Reality is the playground of the unimaginative
Home Of Superheroes, Supernatural, and Star Stuff

Monday, 31 December 2012

Start Your New Year With A Kiss...

Some sugary Disney goodness...

Behind The Mask: Brains To Back Up The Brawn...

With all this recent talk about a potential Villains & Vigilantes campaign, I thought I'd take a moment to repost one of my favourite pieces that arose during our short-lived 2011 campaign:

When your superhero team is run by one of the smartest men in the world and includes the planet's foremost bionic engineer and a leading edge research scientist, the concept of measuring IQ is going to crop up eventually.

Now I knew these characters - Nick Law, The Surgeon and Nightshade - were smart but I had no real concept of just how smart, in real world terms.

This issue arose because I was figuring ways to rework Nick's eponymous NPC (a crucial figure in the universe of Knight City and 'commander' of The Agents Of C.O.M.P.A.S.S), so that he fit more comfortably in with the power levels of the group.

Naturally, my first course of action was to turn to the Monkey House Games forum and explain my dilemma: "Physical stats are reasonably easy to gauge (through such mechanics as carrying capacity) but how do you guys and gals go about rating the comparative intelligence of characters – say between superheroes and norms? What do you consider the upper limit for non-superpowered brainboxes – is it 18, 21, higher? What INT score, for instance, would you give Einstein or Reed Richards?"

Of the several helpful answers that were quickly given, the one that tickled my fancy best for its simplicity and ease of translation to game mechanics came from Justice (yes, that is his real name).

In Villains & Vigilantes terms, it boils down to this:
  • Start with a base 100 IQ for an Intelligence score of 10 and then add (or subtract)  five IQ points for every Intelligence point up (or down) from there.
(Being me, I'm considering a final tweak that subtracts five points from your character's IQ, but then adds 1d6 for a bit of variety).

That way, Pete's character, The Surgeon (INT: 28) ends up with an (untweaked) IQ of 190 while Kevin's Nightshade (INT: 18) has an IQ of 140.

Perhaps the best  way to comprehend how this would pan out in a game is to look at a selection of "celebrity" IQ scores and translate these into V&V Intelligence scores (data from here):
  • Marilyn Vos Savant - IQ 228 (INT: 36)
  • Albert Einstein/Stephen Hawking/Bill Gates/Quentin Tarantino/Reggie Jackson - IQ 160 (INT: 22)
  • Sheldon Cooper - IQ 187 (INT: 28)
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger - IQ 135 (INT: 17)
  • Bill Clinton - IQ 137 (INT: 18)
  • Bobby Fischer - IQ 187 (INT: 28)
  • Dwight Eisenhower - IQ 122 (INT: 15)
  • George W. Bush - IQ 125 (INT: 15)
  • James Woods - IQ 180 (INT: 26)
  • Jodie Foster/Nicole Kidman - IQ 132 (INT: 17)
  • Lee Harvey Oswald - IQ 118 (INT: 14)
  • John F. Kennedy - IQ 119 (INT: 14)
  • Madonna - IQ 140 (INT: 18)
  • Muhammad Ali - IQ 78 (INT: 6)
  • Andy Warhol - IQ 86 (INT: 7)
Naturally, all this silliness comes with the caveat that measuring IQ is a slightly controversial subject and, although V&V is all about the math, this in in no way should be taken as a scientific study of relative intelligence. But it appears to work quite well for the game!

However, in his answer on the forum, Justice also included a chart from INTJforum, explaining the relative IQ levels -

Sidis
IQ over 189: In all of human history only about two dozen people have been this smart. William James Sidis is one example. He lectured Harvard mathematicians on four-dimensional mathematics at age 11 and was a professor of mathematics at Rice University at age 14. Because of his eccentricities, academics and the press mercilessly hounded him. At the age of 22 he published a book discussing black holes a full 15 years before Nobel Laureate Chandrasekhar thought of them. He eventually refused to do anything academic or have anything to do with academic society. Who knows what these people think about or what they think of the rest of humanity.

IQ 172 – 188
: While still of primary school age only around one-in-a-thousand university professors can look them in the eye intellectually. They tend to read competently before they are three years old. They are seldom understood or appreciated. A large proportion of this group opt out of society and never make revolutionary contributions in the standard academic fields or professions. It seems to be very difficult to motivate them to play the academic/scholarly/professional game because they regard even the most venerable of traditions and institutions as absurd or silly. Consider that their intellect is as far above that of the average person as the average person’s intellect is above that of someone with mental retardation.

IQ 156 – 171
: The smarter Nobel Prize winners and most historical geniuses (people like Einstein, Hawking, Byron, Milton, Kant, Newton, Russell, Rand) are to be found in this category. Most exceed the average postgraduate in academic competence - even professors - while still in primary school, and probably knew more than their teachers from about the 6th grade onwards. A common experience with people in this category or higher is that they are not wanted - that the masses (including the professional classes) find them an affront of some sort. Fortunately they are plentiful in absolute numbers, so many of them do rise above the envy and hostility.

