October 18, 2014
The new Borderlands game has been my obsession the last week. The game is set between the events of Borderlands 1 and 2, detailing the rise of Handsome Jack (the main villain in Borderlands 2). It’s set on Pandora’s moon, Elpis, so it introduces a number of new game features, such as low gravity and oxygen requirements.
What I like:
- New environment – not just ‘moon’ terrain and low gravity, but things like methane lakes and jet plumes of various gasses
- New guns – LASERS! and cold-base weapons that freeze enemies (laser shotguns are particularly cool)
- The Grinder – My favorite addition – instead of just selling all those crappy guns you don’t need, now you can ‘grind’ them up and get a better gun; a much needed addition to the series
- The story is interesting so far; my take is it will tell the story of Handsome Jack’s transformation from a pretty decent chap into an insane master villain
- The same sense of dark humor, though the Pre-Sequel doesn’t seem quite as funny as B2
- CL4P-TP is now a playable class! (about time)
What I Don’t Like:
- Quest lines that just go on forever, sending you this way that that; it makes it hard to just jump on for a few minutes and do a mission or two
- Jumping puzzles – I really hate jumping puzzles in FPS’ (not least because I suck at them), and a big portion of the Pre-Sequel is built around exploiting the new low-G mechanics…which means lots of various jumping puzzles :(
- Return of most of the things I didn’t like from the first two games, such as being sent back to the same areas for new quests over and over again
- CL4P-TP’s class abilities seem awfully random…too random for my tastes
If you liked the first two Borderlands games, you should like this one too. If you hate Borderlands, there’s nothing in the Pre-Sequel that will change your mind.
October 10, 2014
At first glance Big Ass Spider! is just another cheesy Syfy Channel monster movie exclusive, and it certainly looks it. However, it’s probably more accurate to say BAS! is really more of a spoof of Syfy Channel monster movie exclusives.
As you can guess from the title, the movie is about a giant mutant spider that grows to epic proportions, and the efforts of a professional exterminator to kill it (with the help of the U.S. military ;) ). The film quality is roughly equivalent to a Syfy Channel movie, maybe a touch better. You’ll recognize a couple of character actors in it, but not really any famous stars.
BAS! is a horror comedy, so it has equal parts humor and creepy spider-attacks. For a comedy it has a fair amount of gore and scary scenes, so probably not a good movie for the kids to watch. The story holds together fairly well, and the dialogue is decent, but not great. The best lines come from the interactions between the pest exterminator hero Alex Mathis (Greg Grunberg) and his Mexican-American security guard partner, Jose Ramos (Lombardo Boyar).
It’s a fun little movie, though if you go into it expecting a serious horror movie, or a major Hollywood production, you will be severely disappointed. If you don’t like spiders, you should probably skip this one. And as a source of inspiration for RPGs, I’m contemplating a “spider-pocalypse” (or maybe “bug-pocalypse”) setting, something a little different from the usual zombies, cannibals and mutants.
BAS! is available on Netflix, if you’re interested. Cheers.
October 6, 2014
The following is a first pass at a list of mutations using 5th Edition D&D rules for a post-apocalypse setting. Most of the mutations are beneficial, some are detrimental and a few are just benign. Many are combed from monster and class abilities already present in the PHB and MM, others are inspired by other sources and a few I made up myself.
Please note, I’ve made no attempt to balance these mutations; some are vastly superior to others. It’s not really intended that you slap these mutations onto standard 5th Edition characters, though you can certainly do so if you wish. I may (or may not) eventually roll this out to a more fleshed-out PA setting…well see.
Here you go: 5th Edition Mutations
October 4, 2014
Received my copy of the 5th Edition MM yesterday. Overall it’s a beautiful product. The artwork is, for the most part, very well done and the layout is easy on the eyes. The book includes a nice selection of standard D&D monsters, even some of the ‘oddball’ monsters from the Fiend Folio, such as the mighty Flumph.
However, most monster descriptions still take up an entire page, even the lowly Goblin, which seems like a lot of page space to cover a monster that will, in all likelihood, be dead in a few minutes. To be fair, the actual stat blocks are smaller than their 4E/Pathfinder counterparts, with fewer moving parts as well.
One nice thing, the description section is broken up into smaller sub-sections that are easier to find and digest. Also, for the most part, the ‘descriptive’ part won’t be needed during play, though it may provide inspiration when designing an adventure.
While the MM is an essential part of the game if you’re making the change to 5th Edition, if you’re happy with your current edition of choice you won’t find anything new in the MM to port over to your game.
October 1, 2014
Had a chance to see The Equalizer today. I remember watching the TV show back when, though I don’t recall a lot of details about it now, so I can’t say how well the movie follows the pattern of the series.
What I can say is that Denzel Washington is awesome, and the movie is both violent and bloody. Much more bloody than I expected. That doesn’t bother me much, but if you don’t really like blood and gore, you may not like The Equalizer.
