Friday, July 31, 2009

1001 Things I Will Not Do When I Play RPGs (Excerpts)

All based on true events.

1. I will not kick the GM out of my house during a game.

27. I will not make swords and arrows have the same sound effects as mech lasers and missiles.

125. I will not refuse to play a game on the single basis that "it isn't D&D".

250. I will not request to play a race not covered in the rules, nor will I imply that I will not participate otherwise.

251. I will not make such requests for my girlfriend either.

379. Samurai armor is not appropriate attire for a modern era game.

448. If the plane is crashing, I will not stay aboard and play guitar while the rest of the characters parachute out.

459. Certainly not because I think it's "funny".

460. Or because my character is based on a single silly premise which is more important than any standards of human behavior.

593. Disembodied heads - even those of Nazis - are not meant to become ventriloquist dummies just so I can use that skill on my character sheet.

665. I will not take out every manual in the collection until I find an optional rule that proves my point.

666. Certainly not the AD&D 1st ed. Manual of the Planes.

801. Why would I keep the bloody remains of smaller humanoid species in Mason jars? Answer: I would not.

928. I will not make the GM uncomfortable by putting the moves on him every time he plays a female NPC.

1001. I will not ask for the game to be moved to a Sunday morning "because it's the only time I can make it" and then not show up, especially if everyone else has a hangover.

Excerpts from 1001 Things I Will Not Do When I GM

Star Trek 966: No Compromise Part One

966. No Compromise Part One

PUBLICATION: Star Trek v.2 #58, DC Comics, March 1994

CREATORS: Howard Weinstein (writer), Carlos Garzon (artist)

STARDATE: 8651.1 (follows last issue) and 3001.3 (flashback to Chekov's first days on the Enterprise)

PLOT: Upon hearing that Academy sweetheart Julia Crandall has died, Chekov tells the story of how he proposed to her. Seeing as they'd be assigned to different ships, she refused, but soon after he was promoted to navigator, she was transferred to the Enterprise. At that time, the crew encountered a gigantic ship blasting radiation at a colony for months, but were unable to defeat it...

CONTINUITY: Captain Sulu and the Excelsior appear for the first time since their maiden mission in #39.

DIVERGENCES: Since it refers to the events of Time Crime, the stardate becomes suspect. It jumps too far to rejoin events prior to Time Crime's timeline, which was set around issue #13.

PANEL OF THE DAY - Chekov dates Big Ethel.
REVIEW: While it's an interesting peek at Chekov's early days and how he rose to his position and became friends with Uhura and Sulu, the story is severely hampered by the art. Garzon's faces are often ugly, pudgy, cross-eyed and buck-toothed with no consistency whatsoever from panel to panel, and his ship and base designs clunky in a way we haven't seen since the Gold Key days. And is there a draft aboard the Enterprise that Julia's hair is always wind-swept? Can't say much about the plot as we don't learn a whole lot about Julia Crandall or the threat in the first issue. Too bad the artist couldn't render the character moments very well.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Who Rocks Doctor Who? Bill Bailey Does!

So Tuesday I was all about the remixed Doctor Who theme song, and my friend Julie pointed me in a fun direction. UK comedian Bill Bailey, best known to some of us as Bilbo on Spaced, has a 60s Belgian lounge version of the song, with almost nonsense lyrics in almost pidgin French. It is ridiculous AWESOME!

LISTEN TO A CLEAN VERSION

Or as part of a comedy show, after the bits with the 80s Doctor Who incidental music:

Star Trek 965: Time Crime The Conclusion: Seems Like Old Times

965. Time Crime The Conclusion: Seems Like Old Times

PUBLICATION: Star Trek v.2 #57, DC Comics, February 1994

CREATORS: Howard Weinstein (writer), Rob Davis and Arne Starr (artists)

STARDATE: 8545.1 (follows the last issue)

PLOT: The warlord believes Sulu and Kirk and executes the saboteur. To make sure he doesn't die in his air show, they allow the plane to explode without him in it. The Klingon time agents capture the landing party and reveal they and Romulan co-conspirators have been toying with history to prove a point - that Gorkon's plans for peace will lead to ruin (epic fail). With the warlord's survival, the timeline is restored, though everyone at the Guardian retain memories of BOTH timelines. Kor contacts Klingon High Command to explain the situation and they send a ship back in time to apprehend the time agents, while the Romulans are arrested in the present. When the landing party returns, Worf leaves with Kor to return to his old/new life.

