Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Building of the Queen Anne's Revenge.

Or how I sunk 5+ hours into building a humongous Lego creation. It was worth every second too. While we had our Lego Star Wars Advent Calender this was a whole different animal putting together a 1000+ piece model. I'm just glad it came out perfectly and I wasn't missing any pieces out of the box.

Needless to say I was completely enthralled in this process and noted to the wife that I missed doing this stuff. While video games, tabletop RPGs and board games are my primary sources of entertainment Legos are a close second. I just need space to display these.

Here's a few photos showing the growth of the project over the course of the evening.

Getting started

the detailed rear section of the ship

look at all these lego skulls!

the masts are going up nicely

In her full glory. Alduin looks on with approval.

Gifts of Games for the holidays.

I do love the Christmas holiday for not just receiving gifts but giving them as well. As per her usual awesome self my wife knocked another holiday out of the park with her choice of games she got me. While I didn't get any rpg books I did get two excellent games. Both of these I've been jonesing for quite some time.

Ad Astra means 'To The Stars' by the way...

First she got me "Ad Astra" by Fantasy Flight Games. It's one of their Nexus Design Series of games (which is probably just fancy code for highlighting a individual game author that isn't doing Arkham Horror, Warhammer or Dust). What drew me to this game was the space exploration/colonization aspect of it. When I got my claws on the rules it looks more like Settlers of Catan. That, dear readers, is a compliment. All I need are some test subjects to try this out. Perhaps speaking to Eric at "Gaming With The Gnomies" to set up a game day at my place.

Dance with Baby-Man!

The other is something I got to play at GenCon 2011 as a demo/beta test. Munchkin Axe Cop. It's the fast paced lunacy of Munchkin mixed with the unbelievable insanity of the Axe Cop comic. I just fell in love with this and Axe Cop has replaced my fall back game of Munchkin Cthulhu. The artwork is taken straight from the comic so the cards look good, the humor is intact and while 'Munchkin' staple cards are present they add some new things in there to aid you like recruiting sidekicks. It also doesn't hurt that you can ride on a T-Rex in sunglasses with gatling guns for arms as you use your avocado powers to smite a hoard of chicken brain robots. Munchkin Axe Cop was one of the only games I waited to play at GenCon and it was worth every second. Again....need to get some players together for this.

Oh and check this link out. Here is Droz playing Axe Cop at GenCon. Also Jesse's iPad with the counter.

(thank you Steve Jackson Games.....grumble grumble.....)

The shirt I was wearing *may* have been the reason why. You be the judge, it was this shirt:

Its a real team...right?

Bottom line is both games are winners and I can't wait to play them in 2012. Just need test subjects to try them out on. Any takers?

Monday, December 26, 2011

(A Short) Movie Review: The Adventures of Tintin

This was the 'Indiana Jones' movie Spielberg wanted to do but instead did the one George Lucas f'ed up.

The annual 'Christmas Night Movie' was a small affair with just the wife and two of our friends. We saw Tintin and we all loved it. It was a 3D showing, and the 3D was ok but it absolutely doesn't need to be seen in 3D.

The visuals are just incredible. The world, the people within, everything just looks alive and vibrant. The musical score by John Williams is just a treat. The story was fun, it was paced well, the dialogue was spot on thanks to a screen play by Edgar Wright and Steven Moffat.

I can't complain about this movie, in fact I'm going to take my dad to see it cause I know he'll enjoy it alot.

And yes....this really was an Indiana Jones movie. There was many a moment that I was hearing the classic Indiana Jones music playing in my mind watching this. And that is a good thing. Good job to Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson. Oh and please do collaborate on more movies in the future.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The 12th Day of Blogs-mas!

And the big day is finally here! I also want to point out that my wife is totally awesome too. Why is she awesome? Well its because she got me this:

its for my Boba Fetish....wakka wakka!

And she got me this:
So I'm going to be quite busy over the next few days building two totally incredible Lego creations. I will be stopping back through out this next week with a few more posts for recaps and general discussions though.

So with that I want to thank everyone who has been reading this blog since I've started it. I want to thank all my family and friends that gave suggestions for the '12 Days of Blogs-mas' posts. They helped out tremendously. I also want to thank all those brave enough to actually sign up as a 'Fellow Adventurer'. Thanks guys.

So with that have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Happy and Safe New Year!

There is no try there is only do have a Merry Christmas! So says Lego Santa Yoda.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The 12 Days of Blogs-mas: The 11th Hour

Dear Santa, 

It's Phil. I've been a relatively good boy this year. I've dealt with some disappointments this year (with the loss of my job for example) but I'd like to ask for next Christmas I'd be able to get a few things that I've wanted for a long time to kind of make up for the crap I dealt with this year.

1) An official licenced Quantum Leap RPG. I'm a fan of the show and I miss the adventures of Sam and Al. I would love this to be a non-D20 rule set as well. While I like D20 games I just don't feel it would capture this setting well. Being a quantum accelerator user or a holo-guide would be alot of fun for me as it would involve more role-play than roll-play to succeed.

'Oh boy....'

2) I would also like an official campaign book for the world of Andrzej Sapkowski's "The Witcher" series. Yeah I know it's been made into two highly successful PC games but the thought of a tabletop rpg or even a euro-style board game would be divine. And if you don't know the series Santa, I want to recommend it to you as they are excellent reads.

This is the first book in the series...

3) Now for this request I would appreciate either a D20 campaign source book, preferably from the gang at Paizo Publishing, or even a board game from Fantasy Flight Games. And I don't think this is too unreasonable of a request Santa considering that I'm not the only fan of this series out there. Also with the third game coming out in 2012 that finishes the series I want more from this gaming universe. So please Santa... I want more of

So that's all I really want in 2012 Santa. The world peace, winning the lottery, becoming a superhero....those are still the standards. But I'd be really happy if one of these new things came to pass. I promise to be frakking really good next year too.

Good night and Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The 12 Days of Blogs-mas: 9+1=10!

In continuing with talking about players and their characters that have stuck with me over the years I'm going to now go on about a person who not only was a great player, had fun characters but was also a wonderful human being and made my life one hundred times better just for knowing him.

How very 90's looking...

I got to meet Aaron Malsberger way back in 1995 at a dingy little local gaming store called Wizards Cove. Just mentioning that place gives me the heeby-jeebies. At least I can say that some of the folk I met there were worth knowing, Aaron is definitely on the top of my list.

Well I started hanging out with Aaron playing Magic: The Gathering and we did this for years with a few other of the gang we hung around with. Over time Aaron and I would hang out together and play cards sometimes into 3 or 4am at his kitchen table at his house. There he would tell me all about his dad's (Mike from the Runelord's game) home brew D&D world and all the intricate stories that their characters dealt with. He would also go on about his friend, Bruce, and the Champions game he ran. Champions is a superhero rpg and Bruce is also the same from the Runelords group.

Eventually I got the privilege of being invited to play in Bruce's game and Aaron spent two nights helping me craft my hero, Mr. Majestic. For those who are not familiar with the OLD Champions rules its full of alot of fractions/decimals and a shit load of overly complicated math. Bottom line when it came to creating my hero Aaron and I looked like two monkeys fucking a football just trying to swing the numbers to get the most out of what we could. The character was playable....eventually. My role playing made up for my lack of knowledge in the rules.

