Saturday, July 31, 2010

Tommy's Take on The Pine Ridge Horror (Savage Worlds)

The Pine Ridge Horror is a new PDF adventure for Savage Worlds that was just released by Silver Gryphon Games, maker of such goodness as Wellstone City.  Written by David Baymiller and featuring the art of Storn Cook, The Pine Ridge Horror is a one shot action/horror adventure that can be dropped into an existing game, or used to launch a game if so desired.  One of the cool things about Savage Worlds is that the number of players don't matter, as the game runs so smoothly with the PCs handling multiple NPCs, that you can run a game with one player and still have a whole party.

I should note now that I absolutely love Savage Worlds.  It is, without a doubt, my favorite in-print game system, and my second favorite system of all time.  While I have never reviewed a Savage Worlds product before, I can say without hesitation that it is my first impulse for running anything shy of a supers game (Marvel SAGA is still the king in my book).

Weighing in at 18 pages and running $2.25 at RPGnow, the only other product that you will need for this is the Savage Worlds Explorer's Edition.  The adventure is set in the 70s, right after the end of the Vietnam war, in the Pine Ridge Forest near South Dakota.  Two boys have found a camp utterly slaughtered and alerted the Rangers, and that's where the adventure begins.

The adventure is written under the assumption that the PCs are either Park Rangers or volunteers along for the hunt for the bears that CLEARLY tore apart the camp.  However, there is another, more “horror movie” option provided in a sidebar, where the PCs are just playing campers who stumble upon the mess themselves.  You can even mix and match the options, if you like.  It wouldn't be a big stretch to have someone as part of a group of horny teens out camping and others as volunteers on the hunt.  That gives you a large potential bodycount to play around with, if you like.  The only downside to the “campers” option, is that I could see the adventure being REALLY tough to survive for “normal” teens...whereas you have some room for “badass” with the Ranger volunteer option.

The adventure is laid out timeline style over the course of two days.  The first day is all about building the tension, with false alarms and red herrings.  The hunting party consists of six NPCs to go along with any PCs, with personalities specifically designed to add a little extra tension to the mix, of course.  This can all help with the tension building, and allows more room for fun when, say, an NPC fails a Fear check and starts firing at random.

I will be playing light with spoilers here, but I will say that by nightfall, the PCs will have a very clear idea that it's Not Bears they are dealing with, and by dawn on the second day, the body count will begin.

In true horror movie fashion, the second day will bring a Mysterious Stranger From The Woods Who Knows Far More Than He's Willing To Talk About, and probably just in time, too.  The whole thing builds to a bloody siege in the Stranger's Cabin, and it is very much an over the top, Savage Worlds version of a horror movie climax.

The Pine Ridge Horror should be a great way to spend an evening of gaming and, as mentioned, you can use it completely stand alone, launch into a new campaign, or even drop it into an existing campaign.  You can change the era with little problems...just if you modernize it, make the woods a cellphone deadzone.  Just trust me.

Also, my advice: Play it straight, with the PCs as hunters and not as teen revelers in the woods.  I could EASILY see teens, especially with, say, a single gun between them, getting themselves killed – possibly by the end of the first night.  I could be wrong, but the real threat of the Pine Ridge Horror should be PLENTY dangerous enough to give you all the tension you need.

Very strong recommendation.  Silver Gryphon Games have added a wonderful addition to the Savage Worlds line-up.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Tommy's Take on Fortune's Fool

“Fortune's Fool” is a Shakespearean turn of phrase that says that men are just puppets under Fate's control.  It's also a new role-playing game by Pantheon Press that places the heroes of the game largely at the mercy of a Tarot deck, known in the game as a Fate Deck.

Fortune's Fool is set in an alternate history Earth filled with the usual fantasy races such as elves, dwarves, halflings, orcs and goblins.  So, if you don't like orcs, dwarves and elves?  Nothing to see here.  Move along.  Come back in a few days and I'll review something else.

Set in Renaissance Europe, the book attempts to disperse the fantasy races around logical areas, such as concentrating dwarves to the north, placing the elves in France, and so on.  Though orcs and goblins are frowned upon by society at large, they are not inherently evil, being a PC option.

The book itself is a softcover, digest sized black and white product retailing for $20 (with a limited, full color version for $35 and a PDF for $10), though it does require a Tarot Deck in order to play.  Other than a crazy girlfriend who had a tarot deck, I didn't know much about them and so I thought I could substitute my Ravenloft Tarokka deck...I was wrong.

The system, as mentioned, relies on a tarot deck.  Generally, you just draw a card and if it's equal to or lower than the relevant stat or skill, you succeed.  If not, you fail.  In addition, the different suits of the Minor Arcana are designated as Fortune Smiles or Fortune Frowns, and most of the Major Arcana will be noted as Fortune Shines or Fortune Weeps.  These help determine the level of success or failure.  If you have an extra chance of success, that's a Double Draw, meaning you draw two cards and take the best one.  If you have an extra chance of failure, that's a Double Black Draw, and you have to draw twice and take the worst.

Character creation is somewhat reminiscent of a lifepath system, in which you make a number of decisions that decide your character's stats, which are Agility, Body, Heart, Perception, Status and Martial Training.  The first five are ranked from 0 to 12, while Martial Training can go below 0 and up to 7.  Your race grants your starting stats, based off of a racial template, as well as indicates which suits are Fortune Smiles and which are Fortune Frowns.  In addition, race gives you skill options and your choices of Religion.  The elves are a touch different from normal in that they are immortal, and no new elves have been born in 15 centuries...they also do not sleep, and cannot be harmed by disease or poison.

Next, you select your gender.  This one will be a little controversial, as gender does alter your statistics, even if it's a minor change.  It also provides another skill from a gender specific life: So for those of you sensitive about such things, women are both less hardy and are better cooks.  Being a woman also grants you the first two possible Fortune Shines cards, Empress and Lovers.

Then you move to size, ranging from Tiny to Huge, with three steps in between.  This is all relative, however, so a Huge dwarf is still very likely shorter than small orc.  Size category alters your stats further, as well adding Fortune Shines and, if you're Tiny, another skill.

Age is ranked from Kid to Elderly, with appropriate modifiers along the way...the most noticeable being that your skills grow as your age grows.

Then we move to Birthright, which includes Eldest Child, Middle Child, Youngest Child, Seventh Child, Only Child, Orphan and Bastard.  The Middle Child, for instance, gains no modifiers or skills, but does get four Fortune Shines cards.  The Seventh Child is physically weaker, but has access to arcane powers.

Then you select your native environment, from City to Country to Nautical to Wilderness.

After that is Social Class, including Peasantry, Bourgeoise and Nobility.

The next big controversial point is going to be Religion...complete with a real world list from Catholicism to Judiasm to Moslem and Paganism.  Elves have heavily converted to Catholicism, just so you know.  Religion grants you Fate Twists, which are metagame abilities that allow you to screw with the Fate Deck.

All the MAJOR choices are finished.  Now you can increase one primary statistic that isn't Martial Training, follow the simple formulas to derive your secondary stats, determine your Skill Draws based off of the formula listed for each skill, then do a Fate Test and add the result to your Status to determine Wealth level.  Pick a number of Martial Skills equal to your Martial Training (these resemble Feats from D&D 3rd Edition), and then draw your Fate Twists as listed under Religion.  Every card you draw has some kind of special ability, such as Ill Omen which forces the Death card into the top 3 spots on top of the Fate Deck, Hunch allowing you to peek at the top card or Fat Chance, which takes any Minor Arcana cards of your choosing out of the boneyard (discard pile) and puts them back into the Fate deck.

Once this is done, use your Wealth level to pick your gear...if you try to use an item “above your class”, Fate will screw with you until you stop.

Your Fortune Smiles/Shines/Frowns/Weeps card are not set in can change them by diminishing your Fate Pool, as well as changing Fate Twists, etc.

Character creation seems pretty cool.  I like Lifepath systems.  In fact, I found a random Tarot Card generator, so I'm going to go through character generation now:

Tanjlock Sarlon is an elf, living outside of Rome.  He starts with Agility 7, Body 4, Heart 7, Perception 6, Status 7 and Martial Training 2.

His Fortune Smiles is Swords, his Fortune Frowns are Cups, Pentacles and Wands.

We are gonna give him Literacy and Arcane Sense, I think.

He's a male, so that boosts his Status up to 8.  I think he'll take Swimming as his skill.

Going dead Joe Average on size, but he does gain Temperance, Judgement and World as Fortune Shines cards.

We skip Age and Birthright, but Tanjlock is a Wilderness sort.  This raises is Heart to 8, Perception to 7 and lowers his Status back to 7.  He gains High Priestess as a Fortune Shines, and the skills Survival, Fletching and Tracking.

Social Class?  We're going Peasantry.  This boosts his Body to 5, but lowers his Status to 5.  He gains Strength, Hanged Man and Sun as Fortune Shines, plus Running, Construction, Climbing and Vocal Control to skills.

Tanjlock never converted to Catholicism, keeping to the Pagan ways.  This gives him 1 Fate Twist, and he adds Culinary, Sixth Sense, Fey Magic and Wiccan Craft to his skills.  I think I have inadvertantly made him a spellcaster.

