Thursday, October 31, 2019

Monday, September 9, 2019

Super Stuff - Umbrella Academy

Feels like I should catch up on some things after so many gaps this year so I'll be doing that this month. One big thing - lots of super-activity this summer!

Several independent super-shows came along earlier this year and I feel very differently about each of them so let's start with Umbrella Academy. I have not read the comic books or any other version of the story so I was coming in cold. It seems like it was fairly popular on Netflix but I have to say I was ... underwhelmed.

What happens at a reunion years after a kid superhero team splits up? Well ... they all hate each other so they spend a lot of time bickering and not a lot of time doing super stuff. I mean, I get the "dark", the "modern take" - or is it "postmodern" now? I forget. I kept feeling like the stuff they were doing in the flashbacks would have been more interesting than what they were doing in the "now" of the show.

First up - the Attitude:
  • They mostly seem to hate each other
  • They all hate their father
  • They almost all hate that they used to be superheroes
  • There's a fair amount of self-hate on the team too
I don't mind having one or two "dark" characters on a team show but when the whole team is that way ... it's a lot. 

Second - the Bounty Hunters:

Was this originally a completely different story? Was it just grafted on to this one? Because there's nothing terribly original or interesting about it and it really doesn't add that much to the main plot. maybe it was supposed to be the lighter or funny element of the show but it's just not that much. 

Third - the Padding:

Even with only ten episodes it feels like there was not that much story here. Trim out the 90% of the Hunters story line that was unneeded and you could have cut this down to 8 episodes, maybe less. I mean you have a team of 7 super characters, a stern father figure running them, a chimpanzee major domo, a robot mother, and time-travelling assassins and yet it somehow feels like you didn't have enough to fill out ten hour-long episodes of a TV show.

I did stick with it through the end though I considered dropping it multiple times as I was watching. I was curious how they would resolve the big plot ... and even that was a disappointment! Get to the last episode, things are unfolding, and  - welp - see you next season??!! It's cheap and artificial. I'm still debating whether I will even watch the next season after that.

The thing I liked most:

 Mr. I-see-dead-people #4 triggers a device and finds himself in the Vietnam War. We don't see much of it in real-time, mostly it happens in flashbacks throughout the following episodes but he spends a year there, develops a significant relationship, and lives through some pretty rough stuff before he finds his way back. In one episode he goes into a VFW post and starts crying over some old pictures -which he is in- and then gets into a fight with the older members who are inside and think he's being disrespectful. It's funny, touching, and wrong on some level and to me it was by far the best scene in the whole show.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Updates for Early August

Activity continues even if the blog has not been keeping up - here's an attempt to improve that situation:
  • PLAYING: I've started a new M&M campaign for the 50 Fathoms group. It's a "limited" campaign and will only run probably ten sessions or less but I'm hoping it will set up interest and momentum for a regular ongoing campaign.
  • NOT PLAYING: The ongoing old-school 5E Isle of Dread Campaign is in a holding pattern while the Con Crew handles their business
  • READING: Pathfinder Second Edition - i like what I see so far and I am of course considering what I might run for an initial tryout of the new system
  • MINIATURES: Working on some new army lists for 40K and I will probably try one of them out with Blaster this weekend.
  • ONLINE: City of Heroes Homecoming - maybe not every day but multiple days each week sees the Amazing Aluminum Man and friends adventuring in Paragon City once again!
The Supersonic Man investigates a disturbance beneath the city streets!

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

He must be ...

.... working on a new campaign ...

Monday, June 3, 2019

Mutants & Masterminds Basic Hero's Handbook

The short version: this is a lot like the recent "Beginner Box" products from some other RPGs without the box but with a little more long-term utility.

M&M 3E started with the DC RPG released in 2010 so we're at 9 years now for this edition, more than 1E and 2E combined. It's a nice change from the typical RPG life cycle and I assume that with the release of this book that Green Ronin is committed to continuing this edition for at least a few more years to come.

A quick breakdown - the first 3 chapters and about half of the page count is dedicated to making characters - stats, skills, powers, archetypes. Then you get about 30 pages (2 chapters) on playing and running the game, covering the basic mechanics and an intro to running superhero games. The last 30 pages or so is dedicated to 4 adventure scenarios and stats for some supervillians and teams.

As a veteran GM and Player, this book doesn't add much to the game for me directly but it is nice to be able to point a new player to this as a resource. the adventures are great droop-ins to any campaign and the bad guys are totally usable as printed though I am pretty sure I've seen some of them before.

For anyone new to M&M I'd say this is the book to get because:

  • 1) as a new player you can build a starting character and advance them a fair degree just using this book
  • 2) as a new GM you can see how the game works, build some characters, and you have several sessions worth of adventures and opposition that you could play through with a group of players
  • 3) it gives you a good dose of how the game works and that's important because it deviates in several important ways from what a typical "d20" game does. The way damage works in particular, with no hit point system, is a huge thing for some people, and I would say it's important to get a feel for that before diving in to a full buy in of the game system.
The picture up above is an example of how the archetypes work  in the book. You have the general type, and then several sub-type options to choose from within that archetype. To me it looks a lot like a class layout for D&D 5E - Class + sub-class options- and I assume that's deliberate to make it easier to grok for new players. It seems plenty smart to me and I have no issue with it. 