I didn't care about how bad my character was or how I didn't understand the rules. I was having a ball hanging out with my friends and I met some new ones that I still game with almost 18 years later. During that trying period of learning Champions Aaron was always there with words of encouragement, a smile and REALLY HORRIBLE PUNS. You just have no clue how bad these were. Fozzy Bear wouldn't use this crap. And I see where he gets it from too.....Mike.

Even though he'd disagree...this *IS* the biggest snake he's held with his hands.

Over time I was eventually invited to join Mike's 'Alexandria' crew for his home brew D&D game. We were going into the 3.0 rules at the time and this was one of the first times I was really put under the task master style of his grognard father. It was awesome. Lute (Jim), Marcus (Bruce), Mohammed (Me) and Agrun (Aaron) had many great adventures in the deserts around Alexandria. Agrun, Aaron's half-orc fighter, stood out to me as an example of what a truly moral hero was like. Agrun had a sense of justice and hearty moral compass too boot. And it was something that came to Aaron easily as he had the same. I can also recall how Aaron would drop his voice to a lower growl that the half-orc had but managed to keep it friendly too.

I also got to see how Aaron (being the party tank) would take his time, sometimes too much time, to think out his maneuvers and strategies before engaging an enemy. It was awesome to watch how his thought process worked as he took into consideration the whole party's strengths, weaknesses, our surroundings and came up with a plan that usually by round three of combat we had the win or at least an overwhelming advantage. Don't get me wrong, we all contributed to the plans, but Aaron was playing his character (a tactically thinking fighter) with such gusto.....we were really ROLE playing those days.

Aaron giving us the bird(s).

When Mike's 'Alexandria' chronicle took a break I stepped up behind the screen and ran a Forgotten Realms game for them of my own design. Yes...Jorian was in this one...but so was Aaron and another one of his most memorable characters to me. Aaron was playing a water genasi monk named Aldym. A water genasi is a planes-touched character (one could say has the blood line descending from an elemental creature). Aaron took this and ran with it. He played Aldym like he was the element of water. Calm and serene as a mountain lake and a roaring tsunami when combat arose. He brought a very zen mentality to the table with his monk which again was not difficult for him as he was one of the most zen and spiritual people I've ever known. Aldym was played with a world view and outlook of an outsider and it was done with such care and ease that I'm kinda jealous that he was able to pull that off role playing and I can't. 

Aaron was just full of all sorts of surprises whether gaming or just spending time with the guy. I love how I found out he was lactose intolerant.....that bastard and how he gassed out my car. Roll the windows down all you want it was like Satan was talking to you. Brimstone and hellfire. So that said he wasn't perfect, he had his flaws like all of us, but Aaron always looked for the good in everyone and that was something I tried to emulate in my own life to this very day. Just from knowing him I am a better human being.

L-R: Me, Aaron & my brother Scott at my wedding day.

Sadly Aaron passed away just a short few years ago after a very hard fought and valiant fight against brain tumors. The mark on my life that he left is monumental. Not just how he was as a player or the characters he created, those are just icing on a very large cake, who he was as a human being. Even today I miss him to no end and, I will admit, this was one of the most difficult things I ever had to write. I remember all the good times, some bad ones but every EVERY moment was worth it. I'm a better person for knowing him, the world was blessed to have him it it and we are all at loss for him not being here anymore.

I'll carry my memories of Aaron for the rest of my life. I could never forget him. I also want to thank Aaron for being my friend and to introducing me to a great group of guys whom to this very day I am friends with and game with. I want to thank Aaron's wife, Tara, for sending those pics to me awhile back. Its nice seeing his smiling face whenever I want to. I want to thank all of you for reading this.

Lastly, Merry Christmas Aaron. I love ya man.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The 12 Days of Blogs-mas: Day 9 (take two)

*This says 'take two' in the header as Blogger crapped out on me and didn't save my entire post as a draft and I have to start all over again*

The great Sabu-Tablesmasher asked me to talk about a player and their character that left an impression on me over the course of my gaming 'career'. There have been many interesting people and characters I've played with over the years. Some good and some bad but either way memorable. Today I'll target one person and his characters. I'll do a write up on a second one tomorrow. I think its pretty special that there are two people I want to talk about here.

For my first pick I'm going to tell you about a player and his characters I had in my 3.0 Forgotten Realms game I ran back in the day. Let me introduce you to Dave Girardot. Dave is a heck of a nice guy, has a good sense of humor (albeit a weird one), likes to watch foreign films. Dave was one of the first people to introduce me to Stephen Chow before he became known in the states. I can still remember watching 'God of Cookery' (and Charles threw his computer out the window at the mention of that movie). Dave is happily married with a bunch of good kids. Dave also played Jorian (a fighter/duelist prestige class) and Heironomous (a hodgepodge that I'll explain later). Dave also drove me up a friggin' wall with both of these characters.

Jorian was a ladies man, the suave roguish hero. To me Jorian was Dave abusing the shit out of his charisma score to get what ever he wanted either treasure or virtue trying to gain whatever advantage possible for Jorian whenever he could. Jorian had a 'code of conduct', so we were told, but if it did exist it was all a bullshit smoke screen to ensure Jorian came out smelling like a bed of roses. Sweet but with a hint of crap underneath.

It drove me nuts most games having Dave try to manipulate the (new to all of us) 3.0 rules almost constantly. And it would usually begin with Dave saying 'Now Phil, I know the rules says I can't do this but just hear me out a second....'.

Mental rape ensues, aneurysm occurs, blood shoots out my ears, nose and eyes.

The damnedest thing of it all was that Dave could actually present a decent argument for what he (Jorian) wanted to do. Sometimes it was better than what the rules presented and the game wasn't broken for it. If it kept things fun I'd allow it. Other times I wanted to throw all my books at his head as my response.

It got better with Jorian (read: drove me more nuts) when Jorian got an ally in the party the halfling rogue Apinta Beir (yes his name was A Pint of Beer). After that it was almost a no holds barred adventure in depravity some games. I've never had a game with more drinking, in game gambling, larceny, whoring and general civil misconduct in it ever. Ever. The kicker of it all was they both were playing charismatic characters and could usually talk their way out of anything.

Jorian wasn't a virtuous character. He wasn't a suave roguish hero. He was a gambler and a letch. I remember one game Dave wanted to come up with some kind of in-game brewed potion that prevented him from getting a woman pregnant so Jorian wouldn't become a daddy in all his dalliances. Also in response to all of his whoring I had to consult the Book of Erotic Fantasy to see if there was any interesting social diseases to give Jorian if he forgot to drink his 'Potion of Cure Disease' after his trysts. No such luck there.

