Elsewords

December 18, 2018

As the most right-eous reviewer of all things Arrowverse, you gnome I was going to commentitate upon Elseworlds.

Not so great.

Yeah, had Supes, who is a better Supes than most, but it just seemed like Supes and LL to have Supes and LL.  Batwoman does nothing for me.  I mean, if you want to have an Yvonne Craig lookalike in a new spinoff, that might do something for me.  I’m not a Bats fan.  I was okay with him on Superfriends and am entertained by Adam’s adventures, probably more now where I pay more attention to the dialogue than I did back in the dim ages.

I chuckled at some part one stuff.

I felt like Melissa was wasted.  One thing I liked about Crisis was Melissa and Stephen getting to interact.  Here, felt like a buddy crossover with Supes and a bunch of others.  John Wesley Shipp also felt like a wasted opp.

Wasn’t funny enough.  Wasn’t spectacular enough.  Rushed.  Because of Gotham, felt like not a lot happened.  More Iris and Oliver, some Felicity and Barry, Kara and, uh, Diggle?  Ralph?  Everybody?

Then, Legends of To Meow Meow.  I agree with the comment that LoT essentially crossovered with itself.  I don’t usually rewatch LoT episodes (even though it is the best of the four shows), but I had to rewatch parts to relive SoS and DC’s Puppets of Tomorrow.

And, that brings us to our topic.

Giving the audience what it wants.

No, I’m not going to get rambled down into RPG GMing.

What do floppers want?

Art?  Can’t be art in and of itself.  There’s so much not good CCG art.

Mechanics?  Hell, nope.  I mean, look at what has done well over long spans of time.  Then, look at how forgotten and not so impactful a really fun to play game like Ultimate Combat! has been.

Theme?  Sire, yes sire.  Magic has fantasy.  Pokemon has poke.  Yu-Gi-Oh! has Exodia, Egyptian God Monsters, et al.  L5R is really cool.  Even V:TES and Shadowfist developed playerbases through theme (certainly not art).  Star Wars.  Lord of the Rings.  Buffy got made.  Doctor Who got made.  So, so many got made.

Competitive play?  I think so.  Even Babylon 5 did better than it might have due to tournaments.  No matter how much casual appeal there may be, and V:TES has had quite the casual appeal as I’ve run across numerous players who had no tournament interest, tournaments and prizes enhanced appeal.

Why would I pick up a CCG at this point?

Theme.  I’m not looking for a great mechanics CCG; a CCG with great mechanics would have to sell me on theme.

Analogizing, the problem with Elseworlds is that it didn’t theme well.  Crisis themed much better, giving supers all sorts of opps to superize, shippers opps to sail (Sara and Alex, e.g.).  Supes and LL were like art, fight scenes were like mechanics, Barry Queen and Oliver Allen training was like competitive play??  Well, it’s analogistic in the typical way that analogies don’t always work.

Meow Meow themed.  Singing.  Cat petting.  Amy in action.  Not perfect.  Ray, Mick, Ava not so well served.  But, Fairy Godmother did well.

Course, everyone knows the best themes involve space ships and aliens and economics, especially in a high tech digital version.

But, I digesticate.

On a related note, totally not enthralled with this season of Who.  I get that it’s stylistically much more like oldWho.  But, Pertwee and Tom were so much more interesting.  I liked Matt Smith’s and Capaldi’s Doctors more than most, even if their episodes weren’t always brilliant.  Jodi’s Doctor is too ordinary.  Too many companions, especially when you don’t have multipart episodes.  Just not all that interesting adventures.

BBC’s Doctor Puppet!!

Give the audience what it wants.  Wait.  What are my favorite episodes of a-l-l timeandspace?  Maybe another timeandspace I’ll have an answer.  I did really like parts of The Girl in the Fireplace of newWho.  I liked Tom on Gallifrey in oldWho.

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Target Practice

November 4, 2018

It’s everyone’s favorite time of year.  The time when I begin talking about the new seasons of Arrowverse shows.

For the three people who are still reading, let’s get some contextual stuff out of the way, first.

Supergirl –

Have not watched a new episode, haven’t watched most of last season on DVR.  I’m so close to mass deleting as the show only really got me perked up (outside of crossovers) in the first two episodes of season “yo, Superman”.

Arrow –

Keep seeing comments about getting back to roots.  Um, nope.  I have had a higher tolerance for Felicity than most after she became a main.  Great supporting character, terrible main.  But, I just can’t stand her this season.  Her arbitrary “I’m more important than everyone else”ness is exactly contrary to what makes superheroes heroes (well, what makes anyone heroes).  Helping others is what society deems Good, as I’ve stated before.  Sacrificing to help others is more Gooder.  Whining is not Good.  Arrow always should have been one of two things – modern take on vigilantes where they just straight up murder the bad guys all of the time … or … ignore early season 1’s straight up murdering people right and left and all hail boxing glove arrow time.  To keep trying to play on the fence of what vigilantism means is really, really boring.  Almost like I said this before – angst is bad, m’kay, there are plenty of ways to have drama without caring whether someone has dealt with their personal demons or not.

It’s like other folks, the folks who like this season, want something different than what I do.  Oh, right, they do.  They want Amell shirtless in prison fights.  I want a superhero show about an archer (well, not really, since Green Arrow isn’t an important character to me, but, given that we don’t get supers I like better, sure, a show about a superhero archer).  Of course there’s lots of agreement on the weak parts.  For instance, get rid of every other main character and have some fun supporting characters, like season 1 Felicity and anyone who is like “Whoa, you are a Bratva Captain?”.  Just to show I don’t hate women – make Nyssa mainish and have her be the rival/foil.  “Husband, while you were fiddling with your long, thick expanding arrow, I straight up murdered all of the bad guys and solved the problem … again.”

Flash –

Not bad.  But, see below about Legends of Tomorrow.  Cicada is actually less interesting already.  I can accept the ludicrous tropes needed to make a god threatened by ungods, but oh my does it get tiresome when they set up scenes where anyone who moves, I don’t know, four times as fast as a normal person wouldn’t be remotely threatened.  Cisco is not as cool as he once was.  Caitlin’s problems are boring.  Ralph is boring.  Wells has yet to get anywhere near season 1 Wells, though that may not be possible.  Having JPK play the daughter of two actors who are actually younger than her is somewhat amusing.  Just too much locked into tropeland rather than capturing the really cool dynamic of early season 1.