We're going to boost his Body up to 6.

His secondary attributes are Dodge: 7, Hand Attack 4, Ranged Attack 4, Movement 6, Initiative 7, Stealth 7, Hit Points 26.

For wealth, I get two draws (for being an elf).  I have Ace of Wands and Knight of Swords.  Since Swords is a Fortune Shines, I go with that and add +1 to my Status of 5, getting a 6.  Double checking the chart, I find I'm Middle Class.  Not bad.

For my Martial Skill, I'm taking Toughness, which lets me ignore Stun and Incapacitation on successful Heart checks...and since I have a Heart of 8, that's not shabby at all.

My one Fate Twist is Magician, which gives me Premonition.  This lets me look at the top 3 cards and discard 1, forcing the GM to shuffle those two and one other back on top of the deck.  I can pick my Middle Class gear and I'm off.

Yeah, that's kinda cool.

Chapter two lays out all the skills, Martial and otherwise, in detail...while three goes into the Fate Twists.  It's worth noting that while the game has a much larger skill list than I tend to like, I don't mind it here since your actual skill choices will be dictated by your character creation do always have a choice, it's just a limited one based off of your selections.  I think it works very well.

Chapter four is gear, listing everything with a fairly basic block, including minimum Martial Skill, number of hands required, minimum Wealth level and damage.  Also included in this chapter are armor, shields and animals, for those that like their wardogs and such.

Chapter five is spells, and breaks magic down in types: Fey, Gypsy, Kabbalah, Wiccan and Witchcraft.  Each type of magic has Basic, Advanced and Mastery spells, getting more and more powerful as you go.  As noted above, Tanjlock has access to both Fey and Wiccan magic.  This gives him some nice effects, such as Ancient Law which eliminates the damage dealing potential of metal weapons and the ability to control animals.  Some spells require incantations, some just a word, some require an additional sacrifice.  The draw required for each spell is clearly listed in it's description as well.  Resurrection Magic is possible at a cost to both caster and subject, in the Master Wiccan list, though Witchcraft has a darkly perverted version that raises undead minions.

Chapter six details four important cards that have additional effects on gameplay: Wheel of Fortune, Death, The Tower and The Fool.  Death, for instance, when played to the table makes all attacks more lethal, until it has claimed a victim.  Very nice touch.

Chapter seven is Combat, which details the intricacies of using the Tarot cards for the combat system.  NPCs always react in the middle of the PCs who had successes on initiative and those who failed on initiative.  Fortune's Fool is a “player's perspective” game, which means that everything is done through them.  NPC's don't attack, PC's dodge, for instance.  The chapter (in fact, the whole book) is written very clearly, with several clearly laid out tables to aid you.

Chapter eight talks about the world, breaking down the alternate history...such as the Persian orc Emperor Xerxes, who battled the Spartan dwarves.  The Roman Empire was an elven empire, and shortly after the Crucifixion, they were struck childless.  From there it moves to the setting's present, detailing the regions and countries and their ethnic make-ups, such as Bavaria being primarily dwarven versus Prussia's heavy orc population.

Chapter nine is advice on running the game, such as what to put into the time period and what not to, noting that orcs and goblins should be treated like foreigners and not monsters, and stressing that the game is meant to be at least somewhat lethal.  It also devotes a few paragraphs to player versus player conflict, since the game is written to assume that players will be acting in every action against an NPC, so player versus player will change the dynamic.  The bestiary covers the basics of animals and monsters, namely description, Hit Points, Movement, Attack information, Defense and any Special Abilities.  There isn't a ton of information in a monster's stat block, so it's incredibly easy to add a monster if you like.

A two page character sheet, followed by a relisting of every table in the book wrap it up, with a cheeky goblin-as-Mona Lisa picture.

 If you don't like orcs, dwarves and elves?  Stay away.  If you don't like gimmicks and fiddly bits?  Stay away.  That said, Fortune's Fool is a very clearly written, very affordable (especially if you already own a Tarot deck) fantasy RPG that does hit on a setting that you don't see overused in RPGs: Renaissance Europe.  Probably the biggest flaw I see with the game is “What do you do with it?”  I mean, there are some monsters roaming the lands, but it doesn't assume the same dungeon crawl mentality you find in most fantasy games, and there's not a lot of actual campaign advice in the rulebook, which is otherwise very excellent.  The art in the game is very cute, with some classic, renaissance era paintings rejiggered to show fantasy races in their place (such as the aforementioned Goblin-as-Mona Lisa).  If you're looking for something just a little bit different to play with, head over to and order it...if the previous disclaimers didn't run you off, then it's at least worth the $20 for the black and white version or the $10 for the PDF.  For me, I don't particularly care about the Renaissance period, but if I had a deck of Tarot cards in hand, I might be inclined to divorce the system from the setting and go for something a bit more traditional in my fantasy. In fact, these guys may have just convinced me to buy one.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

TMNT Thursdays: Shredder and his Henchmen!

Alright! The Ninja Turtles last week were a big hit, so this week, I'm providing four foes for them to face: Bebop, Rocksteady, Hun and The Shredder.  Aside from Turtles Forever, Hun has never appeared in the same continuity as Bebop and Rocksteady, but again, I'm mashing it all together to make the ICONS Turtleverse.

The Shredder (Oroku Saki)

Origin: Trained

Prowess: 6
Coordination: 6
Strength: 4
Intellect: 5
Awareness: 4
Willpower: 6

Armor: Invulnerability 3
Armor Blades: Strike (Slashing) 4

Acrobatics Expert
Electronics Expert
Mechanics Expert
Martial Arts Master
Stealth Master
Weapons (Blades) Master

"When The Evil Shredder Attacks..."
Leader of the Foot Clan
Access To Alien Technology
Connections: Hun, Krang, Bebop, Rocksteady

Bumbling Henchmen
Enemies: Splinter and the Ninja Turtles
Blinded by Vengeance

Stamina: 10

The Shredder is an omnipresent shadow looming over The Ninja Turtles.  He's a nefarious criminal mastermind, a ruthless assassin and a gifted martial artist.  He has no honor.  He has no morals.  He will sacrifice people, use machines when people fail, or mutate new henchmen with no regard for what he's doing to them.  On his right hand is the vicious Hun and on his left is the bizarre renegade Utrom known as Krang.  Shredder will make any alliance that will further his goals and cut loose his alliances of convenience at a moment's notice.

Between The Foot Clan, Hun's Purple Dragons and Krang's twisted genius, Shredder is capable of fielding waves of cannon fodder at once if properly mobilized.  Splinter and the Turtles are always there to stop him, and Shredder has let his hatred of Splinter and The Turtles blind him more than once.  His biggest problem, however, isn't even his...but his reliance on henchmen, especially Bebop and Rocksteady.  It is not uncommon at all for a flawless master plan to fall apart because Bebop hits the wrong switch or Rocksteady accidentally destroys Shredder's new Super Device.

Note: Use Ninja and Robot stats found in the corebook for the various types of Foot Soldiers. 

Hun (Hunter Mason)
Origin: Trained

Prowess: 4
Coordination: 3
Strength: 6
Intellect: 3
Awareness: 4
Willpower: 5

Criminology Expert
Martial Arts Expert
Stealth Expert
Weapons (Bludgeons)
Weapons (Blades)
Wrestling Expert

Leader of the Purple Dragons
Shredder's Right Hand
Hardcore Gamer

Always Taking A Fall
Closet Gamer
Enemy: Raphael
Online Rival: Michelangelo

Stamina: 11

Shredder's right hand man is Hun, a powerful, skilled martial artist and leader of The Purple Dragons.  He absolutely hates working with Bebop, Rocksteady, Krang, Baxter Stockman or any of Shredder's other freaks, but he respects the man himself, so he goes along with it...most of the time.  The Purple Dragons get used for Shredder's menial jobs, and the ones with the most promise enter training for the Foot Clan.  Despite not being uncoordinated, Hun does have a tendency to fall flat on his face at the worst time: If he's fighting on a roof top, it is very likely that he will take a spill off of it and to the dumpster below, for example.  Raphael and Hun have a very severe dislike for one another that flares up whenever they are near each other.  Hun is also a (closeted) gamer, loving MMORPGs.  Fate has a way of making him cross paths with Michelangelo in MMORPGs, and even though they don't realize who the other one is, they tend to rub each other the wrong way.

Note: Use Thug stats found in the corebook for the Purple Dragons.

Origin: Transformed

Prowess: 4
Coordination: 3
Strength: 6
Intellect: 2
Awareness: 2
Willpower: 4

Invulnerability 1

Wrestling Expert

Mutated Warthog
Best Friend: Rocksteady

Too Stupid To Know Better
Not Really Evil
One Friend In The World
Pretty Much Incompetent

Stamina: 10

Bebop is a street thug who was mutated into a warthog and now serves Shredder, not out of any real sense of evil, but because he's just a follower at heart.  His one friend in the world is Rocksteady, the only person that really cares if anything happens to Bebop and vice versa.  If pushed to do anything too extreme, Bebop can be appealed to, he's easily tricked and, even if left to his own devices, is bound to screw up anyway.  Often armed with advanced technology by Shredder and Krang, Bebop usually has no skill with the weapons and devices.

