Saturday, January 29, 2011

[My WWE Universe] TLC



ROAD TO TLC

WEEK 1

RAW

Ezekiel Jackson, with a little assistance from Joe Cothern, destroyed R-Truth in a Falls Count Anywhere Match.

Even though Miz jumped Jericho as he came down the ramp, Chris Jericho reduced him to a bloody mess before beating him in a Tables Match.

Randy Orton hit the ring on fire, taking it to Lex Luger! He gave Luger the Orton Stomp and then the RKO! Orton actually offered Luger his hand post-match, but Luger refused!

Lex Luger tried to remain relevant by buying a ringside seat for Wade Barrett versus Triple H. Despite distractions by Shawn Michaels, Wade Barrett took everything Triple H could fire at him and pinned him!

SUPERSTARS

Ted DiBiase stormed the ring to attack Goldust, but Goldust fought him off and hit Shattered Dreams for the win! Goldust offered DiBiase a chance to shake his hand, but apparently being kicked in the nuts left a bad taste in DiBiase's mouth.

Jack Swagger and Alberto Del Rio did their level best to destroy Kane, but he took advantage of a big mistake and pinned Del Rio!

Althouggh Santino and Shinsuke Nakamura were ostensibly outnumbered, they went right after David Otunga, Daniel Bryan, Vladimir Kozlov and Joe Cothern in a battle royal! Santino eliminated Daniel Bryan as Nakamura dumped Otunga! Cothern went next at Nakamura's hands, while Santino and Nakamura teamed up on Kozlov! Then Nakamura eliminated Santino for the win.

SMACKDOWN

William Regal and Dolph Ziggler jumped Cody Rhodes and Christian before their match with Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater, but Rhodes and Christian still came out on top after Gabriel ate a Killswitch and the Cross Rhodes!

As Kofi Kingston prepared to face Drew McIntyre, Drew stormed the ring! He beat Kofi down and hit the Scot Drop, but kept attacking! Kofi never got out of first gear as he fell prey to the Angry Scot!

Rey Mysterio, Big Show, Terry Funk, William Regal, Vance Archer and Shad Gaspard did battle in a Battle Royal! Despite a three on one attempt, Shad held on, and Regal wound up eliminating Vance first. Funk shockingly dumped Big Show, and then Regal tossed out Rey while Funk eliminated Shad! Funk and Regal went at it for several more minutes before Regal threw Funk out!

Mark Henry and David Hart Smith beat the Straight Edge Society in a very brutal Extreme Rules match after Henry crushed Punk with the World's Strongest Slam!

WEEK 2

RAW

Ted DiBiase put the Million Dollar Title on the line against David Hart Smith, who tore him apart! Tyson Kidd was in the crowd, getting into Smith's head, but ultimately it was heel chicanery by DiBiase that allowed him to lock on a sleeperhold and put Smith out.

Wade Barrett pinned WWE Champion Triple H in seconds after an ambush from the crowd!

Cody Rhodes and Christian prepared to face Tyson Kidd and Yoshi Tatsu in a Tables Match, when Justin Gabriel and Dolph Ziggler attacked them on the floor! Kidd and Tatsu tried to capitalize on it, but fell short, with Rhodes and Christian picking up the win!

In the main event, Sheamus battled Shawn Michaels in a tremendous Tables match...as Sheamus was wearing HBK down, Husky Harris came to the ring with a chair! As Harris entered the ring, Sheamus spiked Michaels through the table with Pale Justice, but we never learned what Harris was there for!

SUPERSTARS

Mike Knox ambushed Chris Masters from the crowd and pinned him in seconds!

Vladimir Kozlov attacked his former friend Santino from the crowd, but Santino would not die! He blasted Kozlov with The Cobra to put the giant Russian down!

Thought Miz and Alex Riley held in the match a while, it was basically just getting destroyed by Undertaker and Kane, even with CM Punk's help.

SMACKDOWN

Rey Mysterio shocked Tag Team Champion Luke Gallows!

Drew McIntyre ambushed The Big Show before their match, but The Big Show still made him work for it. Both men gave everything they had, and even Kofi Kingston got involved to keep Drew from cheating, but a GIGANTIC Michinoku Driver by Drew scored the pin!

Raven defeated Rob Van Dam, Terry Funk and Vance Archer in a crazy Extreme Rules match to win the newly recommissioned Hardcore title after pinned Terry Funk with the Evenflow on the floor!

Sting squared off with CM Punk in a #1 Contender's Match, but Punk stormed the ring before the match! Kaval came down to make sure there was no interference as Sting fought back, and Sting pinned Punk after a flying splash off the top rope! As Sting celebrated, a lead pipe weilding Gallows hit the ring and laid Sting and Kaval out!

WEEK 3

RAW

All week long, WWE is broadcasting from Tribute for the Troops!

Mark Henry crushed Ezekiel Jackson with a bearhug in a slow motion Falls Count Anywhere!

The Greatest American Bolo stormed the ring to take on Husky Harris! Harris bailed out to avoid the American Revolution, and got some licks in on Bolo. Ultimately, Bolo prevailed with the Snapshot!

Lex Luger has a SURPRISE for DX in a Tables Match...mystery partner PRIMO. After DX stopped laughing, the match began and Luger and Primo actually did alright...until Randy Orton ran in and gave Luger the RKO! Triple H spiked Primo through a table to end the match.

Sheamus and Wade Barrett faced off in a #1 Contender's Match, and Barrett dominated Sheamus, scoring a fairly easy pin...until the match was restarted as a Submission Match! Sheamus was on fire and the whole thing was intense, with Barrett even drawing blood on Sheamus. Barrett focused on Sheamus' back and ribs and ultimately made him submit to an abdominal stretch!

SUPERSTARS

David Otunga, perhaps bravely, came through the troops to attack Cena! He even hit his spinebuster, but that just made the match even, and Cena ultimately hit his top rope Rocker Dropper, Five Knuckle Shuffle, Attitude Adjustment and the STF for the win. Cena offered his hand to Otunga, who refused.

Chris Masters teamed with WWE Hall of Famer Jimmy Snuka to take on William Regal and Drew McIntyre! Unfortunately for them, Snuka was never allowed in the ring, and Regal and McIntyre DISMANTLED Masters for the win.

Ted DiBiase put the Million Dollar Title on the line against R-Truth, accompanied by Evan Bourne! John Morrison was lurking in the crowd! Even Evan at ringside couldn't stop DiBiase, who busted R-Truth open and beat him.

SMACKDOWN

Undertaker had a surprise for The Straight Edge Society...Terry Funk! Unfortunately, Funk's a little hardcore, and got DQed.

Dolph Ziggler did commentary as Christian faced Jack Swagger in a Falls Count Anywhere match! Christian got a HUGE win thanks to The Big Show running down and clocking Swagger with a sledgehammer! After the match, Drew McIntyre beat Christian down with a lead pipe!

Dolph Ziggler continued to build his momentum with a great victory over Kofi Kingston.

Raven outlasted Rey Mysterio, Shelton Benjamin, Finlay, Vance Archer and Mike Knox in a Six Pack Challenge. Raven even put his own partner down, and after the match, went after Shelton Benjamin to inflict more damage!

WEEK 4

RAW

In the opening match, John Morrison and Ted DiBiase faced off with R-Truth in a handicap match. Goldust came down to get involved, but DiBiase attacked him! Morrison put R-Truth away. Post-match, Morrison kept up his assault on his former partner.

Evan Bourne met Zack Ryder and The Miz in a #1 Contender's Match for the US Title! It was crazy action, and John Morrison came down and wiped out Ryder with a chair! Bourne put Miz away with a huracanrana for the win!

Batista pinned John Cena after a shocking sneak attack!

Wade Barrett and Triple H collided in an EPIC Iron Man match, destroying many chairs and reducing both men to bloody messes...even had some Chris Jericho interference, before ending in a draw.

SUPERSTARS

Chris Jericho made Yoshi Tatsu tap to the Walls of Jericho. As he celebrated, The Miz came out and taunted him from the ramp!

In a surprisingly hard hitting match, Santino stopped Joe Cothern with The Cobra! He offered Cothern a handshake post-match, but Cothern refused.

Shelton Benjamin fought hard, but could not topple Raven and Mike Knox in a handicap match.

SMACKDOWN

Matt Hardy stormed the ring to attack Christian before their match, but Christian was unfazed and put him down.

Undertaker and Kane got punished by William Regal and Drew McIntyre, but prevailed after Kane cleaned house off of a hot tag and pinned Regal with a Choke Slam!

Mark Henry and David Hart Smith seemed to have words before taking on The Straight Edge Society, and that clearly cost them as Gallows and Punk dominated them before Gallows pinned Henry.

Jack Swagger beat Sting in a non-title Falls Count Anywhere match after timely intervention by CM Punk!

TLC

Evan Bourne snuck away with the US title after Sheamus stormed the ring attacking him and hitting Pale Justice on Ryder...but Bourne sent Sheamus out of the ring and pinned Ryder!

Dolph Ziggler failed to repeat Evan Bourne's feat, but tried...but he did still outlast Drew McIntyre and Christian, pinning Christian after the Zig Zag. Ziggler brutally attacked Christian with a chair after the match!

While Raven brawled with Kaval and Shelton Benjamin, MVP managed to climb the ladder and win the Hardcore title in a TLC match!

Ted DiBiase and John Morrison had words before their Tag Title Match with the Straight Edge Society, and Punk and Gallows proved you HAVE to be on the same page to defeat them, retaining in dominant fashion.

Sting somehow outlasted Jack Swagger and The Undertaker in a TLC match, despite taking the Tombstone and the Gutwrench Powerbomb! Sting ended Swagger's reign that has lasted since Backlash!

Wade Barrett jumped a heavily bandaged Triple H from the crowd, but got too cocky in their TLC match, and Triple H managed to get the WWE Title down!

Though the "year" is technically over, the WWE "Year" runs three more months: Through Royal Rumble, Elimination Chamber and WrestleMania.

RAW

WWE Champion: Triple H
WWE United States Champion: Evan Bourne

SMACKDOWN

WWE World Champion: Sting
WWE Intercontinental Champion: Dolph Ziggler

Unified Tag Team Champions: CM Punk & Luke Gallows

Thursday, January 27, 2011

[My WWE Universe] Survivor Series



ROAD TO SURVIVOR SERIES

WEEK 1

RAW

Evan Bourne looked very impressive in a victory over Ted DiBiase!

DX faced The New Superpowers in a colossal cage match! HBK escaped first, leaving Triple H to battle Luger and Kozlov, which eventually gave Kozlov an opening to escape. Triple H ultimately prevailed, leaving Luger a bloody mess.

Tyson Kidd and Yoshi Tatsu came out to take on David Hart Smith and a mystery parter in a Falls Count Anywhere Match...Kidd and Tatsu were stunned when MARK HENRY came out! The action was wild, and got crazier when John Morrison got involved, helping out Smith and Henry! Henry crushed Kidd with the World's Strongest Slam.