Legends of Tomorrow –

At no point has Supergirl been what I wanted it to be as a show.  Sure, Supes’ first two episodes were there, but that didn’t last long.  Arrow had moments but really lost its cool after like the first three episodes.  The Yao Fei training and early Deathstroke stuff was on point.  Even later Deathstroke was just a slog as:  one, wasn’t Ollie’s fault; two, the whole setup was really stupid when you stopped to think about it at any time even though the plan to pit them against each other made perfect sense.  Flash was what it should be early to mid season 1.

Oh, hold on.  All of these shows tend to be what they should be when they do crossovers.

LoT was not good in season 1.  Two characters were such a downer.  But, it got better.  Season premier of this season may not be perfect television, but it’s exactly what LoT should be like.  I’ve had bigger laughs, but that they made a Woodstock episode work at all was an achievement as I don’t have any nostalgia for Woodstock (okay, I’m maybe not as ancient as I think), so I find it a boring historical reference.  Then, the second episode happened.

Which brings me to my gaming topic.  !!

There’s a line in storytelling, even highly mechanical storytelling, where on one side you have good or better and the other you have not good or worse.  LoT had the same ideals and generally the same components but failed the execution.  The second episode was actually exceedingly obnoxious.  Boringland called and paid a visit.  The supernatural antagonist (not really the real antagonist) was not terrible.  The singing was timely.  It was just how mindnumbingly stupid Zari was that left me disgusted with the episode.

My concern with running … since there’s only so much I can do as a player and I have a high tolerance for suboptimal play of RPGs … is that I try to do what sounds righteous and don’t get on the righteous side of the line.

This is likely a terrible example for this particular topic, but it’s something from recent Rokugan 1600 play that hasn’t worked.

Usagi Yumi

I steal so much stuff from prior campaigns.  So, one thing I did was have an object that mattered to me as a player show up in the campaign as a subplot device.  Besides passing comments on rare occasions about getting rid of the yumi, at no point did it matter to the player of the PC tasked with finding the rightful owner to find the rightful owner.

When the lack of progress kept getting commented upon, the players finally came up with some ideas for pursuing the subplot.  One idea was okay, but I called it “prosaic” in an email I sent – prosaic doesn’t fit my style of RPGing.  The other idea I called “I Love Lucy” level thinking to just be rid of the subplot.  Because latchkey kids had to watch TV from the time they got home to when they went to bed and I’m from an age when there were maybe eight TV stations to watch with only about three mattering, I suffered through I Love Lucy.  And, Laverne and Shirley.  And, other shows about incompetents.  Which is maybe why I have such a deep, abiding hatred of entertainment about incompetents/losers.

I was proud of bringing more magic items into a fantasy campaign because I noticed that I should do more of that sort of thing to play up the fantasy elements of, er, fantasy campaigns.  Instead, griping and sarcasm.

The intent was to motivate towards a goal, since I don’t really require players/PCs to have goals yet goals add depth to a campaign and contribute to having a PC story arc.  Sure, this sort of thing is well familiar to GMs.  They have in mind something they think will make for a better game, a cool story, and the player doesn’t care.

So, what could I have done differently?  Well, since I think in a way that most people I play RPGs don’t, maybe the hints I made recently could have been made earlier.  Though, to be fair in the sense that this isn’t the most important thing to the campaign, I was fine with letting the player deal with the subplot when he felt like it.

Now, there’s another reason not to tip my hand.  I like other people figuring out things, perhaps because I like figuring out things.  I like guessing.  I like having an opportunity before I get an answer handed to me.  I find it weird when other people aren’t into guessing, which a lot of people I quiz aren’t into.  To me, being handed an answer either undermines or invalidates knowing something.  Since this is so “profound”, I’ll come back to it another time.

As a GM, I don’t see my job being giving answers.  I see my job being to give mysteries where the players can discover the answers.  Feel like I’m getting off topic, in that maybe I have a bunch of topics related to CW TV shows.

Anyway, ideas are easy, execution is hard.  Oh, also said this before.

Meanwhile

Meanwhile, there are things I think I do poorly that seem to find favor with players.  This should not be surprising, but it suggests the closeness to the line that a GM can run at.  With just the right dice rolls or player interpretations or improvisation, something uninspired can be inspirational.

Another example that may not even fit.  There’s a geisha that two of the players met in a side session.  She worked in that session better than expected, so I’m obviously having her return to the stage.  Maybe that NPC will engage in a way so many others don’t.

We’ve played enough sessions for players to either gain a feel or reassess their characters.  If I don’t start adding depth rather than continuing to create breadth (shallow and broad I be), going to miss out, methinks, on a better experience.

More engaging villains.  More engaging NPCs.  More engaging locales.  More engaging objects.  More engaging plots, subplots, events.  If wishes were fishes, fish sauce might be more expensive.

So, how to do the better things Arrowverse shows have done and eschew the worse?  Well, no, I don’t look forward to Mick and Constantine working together.  Just sounds Odd Couple level “I only watch this show because nothing else is on this channel I watch for four hours every day” grating.

I’m not very hard on the players.  I was reading some story ideas in L5R supplements and they are *harsh*.  Permanently being made an eta harsh.  Maybe events would be taken more seriously if there were actual consequences.  OTOH, doesn’t sound like that would be any more fun, just more intense.

GM Fun

Because who really cares whether I have a coherent blog post or not?

I was asked what was fun for me as a GM, what would make things more fun.

I enjoy research.  I enjoy worldbuilding.  I enjoy using research in my worldbuilding.  I enjoy coming up with interesting takes on mechanics.  I enjoy the soap opera lives my NPCs have that players generally couldn’t care less about.

What makes me stop enjoying anything is if players aren’t enjoying play.

I’m sure the writers of Arrowverse episodes enjoy Gorilla Grodd or messing up the timelines or trying to address political issues.  See, getting related to my own post – booyah.