Origin: Transformed

Prowess: 3
Coordination: 3
Strength: 7
Intellect: 2
Awareness: 2
Willpower: 3

Horn: Strike (Slashing) 3
Tough Hide: Invulnerability 3

Best Friend: Bebop
Rampaging Rhino

Clumsy Oaf
One Friend In The World

: 10

Like Bebop, Rocksteady is a mutated thug who follows Shredder's orders because he doesn't have enough initiative to do anything else.  Rocksteady is a little more cold hearted than Bebop, but if you get through to Bebop, you'll get through to Rocksteady by proxy.  Rocksteady has a tendency to rush headlong into combat which helps him out sometimes, but fails him more often than not.  If Rocksteady and Bebop were ever given something more constructive to do with their time and energy, they probably wouldn't be criminals anymore.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tommy's Take on Smallville RPG

Apparently I review a lot of supers games these days, and the latest in that field is the Smallville RPG, newly released in PDF for $20 at RPGNow, and available in hardcopy at GenCon for $40.

I'll be honest...I'm not a big fan of the show.  I tried watching it in the early seasons, but got turned off by a mix of “Freak of the Week”, Tom Welling's one facial expression and how seemingly every episode ended with the same overwrought scene between Clark and Lana where she went on at length about how people can't keep secrets from one another and Clark, well, had his one facial expression.  I sure did enjoy Lex and Lionel Luthor, though.

That being said, it's not the license that brings me to the game, it's the system.  Smallville was released by Margaret Weis Productions, who are handily taking over the slow once occupied by Eden Studios as the cult license company, previously releasing Serenity, Battlestar Galactica and Supernatural.  All of their games use their own in-house system known as Cortex, which ranks any abilities, perks and what have you in die types, and you roll the relevant dice together.  In Smallville, you virtually always roll three dice (unless you spend Plot Points to roll more), taking the highest two results and adding them together.

One of the major areas where Smallville departs from the other Cortex games is that your characters don't have ability scores in the classic sense.  Instead, they have Values: Duty, Glory, Justice, Love, Power and Truth.  What's more, each Drive is further defined with a sentence.  Clark Kent, for example, believes that Power Corrupts, and ranks that Drive with d4.  Zod, on the other hand, ranks it at a d10 with the tag on sentence “Kneel before Zod!”  Again, every character has the six Values, ranked from d4 to d12, and every character has a sentence describing their connection to the Values.

The next thing they are ranked on are Relationships...which includes relationships with the other PCs (PCs are called “Leads”), as well as major NPCs (Features) and minor NPCs (Extras).  Relationships can grow and change over the course of the game, getting stronger, weaker or even changing dramatically (rivals slowly becoming friends, or lovers drifting apart).  Just as with Values, every Relationship is ranked with a die type and a descriptive sentence.

Distinctions are descriptive qualities, often positive and negative, that are triggered with Plot Points, or grant Plot Points.  The negatives are often choosing to do something in character, but detrimental, in exchange for a Plot Point.  Lionel Luthor's Family Reputation allows him to gain a Plot Point and give his opposition a d6 whenever his reputation precedes him, or he can add a d6 to the GM's (Watchtower's) “Trouble Pool” (dice the Watchtower uses to add opposition to a situation, beginning with 2d6 and changing over time) in exchange for a “get out of jail free card”, that is, buying his way out of a sticky situation.

Abilities are things like superpowers, and Smallville provides a good number of them, plenty enough to add in your own.  As it's not a heavily “balanced” system, there's not nearly as much tinkering involved in inserting new Abilities (or Distinctions, for that matter).  You can use the die type of Abilities for relevant rolls, or spend Plot Points to do amazing stunts.

Gear is a lot like Abilities, just mainly for the non-powered types.

Lastly are Resources, such as Extras and Locations, which can be tapped up to twice in an Episode for aid.  You can even tap someone else's just have to pay them a Plot Point for taking away their Resource.

Also, as mentioned, Leads have Plot Points which are used to trigger Abilities, call in Resources, roll extra dice, include extra dice in your final result (instead of just the two highest), tag a Useful Aspect in a scene that gives you an extra d6 to call on in the scene, or add a Relationship on the spot.

For someone who is generally a pretty traditional gamer, like me, there are a lot of concepts and philosophies in Smallville that confound me a bit, such as Relationship Maps, Stress Pools, and so forth.  Character generation, in fact, is a group session that also entails basically creating the world, because each player adds important NPCs and Locations to the game as they build up their characters.  Luckily, the book is filled with examples, including a step by step walkthrough of character generation, complete with diagrams of the Relationship Map. 

Smallville  uses a Lifepath system called Pathways, and you build your characters in steps, starting with Origin (Rich, Ordinary, Gifted, Strange and Alien/Metahuman) which guides you on the initial adjustments to your characters.  From there, each Origin has an “exit” to three of five Youth options: Jock, Average, Geek, Outsider and Paragon.  From Youth you get your Focus options: Money, Life, Status, Technology and Paranormal, which in turn opens your Road: Risky, Straight and Narrow, Lofty,  Underground and Ethical.  This all sets up your Life-Changing Event, be it Advancement, Tragedy, Power Manifestation, First Contact and Destiny.  These are the minimum steps to create “rookie” characters.  Throughout this, the Pathways system is also giving you instructions on modifying the Relationship Map, so it is growing and changing as the character generation progresses and the game world is taking shape.

If you choose to continue After The Event, you get to move through the steps of Priority, Modus Operandi, Motivation and Identity...and then, if everyone really wants to keep on moving, the book provides handy guidelines on advancing even further, to have some truly seasoned characters.

This would all really throw me except, as mentioned, they use excellent examples in the book.  Though the Pathways system encourages you to follow certain Paths, the book does mention that it is perfectly viable to skip around a bit, if it's really suitable for your character concept.

Once this is all finished (using the Season 9 Leads of Clark, Chloe, Oliver, Lois, Tess and Zod), handy character sheets are provided for each Lead, matching the example just used.

Lots of advice is provided for scene framing, as well as Contests (complete with examples).  If you're losing a Contest, you can Give In and let the winning side get what they wanted from the Contest or you can run the risk of taking Stress (and possibly becoming Stressed Out).  There are five types of Stress (Afraid, Angry, Exhausted, Injured and Insecure), and the types of Stress can be influenced by certain Distinctions and Abilities.  If a Lead becomes Stressed Out, they gain a Plot Point, are basically removed from a Scene, and step all their Stress back one step.  Giving In is not without risks, though.  If you've rolled any dice, then Giving In costs you a Plot Point, either straight up, or gained by lowering one of your Values or Relationships.

One area I would have appreciated an example for is Advancement, as you use your Growth Pool (which includes healed Stress, or dice from Values that you have challenged through the course of the episode) to roll against the Watchtower to try to boost Relationships, Resources, Abilities, Gear and Distinctions.  I think I've got it now, but it took a few re-readings.  This makes for an interesting game, too, as it basically forces you to fail in order to improve your character.

Some good guidelines are given for making Episodes, starting by making an Episode Map with your leads, pinpointing Relationships to highlight and then finding Wedges (adversaries, generally) to provide conflict for them.

A whole chapter is also devoted to online play, although that one veers a bit into pretentiousness, in my opinion, and that's not a good thing.  (Asking for writing samples?  Really?)
The remainder of the book is just an in-depth dissection of everything that makes up your characters and how they are used in play,

A massive list of Distinctions are present, as well as useful guidelines on making your own Distinctions to fill in any blanks you might have.  The same is done with both Abilities and Gear.

Resources are the big exception to the rules, as they are rated as 2dWhatever, and each have a couple of tags, which basically indicate how they are used by the Leads.  For instance, Lex Luther has LuthorCorp Security with (Security, Retrievals) at 2d6...he can call them in and add their D6 to a die roll when trying to locate Lana, who has gone missing.

Every major (and a lot of minor) characters are included, with the notable exception of Pete Ross (who will surely show up in the High School Yearbook), full statted out for use as you see fit.  This section is one of the few parts that doesn't use screencaps, instead using art pieces that I wasn't a big fan of.  Among the heroes and villains present include Doomsday, John Jones (Martian Manhunter), Amanda Waller, Doctor Fate and Lex Luthor himself. 

The game material concludes with an extensive listing of locations from the TV show, but the book isn't done yet as it provides extensive overviews of the first seven seasons, followed by episode breakdowns of seasons eight and nine.

The book is gorgeous, laid out in red and blue, with tons of screencaps from the show and it is just filled full of Smallville Stuff.  I mean, I quit even trying to follow the show a couple of seasons in and I feel comfortable about running something in canon based off of the book.  Combine that with the helpful guidelines to go along with the extensive examples of Abilities and Distinctions and they give you everything you need to expand the game as you see fit.  I also have to applaud the MWP crew: Smallville Season 9 ended in May....this book released at the end of July...and is up to date from the end of Season 9.  From my experience in following licensed RPGs, that is some really impressive stuff and speaks to the level of cooperation MWP had from someone on the Smallville crew.

Tremendous game with top notch production values...the best release I've seen from MWP yet and the best licensed DC RPG I've read, hands down.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tommy's Take on Lucha Libre USA 7/23/10

- Alright...Week 2 of LUCHA LIBRE USA!

