Friday, July 12, 2013

40K Friday - Calling up the Reserves

I've been working on my Chaos Marines, even after the beatings I took previously. I figure the bikers and other things will change the force up enough that I can make a better showing. I'll show more on them next week.

While building them - you know building Chaos Marines takes a lot longer than building regular marines. There are so many choices about how to arm them, how many to put in a squad, whether to mark them, how to tool up the champion ... loyalist marines it's pretty much 10 guys, missile launcher + flamer + maybe another extra guy with a different weapon. The only thought goes into the sergeant and that's still not much compared to an aspiring chaos champion. It took me a long time to build out two CSM squads and the biker squad and I'm still working on the terminators.

The old reliable Arm Sprue ...
Anyway, while building them I ran out of arms! I've been building marines for 25 years now, and I doubt I have bought an actual marine box in 10 years, other than starter sets, and I have never thought twice about arms - now I'm out! Those old 2E/3E blister packs came with (typically) two metal guys and 4-5 pairs of marine arms (so lots of spares), and I bought a LOT of those packages. Now, sadly, they are all gone. I actually had to break down and pick up a batch of marine arms (thanks eBay!) to finish them up. The loyal marines burned up those "under the bolter" left arms, and the chaos forces finished off the "holding something" left arms.

While ransacking the house for arms, I made another discovery. I have a lot of spare marines sitting around waiting to be drafted into one of my armies. In particular there are a lot of old metal and RT era guys that I was planning on *someday* adding to my RT-era Howling Griffons. Some of them have been "pending" for a very long time (longer than my kids have been around). I realized that it's pretty unlikely that I'm going to go back and do a significant expansion to that army. It is what it is, and while I do take it out and use it every once in a while it's mostly "retired". The Crimson Fists are my current vanilla marine army and my Ravenwing/Deathwing armies let me abuse that other codex. So what to do with that reserve force scattered from the garage to the display case?

Spray 'em red! Old school vindicator, dread, 2 squads of assault marines, a death company squad of old RT plastic bare-head guys, Mephiston, some librarians, some chaplains, and two squads of RT terminators (1 assault, 1 shooty) - instant Blood Angel force! It's somewhere around 1500 points depending on characters and gear - plenty to start with and adding a unit of sanguinary guard or some older Baal Predators or Vindicators will be simple enough.

Rather than adding to an old army I've built a whole new one without adding any new figures! They will be using the new arms, since I'm out of those, and I did pick up a used Codex, but that's pretty cheap for spawning a whole new force. No, I probably didn't need yet another power armor army but these guys were just sitting around - at least now there is a chance they will get to see some action.

Now of course the temptation is to become the "marine guy" - I have to Codex forces, two Dark Angel based forces, and now a BA force, and Chaos marines too. All I need is to build up some Gray Knights and some Space Wolves and I'l have the complete set, pending the future of the Black Templars as a separate codex.

When will I use them? Hard to say, but I am supposed to play a game with Apprentice Red tonight. If he can tolerate armless marines they may see the table then. More on that next week.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Lone Ranger - A View From Texas

So a heavily-promoted movie came out and is failing. I did go see it and thought I would share a bit.

The Good

  • It was reportedly an expensive movie and the money is up there on the screen. Big sets, big crowds of people, lots of stunts and set-pieces
  • Johnny Depp does fine as Tonto though he's not quite as funny as the pirate.
  • There's a fair amount of setup and origin but it doesn't all come at you at once, in order. There's a framing device and a lot of non-sequential storytelling that mix things up