However, if you already know M&M 3E and look closely at that you'll see what was the biggest surprise to me: No points!

And the second biggest surprise: No Power Levels!

Ok points are mentioned late in the book as an award for adventuring but nowhere in the book are they discussed as an element of character creation. For longtime players this is a shocking change, at least it was for me: "How can you put out a rulebook for M&M character creation and not include points?!"

Well, you can and they did. It is a limited set of options to choose from in this book, not the totally open-ended version found in the main book and at first I thought this was a fatal flaw. I mean, that's a huge part of the system right?

The more I thought about it though, the more I agreed with this choice for an intro product. In my experience new players to a superhero game do tend to follow some common superhero types. They may not want to play Batman directly, but the stealthy martial artist guy is a pretty common character and this book can accommodate that kind of approach within its "Crimefighter" archetype. This is a great way to get started and -GET PLAYING- without needing a week to "build" a character while still allowing for some customization. The best way to get your game going, and keep it going, in my experience. is to get people playing it, not just playing with it!

They started experimenting with this kind of thing in the GM Screen package years ago by including a random character generation system. it was refined in a later book and I assume this system is an evolution of that. once you have a set of interchangeable packages at PL10, well, if they work for random generation you can certainly make them work for a "controlled" generation system, and make them fit together even better. I'm glad to see the designers continuing to experiment and explore these options.

Power level is mentioned in the GM section but mainly as a tool for rating enemies. Changing up character power level is not really discussed other than "hey it's a thing and you can read more about it in the big book". It does mention that all of the characters created in this book are PL10 and all of the power limits presented are based on that level.

So ... if you have an established group playing M&M I'll say this book probably does not have much to offer you. The GM should get it because we get everything, right? Also it's great for bringing in a new player.

If you are new to the game and want to run it or play it or even start a new campaign for your group then I'd say this is definitely the place to start. It's a one-stop product that gives you enough to make characters, learn the system, and play through 2-3 sessions I would guess, possibly more if you start getting creative.

 It's a 30$ book so it's not no investment but it's not bad compared to a lot of the big books pout there now and it's comparable to most of the Beginner Boxes out there today. The PDF is close to half that which makes it ridiculously easy even for the thrifty gamer.

As a follow up I'll  post up some thoughts on the rest of the M&M game line as it's been a while since I've touched on it and I have Superheroes on the brain right now - stay tuned as the blog staggers back to life!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Obsession of the Moment: Paragon City Returns

So many heroes reborn ...

Adamantium Man returns!

Phurious Pharoah returns!

Draco Rex returns!

Not all of my time has been sent with old friends - some new ones have turned up too - more on that later.

Just getting to use that "City of heroes" post tag again has made me smile so it's been an amazing few weeks.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Not-40K Friday - Resurgence! - Aluminum Man Flies Again

I was going to start posting about 40K again but the big thing this week is definitely not 40K here.

For current details look here - it's a few posts down on this page.

Some fun information here.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Monday, April 8, 2019

Magic Monday

So Blaster got back into Magic: The Gathering with some of his friends last month and once he started talking about it I realized I haven't bought a pack of Magic cards since before he was born so it's been ... a long time.

I played MTG with my friends back in the mid 90s when it first became popular and it became a regular thing for 3-4 years. We would usually play a few rounds as a warm up before one of our RPG sessions

He and Red got into it back about 7 years ago and played it a bunch up at a local store and I did get my old cards out to show them how to play once they expressed an interest but I didn't go buy any new cards - I pretty much let that be their thing.

Now though ... I figured why not? So I picked up some of the new cards and looked over the rules - they haven't changed much - and decided to jump back in. For now I'm just playing him and talking to some friends about it but with a big release coming up at the end of the month I might actually venture out to a store for that.

Rules-wise the biggest thing I see is that it's just tighter all the way around. I mean, the rules should be pretty tight after 25 years+ and they are. They seem to be pretty good at anticipating conflicts and unclear areas and spelling those out nicely.

The main format is "standard" which is basically using only the newest sets in head to head two-player games. There are others - Blaster's favorite is "commander" which is bigger decks in a multiplayer format and the big wrinkle is only one copy of each card other than basic lands. It's almost a completely different game than standard so there are some interesting options within the Magic "family"

The biggest difference I see is the support - wow what a set of cottage industries have sprung up around this game! Sleeves. Deck boxes. Play mats. YouTube channels. Podcasts. I mean 40K has a lot of stuff growing up around it but I didn't realize just how much there was for this card game.

I'll be posting up some more about returning to MTG after 20 years - it's an interesting adventure so far.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Cats: No Respect for the Game

Diving back into Magic this month with Blaster and this guy has to jump right into the middle. The bulldog is perfectly happy to go to sleep under the table ... not this one.