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Thursday, January 17, 2019

What'cha gonna do when they come for you?

I'm old enough to remember one of the first "reality" shows on Fox, which followed the men and women of law enforcement. Of course I'm talking about COPS.

As the son of a former Police Officer, this was "must see TV" in our house. It was, of course, edited to give you the most bang for your half-hour buck, but it became it's own cottage industry. The show has lasted for 31 seasons (starting in 1989) and over 1,000 episodes.

The next generation of this type of show started three years ago on the A&E network. (Aside: Does anyone else remember when A&E stood for Arts & Entertainment?) This show is Live PD and does what COPS did, but ... wait for it ... LIVE! That's right, you can ride along with officers on Friday and Saturday nights and see the kinds of things they have to deal with.

One thing that struck me while watching Live PD, which we can now do with an Amazon Fire Stick and Hulu with Live TV, is just how much stupid there is in the country. People driving on a suspended license, others running from the cops over an infraction that would have just gotten them a ticket, and, worst of all, people that tell the officers how to do their job! That's right, there are those out there that tell the police, "You're not going to arrest me." That's right up there with telling them that you pay their salary.

If you have any interest in law enforcement and just what these men and women have to deal with, try and catch either the main Live PD show or the "Police Patrol" spin-off, which gives you certain incidents from the show but continuously. Be warned, though, it's a bit of a rabbit hole.

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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Module vs World Creation


Last week I mentioned using a module when I run my Marvel Superheroes FASERIP game (which you can listen to over on the Class 1000 podcast). I thought that I should expound on why I chose that.

The main reason that I'm running a module is that I'm rusty. I've run games in the recent past, but I haven't run a FASERIP game in over 20 years. So I thought that it would be a good way for me to ease into the system again. This way the villains, plot, Karma awards, pretty much everything is laid out for me. That doesn't mean that a GM running said module is on autopilot (especially not with the players I have), but it does make things a bit easier since I know where things are going.

Then there's the fact that Classic Marvel Forever exists. This site has EVERYTHING I could want to run my game, and part of that are the adventure modules. The one that I'm running is something that I don't remember ever coming across, and even if I did I wouldn't remember the particulars. The fact that it's the first part of a trilogy helps quite a bit as well, since I can keep the story going if everyone is having as good a time as I am.

For those systems that I'm more comfortable with, I have no problem creating worlds of my own, even just using the published material as a starting point. That can allow me to be more creative, but I do need that solid foundation of being familiar with the rules as a starting point. I don't think I've ever created a full campaign world from scratch, though. The best that I've ever done is base my world on something else.

What about the GM's out there? Do you prefer modules, world building, or some kind of hybrid?

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Thursday, January 3, 2019

Railroading

I've done quite a bit of tabletop role-playing in my life and one of the things that gets on my nerves is "Railroading". For those not familiar with the term, it means a set of situations where the Game Master gives the Players a single option and will not allow any other possibilities. In many instances, this can be handled effectively without making the Players, who are controlling the heroes of the story, feel like they have no agency. Playing around with their suggestions and throwing up barriers works, especially if the GM handles it with good humor.

Several instances of Railroading occur when playing through a module, which is a pre-written adventure. In most of those, there are a few options but only one correct one. The game that I'm running for the Class 1000 podcast is like this, which has certain events in a certain order. I try to work with the players, though, to make sure they feel engaged.

The major issue is with GM's that create their own story and they have such a great idea that the players just HAVE to go this way. Again, this can be handled effectively, but when the GM doesn't even give the possibility of other ways to handle the plot, it causes the players to get frustrated. This leads to a game that is completely against the point of playing. It's supposed to be FUN, but taking away the free will of the characters involved sucks all of the fun out of the experience, meaning that the game will fold sooner rather than later.

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Thursday, December 20, 2018

Happy Holidays!

I hope everyone enjoys their winter holidays this year. It looks like I'll be taking next week off from posting, as usually happens this time of year, but you never know when the muse will strike.

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Like what I'm doing here on the blog and podcast? Why not check out my Patreon Page to see how you can help me do more? http://www.patreon.com/TheHammerStrikes

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Just A Bad Plan

One of the family viewing projects we have is watching an episode of Star Trek on the 50th anniversary of it's broadcast. So a couple of weeks ago, right on schedule, we watched "Wink of an Eye". The overall concept, people moving so fast as to be invisible to the naked eye, is a good one to explore. However, there is one major flaw that we found in the Scalosians' plan.

Here's the set-up: The planet Scalos underwent a dramatic upheaval that fundamentally changed the inhabitants. Everyone was accelerated to the point that the rest of the humanoids in the galaxy couldn't see them or interact with them. On top of that, all of the males were made sterile, so they couldn't reproduce on their own. Since the accident, they had taken a page from the Sirens and lured ships with a distress call, accelerating their crews, and using them to reproduce. It didn't work so well, though, as an original population of 900,000 is now down to 5. Still, they want to continue their plan with the Enterprise crew.

Now, let's take a look at the make-up of those last five. Take a look at this picture and see if you can spot the problem:

That's right, there are 3 sterile males and 2 (presumably) fertile females. That means that none of the women on the Enterprise can be used, since they would have to reproduce with non-Scalosians. Therefore, the plan is for the two female Scalosians to reproduce with the male crew to repopulate the entire planet. Sorry, but that doesn't work on multiple levels.