CONTINUITY: See previous issues of this storyline. At this point (in the true timeline), Gorkon is gaining followers (before ST VI). The Klingons use the slingshot technique of moving through time (Tomorrow Is Yesterday, etc.). Worf Sr. returns to his role as defense attorney with a thing for hopeless causes (ST VI), and this story explains how Kirk got a lawyer to defend him.

DIVERGENCES: See previous issues of this storyline. If Worf's ties to Kirk are explained, I'm not sure it fits Kor's future appearances as well.

PANEL OF THE DAY - Klingon classic radio
REVIEW: The big finish is something of a mixed bag. If we start with the bad, I have to mention the motivations of the Klingon time agents. Ok, you go back in time, make the Klingons peaceful and they (ideally) get crushed by the Romulans. And...? Who's gonna get the message? The leader you're trying to convince no longer exists, and neither does your Empire! I can see why the Romulans thought this was a good idea, but the Klingons? Ridiculous. But there's good here too. The Klingon warlord is a quite a little bit crazy, and it would have been fun to see even more of him. The twist of having Kor and Worf remember both timelines leads to interesting consequences. And the actions scenes are well set up.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cat of the Geek #12: Bast

Name: Bast (also spelled Ubasti, Baset and later, Bastet)
Stomping Grounds: Egyptian mythology; AD&D's Deities & Demigods AKA Legend & Lore
Side: of cats
Breed: Abyssinian (divine)
Cat Powers: Grant ambassadorial powers to all cats on Earth.
Skills: Eat 6, Sleep 3, Mischief 5, Wit 10, Divine Retribution 8
Cat Weaknesses: Chased by furry enthusiasts.
AD&D Stats:

Star Trek 964: Time Crime Part Four: Call Back Yesterday

964. Time Crime Part Four: Call Back Yesterday

PUBLICATION: Star Trek v.2 #56, DC Comics, January 1994

CREATORS: Howard Weinstein (writer), Rob Davis and Arne Starr (artists)

STARDATE: 8526.8 (follows the last issue)

PLOT: Spock identifies a new turning point in Klingon history that could account for its becoming peaceful, so Kirk and crew go back in time to save a Klingon warlord from dying in a plane crash. Kirk and Sulu show off their skills as airplane mechanics and are enlisted by the warlord, which gives them the chance to subdue a saboteur. When they try to bring him to the castle, they are thrown in jail until their story can be verified, leaving the field open for other saboteurs to complete the job...

CONTINUITY: See previous issues of this storyline.

DIVERGENCES: See previous issues of this storyline.

PANEL OF THE DAY - A Klingon barn
REVIEW: I'm not sure I quite understand the convoluted turning point Spock comes up with (a guy who had lots of Imperially-minded kids is never born because something and that something has to do with the dead warlord), and the appearance of Klingon time agents who may or may not be working for the same goal as the heroes doesn't get as much space as I would have liked. Kor and Worf are no longer needed to do "most of the talking" and most characters disappear while Kirk and Sulu do their thing alone. So this is definitely Time Crime's weakest chapter. Hopefully. I wouldn't want it to be its conclusion.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Who Rocks the Doctor?

Here's a precious find I made a few years ago, that I still go to occasionally: Whomix is a collection of literally dozens of fan-made remixes of the famous Doctor Who theme by Ron Grainer and Delia Derbyshire.You can listen to them on the site by clicking for the "bloggable" version, or you can download them directly to your machine for a proper playlist pleasure. I've had a few over the years, like Skaro or Bust v.2.0 and Who Rocks the Party That Rocks the Tardis, but lately, I've been looking for a theme tune for my attempt at the Doctor Who RPG. I almost always use soundtracks for my role-playing games, and with all the Doctor Who soundtracks I have, it'd be silly not to. Except I don't want the Doctor Who signature tune itself, it's too recognizable. Instead, I wanted something that you'd notice was the same song only late in the game. My choice: Unreal Who by Miguel F Ettema.

PLAY IT HERE

It has an 80s feel, lots of different movements I can imagine would be this or that part of the show (sad, running from danger, triumph, etc.), though I admit it's a bit long. It could definitely be The Shepherd's theme (yes, that's what we think we may be naming our Time Lord).