Now Heironomous was a problem of a different kind. He was an 'experimental' character Dave wanted to work on. I had a feeling he was trying to min-max out his character by taking as many levels in the various player classes as possible. I'm not talking about regular multi-classing (example a Fighter 3 / Ranger 2) that yields a playable character. This was unplayable. 1 level of Barbarian, Fighter, Cleric, 2 Wizard levels. I made sure Dave justified all those choices and he could. Remember he could present a case quite well. Eventually Heironomous took the Alienist prestige class and became some kind of pseudo-natural cross breed and shortly he just disappeared into the background. Eventually he just got stopped being used and Jorian was back.

The craziest part of all that bitching is that I miss playing with Dave and would do so if given the chance again. As I said Dave is a great guy, someone I liked being around. He's also a bit of a weenie when it comes to RPG's and characters you can abuse the rules create with the rules. Dave also ran a Wheel of Time RPG game that I played in and it was great fun. It was just two of us and Dave and it was a real treat. Unfortunately real life just got in the way and he and his family moved away and I lost his contact info. Eventually Matt found him and we're going to try to get together after the new years. It'll be nice seeing him again.

Tomorrow I'll talk about another person whom I played with and ran games for that left a huge impact on my life. So what did you think Larry? Like this so far? No head-butts for me for being good right???

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The 12 Days of Blogs-mas: Ocho

A question came through from my squirrel hating pal from Indiana asking if there were any games out there as unique as Katamari Damacy and its sequels and off shoots. I could probably think of a few suggestions but my version of unique (artistic, original, inspired) may be different from another's version of unique. In this sense 'unique' could mean 'What other games are out there as friggin' weird and Japanese like Katamari?'. I may have a suggestion or two.

Noby Noby Boy

This game was done by the same person that did Katamari and its just as weird. You play as BOY who's job is to stretch around the board without breaking to maximize your score as much as possible. Your score then goes to GIRL who then stretches out from Earth to the Moon and beyond in the solar system.


I don't want to know what's going on here...

It's bizarre. And if you're hell bent on purchasing it you can get it for iOS. I'm sure of one reader who probably will.

ICO / Shadow of the Colossus Collection  (PS3)

Two classic and critical favorites from the Playstation 2 era that have been given a graphical lift for the HD Playstation 3.

ICO was unique in that you played a boy born with horns who was abandoned by his village in a ruin, I suppose they were afraid of your sexy horns, and while exploring you find Yorda. She's trapped in a cage and doesn't speak your language. You release her then are attacked by shadow creatures. After fighting them back you do the only thing you take Yorda's hand and run, leading her to safety and protecting her. It's unique that the story is kind of opened up to you through your actions, taking Yorda's hand connects you to her on a more emotional level (and has never been done better....sorry Fable 3) and the look/feel of the environment was stunning. At the time I never played anything like it. Still haven't.

Shadow of the Colossus starred an unnamed hero who is trying to save his deceased love by returning her to life. To do this he makes a deal with an ancient deity to slay 16 colossi, these immense creatures roaming this wilderness. Taking up sword and mounting his horse he rides out into the badlands to hunt the unstoppable creatures. The badlands are inhabited by you, your horse and the colossi. The sense of loneliness is remarkable. The size of the wasteland is huge. And the colossi are bigger. Each an exercise in puzzle solving (how to navigate up the beasts to find their weak spots) and skill to take each down. I also was marvelling at the sense of scale this game has. You truly feel you are fighting creatures that make you seem like you are an ant in comparison. Its impressive.

David VS Colossus.

The art direction is great, the soundtrack is epic and the story takes a rather tragic turn towards the end. And its all about what would you do to save the one you loved. Stunning, just stunning.

Rez / Child of Eden (Sega Dreamcast/PS2/XBLA // X360/PS3)

I'm listing both of these together even though they were published by two different game companies these games were made by the same man and same creative vision.  Tetsuya Mizuguchi is the creator of both of these rhythm/ on-rails shooters. What separates these games apart from other shooters is both art direction, music and style.

Rez was out originally for the Sega Dreamcast and the Playstation 2. It involves hacking into a computer system to essentially save an A.I. trapped within. Broke up over five distinct levels, each with its own feel from Egypt to Babylon. The soundtrack is just spectacular especially for fans of trance music. I also love the wire-frame look and feel of the environment and enemies. Next to TRON this is how I envision what hacking a computer system looks like if you were inside the data.

Child of Eden is in a way the spiritual sequel to Rez. It just ramps up everything for the modern console platforms (PS3/X360). Graphics, art direction, animation, sound track. Its all been improved above and beyond my expectations to a near dream like quality. I like that Child of Eden has a more organic look to it than the wire frame look of Rez. It shows how with time technology improves. Add to it motion controls with the Kinect or PlayStation Move and the whole experience changes and becomes truly interactive.

Now I could go on and on about another game, Portal 2, and say its unique because its so flawless and that's a rarity in this day and age. Everything is perfect. Graphics, sound, voice acting, writing, game pacing, level design....its the most polished game I've ever played. My only complaint was I wanted more. That's it.

Instead I'm going to leave you with a look at a game called 'Corpse Party' I saw at the on the Life in 16-bit blog I follow. Follow the link and read the string of screen caps for this game. I think the dialogue is quite unique and its available for download on the PlayStation Network.

So did this work for you Jesse? Some interesting games here each with their own unique qualities. And then there is Noby Noby Boy.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The 12 Days of Blogs-mas: Chapter 7

I was asked to write about a somewhat smaller table top Sci-fi RPG by my friend Charles and in all honesty I had no idea what to write about. It was similar to Scott B's 'write about Shadowrun' vagueness. Its a totally open slate for me to riff on about a setting. I could just take the easy way out and do mini reviews on all four of the core books available but I felt that was a cop out. Heck I was trying to write just that for the past few days and my brain kept fighting me at every step.

So while I was out picking up my wife's copy of Star Wars: The Old Republic (the most not secret Christmas present in all the years we've been together. Yes she already knew she was getting it!) it struck me as to why write a general somewhat average post about what the game is and how it plays, instead write about how I would run a game (which would probably be mediocre at best). How I would want to expose players to this setting. And then the idea clicked and here I go. The game is....

This game is one of post-apocalyptic trans human conspiracy and horror. My take on it will try to have subtle elements to all of that. I will try to use some of the printed back ground story material here and there but keep most of it home-brewed as possible.

The Premise

The players are part of a smaller, yet well funded, exploratory company that is doing geological surveys on smaller moons and asteroids in the outer rim of our solar system. The Euripides Group has sent you and your party out into deeper space than usually surveyed.

The Hook

While in route to your target, a cluster of asteroids beyond Pluto, you pick up a distress call from a cargo freighter on the far side of Neptune. Upon arrival the players note the damage and see the ship's crew have all died. The cause appears to be inter-crew fighting and pistols were fired. The on-board computer's logs were scrubbed from the mesh (web/matrix/data cloud) so the reason to the fighting isn't known.

When contacting your parent corp about this discovery and reading off its ship number and name they inform you this belongs to a sister corp and to take all cargo with you on your trip and you will deliver it on the return route. Additional money will be paid to you for this extra service. The only piece of cargo found is a  strange metallic rhombus in a sealed container. Very alien looking and very old.

