Tuesday, February 28, 2012

TUESDAY TANGENT: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 1950s

For those getting tired of these posts, rest assured that I will eventually run out of time periods for different Leagues. But for now, suffer through yet another list of who /I/ would recruit if I were making a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen(and women). This time, I’m looking at the 50’s era.

Again, the 'rules' for this are basically that the choices must be movie or 'literary' characters, but not full-time members of any comic book combined universe. And as before, I reserve the right to ‘tweak’ aspects of the characters’ backgrounds to suit my own needs. So without further ado...


Agent Robert Graham
From the movie “Them”
Played by James Arness

Agent Graham is a decorated veteran of the second world war and an experienced FBI Agent. His first brush with the extraordinary came when he investigated a strange case of disappearances in the desert southwest- only to discover the culprits were giant ants, an entire colony of them, grown to gigantic proportions by radioactive fallout from nuclear tests. Graham was instrumental in tracking down and eliminating these beasts before they can multiply and spread. As both a lawman and soldier, Agent Graham has a wide range of experience and a capability for keeping his cool even under the most dangerous (and strange) circumstances. For these reasons, he is chosen to head up this particular incarnation of the league.


Professor Bernard Quatermass
From the movie “The Quatermass Experiment
Played by Andre Morell

A brilliant scientist and pioneer for the British Space Program (via his British Experimental Rocket Group). Though middle aged and ‘scholarly’, Quatermass is in rather good shape and does possess skills acquired while serving with the British Intelligence Service during the second world war. His greatest asset, however, is his brain. Quatermass is not only capable of scientific work, but is also a quick thinking, able to react to and think through even the most bizarre and threatening cases. He has personally dealt with extraterrestrial threats to the planet on several occasions- and it is for this reason he was recruited for the team. Though an ex-soldier, Quatermass is no big fan of the military, especially when it comes to his life’s work of exploring space. He serves as second in command of the team, advising Agent Graham in most matters.


Victor Marswell
From the movie “Mogambo”
Played by Clark Gable

Victor Marswell is an accomplished big-game hunter working in Africa. Though he does lead paid hunting expeditions, his main income is through the live capture of animals for zoos. As with many in this era, Marswell is a veteran of the World War, having served in North Africa and Europe. He is a maverick, fond of doing things his own way. He is also a ladies man, often romancing the wealthy society ladies who come on his expeditions. He is a master marksman with nerves of steel, easily able to face down charging elephants. Marswell is also an expert survivalist, able to hunt, camp and forage in a variety of terrains. He is also at least partly versed in the superstitions and traditions of numerous African tribes. Though not necessarily a team player, Marswell’s other skills make up for this, hence his recruitment into the league.


John Robie
From the movie “To Catch a Thief”
Played by Cary Grant

John Robie is the alter ego the infamous burglar known only as “The Cat”. Though American, Robie operated in the South of France until he was captured by the French authorities and imprisoned. He was released, however, in the confusion during the German invasion at the start of World War II. Robie and many of his criminal associates worked for the French resistance throughout the war— and in this way, he earned a pardon when the conflict finally came to an end. Using wealth pilfered prior to the war, Robie thought to retire, but found himself pulled into several ‘capers’ against his wishes. He is an incredibly skilled thief with experience in combat, sabotage and even undercover work. He is also charming and suave, easily able to mix with people of any social strata. Though now in his middle ages and a bit past his prime physically, he is still very capable— a fine addition to the team.


Dr. Clayton Forrester
From the movie “War of the Worlds”
Played by Gene Barry

Though he works as a physicist, Dr. Forrester is an expert in several different scientific areas, including biology, astronomy and even medicine. He is also an avid outdoorsman, athlete and skilled pilot. Forrester is not, perhaps, as brilliant as Professor Quatermass, but he is likewise quite capable of thinking on his feet. His only real ‘weakness’ is his tendency to extrapolate on scarce facts before having the data to back himself up. Even though, his ‘hunches’ turn out to be right more often than not. Though he did not serve on the front line during the War, Forrester did work closely with the Military on the Manhattan Project. He has also been consulted in the past on the issue of possible contact with extra-terrestrial life.


TEAM ALTERNATES

Dr. John Holden
From the movie “Night of the Demon”
Played by Dana Andrews

An American physician and scholar living in England, Dr. Holden was involved in a terrifying encounter with the supernatural while attempting to debunk a cultist by the name of Karswell. The encounter spurred the skeptical doctor into a real study of the ‘truths’ behind the supernatural. Though this occult knowledge would be useful, Holden is not considered a prime ‘field operative’, and thus was not chosen for the team.


Mike “By this time, my lungs were aching for air” Nelson
From the TV Show “Sea Hunt”
Played by Lloyd Bridges

Mike Nelson is an ex-navy diver, decorated for bravery several times during the war. He now runs an independent diving/salvage/rescue team. He has extensive experience in underwater operations and even combat. However, his area of expertise was deemed ‘too narrow’ for inclusion on the main team. Rather, he is to be considered as a possible resource for any cases which require experience with aquatic operations.


OTHERS BRIEFLY CONSIDERED

Johnny Strabler
From the movie “The Wild One”
Played by Marlon Brando

A young motorcycle gang leader.


Steve Martin
From the movie “Godzilla”
Played by Raymond Burr

A field reporter with contacts in Japan and the far east.


Daisuke Serizawa
From the movie “Godzilla”
Played by Akihiko Hirata

A brilliant, but tormented scientist who has stumbled upon the technology for a weapon he deems too powerful to entrust to mankind.


NOTES:
As you can see, it was rather slim pickings for this era compared to the others. I also was ultimately stumped when it came to famous archetypes for women or non-caucasians to join the league. This isn’t to say there were none of these characters, just that they didn’t fit the ‘action’ mold that I see as necessary for a role within the League.

Monday, February 27, 2012

REVIEW: Star Wars Galaxy Guide(s) 1,3 and 5

The Galaxy Guides were some of the first source materials ever produced for the Star Wars D6 RPG. In fact, they stand as some of the first source materials ever produced for the Star Wars universe. In the late 90's, the 'glut' of materials present today simply did not exist. Thus, for a Star Wars fan like myself, these books were simply awesome. Each one focused on (and essentially created) a particular 'slice' of the Star Wars universe. I have already made a brief post on my feelings about the guides as a whole, but I will now delve into each individually (or in this case, as a related group).

