. The second half is something you've probably seen in a bunch of other movies. Parts of it looked a lot like Escape From New York, and most every post-apocalyptic city/zombie/scruffy team-up movie out there. There's a heavy focus on Will Smith and on Harley and the rest of the team is pretty thin. Why is Captain Boomerang there? He has about 5 lines in the whole movie and does very little - could have been an easy cut.

The team concept is pretty flawed here too. "What if the next Superman flies down and tears the roof off of the White House?' is the question that's asked. The answer is that Waller is building a team to handle that scenario - except they couldn't! Harley? Please. Croc? No. Boomerang? Lol. Diablo? Lasts about 3 seconds. Deadshot? Maybe if he is given a glowy green bullet - otherwise no. This is your anti-superman plan?  

These guys just don't come across as "evil". They're supposed to be bad guys, the "worst of the worst" - but we don't see much of that. It mostly happened offscreen, prior to this movie, and we're just supposed to assume they're awful.

  • Deadshot actually kills someone - for money! On screen! Did we mention the target is a mob informant so he's a badguy too? They talk about him killing a bunch of people but that's the only one we see. Then we get beaten over the head with the existence of his daughter and how he wants to change. Not exactly hardcore. Plus it's Will Smith! How bad a guy can you make him? It would take a lot of extra story work and it just doesn't happen here. 
  • Harley isn't shown doing anything particularly bad before- the Joker does a little but not her! Screwed up, sure, but where's the evil?
  • Croc - well he's ugly so he's clearly evil right? 
  • Captain Boomerang - he robs banks - execute him! He may kill people while doing it but they don't really emphasize that in the film. The thing that gets mentioned is how many banks he has robbed. You know, we don't hand out death sentences for that - did these people read any comic books?
  • Diablo - he did do something bad and he regrets it to the point of shutting down. He does deserve to be on the team and he accepts it. He's also the only one with actual superpowers (depending on how you want to count croc) and he is the badass of the team at key points of the story and with more angst than Will Smith. He feels more like he should be in an X-Men movie. I liked his part of the story.
  • Katana?! Why is she in this movie? She joins late and does little. Another unneeded character. 
There's just not enough "anti" in these anti-heroes. There's no unrepentant evil here. It's a shattering weakness: you want to make a super-movie about the bad guys, but you haven't established as all that bad before you're trying to turn them into heroes! When Anakin ignites his saber in a room full of Jedi kindergartners that tells you something about his character. Only Diablo has anything close to that here. Heck Amanda Waller comes out of the movie as more of a "villain" than any of the people on the team and while that may be a somewhat intended outcome this dirty half-dozen needed to be dirtier to drive that home. 

The tone jumps around too - there are some funny moments, then things get all serious but not in a way that makes any sense. Inevitable Marvel comparison: this is something Marvel consistently gets right, using humor to relieve dramatic tension, then jumping into an action scene. The DC movies are still struggling with this. The music jumps around too, like a DJ that can't make up his mind what to do next.

Extra Points

The Joker: He seems more menacing than anyone actually on the team, in a gang leader kind of way, ala The Sopranos or Breaking Bad. He doesn't seem like a world-threatening supervillain. And no, he's not in it enough to push Ledger into obscurity. The actor seems fine but considering this is the 5th Joker we've seen that's given a memorable performance (Romero-Nicholson-Hamil-Ledger-Leto) I'm wondering if maybe the crazy un-Batman is truly that difficult to portray. 

Enchantress: She's sort of on the team and I suppose she would be the anti-superman measure if it came to that, but she gets very little development beyond a 2-minute origin story. There was nothing particularly memorable about her or her alter-ego. She's as generic as it gets. 

Harley Quinn: A lot of the energy of the movie revolves around Harley. I only know the character from Batman The Animated Series and she was pretty memorable there. I am happy to say that she comes across really well here. I'm not sure that "crazy, criminal. hot girl" is all that tough to play either but Margot Robbie does it well. If you're mainly interested in seeing more of her let me direct your attention to Wolf of Wall Street.

The Finale
It's a little bit of a letdown, for two reasons:

First, The "brother" that shows up seems pretty powerful. I'd say he's the most powerful thing in the movie. he destroys tanks, soldiers, aircraft - pretty much everything he runs into. the he gets taken out by a demo charge. Not a nuke. Not a mystically-enhanced-mumbo-jumbo-powered magic bomb. Just a bomb someone brought along to blow holes in buildings and streets. It's a big moment in the movie but once I thought about it the whole thing seemed very anti-climactic.

Second, The "sister" that is the main enemy of the film is close to someone on the team and I really thought would play into the finish. it doesn't, really. I thought it would force some kind of difficult choice on one of the characters but that wasn't really the focus. Instead, like a bad RPG session, one of the other characters picks up a different character's signature weapon and uses that to finish off the opposition. It's not quite to the same level, but if Iron Man picked up Thor's hammer and Cap's shield to take out a villain it just wouldn't be right.

I mean honestly, who would do such a thing?

I hate to offer criticism without some advice on how it could be better, even on a movie, so here are a few thoughts of mine:
  • Let Diablo kill the "brother" - seriously! Let the effort burn him out and kill him but let him do it instead of a bomb. 
  • If you want a certain character to kill the main enemy then give them a reasonable means to do so before the final scene. It's not like the enemy was a secret or a surprise! You'd think they would have come up with some specific means to handle them.
  • Make your bad guys bad! Show us! Don't print out a police record on the screen! Don't make them perpetrators of crimes something that wouldn't get a life sentence! Make them bad!
  • Let's see we want the Joker in the movie but we don't actually want him to be part of the team ... why? Why not make him the leader? I think there's a much better movie lurking out there where the Joker leads a team of super-criminals against something worse, instead of generic elite-military guy.
  • Quit short-circuiting your own storytelling! How much better would this movie be if the villains had all appeared in a small role in a prior movie? Maybe a Batman movie? Maybe even as part of a montage where Batman goes to war on the lesser villains before taking on bigger fish like the Joker or Ras Al Ghul? 

Anyway that's how I felt about the movie and what I thought about ti afterwards. I went in with low expectations, I didn't hate it, I was just disappointed and thought it could have been a lot better.

Yeah, that too...