- Solid is in the dressingroom with...Supernova?

- The mysterious lucha that attacked last week shows up and ticks off Solid. He's definitely American.  Lizmark Jr. attacks both men and leaves them laying.

- The ring girls head to the ring carrying US and Mexican flags.

- RJ Brewer has a prerecorded message and he's taking on Magno in the main event.

- Lizmark Jr. teams with the new guy, SydiStiko against Charley Malice and Supernova in the first round of the Tag Team Title Tournament.


- Lujo Esquire was the guy in the video last week.  Huh.  Apparently he's a technico.  Rellik was known in WCW as Johnny the Bull.  He had a short run in TNAas Rellik, as well.  The minis are starting off.  Octagoncito takes Misteriocito down but misses a dropkick.  Lots of armdrags.  Lujo Esquire amd Rellik enter the ring, Rellik shrugging off attacks.  Lujo's a little taller, Rellik's bigger.  Esquire ducks a clothesline, Rellik ducks a big boot and hits the flying shoulder!  The minis dive on the big men, and each mini gets caught and rammed into the ringpost.  Esquire gets the upperhand in the ring...but Rellik hits a superkick!  Ground and pound on Esquire and he's biting him!  Snap suplex by Rellik.  He's wearing a heavy elbow brace.  Misteriocito is attacking Lujo Esquire, to no avail, but Rellik attacks.  Irish whip into the corner and Esquire runs up the buckles!  Huge elbow!  Boot to Misteriocito!  The technicos dive onto the heels!  Octagoncito with a cross body on Misteriocito, but Misteriocito rolls through!  Kickout!  Octagoncito with an Onryo Clutch!  He gets the pin!

Winners: LUJO ESQUIRE & OCTAGONCITO via pinfall on MISTERIOCITY (Onryo Clutch)

- Okay match...the minis looked sloppy and the big guys lacked any real energy.

- The technicos are still celebrating after the break.

- Backstage interviewer Rebecca Reyes is interviewing SydiStiko, who claims that he didn't touch Solid.

- Charley Malice is checking on Super Nova, who is coming to the ring for the match tonight.


- Remember when Lizmark Jr. was a cruiserweight?  Charley Malice was known in Mexico as Charley Manson and looks a LOT like Marilyn Manson.  Super Nova is still selling his injuries.  Malice and SydiStiko to start.  Quick reversals and Sydistiko goes down.  Sydistiko goes to the eyes!  Super Nova and Lizmark in the ring now, and Lizmark takes him down and hits a legdrop!  The rudos are taking over, choking Super Nova in the ropes and beating Malice down in the corner.  Seated dropkick on Malice.  Lizmark sets Super Nova in the ropes and kicks him in the hamstring!  Rudos must be booking this company because the technicos always look weak.  Sydistiko sends Malice out of the ring and dominates Super Nova.  Super Nova rallies against Sydistiko and then Lizmark!  Malice and Super Nova take Lizmark down!  Super Nova dives on him!  Sydistiko attacks Malice, but Malice gets the upperhand with a dropkick!  Cross body!  Sydistiko bails and Malice dives onto him!  Malice attacks Lizmark!  Double team on Sydistiko!  Rellik comes out and distracts Malice!  Sydistiko sends Super Nova into Malice, knocking him out of the ring!  Lizmark with a tilt-a-whirl slam on Super Nova!!

Winners: SYDISTIKO & LIZMARK JR via pinfall on SUPER NOVA (tilt a whirl slam)

- Is Rellik aligned with Lizmark and Sydistiko, who is aligned with Tinieblas Jr and Neutronic?

- Good match other than the faces spending too much time looking like tools.

- Back from the break and Lizmark and Sydistiko are still beating on Super Nova!  Malice in with the save...but he's being beat down!  Marco Corleone making the save!

- Recap of Tigressa Caliente powerbombing Mini Park for Chi Chi to score the pin.

- Chi Chi and Tigressa are working out when Mini Park shows up confronting Tigressa.  She's ignoring him.  Now she attacks Mini Park and beats him down!  Rebeccca Reyes is interviewing her next.

- Apparently Reyes doesn't watch the show.  Tigressa calls Mini Park annoying.  Luckily, she didn't want to kill Mini Park, just hurt him.

- Nice patriotic video by RJ Brewer.  "I cut lawns, because I wanted to, not because I had to."  He's implying that his mom is Governor Jan Brewer.  RJ Brewer: Building Fences, Not Bridges.

- He confronts Magno and a couple of other technicos.  "I'm dressed like a pro wrestler, you're dressed like you're going to a circus."  Brewer takes a swing at Magno who ducks and tosses some obviously worked punches and kicks.  Apparently they are brawling to the ring.

- Yup.  The fight is spilling out into the stage.  Magno dives off the stage onto Brewer!


- Springboard somersault senton onto Brewer!  Magno is dominating!  Scoop slam!  Magno is working the crowd.  Standing moonsault!  Irish whip by Brewer and Magno flips over the top rope!  Tries to fancy his way back in and Brewer spikes him.  Benoit like elbow.  Big suplex by Brewer.  Magno rallies back with kicks and punches!  Sleeperhold is countered with a back suplex!  Brewer is going up!  He refuses!  Choking Magno instead!  Brewer rolls through a sunset flip and gets a sharpshooter!  Magno is fighting to the ropes!  He gets it!  He's going after the mask now!  Brewer hammers Magno down!  Untying the mask!  Ref keeps warning him off!  European uppercut.  Flapjacl out of nowhere by Magno!  Some odd clotheslines.  High hiptoss!  Brewer stops Magno with an elbow, but Magno backdrops him when he charges!  Magno moonsaults over Brewer and hits a tilt a whirl backbreaker!  Ropeflip moonsault gets two!  Magno is frustrated as he pulls Brewer up...German Suplex reversals...ref goes down!!  Clothesline by Brewer!  Ref is down!  Brewer has a chair!  Not even a folding one!  He misses with the chair!  Magno throws his mask at Brewer and covers his face!  Referee disqualifies Brewer for mask removal!

Winner: MAGNO by DQ (faked mask removal)

- Classic Eddie Guerrero stuff, just with a mask.  Decent stuff.

- Heavyweight title tournament continues next week.

- Either the crowd is dead or not mic'ed very well.  The announcers are corny, but the wrestlers are clearly putting a strong effort in.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Christmas in July!

Right now, until July 26th, DriveThruRPG and DriveThruComics are having "Christmas in July" where tons of items are being discounted an additional 25%.  Among the RPGs currently discounted are Doctor Who, The Battlestar Galactica RPG, The Supernatural RPG, Deadlands Reloaded (one of the best RPG books I have ever purchased), Realms of Cthulhu and thousands more.

Comics on sale right now include the Deadlands: One Shot comic, TONS of The Darkness and Witchblade comics, The Uniques and much, much more.

Plus, anything purchased through the above links helps support me and my site, so check things out and load up!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

TMNT: ICONS in a Half Shell!

So Adamant Entertainment recently released the ICONS RPG, a superhero RPG written by Steve Kenson and inspired in no small part by the old Marvel Classic roleplaying game.  It's a very rules lite RPG, (almost too lite for my tastes in some places) but is still pretty cool.  It even has random character generation, which has inspired more than a few ideas for me that are likely to wind up in comic books down the line.  That said, I got the bright idea to write up the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in ICONS, inspired partly by the fact that my kids are HUGE fans of the Turtles.  My ICONS Turtleverse is taken from the bits of each Turtleverse I like best, and so the write-ups are kind of a hybrid of the various Turtles incarnations.

Origin: Transformed

Prowess: 6
Coordination: 4
Strength: 4
Intellect: 4
Awareness: 5
Willpower: 5

Katanas: Strike (Slashing) 5
Turtle Shell: Invulnerability 3

Martial Arts Expert
Stealth Master
Weapons (Blades) Master

"Leonardo Leads..."
Connections: Splinter, April O'Neil
Spiritual Connection to Master Splinter
Motivation: To be the Perfect Warrior

Sibling Rivalry: Raphael
Gah!  Snakes!
Impossible Standards
Trusting to a Fault
Enemy: Shredder

Stamina: 9
Determination: 3

Leonardo is the leader of the Turtles, the most spiritual as well as being the strongest fighter.  His Qualities are pretty self explanatory, but his Challenges include a healthy fear of snakes, constant personality clashes with Raphael, a somewhat naive outlook on other beings and a tendency to hold himself to such exacting standards that it not only impacts him, but his brothers when they fail to live up to Leonardo's lofty ideals...though Leonardo himself never actually holds that against his siblings.