IQ 140 – 155
: Most professional mathematicians, physicists, philosophers and high court judges or very senior counsel, can be found in this group. They are autodidacts par excellence. Highly regarded original academic work rarely occurs with lower IQs. Some in this group exceed the average university student in academic competence while still in primary school. Many Nobel laureates and some historical geniuses, like Sartre, are also to be found here. People in this category make up the society’s intellectual leaders. Most original ideas start with these people, however their contribution tends to be in bits and pieces rather than a whole new system or new way of seeing things.

IQ 124 – 140: This group forms the bulk of the better doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants and other professionals, U.S. Presidents, CEOs of large companies and academics. This category of people and all those above them don’t require assistance to learn. These people tend to be the keepers, and transmitters, of knowledge and the higher points of any culture, but can’t create it themselves.
.
IQ 108 – 124: Their best work level is that of most teachers, low to middle level management and military officers, substandard to fair professionals and some elected national or provincial politicians. They can learn via the typical university format of lectures and textbooks. At times they might struggle at the university level, but graduation is not difficult. Their best reading level is editorials, magazines like Time, The Economist and Scientific American, and classical novels. This group makes up the moral, intellectual and practical leadership assistants of society.

IQ 92 – 108: This is the average person, able to function at the level of skilled blue-collar, clerical, sales or police work.This large group is the glue of society but given the wrong authority it (and the two groups below it) may do horrible things in the name of morality.

IQ 76 – 92:
Life is tough at this level. Anything other than unskilled labor is a trial, though simple semi-skilled work is possible. Learning is slow, simple and needs to be supervised closely to be effective. With application they may graduate from primary school but will nevertheless flounder quite badly in high school. Their reasoning is very superficial and concrete and they cannot see the essential form inherent in many examples of similar things. Most will never be functionally literate and the rest will not understand anything more complex than a popular magazine.
It has been estimated that people in this category commit about 75 per cent of all petty and violent crimes. The vast majority of serious social problems are associated with people in this category because there are so many of them statistically.

IQ 60 – 76: At this level and below people are inevitably functionally illiterate even if they have been taught to read for at least four years. They are socially and vocationally adequate (at menial labor) given special training and supervision. Many are able to lead a relatively independent life. At this point or below the law begins to regard them as being too stupid to know the difference between right and wrong and won’t hold them responsible should they commit a serious crime.

IQ 44 – 60: Limited support becomes essential and with extended special education a maximum of Grade four could be attained by age 18. Their social and communication skills are fair but there is little self-awareness. They can function vocationally in a sheltered workshop. They need supervision in their living arrangements and cannot live independently.
This is an abridged version of the text, for the complete wording, and to read Justice's full comments along with other suggestions on translating 'real life' measurements into game statistics visit the Monkey House Forum.

Musical Monday: Disney Sing-A-Long - Almost There



Another track from Now That's What I Call Disney.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Behind The Mask: Where Do Stand On "Aliens" In Your Games?


Oh, Gamesmasters of da Interwebz, this is probably only pertinent to superhero roleplaying games, but where do you stand on the presence of alien races in your games (presuming they are set on Earth)?

Do you take it that 'first contact' has already been made and extraterrestrials are a known factor of your campaign background (even to the extent of having ETs as PCs) or do you leave 'first contact' hanging as potential plot thread for your campaign?

If I go with developing my own supers background I'm currently undecided on this score, but was just wondering what the general consensus was...

Here's the background I've roughed out for a Knight City supers game if I decide to opt for a "they're already here" background:

FIRST CONTACT!

It's hard to imagine that there is a single soul on Earth who is not aware - to some degree or another - of the events that unfolded on the Moon when John Young and Charles Duke - of Apollo 16 - made "first contact" with the alien that materialised before them in the Descartes Highlands.

It was April 22, 1972, and the world would never be the same again.

The entity revealed itself to be Exarch Farillor of Rythos, an emissary from his planet seeking to make contact with intelligent life in our solar system.

Rythans are beings composed of air currents and small particles of 'ice'. Many have the ability (or 'skill' as they call it) to condense their particles into humanoid forms.

Elder Rythans (such as Farillor's mentor, Rhyll) disdain this skill, saying it is lowering the noble Rythans down to the level of "solids" or "monoforms". Then again those most skilled in "body-forming" can change their shape or even increase their size to spectacular effect.

The entire Rythan culture is very skill-orientated and the best of the best of the warrior caste are asked to join The Crystal Guard (an elite Imperial unit and the only Rythans who regularly travel by starship; most simply dissolve their solid forms and travel through space as clouds of particles or - if they are able - use the 'storm portal' skill).