The Complication

When the party arrives at the asteroid cluster they find some sort of ancient alien looking wreckage. While inspecting the wreckage a PC or NPC crew member should locate a missing section similar in size and shape of the metallic rhombus in the cargo hold. With luck (DM's best friend when the players do this for me) they go retrieve the cargo and when it gets close to the wreckage it become active, breaking out of the container and fusing to the alien structure. The end result is a gate way activates and opens up with such force it pulls in the players into the gate.

Now they are on an alien world. Everything has a silicate composition in any survey readings taken. The gate on this side is also shut down. It looks deserted here. The players then recon & scout the area, locate a entrance to an underground structure. While searching this complex the players will eventually find an area that looks like it could be used for manufacturing of some kind. Also found here is another gateway (inactive). Any interacting with the alien tech to access the gate or access the manufacturing center causes its security protocols to kick in and the factory comes alive.

Swarms of nanites so dense its visible rushed out of multiple ports in the floors and ceilings covering the players but doing no harm. All their sensor readings, mesh connections, life support is all ok. Then the nanites fly off to an open area and begin to merge together. When doing this they also incorporate some of the goo and metals of the factory to become a sort of bio-organic mechanized alien monstrosity that is vaguely human. Combat ensues with the nano-beast able to form simple and complex machines out of its 'body' and can generate energy weapons as well. When the final blow is struck to the beast it detonates in a bright white flash that throws the party onto the ground and blinds them temporarily and knocking them unconscious.

When they come to they are able to interface with the gate controls. The control system scans them and locates their point of origin and opens a gate back to where they first entered this alien world. Back on their ship they notify the corp of this, are told to return home with their data and they will be well rewarded. Also any further investigation of the gate they used on the asteroid shows it is no longer functioning.

The Conclusion

When they return back to headquarters, sans the alien rhomboid, The Euripides Group pays them handsomely, gives them full physicals to check vitals and gives them a full debriefing on the data they gathered and that this is now corp sensitive material and they are not to discuss it further. Vacation time is issued and the party gets to relax for awhile. Yet make it clear at the end of this that everyone has a feeling that something is wrong.

End first session.

But this being a campaign, where would I keep going with it?  I'll tell you.

The Continuation

The players will begin receiving more assignments from the corp. And all the while that purveying sense of 'something wrong' is still with you. Eventually it becomes obvious that the stronger this background sense of wrongness is there the more dangerous and potentially lethal the assignments are. Eventually they will come across a fragment of data while on a horrendously dangerous assignment for which makes reference to they are test subjects for neural data mapping (or something equally sci-fi sounding and ominous). This should lead the players back to The Euripides Group H.Q. where the players can find out just whats going onto them. Obviously there will be resistance by the corp itself. Armed security, anti-hacking counter measures, new prototype weapons being used, and its more and more obvious that this small exploratory corp is much larger and dangerous than they were lead to believe and they (the players) are in danger and need to fight back.

Eventually the players will get access to The Euripides Group's main mesh server and get access to all the data running through it and will finally discover what data they brought back from that first assignment and why are they test subjects.

The Truth

And just as they access this data node I'd describe to the players how everything gets pixalled out and their vision begins to break up. Then all goes black. Finally flashing across the screen in a language they've never seen before but can understand says "System failure.....restart of virtual containment environment commencing...."

Now the players with functioning visual receptors will 'awaken' to see what is happening. They being held in liquid suspensions back in that alien factory. Still moving through-out is that nano-beast but there are also what appear to be clones of themselves and any of the sleeves they created through-out the campaign. If the players access their chronometers in their cortical stacks they will note that over 6 years have passed since the first time they stepped foot on this world.

They will also note that 1) their 'real' bodies are no longer functional as the white blast destroyed most of them and their memories from the flash on have been in V.R. 2) Some are just cortical stacks that are being maintained and kept alive in this liquid bath. 3) Since you 'broke out' you realize you can access the area mesh and find out that you accidentally awakened a Titan A.I. fragment (which is using and merged with a lost alien race's own technology) and it's replicating an army of clones based off the players and all the data it collected (from your more increasingly dangerous assignments) and is getting ready to attack some of the smaller colonies of people on the outer rim with goals for a full scale war later.  4) The A.I. isn't aware you are awake and you can resleeve your consciousness into any of the other sleeves that are just coming out of production.

I would let the players at this point come up with their own plans here. All the experience they gathered over their time in the virtual world has been functionally real to them so their skill gains and advancements they keep. They can sleeve into their most recent and 'powerful' skin they've had and I'd let them figure out how to stop this on their own. Self sacrifice and destroying the entire complex? Data hacking of some kind? Whatever they'd want to try out I'd let it fly but eventually the A.I. will be aware of their actions and all hell will break loose.

How this ends is up to the players. At this point they really don't have much to lose more than what they already had. So I'd let them go for broke and let the dice fall where they may.

So....Eclipse Phase. That's how I would run a campaign for it. I'd lead the players along and then pull the covers back to expose the horror of their situation and open their eyes to the conspiracy that kept them unaware of the truth the whole time. But my question is would anybody play through that? And this was all off the top of my head coming back from GameStop this afternoon.

On a final note if you are interested in Eclipse Phase please check out their website here for more info. And if you want to buy their products just follow their links and you'll be able to get the books or PDF's in no time.

Oh, and if any of you know people that work for Posthuman Studios (the Eclipse Phase guys) and they are looking for writers and like this tell them I'm ready and willing to work.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The 12 Days of Blogs-mas: Issue #6

I was using my Facey-page to ask (read: beg and plead for) new suggestions for posts today. I ended up with a lot of good ones too. From the biggest RPG rules set change faux pax/ improvements, most memorable player I've played with and their character, number of PC or Player deaths I've dealt or witnessed and describe them, to 'What doesn't The Dude abide?'.

All are valid. Only one though made me put my Eclipse Phase post on the back burner for another day. I don't think Charles will mind as he's currently one with the Force. So the question posed by my friend Jeremy (from the notorious P-Burg/Easton Crew) was the following:

"You're doing a big budget comic movie but have to cast only your friends. Who would you cast and why?"

Ironically.....I've already thought of this. I have no life. I admit it.

But what movie would I be casting?

                                                                   Justice League

Now for my lineup I will have core members as well as secondary heroes. For the villains I'd probably match up members of congress, wall street bankers, hipsters and emo kids. But I'm going to focus on the casting of the heroes of my Justice League movie.

The Line-up:
  • Superman
  • Batman
  • Wonder Woman
  • Martian Manhunter
  • The Flash
  • Doctor Fate
  • Plastic Man
  • Lobo
  • The Question
  • The Green Arrow
  • WildCat
  • Aquaman
  • Vigilante


The Man of Steel, the ultimate boy scout, truth, justice, blah blah blah would be played by one of my dearest friends, one of my groomsman and an ultimate boy scout in his own right (made Eagle Scout). Dr. Marino S is the embodiment of Superman. Marino is that kind and compassionate. He does the right things. His heart is truly matched to Kal-El's. And he probably owns blue tights too. But to me Marino is a shining example of virtue and valor. He's Superman.