Post-Time War, I think Who Am I?, a sad song with lyrics, also works... Might work it in at some point.

Hope you find something you like!

Star Trek 963: Time Crime Part Three: Time... to Time!

963. Time Crime Part Three: Time... to Time!

PUBLICATION: Star Trek v.2 #55, DC Comics, December 1993

CREATORS: Howard Weinstein (writer), Rob Davis and Arne Starr (artists)

STARDATE: 8520.9 (follows the last issue)

PLOT: Kirk, Uhura, McCoy, Suku, Kor and Worf Sr. go back 700 years into Klingon history to make sure peacemaker Khartan is assassinated by his head guard. When the assassins are killed by a modern Klingon explosive, Worf takes matters into his own hands and snipes Khartan from a rooftop. The heroes return to the present only to be told by the Guardian that the timeline has not been restored and the Romulan Empire still doesn't exist...

CONTINUITY: See previous issues of this storyline. Before leaving, the crew spends some time on the aircraft carrier Enterprise (ST IV), now a naval museum.

DIVERGENCES: None aside from augment virus issues.

PANEL OF THE DAY - A Klingon horse
REVIEW: Continues to be a strong storyline! We meet Khartan, who is the Leonardo da Vinci of his world in addition to being a peacemaker, making it all the more cruel that his true place in history should be to die (the Guardian has a thing for that sort of historical character, it seems). And once he is dead, it seems like Worf made the ultimate sacrifice (the culture he has known) for nothing. Weinstein doesn't forget to give Kirk and David a proper farewell, and the good captain has a heroic moment when he defends Uhura from brutal guards. As for the Romulans, they're definitely not as guiltless as they appear to be. No doubt, they tried to change history with terrible results (it's Year of Hell before there was even a Voyager). A couple of chapters still left, but it looks like Weinstein finally wrote one I like.

Monday, July 27, 2009

LXP Returns!

In honor of my just having watched HBO's John Adams, I've brought back the League of Extraordinary Presidents for an appendix... a TV appendix. See, John Adams' place in history might just have been saved by the mini-series, but it's mostly be cemented in TV history. He's the newest in a line of television presidents that seem more witty and well-intentioned than the guys usually sitting in the White House. So for those who want to play LXP - the satirical role-playing game set in the world of U.S. and World politics gone awry - with the added glam of television (the only history we have left, some will say), here you go!

JOHN ADAMS
2nd President of the U.S.A.
Safe to say, there wouldn't be a United States of America today if not for John Adams' stubborness. He rubbed people the wrong way so much that in the end, they let him have his Declaration of Independence because it was easier than contradicting him. Few know that some eldritch energy was used in the fabrication of the ink used by some to sign that sacred document, magicks that sold off the After-life's right to the signer's soul. And so, John Adams can't die. He's the resident "rant" of the LXP. Use as grumpy comic relief or as your character of choice!
AURA: 5
FISTS: 2
GRIT: 18
CAN-DO SPIRIT: 17
Constitutional Power: His Abigail. Though a convincing speaker and ideas man, he would be nothing without his First Lady, the angelic ghost of whom advises him to this day. When John Adams is about to make a mistake, the GM must allow him to make a test of Can-Do Spirit. If he wins, she appears with crucial opinion and information.
Veto Power: 16

JED BARTLETT
42nd President of the U.S.A. on the West Wing
The former governor of New Hampshire is notable for one important thing: Serving his terms 2 years off every one else. How this absent-minded professor with the political instincts of a shark managed this is his greatest secret, but safe to say the America in his little time bubble seemed a lot more sincerely run than our own.
AURA: 17
FISTS: 4
GRIT: 12
CAN-DO SPIRIT: 13
Constitutional Power: Apocalypse Never. President Bartlett can dip into his pocket universe and pull out all manner of liberal policy with a simple test of Can-Do Spirit, or a well-spoken and entertaining Senior Counsel at -3. Watch out for the Mirror Republicans that sometimes escape it though!
Veto Power: 13

DAVID PALMER
43rd President of the U.S.A. on 24
Having faked his assassination and now sharing his schedule between a black ops unit and the LXP, President Palmer has never been a stranger to doing what he has to do to keep the Nation safe. After all, he's the guy who gave carte blanche to master torturer Jack Bauer.
AURA: 16
FISTS: 17
GRIT: 15
CAN-DO SPIRIT: 10
Constitutional Power: The Bourne Factor. No, not the title of the next movie, but that special quality that allows President Palmer to kick some serious, serious ass. We knew he had it the minute he put a baseball bat through his own SUV to prove a point. At any time, he can spend a Veto to use his Fists to resolve an Aura, Grit or Can-Do Spirit test.
Veto Power: 17

