Tuesday, November 16, 2010

An Open Letter to DC Comics

To Whom It May Concern;

I have been a comic book reader for a very good portion of my 35 years and, since some bad editorial decisions at your Marvelous Competition, I have purchased DC comics nearly exclusively.  Now, however, I am finding myself in much the same position regarding your company's products.  I stopped reading my favorite character's books (Superman) when you decided that the Krypton of John Byrne wasn't really the Krypton of the comics.  I have since learned that Lex Luthor grew up in Smalleville, changing the continuity to match the TV Show (which I have nicknamed "Justice League Babies" due to the propensity of heroes that Superman inspired showing up before he did).  Now you have brought back Barry Allen from the dead, which does make some sense given the Blackest Night storyline, which basically said that "the nature of death is back to normal, no more coming back from the dead."

Of course, that was before you decided that Bruce Wayne had to come back from the dead.  You know, one of my favorite things to tell people about why I read DC Comics was that you weren't shy about taking your universe and doing a complete reboot when the whole things didn't work.  (That would be Crisis on Infinite Earths for the uninitiated.)  Now, we we had the bold step of the second side kick taking over for the dead hero, with Dick Grayson becoming Batman, you chose to bring back Bruce Wayne and pull a Tony Stark.
I do appreciate the fact that you will be dropping pricing of your books by 25%, as it will help the struggling comic reader in these economic times, but you have to be willing to maintain some kind of story integrity.  Now I'm willing to overlook some things, but I do have some things that I think you should adopt to help you with readers such as myself.

1. Death is Death.  No coming back from the great beyond, no dreamed it happened, no cop-outs.  If you're going to kill a character, make it so that those around them have to deal with it in a realistic way.  This means filling the hero's role, grieving over their death and <gasp> moving on.  While we're on the subject, the same goes for maiming.  One of the greatest characters you have, Oracle, came about because Batgirl was paralyzed and overcame that.  Hel, she was recently voted the 2010 Most Kick Ass DC Woman.  Let's not be too hasty in giving characters a miraculous recovery, OK?

2. History should be adhered to.  The above mentioned Man Of Steel miniseries comes to mind.  There are some of us that can remember these stories, you know.

3. Character should age, especially to the point where they have to retire.  Obviously, this isn't going to keep up with the real world, but one year every three would work out.  That means 10 years every 30, so Dick Grayson would be in his 50's around 2070.  Still plenty of time to get some adventures in.

4. Children of Heroes.  Along with number 3 above, the heroes should get married, have children, pass the torch, etc.  This has been started, with Damien Wayne, but these kids need to grow up.  Dick Grayson (yes, I'm using him as an example a lot) was allowed to grow up, become Nightwing and then take over as Batman.  The. Friggin'. Batman.  Now, would that be possible if he was never allowed to grow up and Bruce Wayne were not allowed to die?

5. Let's treat the women a bit better.  Don't get me wrong, I love me some superheronies in skimpy outfits, but come on.  The new costume for Star Sapphire?  Seriously? When's the last time you put a male hero in something even remotely like this?

Now, obviously I'm writing on a blog with 6 followers, but I'd still love to see even one of these ideas taken into consideration.  Thank you for your time.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Convention RPG Experiences

Since I'll be running a couple of session of Pendragon at Ubercon next weekend (my first time running RPG's at a Con), I was wondering what people's experiences might have been like, on either side of the screen. I've been to several conventions, some of the gaming, but I've only ever played in one RPG during those visits. I had a wonderful time, getting a preview of the "Castle of the Mad Archmage", and having my gaming passion stoked enough to join a regular AD&D game hosted by the same DM. (Yes, Joe, this is all your fault. ;) ) That session also included one of the best uses of Ventriloquism that I've seen in a game, done by the Illusionist to mess with the minds of the party other members by making a giant statue of a head speak to them.

Now, obviously, my plan for the Ubercon sessions will be a little different than Pendragon is typically run. Normally the game includes mechanics for improving skills after each adventure (1 year of game time = 1 adventure, for most cases), but as a one-shot, that won't work. I'm also reasonable sure that most players won't be familiar with the game system, so we'll be doing a little learning as we go. I have created cheat-sheets for the general mechanics, though, to make it as smooth as possible. In order to get the best possible variety out of the game, though, I think I'll artificially force in a variety of cultures & religions into the party, definitely making the characters all Religious (qualifying for different bonuses based on the Religion of the character, see below). That should help to drive home the point that, while all the characters are Knights, the variety of knights that are available to play are wide enough, and customizable enough, to provide to balanced game play. You would not believe the reactions I get when I tell people that they can only play Knights in this game. "That's got to be boring" being the chief one.

So, since I'm still pretty much a N00B at all this, what have your experiences been? Good, bad, weird? I'd love to hear them, even the horror stories.

