Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Marvel Marches On In March

Lazy post today since I am exhausted and it's only Tuesday. With the later half of the week looking busier then the first half I gotta wonder how I am going to survive til the weekend. Add to this the fact that the Marvel Heroic Core Book, while available as a PDF, IS NOT AVAILABLE IN PRINT FORM! Sorry to yell but Margaret Weis Productions, Whassupwitdat!

Nonetheless I have managed to drum up enough energy to post these links, drawing your attention to some cool Marvel Heroic related sites.

The first is
Exploring Infinity. The owner of this blog, bless his obessive spirit, has complied pretty much every link, article, forum post and whatnot there is on the new Marvel game onto one handy-dandy page.

Well, not every blog post of course but he tries. Now in case you missed these...
Here's some additional thoughts from Lord Blacksteel

While it's mentioned on Exploring Infinity complilation page, I would like to point out Plot Points, Dice Monkey's new blog specifically centered on, in and around Marvel Heroic. Nice job by the way!

Anyway, that's all for me for now. I have other ideas and things swirling around in my head but nothing in my stomach so it's dinner time.

Later Days,

Barking Alien

Constant Con, FLAILSNAILS, and Tasting Pennies

I have no idea why but over the last twenty four hours, I can't stop thinking about joining in on a Constant Con game.

It makes no logical sense. I am currently nigh-obsessed with Supers gaming, I dislike D&D in all its forms quite a bit, and I find gaming over the Internet very hit and miss. So why the interest? Surely running Supers beats playing with Flailsnails in my book. Why bother?

Though I have spent most of my young and adult life being rather cautious and preferring to play it safe, my gaming tastes have always leaned toward trying out any new experience I came across, no matter how foreboding or dangerous they may seem.

The real me looks both ways before crossing, always double checks the lock on my front door, and practically never gambles (rarely even playing the lottery). The gaming me is the kid putting his tongue on an ice cold lamppost, riding my bike without a helmet, and putting pennies in my mouth just to find out if they really taste as bad as everyone says.

I have recently been following Jeff Rients posts on his Wessex game and I just read this post by Lord Gwydion wherein he describes his first Constant Con experience. The next thing I know I'm thinking, "Hey, how can I get in on this action?". I am considering the idea that I'll get to see what all the hubbub is about, maybe get a better insight into why people enjoy D&D (and its brethren) so much, and get to meet some new people while I'm at it.

That said, I still don't 100% know if I want to do this. It's time I could be spending working on one of own campaigns. Every time I sit down to play D&D I am promised (by myself or others) that this time D&D won't suck for me and inevitably, the game sucks. Maybe it's a phase I am going through. A fever perhaps or an undigested bit of beef. For now, I shall continue considering...

Barking Alien

My apologies to both John Byrne and the original Flail Snail artist whose name I can't recall or find.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Passing of Moebius

Jean Giraud, better known to many as Moebius, has passed away, leaving the world with one less brilliant artist, visionary and true innovator in the field of science fiction and fantasy design.

While I have no desire to compare and/or contrast the two men and their art, the news of Moebius' passing seems to come all too soon after we lost Ralph McQuarrie. I feel sad, not only for the loss of two of my favorite artists but also for the loss of their impact on the medium to future generations of film goers, art fans and concept artists and designers. Will my nephew know their works? I hope so. If given the chance I will try to make sure he gets to see some of his uncle's cool art books and know the history of those who contributed to them.

Anyway, I am here to pass on a message, pay homage and spread the good word that though he has passed, Giraud's legacy does live on in the films he worked on and those who remember him and appreciate his work. I leave you not with sorrow but with the merest taste of grandeur...

Barking Alien


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Losing and Gaining

This is my 470th post. I can't believe I am approaching 500 posts and at the same time, I can't believe it's taken me about 3 years or so to reach 500. I guess that means I don't post enough but sadly there is not much I can do about it. I post as often as I can.