Origin: Transformed

Prowess: 5
Coordination: 4
Strength: 4
Intellect: 6
Awareness: 4
Willpower: 4

Bo Staff: Strike (Bashing) 2
Turtle Shell: Invulnerability 3
Quick Thinking: Wizardry (Gadgets) 4
     Dimensional Travel, ESP

Martial Arts Expert
Mechanics Expert
Stealth Master
Weapons (Bludgeons) Master

"Donatello does machines..."
Connections: Splinter, April O'Neil
Second in Command

Doesn't "Get" Humans
Unexpected Glitch

Stamina: 8
Determination: 1

The brainiac of the Turtles, Donatello loves tinkering with machines, computers, you name it.  At home with a motherboard or a van engine, he relishes the opportunity to work with his hands.  Given a few minutes and some materials, he has a knack for bashing together all kinds of wacky inventions, though they sometimes go awry.  The second in command of the Turtles due to a maturity level second only to Leo's, Don is the quietest but steadiest Turtle.  Don is the least aggressive of the Turtles.  That's not saying he WON'T fight, especially if his family is in danger, just that he will work harder to avoid conflict in any situation and is harder to move to action than any of his brothers.  He also has a hard time relating to people, not really understanding human cultures the same way his brothers (especially Michelangelo) do.  Also, as mentioned, his devices often go on the fritz at the worst possible time.

Origin: Transformed

Prowess: 4
Coordination: 6
Strength: 4
Intellect: 3
Awareness: 5
Willpower: 4

Nunchuks: Strike (Bashing) 3
Turtle Shell: Invulnerability 3

Acrobatics Expert
Art (Writing)
Martial Arts Expert
Stealth Master
Weapons (Bludgeons) Master

"Michelangelo is a Party Dude!"
"I Love Being A Turtle!"
Hopelessly Optimistic
Connections: April O'Neil, Leatherhead and Splinter

Comic Relief
The Little Brother

Stamina: 8
Determination: 3

Michelangelo is pure, energetic spirit among the Turtles. The most outgoing of the brothers, he is always the one to look on the brighter side of a situation, or reach out to a stranger in matter how strange, such as in the case of the mutated crocodile Leatherhead.  His enthusiasm can be infectious, to the point that he can even make Raphael crack a smile.  While he is the least skilled fighter of the Turtles, he is also the most athletic as well as being the most poetic.  Michelangelo, in addition to being a warrior, is also an author in his free time.  However, he is much less disciplined than his brothers, which can grate on them, and his constant jokes can even make Splinter and Donatello snap at him.  Michelangelo also does less than the others because he is almost "babied' by them, being treated as less capable than the rest.

Origin: Transformed

Prowess: 5
Coordination: 4
Strength: 5
Intellect: 3
Awareness: 4
Willpower: 6

Sais: Weapons (Slashing) 4
Turtle Shell: Invulnerability 3

Martial Arts Expert
Stealth Master
Weapons (Blades) Master

"Raphael is cool but crude"
Fiercely Loyal
Connections: April O'Neil, Splinter and Casey Jones
Secret Identity: Nightwatcher

Gah!  Bugs!
Sibling Rivalry: Leonardo
Explosive Temper

Stamina: 11
Determination: 3

Bullheaded to the very end, Raphael often clashes with his brothers, ESPECIALLY Leonardo.  He doesn't follow orders well, and it irks him to no end that Leonardo has Donatello as his second in command and Splinter agrees with that.  Raphael is ALMOST as good as Leonardo...his biggest problem being his temper, which can cause him to make mistakes or say and do things he regrets later.  Though he sometimes moonlights as The Nightwatcher, which gives him the freedom that being a member of the Turtles doesn't, it is something he has to keep secret because the other Turtles, especially Donatello, would not approve of his methods.  All that said, Raphael is fiercely loyal to his brothers, Michelangelo most of all, and would not hesitate to give his life to save them.  He is more than a little creeped out by insects, though.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Origin: Transformed
Members: Leonardo (Leader), Donatello, Michelangelo & Raphael
Mentor: Master Splinter

Team Determination: 6

"Turtle Power!"
We Strike Quickly and Fade Away
Heroes in a Half Shell

Targeted by The Foot Clan and the Purple Dragons
Must Hide Our Existence from the World

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tommy's Take on High Valor

Disclaimer: I consider Tim Kirk to be a friend of mine.  That said, he and I both know we don't necessarily agree on all things regarding game design.  However, Tim trusts me to give him a fair review and I'll do that.  It's all I've ever tried to do with these things.  Honestly, if anything, I'm probably being a tad rougher in some areas because of it.

Silverlion Studios just released their second RPG, High Valor,  which is a new fantasy RPG designed for heroic fantasy role-playing.  The author states up front that he's not trying to reinvent the wheel, just provide an alternative for those who aren't pleased with their current choice of fantasy role-playing, or even those who just want to try something new.

High Valor was just released on for $12.95 in PDF format.  The PDF not only has a table of contents and index, but is fully bookmarked and searchable for easy reference.  The book was released in black and white, but this was a thematic choice on the part of the designer, and honestly I really think it works.  Similar to how most of the supplements for the Midnight game line were all in black and white, it helps enhance the feel rather than take away from it.  I do know the author just received a print copy of the book, so I imagine a print release is also on the horizon, though I don't have those details at the time of this review.

High Valor
hits a few of my pet peeves right off the bat, in that it includes dwarves and elves, but renames them Dvegr and Sidda, respectively.  I don't mind dwarves and elves being in the game, but I'd just prefer them be called dwarves and elves.  The second pet peeve is that PCs are largely defined by traits and challenges, which are player defined (not unlike FATE or Over the Edge).  This one is alleviated, however, by a LARGE list of examples from various kinds of traits, rather than just a couple of examples to choose from.  The third thing that gave me an eye twitch was when I got the bestiary: Monsters and adversaries are pure description with a challenge score.  That is, say, a troll is a Heroic challenge, and that sets the difficulty for defeating a troll outright.  You can try to wear it down by making less difficult actions and thus taking less risk, however.  The final thing isn't a pet peeve per se, but High Valor is a “players roll” system, meaning that, well, players roll dice and the GM doesn't.  I don't have a problem with this, but in my experience this always leads to a few oddities in the system and I've picked up the odd place in the magic system where this might be the case.

From a design standpoint, there are a few places in the book where font selections made the text a little more difficult to read.  The author said this was meant to emulate a “handwriting” type of feel, and that would have been fine if those sections were just flavor text, but actual game information is in there, and that makes it disconcerting.

That said, those are my complaints.

High Valor is set in a world called Aiea, which is nearing the end of their Dark Ages when the Black Gate falls and the demonic Fane Lords return.  Thus, the time is ripe for heroes to rise and protect the world from the Fane Lords and their minions.  The setting is detailed, but not heavily so.  In fact, the timeline is left with blank spots for the GM to fill in their own events to flesh out the world.  The author provides details like coinage, verbage and the like to help give the world its identity, but there is meticulously detailing of every major NPC like you might find in a lot of fantasy settings.

Character creation goes in steps and is largely freeform.  First, pick you concept and then your kinship.  Kinship is equivalent to race in your typical fantasy game and includes the Dvegr and Sidda, as well as Humans, the magic-twisted Sidhain (still kinda human, just...different) and Fomoradgh, the animalistic former footsoldiers of The Fane Lords who have decided to fight their former masters.  Every kinship has an inherent trait and challenge or, in the case of the Sidhain, a list of traits or challenges to choose from.  After that, you pick background traits keyed to being a member of your kinship.  From there, select a profession and traits related to that and then three open traits for fleshing out.  Traits add to your die rolls where applicable and are ranked from Lesser (+2) up to Mythic (+10).  The challenge scale works on a similar scale of Lesser (8) to Mythic (28).  Character generation gives you the option in places of taking, say, fewer traits at a higher level, or more traits at a lower level.

Once your traits are complete, you have 5 dice to distribute among your FEAT Pools, which are Valor, Will and Faith.  Each starts off at 1, so you get that freebie.  Valor is generally used for physical type stuff, Will for mental type stuff (including magic) and Faith can be used to invoked divine miracles as well as ward off dark forces.

Everything you do involves rolling from those pools and applying relevant traits.  You take the highest die and add your traits.  HOWEVER, for every “10” that you roll, you keep it AND add the next highest die.  So if you roll four dice and get 3, 5, 6 and 9, you take the 9 and add the two highest relevant traits.  Had you rolled 3, 5, 6 and 10, you get the 10 and the 6 plus the traits!  You must roll higher than the target number to succeed.  If you roll equal to it, that's a stalemate and the GM or the player can take a minor setback for the character they have involved in the conflict in order to take the upperhand, or they can call that action a draw and move on to the next action.

When things are desperate, you can use other pools to bolster an active one.  Say you are locked in a physical struggle with a giant and you think your physical Valor will not be enough, you can borrow a die from your Will pool to bolster yourself for the struggle.  Or, say, a dark force is trying to corrupt you and your Will is you invoke a Prayer and add Faith to your pool.  The downside is that doing so diminishes the pool you borrowed from for an entire scene.  The only limits are that you cannot use Faith to bolster magic and you cannot Will miracles into existence.  However, your allied can lend you dice and they have no limitations on how they do that...literally, your allies can will you to greater heights.

The stakes for failure are based off of the difficulty of the action.  If something is of a Lesser difficulty, there shouldn't be any danger of death.  However, a Mythic challenge is very, very harrowing and so on.  When faced with a challenge that is just too overwhelming, with the GM's (or “Teller's”) discretion you can take smaller, less difficult actions to whittle the challenge down and increase your chances of success.  I definitely think this is something that'll take some getting used to for myself and my players, but could be very cool regardless.