A chunk of friends know who fills this roll. Heck he's practically there already. My friend Bill E. is not only a Batman fan...ah hell he thinks he is Batman. And I've seen him dressed as the Dark Knight for Halloween and he's more intimidating than any Batman to EVER grace the silver screen. Also Bill is a police officer and does real detective work. He solves crimes and puts the perps away. He also hasn't used a gun to do so as of now. Bill commands respect when he enters a room. His personality is as forceful as Batman's is. Fortunately this Batman doesn't have a Robin to follow him around.

Wonder Woman

My wife Jess. She's compassionate, loyal, fierce, headstrong, a warrior at heart. She just needs the boots and she's all set. Besides any woman who married me MUST be Wonder Woman to put up with my shit.
The amazon princess is my wife's favorite character in comics and showed her girls can kick serious ass. And she does. She teaches high school. She HAS to kick ass to survive that nightmarish hell scape of idiocy.

The Martian Manhunter

Why that is Eric from Gaming With The Gnomies naturally. If you've ever met this guy in real life you're fairly certain he is from Mars. He's also cerebral, tends to vanish and re-appear behind people, he's consumed so much lime jello in his life he is tinted green. He'd also be the guy you'd want directing the other heroes around from the watchtower. And there are also days, I swear this is true, he can read minds.
And the name 'Martian Manhunter' might reference a certain trip to Ohio as well.

The Flash

This is the Wally West Flash. So he's red-head, smart mouthed, likes making people laugh, mocks himself, and is willing give up everything he has to save his friends. I think I would fit this. I'm not being narcissistic here but its possible I could be considered the heart of the team (the conscious is Superman). And its my blog and I don't wanna be Darksied (again).

Doctor Fate

This was an interesting thought because I had to think out of my friends who would actually be the best at handling magical powers. I had to look for someone who was kind of a loner, intelligent and was able to pronounce intricate words of power. My friend Charles fits this bill. Years of college Latin classes got the language part down, he's kinda solitary except when playing Pathfinder and is intelligent. Doctor Fate always had an air of uncertainty about him due to his role and I think Charles could play that nicely too. Now this is only if 'Good Charles' is cast. 'Just got out of work Charles' becomes Parallax hell bent on destroying everything.

Plastic Man

Plastic Man is a goofy character. He's a very weird character. He thinks differently than other heroes because, well, his brain is made of plastic. And while he's funny it can also drive the other team members nuts with the insanity of being Plastic Man. My friend Brian J is Plastic Man. (And that doesn't mean his roomie is Hula-Hula...though I was considering it). Brian is weird, funny, has a plastic brain I believe. Brian can also be overpowering in his funny and can drive us nuts at times too. The puns...oh the BAD puns....they just don't stop. Yeah, he's Plas.


Jeremy. Both don't quit. Both resemble a honey badger. Both kick ass. Both are pale in complexion. (Good thing I'm The Flash cause I'm probably going to be running now!) Really, you want this guy at your back.

The Question

He's an interesting case. Let's lose the conspiracy theory nut job part and look at his intellect. He sees things totally different than you or I. Similar to the TV character 'Monk'. He's obsessive/compulsive about the details and knowledge. My friend Adam S. is that. We call him 'The Infinite Pit of Useless Information' cause he is that brilliant. Adam would make Sheldon Cooper cry. I love him dearly and I can see him being the man that sees all the angles. He'd also look spiffy in a blue trench coat.

The Green Arrow

Politically and socially conscious and outspoken. A sharp wit and tongue to match. Slightly cocky. Can grow a sweet beard. Its Bob. I don't know about his archery skills and he's not a millionaire but Bob could easily be the Robin Hood for this movie. I see him standing up for the little guys, the every man and telling 'The Man' to go fark himself at a moments notice. Yeah its Bob.


This WildCat is more of a street brawler than boxer. So who do I know that's a brawler/wrestler, hard headed and old? Larry! (Again....glad I'm The Flash) He's a scrapper. And god help you if he nails you with a head butt (right Bob?). Also Larry would probably own a catsuit and I'm not sure why nor do I want that answer.


I think Eric P. from the P-Burg/Easton Crew fits this bill. He's blond, kinda smells fishy and more than likely owns and orange shirt and green tights. I don't think he has telepathy with oceanic life but this Aquaman would be more like the 'dancing Aquaman' from the early days of Adult Swim. That I can see him doing.


To me this character, a cowboy hero, just screams Bruce from my Runelords PFRPG game. Both appear to be from another era all together. Its that older, wiser, cowboy hero vibe I see him pulling off. And if you know Bruce you kinda get the impression he's been born in the wrong time period. While I joke about his age and imply the cretaceous period was his home time, he'd probably be more at home in the 1930's or 1940's. He's got a different outlook on things that you just don't see these days. Much like a cowboy hero in the DC universe. And he'd look funny in the 10 gallon hat with bandanna mask too!

And there's my casting call. If you're name wasn't listed don't feel bad, you just were not right for the Justice League. I never cast for my version of The Avengers. Or you're a villain (you bastards). 

*** Bonus Question***

"What doesn't The Dude abide?"

- He doesn't abide having his cremated bowling friends ashes blow back into his face.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The 12 Days of Blogs-mas: Cinco de Game-o.

Well my friend Eric over at Gaming With the Gnomies suggested I stat myself out in a tabletop RPG of my choice. Then in a crunch heavy RPG I own as well. Its a challenge of crunching numbers, self evaluation, self loathing due to prior evaluation and general dislike. I've never been partial to creating myself in any kind of medium be it drawings/paintings, rpg stat blocks or anything else. Last time I tried this out I had so much wrong with the character that I was functionally useless....and I thought it was accurate.

Then I burned the copy never to be spoken of again until the Lord of the Gnomes suggested it. So I'm going to start fresh and use a system you've seen me speak about from the games I run. That system is ....

Now I had to come up with a basis for how many levels I should have to start off and I determined that I would base it off of my age. While I gamed when I was younger I considered most 'adventuring' heroes are generally around 18 at the start of their careers. Then I noted I was lazy so I added two years to it. Final level total is 15. This is going to be a hell of alot of stats. You will be bored but bear with me on this. I will try to be witty in my reasons for choosing this stuff.

Phil is a Half-Orc Barbarian (Drunken Brute Arch type) 1/Bard 7/Cavalier Order of the Dragon 7

Barbarian (Drunken Brute) = has mild anger management issues while drinking.

Bard = I tend to be long winded in talking and use the fine comedic art of self-deprecation to get laughs.

Cavalier (Order of the Dragon) = I have *some* nobility/loyalty here people. The Order of the Dragon is ones dedicated to being loyal to his allies and will fiercely defend their honor when called into doubt. I have been known to do this.

Half-Orc = because I am not very good to look at. And since troll isn't a core class I couldn't be one.

  • STR - 15
  • DEX - 10
  • CON - 17
  • INT - 13
  • WIS - 16
  • CHA - 14
Combat Maneuver Bonus - +15        Combat Maneuver Defence - 25 (25 Flat Footed)

AC - 17 / Touch AC 10 / Flat Footed 17                  Hit Points - 134

Saving Throws
Fortitude - +12
Reflex     - +7
Will        - +10

Speed: 30ft                Initiative: +0  (see? lazy....)