A Rythan's natural ability to control its own body and its immediate environment allows for such abilities as altering temperature by thought and healing wounds by binding molecules together. However, the most impressive Rythan skill is the "storm portal" (mastered by Farillor), which opens cross-dimensional portals over vast distances.

No Earth scientists have yet worked out how the Rythans can do this, but it is still fascinating to watch the clouds and light show.

The planet Rythos is said to be one of the most beautiful in the galaxy. Bathed in the glow of its red sun during the day, it is dominated by sweeping, multi-coloured, ice plains and intricate crystalline palaces and statues.

Rythos - Temple Of Eternal Thought
Rythos - Jungles of Tarqil
Rythos - Coast of Pahoon (at night)
Rythos - The Inhospitable Wastes of Drubdarr (at night)
The largest artificial structure on Rythos is The Temple Of Eternal Thought, which is rumoured to sometimes glow as brightly as our own sun and houses the spirits of The First Five Rythans, held in a form of suspended animation.

Rythan mentality encourages learning and this is why when Exarch Farillor made his way eventually to Earth he was accompanied by his eldricar (mentor/teacher/guide) Rhyll.

In the years since his arrival, Farillor has been co-operating with a number of global organisations (such as [FILL IN NAME] and COMPASS) and governments, sharing what knowledge he feels he is able to and helping mankind better understand its place in the universe.

He has only ever spoken publicly of one other alien race, the Lyrars, a mysterious, reptilian race driven by a desire for knowledge and technology. Short-tempered and generally impatient, Lyrar space craft (as well as their costumes, buildings etc) are a mish-mash of ill-fitting parts and often unfinished.

Typical Lyrar (artist's impression)
Farillor tells a - probably apocryphal - tale of Lyrar starship captains halting their journeys mid -starjump and demanding their crew build a new adaptation he has just thought of!

The trouble with the Lyrans obsession with tinkering is that it doesn't stop with technology - they have been known to 'mess around with' with other lifeforms to "try and improve their basic design".

Although they quickly discovered that most sentient lifeforms didn't want to be improved this way, the Lyrar response wasn't to stop their experiments but to create 'The Harvestors' - a crack squad under the command of one Cropmaster Krandir - to help ignorant races appreciate what a great gift they were being given.


Earth scientists, with Farillor's aid, have deduced that his world orbits the star we call Proxima Centauri, approximately 4.2 light-years away from Earth. Neither Farillor nor the less communicative Rhyll have any idea where the Lyran home world is.

Farilllor's behind-the-scenes scientific assistance is almost certain to have been the major boost to the American space programme that has seen the recent launch of the first manned mission to Mars (due to arrive any day now).

An Oldie, But A Goodie...

Ladies & Gentlemen, Ring In The New Year...

I hope you all had a great Christmas and are looking forward to the New Year. I certainly have plans for HeroPress in 2013, but whether I have the energy to pull them off is another matter entirely.

On Monday, HeroPress attracted a record-breaking 1,985 hits and the site is currently ranked FIFTH on the Comic Blog Elite! Such a turnaround since my mid-year navel-gazing over declining hit numbers, which I now attribute largely to the changes in layout that I was experimenting with.

Let's see if we can break the 2,000 hits barrier before the blog's sixth anniversary on January 16.

In the meantime, I'd like to take a moment to welcome the new arrivals who have signed up to join our big adventures over the last couple of weeks:

Friday, 28 December 2012

Merlin: The Diamond Of The Day (Part 2)


After the disappointment of The Diamond Of The Day (Part 1), the second part of the story was the epitome of everything that made this show great over the years.

For a programme about Arthurian knights in armour, mighty magic and monsters, Merlin was always at its strongest in the quiet, personal scenes and this episode was crammed to the gills with them.

Understandably most were between Merlin and Arthur as the young warlock helped the wounded king away from the battle, with the aim of getting him to Avalon where he could be cured of the magical wound inflicted on him by Mordred.

Merlin finally revealed his big secret to Arthur and, at first, Arthur was angered and annoyed that his servant had not only been lying to him all these years but had been concealing the greatest secret of them all: that he was a powerful sorcerer.

However, as their journey went on, Arthur began to realise the many reasons Merlin had for keeping his secret and came to appreciate everything he had done for him.

Colin Morgan, as Merlin, deserves some kind of gong in recognition of his portrayal - not just in this episode, where he is incredible, but throughout the show's five-year run.

The Diamond Of The Day (Part 2) was the finale the show deserved. I wish the BBC had had the gumption to screen both parts as a single episode, thus putting the first part in context rather than leaving it hanging as it did with an artificial cliffhanger.

Since the first ever episode of Merlin we've known that this was never going to be a traditional take on the Arthurian mythos and what made The Diamond Of The Day (Part 2) so surprising was how, at this eleventh hour, close it hove to the established legends - with the Battle of Camlann followed by the trip to Avalon.