Just about everything in the game is a Trait.  If you have a sword, but not a Sword trait, you roll Valor.  If you have your Father's Battle-Worn Blade (+4), you roll Valor +4.  Since you can add two relevant traits to an action, if you have your Father's Battle-Worn Blade (+4) and Swordsman (+2), roll your Valor +6.

Enchanted items work the same way, and a sample of Items of Power are included in the book, as well as tips on converting existing equipment to Items of Power, something I've always loved.  Don't get me's cool finding a Vorpal Weapon +3....but it's a LOT cooler when you plunge your sword into a demon's fiery heart and from that day forward your blade is covered in glowing veins that are poison to those of demonic blood, am I right?

As noted above, there are two kinds of metaphysics in the game: Faith and Magic.

Faith has smaller applications, such as Blessings.  They can be used to lay a protective blessing on children, ward off demons for a day and so forth.  Minor miracles are the next step, and some of the examples supplied include gusts of wind knocking arrows aside or the sun emerging from the clouds to blind a foe.  Major miracles can summon Angelic aid, raise the dead and open sinkholes under enemies.  Note, however, that miracles can have setbacks and they can be intense, such as drawing the attention of evil forces or even encouraging the High Power to call the miracle invoker home...(death, basically).

Magic is divided into Low and High magic, which is not unlike the Blessings/Miracles division.  Low magic are very minor effects, that can be reasonably denied.  They generally add, at best, a +2 to an action like a Lesser Trait.  High Magic, on the other hand, can do wondrous things, but requires relevant skills to perform and can have much greater consequences.  In fact, every use of High magic WILL have setbacks...though the caster, with time, preparation and ritual can reduce the level of setback.  The simplest is Shadowplay, which is creating a short rhyme for the spell, said out loud, and reduces the setback level by 1 step.  No matter how much the caster prepares, though, they cannot eliminate the setbacks altogether.

Using a similar set-up to the Faith and Magic system, the book also details a list of herbs, poisons and plants that can be used to provide a variety of traits, such as mandrake, which can be used to both knock a person unconscious or kill them, the furze tree, which acts as a barrier against trolls and can be burnt to ward off all evil, and coltsfoot, used specifically to heal horses and their riders.

High Valor
uses an interesting advancement system, in which you track your Triumphs and Dooms.  These are your major successes and failures.  Once you have accumulated ten of them, you can advance your character, either by improving a Trait, adding a die to a pool, adding a new trait or removing a challenge.  The key in each is significance.  Beating up a shopkeeper and taking their money?  Not impressive.  Rallying the impoverished town together to wage war against the demon-influenced overlord and overthrowing his reign of oppression?  Much better.  And even if that attempt fails, the town is crushed and you're left for dead, that's still gonna fall under a Doom.  The key is to think Big.

The cover is very indicative to what High Valor is all about: A lone warrior, spear in hand, standing over fallen foes while another group of enemies rushes him and the demonic head of a Fane Lord appears overhead.  The setting included into the book has dark forces brewing, but unlike a Midnight or a Ravenloft, there is no sense that heroes will be crushed for fighting evil.  Quite the opposite, in fact...great evil is there to allow the PCs to rise up and BE heroes.  That's how I like my fantasy.  Heck, that's how I like my games, period: Dark, but not hopeless.  There must be a little spark that can be fanned into a glorious flame, and for the misgivings I laid out at the beginning of this review, that is exactly what High Valor provides.

High Valor is designed to provide the kind of fantasy adventure I wanted from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition, but never quite found because so much of the system was still geared towards killing things and taking its stuff.  High Valor provides a vehicle for that kind of epic, storytelling adventure while still keeping the “game” part of it present.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Tommy's Take on Lucha Libre USA 7/16/10

- Alright...decided I'm gonna give this a shot: The first episode of Lucha Libre USA!  MTV2 has said that they will run it for 52 weeks, but we'll see.  I watched the preview special, and I know some of the guys, but not all of them.

- Here we go.

- Apologies in advance if my play by play really sucks.

- I don't care for the voice over announcer.

- Show opens with a montage of the guys in the ring andd some action shots.

- Ring girls are coming to the ring carrying flags.

- MASCARITA DORADA & MINI PARK will be taking on PEQUENO HALLOWEEN and CHI CHI (formerly Kwee Wee in WCW).

- Chi Chi is an "exotico", which is basically a crossdressing male competing as a woman.  The rest are minis.

- The main event is MARCO CORLEONE (formerly Mark Jindrak) versus TINIEBLAS JR. in the Title tournament.  That's kinda odd, because they made it sound in the preview like Corleone was the top face and Tinieblas the top heel.  Having them in the first round of the tournament seems...interesting.

- Nigel Sherrod and Lalo Gonzalez are the commentators.

- We do have a six sided ring.


- El Limon trying to flip the audience off got blurred.  Neutronic got an entrance video.  I have no idea which is which in the PR Powers.  Purpura is the captain for the technicos and Neutronic for the rudos, I believe.  Gonzalez is doing the heel announcer thing.  The captains are starting off with some chain wrestling.  Armdrag by Purpura.  Odd takeover by Neutronic but a nice elbow.  They are discussing the rules differences.  You must pin the captain OR both of the other two members.  This is's like lucha in slow motion.  Purpura with a...450 arm drag?  El Oriental and El Limon jump Purpura when Neutronic powders.  Three on one!  They whip Neutronic into Purpura, and then he whips Purpura into a double elbow from them!  Rudos standing tall.  PR Flyer enters the ring...into a three on one.  El Limon suplexes PR Flyer.  El Oriental and Neutronic take turns with top rope splashes!  San Juan Kid jumps a three on one.  Double flapjack on San Juan Kid and he eats a triple dropkick.  Purpura jumps a three on one.  Alright.

Awesome!  Purpura flips past them and gets caught for a face eraser by Neutronic, but El Limon and El Oriental charge and he ducks, so they nail Neutronic!  He cartwheels past them and takes out Neutronic with a headbutt!  Puerto Rican Powers off the top with a dropkick and a cross body on Limon and Oriental!  Purpura with a twisting skytwister on Neutronic!  Technicos standing tall!  El Oriental takes out both PR Powers!  He holds them for an El Limon dropkkick, but they move and Oriental eats the dropkicks!  The rudos bail and the technicos dive on them!

Neutronic takes ovver on Purpura after a slow attack.  Drop toe hold into the ccorner by Purpura!  Neutronic takes over but misses a stinger splash!  Nice spinebuster!  Purpura is up top...Shooting Star Press but Oriental and Limon are in!  Taking apart the PR Powers!  Huh.  You don't see faces whipped into each other very often.  Technicos take the Rudos down, but misses dives off the top!  Limon with a senton and Oriental with a German Suplex!  Rudos win!

Winners: EL ORIENTAL, EL LIMON & NEUTRONIC via pinfall (Diving Senton and German Suplex)

- The technicos were REALLY rough.  Purpura moves like he's in slow motion.  Oriental and Limon looked pretty good, though.  The technicos were made to look like crap, but I think that may be because they are.

- Back from the break and the rudos are still celebrating, and we get some replays.

- A promo from RJ Brewer of Phoenix, Arizona (get it?) he's an anti illegal immigration heel.  I don't think MTV2 realizes that most of the country, according to EVERY poll, supports that law.


- Mini Park is the mini version of LA Park, formerly known as La Parka.  I'm not sure if Pequeno Halloween is much shorter than full sized Halloween.  Chi Chi came out to "Bad Romance".  I believe Tigressa Caliente is the former Rhaka Khan.  Halloween and Dorada starting it off.  Halloween with a nice armbar, but Dorada with a leg scissors and flips him over!  Big armdrag and armbar by Dorada!  Halloween fights up, getting Dorada on his shoulder, but gets taken over!  Again!  Halloween twists it into a pinning position!  Halloween misses corner charge and Dorada gets a springboard armdrag!  Body attack!  He springboards from the bottom rope to the top rope and into the ring on Halloween!  Mini Park is in with Chi Chi!  La Park is dancing and Chi Chi attacks!  Chi Chi is having trouble attacking Mini Park and she loses her wig!  Pequeno Halloween in and taking out Mini Park!  Park fights him off but eats a clothesline.  Mini Park directs Halloween to the floor!  Baseball slide!  Dorada with a cross body on Chi Chi!  She catches him with a boot.  Suplex attempt, but Dorada counters with a sunset flip!  Big DDT by Dorada!  Halloween wipes out Dorada!  Dorada with a springboard shoulderblock!  Dorada goes around the world on Halloween and then takes him down!  Asai moonsault!  Chi Chi attacks Mini Park!  Huracanrana by Park!  Tigressa attacks Park!  Powerbomb!!  Chi Chi scores the pin!

Winners: PEQUENO HALLOWEEN & CHI CHI via pinfall on Mini Park (Tigressa Powerbomb)

- MUCH crisper than the last match.  Everyone looked like they know what they were doing, even if Chi Chi didn't do much more than kick and preen.

- Replays from the last match.

- Promo for Lujo Esquire, who apparently is loaded.

- Marco Corleone is doing pushups with his tubby sidekick when Tinieblas Jr. and Neutronic confront them and talk trash.  Corleone doesn't look pleased with his pudgy buddy.  They gave the guy's name on the preview special, but didn't mention him on the show today.

