Saturday, October 05, 2013

Library Reviews - Yesterday’s X-Men & Revolution

The X-men have always been an on-again/off-again thing for me - I liked them quite a bit in the late 80s, but sometime in the mid-90s they started losing their appeal.  Then came Grant Morrison’s New X-Men run - which reminded me of everything I loved about the X-men (and is something I still pull out and re-read periodically) - but then Marvel turned around and basically undermined most of the things he did in that run with the House of M event that reduced the number of mutants in the world down to a ridiculously low number.  Suddenly instead of the X-men being “the future of humanity” with all of the baggage that entails, they were just another group of people with superpowers.  After that point I lost interest, only picking up the book occasionally in compilations from the library.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Build-Your-Own-Monkeybrain-Comics-Anthology Review #1

A big chunk of the reason that I decided to wade back into the monthly comics pool was because of the buzz I’d heard about Monkeybrain Comics.  Last year Monkeybrain Comics jumped into the Comixology pool with a number of creator-owned titles that sold for $1 or $2 per issue.  And their comics weren’t just cheap - they were good.  So some of my first purchases off of Comixology were Monkeybrain titles.

Since the titles are all cheaper than a traditional monthly comic and have a lower page count, I feel a bit like what I’m buying is an anthology. So that’s the perspective I’m going to take in these reviews and I’m going to review a few of my monthly Monkeybrain purchases at one time because hey, why not?

Reading Weekly Comics Again - Comixology

Years ago (over a decade at this point now) I was an avid weekly reader of comic books.  My Wednesday pilgrimage to the comic book store was something that I looked forward to every week - and there were some weeks where it was literally the only good thing about my week.  But about a decade ago that stopped.  A lot of things collided at once to make this happen - prices on books increased past my tipping point for justifying such a weekly expenditure, we bought a house (and added all the expenses related to that), I went back to school, and, frankly, I stopped enjoying the books I was reading from week to week.  So I stopped buying weekly comics.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

A few thoughts about D&D/Gamma World

It's wintertime, and thoughts turn towards gaming (or at least mine do).  While most of my gaming these days revolves around games suitable for playing with a four-year old, I've also been thinking a bit about my current (if sporadic) D&D and Gamma World games.  As my players know, I've been a bit unhappy with my games for a while now, though I haven't exactly been able to put my finger on why I've been unhappy.  My most common complaint sums up as "the combats are too long", but thinking it over, I don't think that's quite right.  It isn't that the combats are too long in an objective sense -- it's that the combats are too long by the metics I want to apply to role-playing game combats.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Gamma World Update

Yesterday we had our third session of Gamma World and much was accomplished.  The band of merry mutants were able to beat back the robots at the back door of the Federated Robotics factory and push into the main factory area.  After an encounter with a lonely and bored security door (bypassed because the AI was more friendly than smart and easily distracted by a laptop plugged into a local interface port), they fought their way into the main factory floor and waged a pitched battle with barbaric hoop bandits and their robot servitors.  Mid battle an alpha flux occurred - shifting all of their powers and throwing them a bit off balance.  In the end the party triumphed and discovered a cache of Omega Tech weaponry that made everyone happy.

So that ends the first adventure for this group - the adventure that came in the Gamma World boxed set.  Overall it was a lot of fun, but I have to admit we've tweaked a few things.  For starters, we've made the Alpha Mutations a lot more stable - instead of changing after each encounter the characters keep their mutations until an Alpha Flux happens.  We tried the "change after every encounter" rule and it just didn't work as well in practice as it seemed like it would reading it.

As of right now we're planning on keeping with Gamma World when our next game day comes up.  The characters managed to get to 3rd level through the course of this adventure, and it will be interesting to see how the game operates at higher levels.  We'll get back to the D&D game, but for now the Gamma World game has a grip on us.  And who knows - with the crazy way Gamma World works these characters may end up over in the D&D game before things are all said and done.

(Lords of Creation is also messing with my head - I have some ideas about laying a Lords of Creation mask over the top of the Gamma World setting as it sits right now.  But that's probably another post - maybe after I talk about the "Powers" setup in Lords of Creation...)

Monday, October 03, 2011

Lords of Creation - Skills

The skill system of Lords of Creation is one of the more unusual elements of the game.  The game provides a large list of skills, with each skill broken into 5 levels.  Each level of a skill carries a "name" that indicates the capabilities of that skill at that level.  For example, the Detective skill is broken down into four levels as:
  1. Police Connections
  2. Basic Criminology
  3. Wiretapping
  4. Advanced Criminology
  5. Futuristic/Magical*
The named level of a skill gives an indication of what the character is capable of doing with the skill.  The game advises that if a character has a skill level that indicates he can do something, then the skill should work automatically.  For example, a character with Detective - 1 would have Police Connections, which means he automatically gets access to small favors from his friends in the police force like checking addresses or tracking a license plate, and he also gets a number of criminal informants who answer questions "for a price".  Essentially this "skill" mostly operates like a perk would in other games (like Champions or GURPS).

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Lords of Creation - Creating Characters

After the one-page intro section, Lords of Creation moves to what I often considered the most important part of an RPG during the days of my youth - character creation.  When I first started gaming I would often sit and create character after character just to get the hang of a new system.  I don't do that so much anymore, mostly because the character creation process in modern games isn't as much fun.  Often character creation in games these days boils down to a process that is only slightly more fun than filing my annual income taxes.  I think that this is because most modern RPGs have taken their character creation process directly from Champions, where no randomness is allowed.  While this allows players to realize the exact character they have in their heads, the character creation process loses aspects that I have always found fun - that bit of randomness that spontaneously generates a character you would never in a million years have conceived of yourself.  This is one of the things I love about the new Gamma World - the random character creation process that has a bit of a "throwback" feel to earlier days.

Like most games of its time, Lords of Creation has a semi-random character creation process.  Every character has five basic attributes that feel very familiar to folks who grew up on D&D - Muscle, Speed (which covers "muscular coordination and manual dexterity"), Stamina, Mental ("intuition, logic, and willpower") and Luck.  The first four of these map to 5 of the six standard D&D attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution and a mix of Intelligence and Wisdom), and are generated with scores between 2 and 20 for new characters.  Which again makes for very familiar territory, though unlike D&D the scores are generated by rolling 2d10 rather than 3d6.