I noticed I have 130 followers. That's two shy of my high, which was at one point, a week or two ago, 132. So I am losing my audience somehow. Possibly it's the lack of posts, possibly the subject matter I am covering (though I often get a good response with my Supers stuff) and maybe, just maybe, it's the fact that recent posts haven't had enough art. Pictures definitely help.

Be that as it may, I am gaining in real life and even in real life gaming. That is, my work schedule has really picked up and my gaming group is now consistently at 4 people showing up for a good 6-8 hours once a week with a 5th person joining on occasion.

Combine the aforementioned positives with my growing love for the new Marvel Heroic game, the next DC Adventures book from Green Ronin finally on the horizon and possibly an expanding of my Sunday activity/job working with the kids at the learning center and I'd say I have a lot of cool things to discuss, lost followers be damned!*

Anyway, I think the Marvel core book is due to drop on Tuesday. Expect a lot of ideas to flow once that happens.

Ever more,

Barking Alien

*I don't actually mean 'damn my lost followers'. I get it. There could be any number of reasons they left. No hard feelings. You're all welcome back anytime. I'll leave a light on for you.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Make Mine...Marvel? Opinions ASSEMBLE!

I apologize for taking so long in continuing my analysis (such as it is) of the Marvel Heroic Role Playing Game but Real Life TM reared its ugly head and I was busy dealing with it. And it was ugly to. MODOK ugly.

Now while you were waiting (and I do appreciate you doing so so patiently), I hope you asked Jarvis to fetch you some coffee and took a look at what others are saying about the game.

I think it would be especially helpful to check out those blogs or posts as many of them contain notes on the rule mechanics, which are something I am not going to directly address here...yet. You see, there are a lot of rules in Marvel Heroic, for what is essentially a very freeform game, and honestly I don't fully know or understand them all yet.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I really only played the game once and that was in a combo co-GM/Player-Assistant capacity. Reading the rules was very confusing as the book's one major weakness is that it was edited by 6 different people, none of which appear to have spoken to each other during the process. There is also a great deal of game-specific jargon and multiple names for the same or remarkably similar things.

That is definitely the down side of what is otherwise a very brilliant piece of work. I am really looking forward to reading the rules all the way through and playing it a few time before (surprise, surprise) hacking some its idea into M&M 3E or maybe simplifying Marvel Heroic here and adding detail to it there.

Now on the positive side, I've played a lot of Superhero RPGs (A LOT!) and if ever there was one that felt more like you were characters in a comic book, I certainly can't recall it. This is one part game and one part story pitch session to the editors at Marvel. I liked the feeling that you were engaging in something that felt noticably different from a traditional RPG just as you were doing something like hitting a guy with a steel girder. The sense of the new and the familiar mixing was awesome.

I will likely be talking about this game a lot more in the weeks to come. I want to try and test drive it fully once I read through the rulebook again to lockdown all the elements I am iffy on. After that, who knows? I do have some ideas for a Marvel game and I want to get a better feel for created original characters as well.

Sorry if this 'review' is nothing of the sort but sometimes, especially when things are busy in my offline life, I have trouble focusing my thoughts on a subject that I am really jazzed about. I have so many ideas and opinions on this game that trying to latch on to one and describe it in depth is like trying to catch motes of dust in a tornado. Ooh. Nice imagery.

Until the Defenders explain they're defending the world heavyweight championship title in boxing...Make Mine Marvel!

Barking Alien

Monday, March 5, 2012

Make Mine...Marvel? Maybe


This is the first and last word I heard from many a mouth at the
Marvel Heroic Launch Party on Saturday, March 3rd for the release of Margaret Weis Productions new Marvel Heroic Role Playing Game. I was a co-GM at the event. 'Co' because after a week or so of trying to understand the rules I could only comprehend about 15% of them. Thankfully my friend and fellow NerdNYC GM James took the reins and really did all the hard work.

Unfortunately, due to some printing or shipping snafu or other, the game itself was not available for purchase. Pity. I would very much have liked to buy it and the reasons are both positive and less so.