In a #1 Contender's Match, Wade Barrett, Edge and Sheamus squared off. Barrett and Edge didn't allow their partnership to get in the way, and it went into a bloody brawl, with Sheamus and Edge both gushing blood. Chris Jericho ran in, and while Barrett - who had been in charge most of the match - was trying to avoid a fired up Jericho, Sheamus pinned Edge!

SUPERSTARS

Raven ambushed Shelton Benjamin before the bell! Shelton fought back, but got dropped with the Evenflow DDT!

Chris Jericho stayed about two steps ahead of Daniel Bryan, and pinned him with a small package, all while Wade Barrett watched on from the crowd.

In the Superstars main event, Zack Ryder battled Tyson Kidd. As Ryder was setting up The Zack Attack, The Miz ran out and got involved! Ryder and Miz exchanged blows, and The Miz got the worst of it! Ryder fought Kidd off and put him away to send the fans home happy!

SMACKDOWN

Kane and Luke Gallows opened the show in a Falls Count Anywhere Match. As these two behemoths brawled, Rob Van Dam ran out and interjected himself! He seemed focused on Gallows, but he and Kane had a run-in...however, Kane pinned Gallows after RVD his his Five Star Frog Splash!

Alberto Del Rio couldn't make Big Show tap out, but he was able to wear him down enough to pin him off of a flying senton!

Shad jumped Kofi Kingston before their match, but failed to capitalize. He used his power to beat Kofi down, but Kofi's speed was too much, and a Boom Drop followed by the SOS took it home.

The crowd was ELECTRIC for the main event, a #1 Contender's Match between CM Punk and Sting! Sting held off Punk and made him tap out to the Scorpion Death Lock...when the match was ordered to be re-started as a Falls Count Anywhere match! Sting and Punk brawled in and around the ring, and Luke Gallows came out of the crowd with a chair! Sting tried to fight off both men...when Kaval ran out! He brawled to the back with Gallows as Sting press slammed Punk through one announce table, then hit a diving elbow off the top through the second to score the decisive win!

WEEK 2

RAW

Evan Bourne stunned one Vladimir Kozlov to pick up another huge win!

Shawn Michaels had to fend off Vladimir Kozlov's interference, but he schooled Lex Luger in a Ladder Match!

Despite The Brothers of Destruction dealing out massive amounts of damage to Wade Barrett and Edge, Barrett still retrieved the briefcase to win a ladder match.

Sheamus attacked Triple H as he made his way down the ramp, getting their submission match off to an auspicious start. Triple H rallied back and brawled on the floor...but Lex Luger ran out and took him down! This put Triple H at a huge advantage, and Sheamus gained a ton of momentum as he wore Hunter down and ultimately won this non-title match! He tried to cripple Hunter after the match, but HBK ran out and ran Sheamus off!

SUPERSTARS

Steve Austin beat David Otunga bloody en route to a decisive win. Austin surprisingly offered Otunga his hand...Otunga, perhaps wisely, didn't take it.

Shelton Benjamin's superior speed allowed him to sneak past MVP and Raven in a handicap match! Benjamin tried to make nice with Raven, but Raven refused.

In a crazy main event, John Morrison had Daniel Bryan on the ropes when Justin Gabriel ran in...and Vladimir Kozlov came out of the crowd and brawled with Gabriel! Morrison scored the pin.

SMACKDOWN

Kane and Drew McIntyre fought in a great opener, with Kane dropping Drew with the Choke Slam.

Despite a pre-match assault by the Straight Edge Society, The Winds of Change beat Gallows and Punk when Edge pinned Gallows while Barrett hammered Punk with a chair.

Chris Masters hit the ring hard to take Great Muta down early, but Muta's unorthodox attacks wore him down! After the Poison Mist, Masters was never the same, and Muta pinned him after the Moonsault.

Jack Swagger found himself in the most unenviable position ever: Between Sting and The Undertaker in a Triple Threat match! And then it was made a Falls Count Anywhere Match! Swagger used every dirty trick he had...but Sting and Undertaker were ferocious! He even hit the Gutwrench Powerbomb on Sting, he just went nuts! CM Punk ran out as Sting hit the Scorpion Death Drop on Undertaker on the ramp, and he attacked The Stinger! As he was hitting the GTS on Sting, Swagger snuck over and pinned Undertaker!

WEEK 3

RAW

Justin Gabriel sat at ringside, getting in Kozlov's head as he faced Zack Ryder. The Greatest American Bolo was present to make sure there were no shenanigans, and Ryder pinned Kozlov after a reverse DDT on the floor and a Zack Attack in the ring.

Batista and Randy Orton had an intense fight, but Batista got the upper hand and scored the pin with the Batista Bomb.

Miz never looked like a real threat as Cena beat him in a Tables Match.

Tyson Kidd never seemed sure what he was getting into as he faced Shinsuke Nakamura, who blasted him with the Boma Ye for the win. After the match, he offered Kidd his hand, but Kidd slapped it and stormed away.

SUPERSTARS

Daniel Bryan took Steve Austin to the limit, but Vladimir Kozlov ran out! Though Bryan fended off Kozlov, it through Bryan off his game and Austin prevailed! After the match, Austin offered Bryan his hand, but Bryan thought better of it.

John Morrison pinned Sheamus in an amazing non-title match after Starship Pain!

MVP and Raven were FAR too much for Shelton Benjamin this week.

SMACKDOWN

Dolph Ziggler looked amazing as he battled Cody Rhodes in a Tables match. He fought off Christian before putting Cody through the announce table with a moonsault.

Christian and Kofi Kingston prepared to face off in a #1 Contender's Match for Todo Americano's Intercontinental Title...when it got turned into a Submission Match! Kofi looked tremendous, prevailing over Christian!

William Regal jumped Chris Masters before the match and hit the Knee Trembler on the floor, but could not follow up. Masters held his own in the ring, until Regal split him open with the Power of the Punch, followed by the Knee Trembler. He put his feet on the ropes for the pin.

Undertaker got some measure of revenge against CM Punk, fending off Gallows as well in order to score the pin with the Tombstone.

WEEK 4

RAW

A Fatal Four Way between Evan Bourne, Ted DiBiase, John Morrison and The Miz got off to a shocking start when Morrison attacked Bourne as he was coming down the ramp! Edge got involved for some reason as well, but Bourne still managed to pin Miz to get the win!

Chris Jericho rebounded from a prematch attack by Batista to beat him with the Walls of Jericho! Post-match, Wade Barrett came down to threaten Jericho!

Lex Luger brutally attacked Shinsuke Nakamura from the crowd before their match, but Nakamura gave him more than he was prepared for and finished him with a lariat!

Despite Shawn Michaels trying to cause distractions, Wade Barrett pinned WWE Champion Triple H after the Wasteland!

SUPERSTARS

Steve Austin fended off The Nexus in a Gauntlet! He reduced Gabriel and Bryan to bloody pulps, and made all three men (including Otunga) eat stunners.

Shelton Benjamin and Rob Van Dam squared off against Raven and his mystery partner...Mike Knox! Knox and Raven inflicted much damage, keeping RVD and Shelton grounded! Shelton was busted open by Raven before Knox ended him with the Knox Out!

Zack Ryder looked great, taking down Tyson Kidd!

SMACKDOWN

Luke Gallows never quite got in gear, getting pinned by Cody Rhodes as Christian made sure nothing crazy happened at ringside!

Shad jumped Big Show from the crowd, but showboated and it cost him as Big Show beat him down and made him submit! Swagger came out on the stage and taunted him!

MVP and Rey Mysterio brawled in the GM's office, with Rey ultimately knocking MVP out with a laptop!

Drew McIntyre and Todo Americano squared off as the first two competitors in a Championship Scramble for the Intercontinental title! They destroyed each other, until Christian hit the ring! Dolph Ziggler made his way out and put Todo Americano down with the sleeper hold, and remained interim champion through Kofi Kingston's arrival, winning the Intercontinental title!

SURVIVOR SERIES

Evan Bourne, Zack Ryder and R-Truth took on John Morrison, The Miz and Ted DiBiase! R-Truth let his emotions at his partner's betrayal get the better of him, and he got pinned by DiBiase! Ryder just UNLOADED on DiBiase, causing him to get counted out! Evan Bourne got some revenge on Morrison with the Air Bourne, and then pinned Miz as well.

Rey Mysterio, Rob Van Dam and Shelton Benjamin battled Raven, Mike Knox and MVP! Knox made short work of RVD, but then got counted out with Shelton on the floor. MVP and Raven were too much for Rey.

Lex Luger and Sheamus jumped DX before the next match, leaving Shinsuke Nakamura to battle Vladimir Kozlov in the ring! However, a snap Superkick by Michaels dropped Kozlov! Luger and Sheamus held on, but Nakamura blasted Luger with the Boma Ye and Triple H spiked Sheamus with the Pedigree for the pin.

Dolph Ziggler and William Regal ambushed Cody Rhodes and Christian, while Drew McIntyre and Kofi Kingston brawled. It was very even until Regal took Christian out with the Knee Trembler, then leveled Kofi with the Power of the Punch and the Knee Trembler as well. Cody tore Dolph apart on the floor, but Drew was the legal man, and he basically slid back into the Future Shock to get put down.

The Raw main event was bloody, as John Cena, Chris Jericho and Randy Orton faced Wade Barrett, Edge and Batista! Jericho ALMOST took out Batista with a Codebreaker, but fell prey to Wasteland. Batista crushed Orton with the Batista Bomb, and Edge pinned Cena with the Spear.

Sting joined The Brothers of Destruction in taking on Jack Swagger and the Straight Edge Society! Sting put down Gallows and Swagger with Scorpion Death Drops, while Undertaker sent Punk for the Last Ride!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Tommy's Take on MasterBook

I actually had no prior experience with Masterbook, so color me interested when Precis Intermedia Games saved it from death and obscurity after the complete collapse of West End Games.

Masterbook is a toolkit system designed to use a series of cards to alter and affect gameplay...honestly, it's right up my alley, at least in concept.

This review is of the PDF version, which is a 262 page PDF, fully bookmarked and searchable and all that...and, it is worth noting, including both a complete set of printable black and white MasterDeck cards, and a complete set of color ones. For those who don't want to print their own, Precis Intermedia just announced that the MasterDeck is back in print.

AN INTRODUCTION TO MASTERBOOK

This is pretty much what it sounds like, an introductory chapter explaining roleplaying games (complete with the Cops and Robbers "I shot you! No you didn't!" explanation), as well as explaining what MasterBook is (a generic setting designed to be played in multiple genres).

There's not a lot here that you haven't seen before, and I don't know if any of this was off the well beaten path even in 1994, but honestly, you just kind of expect to see that sort of thing in RPGs anymore.

BASIC RULE OVERVIEW

Counting a two page character sheet and a full page piece of art, this clocks in at about 16 pages or so and, honestly, I think an experience GM could almost run the game off of those pages, believe it or not.

