Friday, July 29, 2011

Starship Crash - the horrible fate of the Silver Princess

The characters boarded the passenger ship “Silver Princess” after a few drinks at the space port outdoor cantina. After having mixed it up with murderous outback poachers, space port gangsters and thugs, and a Darkside Marauder, the group was looking forward to a short 10-hour trip to the remote planet of Dantooine, where their two Jedi comrades had already left for a few days prior. The party had a spacious passenger lounge to themselves (there were several such lounges on the ship), and after liftoff they settled in with their datapads to connect to the media center to pass the time.

Several hours into the journey warning alerts sounded, and the ship’s captain’s intercom voice commanded all passengers to strap into the landing seats near the center of the room until further notice. Soon, the vessel rocked from an explosion within the ship, and the captain announced that the escape pod bay had been destroyed by a mysterious blast. There would be no escape from whatever was going on.

Within moments more explosions were felt. The combat veterans of the group knew that ships were assaulting the Silver Princess, and panic set in when the blast doors to the room dropped with a smash. Kruk the Feeorin veteran of the Mandalorian War unstrapped from his seat in an attempt to reach the weapons locker, but found himself flailing around the room, bouncing off the walls, as the ship took a brutal shellacking from the attackers. Beaten and bruised and lucky to not have broken any bones, Kruk got back to his seat.

Soon the attacks stopped. Were they safe? Not by a longshot; the characters hearts sank as they realized the beaten ship was awkwardly entering a planetary atmosphere at frighteningly higher speeds than was normal. With various alarms still sounding, they found themselves pushed back into their seats by the momentum of the dive, and started feeling the air grow thin and hot. The life support systems were failing. They knew there was no way to survive this, as the lack of air and the heat mercifully eased them into unconsciousness. When the Silver Princess hit planet side, there would be no fear and pain.

In the hilly grassland of Dantooine below, the young Jedis Rokran and Lucia were on patrol in a speeder piloted by Cisco Patelli, a teenage son of settlers who did odd jobs for the Jedi Enclave. As they took a break and Cisco heated up a hearty Ibez stew with his camping gear, both Jedi sensed great coming of mass death from nearby. Looking skyward, they saw a flash and heard a boom, and realized a large starship was breaking through the afternoon clouds on a crash course for the planet. Blazing down at an angle, the crippled ship disappeared behind nearby hills, and with a sickening bang and shaking of the earth, a huge fireball shot up, and a huge wall of fire appeared beyond the hills, marking the skidding of the flaming wreck across more than a mile of landscape.

Rushing to the speeder, young Cisco fired it up as the Jedi leaped aboard, and they shot off for the area beyond the hills. As they rounded the gentle slopes of the foothills, they came around the flaming blast area and saw the long and wide trench created by the crash, and beyond that the main portions of the middle and forward sections of the craft lay in a huge heap of infernal wreckage, flames wisping up towards the sky. They knew there could be no survivors…

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Talisman – visiting an old friend

Last week we were short a couple of players, and even though I was willing to have a go of KOTOR with who we had, Terry had been talking up the old Talisman game a lot in the last couple of weeks for some reason, so we went ahead and played it with four of us over at Andy’s. It was me, Paul, Andy, and Terry.

I’ve known Terry for over 20 years. When I first started going to and working at California Renaissance Faires around 1989, my buddy who went with me to get a job there for the first time eventually hooked up with Terry, who worked at a costume booth and we stayed friends after the rather brutal break-up. Terry lived in a nice condo with another Faire person, Lisa, right above the Hollywood Bowl, and I used to hang out there a lot. You could go behind the condo building, hike for a couple of minutes across a field, and find yourself in a spot where you could see part of the stage, and hear whatever was going on there perfectly. That was kind of cool.

Lisa had this huge comic book collection, and the living room hallway had long shelves where she kept them. Paradise to me. I was there so much, you’d have thought I was going out with Lisa, but despite her drunken, clumsy advances one late night I had no interest in romance with the lady. What I was interested in was reading the comics, and playing the two boardgames she had copies of; Blood Bowl, and Talisman.

We all got pretty addicted to Talisman. It was the 2nd edition, and she had both the Dungeon and City expansions, so these tended to be loooooong sessions.

I got my own beat-up copy during the 90’s for a song, but really only had the chance to pull it out and play every 4-5 years. The last time was around 2003, I think. So anyway, Terry brought a copy she had picked up at some point, and it turned out to be a later version with plastic mini’s instead of the cardboard stand-ups. I thought it was all good, because Terry not having any of the expansions for that meant we had a chance of finishing it that night, which we did.