MACKENZIE ALLEN
44th President of the U.S.A. on Commander in Chief
What if McCain had been elected president and then died two years in? Well, Mackenzue Allen may be a relatively inexperienced Republican, but she's no Sarah Palin. And we mean that in a good way. Showing a lot of grit by going against her own party and not stepping down to let the Speaker of the House take the Oval, she was happily received as the League of Extraordinary Presidents' first female member. Now if she can only stop Kennedy and Clinton from hitting on her incessantly.
AURA: 9
FISTS: 8
GRIT: 15
CAN-DO SPIRIT: 14
Constitutional Power: The Power of True Grit. Just like President Palmer can use Fists to do anything, Mac can spend a Veto to use her Grit to resolve any kind of test, at +1 against a male opponent (or the World, really).
Veto Power: 10

We at LXP Games hope this supplement for the award-winning LXP RPG has been of use to you and that you will continue to support our products. Also on sale this month: The Flame That Burns Twice as Bright - from Garfield to Taylor; and Mars Attacks - an adventure scenario for President Nicholson or "Your-own-presidents".

Star Trek 962: Time Crime Part Two: Nightmares!

962. Time Crime Part Two: Nightmares!

PUBLICATION: Star Trek v.2 #54, DC Comics, November 1993

CREATORS: Howard Weinstein (writer), Rod Whigham and Arne Starr (artists)

STARDATE: 8516 (follows the last issue)

PLOT: After consulting the Guardian of Forever, Starfleet finds that the temporally displaced Romulans are telling the truth and the timeline HAS been changed. Kirk is faced with the dilemma of restoring a timeline that will kill his son and turn the Klingons from artists and scientists into warriors. In the end, both the Federation and Klingons agree they must fix history by going back in time 700 years and making sure the Klingon Confederation's founder, Khartan, is assassinated. The crew of the Enterprise and Kor are assigned to go through the Guardian...

CONTINUITY: See last issue. Alt-Kirk has Real-Kirk nightmares, i.e. the deaths of Edith Keeler (City on the Edge of Forever) and David Marcus (ST III). Alt-Kor is an ambassador (Errand of Mercy).

DIVERGENCES: Kor seems not to be rid of the Klingon augment virus (at this time, according to Flashback), even the TOS Klingons should be getting their forehead backs. Then again, in the alternate history, it's unlikely the augment virus would ever have been released in the first place. (The comics have it that there is more than one race of Klingons about.)

PANEL OF THE DAY - In our timeline, the thing on Kirk's mind is to his left.
REVIEW: I only found one problem with this issue, and it's that the time distortion doesn't have anything to do with Khaless. Usurping his place in Klingon myth/history would have been a more relevant twist than the invention of the previously unknown Khartan. Otherwise, it's a fine continuation of the alternate timeline story. Not only is Kirk in anguish over the sacrifices he will personally make so that the billions killed in the Romulan war may live, but so are others. Worf, for example, isn't happy about his people turning to war. The central idea is that while the new timeline has a genocide in it, it's also a more positive "present" than the real timeline. Which is morally more acceptable? Kor as a friend to Kirk should be interesting, and they probably shouldn't turn their backs on the time-tossed Romulans who might have some secret agenda. The art is also good, with Guardian-shaped panels making up Kirk's vivid dreams/memories, and nice background details like a picture of young David with his daddy, Jame T. Kirk.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

This Week in Geek (19-25/07/09)

Buys

Getting relatively low on my unread Doctor Who New Adventures, I picked up a few more from eBay. I had up until Conundrum, then First Frontier, so I procured myself the seven books in between. That would be: No Future, Tragedy Day, Legacy, Theatre of War, All-Consuming Fire, Blood Harvest and Strange England.

"Accomplishments"

DVDs: First, I flipped the HBO mini-series John Adams. Like most people, especially living outside the United States, I didn't know much about Adams beyond the fact that he was the second president of the USA. In fact, I knew a lot less about the American Revolution than I thought I did. Flawless performances by Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney and a truly authentic, unromanticized feel to the 18th century made this really special. You'll chuckle along with Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, you'll cry along with the Adams, and you might even want to read David McCullough's book it was adapted from. The extras include a bio piece on McCullough's life, a short but good making of featurette, and a text option with historical facts which are far too infrequent.


