Obligatory Star Wars post

Because it’s 2018 and I did go see the Last Jedi the first night it came out, just like I have all the movies since Empire Strikes Back, I’m going to write a few paragraphs about it for posterity.  This is mostly I can look back at this post when we are hit with even WORSE cascades of space-piss than this one (the Han Solo movie for example).  There’s a ton on the internet about the film and more and more daily.  Mostly, it’s that this “Star Wars” film has a ruthless misanthropist message, but not in a Sword of Doom type of way, but in an angry, resentful sort of way– the sort of film that would come out after Trump beat a clearly more qualified female candidate for president of the united states.

The space battles looked great, but lacked much of the emotional intensity that Return of the Jedi or a New Hope had.  I get that the ‘bombers’ in the first scene couldn’t ‘drop’ their bombs and that was all stupid.  It was forgivable except that it was a harbinger for things to be stupid later. That said, the film was not as “war-y” as Rogue One, and that was sad.  Rogue One the conflict felt a lot more intense and real, where in the Last Jedi, it felt like a Star Wars animated series episode at times.

The final surprise attack by hyperdriving into the big ship pretty much made it so the Death Star could not have existed for long since the rebels could have constantly sent (unmanned) ships warping inside it.  Of course, the Imperials could have done the same thing to any of the planets that opposed them as well.  There needed to be some technical reason for that to be able to happen– like the means by which the ship was TRACKED in hyperspace (which they made a big deal about but never closed the loop on?!) allowed that ship and that ship alone to teleport inside the other ship. Nothing like this was presented of course and to me that’s a plot hole.

While it may have been inevitable, they handled the legacy characters poorly.  Luke was not portrayed in a way that made sense at all based on the original films.  Leia was force sensitive right? But all she did was save herself?  So Yoda’s statement of “there is another” meant nothing (and yet they will be making an entire movie about the kessel run in contrast).  I don’t care about the new characters EXCEPT in relation to the old.

To echo red letter media: what happened between Return of the Jedi and Force Awakens was that our beloved characters were made out to be miserable the entire time between films, and not just because of the Star Wars Xmas special (which I sat through over the Xmas break unbelievably).

Of the new characters that are worth talking about, Adam Driver was quite good, and frankly his character is the only one I care about at all in these new films on his own.  His scene where he asks the Mary Sue to give up on all the cyclical destruction was the only poignant scene.  Finn was underutilized and pretty much comic relief, though what he ended up doing in the film was not funny at all.

So I’ve used the term a few times already, but certainly, Rei will go down in history as the poster child Mary Sue forever.  In fact, the term Mary Sue may become Rei (like, “rewrite that chapter man, that character is a REI”) or even “Daisy”.  I REALLY thought she would die in this film or get messed up on the level of Luke in the Empire Strikes Back.  The scene where she goes into that hole in the island and just saw herself infinitely in every direction was when the film hit rock bottom for me.  That was the spot for a Lynchian or Tarkovsky-esque coming of age TRIPOUT scene.  Instead, it was fucking meaningless pysse.

My own thoughts on the film is that it essentially projects a message of nihilism: people are ground to dust in a cyclical, unending conflict based on the misery of dualism which reflects in all ways that this is the beginning of unending films based on the same conflict grinding to dust infinite dollars spent by fans, and this fact was obviously felt excruciatingly by the writer.

Based on this film, there is no hope or happiness for people that are force sensitive AND trained in the ways of the force in Disney’s version of Star Wars.  Just the crushing knowledge that with the power comes unending misery, conflict and death. For a film about a pure warrior caste like 13 Assassins, great.  For an order of enlightened space monks?   uhhh?  The capitalistic focus and the misanthropic messages, with no overall controlling story arc for what’s going to happen, would drive any writer to a nihilistic state, and that certainly came out in the film.

Favorite RPG module of 2017

I didn’t run a lot of modules this year or pre published adventures but my favorite that I did run was a zero level funnel for DCC called FT0: PRINCE CHARMING, REANIMATOR.

I ran this with a mixed group of kids and adults and they all loved it.  Some of the then drunk adults even composed and recorded a song: Chuck Schick and the Shield of Truth, even though I think the shield is actually a sword.

The adventure revolves around Prince Charming (who is an asshole) acquiring another bride of a certain type, that is– a beautiful girl who has recently died that he then brings back to life with his reanimator serum.  Since this is a funnel, the horde of PC’s are tasked with bringing the bride back to the prince from the very dangerous castle that she sleeps in.  Things go horribly wrong, as they are supposed to in any funnel game, and only a few characters made it out alive.  My son made the mistake (in his opinion) of making one of his 4 pack of characters a female and naturally that was the character that survived to first level.  While he continues to complain, he is playing in the follow up Adventure, F1: Creeping Beauties of the Wood.