Yes I wish this finale had been longer; in truth I wish this whole season had been longer - or had been two seasons - but this final 45 minutes was everything I could have wanted... even down to the all-too-brief contemporary denouement.

Truly magical and emotional, The Diamond Of The Day (no, I don't know why it was called that or what the phrase means... I'm hoping someone will explain it) was simultaneously a fitting capstone to this much-improved series and a fine example of why it shouldn't have been allowed to end after a mere five seasons.

The First Four Minutes of Warm Bodies...

Academy of Heroes - Episode Four: Good Samaritan


This episode Stan helps Good Samaritan team up with rapper Sticky Fingaz (star of the TV show Blade) to work on spreading his message from the suburbs right into the inner city... way outside his comfort zone.

Team Talk...


Historically the most enduring campaign I have played in was Nick's Traveller campaign in the '80s.

As well as Nick staging it like a television show (before that was de rigueur in gaming), it was notable because (a)  it was played straight-out-the-book - no houserules (no one houserules Traveller, do they?) and (b) we had pre-generated characters.

Continuing my pre-(non-)Apocalypse musings about future campaign ideas (and remember I intend to take 2013 off from running games, so I can get to play more), my initial thoughts are to develop a straight-up, costumes-and-cape superhero campaign - to echo my love of comic books and superhero movies - using either Villains & Vigilantes, ICONS! or - my latest brainwave - the wonderful old TSR Marvel Super Heroes.

But taking a leaf out of Nick's book, I'm thinking of pre-generating characters for the Tuesday Knights, so I can tailor adventures to the characters and their backgrounds ahead of time and have a campaign outline in the bag ready for when I return to Gamesmastering.

I'm also looking back at the V&V campaign that Steve ran, which eventually morphed into HeroPress, for inspiration.

Steve suggested some idea ago the idea of an "Ultimate" HeroPress campaign - aping the idea of Marvel's Ultimate Universe as opposed to its mainstream Universe - and this is something that has long been percolating at the back of my tiny mind.

I know Steve is running a V&V campaign for his kids, which features older versions of our characters as background NPCs, so I'd like to be considerate of that... just because. But this "Ultimate" idea allows me to revisit our old characters (thus allowing for possible guest appearances from Silverfist and The Acrobatic Flea) and update old villains and supporting characters.

My current thinking for the team line-up is:
  • Pete - as Hurricane, his longest-serving character from our old campaign, but with his robot sidekick Brutus transformed into an Iron Man-style suit of armour: B.R.U.T.U.S. (Battle Ready Utility Transport ... I haven't come up with a full acronym yet)
  • Merdith as a sort of Black Widow-esque superninja/thief (as that's the kind of character she likes to play in RPGs and online games)
  • Clare - as either a witch character (à la Zatanna or the Scarlet Witch) or a war goddess - as the team's Thor analogue.
  • Simon - possibly as the alien Exarch Farillor (codename: Icestorm), the team's answer to the Martian Manhunter or even possibly Superman.
  • Kevin - I'm thinking an android character, like the Vision or Andy from A Town Called Eureka.
These are, of course, very early ideas but I'm putting them down here so I have some permanent record of them and to see if they generate any discussion or suggestions.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Barney's First Christmas!


Barney came with Rachel and I when we went to visit her parents' for Christmas as they had prepared a holiday home for him (pictured above) in their conservatory.

It took him a couple of days to acclimatise to his new surroundings - the bumpy car journey certainly hadn't helped (especially as we had to turn back half-way as I'd forgot to pack the box containing Rachel's Christmas presents!). The poor thing didn't eat - or poop - anything for over 24 hours and was just getting back into the swing of things when it was time to come home.


Naturally, of course, Barney was very spoilt during his stay - even to the extent of having a larger sack of Christmas presents than anyone else (admittedly this was down to the large size of the hay bales, which provide his bedding).

Santa brought him enough food and bedding that I don't think Rachel and I will need to visit any per stores soon.


As you can see here, Barney's holiday home had it's own "Santa Stop Here" sign and pictured below are the "rabbit-sized" hat and scarf that were waiting for him when he arrived. We didn't dare try and get him to wear them though as that would have been pushing our luck.


The journey back home was much quicker and while he waited in the kitchen I cleaned out his hutch and put in new food and bedding so that he could snuggle down tonight in more familiar surroundings.

Hopefully, back on his home turf, with its "Barney" smells, he'll be back to his old routine tomorrow after his holiday adventures.

Romans Versus Rebels...



Time to pick a side - Spartacus: War of the Damned premieres in the States on January 25.

What Every Fashionable Astronaut Will Be Wearing...

Learn about how NASA is developing a new spacesuit for exploring the moon and Mars, in this SPACE.com infographic.
Source SPACE.com: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration

Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D....