On Kung Fu Fridays, watched The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (originally released as Master Killer in the West, ridiculous since the lead character refuses to kill). A brilliant martial arts film that takes its time setting both the world and training of Shaolin, and pays off tremendously in the end. Gordon Liu keeps impressing me - LOVE the three-section staff - as does director Lau Kar-Leung and his policy of not cutting away until you've seen 8 to 16 moves in camera. Crazy. The commentary track by critic Andy Klein and the Wu Tang Clan's RZA is disappointing because it's mostly about appreciation, and less informative than usual. The making of (in Chinese) and interviews are better. Not sure what the live clip of the WTC is doing there though.


Finally, I flipped Attack of the Cybermen, largely because I wanted to make cards from it. If you don't know about this 6th Doctor/Peri adventure, it's no great loss. It's terrible. There are worse stories, but this is the kind that, the more you think about it, the more awful it becomes. (What's the opposite of "growing on you"?) Very badly written with unmotivated reactions, irrelevant characters and tasteless violence, it's at once continuity porn AND gets the continuity completely wrong. Often, the people involved in the production agree with the fanbase and don't mind telling us in commentary tracks and documentaries, and the like. They don't this time, defending Attack from criticism. The DVD also has a bit on Cybermen through the ages and features on a lead cybernetics professor that WILL CREEP YOU OUT.

Hyperion to a Satyr, entries this week include:
Act I Scene 1 according to Zeffirelli
Act I Scene 1 according to the BBC
Act I Scene 1 according to Kline

New Unauthorized Doctor Who CCG cards: 47, covering both Destiny of the Daleks and Attack of the Cybermen. That's what I call a bad Doctor Who marathon!

Someone Else's Post of the Week
One of my friends from my hometown (and fellow Whovian) has started a nice little sarcastic blog that points and laughs at news items every day. It's called Kraft Diner and Limonade (sic). Good luck with it, Joelle. And I don't want an iphone either.

Star Trek 961: Invincible Part II

961. Invincible Part II

PUBLICATION: Starfleet Corps of Engineers #8, Pocket eBooks, September 2001 (collected into print with S.C.E. ebooks #5-8 as Miracle Workers in February 2002)

CREATORS: Keith R.A. DeCandido and David Mack

STARDATE: 53283.1 (follows the last novel)

PLOT: As the death toll on Sarindar mounts, Sonya Gomez struggles to capture the "monster shii" preying on the camp, even as the Nalori senate shows no mercy and demands results. An autopsy on the first shii killed reveals these are actually synthetic creatures used by their former owners to hunt for food (animal cranial matter, explaining all the beheadings). While Gomez unsuccessfully attempts to communicate with the killer machine, most of the workers steal into the only ship and abandon her. Only the cowardly Razka remains behind, and together, they lure the creature to the dish and destroy it using its energy transmission capabilities. When Duffy finally comes to rescue her, she falls into his arms.

CONTINUITY: Same as the previous novel.

DIVERGENCES: None.

SCREENSHOT OF THE WEEK - The Gallamite doctor
REVIEW: The second part of Invincible is so action-packed as to be explicitly violent, with all but one of the guest characters killed with extreme prejudice. If the story had been told in one volume, their well-drawn profiles from Part I would have lent more weight to those deaths in Part II, though I can't really complain, having read them a week apart. If I'd waited two months for Part II though... The narration is again supplied by Gomez' logs and various letters, a great deal of it from Razka's pen. While Gomez completes a personal arc here, one that finally makes her accept Duffy's offer, Razka's is more extreme and complete - the coward who faces his fears and yet does not betray himself. It's the journey from coward to pacifist.

Next for the SBG Book Club: Planet of Judgment (TOS), Power Hungry (TNG), Warchild (DS9), The Riddled Post (SCE).

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Spaceknight Saturdays: Moonshot Week Finale

I couldn't have planned it better if I'd tried. All week, the SBG celebrated Apollo 11's historic landing on the moon the only way it knows how - with fluff pieces about the Moon and space travel in general. How fitting is it, then, that this week, Rom makes use of NASA? Indeed, the world's space agencies band together in a way they won't again until work starts on the International Space Station (this was 1985) to put a stop to the Dire Wraith threat once and for all.

