Comic Books Part I: Story Arcs

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Comic Books, Part I: Story Arcs

If you are anything like me, you love comic books. Everything about them makes you happy. The heroes, the villains, the regular folks, and even the (or more importantly) stories. So I decided to talk about what draws me to certain comic books or comic lines. We are going to start with this part discussing Story Arcs.

Story arcs are the most important part of the comic for me. The characters can be great, and the villains can be compelling, but if the story sucks, then *yawn*. That is why I find so much of modern comics boring. They don’t seem to have the same flair as the stuff I grew up with. Not that there are not good stories out there (Court of Owls comes to mind), but most of it is just middling.

Some of the best stories that I grew up with came from Marvel in the mid-1990s. Phalanx Covenant, X-Cutioner’s Song, Age of Apocalypse, The Infinity Gauntlet, Fatal Attractions, and Infinity War all come to mind (and yes, most of these were X-Men events!). As you can also see, I was heavily influenced by the X-Men TV series from 1993 (who wasn’t!?). But what made these so cool to me?

Well there are three things:

  1. Compelling Heroes and Villains–  The Heroes and Villains were very well defined and furthered the story line. None of the people involved felt forced or felt like there was no reason for them to be there.  As stated above, compelling heroes and villains don’t make good stories, but they sure as hell can make a better one.
  2. Detailed stories– The stories don’t feel shallow or short. Many of them are what are called “cross-over events” that involve several different teams or heroes. Take the Infinity Gauntlet, it wound up taking three cross-over events to settle that in totality. A lot of the newer cross-overs take way too little to tell the story (the new Secret Wars being the exception).
  3. No agenda behind them– There is no agenda behind much of the 1990s stories that caused me to fall in love with comics. Nobody wants to read a comic telling them what to think (or most anyways). Comics are designed to help escape and be entertaining. Even the few that had a message were not ideologically driven. They told their stories and messages with a touch that didn’t exclude people nor make anyone feel like the publisher didn’t like them. Some of the newer cross-overs have turned into political talking points, and they have demonized people with whom they disagreed with. I mean, having Kitty Pride attack a thinly veiled head of the Heritage Foundation was kinda crappy.

All of that being said, everyone will have different reasons for reading a story. You may disagree with point #3, and that is fine. You don’t have to agree. I am simply stating why I love comics and what drew me to them in the first place. We welcome comments on why you first came into comics and in particular the story lines. As always guys follow the three rules:

No Ad Hominem Attacks
No making fun of someone else’s race/religion/creed/ect

No being a dick

Using Time in an RPG

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Time is an important part of gaming. It is so important that it is often divided into several different types. For example, Dungeons and Dragons uses Rounds, Actions, Down Time, and even general Time. What is the difference and why does it matter? Well, simply put, the issue of time can be vital because of how it impacts the story.

How do you use time in an RPG to advance a story? Well, if you are me (and you are asking me, or at least reading my opinion) you do it in four major ways:

1. Time is a pressure to keep the players moving and acting.

The concept of time, for me, is best used to ensure that the players (or rather characters) don’t dawdle.  Making them move along or getting them to understand that something will happen in “48 hours” or “the guards will be here in sixty seconds” is the primary driver. You can’t spend forever at a door deciding to enter it if you only have sixty seconds. You also can’t waste time if you get a note saying that they will kill the princess in two days. Time becomes a valuable asset in those cases.

2. Time is a measure of success 

How fast can you get to the princess? How much damage can be done by the opposing army if you take your time? These questions deserve answers. Not only do you need to know how much time you have, there are things that happen in the background. The Evil Overlord isn’t sitting on his thumb and spinning while you come to attack his tower. You must be able to determine what happens during the passage of time.

3. Time is a tool for tracking

Time is not only good for knowing what is going on when. It is also a great tool for tracking. How many days ago did you get that note? When did that poison get into your system? Time is how you track that. I got Mummy Rot three days ago (or 36 hours), so that would be 4 checks (going on 5). They said 48 hours to get the money to them, and we have been on the move for 21. That leaves us 27 hours to accomplish the mission. Tracking what you are doing is vital to the game.