CHARACTER CREATION

Characters have eight Attributes: Agility, Dexterity, Strength, Endurance, Intellect, Mind, Charisma and Confidence, and 68 points to spend. The scale, oddly, runs from the normal minimum of 5 to the human peak of 13...although the benchmarks chart curiously drops from 5 to -5. I started playing RPGs around 1994, and I don't think I would have questioned the scale back then, but it's just a bit odd now.

Once that is completed, you get Derived Attributes, like Toughness and Movement Rates. While Skills aren't TECHNICALLY Derived, you do get your skill points from your Intellect and Mind. There are a number of rules governing the spending of skill points, and while Specializations are present, they are annoyingly on a half point system...that is, each level (or "add") of a specialization is half a point. As a rule, I don't like bean counting in my games, and half points are more tedious than I like to deal with.

It is also worth noting that skills do not run on the same scale as Attributes, starting at 1 (if they are trained at all, of course) up past 16.

BACKGROUND GENERATION

Here we get a lot of common background questions to flesh the character out, but we also get Advantages and Compensations. Now this, I really like. Rather than assigning point values to the Advantages and Compensations, they are placed in Columns, with the effects being more and more extreme, the higher you go. Every Advantage that you take requires taking a Compensation from a corresponding Column. There is an optional rule for mixing across Columns...such as trading in a Column III selection for Column I selections...this requires taking a Column III Compensation still.

Five genres (High Fantasy, Low Fantasy, Real World, Science Fiction and Pulp) are provided, with recommended Column selections.

Column I Advantages are pretty basic: A snitch you can call on, an extra skill point, etc. Around Column III, you start getting into things like having a Danger Sense, while Column IV gives you options like Godlike Contacts and Natural Weapons.

Every Advantage is detailed, with notable restrictions and notes spelled out.

The Compensation Columns start off fairly light: Owing a small debt or having a minor enemy, and scale up to Employed - meaning you don't have a lot of autonomy - or being a victim of Prejudice, to having a powerful Enemy hunting you, or being so Infamous that you are doggedly pursued. There are no Column IV Compensations...at that point, the player and GM get to work something out that is suitable.

You can get rid of Compensations, just as you can lose Advantages, and they are often linked.

Guidelines are also given for making new races and species for your games, generally by mixing and matching Advantages and Compensations.

THE RULES

The core mechanic of the game involves rolling 2d10 and comparing them to a Bonus Chart, giving you a number that you add (or subtract) from your relevant skill to gain a total for your action. And yes, I did say subtract: If you roll below a 9, your "Bonus" is a penalty. Most people are familiar with the concept of Exploding Dice, but Masterbook has a very interesting variant: You can reroll and keep your 10s rolled - but ONLY if you have adds in the relevant skills or specializations. It is thus IMPOSSIBLE for a completely unskilled, lucky shot to explode and blow out someone gifted at a given action.

Well...normally. There are exceptions, through the use of the MasterDeck and the expenditure of Life Points (kind of like Fate Points/Action Points/Bennies/whatever).

If you beat the Target Number for the action, subtract your total from the Target Number, compare to the Success Chart, and see precisely what the effect of the action is.

Damage is handled under a Wound system that goes from Lightly to Moderately to Heavily to Incapacitated to Mortally to Dead. You can also gain "K"s and "O"s...if you have a K AND an O, you're knocked out.

A little sidebar I love is descriptive elements for the Wound types, such as Lightly Wounded being a bruise, while Incapacitated being a heavy concussion.

With the basics of combat out of the way, Combat Options such as Hit Locations (providing more or less damage, depending on the targeted spot) are given, plus options like capping melee damage based off of Strength, and providing different bonuses and penalties for different tricks and tactics with a gun.

Damage options are also given, if you want to incorporate bits such as bleeding out.

Rules and guidelines are given for Interactions as well, with these being old standards such as Intimidation, Taunts and Tricks, Con, Persuasion and Interrogation.

There are two sets of Initiative Rules, one using the MasterDeck and one using standard die rolls. In the former, you essentially draw a MasterDeck card and it tells you who gets to go when.

Pretty much most of the rules staples you would expect round out the chapter, such as Falling damage, multiple actions, dealing with gang-ups and so on. A Value Chart is also given, reminding me a bit of the benchmarks from the old Mayfair Games DC Heroes RPG.

SKILLS AND SKILL USE

The skill list is kinda huge, though not every one will even be available in every game: For instance, in a 1930s Mob War setting, Energy Weapons probably won't be needed.

Some skills require specific foci, such as Faith or Beast Riding, and specializations are given for each skill. while I generally like smaller skill lists, at least there is nothing that just drives me nuts here, like Beautician. Every skill is tied to an Attribute, because some skills can be used untrained (defaulting to the attribute), though others cannot...and being a skill based system, it is much cheaper to raise skills than to improve attributes.

THE CARD DECK

The MasterDeck is 108 cards, and the number of cards given out is dependent on the number of PCs in the game...(one PC gets way more for their own use than a group of 5 gets, individually speakning).

There are three types of cards:

Enhancements generally provide some manner of specified bonus, such as Breakthrough allowing a PC to roll a skill as if they are trained, and add +3 to their roll, but only if they otherwise have no adds in it. Haste gives an immediate extra action, and so on.

Subplots are in-game effects that come into play over the course of the adventure, like Martyr (which can let your hero go out in a blaze of glory...if you choose), or Mistaken Identity - which means that you have been confused for someone else. The Campaign card is used to make a temporary subplot permanent, perhaps gaining you an enemy for life!

There are four Picture cards (Wild, Interloper, Disaster and Opportunity) that each also have their own very specific effects if they come into play.

Oh, and there are blank cards, if you want to make your own.

Card based initiative is given more detail here, showing you just how to read the cards for initiative. For instance, certain conditions may come into play, such as Flurry, which may allow all PCs an extra attack that round, or Up, which means that side gets to automatically reroll all dice as if they had rolled 10s.

The initiative card also has "approved" actions...if the PC succeeds at those, they get an extra card from the MasterDeck for their use.

Lastly, cards are also used for Critical Skill Resolution, which are multi-step crisis situations, like defusing bombs or freeing someone from a trap without killing them. A few pages of examples follow, using cards in each type of situation.

CREATING AND USING SPECIAL EFFECTS

Magic, Miracles, Psionics and Super-Science mainly.

Rather than provide a laundry list of abilities and forcing you to shove everything into those, MasterBook devotes a chapter to making your effects piece by piece (with a few examples).

In fact, the book constructs a magical Fireball spell, piece by piece, to show you how it works, and includes a worksheet that you can use to track your FX construction. Be warned, special effects run the risk of harming PCs! They have a Feedback Value that can be reduced by high rolls when casting the FX. You don't necessarily FAIL if you get Feedback...you may just take out yourself and your opponent.

The plus side is, it's versatile. The downside is, other than that fireball, you don't start off with many FX written up, so there's some work ahead for you and your players in that first few go arounds.

BASIC EQUIPMENT

This is pretty much an equipment chapter. Most modern weapons are given static damage ratings (handguns, etc), while most melee weapons and muscle-powered missile weapons are given "STR+" damage.

Armor is handled in a pretty straight forward manner, adding to Toughness.

Certainly not the greatest equipment chapter I have ever read, but it gets all of the necessary information across.

GAMEMASTERING MASTERBOOK

This section gives a very broad overview of World Creation, emphasizing the five genres that it pointed out earlier in the book. There's some good, if not great, advice in here. A beginning GM without a setting book would probably be fairly lost, while a moderately experienced GM could probably suss it out.

A pair of character templates are included, one for fantasy and one for sci-fi, to show you what a couple of completed characters look like.

MASTERDECK

As mentioned above, the MasterDeck is included as printable pages (fronts and backs, both color and black and white), for those who want to get rolling right now. Some very helpful instructions and tips are included up front (such as recommended paper stock).

THOUGHTS

Honestly, a character sheet would have been nice, but the accomodations in the PDF for the MasterDeck were GREAT.

The system itself is almost 20 years old, and it shows in some places. I'm not a huge fan of skill-based systems, but that is a personal preference and not a knock on the quality of the system. I do really like the Advantages/Compensation system, and I think the MasterDeck is pretty neat.

I hope it gets some support setting-wise, whether in the form of reprints or new material, because it feels a bit hollow right now...I mean, for a fantasy game or the like, at least some kind of examples to eyeball for a bestiary would be gold.

I don't see enough here to have me clamoring to ditch Savage Worlds as my go-to "generic" game, but I certainly wouldn't be opposed to taking it for a spin in a game or two.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Tommy's Take on Dust Devils

I love westerns.

One of my favorite games is Deadlands, in both Reloaded and Classic incarnations.

I'd heard of Dust Devils as being the best western RPG ever, and it seems as though it won an award saying something to that effect back in 2002. This is the Revenged Edition, which was released last year, with More Stuff, including some alternate genres.

The PDF is $10, black and white, and lacks bookmarks. The layout is light enough that I don't think it would really need a dedicated printer friendly version, but I could be wrong.

INTRODUCTION

Up front, we learn that the author considers it a "story-telling game", which kinda jibes with my reading. It's not a traditional RPG, anyway.

Dust Devils pays much respect to Unforgiven, which is always a good selling point, as I rather loved that film...and that's apparently the kind of western it is meant to emulate.

The kicker in the game is that all characters, no matter who they are, have a "Devil" inside them that they need to deal with.

CHARACTER ROUND UP

Characters have four stats: Hand, Eye, Guts and Heart, which are keyed to playing card suits Spades, Diamonds, Guts and Hearts in order. You divide 13 points up among them, no Score exceeding 5.

Every character has two Traits. In today's parlance, they would be similar to FATE's Aspects, as they can be used to provide a bonus, or to earn chips when invoked in a negative fashion.

Next, you determine the character's Past and Present, which are essentially one word descriptors detailing what they did, and what they do. Four points are divided up here, to show which holds a larger sway over him.

Then, you pick the Devil, which is the dark driving force inside the character that they have to deal with. Devil has a rating as well, from 1 to 3, that shifts from session to session, as the player sees fit.

THE LAWS OF THE WEST

Conflict resolution requires the players determine what their character wanys, and to determine who is opposing them.

Resolution uses a poker deck, and the best poker hand in each conflict wins. The number of cards are based off of the two Scores used in each conflict, which the Dealer has final say on. For instance, trying to take down a rampaging drunken bear of a man with your bare hands might be Hands and Guts. If your Hands are 2 and your Guts are 4, that's six cards.

You may have an applicable trait, like Bare Knuckles Brawler. That's a bonus card.

Your Devil can also affect things: If you are acting in accordance with your Devil, that can provide bonus cards...if you are trying to fight it, that can take cards away. For instance, if your Devil is Bloodthirsty 2, and you are trying to drop your opponent with minimal damage, you could lose 2 cards...but if you have no qualms with crushing his wind pipe and biting his nose off, then you may wind up with 9 cards to make your poker hand with...but a bar full of horrified people staring at you afterwards.