Oh, and about the religious bonuses in Pendragon, I like how they actually make a difference in the game, just like in the literature. Depending on your religion, you will have different Personality Traits that are promoted, so as to act in the manner of the religion's ideals. If all of these are 16 or over (out of 20), you gain a special bonus from your god(s) for being the epitome of those ideals. For example, if you have a 16+ in all of the Wotanic (aka Norse/Germanic Religion) traits, you gain +1d6 damage. Other religions allow for increased healing rate, of additional Hit Points, etc. It adds flavor to the game, especially if you have a Religious Saxon using an ax. :D

Friday, October 22, 2010

Lethality of Campaigns

Something that I've been thinking about since our last session of Pendragon (I run a monthly campaign for my wife and two of our friends) is just how deadly do most GM's make their campaigns? I basically gutted the County of Salisbury this last session (Year 508 for those of you keeping score), but the player characters all made it through. It actually worked out pretty well, since it raised them all to the level of Banneret. One session where the PC's didn't survive, though, was after the Battle of St. Alban's in Year 495. Of course, knowing that this event would be coming, at the start of the campaign, each player rolled up 3 brothers to play. The eldest of these earned a place in the Hall, where the majority of the Logres (King Uther's Kingdom) were killed by poison, including Uther himself. What I found out later was that Greg Stafford himself, creator of the system, never killed a PC at that event. In any case, Pendragon is meant to be deadly. Damage builds up quick and healing is painfully slow.
Other systems, on the other hand, tend to be more forgiving in their healing, even at low levels, but those can be deadly as well. We recently had a session in our AD&D (1st Edition) campaign where the cleric failed on a "Save or Die" roll. Not fun, but it was right there in the rules. Now, I have been known to fudge a roll or two to make sure the PC's don't completely bite it. I even saved one of the aforementioned Pendragon characters, who got nailed with a massive critical, by having Merlin show up and heal him. I don't make a habit of it, but I'll do it now and then.
So, my massive readership, I want to hear your thoughts. How deadly do you make your campaigns and/or how much fudging do you do to keep the PC's alive?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pendragon at Ubercon

Pendragon meets Gaming Dragon

I’ve just confirmed that I will be running two sessions of King Arthur Pendragon (Pendragon 5th Edition) at this year’s Ubercon in Edison, NJ.  I’ve got a morning session on Saturday (9 AM to 1 PM) and another on Sunday (10 AM to 2 PM).  As this is probably my all-time favorite game system, and I have played a whole lot of game systems, this should be a fun day.  If anyone has not played in Pendragon and would like to learn, the two adventures I’m running should prove to be a good introduction to you.  If you’re interested, please head on over to http://www.ubercon.com/ and sign up.  My two sessions are the following:

Even if you don’t sign up for my games, I encourage everyone in the area to attend.  Ubercon is a great gaming experience and I’ve had a blast every time I’ve been there.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Comic Geeking Out

I'm a comic book geek. Specifically, since the One Million Spider Clones fiasco over at Marvel, I'm a DC Comics geek. Obviously an oblivious one, since I just recent found out about DC Universe Online. Now I have played WoW and tried out City of Heroes, so I know something about MMORPG's and how they operate, so my initial thought was "That's great!, But I'll never be able to play it." You see, I've had the same computer for the past 7 years and the only upgrade to the hardware I've done is adding some RAM. What this means is that it is woefully underpowered for playing DCUO, or Star Trek Online, or the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic. But then I saw another option which gave my wife shivers. DCUO will be available on the PS3! I've got one of those! Woohoo!

Yes, it will still be a monthly subscription to play, even on the PS3. Yes, I won't be able to type easily (I'm hoping to get one of those snap on keyboards for my controller, though). Yes, I will be much more limited in what I can do, due to the controller not having as many buttons as a keyboard. But I'll be able to play the game, dammit! Yeah, that's probably the reaction that Sony was counting on, but I still think it's a great idea. Many people, like me, can't afford to keep up with the computer tech curve to play these games. The consoles could be a great way to bring more players into the games, especially the casual ones, again like me.

So, is anyone else looking forward to this game? What do you think about the console being involved as well as the PC?


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Jumping into the Deep End

OK, while this is not my first attempt at having a blog, it is my first attempt in doing so that is not connected to some other endeavor (the last time was on MySpace and that was abandoned in pretty short order).  So, why am I starting this blog up, you might ask.  Well, it’s probably quite a lot of vanity and ego, to be honest.  I mean, I have to be vain and egotistical to think that people on the web will want to read my opinions about topics that, most likely, only really matter to me. 

In any case, I’m doing it and I will, hopefully, be doing it on a fairly regular schedule.  I’d like to start out by posting every other week, to see if I can hack it.  You never know, this might just be one of my passing obsessions that will die a slow death in a few months.  So let’s just take it one step at a time.

Now, while I am aware that many of the more successful blogs have a single overarching them, many of my favorites among them, I don’t think I can really do that.  My mind just doesn’t work that way and, since this is my first blog of this type, having multiple pages for multiple ideas is a little beyond my scope right now.  I will promise one thing, however.  I will endeavor to make sure that the posts here are relevant to those geeks who, like me, grew up in the 1980’s.  Obviously, I’ll veer off of the pure nostalgia from time to time, but I’m sure you can understand that, dear reader.

Some of the topics you can expect to see here will include Comic Books (new and old), Movie Reviews or Remembrances, TV Show discussions, Role-Playing Games, Video Games and geekdom in general.  What I will not post about, and what will not be tolerated in the comments section, is any posting about Religion or Politics.  Any such comments will be removed without warning.
So, here we are.  I hope that the rest of you enjoy these items as much as I do.

(As a side note, I’d like to apologize to Marvel Comics for stealing the Thor Letter Page title for this blog.  But, when you go by the screen name of Mjolnir, there are only so many titles that will work.)