I will begin with Galaxy Guides 1, 3 and 5. These respectively cover Episode IV, V, and VI- detailing the various characters presented in the movies- providing both gaming statistics and a wealth of background information. The books do not simply focus on the major characters, either, but go on to detail even minor characters like R5-D4 ("Red", the droid who blew his motivator?) and Momaw Nadon (aka the "hammerhead" guy in the cantina). As a fan and a GM, I found this to be incredibly fun- and useful when creating my own NPCs (or using ones from these books!).

Interspersed with character descriptions were various short stories or other tidbits of informations that further expanded on the characters and situations shown in the movies. For example an 'interview' with "Camie", one of Lukes friends on Tatooine, wherein she reminisces about Luke's exploits as a youth. The books also had a fun framing device for the introduction, conclusion and as lead-ins to each section. These three works are presented as the research notes of a young historian (Voren Na'al) working for the Rebel Alliance. Thus, we are actually following his exploits as he follows in the footsteps of the 'Heroes of Yavin'. I liked this little personal touch, and was amused to see that the historian was even given game stats. I used him as an NPC in my own game on a couple occasions.

The artwork for these books also bears mentioning. You don't just get names and stats for the various characters, you get full-bown black-and-white custom illustrations. In some ways, I even prefer this to the screen-captures used in most other sourcebooks- especially in those cases where the 'costume' for a character looks particularly bad on-screen (hey, those cantina folk were only on-screen for a few seconds, still photos of them are another matter).

The original versions of these three guides were produced in 1989-1990. In the mid 90's, however, new versions of them were released. These included statistics 'upgraded' to the second edition of the game. These 'version two' guides had more information contained in them as well: In the form of game statistics for various creatures and vehicles that were NOT included in the previous versions of the guides. I personally like the addition of this information, though in truth it is pretty much duplicated from the main rulebook and sourcebook.

What I didn't particularly like about the version two galaxy guides was the revised layout. In the original version, each character was typically given their own page- or sometimes two pages. But in all cases, the information was presented in a manner that was easy to use as a reference during play. You didn't have to go flipping from page to page to follow the stats of a particular character. In the second version, the character profiles flow from page to page, with breaks sometimes occurring right in the middle of a character stat block. It is a minor inconvenience, and no doubt this new layout allowed the book to 'economize' its space to keep printing costs lower than they might have been. But even so, I prefer the older method. I also missed the custom illustrations- only a few of which were used in version two, with most being replaced by stills captured from the movies.

What really set the second version guides apart from their predecessors, however, was the inclusion of a short adventure at the end of each. This is something I really do like. Though I have never run any of these adventures, I have read through them several times. I find them to be pretty solid in their construction, and moreso I enjoy the fact that each was sculpted to fit into the 'Episode' in which it was presented. Below are the adventures:

Episode IV: The Battle of Wayfar
Here, we have the heroes enlisted by a remote moisture-farming townstead on Tatooine- to help them defend against an imminent tusken raider attack. Included are maps of both a typical farmstead and of the small town of Wayfar itself. The whole scenario is rather open ended, presenting the heroes with a list of problems and resources and leaving it up to them how to deal with the situation. I especially like that the adventure includes a lot of Tatooine 'cliches', like skyhoppers and jawa sandcrawlers and the like.

Episode V: Freedom No More
In this adventure, the heroes, having made it to the rendezvous with the Rebel fleet after the battle of Hoth, are sent BACK into the system to try and find a lost transport with a valuable cargo. There, they find the ship, but not the cargo. They must proceed to Cloud City to try and pick up the needed supplies before returning to the fleet. This all takes place in the time right before Han, Leia and the rest arrive at Bespin, thus placing the characters ALMOST into the movie. As with the previous adventure, there are a lot of ESB clich├ęs at work here: the asteroid field, bounty hunters, intrigue on Cloud City. Generally good stuff, though there are some aspects I would handle more subtly- I think the adventure has the Empire announce its presence on Cloud City just a BIT more than it did in the movies. Heck, if I were to run this in a campaign, I might just set the adventure DURING Han and Leia's visit.

Episode VI: Remnants of the Empire
This adventure picks up while the celebration party on Endor is still going on. Though the second Death Star has been destroyed, the Rebel fleet has picked up strange sensor readings on the surface of Endor. The party is sent to investigate and discover a secret Imperial base. This is a solid enough adventure, though I’m not real thrilled about the supposed importance of the mission. Evidently, the Imperial base on the planet is trying to get word off to the ‘Imperial Fleet’ as to the disposition of the Rebels. This seems somewhat silly to me, as it has long been assumed that a good portion of the Imperial fleet survived and fled the battle. Thus, they already know where the Rebel fleet is. But in any case, there are once again lots of fun cleches at work: Biker-scout chases, infiltrating secret bunkers, etc.

As you can see, my reaction to these works is generally positive. The writing is great and inspires a lot of ideas (or at least it did for me in my campaign). Though I still somewhat prefer the ‘original edition’, both are great and very fun for gamers and fans alike.

Friday, February 24, 2012

"If you strike me down..."

The quote from the movie (uttered by Ben Kenobi to Darth Vader during their duel on the Death Star in Episode IV) is:

"If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine."

When I first saw the movie and heard this line, I was seven years old. I didn't really comprehend what Obi-Wan meant by this. He becomes a disembodied voice throughout the rest of the movie, guiding Luke at some critical moments. I remember thinking that was cool enough, but not "more powerful than you can possibly imagine.".

By the time the next movie rolled around, I was a little older (ten) and had some time to ponder what Kenobi had said. Also, in The Empire Strikes Back, we see that Ben is not just a voice, but now a ghostly image that appears to talk to Luke (and Yoda). Again, I remember thinking that this was cool, but especially 'powerful'. I kept expecting there to be more to it. Like perhaps Obi-Wan would suddenly appear to help Luke at some point in a physical manner.