And it wouldn't be possible without Forge's help. He built a Neutralizer the human race might use, but it doesn't work exactly the same as Rom's. Instead of throwing Wraiths down into Limbo, it simply neutralizes their magic, returning them and their pets back to their original shapes.
He still won't share it with the government, however, because it can be used against mutants and other super-humans. This makes Agent Gyrich really angry, but in any event, there's no way outfitting everyone with homebrewed neutralizers is going to help humanity stem the tide when "Worldmerge" is halfway here already. Thankfully, Forge thinks bigger and better. That's his mutant power.

Cut to Earth orbit and a fleet of the tiniest space shuttles you'll ever see:
The plan: Construct a giant Neutralizer lens that Rom can shoot his Neutralizer into and sweep all of Earth in a matter of minutes, sending every last stinking Wraith to Limbo in a single shot.
Can it be done? Not if the Wraiths have anything to say about it! Predictably, they've already turned a crew of astronauts into sludge and taken their places.
They're planning on sabotaging the weapon, of course, but Forge and Rom are onto them.
Thus starts an eldritch battle in outer space. The Wraiths deviate a small comet and make it chase Rom.
Meanwhile, they get medieval on Forge's ass.
Somehow, I think Earth-616's spacesuits are a little more resilient than ours, despite its cramped shuttles. Speaking of small, how 'bout that Canadian arm, eh?
Gyrich saves Forge (TWIST!) by using the atrophied shuttle arm like a tweezer. Meanwhile, Rom's led the comet on a merry chase before bringing it back to...
...the Wraiths' shuttle!

Are we finally poised to eradicate the alien presence from our world? Or will Wraithworld merge with Earth sooner than expected. The answer in seven days!

Star Trek 960: Time Crime Part 1

960. Time Crime Part 1

PUBLICATION: Star Trek v.2 #53, DC Comics, October 1993

CREATORS: Howard Weinstein (writer), Rod Whigham and Arne Starr (artists)

STARDATE: 8512.4 (around the time of this series' issue #13)

PLOT: The Enterprise tracks a temporal anomaly out of which comes a Romulan warbird. Except that isn't possible, because there hasn't been a Romulan Empire since they lost the war decades ago. The Romulans have slingshot back in time and found the timeline changed. The Klingons haven't been an aggressor species for the last 500 years and none of the classic Romulan or Klingon episodes ever happened. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, the Enterprise heads for the Guardian of Forever, the only objective observer of time...

CONTINUITY: In this alternate timeline, the original Enterprise was never destroyed, Sulu is still at the conn, Uhura is first officer, Spock and Saavik work together at Starfleet Command, David (ST II-III) is alive and working on the Guardian of Forever, and the science officer is Worf, the Worf from ST VI, that is. The time travel method used by the Romulans is well known to us since Tomorrow Is Yesterday. The new Federation President (ST VI) makes his first comic book appearance. Admiral Cartwright also appears. The Guardian of Forever is, of course, from The City on the Edge of Forever.

DIVERGENCES: David's hair is his father's brown in the this alternate timeline.

PANEL OF THE DAY - The Romulans got ships and the Klingons got a knife in the back at Khitomer.
REVIEW: I'm a sucker for parallel worlds, I am. Especially if they're well thought out. I don't know what pivotal moment was changed in Time Crime (likely something Klingon), but it's interesting to see the repercussions. Putting Worf's grandfather on the Enterprise is a stroke of genius, and it's plain the events of ST III never happened. Kirk never lost a ship and a son. I'm half hoping we'll get to see more back history for this world, only half because I don't necessarily need to have everything explained to me. Still, be nice to grasp why promotions fell differently there. A strong set-up then, obviously a reverse of Yesterday's Enterprise, but leading into a time travel story through the Guardian of Forever.

Friday, July 24, 2009

RPG Talk: The Game World's Satellite

It's still Moonshot Week here at the SBG, but how does that theme relate to role-playing games? Well, just as going to the Moon was a grand adventure, so can going to your game world's "satellite world". What that means depends entirely on you and your campaign.

The "Satellite World" is a world separate from your usual game world, but accessible from it, if only with difficulty. It may be another planet, a neighboring realm or something beyond the dimensional veil, but in any case, going there should seem like an at once daunting and exciting enterprise. When characters realize they have to go there, their minds should reel from both the adventure's potential and its difficulties. And indeed, getting there is half the challenge.