---So far so good. I have a low AC because I'm not skinny (read: fat) and am an easy target. I put up with alot of crap so the high Fortitude save is true as well as the CON score. No initiative bonus because it does take lighting a fire under my ass to get me into motion. I think I'm more common sense smart than book smart so that's why WIS is higher than INT. I'm also stronger than most folk realize so the more than above average STR is there.


Height - 6'0"   Weight - Rotund   
Hair: Red        Eyes: Blue/Green      Skin:Pale
Medium Size:  Space/Reach 5ft

Alignment: Chaotic Good                    Deity: Cayden Cailean  (here's the description)

Languages Known:  Common, Orc, Pig Latin (Orc-bonics)


*note: I'm only listing the the overall bonus or lack there of*
  • Acrobatics  -1
  • Appraise     +5
  • Bluff            +15
  • Climb          +1
  • Craft (Painting)   +3
  • Diplomacy    +15
  • Disguise      +8
  • Escape Artist   +3
  • Fly              -1
  • Handle Animal   +6
  • Heal           +5
  • Intimidate   +20
  • Knowledge Arcana  +4
  • Knowledge Local     +9
  • Knowledge Nobility +12
  • Perception     +10
  • Perform (Comedy)  +15
  • Perform (Oratory)  +15
  • Ride               -1
  • Sense Motive     +15
  • Sleight of Hand    +3
  • Spellcraft        +11
  • Stealth            +3
  • Survival          +14
  • Swim               +1
  • Use Magic Device   +10
--- Again. No real complaints here. I tend to talk alot and insult myself as much (Perform Comedy/Oratory), I've learned to talk my way out of situations (Diplomacy), when I get angry I'm pretty scary from what I've been told (Intimidation) and I can figure out what some folks intentions are (Sense Motive). I took the Knowledge skills on a broader sense with Nobility being more towards celebrities/famous people instead of royalty. Craft Painting.....well I'm out of practice so its declined alot.

Character Traits

  • Birthmark
  • Bullied      (growing up I kinda was...alot. not so much on the physical violence but verbal abuse. Red-headed glasses wearing nerd kid = target for other kids in school and life in general)


  • Armor Proficiency - Light/Medium/Heavy/Shield
  • Weapon Proficiency - Simple/Martial/Bardic
  • Blind-Fight
  • Catch-off Guard
  • Critical Focus
  • Deceitful
  • Eschew Materials
  • Extend Spell
  • Extra Performance
  • Extra Rage
  • Run
  • Swap Places
---- Blind Fight is for when I take off my glasses and I'm still competent in kicking your ass. Catch off Guard is I will do something that throws you off your balance while Critical Focus lets me capitalize on your weak spots. Hey, when I fight its to win. I don't care how either. I will win.
Deceitful...well....I can fib a bit now but can't we all? Eschew Materials is because I hate spell components in any frigging RPG. Extend Spell....we'll touch on that when I get to my spell list. There is a reason.
Extra Performance is because I can keep droning on or busting my own chops for hours. I went on a 1+ hour long tirade about how much I suck with some friends in my car that had them laughing till they were wheezing for air. Extra Rage is a feat I picked up from both my folks. When they get mad watch out! I goes on for a LONG while.
I learned Run from hanging out with Eric from Gaming With The Gnomies. I will not comment further.
Swap Places comes from defending my friends/allies/loved ones. I will pull the aggro off of them and onto me. To keep them safe.

Spells Known


  • Daze
  • Detect Magic
  • Ghost Sound
  • Light
  • Mage Hand  (Can you say 'phantom stranger'? Then you are a perv.)
  • Prestidigitation
Level 1
  • Cause Fear
  • Lesser Confusion
  • Grease
  • Hideous Laughter
  • Sleep
Level 2
  • Calm Emotions
  • Invisibility
  • Scare
  • Whispering Wind
Level 3
  • Confusion
  • Gaseous Form

---Lets go back to Extend Spell for a second. I'm the kind of person who tends to drag things out even if it makes the recipient uncomfortable. For example the other day I cast Extended Whispering Wind while in the living room with my wife and she left the room. I guess the message was "I want the couch to myself".  Gaseous Form is another one she doesn't like when I cast. And when its the Extended version it causes Fear, makes her Scared, Confused. I then need Calm Emotions to stop her terror. I have Sleep on the list because I like to cast it on myself and take a nap sporadically.

  • Armor of Insults
  • "Never Surrender"
---The Armor of Insults basically says my fashion sense insults the sensibilities of every one around me which draws aggro off my allies and onto me.
'Never Surrender' is a created magic shield by yours truly. Its a +2 Bashing Mitheral Light Shield of Determination. It falls into the fighting back idea even in when the odds are overwhelming against me (Determination).

  • "The Mighty River's Roar"
--- Another created item by me. The Mighty River's Roar is a +2 Cunning Thundering Battle Axe. It makes almost as much noise as I do and I looks for weak spots in our adversaries to exploit.

Magic Items
  • Exciting Taffy (I like candy)
  • Handy Haversack  (My backpack I take to cons and gaming events. It can hold anything.)
  • Knucklebone of Fickle Fate  (I always keep a d20 with me)
  • Portable Hole  (because I'm always digging myself into a hole according to my wife.)
  • Ring of Friend Shield  (wedding ring...comes in pairs)
  • Sovereign Glue ( I never forget to keep my crazy glue nearby.)
  • Wand of Magic Missile  (My nerf dart gun)

So there it is in a nutshell. I'm glad I did this but I really hate doing this as well. For the 'crunch heavy' RPG write-up that will be later in the 12 Days as it will take alot of time. But you may have to forgive me if I pass on that as Shadowrun and Eclipse Phase both take quite awhile to make a PC.

All in all there was the normal amount of self loathing and self deprecation that came along with it. Hell some of what I was thinking about my flaws and shortcomings had me snickering a bit and had me comparing my riffs to my comedic hero's self insulting ways.

Don't worry Rodney...I respect ya!
So there you go Eric. Hope you and everyone else got a laugh out of this. I did this as honestly as I could and you got a glimpse into the mess that is I. And the 12 Days are almost half over. I have another suggestion that I'm working on involving the Eclipse Phase RPG but I still need some more suggestions to make it to the end! If you got any leave them in the comments here.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The 12 Days of Blogs-mas: Four-ever

A dear friend of mine suggested that I should take a look at the best of the Batman graphic novels and rip on them for a bit. Well one 'challenge accepted' later and two days of research and I'm finally ready to put it up for consumption. I did, however, have certain criteria for the choices I made for this list.

1) These books were either all stand alone issues/limited series or secondary book lines that were cancelled before reaching 50 issues printed. With that said this will eliminate such fan favorites like Batman: Year One (which were single issues printed in 1987 in Batman #404-407), Batman: Hush (Batman issues #608-619), No Man's Land, Knightfall, etc..

2) These are also not 100% Batman specific books (i.e. he's always the main character) but ones that can expand and enhance the Batman 'universe' so to speak. So some might feature ones that are villains that are the primary focus.

