Archive for June, 2012

Brave

June 25, 2012

Brave is a fun, entertaining movie.  Maybe not quite as good as previous Pixar movies, but still very enjoyable.  A couple parts might be a little scary for younger viewers, but probably not any worse than other animated children’s movies.  There is an unexpected plot turn, and I was a little ‘huh?’ over it, but I still enjoyed the movie.

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Vancian Magic

June 21, 2012

This has nothing to do with Vancian magic. I just think it looks cool.

1) It’s dead simple.  Write down the spells you prepare, cross them off as you use them.  You get X number per day.  Couldn’t get much simpler than that.

2) It forces players to think ahead and try to anticipate the challenges to come.  Sure, there will be some  all-purpose spells that will be prepared almost everytime, but no matter which system you use there will be spells of greater utility than others and those spells will see greater use.

3) Naturally, players can’t anticipate everything they’ll encounter.  Preparing spells in advance encourages players to find inventive uses for the spells they have prepared.  I know some DM’s don’t like this.  They think casting a Light spell into the eyes of an Ogre to blind it is a cheese move.  Later editions of The Game have increasingly tightened up their spell descriptions specifically to reign in this kind of gameplay.  However, I think inventive spell use is part of what makes D&D fun (for me, at least)…even when players easily take out my master villian casting a spell in a completely unexpected way.

4) It’s mechanically modular (like most of D&D), so it’s easy to twink if you don’t like it.  You can tinker around the edges a bit, or rip its guts out and replace it entirely with a system more to your liking, and doing so will (usually) have little mechanical effect on the game’s other systems.

A note on spell memorization:  some have pointed out that it doesn’t make sense that a caster should ‘forget’ a learned spell after casting it.  But I think it depends on how you look at things.  For one, it’s magic, not the laws of thermodynamics, so it can’t really be explained in any rational sense.  But that’s also a bit of a cop-out argument, so here’s another way to look at it:  preparing a spell is more like refreshing your memory, like studying for a big exam.  After the test, how much information do you really retain?  For most people the answer is, not much.  Yet another way to look at it:  if memorizing reams of information is so easy, why do lawyers keep law libraries in their offices?  Why do doctors need medical references?  Professionals have to reference information in their fields all the time, and not just to learn about the latest advances.  So, likewise, a wizard needs to reference his/her spell books and ‘bone up’ on the material they think they’ll need for the coming day’s adventure.

All that said, I don’t think the Vancian system is perfect.  For one, the power curve could be flattened out a bit.  Low level casters could use a few more spells starting out, at the expense of some higher level spells later on.  I also think the system would be a bit more intuitive if spell levels directly matched caster levels, so that a 2nd level caster casts 2nd level spells at character level 2 instead of character level 3.

Finally, please don’t take this as a polemic against alternative spell systems.  I’ve played a wide variety of alternative systems and most of them have been fine.  I just seemed to me that, of late, the Vancian system hasn’t been getting its due credit.

DCC Funnel Character Creator

June 19, 2012

Most of these guys will be dead soon. 😦

Just wanted to point out something I thought was kind of neat.  It’s an online ‘funnel’ character creator for Goodman Games Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, by Purple Sorcerer Games.  I like that it’s super quick and easy to use, and it puts four novice characters on one sheet of paper.  I’m not much interested in DCC itself, but I almost want to build my own RPG just around this character generator.

Iron Sky

June 16, 2012

Some of you may recall a couple of months ago when I mentioned a movie called Iron Sky, about space Nazi’s hiding out on the dark side of the moon.  Well, I had a chance to watch the movie yesterday and it was hilarious.  It was also kinda cheesy, but in a good way.  And the special effects were pretty decent considering it was a low budget affair.

If you’re a fan of cheesy sci-fi movies, and a good laugh, and you can tolerate some off-color humor you may want to check out Iron Sky whenever it comes out here in the States.