4. Time is a great equalizer 

Not only can you use time to track, measure success, and move the story along, but you can also equalize things with it. If you want to know how to do this, it is simple enough. Time can run out. You fail to save the princess. You die of a disease. The BBEG gets his plan rolled out. Don’t be afraid to do this. Make the players suffer for their mistakes, and for dragging their feet.

Old Modules!

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So, here we are again. The blog keeps refusing to die! Okay, not really, but it does get treated like the dog that only shows up when you leave trash on the front porch. That being said, I am back for this limited time engagement. So what is this all about? Old modules, of course!

Old modules have a great place in our hobby. Everything from OD&D modules to the newest modules have brought a great set of story lines to our hobby, and often they bring it with a sense of wonderment. So, why am I focusing on older modules? For the following reasons:

1. Old modules are some of the best materials I have ever fooled around with. Take the above picture. The DL modules led to the creation (or at least aided in) of one of the best novel series (in my opinion) of all time. They give us some great stories, villains, heroes (for those with pre-generated characters), and even locations. Hommelt is classic, and it all started with Temple of Elemental Evil. Venca is a dirty bastard because he is who he is (thanks to Bruce Cordell for that!). The Hickmans brought us Strahd. So often we think of modules as something that is not creative. It can be the opposite a lot of the times.

2. Old modules bring about a ton of nostalgia. There is nothing wrong with going back and experiencing what made you fall in love with gaming in the first place.

3. Old modules seem to be better put together than modern ones. While I have a lot of love for some modern modules (looking at Beyond the Rim here!), I have seen what a master writer can do when he is given the reins. Cordell, “Zeb” Cook, Monte Cook, Bill Slavicsek, and others have made sure that some things are burned into our minds. For that matter, they have created some down right evil things.

 

So what modules  do I suggest? Here is a short list:

–Dragons of… (The DL Series)

–Paladin in Hell

–Dead Gods

–Klick Klack (Alternity)

–The Killing Jar (Alternity)

–Mask of Nyarlthrotep (CoC)

–Horror on the Orient Express (CoC)

–D1-Q1 (AKA Queen of the Spiders)

–Giovanni Chronicles (V:tM)

–River Running (MERP)

–A Fragile Peace (LUG Trek)

 

Feel free to tell me your favorite old module, and if you feel up to it, why! As always don’t be a jerk about it, and respect one another (as best as you can!). We hope to see you around the game table.

WE ARE BACK!

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Alas, after a much too long hiatus we are back! Amazing what happens when life gets hectic and unable to be contained. School is done (yay, a BS in Justice Studies with a Concentration in Law & Process) and we are ready to get back to doing gaming stuff. In fact, we already have one game getting ready to start up in March. We are also starting the process of associating with The Society of Extraordinary Gamers (Extraordinarygamers.net).

We are also doing four events at MACE West (http://www.justusproductions.com/category/justus-events/mace-west/). We will be doing an Edge of the Empire game and a Star Wars Armada demo on Friday; Saturday will be Dark*Matter, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, and Call of Cthulhu 7th edition; Sunday will be Edge of the Empire (run by yours truly) and Numenera (red is our events).

We also will be redoing the Podcast, and placing it on SoundCloud. More information will be available as we get it done. We hope that you stay with us, and we hope to bring you plenty to think about as we go forward!

Cultures in Gaming

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Okay, this is straight click-bait headlining! First, sorry for the long delay in our posting. In between school, recording videos, and running games we have been busy (check out our Youtube for more!). Second, we have been developing a few new things (mostly some shop work on our already made property). Last, we are getting back, so get used to it!.