By the time Return of the Jedi came out, I had given up on seeing a dramatic display of 'power' from Obi-Wan. I came to understand that he was speaking metaphorically, about his ability to help and guide Luke from beyond the grave. This WAS the power he was talking about, the power to influence Luke in a way that Vader could NEVER match or stop.

Lately, however, I have come to see an extra layer of complexity in this- one which I doubt was intended. Even so, I find it interesting. I have spoken before about how, when you take a step back and look at it, Obi-Wan and Yoda seem to be manipulating Luke into a confrontation with Vader. They purposely withhold vital information from Luke (like the fact Vader is his father) likely because they do not trust Luke to do the 'right thing' when he meets Vader. It seems (to me at least) that Yoda and Obi-Wan WANTED Luke to kill Vader. At the very least, they seemed concerned that if Luke found out about his true origins he might 'choose poorly' as his father had and perhaps even join him.

If you accept that this kind of manipulation was going on, then it is possible to look at Kenobi's statement in another light, namely, that of martyrdom. Obi-Wan knew that if Luke saw Vader strike him down that he would be inclined to hate the Sith Lord for it. Ben had, in a short time, become a father-figure to Luke. To lose that relationship in such a brutal manner (seeing Obi-Wan struck down while seemingly defenseless) would have a huge psychological impact on Luke. And it evidently did. For three years at least Luke was determined to face and kill Vader for what he had done. Indeed, upon meeting him on Cloud City, it was Luke who acted aggressively first- ready to do battle to the death without preamble. When Luke is told the truth of the situation by Vader- that he is indeed his father, Luke immediately rejects the thought because he has been conditioned by the lies Ben told him- lies which were given much more weight by Obi-Wan's death at Vader's hands. In short (too late), part of the 'power' Kenobi was talking about was the psychological impact his death would have over Luke.

As always, I'm sure I'm reading more into it than the writer(s) intended, but I do think it is plausible, and interesting.

Opinions

This post is kind-of off topic in that it does not deal directly with Star Wars. However, it does deal directly with this blog and blogging in general- and with other internet forums, for that matter.

Everyone knows the saying about opinions: How, like a certain part of the anatomy, everyone has them? Well, I would like to reiterate, for the record, that this blog is purely that. My opinion. My rants. I don't claim to be the end-all expert in anything that I discuss here (or elsewhere, for that matter). I do like to try and support the arguments I make, as rationally as possible, but I hope that I do not come off as the 'I am right and you are wrong' type.

Why am I saying this? Well, because I have been reading a lot of forums recently, gaming, computer gaming, etc.. These continue to amaze me with the number of insufferable loudmouths (in my opinion!) who not only express their opinion, but state outright that anyone who believes otherwise is an idiot. Sometimes, they offer supporting arguments. Many times, they do not. I don't know why this still surprises me, but it does.

I am a firm believer in free speech. But with that (in my opinion!) should come the realization that not everyone thinks the same way as you do. And this does not automatically make someone an idiot. In fact, if you take the time to listen to another person's arguments (when they are presented logically and without sneering derision), you might find something in them that is worthwhile- and may indeed alter your own opinion to something more akin to the 'truth', whatever that may be. THIS- a rational exchange of differing viewpoints- is what Free Speech was meant to be- not an extended bout of insults and name-calling. I wold hope others share this viewpoint, but if you don't... well, please tell me what YOU think free speech is?

And yes, I know I am shouting into the face of a hurricane. In an anonymous forum like the internet, people feel entitled to behave however they want to- often as rudely as they want to. Even so, I wanted to let MY opinion be heard, even if it is only on this tiny little soap-box of mine.

You know, I have even thought of commenting on some forums with words to this effect, even knowing that I will likely receive a LOT of flak for it. Why would I open myself up to such abuse? Well, because it seems that a lot of forums only have these 'name-calling' types. Perhaps I could be one of the more level-headed folks- because I imagine there are quite a few of us out there who only remain silent because we don't want the hassle. Oh well, something to think about...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

TUESDAY TANGENT: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 1960s

Call me obsessed. But I find this to be an amusing mental exercise. As before, these are all highly subjective choices and made with the ground rules of not being part of a comic book 'shared' universe. So here you have them, your 1960s era recruits into the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen:


Admiral Harriman Nelson
(Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea)
Portrayed by Walter Pidgeon

A brilliant scientist, engineer, military mind and man of action, Admiral Nelson is one of the world’s foremost experts on…well, pretty much everything. He is also the brainchild behind the experimental Seaview submarine and its numerous scientific expeditions. Though not particularly noteworthy as a personal combatant, Admiral Nelson’s determination and knowledge make him a natural choice as leader for one of the League’s teams. His exploits in putting a stop to the Van Allen Belt disaster pushed him to the top of the selection list.



Mrs. Emma Peel (The Avengers)
Portrayed by Diana Rigg

An extremely capable young woman, Mrs. Peel is a certified genius with experience in chemistry and other sciences. She is also a master of martial arts, a skilled markswoman and a formidable fencer. If this was not impressive enough, she is also a skilled artist, businesswoman, driver and skilled undercover operative. Her husband, Peter Peel, was a pilot who’s plane disappeared over the Amazon and is presumed dead. Only her relatively young age (mid twenties) kept her from selection as team leader. As it stands, she was chosen as second in command and will likely lead any field operations. Though ‘playful’ in nature, Mrs. Peels exhibits a focus and maturity not matched by some of her fellow team mates.


James Bond (Dr. No)
Portrayed by Sean Connery

Though typically a solo operator, there is no debate as to Agent 007’s ability as an agent. Indeed, he has proven himself capable of handling nearly any situation thrown at him, from car chases, to hand-to-hand-combat to piloting to marksmanship, he excells. If Bond has a weakness it is his notable lecherousness and love for the ‘finer things’ in life (champagne, caviar, rich living, etc.). It is for this reason (and his somewhat flippant response to ‘authority’) that he was not given command of the team. He isn’t particularly miffed at being passed over, figuring that he will likely ‘do his own thing’ in any case. His womanizing may become an issue, however, considering two of his team mates are beautiful young women.