I've only seen Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D once, when it was shown randomly on TV a few years ago, but I really enjoyed the heck out of it and wish it was available on legitimate DVD or via Netflix or was just shown on TV more often.

Sure it's cheesy and so last century, but it's The Hoff... as Nick Fury... what's not to enjoy?

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Academy of Heroes - Episode Three: Razorhawk...



In this episode, Stan Le helps former wrestler-turned-real life superhero Razorhawk, from Minneapolis, work to get back into shape.

Is It Next Year Yet?

 
While you're wallowing in the awesomeness of the motion poster for The Wolverine, dig out your desk planners and clear your calendars because here's the current release details for a slew of superhero pictures through to 2016...
  • Iron Man 3 - April 26, 2013
  • Man Of Steel - June 14, 2013
  • Kick-Ass 2 - July 19, 2013
  • The Wolverine - July 25, 2013
  • Thor: The Dark World - November 8, 2013
  • Captain America: The Winter Solider - April 4, 2014
  • Amazing Spider-Man 2 - May 2, 2014
  • X-Men: Days Of Future Past - July 18, 2014
  • Guardians Of The Galaxy - August 1, 2014
  • Fantastic Four - March 6, 2015
  • The Avengers 2 - May 1, 2015
  • Justice League - June, 2015
  • Ant-Man - November 6, 2015
  • Doctor Strange - 2016
The Iron Patriot armour from Iron Man 3
And don't forget (all being well), 2013 will see the television debut of Joss Whedon's new show: S.H.I.E.L.D., featuring the return of Clark Gregg as fan-favourite (from multiple Marvel movie cameos) Agent Phil Coulson.

Wonder Woman Wednesday...

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

DVD Of The Week: With Great Power... The Stan Lee Story (2012)


With Great Power... The Stan Lee Story is a documentary every True Believer should see, as it gives a peek behind the curtain at the early days of Marvel Comics and the creation of many of the iconic superheroes of today.

Unsurprisingly, the documentary initially covers a lot of the same ground as Stan's autobiography, Excelsior! The Amazing Life Of Stan Lee, and in much the same way this isn't a warts-and-all, dirt-digging exposé, but a celebration of the man's life and creations.

After looking briefly at Stan's childhood, the story really gets into gear when he goes to work as an office boy at Timely Comics, working under Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, where he got his first break writing text pieces to accompany the Captain America comic strips.

After the war, the actual formation of Marvel Comics is rather glossed over as we're suddenly thrown into the infamous Bullpen and everything is already up and running.

But from then on With Great Power... does an excellent job of setting the development of comics, and Stan's role in reshaping the medium, against the backdrops of the politics and movements of the decades.

Disputes with artists and co-creators are touched upon, but never dwelt on, and Stan is always quick to give credit where it's due and stress that while he often had the initial ideas for characters it was the artists who helped shape the end result.

From the birth of the Fantastic Four, in the wake of the misguided backlash against comics sparked by psychiatrist Fredric Wertham's Seduction Of The Innocent condemnation of lurid comic books, it becomes a tale of hit after hit.

Eventually, as the documentary draws towards the modern era, it looks at the faltering - and ill-judged - first attempts to bring the Marvel comic book characters to live-action (both on TV and film) before the secret recipe was finally cracked and the current golden age of superhero movies came about.

The final chapters of the film bring things right-up-to-date, with the  collapse of Stan's internet enterprise and then the rise of his current company, POW!

Throughout the story, we are let into Stan's home life with his wife, Joan, and while their initial romance is kind of fudged around (she was married when they first met), their enduring love story prevails. Joan comes across as as large a character as Stan, but both are lost for words when recounting the early death of their second daughter.

Even non-comic book readers will find this documentary fascinating, as Rachel did, because it paints a graphic portrait of the changing socio-economic times of the latter half of the 20th Century in America - and how Marvel comics reflected, and reacted to, these changes.


Santa Claus Conquers The Martians (1964)

Monday, 24 December 2012

Stan Lee Reads Twas The Night Before Christmas...

Simon's Cat - Icecapade



Some pre-Christmas cuteness with Simon's Cat.

Merlin: The Diamond of the Day (Part 1)


Now knowing Merlin's secret, Morgana uses an ancient creature to steal Merlin's magical powers on the eve of her full-scale assault on the kingdom of Camelot.

Instead of waiting for his sister's army of Saxons to besiege his citadel, King Arthur decides to ride out with his army and face her in a mountainous defile known as Camlann.

Merlin however realises he cannot accompany Arthur on this possibly final journey as he must go to the "birthplace of magic", The Crystal Cave in the Valley Of Fallen Of Kings, and try to get his powers back.

I realise that this is what the show has been building to five years, and this particular episode was only half of the final story, but The Diamond Of The Day felt rather lacking.