I can enjoy building a world that doesn’t get played.  What seems like it would be more fun is having the players enjoy the world.  I’m pretty sure that’s true, as players caring about some aspect of the world gets me motivated to keep creating more of the world, while players not caring about the world hardly at all gets me disinterested in running.

When I can find the time and am in the mood, I enjoy writing stories that are relevant to the PCs.  This is an area I’ve been poor at for R.1600, as we often schedule sessions in quick succession or have long layoffs.  In theory, if we had more every other week sessions, that would give me a week to work on a session and to write up what’s going on with the NPCs so that the players have more insight into how I view the world.

Arrowverse seasons are still early.  Flash feels like it’s wavering between the two sides of the line.  Arrow is relatively good for Arrow but that doesn’t say much as so much of Arrow has had similar problems to so much of Wheel of Time.  I don’t expect it to rise to new heights or to rise to the heights of its crossover episodes.  LoT is where I hope to be continuously entertained, but it needs to figure out how to use its current crew better as I feel like it’s a Sara and everyone else show, at the moment, because only Sara feels fully “present” as a protagonist.  Mick is underused, Nate is annoying, Ray gets too silly, Zari doesn’t work when she’s serious, Constantine is not integrated well, at all.

R.1600 isn’t early.  If only it was easier to implement GMing advice rather than just reading it.  If only it was easier writing good TV.  Oh yeah, still absolutely on theme for today.


Kućna Biljka

October 17, 2018

When is a gaming blog not a gaming blog?

When it’s ajar, a jar, … *sigh*.

I can get into TV reviews, movie reviews, book reviews, food reviews, and make some loose tie in to gaming to justify my whims.  Then, there are the travelogue posts that tend to be even sketchier when it comes to fitting this blog.

But, hey, I didn’t take any games but I totally played some (not mind games, well, not intentionally).

In the beginning, was a city.  A city with an airport.  And, an airport shuttle bus.  And, a Metro and a Decathlon on the way to the AirBnB.  Oh, right, there’s only like one or a few people in the world who would understand why I took note of the Metro store and the Decathlon store on the way in.

We were a group of seven.  Five convicted murderers and the other six in the group.  Uh … Germany.  So, I met up with two of the party in Frankfurt.  Success.  Shelter.  Success.  Well, time to declare victory and call it a week.

I headed to the Diocletian Palace area because 4.5 movies on the first flight left me full of chi.

So, I may have said something about not being a movier.  I have in my decrepit old age of traveling an airline a bunch for status (not gaining me much since I dropped from gold) become the moviemeister, Baron von Movie.  Or, Baron von Ultimate Yahzee.

I finally saw Solo.  Watched Deadpool 2, Kingsman: Golden Circle, Monkey King 3, and most of Deadpool.  My early filter didn’t show Deadpool, thus the sequencing.  It’s refreshing when characters actually say what they think.  Yukio is adorable.  I can see getting tired of the Deadpool schtick, though.  Solo – terrible beginning, not exactly all that afterwards.  Golden Circle just bad.  I can understand the value of Bond parody, but, even with the cheesiness of Bond movies, they exude some stylin’ and profilin’.  But, then, I don’t watch action movies so much for action [just like I don’t eat massive quantities of meat because I care that much about the meat … oh never mind, Andy].  Monkey King 3 is not what I have in mind when I think of martial arts flicks, but my lukewarm feelings had more to do with the beating over the head of gender relationship stuff.

We eat at Maslina.  You know, I’m not going to spend a lot of time reviewing food.  I’m hypercritical, I mean, hyperanalytical and mostly complain about how my food and drink don’t rise to the level of … of … really great food.  I did learn to not order lemonade in Europe as I’m not entirely sure who drinks unsweetened lemonade.

Get this out of the way, now.  If you don’t get breakfast and lunch served everyday, then Croatia is about eight gelatos a day for, like, $12.  No matter what tourist port you are in, somehow, they will present gelato to you right as you get off the ship.  If you just need to scavenge for dinner, like us, then knock out your three gelatos for $4.50.  Now, you could order smoothies, like someone who drinks copious amounts of sugar, but just say yes to $1.50 cones and “suffer”.

Obligatory Port Shot

On to Makarska.  Weather was unkind early on …

Hindshadowing

So, what’s a group of young folks and a blogger going to spend time doing when not rafting or kayaking?

Heads Up!.  Yup, Heads Up!.  Cards Against Humanity.  First time, for me, and it was just like Apples to Apples (from a certain perspective).  I even played Uno and mansplained some on why I’m not into games like chess to someone who had just played some chess.  I’m just going to assume any time I say anything, I’m doing it in a manly way because of my early nurturing.  Also, much later in the trip, Exploding Kittens.

See, gaming content.  I’m nothing if not focused.

Night one of the trip, I didn’t get to sleep until after 4AM.  In fact, I was playing solitaire at 3AM … gaming, booyah!

Yup, me and all of the other kućna biljke [not sure this is as kosher as I think it could be] just notpartying late into the night.

So, that gave me a perfect opportunity to bail out on the next night’s socializing.  Not that I qualify for Navigator cruises, Contiki, et al, but one can just imagine.

Not the “Marco Polo”!?!

Tourist joke time!

I left a review for Sail Croatia.  Quite happy with this ship, though, to be arguably unfair, it’s not their ship, they just lease vessels from ship owners.  Might have been different if I shared a cabin with a stranger, but can worry about that the next time …

Sand not shown.

So, I didn’t take a lot of pictures.  I took no pictures while dune buggying as I was the seventh wheel, the wheelman.  All alone in my buggy (the second one as, of course, the first one wouldn’t turn over).  Anyway, one thing about our trip was lack of connection between beaches with sand and being in the water.  This beach would have been an opportunity for that, but the weather was still gloomier than usual.

Back to the lightning storm in Korčula.  Dinner at a nice restaurant and it didn’t rain at our sea wall locale.  Not here but near here.