Finally, if you Past or Present are relevant to the situation, you can discard and draw a number of cards equal to their rating. From there, you make the best five card poker hand that you can.

If you are opposing multiple people and you only beat some of them, you may or may not succeed, depending on what you are trying to accomplish and who you beat. People that lose out, take Harm, which reduces their Scores. The amount of Harm inflicted depends on the Poker Hand. High card is 1 Harm, Royal Flush is 5 Harm.

Whoever has the highest card in play gets to be the Narrator for the Conflict. They HAVE to make sure the Winner's goal succeeds regardless...but they have leeway on everyone else, as well as where Harm is inflicted at.

Anyone that has a Score drop to 0 is just limping towards death. The moment that they have to enter an action requiring that 0 score, The End is near.

When The End arrives for a character, that Player gets to narrate their big swan song.

Poker chips come into play, and players can earn chips by fighting their Devil, acting in opposition to their Traits, and wagering chips in Conflict. The chips can then be spent to gain additional cards during the Deal, discard and draw new cards during the Draw, to Fold (and remove themselves from a conflict...and thus harm), to become Narrator, and to restore any Score that has received Harm but not reached 0, to delay The End by using the character's Devil in place of the depleted Score, and to Harm or Redeem (heal, essentially) other characters while narrating your own End.

A very nice chart is placed following this, breaking all that down in easy to read format.

REACH FOR IT

This is kind of a "here's what your getting into" chapter. It talks about players forcing Conflicts, sometimes with each other (the game certainly does not actively discourage it), as well as some other, none conflict stuff like Stud Hands, which are essentially Hazards. They are rated (with examples) from Minor hassle (3 card draw for the Dealer), Big Challenge (5 cards), Difficult Problem (7 cards) and Biblical Calamity (9 cards).

Tips are provided for generating NPCs on the fly, and some basic GM advice, liking making sure the characters' stories intersect, and knowing when to rein them in or cut them loose.

A mini-situation is provided, involving warring cattle barons and a Romeo and Juliet twist, complete with NPCs.

HOW THE WEST WAS WON

This is a discussion of the genre, with some notes on how some famous characters from western films may look in Dust Devils, as well as a list of seven recommended films, complete with a paragraph or so on how to rip them off for your own game.

A list of other recommendations, both book and film, are also presented.

The second half of the chapter focuses more on the "real" West, and how it might apply to a Dust Devils game, such as the harshness of the weather conditions, life for cowboys as technology encroached and the frontier disappeared, and so on. It's some pretty good material that doesn't feel as preachy as I've come to expect from this sort of thing.

BEYOND THE WEST

These are three alternate settings, using modified versions of the Dust Devils rules.

Deathwish, the first of the settings, unfortunately has nothing to do with revenge driven action films (like Deathwish, for instance) and is all about James Bond type stuff. I think it's probably a little more appropriate when you focus more on source material like 24 and The Bourne Identity, rather than James Bond, but that's just me.

Deathwish swaps out the Scores with four new ones, but they serve the same mechanical purpose. Past and Present become Specialties, Traits are replaced with Loyalties, and Devil is replaced with Deathwish. A lot of leeway is granted with loyalties, which can include agencies, countries, people or ideologies.

Incredibly fiting is the next setting, Ronin. Given that a number of westerns were reimagined samurai films, twisting a western game into a samurai game is oddly appropriate. The four Scores are replaced with Water, Wind, Earth and Fire. Water is martial ability, Wind is intellectual capacity, Earth is brawn and Fire is passion. Honor and Spirit replace Traits, and Talents replace Past and Present, though every character has the Bushi Talent and one other talent. Duty replaces Devil.

Two sample Ronin are provided, to give you some idea as to how character creation differs. Mechanically, the poker trappings probably feel the most out of place here, but I'll give it a pass because of the samurai-westerns link.

The final setting is Concrete Angels, which is meant to evoke source material such as Sin City. The four Scores become Trade, Resource, Violence and Emotion, and uses higher point totals. Additionally, characters now have an Archetype, choosing between one of four (each tied to a Score).

Traits are now Vices and Virtues, and Angles replace Past and Present. The Devil is replaced by The Zero, though it functions the same.

Honestly, none of them feel as cool as the western setting, but that may be a tad bit of bias on my part, as I do love Westerns so.

An Afterword is included, followed by a number of Game Play Aids, including the Poker Hands chart how to earn and spend chips, and a character record sheet which actually holds to sheets (print them off and cut them in two).

THOUGHTS

For those who care about such things, it's definitely closer to a "Story game" than a "role-playing game". It also will not be replacing Deadlands at my table anytime soon.

That said, I would gladly give it a go in its primary, Western incarnation. I have no real desire to run it in the alternate settings, though...although, some combination of Deathwish and Concrete Angels might work to produce a decent 100 Bullets-style game, and that could be cool.

At 70 pages, it's probably a little light for $10, but I wouldn't give it a thumbs down...just not an enthusiastic thumbs up.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

[My WWE Universe] Bragging Rights



ROAD TO BRAGGING RIGHTS

WEEK 1

RAW

Bolo beat David Otunga in a brutal Extreme Rules match, fending off Justin Gabriel in the process!

Despite The Miz getting involved, Morrison and R-Truth fended off The Straight Edge Society in a Tables Match.

In a Fatal Four Way Cage Match, Chris Jericho pinned Batista with a small package while Orton and Cena were brawling.

In a Falls Count Anywhere Triple Threat Match, Wade Barrett snuck a pin on Miz after HBK hit the Sweet Chin Music, then he spiked Michaels on the floor with the Wasteland for the win!

SUPERSTARS

Evan Bourne never even got started as Tyson Kidd jumped him from the crowd and ultimately made him tap out.

Shad did a lot of damage, but Rob Van Dam survived his onslaught and pinned him with the Five Star Frog Splash. RVD offered to shake his hand, but Shad slapped it away.

Nexus nearly took out Luger and Kozlov, but Bolo hit the American Revolution to put Justin Gabriel down.

SMACKDOWN

Regal jumped JTG before the bell and JTG dodged one Knee Trembler, but the second knocked him out.

In an intense #1 Contender's Match with Cody Rhodes watching at ringside, Christian endured everything Drew McIntyre had to bloody him and score the pin with the Killswitch. He will now challenge Todo Americano for the IC title.

Cody Rhodes knocked out MVP in a Parking Lot Brawl.

Kane, accompanied by Paul Bearer, made short work of Dolph Ziggler.

WEEK 2

RAW

Wade Barrett defeated Daniel Bryan, Justin Gabriel and David Otunga in a Gauntlet that pushed him to his very limits.

In a stunning upset, Evan Bourne pinned Sheamus inside a Steel Cage after Air Bourne!

With Ted DiBiase watching on, Zack Ryder pinned The Miz in a Falls Count Anywhere Match to become the #1 Contender to Sheamus' US title.

Vladimir Kozlov and Lex Luger jumped DX before their match, which was a chaotic brawl all over the arena. WWE Champion Triple H sustained too much damage, taking multiple Torture Racks...ultimately being pinned by Kozlov. Shawn Michaels hung in there for quite a while, but Luger ultimately made him give up to the Torture Rack. Post-match, Justin Gabriel and Daniel Bryan ambushed Luger and Kozlov and beat them down!

SUPERSTARS

Wade Barrett CRUSHED Shawn Michaels after a sneak attack from the crowd.

Paul Bearer accompanied Kane to the ring while Vance Archer accommpanied Drew McIntyre. It was a good, back and forth match, with Jack Swagger scouting from the crowd. Vance Archer got ejected for repeated interference, and Kane spiked McIntyre for the win.

Sting and Kaval were preparing to face Daniel Bryan and Justin Gabriel, when CM Punk and Luke Gallows jumped Sting and Kaval from behind! Sting and Kaval tried to fight back against Nexus, but Gabriel pinned Kaval for the win!

SMACKDOWN

In an odd turn of events, Luke Gallows was accompanied by Alberto Del Rio as he took on Kane, whose brother The Undertaker was present at ringside. As Del Rio was being ejected late in the match, Kane hit the choke slam. Gallows fought back desperately, but got NAILED with a lariat for the pin. Kane offered his hand to Gallows, who slapped it away.

The Hart Dynasty jumped Goldust and Yoshi Tatsu before their tables match, and immediately hit their big moves on the floor. Evan Bourne ran in and interfered on behalf of Goldust and Tatsu, but The Hart Dynasty prevailed when Tatsu got crushed through a table.

Cody Rhodes and Christian made and unlikely team, taking on Vance Archer and his mystery partner...William Regal! Though each team was very much makeshift, Rhodes stunned Regal with Cross Rhodes for the pin.

CM Punk hit the ring hard in a #1 Contender's Ladder Match against Drew McIntyre, but he got too eager trying to bring the contract briefcase down, and didn't pay attention to McIntyre...who knocked him off the ladder and got the contract down!

WEEK 3

RAW

Tyson Kidd, with assistance from newcomer Joe Cothern, beat R-Truth in a Falls Count Anywhere Match!

Tyson Kidd shockingly betrayed David Hart Smith, costing him a submission match against John Morrison! Luke Gallows came out after the match and taunted Morrison from the ramp!

Evan Bourne looked tremendous in taking out Ezekiel Jackson!

DX teamed with Zack Ryder in an elimination match against Barrett, Edge and Sheamus. Edge pinned Triple H to score the first elimination, while Barrett surprised Michaels for the second. Edge, Sheamus and Barrett beat Ryder bloody before Barrett put Ryder away.

SUPERSTARS

Raven shockingly ambushed The Rock before their match! Rock tried to fight him off, but Raven hit the Evenflow and scored the pin with his feet on the ropes!

Edge jumped Evan Bourne as he was coming down the ramp, and they brawled on the floor for several minutes, with Edge getting the upperhand. Once they made it into the ring, the Spear ended it.

John Morrison prepared to take on Tyson Kidd and The Miz in a Triple Threat, when Miz ambushed Kidd as he came down the ramp! Morrison dove to the floor and missed, and ate a Skull Crushing Finale! All three men went back and forth, but Morrison took advantage of a worn down Kidd to win the match!

SMACKDOWN

JTG put up a great fight, but Mike Knox was far too much for him.

The Straight Edge Society beat DX to become the #1 Contenders to the Tag Team Titles when Lex Luger and Vladimir Kozlov jumped DX before the match!

Rey Mysterio made short work of MVP! Rey tried to make nice post-match, but MVP slapped him away.

Sting and Kaval came out to take on Luger and Kozlov...but Gallows jumped Sting from behind, and Justin Gabriel shanghaied Kaval! Sting and Kaval were thrown in the ring hurting! It wasn't enough, though, as Sting hit the Scorpion Death Drop on Kozlov while Kaval brawled with Luger!

WEEK 4

RAW

Bolo came to the ring to provide back-up as David Hart Smith squared off with former partner Tyson Kidd! As Smith moved in for the kill, Yoshi Tatsu ran in and caused a distraction! Things got chaotic with everyone out there, but assistance from Bolo helped fend off Tatsu so Smith could get some revenge!