Simon Templar (The Saint)
Portrayed by Roger Moore

Another ‘solo’ operator, Simon Templar (aka “The Saint”) was chosen for both his abilities as a master thief and for his seeming ‘heart of gold’ when it comes to doing the right thing. In fact, he thinks of himself as a modern day Robin Hood, focusing his crimes on the corrupt, be they politician, businessman or criminal. He is not, however, afraid to kill, and has done so in the past when he feels it is for ‘the greater good’. His possesses a wry sense of humor and though charming he is not really a womanizer (in fact, he heart seems to belong to an on-again-off-again partner by the name of Patricia Holm).


Samantha
(Bewitched)
Portrayed by Elizabeth Montgomery)

Young Samantha was all set to forsake her natural talent of witchcraft and settle down for a ‘normal’ life with an advertising executive when she was approached by the League. The lure of using her powers to accomplish great good proved too tempting and Samantha signed on. Her magical abilities are, in fact, quite powerful- much more so than she seems to realize. With experience, it is predicted that she will become a force to be reckoned with. Even so, the League doesn’t seem concerned that she will abuse these powers. Despite the power she wields, she has a strong moral sense and really does seem to appreciate the idea of preserving the ‘normal lives’ of people everywhere. In fact, at some point she intends to have one herself, once she finds that special person again to settle down with.


ALTERNATES:

Frank Bullitt (Bullitt)
Portrayed by Steve McQueen

A tough, San Francisco cop, Frank Bullitt was considered for his skills as well as his actions in fighting organized crime. He would still be considered as support in any criminal investigations or dealings with organized crime in the United States.


Daniel “Danny” Ocean
(Ocean’s Eleven)
Portrayed by Frank Sinatra

An ex-special-forces soldier who served in World War II, Daniel Ocean is currently planning a heist in Las Vegas along with his old war buddies. His dislike of ‘the house’ (authority) was the main reason he was not approached with an offer, even though his planning ability and skills would prove useful.


Fathom Harvill (Fathom)
Portrayed by Raquel Welch

A modern-day adventuress, Fathom Harvill is a skilled skydiver, rock-climber, scuba-diver, etc.. She has also proven useful in covert activities, having been ‘hired’ in the past by a ‘private’ spy organization to recover stolen nuclear triggers. Ultimately, though, she is a civilian and lacked the practical experience of others chosen for the team. Even so, she could be called upon for specific operations involving her specialties.


John Steed (Avengers)
Portrayed by Patrick Macnee

Emma Peel’s partner, John Steed is a skilled government operative. Ultimately he was passed over for selection into the League because his military and intelligence background was already duplicated (and exceeded) by both Admiral Nelson and James Bond (respectively). Should the team suffer an injury to either of these individuals, there would be no hesitation in bringing Steed onboard.


Napoleon Solo & Ilya Kruyakin (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.)
Portrayed by Robert Vaughn & David McCallum (Respectively)

Already part of an organization working to covertly head off international war and crime, this team of agents from U.N.C.L.E was left intact to continue to do so.


The Mission Impossible Team (Mission Impossible)

As with U.N.C.L.E., the IMF team was left intact in order to continue their own operations.


OTHERS:

Derek Flint (Our Man Flint)
Portrayed by James Coburn

This character is essentially a spoof of James Bond, and duplicates many of his skills, only to a ridiculous degree.


Jeannie
(I dream of Jeannie)
Portrayed by Barbara Eden

Though very much in the same vein as ‘Bewitched’, Jeannie is just a bit more ‘silly’, and for me, more difficult to fit into a semi-believable ‘reality’.


The Green Hornet & Kato
(The Green Hornet)
Portrayed by Van Williams and Bruce Lee (Respectively)

Though believable enough (in the context of the LXG universe), the Green Hornet is just a bit too campy for me.


Kelly Robinson & Alexander Scott (I Spy)
Portrayed by Robert Culp & Bill Cosby (Respectively)

Fun, yes, and not entirely unbelievable, but a bit too light-hearted for this kind of setting.

Greedo Always Shot First

This story has been making the rounds of the internet recently- George Lucas states that Han was never a 'cold blooded killer', and that the scene with Greedo was always intended to play out with Greedo shooting first, then Han. In fact, Lucas now says that there was a wider shot that he didn't use in the final(heh) version that showed this.

To all of this, I say- meh.

I try not to get upset about Star Wars hoopla anymore. I am far past my 'angry fanboy' stage now (for an example of fanboy rage, see my earliest posts on this blog). The only thing that really ticks me off anymore is "The Force Unleashed" franchise.

Whether George is telling the truth about this 'wider shot' or not doesn't change my opinion of the scene as it played out originally:

In the 'real' version of the scene, Greedo takes Han at gunpoint and proceeds to tell him flat out that he's going to kill him. Thus, Han shooting him from beneath the table is an act of self defense- and quite justifiable in any one's eyes. I never for a minute thought "Oooh, Solo is a cold blooded killer!" (though evidently, quite a few others got that...) My thought was. "Yeah, that was pragmatic. The guy says he's going to kill you, so you kill him first. Makes sense to me."

In short, it was again something that didn't need to be 'fixed'.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Star Wars Injuries

One of the main differences between the first and second editions of the Star Wars D6 Role Playing Game is the combat damage system. I won't go into a lot of detail, but suffice it to say that the combat system in 2nd edition is a good deal more lethal than in 1st. The 2nd edition rulebook says this: "Combat in the Star Wars game is fairly lethal. The key to survival is not to get hit." It goes on to stress the importance of defensive skills, like dodge and parry, and concludes with: "Just like in the movies, most characters that get shot are seriously injured or killed. You've been warned!".

This was a large step from the rather forgiving system found in the earlier edition, and one I never agreed with. I also do not agree with the observation that spawned this change. While I agree that NPCs in the Star Wars movies do indeed seem to get dropped, the heroes themselves can and do take a beating- and don't die from it.

Below is a list of the times the various 'Player Characters' of the Original trilogy get injured. Note, this only covers the six 'main' characters of the movies (Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, Artoo and Threepio).


STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE:

1) Leia is Stunned (Incapacitated) by Stormtroopers
2) Artoo is Stunned (Incapacitated) by Jawas
3) Luke is Knocked out (Incapacitated) by Tusken Raiders in melee combat
4) Threepio is Incapacitated by Tusken Raiders (and loses an arm) in melee combat.
5) Artoo is nearly destroyed (Incapacitated/Mortally wounded) by a laser blast from Darth Vader's TIE fighter during the final battle of the Death Star.


STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK:

1) Luke is Incapacitated by a Wampa then mortally injured by exposure to cold
2) Artoo is attacked and swallowed (and then spit out) by a Dragonsnake on Dagobah
3) Threepio is blasted to bits (mortally wounded?) by Stormtroopers on Bespin
4) Han is beaten down (Stunned) by Lando's guards after attacking Lando
5) Luke is Wounded by Vader's telekinetic attacks
6) Luke's hand is chopped off by Vader


STAR WARS: THE RETURN OF THE JEDI

1) Luke is shot in the hand by one of Jabba's henchmen during the battle at the Sarlacc pit.
2) Chewbacca is shot in the leg by one of Jabba's henchmen, again at the battle of the Sarlacc pit.
3) Threepio has his eye ripped out by one of Jabba's henchmen (and yes again, at the battle of the Sarlacc pit.
4) Han is clobbered by a Biker Scout on Endor after he fails in sneaking up on him.
5) Leia is knocked unconscious after falling off her speeder bike during the chase with the Biker Scouts.
6) Luke is severely injured by the Emperor's Force Lightning.
7) Artoo is shot as he tries to open the Bunker door on Endor.
8) Leia is shot as she covers Han at the Bunker door on Endor.


Each of these Episodes constitutes what I would consider a typical Star Wars 'Adventure' in a Roleplaying Game- encompassing one or two play sessions. The numbers of injuries sustained by the player characters are…well, very much in line with my own experience. Heroes in Star Wars DO get beat up, rather regularly, and are able to come back from it relatively quickly. This is one of the reasons I have kept with the 'less lethal' version of combat presented in the first edition. To me, it better reflects the 'cinematic' realism of the movies. I simply can't envision playing (or running) a Star Wars game in which the heroes are constantly getting killed by unlucky rolls. That may be the norm in many other systems and settings (D&D comes to mind) but to me, it just doesn't reflect what we see in the movies- and THAT is what I want from a Star Wars experience.

Anyway, it was just an observation.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

TUESDAY TANGENT: League of Extraordinary Gentlement, 1990s

Once again, I will delve into the realm of geekery to post up who (and what) I would recruit into my 1990s era LXG. While some choices may seem like no-brainers, others will possibly baffle. I will therefore attempt to explain why I chose the people I did. I will also make honorable mention of some of those who did not make the cut (along with reasons why). Again, the ‘rules’ for this are basically that these must be movie or ‘literary’ characters, but not full-time members of any comic book combined universe. So without further ado…

LXG: TEAM 1990s


Special Agent Fox Mulder, FBI
(Source: “X-Files” TV Series)
Portrayed by David Duchovney

OOC: 90’s sci-fi/horror? Of course Agent Mulder.

In an LXG universe, Mulder would be mostly unchanged from his TV appearances. He is an agent with the FBI, self-assigned to work on ‘odd’ cases. His success in this area as well as his investigatory skills and occult knowledge would prove invaluable to a LXG team. In fact, he would be the ‘leader’ of the group. Though he isn’t exactly the ‘inspirational general’ type, his passion and drive would be more than enough to compensate and to keep the team on-task. That having been said, he wouldn’t be a huge help in physical altercations. Though trained in firearms and self-defense, he’s no combat monster. He would, however, be the one most likely to know the weakness of any ‘strange’ things faced. He could also call upon his contacts in the FBI- most notably his (former) partner Dana Scully. Though the ultimate skeptic, she would be an invaluable scientific aide.


Buffy Summers, Vampire Slayer (Source: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” TV Series)
Portrayed by Sarah Michelle Gellar

OOC: An icon of 90’s horror/comedy/drama

Born with the mystical powers of the Vampire Slayer, Buffy has, in just a short while, become an incredibly powerful and accomplished slayer of all kinds of monsters: from Vampires to Werewolves to Demons to Witches. You name it, odds are she’s faced it. It is for these reasons she would be highly sought after to join the League. Her strong personality, intelligence, dedication and moral sense would, in fact, make her an excellent leader for the group. The only thing lacking in that regard would be experience in managing others (and perhaps her independent and self-sacrificing nature). While Mulder would be the ‘brains’ of the operation, Buffy would be its heart and inspiration. Unlike Mulder, Buffy’s personal knowledge of the occult would be somewhat limited. She would, however, be able to call upon her friends (particularly Giles) for assistance in this regard. In fact, her occult resources would probably far exceed the FBI’s own. As a Slayer, Buffy is also supernaturally strong and fast and possesses the ability to ‘sense’ Vampires. She is also highly skilled in hand-to-hand, melee and even ranged combat (with crossbows, at least).


Eric Draven, Vengeful Spirit
(Source: “The Crow” Motion Picture)
Portrayed by Brandon Lee

OOC: An icon of 90’s action/melodrama/occult.

Though his exact ‘status’ is difficult to categorize, most occult scholars would classify Eric as ‘undead’. He doesn’t seem to conform to most undead stereotypes, however. He isn’t a vampire, or a zombie, or a disembodied spirit. He has a physical form, but it seems to be impervious to (or ‘heals’ quickly from) any kind of physical injury. His only weakness seems to be his totem animal companion: the Crow that accompanies him and also seems to grant him some form of extra-sensory perception. If it is injured, so is Eric. Draven also seems to possess superhuman speed, reflexes and agility- and possibly strength. ‘Born’ from a great injustice and tragedy, Eric is drawn to right these kinds of wrongs. An artist at heart, Eric wouldn’t be the best candidate for leadership, in fact, he would be one of those most likely to try and go off on his own. Thus, he would require some management by his team leader and mates. Eric is a fair armed and unarmed combatant, but is perhaps a bit too reliant on his invulnerability. He enjoys making big entrances and often gets shot up unnecessarily while doing so. This can, however, be greatly intimidating to some foes, so it has its uses.