Europe …

I also took no pictures while kayaking Malo Jezero (malo) and Veliko Jezero (Most-ly, sic humor FTW), while zip lining (see, gaming, as Andy and I discussed how Zip Line is a stealth card due to the squealing sounds matching the frequency of bats), or on …

Not Old … Town

The walking tour.  The Game … … … of Thrones walking tour.  Who loves irony?  Who?  I’m sure there’s a fantasy oriented sort who suffered through all of the Wheel of Time books (if not all of the chapters) who has never watched a complete episode or read any of the books who would be into such a tour.  Pretty safe bet.

I was definitely impressed at Dubrovnik Old Town.  Those three tourists, yum.  Anyway, Dubrovnik is one of the (numerous) locales on the trip I would have been interested in spending more time.  In this case, I felt like I only scratched the surface of touristdom.

The day after Dubrovnik was, I believe, when I had this sense of the trip being incredibly dense.  Sure, you don’t spend a lot of time in any given port (unless you stay up until 4AM doing … whatever), but each day is different to where there’s a lot of feeling of activity.  Also, weather improved and we actually hit swim spots.

Swimming.  I don’t actually swim much.  Kućna biljke aren’t known for mobility – all about the floating.  But, between being dumped in the middle of placid water, it being chilly, and whatnot, I even coordinated using arms and legs at the same time at times to achieve water-based motion.  I know, pin a medal on me right now.

I drink my sugar.

Oops, forgot to put this picture in the Dubrovnik “section”.  Most pictures of food I take for coworkers.  At least one of our group consumed the products of these dispensers.

Blocking the nudist beach.

The back half of the trip had a group humor moment.  Probably had to be there.

Gender bias – 40 kuna.

From here.  Okay, fine, I’ll explain.  At various times, we were low on cash and lots of things were cashy.  Now, ATMs are everywhere, so this isn’t actually much of a challenge, but one groupster would have more cash than another.  So, five of us went into the fortress.  I paid for myself and another male.  The third male paid for himself.  His fiancee was going to be covered by a female.  The ticket dude was having none of this outrageous chivalrouslessness once he realized we were “together”.  So, the two non-males saved some precious gelato-producing materials.

Oh, the adventures I could …

Getting to the end.  Last swim spot was most involved for this one, heretofore known as the “Water Wheel”.  If only someone had a Go Pro, someone who switched helmets with me to mount an electronic device and if only someone with a bumpy skull was into taking pictures while in motion.

Oh, which reminds me.  Safety is a six letter word.  When we had to sign waivers and wear safety equipment for ziplining, given that to that point our entire safety instruction was “Put the life jacket over your head, pull the strap around, and buckle.  Life jackets under the beds.” and at no point when I went kayaking by myself “Do you know how to swim?  Have you been kayaking before?  Do you want a life jacket?” to the point where I think I technically crossed out of Veliko Jezero into the sea, we figured there was a 10% kill rate on ziplining.  Bucked the odds, again.

Almost Splitsville.

Back in Split was trip-py.  It was an odd feeling to me to be back in a “city” where not everything was touristful (Dubrovnik outside of Old Town might have been that if we were ever more than a hop, skip, and jump from Old Town).  Also, the “return” of, er, returning to our starting point.

Return trip was ending of Deadpool, Black Panther, Infinity War, and lots of Yahtzee.  Because, gamer, yo.  Dice forever!

While I still don’t have the enthusiasm to cinemize, except when with family or the like who are more cinematic than I, I guess I’ve got to realize that it doesn’t really bother me to watch superhero movies, anymore.  I was reasonably entertained.

While not a tournament report, thanks to Athena for the invite on her trip and the groupsters for sharing gelato.  Thanks to the crew for not forcing us to use life jackets.  Thanks to Lara for mucho guidance.  Thanks to fellow passengers.

Now, when could I possibly fit in a return trip, where, of course, a V:TES tournament and Traveller feature prominently?

Wait, more gaming.

So, one thing about watching five years’ worth of movies was philosophizing upon the idea that entertainment can be less than great and still, somehow, be good.  In the next three thousand words, I’ll – …

 


Crisis Of Blog Why

November 29, 2017

The beauty of having a blog is that it allows one to be as self indulgent as one is wont to be … as someone wants to be.

How can I pass on commenting on Crisis on Earth-X?

Is it better than Justice League?  I don’t know.  I have no plans to watch Justice League.

Is it perfect?  Of course not.  Is any TV perfect (anymore, ever)?

Talking about four flawed shows, at least in my supremely brilliant opinion.

It is the pinnacle of what the Arrowverse has done.

Sure, one can say some of the early Arrow flashbacks or early Flash season one or particular scenes in Legends or moments with Superman or the early Arrow/Flash interactions were better in isolation.  But, this is what all right-thinking and left-thinking and centrist-thinking fans of superheroics wanted – a real crossover of an absurd number of supers.

It also gave Ollie and Kara “relating”, though not in the optimal way.  Nitpicking is easy.

But, let me counternitpick for a moment before we get closer to talking about gaming.

Olicity has been a thing for many a year.  As a thing, doing the comicbooky thing with it is the proper genre convention.  While I doubt the special effects could get better, though the fight choreography perhaps could, as much as the relationship drama could be better, it fit.

I don’t mark out for much.  And, I couldn’t help but think I’d want more interaction between Sara and Oliver, who, like, were a couple, and Palmer and Oliver, etc.  But, every minute held my attention because it was doing a solid job of servicing fans.  I even laughed at the sticking to things really well.

Better to try and service others than never get into servicing.  Compare what has been bequeathed upon us today versus Smallville, old Flash (had its moments), shows of yestery years.  I don’t recall Shazam! very well from the ’70s, but I somehow doubt it produced anywhere near the comicbook feel that this miniseries and these shows can achieve.

Maybe next year, they have a Green Lantern to show that the small screen can do that better, too.

So, what does this have to do with gaming?

No, it’s not time to say the same thing said around three times before.

Fun.  Gaming is supposed to be fun.  Looking forward to something.  I looked forward to night one, then to night two.

Do I look forward to playing L5R?  Shadowfist?  Heroes of Rokugan?  Attending Gen Con?

Not really, at least not in the same way of there being anticipation.  For most of the gaming I do, I hope to avoid disappointment.  V:TES would be the one thing I still do that I look forward to.  Now, more so when I know the other players as, for me, it’s a casual game to be savored for the entertainment factor.