Everybody had cool rangers and barbarians and the like, but I got stuck with the one very lame characters; the Goblin Fanatic. It actually had OK abilities, but the figure was so lame. It used a wrecking ball for some reason (by this version of the game it had been remade a bit to look and fit more with the Warhammer Universe), and the mini had a hard time staying upright. Constantly falling over. Getting stuck with this mort made me feel like I got last choice at a convention D&D game preroll character or something. Ugh. Even in Talisman I like to connect with a character to some degree, but eventually I was just looking forward to the game being over. And Terry eventually won with the Ranger.

I for sure would like to use my older version, with expansions, next time, but that can often lead to a several hour game so who knows. I had some fun, but really, I kind of wish we had used the evening to do some RPG action whatever it was. I think as with a lot of things, my desire to play some Talisman that night had more to do with nostalgia for past games than for a great desire to use it as an alternative when the full group is scarce. I think Andy and Paul liked it a lot though, so I may just be playing again before too long. But if I get the Goblin Fanatic again, I’ll make sure I die quick this time.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Talkin' Smack to Hitler

In honor of the repellant Hugo Weaving playing the repellant Red Skull in the Captain America movie, here’s a couple of favorite scenes of mine from Super Villain Team-Up #16.

Few Marvel villains were eviler than Red Skull. He was a bad guy who was chosen to be a bad guy, and he embraced it, and the hollow promises of the Third (and Fourth, and Fifth, etc…) Reich. A bellboy whom Shicklegruber pulled from obscurity to prove to his toadies that he could create an Aryan superman practically from thin air, he exceeded all of that rat fink Adolph’s expectations.

Marvel may never have presented a splash page as truly heinous. Two hoity toity pricks enjoying a feast while prisoners starve below.

And The Skulls thinly veiled insults at the Hate Monger have a special resonance when you realize HM is Hitler himself. Few could speak to Der Farting Fuehrer in such a manner, but The Red Skull feared no man. He will very much come to life with Hugo in the wheelhouse.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A KOTOR cast of characters

IMHO, interesting and varied characters add greatly to the gaming experience no matter what game you play. Star Wars, or more specifically Knights of The Old Republic, is no exception (just go easy on the “Muppet” races). Here are the characters that are in my current campaign. Not a goddamn Muppet in sight (unless you count the Wookie. But he’s kind of an evil Wookie).

Garvin (Paul): is a Khil (bald and having many tentacles hanging from his face that sound like chimes when he talks). Garvin is of the Noble class, and his wealth talent has him raking in the cash (something like 5000 creds each level he gains). He is also a Force User. I started him out as a college acquaintance of my major, regularly appearing NPC.

Kruk (Andy): is a Feeorin (big and strong guys with dreadlocks like The Predator). Kruk is a Mandalorian from the recent wars, although he hasn’t admitted such to the other players. He is a Soldier class that Andy is meticulously choosing combat skills for, making him a run n’ gun type commando fighter. Fairly anti-social to others outside the immediate group, he has his item shopping and other errands done by other characters because he doesn’t trust himself not to put the hurt on some shoppie who talks to him wrong. I had thought Andy was going to run this guy as less of an asshole Mandalorian for some reason, but he has proven to be fairly cold blooded, killing a foe who had surrendered and was prone on the ground. I expect more brutal violence from this character in the future. BTW, this was the type of character I was hoping for in the campaign; something aiming it more at hard Sci Fi than just another dopey Star Wars storyline.

Totha (Little Ben): is a Bothan Scoundrel (goat dudes) and general agent for the Bothan Spynet. He travels around looking for interesting tidbits to report to the ‘net. Is an excellent shot and so far seems not to miss what he aims for. A Bothan spy is kind of handy for the GM; he is constantly feeing info to his superiors, and gaining info from them in return. Macguffins can be easily inserted in the game this way.

Rookieen (Dan): is a Wookie soldier, but is no “nice guy” like Chewbacca. So far the rumor is that Rookieen has worked as a slaver capturing his own kind. Yep, a Wookie traitor (Wookies are a slave race during this time period). Rookieen is a typical Dan “The Power Game Man” character; arrogant, anti-social, and prone to violence. With Kruk the Mandalorian and this evil Wookie around, I expect to throw lots of combat the groups way. Combat is hella fun in this system. Not a ton of room for abstraction, which is a nice break from AD&D old school.

Rokran (Big Ben): is a 20-year old Zabrak (Darth Maul’s race) Jedi from Coruscant. Like Andy, Ben is leaning towards well-studied optimization, become powerful fairly quickly through his (somewhat broken) Jedi powers .

Lucia (Terry): a 15 year old Cathar (cat people) Jedi, who was sent to the Dantooine Enclave as a child after the brutal attacks and atrocities of the Mandalorians several years ago. Sort of a Jedi bumpkin compared to the metropolitan Rokran, Terry has not had much of an eye towards optimization of abilities, but is just picking stuff that appeals to her for the characters (she seems to be leaning towards lightsaber combat specialist). As Lucia is Cathar, it will be interesting to see how she feels about Kruk when/if his Mandalorian background is revealed.
Note that all the characters that were created are non-humans. That set up an interesting dynamic right off that bat. Even in this time period humans are dominant.