Benton Fraser, R.C.M.P. (Source: “Due South” TV Series)
Portrayed by Paul Gross

OOC: A memorable, but perhaps obscure character with a lot of…well, character.

While at first glance the inclusion of this forthright and upstanding Canadian Mountie might seem very odd, there are a number of factors that would make Fraser a powerful addition to the League. Though he believes in non-violent resolutions to most matters, he is nevertheless an accomplished unarmed-combatant and marksman. He is also a skilled investigator and gatherer of clues. Fraser is also a peerless tracker, able to follow the slightest clue to find his quarry, even in urban settings. Likewise, his skills of survival (taught by years spent in the great northern wilderness of Canada) are unmatched. He has also displayed incredibly keen senses (particularly of hearing and sight) and above-average physical abilities (strength, agility, etc.). Beyond these abilities, Fraser is also a very rare thing: a ‘pure spirit’. He doesn’t just preach the ideals “doing good” and “fighting the good fight”, he lives them. This could make him a very potent weapon against many occult powers, particularly those who react poorly to ‘faith’. Though he does not openly reveal it, Fraser also has a form of supernatural perception that allows him to see and actually converse with the dead: or at least his own Father. Though perhaps dismissed as a figment of his imagination, Fraser’s father has nevertheless become a kind of spirit guide, looking out for his son, offering advice and sometimes even providing cryptic information on the situation at hand. Benton is assisted in his adventures by his faithful Wolf: Diefenbaker. Though deaf, the wolf is exceptionally intelligent and capable and nicely complements his human companion in urban or wilderness settings. While at first glance Benton might seem to be a good team leader, his lack of experience with the occult (and other strangeness) would put him at somewhat of a disadvantage compared to the others. Oh, and he’s not a bad singer, either. And yes, of course he knows how to ride horses. Very well, in fact.


Darkman (Source: “Darkman” Motion Picture)
Portrayed by Liam Neeson

A brilliant scientist, Peyton Westlake became the victim of a crimelord’s attempt to cover up his misdeeds. He is left horribly disfigured, with a deadened nervous system and an overloaded adrenal gland giving him a deadened sense of pain and enhanced strength. The trauma of this has also left him mentally unstable. Utilizing his experimental synthetic skin experiment, Westlake (now calling himself Darkman), killed those responsible for his tragedy. Unfortunately, he could not cope with returning to a ‘normal’ life afterward and became a vigilante. Though brilliant and in possession of remarkable abilities (and technology), Westlake is unstable and a ‘risky’ choice for the team. Even so, his ability to impersonate others (as well as his scientific expertise in several areas) is what finally won over the selection committee.



OTHER CONSIDERATIONS:

Cole Sear (Source: “The Sixth Sense” Motion Picture)
Portrayed by Haley Joel Osment

Identified by the League for his extra-sensory perception of “Dead People”, Only Cole’s youth (having been born in 1988) keeps him from being recruited. Even so, a watch is being kept upon him as he grows up- and if needed, he could be brought in on special cases to help communicate with the dead.


Halliwell Sisters (Source: “Charmed” TV Series)
Portrayed by Shannen Doherty, Holly Marie Combs and Alyssa Milano

A coven of Witches who only recently inherited their power, the Halliwell sisters are rapidly gaining experience in identifying and defeating supernatural menaces. They have been identified by the League as a ‘backup’ resource for their primary team, but were not recruited for active duty mainly due to their resistance to leaving their home and ‘normal lives’.


Chance Boudreaux (Source: “Hard Target” Motion Picture)
Portrayed by Jean-Claude Van Damme

A former special-forces soldier turned drifter/merchant marine sailor, Chance seems a somewhat odd choice. He was brought onto the team mainly to shore up its combat potential- in both hand to hand and ranged engagements. He is also quite skilled in survival techniques, especially in a swamp setting such a his native bayou in Louisiana. Having grown up in the back woods of this region, he also has a smattering of knowledge of voodoo and other folk-occult/religion practices- though he considers these mostly as superstitions. It was his actions versus a human-hunting conspiracy in New Orleans that brought him to the League’s attention. He is a loner by nature, however, and this is the primary reason he was rejected for team membership. Though he never talks about it, Chance has a twin brother, Luc, who was (supposedly) killed during the Gulf War in which they both fought.


Casey Ryback (Source: “Under Siege” Motion Picture)
Portrayed by Steven Seagal

A former Navy SEAL busted for numerous infractions and insubordinations, Ryback recently retired from the Navy after an incident involving the hijacking of a U.S. Battleship. He has since pursued his career as a cook and hopes to open his own restaurant. Though an incredibly skilled combatant (both armed and unarmed), his attitude and personality precluded him from selection for the LXG team.


Jack Ryan (Source: “The Hunt for Red Oktober” Motion Picture)
Portrayed by Alec Baldwin

A former marine turned analyst for the CIA, Ryan posseses a sharp mind and extensive technical knowledge of the world’s military technology and systems (particularly naval technology). He is also a trained combatant and has proven brave and resourceful in a variety of dangerous situations. He is also a family man, and it is primarily for this reason (and his previous back injury) that he was not recruited into the League. He is, however open as an advisor for missions dealing with the military.


Nikita (Source: “Nikita” Motion Picture)
Portrayed by Bridget Fonda (yes, I know she wasn’t in the original)

A former drug addict and street criminal recruited by a shadowy organization to be an agent and assassin. Nikita is incredibly resourceful, quick-thinking and talented. Unfortunately, she doesn’t work well with others and has (understandable) trust issues. Her association with her current organization also made her less than desirable for recruitment into the team.


John Cutter
(Source: “Passenger 57” and “Drop Zone” Motion Pictures)
Portrayed by Wesley Snipes

A U.S. Marshall with accidental but extensive experience in bringing down terrorist cells. This included both a hijacking of a civilian airliner and thwarting a gang of parachute-based mercenaries. Cutter is an expert ad hand-to-hand combat and a talented marksman. He is also extensively trained in skydiving techniques. His main limitation (from the League’s perspective) is his lack of experience with supernatural or other ‘odd’ situations.