The other aspect of the event, though it does tend to get into RPG commentary, is “pull out the stops”.  Gaming shouldn’t be mundane, repetitive.  This is why I can’t generate much enthusiasm for a lot of games I’m willing to play – there’s no spectacular.  It may be harder for games that live inside the box, like boardgames, but there can be the “holy ay caramba!” moments in games.  CoE-X was epic.  Games can be epic.

Sure, much easier for RPGs to be epic, which is why I gravitate towards an inclination to prefer and/or favor theoretical RPG play.  But, sometimes Jake Washington ousts two players.

Finally, CoE-X gets into reasons for wanting to play a superhero RPG, even if just a one-shot.  I do think comics still have an advantage in that actors can’t always come across as badass as drawings can, but live actiony, special effects flavored entertainment gets closer and closer to rendering the images that have made people care about supers.

You don’t just have powers, you have a place in a world as an ultrabeing.  You live a huger than life … er … life.  The fate of the “world” is in your hands.  I probably mentioned playing Wasp in a convention game.  I may have mentioned looking in the Destroyer’s visor and pulling Surtur’s sword (Twilight Sword?) free because Iron Man failed his saves.  Supers embody ideals.  They aren’t realistic for good reasons.  Wolverine’s popularity can be in part attributed to calling forth the ideals of being the ultimate survivor, of being the ultimate tough (not strong) guy.  Green Lantern’s oath doesn’t sound all that cool when you say it … unless of course the Sun is being consumed by space darkness.

Now, next crossover should have Jay Garrick, Supes, Nyssa (because everything is better with Nyssa), Deathstroke?, Legionnaires, and a green ring.


Flopping – Part Two

October 15, 2017

The new TV season started (for me).  Supergirl, Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Arrow … nah, no pattern to what I watch at all.

Let’s work backwards.  I’m going to rant about shows and point out how this is relevant to RPG play.

Arrow

More than any other premiere, I just didn’t care what was going on.  Arrow did the worst job of following up on the season finale, which is saying something for these shows.  Is this because they don’t know how to do season premieres?  I would say it’s because they don’t know how to do season finales.  Do not have cliffhangers.  Cliffhangers are for when you follow up with a new episode immediately afterwards, like a week or two afterwards.  Cliffhangers work … when you give a damn what’s going to happen and can even remember what was happening.  I have only vague recollections of what happened in the season finales, which has something to do with how not great the season finales were, as well.

What is enjoyable about superheroes?  Right, as I said, antiangst.  What do we get in TV?  Wrongness.  Angsty wrongness.  Parenting issues.  Yup, that’s why I watch.

Here’s what I want out of Arrow episodes:  Ollie is working on his new trick arrow.  Ollie has a date with some hottie who doesn’t know he’s green on the outside, when Nyssa shows up and keeps saying “Husband, …”.  Secret identities are not for producing angst – comics actually tend to do a pretty good job with secret identities much of the time – secret identities are for humor and for those rare cases when you get inspired by the protagonist’s dual life.  You know what show did a good job with SIs?  Batman, ’60s Batman.  There was some humor.  There were times when supporting characters told Bruce or Dick about how great the caped crusaders are.  Anyway, humor ensues with Ollie doing stuff while not giving away his greenness.  Ollie wins fight at end with new trick arrow.  Do not bog down legit superhero stories with tedious melodrama.

Was last season better?  Sure.  Was last season great?  No.  Was last season good?  At times, but I got really tired of the endless losing by the protagonists.  TV back in my youth was so different.  It was episodic.  Protagonists won all of the time, and we were satisfied.  Nowadays, you take from the soap opera model of yesteryear and have losing, losing, losing.

RPG:  Don’t do cliffhangers unless you plan on playing again when everyone can still remember what’s going on.  Do not bring children into adult stories.  Do not go to the same dumb well over and over again – just accept the conventions of the genre like how SIs are for the SH to have an internal monologue about how they will keep their secret while actually doing fun stuff.  Get rid of fights that look generic – SH fights are cool because they emphasize the specialness of what the SH is doing in the fight, whether it’s cleverness, unlocking a new level, unlocking a new power.  Have PCs win, often.

Legends of Tomorrow

In its first season, the most cringeworthy show (unless you hate the progressive politics of shows like Supergirl).  At times, the most watchable of the four because it’s trying to be fun.

Season premiere’s problem:  the fun is repetitive and too broad for me.  I don’t enjoy the brofest between Nate and Ray.  Nate’s character has often not been good and the bro-ing only makes Ray seem like a joke.  Firestorm is completely wasted in every way virtually all of the time.  The best moments still tend to be Canary, Heat Wave, Cold making amusing remarks.  Then, LoT was about the less important proving they were important.  The premiere just hammers on the lovable loserness of the crew.  Few losers are lovable.  Sure, I watched Gilligan’s Island, but I also watched TV on TVs that had dials, where one of them was black and white and I had to adjust its ears.  I watched shows I hated, like I Love Lucy, because must show proper obedience to the tube.

There’s a huge time travel problem with the show.  Not that time travel is done all that well in any show I can quickly recall, but let me give some props to Doctor Who for something.  Doctor Who does future stories right, in that the Doctor and his companions can make the future better.  LoT cannot make the future better the way they play it.  All they can do is stop making it worse.  That’s depressing.  Have to fix things all of the time is not fun.  Let the future not be a case of worse and worse options.

What I want to see from LoT:  Mix up the character interactions as Stein is fine when he’s not interacting with Jefferson and the bro-down needs to chill.  Stop pushing how much these SHs are losers.  Stop focusing on fixing the time stream so it can be “meh” rather than catastrophic.  Show more cleverness in the humor.  Have Firestorm be an interesting SH, so bring on cosmic powered villains who can match his level in one-on-one contention.  Have better gender balance so that we can have relationship stuff that isn’t so limited.  Rip isn’t all bad but limit him so that we don’t feel the loser history of the group.  Have Amy show up in non-catfishing mode looking good.  Bring back villains doing their own thing because villains are way, way more interesting when they don’t just exist to be defeated (actually, this is hugely important for every SH show).