First things first, this is not meant to be take-down on culture. With that being said, here we go:

Cultures impact on gaming–

Cultures impact gaming in a three-fold way. While this may seem over-simplistic, it is correct on a meta-level. So, what are these folds? Simple:

1. Grows the feel of the game: Having different cultures can make a game feel more real. It gets real boring if every culture in the game feels like stock fantasy. Take, for example, dwarves. If everyone of them feels like Gimli from Lord of the Rings then no one will care about the rest of your meta. They will assume that they are simple. Instead you should create a rich background and healthy world-view for them. Give them life, and it can make people take a second chance on your game world.

2.Grows the meta: Cultural differences can make the meta feel like a real world. Take the Forgotten Realms. The Dwarves have a super deep lore. So do the Elves, Drow, and other races. It sucks you into the world itself. The events, the characters, and the Pantheon become much more important when the cultures have true differences.

3.Grows the feel of play: Cultures can make your play experience different and more lively. Take games like 7th Sea. If you dig into the cultures then you see how they should be played. They feel different, and play different. A Vodacce is much different from an Avalonian.

As always guys and gals, tell us what you think. Just don’t be a dick about it!

#RPGaDay 2016 is coming

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Hi ladies and gents! Been a while since I have had anything to say, but I am back! We are going to do #RPGaDay again this year (check our archives for last year’s). It starts in a scant 11 days, so we will be doing videos and blog postings about it. Hope you guys are getting ready. I hope that some of you are going to participate this year as well. Feel free to grab the image from above to see what the questions are.

A Christian Gamer’s Perspective (or How to be Religious, and still a gamer)

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Hi guys and gals,

Today I wanted to bring up a five point defense of how Christian (or other religious) gamers feel in the tabletop community. As anyone can tell you, the growth of atheism or agnosticism has pushed (or at least made it feel that way!) religious gamers to the margins of gaming. Knowing that, in reality, gaming is a vast, complex, and diverse community, I feel the need to discuss how being religious can be challenging, and how the religious gamer can feel right at home:

(1). Ignore attacks or jokes

Ignore anyone who tries to attack your faith. I have been in Google Hangouts, games, or even at my FLGS when the jokes and hate start. “Christians (or the religious) are stupid! Let’s all laugh at them!”

This is hard to ignore, because how you worship is a personal issue. What you believe doesn’t have any (or rather, shouldn’t have) effect on your ability to game. Don’t get me wrong, there are things I avoid (as I have discussed before), but I don’t ever try to force that on others.

On the same side of this, don’t ever make attacks or jokes against another religion. If that would make you feel uncomfortable, then it is likely that it would do the same to others. Play by the rule: “Don’t do something to someone that you wouldn’t want done to you.”

(2). Be aware of what makes you uncomfortable

So, what makes a Christian uncomfortable? Well, in truth it varies from person to person. I, for example, will not play games like Nephilim or Demon: The Fallen. I have personal foibles with invoking demons. If you can do so, don’t let me stop you.

Being aware of what makes you uncomfortable makes it easier to discuss it with your table. It makes it easier to walk away from a table to is making you so. No one has to live by your standards (and you shouldn’t expect them to), but you should stick by your principles.

(3). Stand your ground

Do not let others chase you off of your hobby. If they want to attack or joke (with the intent to hurt or make you uncomfortable), then stand your ground. Know what you believe, and then defend it. If others can’t handle that, then you don’t need them in your life. There are plenty of gamers out there who will respect you no matter what.

(4). Find a Table that Respects you

This goes right together with the previous statement. Don’t stay at a table or in a group that hates you for being religious. They can make your life toxic, and can make you doubt things that they have no reason to doubt. Why does it matter to them if you follow the Flying Spaghetti Monster? People who respect you will give you a much better gaming experience.

(5). Be who and what you are!

Never stop being who you are. If you believe in God, then do so. If you don’t, then the same goes for you. Don’t stop being a Christian (or other religious person) because you feel it is the only way you will feel at home. Keep your principles at the front and center of your life. If someone demands that you change to meet their standards, they aren’t worth being around.