Jackie (Source: “Armor of God II: Operation Condor” Motion Picture)
Portrayed by Jackie Chan

Jackie (also known as the ‘Asian Hawk’) is an adventurer. Part archaeologist, part mercenary, part agent, part explorer and part thrill-seeker- his capabilities are broad. When you add to this the fact that he is one of the best martial artists in the world, you have a very powerful candidate for recruitment by the League. He has a penchant for working alone, however, and truth be told he prefers it that way. All the same, the League has kept his name and contact information ‘on file’ should he be necessary to assist or supplement the main team.


So, there you have it. Disagree with my choices? Did I overlook anyone? Let me know what you think.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Annual Awesomeness

Once more I have left my (now) 'native' Florida to brave the frozen tundra that is South Dakota in late January. I return to you now with tales of adventure and amusement from what has now become an annual gaming pilgrimage. It started four years ago, shortly after I began this blog. A friend of mine (Steve, the other one (TOO)) was going to visit our old stomping grounds of Vermillion, South Dakota. A few of our mutual friends still live and game there. On a lark, I decided to go with him and attend a small gaming convention there called Vermincon. This trip is now a tradition, and every year I marvel at how much fun I have.


DAY 1:
I fly into Denver where I meet with Steve TOO.


DAY2:
Steve TOO drives the 9-10 hours to Vermillion, SD. Along the way, we game. In this case, I ran an adventure in our new 'Next Generation' Star Wars campaign- where he is playing the child of his 'old' Star Wars character. If you haven't tried gaming on a long trip, let me tell you that it is a GREAT way to pass the time. It keeps both driver and passenger engaged without causing an accident. The only thing that really requires figuring out is how to roll dice. This was solved this time by using digital dice rollers. Steve TOO has a tablet, I have a laptop. Between them, there is plenty of juice to last through the trip. The adventure I ran was fun, and in it, we discovered that a young Mandalorian with the 'Stubborn' and 'Overconfident' disadvantages doesn't make the best candidate for handling 'first contact' situations with powerful, alien empires.

Upon reaching Vermillion, we bunked at the house of my other friend (also named Steve). There, we kicked back, shared amusing youtube clips we'd discovered, then watched a 'Rifftracks' version of a truly abominable 80's film called 'Abraxis, Guardian of the Universe' (or something of the sort). This starred Jesse the Body Ventura. Yeah. It was horrible. But the commentary was hilarious.


DAY 3
The next day I slept in, then helped get things set up at Vermincon. Instead of running anything, I signed up to actually PLAY in a game that evening. Steve was running a session of a game he has dubbed "Scooby-Doo Cthulu". The premise of this is as follows: The players take control of members of the Scooby Gang. If there are more than five players, 'Special Guest Stars' are introduced. In our case, this was Don Knots (appearing as a local deputy, of course). Once players are assigned to characters, a situation is introduced. In this case, we were attending the wedding of one of Daphne's friends- which just happened to be in the creepy old Cathedral in the middle of nowhere.

Well, odd things started happening and the 'gang' began to investigate. But instead of men in rubber masks or images projected on the mist created by dry ice it was... well, REAL horrors from the unknown. In this case, a coven of witches and warlocks determined to sacrifice the bride-to-be to their demonic patron. Thus, the gang found itself fighting animated, pumpkin-headed scarecrows wielding scythes. In the end (and much to all of our surprise) the entire gang managed to escape- though Don Knots was almost killed, Velma was wounded and Shaggy had a permanent psychosis. Scooby wound up tearing the throats out of two of the Witch cultists- which really saved the day. The gang, upon escaping (with the rescued sacrifice), burned down the cathedral. Like, ZOINKS!

The game was a LOT of fun. I played Shaggy and Steve TOO played Scooby. We had the rest of the group giggling on several occasions- like when Officer Don Knots drove up to the mystery machine in his squad car. I did my best Shaggy voice: "Like, hide the stash, Scoob! It's the fuzz!"


DAY 4
The next day, I started my Star Wars adventure for the group. The premise was a bit different than anything we'd done before. A series of bad dreams drew the group together. The group included: Rick Oman (Mandalorian Warlord), Arianne Volar (New Republic Admiral and Jedi Knight), Horatio Flynn (Self-Proclaimed Emperor of the Nagai), and Bob (Jedi Knight and Khan of the Tusken Hordes). Following the clues found in their dreams, the team made its way to the ruins of the planet Korriban (destroyed in the last adventure). There, they discovered an ancient, spherical prison that had once been buried far below the surface of the planet. It was now, unfortunately, cracked open and empty. Inside they found a group of Sith also investigating. After some initial tension, however, the two groups talked and pieced together the following: An ancient and powerful evil had been imprisoned here by the Sith, thousands of years ago. It was apparently set loose by the destruction of Korriban. Already, it seemed to be 'calling' to Jedi and Sith both, with some on both sides 'vanishing'.

Searching for clues, the heroes (with one Sith 'ally' in tow), traveled to the ancient Library of Xer. There, they found not only a hidden repository of Sith Knowledge, but also signs that others (some of the missing Jedi) were also investigating this, and had already visited the library. The Jedi in question included Jared (one of my Star Wars group's previous comrades) and Galen Marek (yes, Starkiller- who they had 'rescued' in last year's adventure). The main find of the mission, however, was information on how the ‘prison’ sphere the Entity was housed in worked. The Ancient Sith created the sphere, lured the Entity inside it, then ‘sealed’ it by sacrificing thousands of force-sensitive thralls. The spirits of these beings is what held the entity inside. Thus, in order to put this thing away again, someone was going to have to die. According to the information, the ‘imprisoning’ effect might also be achieved by the ‘sacrifice’ of one very powerful person instead of thousands of ‘lesser’ individuals.