A great little adventure, with kids or not.

iOS games of 2017: one sentence reviews

I installed and played a lot of ios games in 2017 since I ride the bus an hour and back for work. Most were awful or were good games that just sucked on the iphone form factor.  I’ve got a huge and awkward V6+ which is nearly a mini ipad– but not nearly big enough for many of these games. Here’s what I suffered from so you don’t have to.   

Dungeon Warfare
Solid tower defense that works very well on the phone, worth the purchase.

Mordheim
This was interesting for a short time, but became so samey as to not be worth bothering with due to samey maps and missions.

A Planet of Mine
I got stuck twice early game with no way to create mines to mine the thing I needed to make mines, which was not fun.

Really Bad Chess
It’s chess with random pieces so theory has no place at all in the game, which I appreciate, but it’s still just chess.

Hero Generations Regen
This is a simplistic roguelike where your heroes get old, have babies and the babies grow up to go fight monsters, thought it was cool for about a day and then got very bored.

Vempire Kings of Darkness
Deckbuilder with vampires, this actually may end up being a game I play more of, but it just made me want to go play Ascension more.

Neoscavenger
This seems like a GREAT game, but it’s absolutely terrible on any size phone.

Iron Marines
This is good and works surprisingly well on the phone but, you will need to get your fucking face real close to the screen to play.

Out There
Sort of interesting, but it’s FTL basically and works well on the phone.

Lost Portal
I’m not dying to get to play a MTG clone, and Ascension is just better.

 

RPG – my favorite books of 2017

Here’s my list of my favorite RPG books of 2017.  Not all of these came out in 2017 though!  These are books that have been at my bedside table or working desk most of the year.

How to Write Adventures that Don’t Suck

This is a great book of essays on adventure design from a lot of the greats, with short adventures to go along with each essay.  Fantastic stuff!  All GM’s should have this one.

FASERIP

This is an OGL redux of the Marvel Heroes RPG from TSR that had a LOT of expansions and material that my brother and I basically ignored after getting and playing the yellow box set a few times.  We were CHAMPIONS kids and that meant pointbuild and brokenness and combat that took forever.  Frankly I wish we had looked at TSR’s superhero game at the time a bit more OR they had the common sense to realize that kids wanted to make their own characters!  Faserip has character creation (which I would dub semi random).  Also, this shit is FREE.

We got to play FASERIP once this year (thanks to Lordlobo) and I intend to run it soon.

Veins of the Earth

This is great shit-reading.  Probably one of the best shit-reading books to come out in long time.  While the campaign itself is nothing compared to World of the Lost or Better than Any Man (it’s more of a gazetter), it has oodles of weirdness and unique ideas for your OSR, D&D5e or even 13th Age campaign.  While not a fan of the author’s writing generally (“get to the fucking point man!” is the constant comment running through my head) this is worth suffering through the rough spots.  After purchasing the lackluster Deep Carbon Observatory, I thought this guy needed an editor and he got one when publishing Veins: it really helped.  Hopefully he can tighten up his tendency to overwrite and wordiness even further for the next thing he does because the bones of it this are fantastic.  Art is great.

Silent Legions

This is older but I just picked it up this year.  It is likely an essential book in any GM’s library (like Dungeon Dozens!).   Why?  This has one of the best world building generators I’ve come across for both modern and fantasy stuff.  Not only that, it has a unique adventure builder that, while set up to work in the Early Modern to modern settings, could be used in any Fantasy Universe as well.  And this fucking guy really can write!

Runner Up:

Vagina’s are Magic!

This is the new magic system for Lamentations of the Flame Princess!  People have a lot of work to do getting all the spells in line with the new set up, and this also means the game is no longer backwards compatible with old D&D (sorta).  What’s most important is the system brings it closer in line with DCC’s (and likely the new WFRP’s) magic systems which are superior to the vancian system in oD&D and 5e).

Happy Xmas 2017!

What we did last night is nearly unmentionable. We sat through the FULL 1.5 hour Star Wars Xmas Special. It was some sort of disturbing variety show in essence and it made the children nearly cry. I was waiting for Carol Burnette and Don Knots to show up any second! I barely remember it as a kid except for two things: confusion and disappointment. Despite the horrifying Special, the commercials were amazing. Tons off stuff about unions and manufacturing cars and ‘made in America’ things (including and ad for the ladies undergarment workers union). The things these people worried about happened and we’ve of course become a consumer nation and Xmas is the consumer orgasm of the year.