Not only do we have the contrivance of the only survivor of a slaughter turning out to be Morgana's agent, but then when Morgana learns that powerless Merlin is going to the "birthplace of magic" to try and get his powers back her plan is to... trap him in there. In The Birthplace Of Magic. Where he wanted to go anyway. Didn't she see the flaw in her plan?

Rather strangely as well the legendary Battle of Camlann was rewritten as a clone of the Battle of Thermopylae (as depicted, most recently, in the movie 300), completed with secret path.

On the plus side there was a nice cameo from the ghost of Merlin's father, Balinor (John Lynch), who helped guide Merlin through his imprisonment in the Crystal Cave to his DESTINY (must be read in dramatic voice). Which he was only able to achieve because Morgana had trapped him in there. After going to great lengths to strip him of his magical powers.

I suppose this could be seen as the ultimate irony. But it could also have been seen as slightly daft and slightly underwhelming.

Even what we have seen so far of the battle at Camlann didn't amount to much (especially when compared to some of the big battles the show has hosted in the past), taking place at night (no doubt for budgetary reasons) and mainly consisting of groups of men running at each other.

I guess I was just expecting more.

Let's hope the final - ever - episode of Merlin, the conclusion of this two-part finale, makes up for this episode's shortcomings.

Next Time:

Musical Monday: Three Tunes For Christmas...



Another track from Now That's What I Call Disney, and as it's Christmas Eve and we've survived a global apocalypse, here's another...


And to round-out this Christmas/Disney fusion, here's the McClain Sisters singing Great Divide from Disney's latest Tinker Bell movie: Tinker Bell and the Secret of the Wings

... And We're Back!

Via
Ted: Barney, the three-days rule is insane. I mean, who even came up with that?

Barney: Jesus.

Marshall: Barney, don't do this, not with Jesus.

Barney: Seriously, Jesus started the whole wait-three-days thing. He waited three days to come back to life. It was perfect. If he'd have only waited one day, a lotta people wouldn't have even heard that he died. They'd be all "Hey, Jesus. What up?" And Jesus would probably be like, "What up? I died yesterday." Then they'd be all, "Uh, look pretty alive to me dude." And then Jesus would have to explain how he was resurrected and how it was a miracle. And then the dude would be like "Ah, oh-kay, whatever you say "bro"."

And you're not gonna come back on a Saturday, everybody's busy! Doin' chores, workin' the loom, trimmin' their beards.

No, he waits the exact, right number of days - three. Plus, it's Sunday, so everyone's in church already. They're all in there - "Oh no, Jesus is dead." Then BAM! He bursts through the back door, runs up the aisle, everyone's totally psyched and FYI, that's when he invented the high-five.

Three days, Ted. We wait three days to call a woman because that's how long Jesus wants us to wait. True story.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Happy End Of The World...

For Your Consideration...


Pictured here is my 2013 roleplaying "reading list". They boil down into three camps - superheroes/urban fantasy/Arthurian myths.

SUPERHEROES:
  • Villains & Vigilantes - have a long history with this game.
  • ICONS - appears rules-lite and is well supported.
  • Smallville - looks nice but features totally alien design concepts that I'm interested in investigating.
URBAN FANTASY:
  • Buffy/Angel - always loved the Cinematic Unisystem for its sleek flexibility and have always wanted to try my hand at a (non-college) Buffy-esque game setting. Probably more Supernatural in tone than Buffy and Angel though.
  • The Dresden Files - I know next to nothing about the FATE system, but am willing to give it a try as the background for this game seems to gel with what I am looking for.
  • Primeval - basically this is Cubicle 7's Doctor Who game with more guns, dinosaurs and time anomalies. 
ARTHURIAN MYTHS:
  • King Arthur Pendragon - simply put this has always been on my RPG bucket list.
Quite a few of these games (particularly The Dresden Files, Smallville and, to a degree, Pendragon) are unlike anything I have played or run before - and I think it's about time I challenged myself to think outside my OSR-shaped box.

To a degree there is some overlap potential between the "superheroes" and the "urban fantasy" as, if I went the Unisystem route, I suspect my game would be leaning towards an Alphas/4400/Heroes/Misfits style of setting with street-level (non-costumed) powered humans.

Or it might go more Supernatural.

But what I need to do - in my continuing desperate struggle to adhere to The Tao Of Pete - is take my time, select one system I really get on with and then develop a campaign setting that's ready to go when 2014 rolls around.

To Houserule Or Not To Houserule...


If all goes according to plan 2013 will be my "year as a player", as I'm looking forward to participating in both Meredith's World Of Warcraft RPG and Clare's Space 1889 game - although I'm not sure what impact the news that Clare is now growing a younger sibling for my godson Alec in her belly and that Meredith has adopted a puppy will have on gamenight planning!

Not only am I excited by the prospect of getting to play in some fantasy games, but this gives me a year to seriously read-up on some RPGs and kick over ideas for my eventual return to the seat of Gamesmaster.