As the group tried to exit the library (with data and a few Sith Holocrons), they found their paths blocked by the normal 'patrons' of the place, all of whom were acting in unison, like zombies. Evidently, the Entity had 'touched' this place as well and spread its influence. Thus, the group had to escape WITHOUT injuring the (mostly) innocent people standing in their way.

As soon as they escaped, the group contacted their various ‘support groups. Oman put his fleet on Alert and moved one of his cruisers into position in case it’s firepower was needed. Horatio called his Nagai and, since they were experts in crystalline structures, ordered them to proceed to Korriban to repair the crystalline ‘prison’ there. Arianne contacted the Republic task force guarding Korriban to alert them of the danger. Bob, meanwhile, delved into the Sith Holocrons, looking for any more clues on how they might defeat the Entity.

Using clues found in the data repository (as well as some information gleaned from a brave/foolhardy 'mind-meld' with the entity, made by Bob), the group proceeded to a remote world housing a Sith Artifact/Temple. There, they discovered that the artifact was a ‘focus’ for Force Powers. The Entity was intending to use it to spread its influence and control across the galaxy.

I essentially stole the core storyline from a snippet I read on wookieepedia about the being ‘Abeloth’- and changed things up (since I never read any of the novels in which it was featured). Essentially, the ‘Entity’ wanted ‘love’- and thought it could get it by forcing people to adore it.

To make matters worse, word came from Korriban that the Republic forces there had fallen under the sway of Abeloth and were preventing the Nagai from entering to fix the prison. A quick call to Luke Skywalker resulted in him personally visiting Korriban to ‘sort out’ the situation there with a group of his fellow Jedi.

On the remote world, Abeloth had already gathered a sizable group of followers and housed them in the temple complex. These included Jedi, Sith and a number of civilians, including children. This complicated matters for the heroes, as they could not simply bombard the temple from orbit. Instead, they went down in person to see what they could do. This forced them into a battle with both Sith and their former comrade Jared- all mind-controlled by Abeloth.

Bob once again engaged Abeloth in ‘conversation’- providing an increasing distraction as the rest of the group went to work. Oman set about placing demo charges on the temple’s arcane generator. Horatio managed to clear the temple of its ‘human shields’- leading them outside as Abeloth’s attention became more and more focused on Bob. Arianne, meanwhile, was able to talk down a mind-controlled Galen Marek and snap him out of his zombie-stupor. Upon learning of the situation, Marek decided that he would be the one to sacrifice himself to imprison Abeloth once more.

The charges went off, the temple was destroyed and Abeloth was pissed. The party fled to their ship, taking on most of the recently freed mind-controlled folks. They then fled back to Korriban. All the while, the Jedi AND Sith onboard the heroes ship were battling mentally to keep Abeloth at bay. Upon arrival at Korriban, Galen Marek used a Nagai teleportation belt to enter the recently repaired prison. Drawn to his power, Abeloth followed. Galen sacrificed himself, sealing Abeloth inside once more.

Uncertain of what to do with Abeloth, the New Republic decided to move her prison to a Deep Space location- with only a handful of people knowing where that is. It is hoped that it will not be discovered- and that if any method of ‘destroying’ Abeloth is found, they can implement it.

And that was the end of the Star Wars adventure. Once more, I had a GREAT time, and my players seemed to have fun, too.


DAY 5:
I had an open schedule for the third day of the convention. In the morning, Steve TOO ran some Mass Effect adventures for me (with Todd sitting in to take control of one of my character’s ship mates). Steve had started this game a while back for me. It is a ‘homebrew’ game, using the D6 system as its base. In it, I play a commander of the ‘MIDWAY’, the second of the Normandy class vessels. So far, we are up against a group of Battarian terrorists working on some kind of bioweapon to use against humanity.

In the afternoon I ran an open session of Star Wars, using the Tatooine Manhunt adventure (shortened and modified by me to fit the limited time available to run it). I had been both looking forward to this and dreading it. I was absolutely CERTAIN that one particular gamer (one that had proven to be a constant annoyance in all the previous visits to SD) would want to play in the game- and would likely ruin it for all involved. Oddly enough, he was absent from most of the con- and did NOT show up for my game. In fact, nobody but Steve TOO had signed up for the game until shortly before it was due to start. Then I got a sudden influx of folks in the form of two 20-something guys (brothers, I think) and an older dude (40’s, maybe 50). I was shocked to find that these guys were both normal and good players. I’d go as far as saying that the older dude was a GREAT player.

The session was quite fun and it was interesting to note that the adventure proceeded a LOT differently than any of my previous run throughs with other groups (and I have run the adventure with quite a few over the years). In fact, this group did a lot to avoid some of the ‘set piece’ combats in the adventure. For example, they notice they are being followed by a speeder in the middle of the desert. The Heroes proceed through a canyon, set a booby trap for the following speeder. They mange to disable it- and as soon as they do, the heroes turn and continue on in their own speeder. Most ‘gamer’ groups would have gone to ‘finish off’ their pursuers. I respected the fact they didn’t use MORE force than was necessary. In fact, by avoiding several of the ‘big’ fights on the way to the final confrontation, the party had managed NOT to use any of its Force points. This resulted in a very quick ‘boss battle’ at the end which might have been much more difficult if the group hadn’t conserved their strength.

This was the first time I had run for a group of (mostly) complete strangers in a long while. I’m surprised and pleased it went as well as it did.

DAY 6:
The voyage home. Steve TOO drives and I run another adventure. Again, we play the ‘Next Generation’ campaign. This time, the hero (or heroine, as Steve’s character is a female) is part of the crew of an exploration ship (corvette sized). This mission is to rescue a team of researchers on a remote world. The ship arrives to find most of the researchers dead. Much strangeness ensues as Steve’s character explores the planet. Eventually, it is discovered that the researchers found an odd ‘stone’ on the planet, one that causes mass paranoia and eventually violence. He managed to get the stone back onboard the rescue ship with him. The heroine manages to get back to the ship and get rid of the stone in the nick of time, just as the entire crew is going berserk. Again, I had a lot of fun with this- and it really helped to pass the time on that long trip.

DAY 7:
I got home, after a hefty delay and a missed connection. As nice as it is to get away and see friends, it is just as nice to get home once more.