The Jedi characters had special reason for being around where I started this first game, but all the rest just ended up, for one reason or another, at the Muunilist space port. The Muuns are the banking clan, as shown in the Star Wars prequels. I had no idea if they existed in the KOTOR period, but decided that they would have some galactic banking, loan, and law services set up even though the Intergalactic Banking Clan status of the planet was thousands of years away.

I had Kruk and Rookieen just being mercs who were slumming it at space port waiting for a job or whatever, and the Bothan also just hanging around sniffing for interesting happenings to report to his superiors. Garvin the Khil had a computer tech gig at one of the Muun universities, where he met and became friends with a student, Solomon (my regular NPC for this part of the campaign).

Solomon is an NPC and sort of the catalyst of the main adventure. He appears to be a good looking young human male (more or less) with blood red hair and sort of “mood ring” eyes. Solomon is a student of Ancient Galactic History and Languages, and he would bring all the characters together by offering them bodyguard jobs to protect him as he went to potentially dangerous places to look for clues to the historical stuff he is interested in (old ruins and ancient caves in wildernesses).

I expected the characters to be on Muun for one full game tops, but there ended up being so many fun things I could do with these PC’s before they hit the spaceways, we actually spent 3 games doing things there. The characters have fought andrenal junkies (adrenals are stat-boosting drugs very common in the KOTOR video game that inspired me to do this campaign), brawled in the cantina, gambled, had a gun battle with well-armed and violent poachers out in the mudflat outback, and got mixed up with a conflict between gang members with The Exchange (galactic Mafia), and thugs in the employ of The Hutts who were encroaching on Exchange territory. I’ve had the opportunity to use a Darkside Maurader (force sensitive soldiers with no force training who channel the force through battlefield rage) in a couple of fights. One fight had the Maurader crash a stolen truck into the spaceport ground shuttle some characters were on, and engaging them in a brutal gunfight on the street in the blocked traffic.

The two Jedi were around just by happenstance because they were on some kind of Jedi errand to the planet. The Cathar catgirl Jedi is young, and when she got involved in drinking and gambling at the cantina with the other PC’s, she indulged like any teenager would. It will be interesting to see if she continues that behavior. I have to give her plenty more opportunities to party it up in the future to see if she bites. Partying hardy is the path to the dark side!

Next: The players are on a space flight that crashes and nobody could possibly survive it. Do they? Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Show me the most beautiful woman in the world...

I’ve stopped reading about games online as much as I have the last couple of years. In all honesty, my curiosity about other people’s philosophies and ups and downs of gaming has significantly decreased. When I started this blog to talk about my own gaming past and present, I was super excited and very inspired. But that has dulled down a good bit since I became busier with career stuff and with other good life things. Also, I had only just started gaming regularly again after years off when I started the blog, and it all seemed so fresh.

It feels sort of like a couple of year relationship that has lost a lot of it’s initial luster after the long honeymoon period. As Bill Maher has said in the past, “show me the most beautiful woman in the world, and I’ll show you a guy who is tired of screwing her.”

Grognardia, the best gaming blog out there, and my own inspiration to start this blog, is no longer daily reading for me. I pretty much stopped reading and subscribing to other game blogs over a year ago (the main reason I don’t have at least a couple hundred followers of my own blog is for this very reason. Not tooting my own horn, but many fairly uninteresting blogs have followers in the hundreds due to those particular bloggers signing up for every new blog that comes along and those bloggers returning the favor. Amount of followers is not a good indication of how many people are actually reading). I never really cared much about amount of followers. This blog has served mainly as a place to vent and a place to practice writing about things I like. For myself. If other people find interest in it, great.

I’ve quit going to Dragonsfoot and other forums almost cold turkey in the last few weeks. But it’s not only a lack of interest; I’ve found a lot of the smugness, arrogance, holier-than-thou attitudes, and just plain hostility of many gamers online to be very uninspiring, aggravating, and very tiring. It really reminds me too much of my childhood playing at Aero Hobbies in Santa Monica, surrounded by older, angry pricks who thought they were “doing it right” much like many douche bags on DF who go on with great pride about how “sandboxing” or creating “mega dungeons” is some kind of high art. As if.

Sure, I’ve posted my own negative things on this blog in the past, but it was out of true and honest venting, not any kind of “I’m a better gamer than you” approach, or an attempt at hateful schtick that seems to be kind of popular on a few blogs. I sometimes opened up with honest emotion, and was often a little too open. I’ve for sure had my fill of my own hubris in terms of gaming. I really don’t intend to do much gaming outside of my own full, great group of people I have the good fortune to sit at the game table with, now on an almost weekely basis (wow). So my own negative reactions to some awful experiences in the greater gaming world at large are probably not going to happen anymore. I just don’t have the time or will to go out there and game with others with a very regular group going, and a life that demands more time away from the world of pretending.