Lucha Libre USA Championship Tournament
TINIEBLAS JR (w/Neutronic) vs MARCO CORLEONE (w/Solid)

- Easily the two biggest guys we've seen so far.  Tinieblas takes Corleone down.  Corleone with a slow springboard clothesline.  Tinieblas Jr. cuts the knee out.  Abdominal stretch...but Corleone reverses!  Tinieblas attacks!  Neutronic attacks from behind!  Solid "humorously" fails to get in the ring because he's too fat.  Tinieblas is in control thanks to the double teaming.  Corleone fights back but eats a pump kick!  Tinieblas Jr. is taunting the crowd.  Snap mare and a kick to the chest!  Fireman's carry...dumps him in the corner and hits a splash.  This thing is a squash so far.  Corleone drops Tinieblas!  But Tinieblas catches the Drop of Darkness (Edge-o-matic).  Corleone with a desperation kick.  Solid attacks Neutronic!  Neutronic and Tinieblas bail out but Corleone dives on them!  Neutronic gets involved and slows Corleone down, but Solid attacks again!  School boy by Corleone!  That's it!

Winner: MARCO CORLEONE via pinfall (school boy)

- Lizmark Jr. superkicks Corleone!  A fourth, unidentified rudo attacks as well!  We apparently have a heel faction!

- Next week, the tag team title tournament begins!

- Okay show.  The tag match with the minis and Chi Chi was the best.  Corleone got made to look like weak against Tinieblas even though he went over.  The technicos in the opener were very, very rough though Purpuras had moments that looked good.

Friday, July 16, 2010

When The Dead Rose

     When The Dead rose up, the world was quite surprised.  It was one of those things that the geeks talked about a lot, but all of your big game plans tend to disappear when the woman you married last year suddenly tries to eat your face.  The whole thing was ugly.  Police got overwhelmed because they are taught to aim for center mass, but The Dead can just shrug off torso shots from anything smaller than a shotgun.  The “rules” were right – aim for the head, The Dead shamble and do not run, stay away from the packs, so forth – but the reality was far too jarring.  Don’t get me wrong: It is rather disconcerting watching someone torn limb from limb.  It is dramatically worse when you realize that the person tearing them apart is dead and still taking up space above ground.
     At first, the media reported it as though it were the “teabaggers” rioting, which led to actual riots.  Even after The Dead started taking bites out of people, we were none the wiser – just a couple of months ago, a health care reform protestor had his finger bitten off, after all.  It took attacks from inside morgues to wake people up.  By then, The Dead had added so many to their number that cities were death sentences.  People clogged up bridges and freeways trying to escape.  I saw…I saw people pushing others off of bridges to get them out of the way.  The worst was the children.  Children were trapped in cars that had stalled out, and their parents ruthlessly cast aside.  No one bothered pulling kids from the vehicles.  They just drove on as soon as the vehicles were out of the way.  What?  No…I didn’t take any of them with me.  I couldn’t.  I don’t really know how to care for kids anyway.  Plus, I didn’t have nearly enough provisions to be taking on passengers.  Besides, my friends out in the country were expecting me, not me and a bunch of rugrats.

     Before the TV stations stopped broadcasting, the media was chasing a story related to the Swine Flu.  Ever wonder why all the pictures from Mexico during their first big outbreak showed military marching the streets in full riot gear?  Whatever drug the Mexican government gave the people reacted violently with the virus.  A European doctor working in Mexico saw it first, so the Mexicans halted treatment and moved to “containment”, which really meant extermination.  They never warned us that our vaccines would kill us.  If we would have paid attention to the nuts on the internet when they were noticing that it was the police reporting Swine Flu outbreaks instead of medical professionals, we might have asked the right questions.  We might have run AWAY from the vaccinations instead of running to them.

     I have some friends out in the country.  We’ve been here now for a couple of months.  They have a pretty secluded house, surrounded with big, open fields and an old bomb shelter that their grandpappy built back in the 50s.  We can spot The Dead coming through the fields, makes it easy to pick them off.  My boy Jim is a crack shot.  The bomb shelter’s easy to hide in whenever scavengers show up.  Yeah, we have to hide from other people now, too.  We’ve tore up the house, so that it always looks ransacked.  Keep the food and valuable stuff inside the shelter and just get what we need.  It’s a hassle, yeah, but its better than letting everything we’ve got get taken by a bunch of punks and thugs, right?  Worst night was when a group of six or so squatted in the house for a couple of days.  We had food in the shelter, yeah, but we couldn’t run the generator, so it was dark and cramped.  I admit it; I “accidentally” copped a feel on Gina while we were holed up.  I’m sure she knows it was me, but she feels sorry for me or something, which is fine by me.  Her boyfriend Heath doesn’t deserve her anyway, if you ask me.  Either way, she’s a little young for me.

     You’re the first solo traveler we’ve let in.  Nah, wasn’t anything special about you. We just figured you wouldn’t be much of a threat to us.

     Crap, what was that?  I heard something.  No, it was outside somewhere.  No, I don’t know what it was.  Sounded like someone running across the field.  Or a lot of someones.

     You.  You did it, didn’t you?  No, shut up, Jim!  This little prick brought his friends out here!  I’m gonna blow his head off if they don’t stop rushing this house!  Come here!  Come here, NOW!  Call ‘em off.  Call ‘em off, or I spread your face across the lawn, got it?  Newsflash, bucko: I think you’re full of sh--…what the Hell was that?  It jumped…from the yard to the roof.  Nothing human can do that.  THEY can’t even do that.  Get back in the house!  Everybody, get back in the house!!  It’s on the roof!  Whatever it is, it’s on the freaking roof!  They’re not supposed to run!  Don’t tell me it’s The Dead, because they don’t run and they don’t jump!  Shut up, Gina!  No!  Don’t go upstairs!!  OH MY GOD!!  THEY’RE IN THE HOUSE!  Run for the shelter!  NOW!!!

    Hey, look…I’m sorry about that whole gun to the head thing.  I thought you were with them.  Jesus Christ.  I can’t believe they got Gina and Heath and Tammy.  Thanks.  Y’know, for helping me pull Jim down here.  My back’s kinda bad and all.  Maybe if we just lay low, we can make it out of here.  They gotta leave sooner or later…right?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

In Defense of the Imperial Stormtroopers

     They were known throughout the galaxy as the most dangerous fighting force in the known worlds.  “Only Imperial Stormtroopers could be so precise.”  Those words were uttered by Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi when surveying a heinous assault on a Jawa transport that left no survivors.  How did the white armor-clad Imperial soldiers gain such a reputation for brutal efficiency and then become mocked so ruthlessly for their inability to stop the crew of a single freighter from escaping the Death Star?  We will examine the beginnings of the Imperial Stormtroopers, from their roots in the first standing army of the Galactic Republic in nearly two thousand years, through their enforcement of the Tarkin Doctrine under Imperial rule, to their most humiliating defeat, at the hands of the Ewoks and a small band of rebels during the Battle of Endor.
     To examine the roots of the Imperial Stormtroopers, we look back to their beginnings on the planet known as Kamino.  Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas, sensing that the Republic would soon be facing war, ordered the creation of an army cloned from the genetic template of bounty hunter Jango Fett.  The army was cloned, artificially aged, and then trained by Fett himself.  During the Separatist Movement led by Count Dooku, Chancellor Palpatine and the Jedi Council brought the full weight of the clone army to bear, turning the tide against the robotic soldiers of the Separatists and enacting the Clone Wars.  The Jedi were uneasy about this, and their suspicions proved to be well-founded: The entire Separatist Movement was orchestrated by Chancellor Palpatine, under his guise as Sith master Darth Sidious, to gain control of the Galactic Republic.  Three years after The Clone Wars began, they ended when the Clone Troopers, following the contingency “Order 66”, turned on their Jedi leaders and brutally massacred them.  In three short years, the clone troopers had soundly defeated the droid army of the Separatist Movement and largely eradicated the Jedi, earning the respect – and fear – due them as the most dangerous armed force in the galaxy.
     When Chancellor Palpatine transformed the Galactic Republic into the Galactic Empire, he used the Clone Troopers as his first Imperial Stormtroopers.  No longer subject to the orders of commanders who followed the Jedi code, the Imperial Stormtroopers mercilessly crushed anyone that stood in their way.  Worlds that once stood in open revolt against the Galactic Republic were overran by the Stormtroopers.  Based off the genetic template of Jango Fett, and with all the Jedi dead or in exile, the Stormtroopers proved more than a match for any resistance.  For twenty-three years, the Stormtroopers suffered very few large scale defeats.  They switched up cloning templates after having to destroy a batch of rogue Jango Fett clones, and gradually began normal recruiting for Stormtroopers instead of just cloning to replace losses.  These changes in recruitment had some effect on the efficiency of the Stormtroopers, but not nearly enough to warrant the loss of their reputation.
     The embarrassment began for the Stormtroopers when dozens of the Stormtroopers failed to prevent Han Solo, Chewbacca and Luke Skywalker from rescuing Princess Leia Organa fromm the Death Star, where she was being held captive.  Solo, Chewbacca and Skywalker managed to make their way through the Death Star, rescue Leia and escape without injury, and with only the aid of two droids and Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, who lost his life in a confrontation with Darth Vader.  They did battle with a number of Stormtroopers along the way, and thwarted them at every turn.  This would be humiliating except, as Leia herself noted upon their escape, “They let us go.  It was the only reason for the ease of our escape.”  The Princess was not easily fooled.  Grand Moff Tarkin, the highest ranking official on the Death Star, had already surmised that  Leia was a remember of the Rebel Alliance and allowed her to leave so the Empire could track her back to the Rebel base and destroy it.  The Stormtroopers did their job: They herded the rebels through the Death Star and back to their ship so they could lead the Empire to their own doorstep.  This speaks volumes for the discipline, and fanaticism, of the Stormtroopers, knowing that they had to chase the rebels to their ship, while under attack, and without being able to kill them in retaliation.  That the plan ultimately failed and the Death Star was destroyed was no fault of the Stormtroopers at all.
     When next we see the Stormtroopers, it is the cold weather specialized Snowtroopers, battling the Rebel Alliance on the icy planet Hoth.  The Empire sustained minimal losses, due in no small part to the efficiency and discipline of the Snowtroopers.  Indeed, the only notable loss suffered by a Stormtrooper unit did not come twenty-three years after the formation of the Stormtroopers, when they engaged the Rebel Alliance on the forest moon of Endor and, anticipating much smaller numbers in opposition, broke ranks only to be attacked and overwhelmed by the indigenous Ewoks.  The element of surprise going to the Rebels and their furry friends allowed the Rebels to destroy a force shield generator protecting the second Death Star, which was preventing the Rebel fleet in orbit from attacking the Death Star.  Word of the humiliating loss on Endor, combined with the loss of the second Death Star and the deaths of Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader, who were aboard the Death Star, broke much of the psychological hold the Stormtroopers held over the galaxy, and broke morale within the ranks of the Stormtroopers themselves.  This begs the question: does one loss, devastating though it may be, eliminate over two decades of military superiority and dominance, even if it were at the hands of glorified teddy bears?  In this author's opinion, it does not, and the true blame for the failures of the Imperial Stormtroopers lies not with their skills and training, but with the arrogance of their leadership after twenty years of overconfidence fostered by the very domination provided by the Stormtroopers.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tommy's Take on Resolute Supers 2nd Edition