Deathlands – post apocalypse RPG inspiration

June 15, 2012

Anyone out there ever read any of the Deathlands books by James Axler*?  They’re a series of pulpy ‘mens adventure’ books about a group that travels around post-apocalypse America (and sometimes other countries) getting into and out of trouble.  It’s not crazy gonzo like Gamma World (or Fallout even), but has plenty of mutants and advanced “pre-Dark” technology, including a matter transmitting system they use to teleport from one redoubt (aka Vault) to another.  They encounter a lot of weird stuff along the way (and usually kill it).

We’re not talking great literature here, but IMO the series serves as an excellent source of inspiration for almost any kind of post-apoclypse RPG game.

Note:  There was also a crappy SyFy movie based on the Deathlands (starring Tracy Lords, lol).  It was decent, if you like cheesy B-movies.

*It appears there are a number of authors in the series, something I didn’t realize until just know.  All the books say James Axler on them, though…maybe that’s just a pen name?

What’s your ultimate Franken-system?

June 12, 2012

And by Franken-system, I mean mash-up of D&D editions and variants.

Here’s mine:

  • Probably use Sword & Wizardry Whitebox as the base – easy to run, easy to modify and plenty of material out there for it; plus it uses ascending AC and the unitary saving throw (maybe invert the saving throw to roll d20 + save >= 20)
  • Probably use modified d6 as damage for all weapons (light weapons do 1d6-1 w/ a minimum of 1; 2-handers do 1d6+1), because it’s A) simple and B) reduces the incentive for players to min-max their weapon selection
  • Naturally, I’d use my own S&W material (scroll down a bit), like the feats and classes
  • I like the idea of a unified XP advancement chart, ala 3E/Pathfinder, so I’d probably just grab the Fighter XP advancement chart from the S&W WB and use it for all classes in the game; may have to tweak the demi-humans a bit to compensate (especially Elves)
  • Just flat out steal the encumbrance rules from the excellent Lamentation of the Flame Princess (and maybe the skills too…not entirely sold on the necessity of a formal skill system, though)
  • I’m a fan of crazy gonzo, so I’d draw inspiration from sources like Carcosa, Planet Algol and Anomalous Subsurface Environment…and anything else that caught my fancy

What would your Franken-system look like?

Prometheus

June 9, 2012

Had the chance to see Prometheus earlier today (in 3D, no less).  As a stand alone sci-fi movie, it’s decent but not great.  As a pseudo-prequeal to the Alien movies, it was a disappointment.  You can see where they use a lot of imagery and ideas from Alien and Aliens (not so much from 3 & 4), but it’s clearly not a direct prequal to Alien.

Frankly, there was some bad writing.  There were characters that not only did stupid things that made no sense (more so than your typical horror-type movie), but also acted in ways there were clearly contradictory to what they’d done just a little earlier in the movie.  And parts of the story didn’t make sense or could have done with a bit more explanation, or some follow-through.

Regarding seeing it in 3D, normally I avoid 3D at all costs, but the group I went with wanted to see it in 3D so I took one for the team.  As far as I’m concerned, 3D did nothing for this film…but then I think 3D does nothing for any film, so there you go.  It was a gimmick in the ’50’s, and I think it’s still a gimmick today (albeit, a profitable gimmick for movie studios).

The special effects and visuals were, of course, excellent.  So, if you want a ‘good looking’ sci-fi movie, or you’re a big fan of the Alien franchises (and it is better than Alien 3 and 4, I must say), then it’s worth the price of a matinee ticket.  If not, wait a few months for it to show up on Netflix or Redbox.

Cheers.

Sorry I Haven’t Been Around Much…

June 7, 2012

When I first started this blog a few months ago I told myself I wouldn’t do one of those “…sorry I haven’t been around much, but…” posts, and here I am doing it. :/  Frankly, I’ve just been a bit burnt out of late, and lacking somewhat in inspiration.  I’m also still working through my Diablo III addiction (the first step, they say, is admitting you have a problem).  At any rate, I haven’t abandoned the blog, and if I ever did I’d make a final post to let my (few) readers know.

So, happy gaming to you, and cheers.


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