Jericho stunned Edge with a cradle out of a powerbomb after kicking a chair into his face! Post-match, Wade Barrett jumped Jericho with a lead pipe!

Luger and Kozlov looked impressive, defeating Cody Rhodes and Christian!

SUPERSTARS

In a shocking upset, Justin Gabriel pinned Chris Jericho after a sneak attack from the crowd and a 450 Splash!

Luke Gallows was all over Kane from the start, and CM Punk helped out whenever Kane got a head of steam. The referee ejected Punk, however, distracting Gallows as he walked into a Kane Chokeslam!

Despite interference from Maryse, John Morrison (w/R-Truth) pinned Ted DiBiase.

SMACKDOWN

Gallows jumped Cody Rhodes before the bell, but was surprised as Cody ferociously fought back! As Gallows started to gain the upperhand, Cody caught a small package out of nowhere for the win! Cody offered Gallows a handshake post-match, but was refused.

Rey Mysterio, Rob Van Dam and Chris Masters teamed up to face MVP, Alberto Del Rio and Raven! The match was phenomenal and saw lots of momentum shifts, but MVP planted Masters with the Playmaker to score the win.

Dolph Ziggler pinned Finlay in what was mostly a showcase for Ziggler, hitting the Zig-Zag and putting his feet on the ropes.

CM Punk parked himself at ringside to see Sting put a huge dent in Drew McIntyre's momentum by making him tap to the Scorpion Death Lock! As Sting celebrated, Nexus members David Otunga and Justin Gabriel came to the stage to taunt him!

BRAGGING RIGHTS

Bragging Rights kicked off with Dolph Ziggler vs Shawn MichaelS! Kozlov was at ringside, playing mind games with HBK...and Luger ran out as well! Luger ALMOST interfered multiple times, never actually touching Michaels...but did cause ample distracting to allow Ziggler to score a huge upset!

CM Punk and Luke Gallows absolutely punished R-Truth en route to Straight Edge Society winning the Tag Team Titles from Morrison and R-Truth!

Raw rebounded heavily from a 2-0 deficit, fielding John Cena, Randy Orton and Chris Jericho against Sting, Undertaker and Kane! Cena put Sting away first after the Five Knuckle Shuffle and the Attitude Adjustment! Orton pinned Undertaker after TWO RKOs and a Punt Kick, and Kane tapped to the Walls of Jericho!

The biggest opportunity of Drew McIntyre's career flew right out of his hands as Swagger spiked him with the Gutwrench Powerbomb to retain the World Heavyweight Title.

In a Smackdown vs Raw Battle Royal, Raven, Alberto Del Rio, MVP, Sheamus, Edge and The Miz squared off! Raven went pretty quickly, while Edge and MVP followed. Sheamus and Miz should have dominated Del Rio, but their personal issues exploded and Sheamus helped Del Rio eliminate Miz before winning the battle royal himself!

Wade Barrett's momentum of destiny slipped through his fingers as he was pinned by Triple H following a BRUTAL match...perhaps the presence of David Otunga in the crowd threw Barrett off his game. After the match, Luger and Kozlov taunted the exhausted Triple H.

Tommy's Take on Valherjar: The Chosen Slain

This game wasn't even on my radar until a few days ago, when a friend of mine asked about it on a message board and I discovered I had acquired it during the Haiti Bundle. So, since he was asking about it, here I am reviewing it.

Valherjar is a "modern day Ragnarok"...an urban fantasy game with a distinctly Norse bent. It was released in 2004 and has its own game system, as well as a d20/OGL appendix. To set the stage, the cover is a guy standing in an alley wearing a trenchcoat over chain mail, holding a shotgun and a glowing ax.

The PDF is 233 pages, black and white, and pretty bare bones. It IS searchable and copy and paste enabled, at least. It also includes a table of contents and appendix.

PROLOGUE: MORTAL FEARS

This is pretty much intro fluff game fiction. Honestly, I skimmed this...I usually do, unless it's short and sweet or hooks me pretty quickly...and this didn't hook me, and takes up most of seven pages...of double columns of text.

CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION

The first part of this chapter starts with a crash course in Norse mythology, and hits most of the points I remember. It talks about the major Gods in very loose terms, the Nine Realms, etc. This game focuses on Ragnarok, and the idea that it is drawing close. The Jotun are corrupting basically everything, while the Aesir are moving to end Ragnarok before it can begin, and that's where the Valherjar come on: The Valherjar are valiant warriors plucked from death and given Rune Stones that restore them to life as elite soldier tasked with stopping the Jotun before Ragnarok.

This section talks about Valherjar Year Books that were apparently meant to update the world annually, but I can find no record that they were ever released. There is also a section on inspiration, citing such sources as Frank Miller's 300, Saving Private Ryan and The Crow, as well as a smattering of historical/mythological sources.

We also get a very basic "what is a role-playing game" section, and an overview of the dice used in the AOR system, which are soley six sided dice.

CHAPTER 2: THE VALHERJAR

Here we learn just what the Valherjar are. They are handpicked by "The Valkyrie" from the ranks of the Einherjar, who are deceased mortals that have a profound sense of duty and perserverence.

We get a nice, basic description of how they are picked, with The Valkyrie appearing to the warrior at their death and asking, simply, "Was it enough?" If so, they move on...if not, they get to join the ranks of the Einherjar and, perhaps, the Valherjar.

This chapter also delves into the psychological ramifications of returning as a warrior in Ragnarok, especially since the warriors are drawn from all walks of life and belief systems. There is no hard and fast rule here: Some break...others just suck it up and go on.

There are rules that the Valherjar must follow, and punishments if those rules are not followed. They can range from getting crap assignments to having their status as Valherjar removed.

The Valherjar are divided into six groups, each serving a Patron God, and it is noted that there are common stereotypes among the six groups, related to the temperments of the Patrons. The six Gods are Frigga, Heimdall, Odin, Sif, Thor and Tyr. From there, they are typically placed in roles as either spies or shocktroopers. They are then assigned to squads, where the squad members are linked through their Rune Stones for added effect. Finally, they are ranked by battlefield prestige, making an unofficial chain of command.

We get a rundown of the types of bases the Valherjar will call on, which range from Leyline access points to processing plants where the Valherjar can dispose of bodies in order to keep their cover.

The mechanics of HOW the Valherjar work is explained, starting with the five runestones that animate the body (one in each limb and one in the sternum), plus the 6th Rune Stone implanted in the head. We also get the rundown of their abilities, from Rune Magic to Accelerated Healing to no longer requiring food or drink. However, physical trauma will still kill their mortal form...(their bodies burn up after a day, and they are reborn).

There are nine distinct types of Jotnar, and this chapter provides the common stereotypes tossed about regarding them.

The chapter ends with a section on the psychological ramifications of "dying" and being reborn again...as many Valherjar experience odd dreams and visions during the process (plus, leaving a body around makes keeping secrets a problem).

CHAPTER THREE: GAMING SYSTEM

Valherjar is powered by the AOR Gaming System, and it's a nice little system. In pretty much every roll, you roll 3d6. You pick two of your dice to add to your relevant abilities or attributes, and you take the third die to be your Action Opportunity Roll, which basically dictates how quickly you act.

Characters have eight Attributes: Dexterity, Agility, Strength, Endurance, Intelligence, Perception, Charisma and Will, ranked from 0 to 6 (though scores of 3 are getting into extreme mortal limits, with 4s maxing out mortal limits...5 and 6 are definitely supernatural).

Rolling higher than the Target Number invokes Degrees of Success, with each point being a degree.

Rolling all 6s is a critical success, all 1s is a critical failure.

EVERYTHING uses the same basic mechanic: Combat, Rune Magic, Everything else, that's pretty cool, especially since I like the mechanic. Combat is modified a bit, as you have an Initiative rating, and your AOR die is added to that, rather than used by itself.

Combat does confuse me, and I've re-read the damage system multiple times, but something isn't "clicking": You have wound boxes of different levels, from Light to Moderate to Serious to Critical, and you compare the damage rolled to either Fortitude or Vitality (depending on the type of damage suffered)...and that determines the type of Wound. The problem is that I'm not seeing HOW it's calculated. For instance, if all your Moderate wounds are filled up, you get a Serious wound...but in their examples, the character is taking Moderate wounds without suffering any Light wounds. I haven't dug around on their website to see if there is any clarification, but if it is explained in the book, I am completely missing it.

Rune Magic generates Fatigue, but there was no example supplied, though if you understand the combat damage, you will understand the fatigue.

As characters gain Prestige, their Patron will give them Boons, which are kind of like Rune Magic, but don't incur any fatigue. Prestige can also help you find "black market" items to help you on your missions, which is kinda cool, and makes Prestige valuable.

OH, WAIT...okay...here it is...I had to skip ahead to the Character Creation to see it, but there is a chart there that shows you how to determine Vitality and Fortitude, and sets the thresholds for the types of Wounds taken. So it's an organizational issue, not a true writing issue. Good to see.

A number of optional rules are included if you want more complexity in your combat, and many of these are old standards in other RPGs, such as concealment ratings for weapons, recoil, off-hand fighting, dual wielding and so on. You can keep it fairly light and free flowing, or you can add on complexity until you hit the sweet spot for your group.

CHAPTER FOUR: CHARACTER CREATION

The six "splats" are set up similar to how the World of Darkness splats are set up in their books, although there is no splat to splat fighting like you see in WoD. You have 12 points to Prioritize over four categories (Attributes, Skill, Rune Magic and Prestige), and this provides a recommended spread for each group (you can further customize within that spread, so even if everyone uses the recommended spread, no two characters of the same type have to look alike). It also lists the available Starting Magics and available Booms for each group.

Heimdall's Gjall are more modernized, tend to be jacks-of-all-trades, and keep a close eye on humans.

Tyr's Gleipner tend to be valiant knights who have to be kept away from humanity, or they will be sidelined with trying to save the poor and downtrodden from every little thing, in addition to fighting the war against the Jotnar.

Odin's Grimnir are focused on subterfuge and guile, and will try to maintain the veil of secrecy among the Valherjar no matter what.

Sif's Gyllen tend to be a bit more optimistic than the others, in the sense that they think the Ragnarok prophecy can be altered, rather than everything being doomed and they are just playing their parts.

Frigga's Hlin, on the other hand, think the war can be averted altogether, and a peaceful resolution struck. They're the hippies of the Valherjar.

Thor's Mjolnir (named after his hammer) are ferocious warriors who would just as soon fight in the open as battle in the shadows.

When Prioritizing, each level gives you point spreads to use. For instance, if you put 4 Priority Points on Attributes, you can put two Attributes at 3 and six Attributes at 2 or three at 3, four at 2 and one at 0, or four at 3, one at 2 and three at 1. A final option instead gives you a number of Veteran Points (think experience points) that you can spend to buy up your Attributes (or Skills or Rune Magic) instead.

32 skills - combat and non combat - are included, with the encouragement to use those as a base, if a player wants something new. If you have a Skill of 3, you gain a free Specialization. Specializations are listed for each Skill, with their benefits, to give you some idea.