The Bad

  • It's way over the top when it comes to stunts and physics. I'd almost call it a Wuxia Western but it's not as cool as that would imply. This weakens the whole movie.
  • The Ranger himself is a neophyte, not an experienced, mature, tough Texas Ranger as one might expect. His motivations are solid enough, but his experience and manner are just off compared to earlier incarnations of the character
  • As others have noted, the plot is pretty much the same as the Antonio Banderas Mask of Zorro movie (of which I am a fan) so if you've seen that then you already know how this is going to go.
  • The framing device I mentioned above is overused and becomes intrusive by the later stages of the film. It worked in Princess Bride but that was mainly a comedy. This is mainly and action movie and it does not work as well here.
  • About 5% of the film actually looks like Texas, the rest of it looks like Arizona or New Mexico, despite it being set 100% in Texas. This was a problem with a lot of older westerns but I thought we were past it now - apparently not.
  • It's just not funny enough nor is it serious enough, like it can't decide what it wants to be

Outside of these I think the biggest meta-problem is that this was made by the same team that made Pirates of the Caribbean and in that there was a heavy mystical element right from the start whereas here there is none. There is a lot of alluding to Indian mysticism, but there's no actual payoff.  This limits what they can do character-wise and plot-wise and was probably a mistake. Either go totally real and gritty and make a modern Lone Ranger that way, or let some mysterious stuff happen, similar to the Indiana Jones movies, and don't try to explain it.

Spoiler: When they started talking "Wendigo" and Silver Bullets I thought we were about to get this kind of movie - then it pretty much fizzled out like a wet firecracker.

I also didn't like the two-faced attitude towards the source material. They're making a big-budget movie based on something and when the classic overture kicks in as the big finale starts up (the first time in the movie that it is heard) I admit it felt pretty good. But making the hero a bumbling greenhorn was not a good choice, putting it almost to the level of Big Trouble in Little China's hero-as-sidekick as Tonto's competence and general savvy (heh) overshadows him. Plus, at the very end of the movie, there's a slam on a classic Lone Ranger bit that seems like a pointless cheap shot at the original and I didn't like that either. "we'll take the mask, the copanion, the silver bullets, and the theme, but this other part is dumb so we'll just make fun of it instead" - bad move.

In the end I didn't hate it but I was disappointed with it. A new western franchise that was as much fun as the Pirate movies would have been a very cool thing to have over the next few years, but that's not likely now. I will say if you want to watch a good actor play a quirky, interesting character in a western, you can skip this and go watch "Tombstone" and have a better time.

You're a daisy if you do...

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Overreaction Tuesday

Paizo announces one of the worst titles in recent RPG history. I'm not offended by it, I just think it's an odd choice. I also think it would be cool for a gritty low-level adventure or a novel with a similar take, but as the name of a supplement it made me laugh.

Some good stuff about Aspects in ICONS from Steve K himself. I think they are one of the things that elevates it from a simple numbers game to a real RPG.


  • Stuff about the planes in Next. Basically it's the kitchen sink approach - "we're including everything from every edition. Except Spelljammer." Whee. It's probably the smartest approach when it comes to inclusiveness. I think the Feywild and the Shadowfell are some of the best additions (and most useful in play) to the cosmology to come out of 4E so I'm glad to see them making the cut.
  • Stuff about monsters in Next. I don;t have a problem with anything I'm reading here. I NEED the stats to run the thing, anything more than that is gravy. Look at what we did with the one-paragraph entries in the old Basic sets - lack of official information didn't hold us back then, it won't hurt us now. If a few extra notes about something like an Ettercap or a Lamia gets some creative juices flowing then that's all good.
  • Stuff about adventures and style of play vs. rules. This is from a couple of weeks ago but I never dug into it here and it's among the most important things in updating the game IMO:
A debate we had in R&D a few weeks back brought this topic to light. Someone made the point that running low on spells and hit points while in the middle of the dungeon was irritating. Putting the adventure on pause to return to town was disappointing.

At this point, I'm willing to bet that about half the people reading this agree with that statement. The rest of you are likely already making the counterargument. Running out of resources in the dungeon is a challenge to be overcome through strategy and planning. The adventure doesn't pause at that point. Escaping the dungeon with only a few hit points, spells, and potions is part of the adventure.