Guys, we welcome your comments. In this case, we will delete any comments that are directed at ANY faith or belief structure. These guidelines apply to other circumstances, but in the case of religious players, they apply double time. It does feel that many gamers are not religious. This is fine, and in fact I will never ask that you change (not that you should care what I think). With the onslaught of (or rise of) non-religion in our culture I felt this was important so that those who do believe in a God (or gods, or nothing) had a voice. They deserve to know that someone out there understands the issue. As always guys, don’t be a dick!

Review: Codex of Heroes

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Hello again guys and gals,

This week we are going to be doing a review! I am going to tackle the Codex of Heroes for the Arcanis: World of Shattered Empires RPG. This is a great splat book, and adds quite a bit of detail to the game. So without further ado, here is the review!

Overview: 

This is a well laid out 186 page book. The binding is strong, and the art is good. We would not be doing our jobs if we don’t mention that some of the art is reused from other sources. Doesn’t make it bad, but it does get frustrating from a design layout. Overall, the book adds quite a bit to the game, which we will cover below.

Codex of Whispers

This codex covers secret societies and guilds. This is a great section, since they don’t get a great treatment in the core rules. This section has a general layout that follows the following:
NAME
This is just what it sounds like! 
GOALS
This is the general goals that the group will set out to complete.
ACHIEVING THE GOAL
This is how the group will generally go about completing the goals.
ORGANIZATION
The hierarchy and structure of the society.
HEADQUARTERS AND SAFE HOUSES
Where the organization keeps its main HQ and what the safe houses are like.
JOINING
How to join the group.
ALLIES AND ENEMIES
Who the group likes and hates (and in return likes and hates them!).

So, who are these groups? There are 7 Secret Societies:

The Champions of the Silver Chalice: These guys are a group of paladin like crusaders who seek to keep back the dark, in regards to the final wish of King Osric (who died in the Sixth Crusade of Light).

Emerald Society: These guys seek to renew the secrets of the past so that they can enlighten those who live now and in the future.

The Feather Men: Wetwork, theft, planting evidence, or just about anything that you can imagine doing from a Thieve’s Guild (even though that is not what they are known as). The best way to put it is “If one were to draw a dot for every act that can be attributed to the organization on a piece of paper, no discernable picture would appear.”

Followers of the Azure Way: These guys are a group of masons who have taken it upon themselves to rebuild the ancient roadways and byways that made up the First Imperium.

The Laerestri: These Elorii plot and plan ways to stop humanity from becoming united. They are afraid that united humans could overtake the Elorii and destroy them.

The Mourners in Silence: These guys are suppose to empower mankind by setting it free from the shackles of superstition.

The Orthodoxy: These men worship the pantheon as a whole, as opposed to individual gods. This is a throwback to the time of the Golden Age of Man.

The Sanctorum of the Arcane: These members defend the gifted from the harvesters of Ymandragore.

This chapter closes out with a good set of rules on Renown and Faction. This includes how to move up in the group and how to grant those rewards from the GMs side of the screen.

Codex of Heroes

This section starts out with a good overview of the process involved in creating an Arcanis hero. It goes into the “20 Questions” (although they only use 10) that many RPG use to help develop a character.

The Codex adds three new races to the mix as well: Ashen Hide Ss’ressen, Ghost Scale Ss’ressen, Undir. These races are awesome, and help to flesh out some of the information about areas that are glossed over in the core. You find out more about the Ss’ressen that live in the Human lands (rather than in the more traditional clutches!) and you discover more about the Kio through the Undir, who are de facto slaves.

The book adds plenty of new backgrounds (everything from a Crusader of the 5th/6th Crusade of Light to a Veteran of the Altherian War). It also adds in some really cool new uses for skills. Again, this is all added onto the base in the core rules.

New Flaws and Talents take up quite a big chunk of this section. They add quite a few cool new ones. This includes adding in the Talent to take fighting styles, which is added into this section as well.