Sons of Anarchy board game

I was looking at Blood Rage’s successor: Godfather by CMON. Area control, destruction of business and gangsters, etc. Seems great but shit man it doesn’t fit the theme well. The 5 families in the movies had issues from time to time, but to constantly be in conflict would have sunk them all very quickly, especially since the gangs of New York had shrunk to a minuscule amount compared to the era of the Dead Rabbits and Native Americans who numbered in the thousands.  I was thinking it would need to be FAR closer to something like Republic of Rome or Dead of Winter, where you work together, have your own goals, but also have serous external threats that could sink everyone in the game. If the Sicilians wiped themselves out like portrayed in the Godfather game, we’d be watching ‘mafia’ shows centered around the Irish gangsters, Polish, Jews or Greeks or any of the post WW1 immigrant groups instead.

That said, if you’ve looked at Godfather and are interested in that type of game MUCH cheaper: have a look at Sons of Anarchy.  14$ on Amazon, it’s a steal currently (which probably won’t last) and after a single play so far, I can say it’s well worth that measly amount.  The components are solid, nothing felt cheap either in the plastic and none of the sturdy cardboard was de-laminated at all.

More importantly, the gameplay is smooth and gives interesting choices for the players.  You start with a gang of prospects and full gang members and have a goal of having the most cash at the end of six turns (cash is analogous to glory in Blood Rage except you can spend it).  The game has locations, randomized at the beginning of the game, that the gangs can exploit for guns or cash or contraband, but you have to be the only gang present to do so.  If other gangs are present you can bribe them to move out or duke it out on the streets.   Fighting can be as tame as just a barfight style beatdown, or the guns can come out which can, at the right moment, nearly wipe out an opposing (or even both gangs).  You have to balance your muscle and economy at all times, and attempt to get an economic engine going of areas that you persistently control.

Like Cosmic Encounter, each of the five gangs in the game break the rules in some way, such as not having to pay to move gang members to other locations during a throw down, or bonuses when you are the first player in a round.

Despite the almost immediate dismissal of a board game based on a show or movie, Sons of Anarchy is a solid area control game and the theme works well, as the biker gangs aren’t as concerned with ‘business’ as the Sicilians of the Godfather game would be, so the catastrophic violence seems quite a bit more appropriate.  The price (right now) is certainly right.

Monster Hunter World beta impressions

TL/DR: Good, possibly very good.

It’s been a LONG time since Monster Hunter has been on the consoles and we’ve been relegated to the DS to play it. It is an excellent series on the level of Torchlight and Diablo for it’s item management, customization and level of skill needed to play well.  The game was obviously a huge influence on Dark Souls (both at their core are boss-battle games) and the new version looks poised to bring everything that was great about the 3DS version into the modern graphic world of the PC and PS4.

First play was to kill off a fatty lizard thing. I was interesting only because it puked all over the place when you got a knock down on it. I was not able to get it mounted for more fun. The map this fatty is on has a winged T-rex thing wandering around, and if you draw aggro with both, you are going to be in trouble. I was not able to take down both of them in one go (killed the fatty lizard first and ended the scenario).

The second beasty is a rock lizard thing. It has a transform into some sort of bull-type creature and then retreats to a muddy area, and this is where things got good. Instead of swampy stuff just being poison, the mud area was very interesting as it had not only places that slowed you down, but places where you would actually get stuck and have to struggle out.

I’ve seen some other really cool things, like swinging on vines, monsters fighting each other, swinging with a grappling hook and somehow my Palico tied down one of the monsters for me to beat on. The environments are awesome and they still have the same FEEL as different ‘areas’ but there is no loading or break in between them. You can follow the monsters as they run away without hitting the loads, and that’s fantastic.

The game has a unique way of tracking the monsters with some sort of glowing flies that point you to clues where the monster is, such as footprints or ass-wipes on the ground. When you put attention to a clue, the flies point to the next one and when you get enough, they can point right to the monster. I thought this was fucking handholding at first because in the old game you had to hit the monsters with paintballs to track them when they fled, but it seems fairly decent. It is fun to track, but it’s also a bit more fun to get in the fights…

I didn’t see any mechanics yet for bombs or trapping monsters, but I’m sure that’s in there. Also you can’t really craft in the beta just yet– that’s a whole huge ball of complexity I still don’t fully understand in the old game anyway.

Color me impressed. I was hoping for a new version for the 3DS, but this is FAR better because I can play it with my friends on more common consoles and with these graphics? YEAH.  Lots of impressive stuff to look at here.  When this is out for PC, holy shit.