14 Rune Magic powers are listed, with each having three Foci. For instance, Wrath of Thunder is a straight up damage dealing power. It has three Foci, including Ball Lightning (which inflicts area damage), Chained Lightning (hits multiple targets) and Jolt (inflicts damage through a solid object).

30 Boons are included, for those with a high enough Prestige. These include things like Unbreakable, which provides several rounds of immunity to most damage, once per day. Other Boons include Thrust of the Spear, which allows the hero to turn their fingers into blades and Familiarity, which allows heroes to immediately set those they deal with at ease, improving social interactions with them.

Pages of armor and weapons are included, pretty standard stuff. Given that it is a modern weapon, there are plenty of hand guns, but they don't skimp on the melee weapons, given the Asgardian roots of the game.

CHAPTER FIVE: NARRATING

The first part of this chapter is some good, but basic stuff: The three act structure, ten tips for GMing, and so on. Stuff you've read in a hundred RPG books by now.

It gets a little more useful with about a dozen game-specific plot hooks, and there are some interesting items here: Like a string of youth related crimes, all incredibly violent, and spread out across the map...with a single thread: Each mother visited the same chain of fertility clinics in order to get pregnant. Or an obnoxious celebrity type has targeted certain Jotnar concerns with their rhetoric, and the Aesir are finding this to be decidedly beneficial - so the PCs are dispatched to protect this windbag from assassination...(depending on your political leanings, your PCs could find themselves protecting a Glenn Beck or a Keith Olbermann, for instance).

The book recommends setting up your game in Campaigns, which consist of eight or nine individual Operations, with multiple Campaigns making a Saga.

A helpful section is included on making the best use of the AOR, including some tips on how people can regret just ditching their lowest die into the AOR, especially in non-combat situations.

The chapter concludes with a section on Player Rewards which, somewhat unhelpfully for some people, is basically "Find your own pace and stick with it." The faster you want the PCs to be movers and shakers, the more Veteran Points and Prestige you should give them.

CHAPTER SIX: THE JOTNAR

This amounts to the Bestiary in the game.

Instead of Rune Magic, the Jotnar have Ritual Magic, which isn't just the same thing re-skinned. A few "schools" of magic are provided, with descriptive effects of some sample effects, but - for better or for worse - actual mechanical effects are left completely up to the Narrator's interpretation.

From there, we break down the individual types of Jotnar, most of which have an image to go with the statblock and background.

The Boda are cat-ladies who try to avoid conflict.

The Garm are brutal warriors who are smarter than they look...(they look a little like classical orcs).

Jormun are reptilian creatures, little more than animals.

The Nidhogg are creepy boogeymen.

The Surtur are big, ugly, scare demons who are not meant to be fought by beginning characters at all.

Ymir are second only to Surtur in sheer, horrific strength...and have less restraint that Surtur. In fact, it is the Surtur alone that keep the Ymir from waging open warfare on the world.

Ratatosk are a catch-all for a number of freakish creatures, and an excuse to concoct just about anything and dump them into the front lines of Jotnar combat. Land Sharks, Felhounds, Grendels, Squids...many of these are not much more intelligent than animals, but there are a few...but yeah, these are just an in-game rationale to bust out whatever beast you feel like.

Thokks are kinda like Ratatosk...except they are harvested entirely from the dead, and are almost uniformly unintelligent. The most frightening of these are the Draugr, which are magically corrupted Valherjar...complete with Rune Magic.

The last major listing are for Muspells...who are mortals that have joined the Jotnar and have been given power similar to the Rune Magics employed by the Valherjar!

A basic statblock is also provided for generic thugs.

CHAPTER 7: OGL APPENDIX

You can tell this came out in 2004...the obligatory d20 tie-in. Unnecessary, really, since the game is perfectly fine without it, but at least it's an appendix and not dominating the book. Counting the OGL license, it is a full 35 pages, with Feats, Powers and Jotnar. The six splats are given the full character class treatment, and Prestige is now tied to class level.

That's all the space I'm devoting to the appendix. I don't know if it's top quality conversion work or not...I did d20 for a while, and I didn't care for it (although Star Wars Saga Edition is the tremendous exception to that rule). Just know that the option is there in the book, but it's just that, an option.

CHAPTER 8: QUICK REFERENCE

It starts off with a glossary and moves to the index, which seems fairly comprehensive. A list of Norse runes with names, pictures and meanings are included as well. Several quick reference sheets are included, covering just about everything except Boons for some reason.

The book ends with an NPC sheet followed by a (non-d20) character sheet.

THOUGHTS

The first two chapters of the book were hard to get through. WAY too much in-character fluff. I found it hard to read. From character creation on, it was a breeze. I don't mind in-character fluff, but we're talking in-character quotes about topics taking up a page, while the topic itself is a paragraph. It was patently ridiculous. After that, my only real complaint was the chart for determining damage being in Chapter four, while the combat rules were in Chapter three, and there was no indication that you needed to skip ahead to see the chart.

I was concerned with the bestiary...until I saw the two categories designed to give you free reign to do with as you will, basically. Frankly, the stat blocks look simple enough that I could mine old D&D bestiaries for fodder with minimal problems. That's always cool.

I really like the core mechanic of rolling three dice and picking one for speed and two for effect. It seems like I've seen a mechanic like that somewhere, but I can't place it. Normally, I would complain about the size of the skill list, but for some reason it doesn't feel too excessive. I also love that the game has a built in "This is why you're a team" bit, so everyone can play their chosen character type, whatever it is, and then you just say "And the Aesir bonded you together". If anyone decides to be a game wrecker? In-game punishment from the Gods.

The plot seeds in the Narration chapter show a surprising amount of depth in the types of Operations that can be played, and I'm honestly a little sad that the company apparently died after this book came out, because none of the promised support materialized, though their website is still up with character sheets and a preview of the game system (taken directly from the book).

It's a pretty cool little game, that probably deserved more attention, and a better editor on the first two chapters. I'm not HUGELY into Norse mythology, but I do like the concept of "...and then you found out that Ragnarok is real, and these guys want you to help try to stop it".

Recommended, even if there are some organizational issues.

Tommy's Take on War of the Dead: Chapter Two Week Twelve

With the impending release of the final Week of Chapter 2, let's take a look at the penultimate week.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

[My WWE Universe] Hell in a Cell



THE ROAD TO HELL IN A CELL

WEEK 1

RAW

Ted DiBiase made it a point to attack John Morrison with a chair, but Morrison still pinned Mark Henry in a Falls Count Anywhere match.

Ted DiBiase put up an AMAZING fight, even kicking out of Sweet Chin Music once...but the second time was too much and HBK prevailed.

Wade Barrett and EDGE formed a shocking alliance to take on Chris Jericho and John Cena! David Otunga ran in, and got beat down by Barrett AND Edge...Barrett scored the pin with the blood of his mentor, Chris Jericho, smeared all over his chest.

Sheamus destroyed Miz in a cage, but he still overcame Sheamus with the Skull Crushing Finale to regain the #1 Contender spot!

SUPERSTARS

To the dismay of the fans, Justin Gabriel pinned Vladimir Kozlov. He jumped Kozlov before the match, but Santino ran down to keep him from capitalizing right away.

William Regal and Michelle McCool were immediately disqualified against Beth Phoenix and Chris Masters when Regal accidentally struck Phoenix.

Sheamus came down to attack Evan Bourne during a Triple Threat match with R-Truth and David Hart Smith, but Bourne still pinned R-Truth to win! Bourne tried to shake R-Truth's hand post-match, but he slapped it away!

SMACKDOWN

Christian put down Shelton Benjamin in a nice opener. Post-match, Drew McIntyre attacked Christian with a lead pipe!

William Regal put JTG away with the Knee Trembler (and his feet on the ropes).

Big Show, Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger were all eliminated almost simultaneously from a battle royal, leaving Sting, MVP and The Undertaker to go at it. Sting dumped MVP, and turned to face off with The Deadman! They went back and forth, but Sting sent Undertaker to the floor to get the win!

Sting came out to play mind games with CM Punk, but Punk still pinned Drew McIntyre in the first #1 Contender's Match to NOT feature The Undertaker as a participant. McIntyre was reduced to a very bloody mess.

WEEK 2

RAW

Chris Jericho made very short work of David Otunga. Wade Barrett ambushed Jericho from behind and left him laying!

John Morrison and R-Truth beat The Straight Edge Society in a #1 Contender's Ladder Match, but it had more to do with Kaval than anything, as Morrison and R-Truth seemed to have a lot of miscommunication.

Ted DiBiase played smart, but HBK hit a diving elbow to put him through a table and win their Tables Match. As a show of respect, HBK offered his hand, but DiBiase slapped it away!

In one of the more interesting Raw main events. Evan Bourne and The Miz were teamed in a handicap match against Sheamus...which Bourne ended by pinning the US Champion with Air Bourne!

SUPERSTARS

Kane stopped Luke Gallows in a hard hitting slobberknocker!

Vladimir Kozlov and The Greatest American Bolo had to join forces against Daniel Bryan and David Otunga, when Otunga interfered in their triple threat match! Bolo took advantage of the chaos and pinned Kozlov for a huge debut.

Alberto Del Rio outlasted Terry Funk, Rob Van Dam, Chris Masters, Mike Knox and Shelton Benjamin to win a big six-man Smackdown battle royal.

SMACKDOWN

The masked Todo Americano stunned Kofi Kingston to become the #1 Contender for the Intercontinental title in a Triple Threat also involving Christian.

Not even the presence of Layla could help Michelle McCool beat Kelly Kelly. Kelly offered McCool a handshake, but she slapped it away.

DX trounced Goldust and Yoshi Tatsu in a face-face Tag Team Ladder Match.

CM Punk managed to escape the Undertaker in a cage match!

WEEK 3

RAW

Cena fought a bloody, physical match with Daniel Bryan, and nearly got taken down with a ganglike attack by Gabriel and Bryan, but pinned Bryan with the Attitude Adjustment.

Ted DiBiase bought a ticket to see Zack Ryder get hardcore and beat The Miz in a Falls Count Anywhere match to earn a title shot against Sheamus!

Melina came down to do commentary as Natalya beat Eve and Maryse in a #1 Contender's Match, making Maryse submit to a full nelson.

In an unusual main event, Wade Barrett and Edge joined forces with Sheamus to take on Triple H and The Greatest American Bolo. The night concluded with Barrett scoring a pinfall win over the WWE Champion!

SUPERSTARS

At a special Tribute for the Troops show, Lex Luger made his surprising return to WWE! He was slated to take on Vladimir Kozlov and Daniel Bryan, but Justin Gabriel jumped Kozlov before the match! Bryan was outmatched, physically, but he hung in with the two larger men and made Kozlov submit to the crossface! After the match, he laid into Kozlov with a chair!

Nikki Bella stunned Mickie James with a pre-match attack and pinned her with a Spear!