I think for the majority of D&D's history it has been built around the "counter-argument" mentioned above and I think that's really a big part of the "classic" D&D experience. To remove that from the game is a huge thing. It may move the game towards what players prefer today but I don't see how it reflects any kind of classic, core, or iconic elements of playing D&D.

Let's take alignment as an example. A good number of DMs prefer to leave it out of their campaigns. On the other hand, it's a big part of D&D's identity. We've all seen charts that try to fit different characters from a TV or comic series into the nine alignments. For that reason, we've included alignment as a default part of the game, but we're also committed to severing its ties to any mechanics. For instance, a paladin detects the presence of supernatural creatures rather than whether a creature has an evil alignment.

So they're keeping alignment in but removing it from any mechanics? This is a case where compromise yields nothing - For 30 years Paladins detected Evil. Despite this record and the repeated emphasis on tradition in the Next communications the decisions has been made to change this. Now I can see a case for making this change in a design sense (having a class feature of "detect monster type" could be good for different flavors of paladin and for rangers as well) and in a modern tastes sense (since a lot of modern players seem to dislike the inclusion of absolutes of good and evil). Again, however, it is a definite change from "classic D&D".

These collisions while serving the two masters of "modern" vs "uniting the editions under the banner of classic D&D" makes me wonder if they've made a bad decision as those two things are going to collide a lot and every decision made in favor of one or the other - and then highlighted in a web article - is going to annoy some segment of the population. I think every new edition of D&D should reflect what that design team thinks is the best D&D game they can make, with tradition being a secondary concern. If you want to include classic material in a new edition then publish a version of it for that new edition! Otherwise the DM's and players who care enough to make that effort will take care of it themselves and those who don't won't have to worry about it.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Summer Slowdown and Star Wars

I think that may be the first time I've had two Motivational Monday posts with nothing in between. With the Apprentices busy for the first part of the summer and the main group having schedule difficulties it's been pretty slow here for the past few weeks when it comes to RPG's. I've been playing more online games and spending some time on building up armies and terrain for 40K  With the camps and rehearsals and practices wrapping up I hope that next week yields more fun-time for all of us.

Among the requests have been D&D, Supers, likely Marvel, and Star Wars. SW is a little tricky as Apprentice Blaster and I spent some time last week digging into The Old Republic as Jedi and he would like any tabletop time we get to allow him similar options.  This pretty much means "I want to play a Jedi that can do some interesting stuff right from the get-go and not feel like an old-school first level D&D wizard."

The d6 game has never really catered to starting out as an aspiring Jedi badass. Even if I talked them into trying it again I'm not sure it's going to give them what they want. I might start with 1st edition + some extra skill points but even then I'm not sure it's right.

Saga actually comes the closest, allowing combat-competent Jedi types right from 1st level. We do have a campaign that's been underway for a long time - maybe this is a good place to start. Plus it has a lot of support for the KOTOR era and the Clone Wars era which are the sweet spots for them right now.

Then there is also the new thing, the FFG Edge of the Empire. The custom dice have kept me away from it, plus the seeming focus on Rebellion-era fringer play - I did that back in the d6 edition and I'm not really eager to do that all over again with new mechanics. However, the reviews I keep reading have me thinking that it may work out similar to the MWP Marvel game with all of the narrative dice-pool building fun and less emphasis on grids and physics. If it comes close to that then it would definitely be worth a look. A different mechanical approach plus the challenge of using it for an Old Republic game if we go that direction makes it interesting.

That said I watched this video with Blaster and he was unimpressed with the force approach. At one point they mention that you can start off as a newbie force user in Edge, then train up through the rebellion book that's coming down the road, then go full Jedi in the third book coming after that. His comment was "that seems like a lot of work when I could just start off as a Jedi in the one we already have."  and to a point I agree with him. I do like the idea of getting in at the start of a game that I know will be well-supported and growing with it but this would be Yet Another Star Wars game to some degree and I do have some of those already.

I may look into the beginner box as a one-shot and see where things go. If it's not a hit then Saga or a Savage Worlds adaptation is the next step.

Motivational Monday