RPG:  Villains can be cool.  Let them be.  Don’t go for the same humor over and over again, especially when it’s not nearly as entertaining as other, more clever humor.  Don’t make the PCs seem like losers.  Don’t make the PCs feel like their crusade is just one of keeping the status quo.  Tell more personal stories rather than having to have spotlight time make everything groupful.  Have serious fights, like Firestorm bleeding nuclear fire from half his body as he faces off against a godlike power.

Flash

Talk is about how they are trying to bring the fun back.  What you probably need is to bring Harrison back because he was the reason season one started off amazing, well, sure, there was also the fun that Barry had.

Repetitive.  That’s how it felt, which just made Arrow that much more of a slog because I had already gone through the been to the speedforce, done the speedforce.

Was there anything in the premiere that was enjoyable rather than tolerable?  Danielle can look good, but it requires effort – Killer Frost tended to look way better, for instance.  Don’t do the white t-shirt look.  I know, this is rather specific to my interests, but I’m kind of the one writing.  Felicity would be so much better on this show, if possibly only for a while.  I’m having trouble remembering anything I liked about this episode.  Barry may not act emo, but change the haircut so that I can forget his emo days.  Cisco is so much cooler than Vibe – a little bit of Vibe goes a long way.

What I want:  Interesting power interactions between superspeed and the villains’ powers.  Superspeed is a hugely problematic power because you are a god and speedforce type superspeed is even worse because you can alter reality pretty … quick.  The villains have to have a plan to counteract.  Speed on speed was obviously overdone and got really boring much of the time.  Bring back the fun of things like Barry and Caitlin hanging out.  Iris should hang more with Cisco, perhaps.  Contrast the ridiculous power level of superspeed with the mundane.  I enjoy more the idea of superspeed food runs than much of the drama.  I kind of liked the police force being a character – give them more to do besides getting wrecked – not talking about giving Joe more to do.  Joe can be good but also just seems redundant a lot of the time in preaching same old, same old.  Stop forcing the season to be all or nothing, which is not a premiere problem but a general problem in the past.

RPG:  You can tell fun stories with powerful characters, but it requires thought.  Even if you put thought into it at first, it’s hard to avoid the trap of going to the same well over and over because that’s thematic or mechanically viable.  Supporting characters can be fun, but they need to breathe.  Mix PCs up.  Don’t forget your setting.

Supergirl

Angsty Kara.  Yeah …  Season two started off Class 1000 strong.  Why?  You know who the best character in Supergirl is?  Clark Kent.  No, not Superman.  Superman is aight.  Clark is fun.  Now, sure, can’t have him take over the show.  Instead, have Kara embrace Clark [uh, just cousins, it’s cool].

Of the four, I probably enjoyed Supergirl more, but that could be because it came first, and, rather importantly, it’s season finale didn’t end like the other shows.  There was the least amount of undoing everything that happened, though angry Girl becoming less angry Girl was kind of pointless doing/undoing.

Even Arrow because it’s a DC SH show, but especially the other three need to get more cosmic.  Evil businessman is tired already.  Foreshadowing was fine.

Want:  Clarkbar?  I guess not.  Karabar … hmmm … mmmmm?!?  Actually, Kara was pretty tolerable at times when she was at CatCo until the whole whinefest about how Kara wasn’t important began.  Lena.  Lena and Kara.  Not Lena and Supergirl, that just seems a painful path.  Lena and Kara shopping, golfing, working out …  Alex having interesting things to do rather than dwell on how stuff affects her relationship or on fights I don’t really care about.  Maggie getting back to having some of the fun Maggieness, which probably means hanging out with the boys.  Find all of the funny things Supes has done in stories and make more use of that, as I find Kara’s SI the most annoying except … it’s hard to explain, there are times when she’s being reserved at CatCo or wherever that she’s pleasant.  How about more singing?  Do cool things with powers, since you are a god that can do it all, might as well do goofy power stuff for entertainment value.  Date Ollie, at least twice.

RPG:  While some similarities to Flash in that you have godlike PCs, even more than Flash, need to think through how using powers can be fun and not OP or repetitive.  If given godlike PCs, focus on the soap opera, especially a soap opera you can have with a Lena or a Maggie, who both seem like they just want to cast off the angst and have fun.  Jimmy was Supes’ sidekick, maybe have actual fun sidekicks.  Don’t make your PCs unpleasant for melodrama purposes.  Realistic emotions is better than arbitrary wild extremes.  Foreshadow NPCs.  Change the qualitative nature of challenges so that the focus isn’t on power but on how cosmic powered PCs face cosmic level challenges through interesting resolution.

Arrowverse

Most of all, do crossovers.  Take advantage of characters not burdened with their same old tiresome problems and give them a wild party of SHing … or have them date each other.  Green is so much more pleasant when he’s hanging with Red.  Green and Alien should hang more often.  LoT is a bit of a problem because of number of characters, but I also like the supporting characters mixing it up, so it’s not that much different.  Canary and Nyssa making sarcastic comments while Green and Alien are working together – that’s unobtainium.  Firestorm and Martian going full on (please not against Kryptonited Supes but like an actual villain) against big bad.  Guest star some Wonder because who wouldn’t want more Wonder?

RPG:  Give the world enough depth that other characters interact in interesting ways with it.  Maybe players have multiple PCs who mix things up, like an Ars Magica troupe.

Well, here’s to hoping I’m more invested in second episodes.


Lost Opportunities

April 2, 2017

Been traveling, work conference, then vacation immediately after.  That was poorly planned, as a lot of early mornings, with travel, with time zone changes, with 50 degree (F) temperature changes leads to health suboptimality.  But, that has little to do with gaming.

Work conferences and family vacations do not lend themselves to much in the way of gaming.  However, I have books to read, so I read on flights, something I should do more often as it really does reduce the discomfort of flying.

I read the first Grisha Trilogy book on one of the flights and most of another on another flight.  I have since finished the trilogy.

Wins.  Losses.

These are necessary things for drama.  Literature is replete with such.  Gaming?

As an aside, women’s college basketball is interesting for the first time in a long time.  Friday is why sports is sports.  As wagerable as it is, weird stuff happens, and that drives the future interest.