So what the heck is Marvel Heroic?

The Marvel Heroic RPG is a variant on the Cortex System, the 'house' system used by Margaret Weis Productions for its various role playing games such as Leverage and the licensed games of Smallville, Battlestar Galactica and Serenity. Now I am only generally familiar with the mechanics of those other games, having played a single session of Serenity and having looked at Leverage for not more than a few minutes. Those more familiar with Cortex tell me Marvel has some shared characteristics but it actually quite another animal.

It is a game heavy on narrative storytelling techniques and light, very light in fact, on what most gamers are used to from an RPG. Oddly, I found the game extremely hard to wrap my head around even though I am an indie-gaming, storytelling kind of guy. Why? Well there are a few reasons I will get to later but the main thing was and is this...

It's a Superhero Comic Book RPG for Comic Book fans not for Superhero Comic Book RPG gamers.

Look at the Supers RPGs that have wowed gamers and taken the lion's share of the market. Basically, Champions and Mutants & Masterminds. Steve Kenson, creator of M&M, made another Supers game called ICONS to much fan fare and you hardly hear about it now. Why? Too simple. Not enough fine detail for the Superhero gamer.

Yes, in a given scene in any given comic book we don't really know if Spider Woman is stronger than Iron Man or if the Thing moves faster than the Abomination but in a game, you do know these things. In Champions and M&M, the preferred favorites, you know all about the specific advantages, disadvantages, bonuses, limitations, speed, carrying capacity and many other minute details of your character and his or her powers, abilities, equipment, etc. Supers games that are popular are also crunchy.

Even someone like me, who generally dislikes a lot of crunch, seems to like it in Superhero RPGs. Why? Not sure. Maybe it provides answers to those age old questions that eternally plague our schoolyards like, can Thor beat up Superman? Who knows? Let's stat them up and find out.

Marvel is a 360 degree spin kick to the head to that way of thinking. It is a game of vagueness. It is a game not unlike
Risus, where cliches/knack/skills like 'Straight Shooter' and 'Girl Next Door' are valid and even encouraged game mechanics.

At the same time a system of rules much more complex then Risus is in play. There are very specific means of forming the dice pool you roll to determine if you accomplish what you wanted to and how well. There are rules for the GM (called The Watcher) to determine how miserable he can make the heroes lives. The Plot Points of the game are not the typical Hero Points found in most but a much more distinct form of game-mechanic economy, spent to improve your chance of success, maximize your effect, buy off disadvantageous situations or execute special effect maneuvers.

Dang, I am running late for the real world and not nearly finished with my review and ponderings on this most unusual and quite intriguing game. Oh well, I shall continue my musings later this evening.

Excelsior everybody!

Barking Alien

A Lost Art

Another favorite artist and entertainer of mine has passed, just as few days after Davy Jones. We in the fandom community have lost a legend and those of us who are artists have lost quite a trailblazer. This man was not only a great designer and artist but brought attention and respect to the movie concept designer, formerly viewed as a background component in filmmaking among the general movie going populace.

Ralph McQuarrie, character and concept designer on such films as Star Wars, E.T., Close Encounters of The Third Kind and many more, has passed on at the age of 82


Barking Alien

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Answering Back on Answers to The Secrets of D&D-But-Not

Hooray for Lord Blacksteel! In his response to my post about various secrets and strange goings on within the universe of my D&D-But-Not setting, Aerth, I have been inspired to elaborate and confound you all further. Kudos to me.

1) Elves don't strike me as a math-focused race anyway

No. Probably not. Well, except maybe High Elves. They are militant and study the weathers and the night sky. Maybe the Grey Elves since they are focused on understanding Magic.

2)In most other games the Orc population is out of control and needs culling. I'm glad to see your campaign world is more ecologically balanced than that.

I don't particularly like Orcs. The main reason is they are over used. The second reason is they are not a creature of folklore. Tolkien created them. Since I am not running a game set on Middle Earth, I shouldn't need Orcs. My solution was to have them be limited in number to the point of near extinction. When players ask why there are so few I answer, "Because people like you killed them all." Perspective.