So my focus is now on actual gaming with my group. I have also started to spend more of my free internet time looking at things that interest me, and have been a part of my life since childhood, other than gaming. Comic books were a big part of my life growing up, and even though I only buy a comic now and again these days (usually cheapies at garage sales and such) I am still in love with the medium and get the same type of chills from thinking about them as I have from thinking about gaming.

I wanted to point out this fairly new blog I have discovered by Jim Shooter, late 70’s/early 80’s editor in chief at Marvel Comics. As a kid and a teen I had about as much interest in the personalities behind comics as I did about games. Sure, we D&D’ers all knew about Gary Gygax, and we Marvel geeks all knew much about Stan “The Man” Lee (who I had the pleasure to meet and talk to as a young teen at the 1977 San Diego comic con, now a big time con). But Jim Shooter was one of these enigmas. He was mentioned in comic industry magazines, and I remember there not being much in the way of positives about him. I knew nothing about him, but I didn’t like him. But in this blog Jim is telling old stories, and giving his own side of things from back then. It is not only fascinating, but obviously Mr. Shooter has been long aware of his name being sullied for decades, and in his own personal touch is setting the record straight. It is super fascinating in a way nothing in the world of gaming currently seems to be to me. I am pouring over Shooters older posts with a vast passion as I try to catch up. For old school, Silver Age comics fans it is fascinating reading and I highly recommend you check it out if you grew up with comics.

I’ll mention some personal tales of my own that relate to some of Mr. Shooters posts in the future, but I am not done with gaming posts entirely. My Knights of the Old Republic campaign is a blast, and I at least, if not to share, want to use this blog as a place to keep a sort of journal about it. So when I have some time I’ll post on that, and anything (especially non-game related) that pops up of interest. There will be gaming stuff here when I post from time to time(you can bank that the couple of power gamers in my group will continue to annoy me), but let me declare at this point, officially, that Temple of Demogorgon is now more about pop culture than just game culture. This is in many ways an alternate to just abandoning a blog almost three years old. If you are one of the few readers here, I hope you continue to check it out and share your comments, and even smack me down when I geek out too bad or get too hoity toity.

I hope you are having a great summer, and are successful in your endeavors, gaming and otherwise. As Stan The Man might say…


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Scarface vs. The Zombie Invasion!!!

Oye me, Chico, more Zombie Fun!!!

A little something to hold us zombie fans over till World War Z comes out. Hey Chico, get the Yayo!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Would you face Traffic Hell for a game session?

Even though my life has become much busier due to previously mentioned things happening at work, our gaming group has managed to become a once weekly affair. One week I’m doing Knights of the Old Republic, and the next week Ben does his AD&D campaign (the one where we don’t all have to run elves). I haven’t done gaming on a weekly basis since I was a teenager, so it’s kind of a trip. I think all this solid, quality gaming is partly to blame for my decline of online participation in the gamer community, but I’ll talk about that in a separate post.

I thought I would be taking a summer break from gaming, as Andy and the wife are renting out the back place to a young guy from Spain for the time being (who Andy is trying to get interested in gaming so he’ll host us out there, if I am not mistaken). But Dan-Dan the Power Game Man, with the big palace up in Northern Bel Air off Mulholland, has stepped up to host for the time being despite a brand new baby in the house (his, he thinks).

It has been rough going for me so far, because as anybody in So Cal knows, the 405 Freeway (the gateway from West LA to the Valley) is a tough drive in the late afternoon. And despite a couple of better alternatives, it is the way I have foolishly tried to go to get to Dan’s (the Mulholland offramp has been closed, meaning having to drive down to Van Nuys, get off, and go back up Sepulveda).

Next week they are closing the 405 between West LA and Ventura Blvd. They are demolishing the Mulholland overpass or something. What this unheard of act means is that traffic is going to be a living nightmare for those willing to take to local freeways during his apocalyptic event. Sure, there is Sepulveda, and the few winding roads that go up into Northern Santa Monica and the Bel Air area, but those are more likely than not going to be a car nightmare.

For somebody like me who doesn’t like to drive unless it's long road trips up uncrowded Interstates, it was a given there would be no game next week, at least at Dan’s. But how about you? Have you ever gone into what you knew would be horrid traffic to get to a game session (maybe you were DM and didn’t want to disappoint those who showed up)? Would you try to get to the Dan situation I described for a game? I mean, I’m loving gaming lately, but LA traffic is bad enough without something insane like a 405 closure. I’d show up so frazzled I’d end up getting drunk and having to crash on the couch with Dan’s dogs.