You have to both lose and win or gaming is boring.  Even competitive gaming.  Why do I value some of my achievements?  Because I lose often enough.  Why do I disdain certain achievements?  Because the challenge wasn’t there, the win didn’t come from doing anything more than showing up.

Losses can sting, but they build (player) characters.  If all you do is “17, hit, 6 damage, any more orcs, open chest”, well, I guess that is a videogame and videogames and videogame RPing have appeal, but it’s not the same level of appealing.

I like reviews.  I prefer movie reviews to movies.  I read reviews of TV shows I watch.  I read reviews of the Grisha books.  Why?

When I finished Wise Man’s Fear and got bored reading Auri’s book, I decided to start in on the Grisha Trilogy.  It seemed goth.  I was expecting dark fantasy.  I was not expecting young adult.  Not even romantic fantasy, though maybe I could have made a bit more effort reading blurbs.

Tonal whipflash.  What is romantic fantasy, btw?  I was thinking about it.  I differentiate a romance story with fantasy elements from a fantasy story with romance elements (aka all fantasy I am aware of).  To me, Grisha is in the former, but, then, I’ve read very little young adult.

I was not fond of the first book.  The rest of the series felt more pleasant, but that could be because I reset expectations.  Low expectations – enjoy life.

Wait, what’s the point of all of this again?  Well, I’m going to continue reviewing the series and maybe include something spoileriffic, but let’s take a moment to get back to wins and losses.

Kingkiller has wins and losses, as one might expect.  Grisha just feels like endless losses.  It’s morose.  That’s a turn off to me.  I don’t just want happy endings, I want “this is pleasant” at other times.

Which brings me to Arrow.  Arrow is better.  Prometheus is better.  It’s still way too dark.  Just stop.  Superheroes should have fun.  I know.  That seems weird when everyone thinks the only way to have drama is to be dark and when comics do get into bad stuff.  But, you don’t dwell on the bad stuff in my comics like TV shows love to dwell on bad stuff.  For all that soap operas are a model for superhero shows, I often found soap operas to be less dark.

I’ve played in campaigns that were just misery after misery.  That wasn’t fun.

Challenges, setbacks, losses – they don’t have to be a murderfest of murderyness.  They don’t need to involve torture and imprisonment and disfigurement.  Actually, if you think about quite a bit of fiction, the loss is just not getting a lot of money.  Having the potential love interest hook up with someone else, not scoring a big haul, getting assigned escort missions, having the regional map borders redrawn – these can be losses.

So, interesting reviews for Grisha3.  Some people absolutely hated it for how it resolved.  For many (I presume), the Darkling is the favorite character.  The complex bad boy who is oh so sexy.  Except, he’s neither complex nor bad boy.

Deeds Not Words.

More than anything else, L5R’s value to society is that.  Not a new concept, but it needs to be a mantra.  This is why I get so frustrated with sports talk shows.  I like sports talk shows.  Some of them are the most relaxing thing I usually do.  But, they obsess over comments athletes, coaches, and owners make.

Why?  I mean, why bother?

People say untactful things.  Politicians get crucified for it in many cases, though I don’t know why we are so concerned about what people say.  Is it insight into their souls?  Perhaps.  But, people aren’t paragons of virtue, nevermind that people don’t agree on what is virtuous.  I, for example, am not enthralled by sales tax increases, but I have no problem with gas tax increases (with credits or whatever for the trucking industry because, you know, the country is dependent upon trucking).

What’s important in sports is numbers.  Focus on numbers.  111-1 is a number that should have been a bigger story.  There should have been all sorts of sociology analysis on how losing saved the sport.

Darkling’s deeds – murder, torture, mind control.  That’s it.  Can say stuff, but that’s it.  There’s nothing complex there.  There’s no bad boy, just an awful man.

Sure, the series wasn’t suited to me.  I’m not opposed to romance being the primary driver … or am I?

I tried to think of what I read that was more romantic fantasy than not.  Spell for Chameleon?  Nope.  That’s somewhat comedic fantasy.  Anita Blake?  Now, here’s romantic horror … in classification.  But, I think the better description of the series when I enjoyed it was hard boiled detective novel meets supernatural romance.  There was a balance.  And, btw, if you want a real dark, sexy bad boy, Jean-Claude is that archetype.

I got to thinking about how you can identify romatic fantasy from fantasy with romance.  The romantic object in the latter is often underdeveloped.  John Carter/Barsoom books are romantic.  They are driven by the need to rescue love interests.  Hardly unusual when they were written.  But, still, the love interests are objects, something that reflects character rather than being interesting characters in their own right.

Spellsinger.  Love interests are bit players.  What of second Covenant series?  Better balance, for sure, but I don’t put the romance at the heart of the story, though there’s a relationship at the heart of the story.  The two lovers who struggle to just be happy together is so common that even when it’s huge, it doesn’t necessarily strike me as the point.  Well, maybe that’s more Covenant, which can be a burdensome psychological examination of victimhood rather than “I’m so jealous slutty empress batted her eyelashes at you, boyfriend material”.

Anime I often watch has similar balance, of it being more about fights or humor or whatever than true love.  Magic girlfriend shows so often are episodic humor.

Anyway, I enjoyed aspects of Grisha.  I would agree that it was a pageturner.  That doesn’t speak well of the term pageturner, though, as I was mostly waiting for some sort of resolution rather than looking forward to the next chapter.

I wasn’t bothered by the faux Russia culture.  I would agree that the worldbuilding was off.  It was neither overly missing nor done well.  I would say the problem is that the worldbuilding had the wrong focus.  I have no sense of one place versus another.  I don’t know why the various cultural elements are the way they are.  I didn’t care about NPCs (nor most of the PCs).  The politics wasn’t given room to develop.  And, everything was miserable, which might be a stereotype for Russia, but fantasy is about living in a world you prefer to live in to this one.

There was an opportunity to do something far more appealing to me, even given tropes that may get overplayed.  But, was I supposed to be the audience?

Reviewers hated Mal.  I didn’t.  I thought he was okay.  Third love interest?  Okay.  Neither OMG, so sexy.  Nor, seems a little marysue.  But, I’m not into guys, so maybe those characters were more appealing to those who are.