My first thought was this will be a cool assignment. Almost like an awesome college paper that I've always wanted to pen. Then after revisiting criteria number #1 I thought....."Oh shit. I'm screwed. I eliminated most of every Top 10 Batman Books lists. Shitballs.". And the brainstorming commenced. I won't lie when I say it was grueling to come up with this but for me I am very satisfied with what I've chosen as the ones I would recommend to anyone. Each has added some kind of value to my comic reading experience, whether through artwork or excellent and creative storytelling. So lets begin this shebang.

These books are in no particular numerical order.

Starting with the obvious...
 Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

Yeah. I know. This one was an easy choice. Frank Miller's seminal epic of an elderly Batman coming back out of the shadows for one last romp to deliver his brand of justice to Gotham again. From how his relationships with friends like Superman have changed over time to how Batman deals with the Joker its all told through a grim and gritty crime soaked lens. I remember reading this back in junior high and it was the best and most awesome thing I've ever read. So I do feel that this is required Batman reading for any fan entering into the fold.

I will also say after revisiting this it doesn't hold up in my opinion. At the time it was unleashed there was nothing like this out on the market. Truly taking an established icon and turning the character upside down. Today there are numerous books out there like this all with much better artwork and writing. Proof of that came years later when Frank Miller went back and wrote the sequel to this book and it was ghastly. But this book was a game changer for the industry and for that will always command my respect. It was also one of the books that totally hooked me on comics and made me want to draw them professionally. But that is another story for another time.

Fear the beard of Alan Moore!

Batman: The Killing Joke

Alan Moore. The Joker. The capture and torture of Jim Gordon. The paralyzing of Barbara Gordon and loss of Batgirl. Batman laughs. Anytime I look at a picture of Alan Moore I think he is going to murder me and eat my head.

I think I shit myself in terror posting this...
I cannot ever doubt that he is one of the finest comic writers of all time. For me he's up near the top of my list and I can't say I've ever disliked one of his stories. My favorite comic author though is probably crazier and more deranged looking than Moore but I'll save that for later*. Back to Batman.

The Killing Joke added layers and depth to THE villain of the Batman universe not seen before. While some writers played up the Joker as the 'clown prince' Moore made his ruthless and evil. And he made us love Mr. J even more in the process. I would pay money to see this book turned into a feature film. It is this good.

Oh and this one holds up for me over time too. Bonus.

Batman: Arkham Asylum
Sanitarium....welcome home...

The inmates are running the asylum. The medical staff are being held hostage and the freaks are daring Batman to come save them. The criminals then come to realize that he's not locked in there with them, they are locked in with Batman.

I loved the artwork of this book. It gives the insanity of the setting a palpable feel and its visually stunning. Grant Morrison's writing here was considered to be some of the best of his career. For the overall story to the little touches like the 'rehabilatation' of criminals like Two-Face (given items that give more choices, like dice and decks of cards, only to have it backfire as he now can't function because he has too many choices).

Its a jarring book, it can be difficult to read due to the art at times but its a rewarding experience and helps to add to the mythos of Batman.

Now lets start adding some less obvious ones shall we?

A Tale of the Batman: Gotham By Gaslight

A Victorian age Gotham City is the stage for this Elseworlds story about Bruce Wayne returning from England from training as Batman and upon his arrival a series of brutal murders begin akin to those of Jack the Ripper's. Bruce Wayne is now a prime suspect due to circumstance and that he cannot account of his whereabouts at night or he will expose the secret that he is Batman. Now Batman must catch the killer and clear his name before more people die.

If that blurb doesn't make you say 'damn' I don't know what will. Its an imaginative take on the mythos by setting it in the past and re-envisioning the familiar. Its also just damn cool to see how a Victorian age Batman would look like. Kind of like Sherlock Holmes with a cape and cowl apparently.

Batman: War On Crime

Alex M.F. Ross!

DC released a series of over sized one shot stories all featuring a specific hero to basically show off just how amazing the art of Alex Ross can be. Batman War on Crime was my favorite out of the bunch. Ross has always managed to make his creations look photo realistic as possible and its no different here. But its the smaller details shown over the course of the day in the life of Batman. The scars on his back from the years of doing this, the shadowing and lighting that gives you a good visual as to what 'evil-doers' in Gotham see, hell just the eyes behind the cowl! Those tell more of the story than the words them self. I have this book here primarily for the art alone and the art is very enriching and sometimes looking at it you can *almost* envision that Batman is real. And that is cool.

Batman: The Long Halloween

Within this limited series we see a Batman earlier in his career forging a pact with Jim Gordon and (at the time) D.A. Harvey Dent to bend but never break the rule to bring the criminal element under control in Gotham (more specifically the organized crime families). Then we are introduced to a serial killer named Holiday who goes around an various holidays and starts killing off influential people in Gotham's crime family and the city descends into chaos.

There is another story here too. This is an expansion to the origin of Two-Face and you get a better sense of just who he is and why he's this way by the end of the series . I also want to mention that climax to this story is one worth not spoiling and it took me off guard and stuck with me. And coming from Jeph Loeb, one of my *least* favorite writers (who in my opinion fucked up the Ultimate Marvel Universe completely), that makes it worth checking out. This story surprised me.

The Batman Adventures: Mad Love

Of course I was going to be here right Mr. J?

Har-LEEEeeeeeee! I can almost hear Mark Hamill bellowing that out in his Joker voice right now. This is the introduction to the DC universe to one of the most well loved maniacs of the rogues gallery. It also doesn't hurt that Harley Quinn is the Joker's number one squeeze.

She started as a throw away character on Batman The Animated Series but both Bruce Timm and Paul Dini saw potential and kept her going strong. Years later she's as recognizable as any of the major DC characters. With Mad Love you see how Dr. Harleen Quinzell goes from lab coat to lunacy in a very fun romp told and illustrated by the animated series creators. This was also the kick off to seeing Harley appear in the main Bat-universe titles where her popularity is still growing. She's gotten her own series, has appeared in two of the BEST comic book video games of all time (Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City) and the juggernaut of red, white and black isn't slowing down. Here is the start of it all. I love Harley and I loved this story.

Batman & Superman Adventures: World's Finest

The Icons Meet for the first time.

Ok this IS an adaptation of three episodes of the 'Superman Adventures' TV show but not only was that a great storyline there it was adapted into one of the BEST Batman related adaptations of a TV show or movie. It maintained the great story of how Bruce and Clark meet and begin their life long friendship, it kept the spectacular art style of the show, it also added to the story by making it more grown up than the TV show. The dialogue was written with a more mainstream Batman comic feel than cartoon, it expanded on relations between the characters (Bruce, Clark & Lois Lane) with my favorite being the absolute dislike and distrust between The Joker's girl Harley and Lex Luthor's chauffeur/body guard Mercy. There was a palpable friction between the two here that you only glimpsed in the TV show but was brought up front in the comic.

This and most stories coming from the 'animated' lines created by Paul Dini & Bruce Timm I generally hold as the gold standards for the characters. Watch Justice League and then tell me I'm wrong. Go ahead. I don't think its possible. Because of Timm & Dini's work this story is my gold standard for how two icons should meet.