Where To?
More fantastical campaigns have an easier time of it. Whether its underpinnings are magical or scientific, every world can mount an expedition to another planet, a different plane of existence or even another time period. Without your feet having to leave the ground, there are still isolated lands that reputedly none of your countrymen have returned from or even reached. Think of Mordor or all those Lost Lands filled with dinosaurs, intact Incan cities and undersea realms that populate pulp fiction. In a straight, history-based campaign, like say a western, a country like France may seem so far away as to be another planet. And the GM can certainly make it seem that way to the hicks from Deadtown when they finally arrive after 8 weeks of sea-going hardship. More extreme yet, send them to Japan.

Of course, the GM has to "sell" his Satellite World to the players. Yes, sometimes it's clear. That Moon in the sky is just begging to be the "next frontier", for example. But you can't spring an expedition to Mordor on the players if none of them know that Mordor is this unattainable goal filled with bogeymen. Well, you can, but it won't feel like a Moonshot. Mordor has to be set up in advance, it's got to be the place everyone tells you not to go to, or that can't be found or reached. It's also possible to set things up more quickly, of course, like finding hints that the Earth is hollow and then making plans to visit its innards (Jules Verne remains an invaluable resource for this type of adventure).

Nomads Can Still Apply
So what if your campaign is already nomadic? You're already going places, exploring as a matter of course. Can there really be a "Satellite World" in that case? The expedition is never ending!

It's still possible. The Moon remains separate from the realms the characters travel, right? An expedition must still be mounted inside the present expedition if the goal is to be reached. What if the Satellite World is always around you, no matter where you go? The astral realm for example, or the microscopic world inside the atom or the human body, perhaps a wormhole to a crazy corner of the universe. Even just darkness. In your campaign world, no one goes out at night, until some clever adventurers decide to brave the shadows. Or just as in a more sedentary campaign, you can always have that chain of mountains that can't be climbed, with the Dark Realm behind it, always to be avoided or circumnavigated.

Why Go?
What would make the characters feel the need to visit the Satellite? Our own Moonshot was motivated by the fear another power would get there first. Certainly, the discovery of a MEANS (or partial means, make it an adventure, remember?) to get there is a trigger. Raise the stakes. It's hard to say if it would have mattered much if we had a "Red Moon" in the sky, but what if whoever breaks the time barrier first will be control the space-time continuum (or at least prevent the enemy from distorting history)? What if reaching Barsoom gives you first shot at an alliance with the Martians? And of course, you can use any carrot or stick that's worked for you in moving characters to other climes: kidnapped princesses, the promise of riches, an escaping villain, etc.

If you've hyped the Satellite World well, getting there will be a reward in and of itself... and then they have to find a way back! Or did you make them go for a more permanent change of venue? You sneaky devil...

Star Trek 959: Epic Proportions

959. Epic Proportions

PUBLICATION: Star Trek v.2 #52, DC Comics, September 1993

CREATORS: Diane Duane (writer), Rod Whigham and Arne Starr (artists)

STARDATE: 8752.5 (follows the last issue)

PLOT: The big three are asked to initiate first contact with the Atyansa specifically because they are part of the planet's prophecies. Seems like they were always meant to go on an important quest there. They make it up a mountain, defeating projections along the way, and find their way inside where they meet the living computer that forecast their appearance thanks to "tachyonic data". It asks for the Federation to restore its data banks and redeliver the wisdom of the ancients to the Atyansa. Meanwhile, Scotty stymies the Klingons by jamming their transporter beam, though ultimately it's the computer that slingshots the Klingon battlecruiser away.

CONTINUITY: Among the landing party's hallucinations, we see a Mugato (A Private Little War), a Gorn (Arena), a Talosian (The Cage) and the salt-sucker from The Man Trap.

DIVERGENCES: First contact procedures must have changed between Kirk's time and TNG, because the Atyansa only have 16th-century-level technology. Scotty refers to himself as a Lt. Commander, but wears a Captain's uniform.