Luke Gallows couldn't make it to Iraq to team with CM Punk against Kofi Kingston and Christian...so Punk had a Mystery Partner: His opponent at Hell in a Cell, Jack Swagger! Kofi and Christian were on fire while Punk and Swagger weren't on the same page, and Kofi kicked Punk's head off for the pin!

SMACKDOWN

Cody Rhodes and Vance Archer had an intense brawl as Drew McIntyre watched on, but Rhodes finally put the larger man down! Cody offered his hand to Archer post-match, but he slapped it away.

Christian made relatively short work of Mike Knox.

CM Punk and Luke Gallows attacked Sting and Kaval before their Extreme Rules Elimination Match, but Sting and Kaval rallied back! Punk wound up tapping to the Scorpion Death Lock, while Gallows was pinned after the Scorpion Death Drop!

Jack Swagger and Big Show had an epic brawl, but Swagger prevailed with aid from, of all people, CM Punk! The match was restarted, however, as a Submission match! Swagger wound up winning when Big Show got a bit confused and hit him with the ring steps!

WEEK 4

RAW

John Morrison opened the show with a thrashing over Tyson Kidd in a Falls Count Anywhere match. Surprisingly, Luke Gallows came out onto the stage and taunted Morrison.

Melina picked up important momentum, pinning Natalya just days before Hell in a Cell, in a Triple Threat also featuring Maryse.

The Greatest American Bolo joined Shawn Michaels and Steve Austin to face Batista, Zack Ryder and the Million Dollar Champion Ted DiBiase! DiBiase looked tremendous in there, but it was a bloodied Zack Ryder who took the fall after a Stone Cold Stunner!

The Miz survived everything Triple H threw at him and then some, in a tremendous non-title match. Lex Luger, of all people, ran in and attack both men, but they recovered and kept at it. Miz finally scored the pin after a DDT, and with his feet on the ropes.

SUPERSTARS

Vince McMahon sat in the audience as Steve Austin faced Daniel Bryan and Vladimir Kozlov! It was a good match, but Stunners all around gave it over to Austin.

Natalya made Melina tap out to the Sharpshooter, after attacking her before the bell!

Kofi and Christian took on Punk with Gallows this time...but Punk still ate Trouble in Paradise for the pin!

SMACKDOWN

Cody Rhodes made short work of Vance Archer in a Falls Count Anywhere match.

Kelly Kelly came down to perform commentary for Beth vs McCool, and surprisingly got into a confrontation with Beth before storming off. Beth still put McCool away.

Kofi Kingston squashed Mike Knox.

CM Punk beat Drew McIntyre in a heel-heel main event...but got laid out by The Undertaker!

HELL IN A CELL

Todo Americano stunned Drew McIntyre and pinned him with a Gutwrench Powerbomb in seconds to become the Intercontinental Champion!

Sheamus fended off Zack Ryder to remain US Champion. The Miz came out to taunt Sheamus after the match!

Natalya attacked Melina before the match began, but Melina had the Sharpshooter scouted! However, the damage was done and Natalya wore Melina down before locking her in it and making her tap to become the new Divas Champion!

A chaotic Falls Count Anywhere match ended with Morrison and R-Truth regaining the Tag Team Titles when Morrison pinned David Hart Smith after Starship Pain!

Miz' flirtation with the WWE Title came to a bloody end in Hell in a Cell, as Triple H reduced him to a crimson mess. Hunter held onto the belt in a hard fought battle.

In an odd choice for the main event, Jack Swagger held off CM Punk in the Hell in a Cell, remaining the World Heavyweight Champion once more!

Monday, January 17, 2011

And The Winners Are...

First off, thank you to everyone that entered the contest. We had nearly five times as many entrants as we did prizes.

Thank you VERY much to Basic Action Games, Daring Entertainment, Gun Metal Games, Margaret Weis Productions, Silverlion Studios and Third Eye Games for sponsoring this amazing contest...ten prizes were awarded to ten people, randomly determined (by the Invisible Castle dice roller).

Here is that list of winners:


Mark Murphree - War of the Dead Bundle
Jim Alcala Sales - Interface Zero
Mark Gacy - Leverage
Story Chronicler - High Valor
Greg Matyola - Wu Xing
Scott Dierks - Leverage
Thomas Kollman - Leverage
Jacob Kuska - BASH Ultimate Edition
Steve D. - BASH Ultimate Edition
Patrick Taggesell - BASH Ultimate Edition

Congratulations one and all, and I encourage you to check out the other games on the list...keep reading and I'll keep writing!

Thank you all, sponsors and contestants alike, once again for making my blog's birthday everything I had envisioned!

Tommy

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tommy's Take on War of the Dead: Chapter Two Week Eleven

Agh, I got this at the beginning of the week, when I had other stuff queued up, so I couldn't get right to it...but Week 11 of Chapter II came out at the beginning of the week, continuing the "slow finish" of rounding off Chapter II and setting up Chapter III.



Friday, January 14, 2011

[My WWE Universe] Summerslam!



For those still interested in the Universe stuff.

ROAD TO SUMMERSLAM

WEEK 1

RAW

John Morrison got a measure of revenge against Ezekiel Jackson after he helped the Hart Dynasty out last month. Though Big Zeke showed some amazing power and resilience, even powering up after the Starship Pain, Morrison caught him with a running knee for the pin...or so he thought. As Morrison celebrated, the match was restarted as a Falls Count Anywhere Match! Morrison put his body on the line, hitting a standing shooting star press on the floor, as well as a corkscrew dive off the top rope to the floor! Tyson Kidd ran out of the crowd and blasted Morrison with a chair, but the tag champ went after him up the ramp! Even a moonsault through the announce table couldn't put Big Zeke away, but Starship Pain finally did.

Alicia Fox came to ringside to get a closer look at Mickie James vs Brie Bella vs Nikki Bella..making her possibly the only one in the building who wanted to watch the match. James ultimately prevailed.

Sting and Kaval vs The Straight Edge Society got started right away with a brutal sneak attack on the floor, and CM Punk DISMANTLING Sting with kicks. Indeed, Punk dominated Sting for several minutes until he could tag Kaval. Kaval missed Gallows tagging in, leading to a cheap shot, but the smaller man's educated feet took Gallows for a loop. Sting came in on fire and set up the Scorpion Death Drop, but MVP ran out! This allowed Punk to slip out, but Sting caught him on the second go! Despite much interference from MVP, Gallows tapped to the Scorpion Deathlock!

Miz jumped DiBiase before the bell, but failed to capitalize! They fought on the floor until DiBiase involved the ring steps and got DQed!

SUPERSTARS

Wade Barrett vs David Otunga vs Justin Gabriel opened the show! Barrett was on the rampage from the opener and it went back and forth with all three men getting their licks in, but a huge boot to Otunga and Wasteland to Gabriel gave Barrett the win.

CM Punk pinned Kane in a match that started with Luke Gallows and Undertaker at ringside. Both men were ejected for arguing with the referee. It took two GTS' from Punk to get the pin.

For some reason, Big Zeke challenged Morrison and R-Truth to a handicap match! Zeke looked good, but c'mon...one guy versus the Tag Team Champions? Who does he think he is? Triple H?

SMACKDOWN

Sting opened the show against Drew McIntyre! The official time was about five seconds...but Drew attacked Sting before the match and they brawled for several minutes on the floor, including CM Punk getting involved. Drew ate two Death Drops on the floor before being sent into the post and then into the ring.

MVP and Cody Rhodes met up next, and Sting shockingly interjected himself! It wasn't enough as MVP wiped out Cody Rhodes with the Drive By!

Vance Archer picked up a win over Chris Masters, in a match that probably went on too long.

Big Show took the Jack Swagger 15 Minute Iron Man Challenge! The crazy part was when Alberto Del Rio ran in and locked the armbreaker on Big Show! Swagger got the pin...then Del Rio attacked HIM! Swagger wound up 2-0 on Show, when Show SNAPPED and kept hitting choke slams, KO Punches and Spears, but not actually going for the pin...giving Swagger the win!

WEEK 2

RAW

Zack Ryder attacks Morrison from the crowd and puts him away in SECONDS.

Otunga attacked Santino from the crowd, but Santino kicked out of his finish! Santino valiantly held on, but Otunga triumphed...but Barrett jumped him from behind with a lead pipe!

Daniel Bryan put up a good effort, but ate a Batista Bomb that put him OUT.

Miz went toe to toe with Sheamus (and paid for it), but got the pin after a Skull Crushing Finale! The match was restarted as a Falls Count Anywhere match, because Miz' feet were on the ropes! They fought all over the arena, but it was Evan Bourne's involvement, hitting the Air Bourne, that allowed Miz to put Sheamus down!

SUPERSTARS

Kane took CM Punk to the limit despite a pre-match rush to the ring, but Punk bloodied Kane and put him away after two non-consecutive Go2Sleeps.

So much for Mr. Nice Guys...Justin Gabriel and Daniel Bryan jumped Santino and Kozlov before the bell...and then David Otunga came out to help them out! The match broke down into an insane brawl, and somehow Gabriel and Bryan got the DQ win, despite Otunga in the ring brawling with Santino.

Sting and Kaval beat Goldust and Yoshi Tatsu in a GREAT face-face tag match...but post-match, CM Punk and Luke Gallows jumped Sting and Kaval, leaving them laying!

SMACKDOWN

Shad Gaspard pinned Mike Knox in a slobberknocker of an opening match after Shelton Benjamin got involved, throwing Knox off his game.

Cody Rhodes came in on fire. Matt Hardy avoided Cross Rhodes, but got caught with the Silver Spoon DDT!

Layla scored a big upset, pinning Women's Champion Beth Phoenix in a Triple Threat also involving Gail Kim!

Big Show managed to pin Drew McIntyre after the KO Punch, but the match got restarted as a submission match! Drew savagely assaulted Show's head, wearing him down and getting a submission!

WEEK 3

RAW

Edge, who hadn't had much to show for himself in a while, managed to pin HHH in a non-title match, despite interference from Shawn Michaels (who also hadn't been around much lately).

Mark Henry dominated Santino.

The Straight Edge Society hit the ring pumped up, but despite R-Truth lurking outside and messing with The Hart Dynasty, David Hart Smith still pinned CM Punk.

The Miz won a brutal cage match with Sheamus, despite no Evan Bourne interference this time.

SUPERSTARS

Wade Barrett provided a distraction, allowing Vladimir Kozlov to beat David Otunga!

Kane and Beth Phoenix teamed up to thwart Dolph Ziggler and Layla, after Kane put Dolph down.

Edge stunned Shawn Michaels with the Edge-O-Matic despite Triple H causing a distraction!

SMACKDOWN

A bizarre Smackdown Fatal Four Way got underway with Luke Gallows jumping Matt Hardy on the floor and hitting the Gallows Pole, while Christian went at it in the ring with World Champion Jack Swagger. Despite nearly being pinned after the Killswitch, Swagger managed to pin Matt Hardy while Christian and Gallows fought.