At the moment, the main factor in my thinking is a desire to use The Knight City background I was working on for our short-lived Villains & Vigilantes campaign. In one form or another Knight City has been with me since the inception of the HeroPress brand - it was originally called Royal Wells and located in southern England, and was the base for the original HeroPress play-by-post RPG.

The city has gone through several renamings - and one continent shift - over the years as I've continued to pick away at it, but the most recent iteration has been the closest to my original vision for the city and it seems a shame to let it go.

I'm kicking around a number of different roleplaying systems, but the overall idea (at present), is for either a straight superhero game (emulating Marvel/DC Comics) or an urban fantasy/low-level supers games (inspiration coming from Alphas, The 4400, Warehouse 13, The Dresden Files, Arrow etc).

Now, of course, anyone who has read my gaming posts will be well aware that I am my own worst enemy when it comes to gaming systems and campaign planning.

I love to tinker - and sometimes, when I have too much free time on my hands, I tinker too much. Just look at my last stab at running a Dungeons & Dragons-style game: it never even got off the ground and a large part of the problem was that I had houseruled the original rules (Crypts & Things) almost into oblivion.

I presented the players with a booklet of houserules (most, it must be said, connected to reshaping the character creation process) that effectively stripped everything out of the game except its magic system (which was what had sold the game to me in the first place).

In retrospect it would have been less messy for the players if I'd lifted the magic system from C&T into another D&D variant that better suited my vision of the particular world I was creating.

That said, one of the stronger ideas I'm toying with at present is restarting my Villains & Vigilantes campaign.

But if there is one thing that I hate in roleplaying games - and V&V is actually probably the worst offender I have encountered - it's combat tables.

Having to consult tables during combat just slows things down, and I know people have suggested work-arounds to me in the past, but there is no escaping the mindnumbing overcomplexity of a table where every offensive power has a different chance of hitting a different defensive power.

Combat tables are the last vestige of roleplaying games' roots in wargames and have really had their day. Even back in my early days of Dungeons & Dragons one of the first "houserules" cooked up by my gaming clique was to eliminate the need to keep referring to a chart to see if your blow had struck the orc. 

I think the simple solution, that I would use if I actually ran V&V again, would be (as Steve and I used in our old V&V games back in the '80s) a straight "hit on 10+", on a d20, modified by circumstance, skills etc and level (add the attacker's level to the role, subtract the defender's level).

The only other aspect I would change, and this more reflects the nature of our games (once a month for two or three hours) and the fact that we can no longer game more regularly and for longer, is I would replace the V&V idea of levels (a direct riff from Dungeons & Dragons and not wholly suitable for superheroes) with 'power levels' - as borrowed from Mutants & Masterminds.

I would rule that all starting player-heroes would be Eighth Level and then every year of continuous game player they would advance one Power Level.

Superhero games shouldn't really be about experience point whoring anyway, as there are plenty of other ways (character development, short-term boosts etc) to reward success in such an environment.

Knight City

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Making Of Game Of Thrones Season 3: Vlog #1 - Art Direction


This is my 5,000th post on HeroPress!

Alphas Is X-Men TV...



Alphas has just finished its second season on 5Star in the UK and fans are still waiting to hear if it's being renewed for a third season, after the decision was pushed back from its original Thanksgiving deadline.

For me, it's a no-brainer. This is Heroes done right, with a heavy dose of X-Men dynamics and, for my money, the best treatment of "supers" on TV.

Co-created by Zak Penn, the writer of The Incredible Hulk, X-Men 2 and X-Men: The Last Stand, Alphas delivers tight, street-level superhero action (sans capes and costumes), with clever takes on the characters' abilities and engaging social interactions between the lead characters.

It would be a major kick in the nutsack to leave fans hanging after God's Eye, the dramatic finale of the second season, but I must confess that the longer it's left to deliver a verdict on the show's future the more hope fades.

Merlin Finale Trailer...



This looks spectacular! I hope Merlin goes out in style, even though I think its a tragedy that this show was brought to a close when it clearly had many more stories to tell.

For instance, what happened to all the monsters roaming the land in the first four seasons that haven't been seen - barring the two dragons - this year?

It would have been grand to have seen more Mordred stories before he finally reverted to type and took his place at Morgana's right hand...

Some stories about Queen Gwen - NOT under Morgana's enchantment - would have been nice as well...

Wonder Woman's Revenge...


Thanks to Clare for drawing this cartoon to my attention. It comes from A Girl's Guide To Taking Over The World, on Facebook.

Wonder Woman Wednesday...

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

A Closer Look At Gannicus...



Just over a month now until the final season of Spartacus debuts in the States.

Time To Put On Your Thinking Cap!


Penelope Valsamis knitted this kooky cap for her husband Stamatis, a fan of the old Disney comic book character Gyro Gearloose, and has made the pattern available, via Etsy, for any seeking to recreate her design.

