Friday, March 11, 2016

The "Time Cellist" RPG

No, seriously, this is a real RPG:

Time Cellist! is a role-playing game, and an undeniably silly one at that. However, if you’re the kind of person who thinks the idea of helping a heroic cellist save the known  universe  from  Tchaikovsky  and  his  evil  army  of  ninjas  sounds  like  fun,  you  might as well keep reading. 

It's on Drive Thru RPG here. I have not purchased it but I did read the preview section and I think it's really cool that people are creating games like this. Another benefit of the Electronic Age and PDF rules.

Review-wise I am completely comfortable saying that the mechanics don't really matter that much - you look at that cover and read that intro and you're either on board or you're not. I don't think it's something that my players and I are going to jump on but I like that this exists. Oh, and this:

Optional: While not required, we strongly suggest that you come up with a Time Cellist!theme song that you sing regularly during play, perhaps in between acts. If you can’t come up with anything, might we suggest: 









I like this a lot. more RPG's should have theme songs you can sing. I've talked about music in RPGs before but I think it's an under-utilized element.

It may not be me, but I'm sure someone out there is going to become aware of this game and immediately try to get a group together to play it. Heck, they funded it with a Kickstarter so someone out there likes it! That's a good thing.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The New Civil War Trailer

After the debut of the new trailer today I'm not sure I can fully communicate my enthusiasm for this one. Where do I start? Ah, first up, link is here if you haven't seen it yet

  • Story! While it is in some ways comicdom's Lord of the Rings in size and scope I have always thought it would make a great movie. I think it would have made a great pair or trilogy of movies too but that would likely draw the whole thing out too much for a movie audience. If they can take the key moments, the signature developments and scenes and characters of the main Civil War story and cover the same issues, well, then I'm pretty happy with just the one film.
  • Characters! The bits I have seen seem to be staying true to movie-Stark and movie-Rogers. That's huge. There's nothing weaker than the hero that goes rogue in some totally out of character twist or for no reason at all. Changing in response to consequences from the prior events versus staying true to your old self is part of what makes this story great.  
  • War Machine! Falcon! Winter Soldier! Vision! Looking forward to more of all of these characters.
  • Black Panther! I've wanted to see what they could do with a Panther movie for a while now and this is a very cool way to bring him in. 
  • Underoos! It's about time he got involved in a larger universe and thank goodness we're not going with another origin! he has a huge role in the original story and I hope he carries that in the film as well.

Now contrast this with my interest in Batman vs. Superman - and that's exactly what it is: I am interested in that one, but not especially enthusiastic. It still feels like the wrong people are making the wrong movies in the wrong order over in DC-land. I think Henry Cavil makes a great Superman but I am not thrilled with what they are doing with him and I do not like Ben Affleck as Batman. I'm still going to go see it I just expect to walk out with mixed feelings on it at best. I already know Civil War is not going to be terrible. I can't say the same thing about BvS.

This isn't quite the level for me of the first Avengers movie - that was a dream come true for my inner 7-year old. This one is up there though. It's that next level of superhero story where the team/crossover concept is an accepted thing that no longer needs to be explained and isn't limited to cameos. We can move forward and tell stories about the things that might happen if such a team was real. Call it a dream come true for my teenage self, rediscovering comic books with a little more seriousness to them.

Finally, I'm glad they picked this one because it feels like a very "real" story: no alien invasions, no time-travel, no gods or immortals. (As much as it can be "real" in a comic book movie) It's otherwise normal people (except for Vision, I know) who have become extraordinary and have more power but have some of the same problems everyone else does. That's been a Marvel thing from the very early days but this story exemplifies it better than so many others. It's the individual vs the team, friendship vs. duty, control/safety vs freedom/chaos. It's a real shades-of-gray story, one of my favorites, and I hope the movie lives up to it.  

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Superhero TV Catch-Up

There's a lot of good stuff out there right now - more than I can keep up with - but I am working on it.

  • Daredevil - waiting for Season 2!

  • Jessica Jones - need to finish it (I know I know!)

  • Agents of Shield - working my way slowly through Season 2. So far so good. 

  • Supergirl - I am several episodes behind but there have been some important developments and revelations in what I have seen and it's been a pretty good show. There is a different feel to it than say the Flash, and I suspect it's because it's a big network show. I'm not sure how to describe it but there's a little more formula to it than some of these other shows. I still like it and it is still another unabashed comic book superhero show. The actress is perfect and Calista Flockheart has a great part as her boss. I do have one technical issue though and that is that the flying scenes look ... weak. The special effects on all of these other shows are pretty solid, and this is a big network show so I never would have expected it, but the flying effect just looks fake and wrong to me. Given the amount of flying in the show I hope it gets better. 

  • Ash vs. Evil Dead - That first season was epic! Exactly what this character should be! I am very much looking forward to Season 2!

  • Arrow - I haven't started my big catch-up on this one but if they're going to keep launching shows off of it I know I need to do it. 