The movie is a tad too long; they probably could have shaved a few minutes off the beginning of the movie and it wouldn’t have hurt the story one bit. Also, when Denzel’s Robert McCall is dispatching Russian mobsters, he does so with a dispassion bordering on the psychopathic, which is a little off-setting for someone who’s supposed to be equalizing the odds for the little guy. Chloe Grace Moretz has an underwhelming role of a Russian prostitute-victim whom McCall decides to help, and who basically disappears during the heart of the story.
Still, it’s an enjoyable, if bloody, action film that starts a little slow but soon gains momentum. If you’re a fan of Denzel Washington or violent action movies, it’s easily worth the price of a matinee ticket.
September 29, 2014
Saturday I had the opportunity to run a game of 5th Edition DnD. Here’s what I took away from the session:
- The game ran very intuitively. The only time I had to stop and look something up was to reference specific spells or monster abilities. Not once did I stop to make a rules check.
- The game can be brutal, and yet not all that lethal. It’s easy to knock PCs to 0 hit points (especially at lower levels), but the game makes it fairly easy to stabilize dying characters, so actual PC death is uncommon. Three out of four PCs were reduced to 0 HP (some multiple times), but none died.
- Character building is still more complicated than I’d like. I only had two players, and each ran two PCS, so that probably slowed down character generation.
- I did forget a few things, such as granting Advantage for a couple of surprise attacks by monsters. We didn’t really use the grappling rules (which are easy and powerful), and I forgot all about the Dodge action.
- I ran combat with “theater of the mind” instead of minis and a grid, and it worked just fine. The thing is, if you prefer minis and grid, I think it’d work very well with that as well.
- I suck at making dungeon crawls. 5th Edition was great (both of my players really liked the rule set), but my dungeon was a bit run-of-the-mill. Lesson learned for next time. :)
September 25, 2014
Snowmeggedon type post-apocalypse movies seem to be on the rise lately. An interesting addition is The Colony (Laurence Fishburne, Bill Paxton; nothing to do with the TV series). The Earth has frozen over due to misguided attempts to regulate the planet’s rising temperatures. The few remaining humans survive in subterranean ‘colonies’ where they can grow hydroponic food, though disease is a constant worry for them. A nearby colony has fallen off the airwaves, so Colony 7 sends a team to find out what happened. As you can guess, it ain’t pretty.
The Colony features the claustrophobic isolation common in horror movies like Alien or The Thing, but ultimately the movie is about what makes us human. To be sure, there is a good amount of blood and intense violence, so probably not one for the kids. Also, Laurence Fishburne and Bill Paxton are the two big names in the movie, but they aren’t really the leads. The rest of the cast does a decent acting job, the story is predictable but tight, and the special effects aren’t quite big-budget, but considerably better than your typical Syfy channel special.
If you’re in the mood for a decent post-apocalypse movie it’s worth watching on Netflix (instant view) or similar service. The Colony could also make an interesting setting for a short post-apoc RPG campaign or one-off game; instead of a desert wasteland (ala Road Warrior), you’ve got a frozen wasteland with a whole new set of challenges for the PCs to face.
September 19, 2014
Need to jazz up your cyborg space sorcerers? Here’s a quick reference for some funky implants and transplants, inspired by Space-Age Sorcery:
Eviscera of the Cyborg Sorcerers
- Cranial implants
- Hover torso
- Beholder eyestalk transplantation
- And the horrific consequences of transplant rejection!
It’s just a quick little guide to hopefully jumpstart your own twisted imagination. With insane cybernetic space sorcerers, anything’s possible!
September 13, 2014
Syfy channel debuted a new zombie series yesterday, Z Nation. It has an interesting premise: a group of survivors have to ‘escort’ someone who’s immune to the zombie virus across the apocalyptic U.S. to a laboratory 3000 miles away. That should help give the show a little direction.
However, if you’re looking for something like Walking Dead, you’ll be disappointed. First off, the production quality, while acceptable, doesn’t live up to Walking Dead’s level (think Syfy special zombie movie turned into a series). The acting is passable…it gets the job done but won’t win any awards. Also, my feel for the show is that it has a bit more camp than WD; there’s still drama, and survivors with mysterious backgrounds and all that, and the immune survivor is a convicted criminal who’s not too keen on saving humanity (a nice twist). But the gut-wrenching drama and horror of Walking Dead isn’t there.
Personally, I enjoyed the first episode, but I’m not sure how well the premise will hold up over the long haul. It was fun, and I’ll give it a chance, but the show may not be for everyone. Cheers.
September 5, 2014
Inspired by legendary monsters from 5th Edition D&D:
A “legendary” monster has a number of Legend points equal to its Hit Dice. One Legend point may be spent to take one discreet action immediately after a PC has completed his/her actions. Specific examples include (but are not limited to):
- Cast a spell
- Use a special ability
- Use a magic item
- Retrieve an item
- Activate a device
- Yell out for help/summon reinforcements
Note that not every big monster is a ‘legendary’ monster. Such status should be reserved for special monsters, such as ancient dragons, vampire masters, named demons and devils and the like.