A PDF of the pattern will set you back $5.50 (approximately £3.50), which Penelope says includes easy-to-follow,  illustrated instructions to produce caps in sizes ranging from babies to adults.

Gyro, who also appeared in the DuckTales cartoon, was the most famous inventor in Duckburg (home of Donald, Scrooge McDuck etc) - even though his inventions didn't  always work the way he wanted them to!

A key part of his inventing process was his "thinking cap" (the inspiration for the knitting pattern), a hat shaped like a house roof, chimney and nest - with three black birds living in it.

Wearing this cap helped Gyro figure out particularly difficult problems... but it only worked if the birds were currently nesting in it.

Lord Of The Ramblers...



An epic - and compact - compilation of all the walking, and walking, and walking in Lord Of The Rings...

Monday, 17 December 2012

New Star Trek Trailer...


Christmas has come early!

Top Of The Pile: Spider-Men


Like a great many comic book fans of a certain age I have been known to rail against Brian Michael Bendis' dialogue diarrhoea.  It's as though once he starts typing his own particular brand of strained superhero banter he just can't stop and very soon a page of artistic panels is drowning in a cavalcade of word balloons.

However, the one notable time this style actually worked for me was his handling of the Ultimate Spider-Man line and so this landmark crossover title worked for me in that respect.

Spider-Men sees Peter Parker of mainstream Marvel Earth-616 transported to the Ultimate universe where the young Peter Parker was shot and killed and a kid named Miles Morales has taken up the Spider-Man mantle.

The interplay between 'our' Peter Parker and the world of the Ultimates - where the name of Peter Parker is held in reverence by the people of New York - is fantastic.

Not only do we get the light-hearted interplay between Peter and the Ultimates (their equivalent of The Avengers), but the emotional exchanges between Peter and that universe's Aunt May and Gwen Stacey - confronted by an adult version of the young man they know to be dead.

Even though this particular scene takes up the better part of a whole issue out of the five issue mini-series, it is handled with the deftness Bendis brought to Ultimate Spider-Man rather than his excruciating banter that kept me away from The Avengers titles for so long.

If this story has a weakness it is its choice of villain - Mysterio. Already a rather lame member of Spider-Man's rogues gallery it is never explained how he obtained the tech to breach the walls between dimensions. Given that this opens up a rather large avenue for future storytelling, it would have been nice to have been told how such a pathetic villain got his hands on such powerful technology... and who built it in the first place.

However, Spider-Men isn't really about the traditional 'hero vs villain'  dichotomy, it's about Peter Parker being a 'fish out of water' in a very peculiar world that is both familiar and alien at the same time. This it does brilliantly.

As a side-note, there's nothing here about the Miles Morales' Spider-Man that makes me regret dropping Ultimate Spider-Man when that Peter died.

Not only does Miles' Spider-Man have a very different powerset, but for me Spider-Man can only be Peter Parker and vice versa.

I could only ever see the character as a short-term gimmick - akin to the time after Superman's death when other 'Supermen' came out of the woodwork or when Dick Grayson dons the Batman costume - and I'd always be waiting for Peter to return.

Between the Pages : Marvel NOW! Review...



Grace Randolph and Jessica Boyd give a more in-depth review of the early issues of Marvel NOW! than I did.

The wonderful thing is their views are often totally contrary to my own, but they highlight a point that I didn't that this is Marvel's attempt to make their comics more like their movies.

Issues covered in this half-hour show include:

  • Uncanny Avengers #1
  • Uncanny Avengers #2
  • Avengers #1
  • Thor #1
  • Thor #2
  • Indestructible Hulk #1
  • Iron Man #1
  • Iron Man #2
  • Iron Man #3
  • Captain America #1
  • Fantastic Four #1
  • FF #1
  • All New X-Men #1
  • All New X-Men #2
  • All New X-Men #3

The Day The World Became A Much Smaller Place...



The Wright Brothers First Flight, December 17, 1903.

This news clip shows Orville and Wilbur Wright's first recorded flight caught exclusively by British Pathé in 1903. On December 17, news came through that two brothers had flown a curious air machine for more than a minute.

To the sceptics, this footage proved that it was true.

A Day That Shook The World is the classic series that recalls the days of the 20th century that proved to be era-defining and pivotal in the course of modern history.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Academy of Heroes - Episode Two: Dangerman



In this episode,Stan Lee teams up Dangerman with David Hasselhoff to improve the real life hero's communication skills.

Seasonal Supergirl Sunday...


It's about time for another of our irregular tributes to cosplayers, actresses, models, young ladies in tight T-shirts - and Photoshop wizards - who share our love for Supergirl.

Why The World Is Going To End On Friday...

Click to embiggen
Thanks to excellent satirist Dave McElfatrick of Cyanide & Happiness for this laser-sharp piece of observational comedy.
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