Resolute Supers 2nd Edition is an interesting small-press game supers released by Michael T. Desing and Teddy Bear Press, clocking in at a whopping 17 pages (yes, seventeen) and going for $2 at  It's not exactly a “rules lite”'s really seventeen pages jammed pretty full of material.  The format is a fully searchable PDF with three text columns in landscape format per page.  There isn't very much art, which may be a good thing as 1) there's very little filler and 2) honestly, the art isn't very good.  It's cartoony but not in a good or evocative way (especially as the setting doesn't feel very cartoony).

The setting reminds me a bit of Pinnacle's Necessary Evil, both of which are Supers vs Aliens settings, although Necessary Evil is pretty explicitly supervillains versus aliens.  The book opens with a 15 year timeline of the world, from the arrival of the alien Emissary who unlocked superpowered potential in people in preparation for the arrival of the Messari – a race of alien conquerors.  The timeline is painted in broad strokes, focusing on the two attempted invasions by the Messari and the world's reactions to them, before bringing us to the “now”, where the world is preparing for the likelihood of a third invasion.

The mechanics are simple enough: You roll 2d6 and add your relevant Ability to it.  Everything in the game is rated from -1 to +13 and applied as a modifier.  Successes are rated as as multiples if the resisting score (i.e. if the resisting ability is +5, then one success is 5-9, two successes is 10-14, etc).  It's probably not the MOST intuitive, but I bet it'd only take a couple of sessions to get used to.  If there is no active ability resisting an action, apply a “static 7” as the difficulty.  The writing clarity wasn't the best here, as in the examples in the final paragraph I didn't catch that the static 7 was being applied until I stopped and did the math.

The bulk of character generation is on page three, and is a level-based point buy (not wholly unlike power levels in Mutants & Masterminds).  Norms are built on 0-9 points, while super powerful movers and shakers clock in at 100+ points with several levels in between.  Once the point level is set, the players pick one of the factions (which include government operative hero types, mutants thinking the end is near, pariahs living on the fringes of society and outsiders who just don't fit anywhere else).  Pick your name and purpose, then spend your points.  There is no separation between ability scores and powers...they are all just Abilities.  A handy chart along the bottom of the page helps with the bean counting.  You can also “focus” abilities, boosting it's effectiveness in one area while diminishing its effectiveness in all other areas (the example listed in the book is the Science Ability, specializing in a field at the expense of the other uses).

The next three pages are filled with Abilities, which cover a lot of ground and should provide ample inspiration if you want to do something that isn't covered.  Abilities cover pretty much everything in the game, from contacts to skills to superpowers...everything is covered under one unified mechanic.  There's even an Omni-Power that has examples covering trick archers, magic and Green Lantern-ish light powers.

You can take limitations that provide extra bonus points, which should be kicked in about once a session.  Advancement is handled with Hero Points, which you get for doing good deeds and can either be cashed in for Character Points or Fate Points.

Fate Points let you recover wounds, boost die rolls (adding an additional 2D to the roll) and take extra turns in the middle of a combat round.  In additional to gaining Fate Points by trading in Hero Points, you get your level in Fate Points at the beginning of each issue.  This is kind of an odd change from supers games, as mechanics like these are usually used to balance, say, Captain America and Thor or Batman and Superman.  However, in Resolute this is going to make your powerful beings more powerful. It's not a huge problem in and of itself, but it definitely isn't going to accommodate, say, Plastic Man and Green Lantern teaming up.

Group Points are gained by a team to purchase things like group vehicles, with promises of rules for bases coming in the future.

Combat takes up another three pages.  Initiative is 2D versus a static number of 5, each success granting a turn in each round.  In addition, each round has a Preparation phase, which grants you chance to take on free action that isn't an attack, before moving into the Resolution phase where everyone gets to take their turns in order starting from the highest rolls on down.  One sidebar covers found weapons, such as the Thing tearing out a light pole and using it, which gives a bonus to damage while degrading with every use.

Ability Synergy rules are simple guidelines for using different abilities to supplement certain actions, like using Flame Control to set your fist on fire before punching someone, or combining Speed and Fighting to charge opponents.   You can fight into negative wounds, at which point you have to start rolling Stamina to keep from passing out.  Mook rules are present, allowing heroes to mow through legions of faceless baddies.  The rule is simple: You can attack a number of mooks equal to the rating of the ability you're using.  With Energy Projection +6, you can blast six mooks at once.  The caveat is that you cannot attack mooks AND named foes at the same or the other.

Gang up rules are included (to give mooks a chance), as well as a list of special know the stuff: falling, fighting in the dark.

A nice optional rule is “Exchanging Wounds”, which lets you trade wounds for bonus effects if you hit for 2 or more wounds.  Some options include disarming foes, stunning foes, knocking foes back or trying to force foes to draw their attentions on you (very useful if you're trying to defend an innocent bystander targeted by a deranged killer, or drawing a villain away from a downed comrade).  The chapter ends with a sample her, The Emissary, the very being that started it all.

The next chapter is the GM section, which starts with some bog standard GM advice that you've read in most RPGs to this point.  It then gets into more specific advice, such as noting that heroes cannot repeat a failed action against a static resistance in the same scene, as well as tips on using degrees of success when heroes are performing actions.

The GM section provides four methods for die rolls, from rolling everything to rolling only active dice (all resistances use Static 7), to Only Players Roll to Mix-and-Match, such as players rolling against mooks, but archvillains getting active dice on their actions and so on.

Finally, most helpfully, the author includes guidelines for balancing encounters, which can be very helpful at least at first, so you don't accidentally wipe out your party.

This is probably the least impressive section of the book, I said, a lot of this is stuff you've read in every other GM section...but things like the encounter balancing are very nice and useful.

Chapter 7 is a one page guide to adventures on the earth, complete with a decent random roll adventure generator that you can use in a pinch.

The first two appendices fit on one page, the first being stat blocks for common mooks, and animals, as  well as four supers archetypes.  The second appendix is a handful of vehicles that you can use as is, or as guidelines for making more.

The book ends with an introductory adventure that starts with the PCs waking up in a lab with no memory about how they got there, and ends with a couple of options depending on where the players and GM may want to take it.  Pretty basic stuff, but a decent launching point, especially if you have nothing better in mind.


It's 17 pages for $2 and not a lot of filler.  The GM section had some extraneous material that could have been removed, especially for a couple of more examples.  The adventure isn't anything special, either...but there is a full game packed into these 17 pages, with a surprising amount of options.

The first supplement, a 9 page Referee's Guide is already out (I'll likely be covering this soon as well) selling for $1 at RPGnow, and is the model for the company ($1-$2 products, text heavy, jammed with material).

There's a pretty cool game in here, with some very nice options.  A couple of parts should be clearer, but the author is working on a document to clarify some points, and there is plenty of room to expand the game world, expand on the aliens (who are largely untouched in the main book, due to the fact that people are anticipating the third invasion, not in the middle of one).

Very good stuff...good bang for the buck.  Check it out.