Let's look at the most obvious problem first - time*. Assuming the humanoid Scalosians have a gestation rate similar to humans, right around 9 months, and a similar recover time, 18 months is generally accepted, then time is a BIG issue. That means that each female would have to wait at least 27 months between impregnations, and that assuming that each fetus is fully viable. So a child would be born, on average, of once ever 13.5 months, and about half of them would be male, which does the population growth no good. That's never going to solve the problem.

The less obvious problem, but probably more serious one, is genetics. Even if you have about 200 possible fathers, you still will only have 2 mothers for over a decade, and any new mothers would be descendants of the original two. That's a pretty shallow gene-pool and it wouldn't take very long for genetic mutations to start showing up.

Then there's the issue that I didn't notice until sitting down to write this post - Where are the children? If this is such a successful program (that nearly whipped out the population in the first place) that Deela flat out refused the help of the entire Federation that Kirk offered, then where are the kids they previously had? Either she was so indoctrinated by previous generations to think that this was the only way or there were way more than 5 people left on the planet. Unfortunately, we are only shown and told about the 5, so I have to assume that they are it.

Like I said, I think this is a good concept for an episode, I just think there are too many holes in it for it to be considered a successful attempt.

* All time periods are relative to the Scalosian "normal".

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Thursday, December 6, 2018

Anime Recommendation: Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions

Kira's favorite part of the opening to Season 1. "It's so cuuute!"
Recently, we finished watching the first season and the two OVA's set after same of the anime Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions. Michelle and I previewed this, since it's labeled as "Mature", but after a few episodes we thought that this was something we should view as a family.

The main thrust of the plot is people who are dealing with, or have in the recent past dealt with, having Chunibyo. The main character is Yūta Togashi, who used to call himself the "Dark Flame Master", but who is now thoroughly embarrassed by it. So much so that he chose to go to a high school where no one from his middle school could be, letting him start over.

This is all thrown off the rails when Rikka Takanashi moves into the apartment above him. You see, Rikka is still in full on Chunibyo and claims to have the "Eye of the Wicked Lord", which is her right eye with a yellow contact in it. We find out that this is partially a defense mechanism due to some tragedy in her recent past (which I'm not going to spoil for you as it's a great reveal). Yūta comes to accept Rikka for who she is, even as he tries to curb her more outrageous behavior.

The reason that we thought this should be family viewing that that Kira does role-plays with her friends at school. Nothing as serious as having the lines of reality and fantasy blur, but it is still pretty involved. We thought that she would enjoy seeing this and, while she got some ideas from it for her own stuff, she was able to understand why going too far can be an issue. There's also the lesson of accepting people for who they are rather than trying to force them into what society has decreed they should be.

Now on to Season 2, where a whole new set of complications show up.

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Thursday, November 29, 2018

A Tale of Two Sourcebooks

As someone who loves superhero comic books and role-playing games, it's inevitable that I would get into superhero role-playing games. I've played a lot, but the main one I have focused on is the Marvel game put out by TSR. Among the many supplementary materials that TSR made was the "Gamer's Handbook of the Marvel Universe", which contained many of the comic characters that you could use in your games. Here's the entry on Captain America:

This gives you game stats for Cap and his equipment as well as a set of role-playing notes for either the GM or someone who wants to play him and a history for the character. Much of the non-gaming information was taken from the "Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe" entry, seen here (taken from this entry on the "oHOTmu or Not" page from the Fire & Water Network):

Now let's compare this to the Distinguished Competition, the DC role-playing game from Mayfair, which was produced around the same time. Here's the entry for Firestorm (as seen in this post from the "Firestorm Fan" blog):

One thing that I notice right off is the lack of a character picture, so a GM can't hold the entry up and say, "You see this guy coming towards you." There's also no history written down here, but there are role-playing notes and stats. This is by design, as this entry was meant to accompany the Who's Who entry that DC proper put out. Here's what that looks like, from the same blog post:

You can see how the layout matches up great with the Mayfair supplement and is very easy to go from one to the other. The Mayfair way also allows for more information to be put in that relates strictly to the game while letting the Who's Who entry cover everything else.

All that being said, I prefer the TSR/Marvel way of doing things, and that's for one reason. I don't want to have to buy two products. I didn't buy the OHOTMU issues because 1) I had a bunch of comics to refer to, and 2) I had everything I needed in the GHOTMU entries. I also didn't have any issues of Who's Who, also because I had the comics. When I later got some of the Mayfair supplements, I was severely disappointed. Some of these characters I didn't know, so I didn't know their histories or even what some of them looked like. Even some of the ones that I knew had updated looks, such as Firestorm, so I was picturing the wrong thing when reading.

The bottom line here, I think, is simplicity. It's much easier for the user to get one thing, even at the sacrifice of some details, than to have to buy two items and hope you get everything you need.

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Like what I'm doing here on the blog and podcast? Why not check out my Patreon Page to see how you can help me do more? http://www.patreon.com/TheHammerStrikes