PANEL OF THE DAY - "Word gets around."
REVIEW: Diane Duane guest-writes this odd story that, quite simply, doesn't work. The characters are supposed to find it strange to find themselves folk heroes of a people they've never even met, but all they do is go up a hill and get the premise explained to them. The title's "epic proportions" just aren't there. Nor is the science (and the computer's plan) very believable. Perhaps a longer set-up could have helped sell the premise. Scotty does get a good role standing up to a Klingon battlecruiser and using his wits to defeat it, and the dialogue is generally bubblier than Weinstein's usual fare, but a disappointment based on Duane's other work.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Top 5 Spaceships From Comics

Tuesday, it was all about spaceships from movies and tv, but as I was compiling my list, I kept thinking about great spaceships from comics. Instead of enlarging the criteria for tv/movie ships, I decided comic book ships deserved their own post. I mean, check these out!

5. XB 982 (Valérian) I don't know how many Yanks know about the adventures of Valerian, space-time agent, and his lovely assistant Laureline, but I've always been enchanted by Christin and Mézières' imaginative sci-fi series. The XB 982 is definitely in the Millenium Falcon mold, though it predates Star Wars by about 8 years, and thanks to its ability to jump through both space AND time, it's a TARDIS with style and a bay window.

4. Brainiac's skull ship (DC Comics)
You gotta respect Brainiac's massive ego. His ship is in the shape of his own HEAD. With tentacles. And there's nothing that can't be made better by tentacles (except Japanese romance comics).

3. Galactus' ship (Marvel Comics)
I quite like its moebius loop, "infinity" shape, but it's the fact it's the size of a solar system that does it for me. They say we can see the International Space Station from Earth with the naked eye. Well...

2. Scuttlebutt (Marvel Comics)
Beta Ray Bill, the alien goat version of Thor, has only one companion - this flying, talking warship. In the style of many an anime spaceship, it nonetheless distinguished itself by being drawn by Walt Simonson. So you know it usually comes accompanied by the bestest sound effects.

1. Lunar rocket (Tintin)
On the Moon a good 11 years before Apollo 11, the rocket that brought Tintin to our satellite and back is an iconic beauty. Not only does it have a great retro look and an awesome paint job, but it's the only lunar craft that comes with equipped with a spacesuit specifically designed for man's best friend. And after a good golf game, really, what else would man want to do on the Moon, but take a walk with his dog and cruelly perhaps, make him fetch.

Perhaps you have other sequential art favorites. You know how to leave a comment.

Star Trek 958: Renegade

958. Renegade

PUBLICATION: Star Trek v.2 #51, DC Comics, August 1993

CREATORS: Dan Mishkin (writer), Deryl Skelton, Steve Carr, and Arne Starr (artists)

STARDATE: 8748.4 (follows the last issue)

PLOT: Saavik is sent undercover in Romulan space to retrieve a defecting scientist selling them secret technology. He believes peace can only come from balancing the two powers and as he and Saavik are being chased, tries to seduce her both politically and romantically. It was the hope of the Romulans they could turn Saavik, but she discovers the scientist's deception and escapes Romulan space. The Romulans then activate a lethal implant that kills the scientist.

CONTINUITY: Reference is made to Saavik's half-Romulan heritage (ST II's script).

DIVERGENCES: None.

PANEL OF THE DAY - Let's play Spot-the-Skrull!
REVIEW: On the one hand, it's a good Saavik solo story that uses her character well. On the other, I find it hard to believe in the scientist's motives. How he could actually think Romulus is on the side of the angels and Starfleet are the bad guys requires more suspension of disbelief than warp speed or transporters. Thankfully, what first reads as melodrama is part of the deception, redeeming much of the tale. I'd like to see Mishkin do more Star Trek based on this. As for the Skelton/Carr penciling team, I don't know who's responsible for what, but it's fair to say the art has a split personality. The anatomy and likenesses are often rushed and unprofessional, and yet there's a lot of dynamic movement. I liked it more than I disliked it, in fact, but it's like looking at someone who knows what to do in theory, but has no practice with execution.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cat of the Geek #11: Luna

Name: Luna (Japanese: Runa)
Stomping Grounds: Sailor Moon (manga, anime, live-action series and stage musical)
Side: Good
Breed: Guardian Cat
Cat Powers: Make hokey super-powered jewelry appear out of thin air. Immortal counsel to the Sailor Scouts. Has a cute human form.
Skills: Eat 2, Sleep 4, Mischief 2, Wit 6, Anime Emote 8
Cat Weaknesses: Attached to a bratty reincarnation of her former mistress.