There is a handful of new pieces of equipment in there as well. The biggest part of equipment is the addition of Herbs and their uses. This does explain the use of poison as well.

Maneuvers get their own section in this section as well, adding some cool new ways to pull off tricks.

The last part of this section is a slew of new Paths.

Codex of Magic

This section adds bunches of new spells! It also adds in two new traditions: Blood and Pantheonistic (Priest of Sarish gain Blood magic and Orthodoxy members gain Pantheonistic).

This is really the meat of this section!

Codex of Faith

This section details how the faiths are practiced. It tells a little about the god, what their sphere of influence is, what their temple is like, and what the role of the priests are. Over all this is a great section for anyone playing a divine caster or a GM wanting to run a game based heavily on the divine.

Overall

This is a great book. It suffers from the same problem as the other Arcanis books, and that is that it is not cross-referenced very well. If you see that a talent has a prerequisite then you must check on the other requirements to make sure that they don’t have requirements of their own.  This can be fixed in two ways: an Omnidex or by simply putting in that information in future publications. I am going to give this book 4/5 for design and 3/5 for layout.

 

Free RPG Day Live Blog

Hey guys and gals,

 

Here we are at my local FLGS, getting ready to run through “The Derelict”, an adventure for Call of Cthulhu 7th edition. We intend to keep you up to date with adventure information, game information, and general fun! Watch this page for more updates throughout the day.

UPDATE 11:50 am: The Delilah is a 95 foot motor yacht accommodating up to 10 people in luxury. It cruises at 20 knots with a max speed of 22 knots. This is the ship that the PC investigators will start on.

UPDATE 12 pm: Starting the adventure here in a few minutes. Have 4 players at the table, and am ready to see how everything goes. Will give you periodic updates as the game progresses. Let’s see how many investigators I can send crazy or kill!

UPDATE 12:27 pm: Game started. The group has just loaded onto the Groenland Tropisch.

UPDATE 12:43 pm: Group has found a severed hand and drag marks next to blood that was frozen. First reaction was “What the fuck was that!?”

UPDATE 13:13: Players have found a room that looks like a Jackson Pollard painting made of blood.

UPDATE 13:47: Found the body of Thorolf Lofgren. Of course they are more confused than before they found the body.

UPDATE 14:02: Radio room and wheelhouse have been found destroyed. Group wants to go back to their ship. Let’s see what happens!

UPDATE 14:15: One dead crew member later, the crew is going back to the Delilah to find out what is going on.

UPDATE 14:34: Fighting the Sciapod.

UPDATE 14:46: Killed my first investigator! Eaten alive by the Sciapod!

UPDATE 14:52: Going fishing for a Cthluhu mythos creature by using  a corpse and a crane!

UPDATE 15:00: They beat it! Good job from the players. Paul Maplesden, Alan and Jo Gratz, Jonanthan Cook.

UPDATE 17:00: Playing Savage Kingdoms, run by Bobby Ray.

UPDATE 17:26: Fight between two PCs. One of them is choking out the other.

UPDATE 17:44: “You are not getting a camel based on what happened last time.”

UPDATE 18:11: Fight with bandits! Skewer them in the face, and the line “Had fertilizer been spilled here lately?”

UPDATE 18:24: Where there was once white fur, there is red.

UPDATE 18:45: Help! Help! I’m being repressed!
Had a player treating the gentry like dirt and made me think of that line.
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UPDATE 19:23: Shot an enemy with a blow dart with a 54 on the dice. One massive shot in the face later, and a poison dart, and we have one less captain of the enemy “guard”. tumblr_mcwb1ro5Hq1r7bjavo1_500

UPDATE 19:56: One of the players rolled to kill someone with his claws and made the to-hit at 42. Nothing like snuffing out someone on the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything!

UPDATE 20:11: Bobby is simply mad about the 54 earlier.

UPDATE 20:52: In the final combat!

UPDATE 22:16: Game day is completed. Great day, and great people. Thanks to everyone who played in, and with, me in both games!