  • The Flash - I really like this show. It's so much better than I expected it to be, probably better than it ought to be as a pretty-people show on the CW of all things! However, Smallville it is not - there is actual in-costume superhero action on this show! And he's not fighting normals! he's not the only hero in the world! He's not hated and feared by the city he protects! The people running the show actually seem to get the whole comic-book thing! The trip to Earth 2 this season was very cool and went head-on into the issues you might expect from visiting a parallel earth. Killer Frost, Zoom's identity, and various other revelations have been pretty cool this season.

  • Legends of Tomorrow - Another Arrow/Flash spin-off that has a lot of potential. Bits of Star Trek, a helping of Doctor Who, an interesting mix of good and bad guys all trying to accomplish the same goal - it's an interesting show, Captain Cold is awesome. Heatwave brings the thug/brick and has really grown on me though recent developments have me concerned about how the show is going to treat him. I like Ray Palmer though he's way more Iron Man than I remember from any previous incarnation. The Firestorm pair is interesting enough. I'm not sure about ninja girl yet. I'm also not sure about the actress playing Hawkgirl. I'm just not getting "Immortal Warrior Priestess" from her much even though she's supposed to remember a bunch more of her past now. Hopefully it will smooth out over the rest of the season. I do like that they aren't afraid to spend more than one episode in a particular time or solving a particular problem - it's a serial show, not trapped by an episodic formula. 

So Much Potential!
Finally, the upcoming (March 28th) Flash-Supergirl crossover episode is one of those things I think a lot of us have wished for over the years but never expected to happen. I mean, first up you have to have more than one superhero show on the air! That's really not been a regular thing outside of Saturday morning cartoons. Then you have to have cross-network cooperation which is another rare occurrence. Then your shows have to be worth a damn to get anyone excited about seeing characters cross over. In this case all of these things have come together and I am a lot more interested than I ever expected to be. It's another comic book tradition crossing over into a new form and it's very very cool. I hope it opens up the concept for these other shows and in the movies too. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Black Sails Update

I see it's been awhile since I posted about this show and that's a shame. I recently caught up on season 2 and have been watching season 3 and it's a really good show. I talked about the pilot here and season 1 here (wow two years ago!) and I liked them quite a bit.

One note: the phrase "the Urca gold" will come up a lot. If it hasn't been meme's already it should be. I figured it was just the main plot for the first season but it has become far more - halfway through season 3 it is still a major plot element - who has it? where is it? how much of it? It's a great example of not ignoring consequences, specifically dropping millions of pounds in Spanish gold into a relatively poor island teeming with pirates and surround by rival empires. There is no reset button with this show and while that has become more common in recent years it's still refreshing to see it done so well.  

During season 2 one group manages to steal a Spanish Man of War. This is the rough equivalent of having your players in a Star Wars game "liberate" a Star Destroyer - they feel awesome but there are consequences there too. It takes a lot of men to crew it. It has sails with giant red Spanish crosses on them which stand out far more than the black flag at the tail of the ship. These things all come up during the show and matter. Again, it's not afraid to stir up the status quo. Things change regularly and permanently and not always in a good way but not always in a bad way either- this isn't Battlestar Galactica.

There is some good character development too. In season 2 we learn Captain Flint's background and how he came to be the man he is today. In season 3 we learn more about Captain Vane and Blackbeard! We also learn more about Rackham and Anne and a fair number of supporting characters too. There are complex motivations. Sure, there's greed, lust and revenge - those are probably a given with any show about pirates - but there are characters aiming higher as well. I also found it to be a really good example of the different kinds of "damage" a character can suffer. Sure, there's the physical stuff but there is also emotional damage - disappointment, betrayal, rage. Relationships take damage and friends become enemies ... or they just weaken and dissolve. There are a lot of "pairs" of characters and over the course of the story so far there are many peaks and valleys between each of them.

If possible, I advise anyone who's interested to check it out, preferably without spoilers. There are some really good twists and surprises along the way.

Gaming Notes

  • This show is a great example of how one could run a sustained realistic pirate campaign. Character arcs. Politics, both internal and external. Economics. Greed. All of these things are big factors in the show.
  • As I mentioned above there are consequences. The bigger the action undertaken the more likely someone else will notice and take an interest. Some just want to get by, others want to shake the world. 
  • There is a total lack of the supernatural here. There are no "Cure Light Wounds" or healing potions. A lot of people are running around with blades and guns and hostile attitudes. Yet somehow it still works. I tend to think of most non-supernatural settings as boring or limited when it comes to gaming but this show demonstrates how it could work.
  • Structurally it's interesting too -  set up an environment (the pirate town of Nassau in the Caribbean circa 1700), Add in player characters in major roles - not newly-arrived nobodies (though there sort of is one of those) but major players - the primary fence, the madam, various active pirate captains, the semi-retired pirate captain who controls the fort above the town, the first mates and quartermasters to those captains. Then turn the players loose! Let them set the agenda! Let them compete or cooperate and ally or betray each other without DM intervention other than the reactions of the other pirate crews and powers in town and the reactions of England and Spain if they attract that level of notice!

There's a limit on the examples I can give without spoiling a bunch of the show so I will refrain for now but there is a lot of value in watching it as an example of a great RPG campaign put on film. 

It's also just a really good show.