Pacing.  Having stuff happen is good.  Dwelling on certain narrative building things, like Covenant’s wife, is not enjoyable.  Grisha had maybe even a good pace.  I’m trying to tie back learning something from this series to gaming – give me more rope.

Anyway, I’ve talked about wins and losses before, but it’s my main takeaway from the series – it could have been so much more appealing if the PCs won more often.

Meanwhile, challenges in any sort of gaming don’t need to be torturefests.  They can be “I just realized if I dropped my lance on C-5 instead, I could have promoted it next turn and feasted upon your soul”.

Also, keeping love interests constantly fighting is not necessarily.  You know what’s great about soap operas?  Everyone hooks up with a ludicrous number of partners over time.  Who doesn’t want to see Kara and Oliver date?  Thea and HR?  The appeal?  Humor.  Soap operas are at their best when they are funny.  True love can survive until the show’s finale.

Well, the next series to work on is last Covenant series.  It’s a drag just trying to reread Runes of the Earth, which I hadn’t read in years.  I’m sure that will manage to prevent me from writing more about L5R character builds and combat strategies.


INT, STR, … Fate Points?

December 1, 2016

Watching Arrowverse crossover, of course.

Among the worst things the Arrowverse ever did was have Barry clean out the League of Assassins HQ in seconds.  It drives home how irrelevant the Green Arrow is as a superhero, where being Mayor Handsome with assassin trained employees and whatnot is probably a better night job.

In the beginning (of Flash), effort was made to address this problem, with Barry being the brawn and Oliver being the brains (superhero brains != brains brains).  But, Flash progressed.  It had original-fake Harrison to provide clever and ruthless.  It has scientists for brains brains.  Barry does stupid things, but he fights better.

So, Barry can fix Team Arrow’s problems seemingly at will, in that Team Arrow still solves problems by fighting.

To restore balance to the justiceforce, Oliver should be able to solve Team Flash’s problems easily.  In last season, maybe nailing Iris would have done something, but that potential shipping seems to have sailed.

Anyway, bigger picture.  Brawn wins fights in some pleasing materials.  Brains wins fights more often, in superhero stuff and various genres.  Then, there’s luck.  There are stories aplenty where luck wins.  Take a show like Doctor Who, where the Doctor is supposed to outbrain enemies.  That happens, so does outlucking, even when given a coating of inspired genius.

So, is one better?  Martial arts and animefight often go the route of train to unlock another power level.  I’m okay with that, though it does get out of control.  Where out of control means that any attempt to scale back the power level just seems ridiculous.  “If I can nuke the moon at will, why can’t I deal with someone named after a seasoning plant?”

Not that animefight has a monopoly on such things.  Babylon 5 got frustrating to me because I was into the Shadow War and found xenophobia and teeps to be tonal dissonance.

The issue with brains is not just that this is a gaming blog, where being clever in playing a game is harder because you are on the spot with your cleverness rather than having months to rewrite your novel to be more clever, but that brains isn’t always brainy when given N amount of time to consider what the outwitter did.

How satisfying is outlucking?  Less satisfying when you think about it.  In many cases, it’s not how you win, it’s how the story plays out, so not necessarily always unsatisfying.

That’s in written stories.  In gaming?  Luck is everywhere.  Oh, I wouldn’t say luck is the primary determinant of victory, though let me distinguish between competitive gaming and role-playing games.

RPGs are inclined to a social contract where the PCs are almost always going to win.  Now, newer games do try to create a dynamic where you are supposed to lose before the climax, which I have some problems with.

How satisfying is gaming your losses?  In something like a sumo tournament, gaming your losses may get your buddy a higher rank without costing you anything.  But, as much as a superhero story or a martial arts revenge flick or whatever is structured with the “lose first, murder master later” paradigm, playing that as a game just takes you into the gamist world.  It’s like dropping the no-dachi to grapple because this fight is “real”.

I may care more about narrative, but, if you just script the narrative, what are you actually playing?

Losing is such a huge problem in RPGs because players don’t expect it and there are often mechanics that don’t support it, whether the reliance on stuff or because someone should just tanto you in the throat if they beat you.  Yeah, A1-4 existed long ago.  Know why it gets so much credit?  It set a standard for how to do a common trope.

What about competitive games?  Is luck a good way to determine victory?

So, you design a CCG.  Card draw order is a common feature that institutes luck into the games.  Just having the brawn of better cards or the brains of better deck design and better card play, you get some luck to shake things up.

Rolling crappy in Wheel of Time was never supersatisfying.  Risk management is a thing that’s not a matter of luck but of better decisionmaking.  I’ve lost my share of V:TES games because I didn’t make the good decision but occasionally ousted or survived because of a bad decision.  Seems like luck, but I don’t think so.  Luck != random nor != two unknowns produce third unknown.

Back to RPGs.

Some of our biggest triumphs in Conan felt like luck triumphing over brawn and our lack of brains.

On the other hand, Princess Police didn’t feel like luck had much impact, at all.  We were routinely outbrawning challenges.

A good mix.  Is that the point of this post?

There was the lack of GA outwitting Supergirl, which some of us might have enjoyed if it was anywhere near as clever as shooting Barry in the back.  Wits is not strong in Invasion!, with “defeat mind control” being about as witty as things have gotten, yet that was also something of a brawn situation, since it involved a particular power.

So, you are the GM or game designer, what do you do to mix things up?  When I try to add thinking to RPG sessions, it routinely fails.  A lot of cleverness in competitive games has to be something the designer didn’t intend but was emergent intelligence.  Brawn can be controlled, but do you unbalance brawn?  By that I mean, in a RPG, one ability is just better than another for victory, in a CCG or whatever, one card/component is just better.

I put Fate Points in the title, but are FPs luck or the opposite of luck?  For players, they reduce luck, for characters, they are luck.  An interesting topic for another times, since this post just meanders all over the place – how does perspective change your perspective?  Many say that Arrow was fine focusing on its 100th episode rather than on the crossover because 100th is a thing.  Whatever, the series could be worse, much worse, like previous seasons worse.