3) The real question here though is whether he is in your debt. I can see a profitable business developing here recovering dwarf parts on spec and then transporting them to said location.

Possible. Dwarven honor is complex, largely for the reason this point eludes to. If a Dwarf died owing you money and he was resurrected by doesn't recall the debt, does he still owe you? The answer, as Dwarves view it, is yes. Sometimes his family will pay. Sometimes an elder or superior will place him in your service for as long as it takes to pay it back.

4) Again, math, elves - it's all pretty casual

True, though the name Half-Elf was given to the people of Corin by Humans.

5) Have any of your players tried to do this?

Tried? Yes. Succeeded? Er...once.

6) That name bothers me.

But they're sooo cute.

7)I can see players having some fun with this. Probably when they should be doing it the least.

It has resulted in very creative uses and some ridiculously painful backfiring.

8) Interesting but what does it mean in play? How does my human differ from my elf or dwarf when it comes to making and playing the character because of this?

It means a lot. Certain Cleric spells do not effect Elves as they do not have Souls or worship gods as Humans understand them. Not having a Spirit means there is nothing to communicate with after passing. It is also why there are no Elven undead on Aerth and why Dwarves can come back from the dead more easily then others.

9)This sounds like a justification for some serious misbehavior - at least among a few players I know. And probably myself as well.

How so? Mostly it's used for dramatic story telling. There was the tale of an Elven Woman, a mother, who rushed to the battlefield after learning her only son had been badly injured. While being healed, the enemy instituted a surprise attack and the Elf Warrior's mother was killed by arrows right in front of him before he could react. It wasn't that long ago that this happened. He sees it happen again every night before 'waking'.

10)I like this one and have used it some myself. Variable-strength gods gives you more flexibility in a long-term game and explains why all those clerical types are running around.


11) Have your players had to deal with this before? I'd like to hear about that.

I will tell the tale of one PC who fell to Aerth via falling star in an upcoming post. Weapons of Star Metal and wishes have been obtained a number of times over the years.

12) I had "The Well of the Worlds" in one of my 3E campaigns. Sadly no one ever found it.

What?! Gah. That's too bad.

13)...and the insect-winged ones are called "bugaloos" I suspect...

Hmmm. I shall think on it.

14) This seems more folklore-ish than most and I like it. I usually keep mine as the top end of the big ugly humanoid food chain, but this is a nice change. Practical side: If I'm a Ranger and take "Troll" as favored enemy, do I get that against all three types?

My world is very, very folklore-ish or folkloric as I once heard the term. My Elves, my Dwarves and many other elements are strongly based on stories I've read and collected on folklore, myth and local legend from many parts of the world.

The answer to your question is yes, generally a Ranger will get the Favored Enemy bonus against all the Troll types is he or she chooses Troll as their arch-nemesis. Note however that Favored Enemy gives you more then combat bonuses in my campaign but also lets you in on some cultural stuff for yout chosen opponent. Depending on where your PC hails from some bits of information may be less well known then others.

15) Well of course that's what THEY would say!

And they might be right in a manner of speaking. ~_^

Have any more questions about the D&D world by that guy who doesn't generally like D&D? Please feel free to ask! I may be amused, and as such, inclined to answer in a mostly serious manner.

Barking Alien

Out Like A Lamb

I dislike opening a month on a sad note but I would be remiss in my duty as a huge fan of The Monkees if I didn't acknowledge the passing of the one and only Davy Jones.

I grew up watching the Monkees and their made-for-TV-psychidelic hijinks and can honestly place some of their songs as among my favorite pieces of music of all time. A love of the Monkees (and gaming) was one of the things I shared with my ex-wife Selina. I remember we dated for about a year or so before moving in together and it wasn't until we did that I found out she liked them as much as I did. Great memories.

So long Daydream Believer, you will be missed.


Barking Alien