Drew McIntyre jumped Kane from the crowd, but failed to capitalize. That almost killed him in this match, though he did hit the Future Shock a second time, this time getting the win.

Kelly Kelly upset Michelle McCool to earn the #1 Contender's Spot for Beth's Women's Title! Kelly offered McCool a handshake, but she slapped it away.

Kofi Kingston shockingly pinned The Undertaker after Trouble in Paradise in a Falls Count Anywhere Triple Threat also involving CM Punk to become the #1 Contender for the World Title at Summerslam!

WEEK 4

RAW

The surprising duo of Wade Barrett and Ezekiel Jackson shocked John Morrison and R-Truth in a non-title match!

Eve pinned Maryse in a #1 Contender's Match after Maryse had words with guest commentator Melina! At one point, Eve hit a moonsault through the announce table!

Sheamus hit the ring on fire, fending off Zack Ryder and The Miz! Triple H hit the ring, going after The Miz as well, giving Sheamus the opening needed to prevail!

Triple H was DQed when he dropped a chair on Edge's foot. Seriously!

SUPERSTARS

Shelton Benjamin pinned Kaval in a high impact Superstars opener!

Maryse took advantage of the situation and pinned Melina in a Triple Threat also involving Natalya, while Eve watched on from ringside.

Batista won an epic, 5-second encounter with Vladimir Kozlov.

Drew McIntyre used every dirty trick in the book to beat Kane and Christian and become the #1 Contender to the IC Title!

Alberto Del Rio runs headlong into The Undertaker and loses, as CM Punk watches from the crowd.

Sting got into a brawl with CM Punk on the floor, but that didn't stop Kaval from pinning MVP to pick up a win over MVP and Mark Henry!

Jack Swagger looked dominant in a Falls Count Anywhere match over rival The Big Show. As Swagger got ready to leave the ring, he put the boots to Big Show.

SUMMERSLAM

Sheamus dominated Ted DiBiase and won the US title.

Drew McIntyre outlasted Kofi Kingston and took him the IC title! One highlight being a release German Suplex through a table. McIntyre had hit a prematch assault, but Kofi stayed in it because he feet were in the ropes.

Kelly Kelly completely upset Beth Phoenix to win the Women's Championship!

The Hart Dynasty made short work of R-Truth and John Morrison to regain the Tag Team Titles in a Ladder Match!

The Miz endured a BRUTAL six man Hell in a Cell, pinning Wade Barrett (with his feet on the ropes) to beat Cena, Batista, Edge, Barrett and HBK!

Jack Swagger ended a very good night for the bad guys by beating Kofi in an Inferno Match!


RAW

WWE Champion: Triple H
US Champion: Sheamus
Diva's Champion: Melina
Tag Team Champions: The Hart Dynasty

SMACKDOWN

World Champion: Jack Swagger
Intercontinental Champion: Drew McIntyre
Women's Champion: Kelly Kelly
Tag Team Champions: The Hart Dynasty

Next up, HELL IN A CELL.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tommy's Take on Squawk Role-Playing Game

One thing I love about the modern age is how the publishing barriers are disappearing. If you have the will to see your project through, it is becoming increasingly easier to ensure that it gets out there into people's hands.

Seth and Benjamin Galbraith have done just that with the Squawk Role-Playing Game, publishing it through Amazon's Createspace for $19.95 and at RPGnow for $12.95 (in PDF).

Squawk is a 196 page sci-fi/fantasy RPG featuring mostly dinosaurs and no humans.

I have the CreateSpace version and it's a very nice digest-sized book with a gorgeous, colorful front cover. The back cover is a fairly low key map of the Abaddon system, Abaddon being the name of the run in their setting. As for the naming, some of the planets draw names from Norse myth (such as Midgard), and I caught at least one real moon on the list. The book itself is black and white with unimpressive art, and though several page seem to have a lot of white space at the bottom, the pages still seem pretty full.

From the sample on RPGnow, I can see that some of the images are in full color, if that helps.

I won't be focusing as much on the PDF this go around, since I'm reviewing from a physical book, but I can tell you that not only did they put in a table of contents, but an extensive, six page index.

INTRODUCTION

Pretty basic stuff, giving the pitch of "Dinosaurs with swords", as well as revealing that the Scratch system that the game uses is available under a Creative Commons license.

SQUAWK SETTING

We start with a one page breakdown of the Abaddon system. There are Lower Worlds, which are essentially an asteroid cluster, Middle Worlds (the more temperate worlds) and the Upper Worlds (which don't receive the same level of heat or light). Many of these places are orbited by artificial habitats like small vehicles, space stations and so on.

Another map is provided here, showing the orbits of the major planets.

Seventeen intelligent species are provided, starting with the bird-like aeolyte and including the intelligent gremian, the predatory lyndwyrms, the blood-sucking phages and the massive titans. Every species has an illustration (usually multiple) and every species has certain minimums that must be met.

PCs are defined by 16 abilities, and you have 12 points to divide among at least three of them. Similar to the Resolute RPG, if you don't buy any levels in an ability, you don't have that ability. Fighting, shooting, flying, quickness and command are among the abilities used.

Given that it is meant to be a space-faring game, the rules stipulate that one PC must have the piloting skill to ensure that they PCs can get where they need to go. Helpful tips are provided on useful skills for other character types, such as politicians, hunters and spies. One character type I found interesting is the Surgeons, which come in two types: One makes golems and the other chimeras. The golems are insect-like contstructs while the chimeras are made from pieces of the reptilian races sewn together. A dozen sample characters of wildly varying types is included, each with a picture, which should give you a good jumping off point for most of the common character types.

Space travel is almost like a little minigame and is very time consuming, with even short journies taking weeks. There is a special map provided for space travel, showing the paths that do and don't have spaceports, as well as providing training caps for any given location. There is also "Solar Sailing", which are spacelanes that allow you to travel without using fuel, but only allow travel along the set lanes. Fifteen spacecraft are included, and some of them harken back to the classic Spelljammer days, being made from roots of giant trees, or more closely resembling asteroids than space ships. The stat blocks for the ships are simple to read, looking a lot like the stat blocks for characters.

40 pages or so is devoted to detailing the worlds, broken into three sections: Lower Worlds, Middle Worlds and Upper Worlds.

The Lower Worlds section is the smallest, as the Lower Worlds are basically an asteroid field with relatively simple technology, due to the solar radiation inflicting much damage to traditional technology.

The Middle Worlds is the largest section, being the more temperate region of the galaxy. I should note that the planetary listings have a lot of scientific notations about mass and gravity that is frankly lost on me...I like my science fast and loose, and that's just how it is. Each of the sizeable planets and moons gets treatment here, and they all have that kind of "Star Wars" feel where each planet pretty much "is" something...like Monopolis is pretty much a giant city-planet. In fact, Monopolis is kind of cool in that only the uppermost levels are inhabited...the inhabitants just keep building up, so you could run a "dungeon crawl" exploring the remnants of previous cultures on the lower levels. Edegene is a planet that was being terraformed by Spider Golems...who are now *becoming* the planet's societal base. And one of the planets, Trydeen, is actually a planet sized being, not a planet at all.

The Upper Worlds only consist of four entries, two of which state that the PCs have no reason to ever visit there. I don't know if I like the idea of a book definitively stating what a PC does or does not have a reason to do, but there you go. Clearly, the bulk of the adventuring is meant to be done in the Middle Worlds either way.

APPENDIX A: SCRATCH ROLE-PLAYING SYSTEM

The rules themselves only take up about twenty pages. The core mechanic is simple: Roll a 20 sided die, add relevant ability, compare to difficult, succeed or fail. All of the Abilities (except Surgery) are explained in detail here, with a few relevant examples (like The Boss, who has Command 4, which gives him 4 thugs at his disposal).

Toughness is used to calculate hit points, and characters falling below half of their hit points are Injured, which seems mostly to matter in regards to the effects certain attacks have on characters.

A two page sample combat is included, using characters with a decent spread of abilities, to give you an idea as to how it all breaks down, depicting two bounty hunters battling an outlaw.

Vehicle rules follow, breaking down Vehicle Abilities like the character abilities (although a lot of them are going to work pretty much how you expect at this point: Guns 3 is going to add 3 to your attempt to shoot someone with your guns, for instance). In fact, a two page Vehicle Combat example follows, just so you can see how everything works here as well.

Guidelines for using miniatures are included, and are pretty straightforward, but hardly required. In fact, both hex and square grids are covered, leaving the decisions of what grid, if any, up to you.

Finally, two alternate game mechanics are included for those who don't have (or who hate) d20s, the first being a little chart that you roll 2d6 on, and the second being a chart that you use a card deck with (after removing face cards). Either would work, I suppose, but if you have d20s (and if you have an RPG, you probably have d20s), I would just use that.

APPENDIX B: EYE FOR AN EYE

The next 80 pages is a campaign for the game, spanning most of the known galaxy. It begins with the PCs escaping from pirates (providing a convenient excuse to toss them together, regardless of their character type) and builds to a final battle with a bit of a deranged vigilante who is hoping to destroy (or come close to it) Monopolis.

Each of the worlds open for visitation are broken down with encounters that the GM can use as needed, or by randomly rolling if the PCs visit without a specific purpose in mind. It's not a complete sandbox, but it's also very open for PC exploration. Once they have hit the important beats and return to (or head to) the section of space holding Monopolis, then the final battle begins (win, lose or draw). In fact, I don't think any section had less than four encounters, with some of them being specific, happening once, and then done, while others amounted to little more than combat scenes that could be repeated.

I completely applaud the inclusion of the campaign, because it answers the question that far too many games fail to, which is: "Okay, but what do I DO with it?" I also like the openness of the campaign, giving the PCs room to pick and choose how they move around it (with clues sprinkled about, for them to follow up on, but I saw very little railroading other than "eventually, this big fight happens").

After all of that, we get the very big index and the acknowledgments.

THOUGHTS

The interior art does not live up the cover art, but that happens. And while a lot of the pieces are kind of...weak...it does help that basically EVERYTHING is illustrated, leaving little guesswork as to what something is supposed to look like.

Space-faring dinosaurs is not something I've seen a lot of, especially since there is NO human element whatsoever. Definite points for originality. The system, on the surface at least, does remind me a bit of Resolute (with the abilities that you either have or don't have, though the mechanic is completely different).

The book took me a bit to get into, and I don't know if it was the writing that did it or if it was the lack of anything really "human" that caused me to have a disconnect. Don't misunderstand me, either...the writing isn't bad, it's just purely functional. But there is a LOT of new, non-standard names, such as somme of the planets, species, cultural groups, etc...without that "human" perspective that you get in basically everything else. I don't hold that against the game, I just say that's a bit of a disconnect between me, personally, and the setting, nothing more.

The places that they want you to visit are given a good amount of detail, but nothing is so heavily written that it feels stifling.  Even the campaign, with just shy of 100 unique encounters, can easily be tweaked, changed or flipped around as need be.

Not a bad pick if you can embrace the dinosaurs and don't mind a complete lack of humans in your sci-fi.