Gotham Central Volumes 1-4

I have been kicking myself for finding this series only last year and not jumping on it when it was in print in comic book form. It really pissed me off I missed out on this book. I feel alot of people missed out on this too so its worth putting on my list and if I was putting this in numerical order this series would be number one.

Number one?!?! Yes, number one. This isn't a story about Batman or his freaks. Don't get me wrong they are present but they are in the background. This is about the Gotham City Police Department: Major Crimes Unit and the detectives that deal with the aftermath and have to clean up the mess left behind. This book is about how the lives of the people in Gotham are irrevocably changed because of the freaks running about in the shadows. Friendships formed, lives lost in the line of duty, detective work on par or better than the BEST Batman book. All told through the eyes of the GCPD's finest in a post-Commissioner Gordon's reign. Det. Renee Montoya (who was a beat cop at first in Batman the Animated Series! Natch!) her partner Det. Crispus Allen, Det. Marcus Driver and his partner Det Josephine "Josie Mac" MacDonald and the rest of the MCU are written as real people with real lives and problems. Compiled with the 'normal' cases they deal with then add ones that involve Batman and his rogues (one with Mr. Freeze early on was disturbing with showing how fragile these cops are) and you have a series that was cut short before its time.

This book is also better than any crime drama on TV. The characters feel like ones you would know in real life. The stories are hard edged crime stories with real detective work. Hell the writing in some of its softer trades (note I said softer not bad) is leaps and bounds above the writing in the standard Bat-books and is on par with the best stories out there in Batman's world. Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker worked magic with the stories and these guys can write crime fiction like masters. The art is also very fitting to the setting with a gritty realism to it in lieu of the flamboyance of the costumed heroes and villains.

I can't recommend picking up Gotham Central enough. Its not just one of the best in the Batman mythos, its one of my favorite comics of all time.

Now for my final choice and bear with me on this. I might catch flack on this one but I feel its warranted, fresh and just cool too.


Superman: Speeding Bullets

Calm the hell down internets and let me talk here. I know it says 'Superman' on it but listen to me. This is a true Batman story set in an Elseworlds setting. This is the 'what-if' story of what happened if baby Kal-El was found by Thomas and Martha Wayne instead of the Kents. He grows up as their son and on the fateful day when The Wayne's were gunned down in front of young Kal-El his powers manifested in anger as heat vision, incinerating the criminal who killed his adoptive parents. Shamed by this burst of power he hides it away but still follows the path that leads him to become Batman and save Gotham from crime.

Except he's the Man of Steel under the suit. Super strength, speed, bullet proof, can fly.....but with Batman's mindset. It also takes one of Superman's greatest foils, Lex Luthor, and throws him into an industrial accident where the aftermath drives him insane and he becomes The Joker. Think about that...The Joker with Luthor's intelligence and drive. Yes, you should be scared. Lois Lane is in there too as the person who eventually helps the tormented Batman become the beacon of hope that Gotham truly needs not the Dark Knight they have.

Its a journey through hell until at the end the Batman is retired and Superman is born. And you get to follow along on the trip. Seeing how a similar circumstance could still possibly turn an established hero in the DCU into a Batman. That the need for justice and, to a degree, vengeance is within us all and its how we deal with it that is the key.

More so for me I found this take refreshing and has stuck with me through out the years. I actually think about this when I create a character for a tabletop RPG I'm playing in that has a dark and tragic past but is a good person. I use this to see how 'redemption' could come about.

And just the thought of Superman being Batman makes me smile. All the powers and the brains to go with it. Its fanboy-tastic.

So there it is folks. Bob, what did you think? And my fellow adventurers was there any things within my criteria you'd recommend to me? Keep in mind these are the ones I've read over the years. I probably missed reading one or two here or there. Also the 12 Days of Blogs-mas rolls on....I got two more suggestions but I want more. Leave them in the comments.

* THIS is my favorite comic writer: Warren Ellis

and this is how Warren Ellis says hello, good bye and I need whisky....

Friday, December 16, 2011

The 12 Days of Blogs-mas: Episode III

I had a wonderful date day with the wife and I'm going to talk about the movie we went and saw this afternoon. And this movie was Tom Cruise free too!

It's elementary my dear reader!

I'm going to try my damn best to keep this as spoiler free as humanly possible here just because I'm writing a review for a film that *just* opened today. Ok, here we go....

Sherlock and Watson are on the case of Professor James Moriarty who is using his considerable intellect and resources for assorted nefarious deeds which are coalescing into a grand scale masterstroke. The game between Holmes and Moriarty take the viewer through the streets of London, Paris, into Germany and finally Switzerland where the showdown between the great minds finally goes down.

That's the spoiler free short of it. See? I kept it spoiler free. But did I like this movie?


I didn't just like this movie, I loved it. It took what I did like with the first movie (the characters and mystery aspects) and ramped it up. Downey Jr is just great as Holmes and I can't see anyone else playing Dr. Watson other than Jude Law. He was a wonderful foil for the insane genius that is Downey's Holmes. And in this movie, since they are already known to the audience, you see they are more than just partners they are brothers and treat each other as such more so than before.

Speaking of brothers......Stephen Fry as Mycroft Holmes is just perfect casting. He is just absurdly witty and sublimely sarcastic while also maintaining the Holmes family tradition of being oblivious to polite social practices. One scene in particular with Mycroft had me laughing so hard my side started to cramp up. It involves Mycroft and Watson's wife in his home. You'll know it when it happens.

Noomi Rapace as the gypsy Madam Simza was a nice addition to the Holmes crew of intrepid investigators. Rachel McAdams returns as Irene Adler from the first movie and I still like the character. I wish there was more of her in the movie.

Finally to round out the cast I need to talk about the Jared Harris as Professor James Moriarty. He is the most is the most evil villain I've seen in YEARS. He plays Moriarty with a level of confidence and intelligence that you got from reading the original Doyle books. He's driven, ruthless, brutal, calculating. He's perfect. And how he and Downey play off each other in each of their meetings through out the movie is priceless and had me wanting more. I think this may be even an Oscar worthy performance. He's that good and he should be being the son of legendary Sir Richard Harris! He took this role and absolutely owned it.

The music was well done for the soundtrack and added lots of flavor to the feel of the look of the movie. Guy Ritchie's action scenes are still enjoyable to watch and are adrenaline pumping inducing affairs. The costumes looked great for the period. And even some of the more 'suspending disbelief' set pieces of the film didn't feel out of place.

The movie was a great ride full of thrills and laughs. Its not a hardcore detective story like some Holmes purists are craving but for a good time at the theater you can't beat it. I honestly prefer seeing a version of Holmes more akin to a Victorian age Batman than the stuffy pipe smoking frail detective. It makes a better movie experience overall. In fact I'd even go as far to say that the way Downey plays Holmes is a cross between Batman with the intelligence of Doctor Who. He's generally 10 steps further ahead of what comes out of his mouth and twenty steps ahead of the people he's trying to catch.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is worth going to see and worth seeing even at full evening ticket price. It was just a fun film that made both my wife and I smile for the rest of the day.

*Oh and the trailer for The Dark Knight Rises was before it too. Damn thing gave me the a good way!*