Friday, April 27, 2012

What

It was a cool night, the staid darkness a barrier to tumultuous times. Or some shit, I can't write anything remotely serious for more than two sentences...such is life. Little Richard is gay. I "found that out" today. I mean, yeah of of course he's gay, so what? He's a legend of rock 'n' roll, who cares...enough okay. I hate what the modern entertainment had become: in the past, you were judged on talent. Now, it's all about image. Bill Haley would haven been voted out in round one, not a rock pioneer. I typed a bunch of hate, but subsequently deleted it as it was probably not meant for you, the genteel folk. Let's just say this: i would murder everyone. But with love. Yes, love of whiskey. But what this post, wtf?

Okay so you're in this bar and the bartender says some shit about your girlfriend being black and you smash a beer bottle on his head (hypothetically). The bouncers step in and try to pummel you (again hypothetically) so you begin fighting. The fisticuffs go down and people start dropping like bitches (no, this didn't happen to me), punches thrown like it was a title fight. Cops are called so you flee to avoid felony prosecution (what, no, this never happened), and drive away from the scene (seriously no), at a rapid rate (I never hurt a fly). Eventually you end up at your hideout (a house in the suburbs), and start quaffing whiskey while ranting about the encountered racism (yeah that sucked). Your girlfriend begins crying, so you softly whisper, "They shall pay" (not really), instead considering how best to violate her in all ways possible. NO I DIDN'T SAY THIS HAPPENED. Instead, I wish it did. Make an adventure about it. The End.

The Draft has begun

So the Bills got Stephon Gillmore out of SC (South Carolina...just like Jim Rome, Southern Cal does not exist for me, especially after this crap. Seriously, how the fuck do you retroactively decide you're a National Champ, even though the Aggies were selected by every major poll at the time except for one obscure poll that doesn't even exist anymore? Fuck them.) I am pretty happy with this pick as now, with Mario Williams, the defense is probably 3rd best in the AFC. Maybe even 2nd. If there is no playoff game next season, the front office can burn down to ashes for all I care, this is getting ridiculous. Tannehill went 8th to the Dolphins, which is no surprise given that Sherman is the O-C. After Fran I figured Sherman would be able to turn the program to the right direction, but I'm still longing for the RC days long past. Maybe Sumlin can do something; I figure he has two seasons at most to prove himself in the SEC. I wonder if Bob Stoops would consider moving...

All that said, I'd rather watch the NFL Draft than the Stanley Cup, baseball or basketball. That's not to say I will pass those games up in general, just when football is specifically involved. I'm looking forward to the NBA playoffs this year to be honest, but if they showed the Maroon & White game on tv tomorrow I'd rather watch that vs. a finals game 7. A simple check on aggieathletics.com tells me they're streaming it over the intarweb...well, Saturday afternoon is filled. Okay, so, I like football, obviously, but I fucking hate fantasy football with a passion. Perhaps it's because I enjoy Real Betting on games (legally in Vegas!), but most likely because I actually have a true emotional investment in some of the teams. Anyway, the point of this post was simply to brag on the Bills starting off the Draft well, as opposed to the Browns who essentially wasted their pick. When Jim Brown says a running back is "just average", I'm inclined to side with him. However, they did get Weeden, who I think was extremely undervalued. He'll be starting next season as I do not think McCoy will do a thing to secure his job. Also, I watched a lot of games last year, and I gotta say that Robert Griffin III is a better player than Luck. The comparisons of Luck to Manning are laughable to say the least; the worst travesty is calling Manning "arguably the best of all-time". Wtf is that? Sir, Joe Montana would like a word with you. That's like all the idiots calling Brett Favre the best Packers QB...he's not even the third best to be honest. One day I hope someone says that earnestly only to be punched in the face by Bart Starr.

Alright, my prediction is Luck sucks balls for two seasons until they get a decent team around him, then wallows in mediocrity until he finally retires. No Ryan Leaf, but surely not a Peyton Manning, either. Griffin will be a perennial contender, and with as weird as the NFC East has been lately, the Redskins have a legit chance to make the playoffs next season. Tannehill will probably start and be pummeled into oblivion, sort of like David Carr.

No one reading my blog probably cares, but at least it's not another tirade, right?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Revising my opinions about point-buy systems and other stuff

Before I get started with Yet Another Rant, let me clarify precisely what I mean by "point-buy" systems. I'm not talking about a system like the Star Wars RPG where you add points to an existing template, nor BRP which requires the assignment of skill ranks. That's basic character customization, occurring in every game. Even in really old school D&D fighters picked different weapons and armor and not every wizard had the same spells. What I'm talking about is a game like GURPS or HERO; characters are designed from start to finish, each detail purely the choice of a player. I'm starting to dislike these systems quite a bit...

Oddly, I like GURPS 3rd edition, but not 4th. Don't ask why, perhaps it's simply layout (seriously, I like the old appearance much better). Maybe my brain is wired with a certain expectation, and deviation from that expectation is met with apathy; so much for armchair self-psychiatry. In the same vein, HERO 4th was fine, 5th was a little unwieldy, 5th Revised was annoying and the 6th edition is no longer a game in my opinion. How they managed to turn a superhero game into an exercise in mathematical optimization is beyond me. It certainly doesn't resemble a comic anymore. And the comic rpgs are what spurned this post. I made a post of an excessively ranty nature (way beyond usual) about the new Marvel game, and in turn went back and looked at the older rpgs. DC Heroes is a great game, but honestly the fact that it's point-buy means there's a lot of upfront investment to get started. If we're playing Batman and Superman, we can just use the existing write-ups, so that problem is alleviated. Creating new characters, though, takes time. I'd still play it, but the lack of randomness during character creation doesn't really emulate the comics. Sort of exactly what I already said before.

I do not hate point-buy, I just don't like how long it takes to make a character in most of the systems that use it. Over The Edge is essentially point-buy, and you can create a character in around one minute if you have a solid concept. Even using the Character Builder, a 4th edition GURPS character can take half an hour to create. That's ridiculous. I'm surprised that I say that, because I'm the guy who once spent three days using GURPS Vehicles to create a bunch of starships for use in a scifi game that never got played. If you treat making characters and building crap as a game in itself, it's fun. But that's far too long to spend on a separate game. A lot of people dislike pre-gens, but if you just want to play, that's what you get. Randomizing character generation means it's quick to get started and there's actually some mystery involved. People tend to get comfortable playing specific character types, clerics for instance. Random stat generation can force them to choose another type due to a low roll in one area. Whatever, you get the point. I know a guy who only liked to play thieves in every D&D game and got pissy when he rolled a low DEX. He pretty much refused to play the character as it would be out of his comfort zone. That is boring as hell. I can understand as I get older that gamers play much, much less and want a character they can play for a long time (the reason being a shitty character not being much fun to play). Still, it's a game, not improvisational theater, no matter what the hippies say. This isn't necessarily related to point-buy, but specifically point-buy encourages players to create a character they want to play, which in turn means they optimize said character to be exactly what they want. Boooooring. Not to mention slow. And that guy who only played thieves was me for around a year...then I realized I was being a dumbass. I still prefer thief-type characters but the obsession is now simply a preference.

Looking at the Marvel RPG once again, I've changed my mind. Before, I thought the system wasn't that good, but now I think I made a mistake. Seriously, fuck granularity. I don't understand why I wanted more differentiation in the heroes, but in retrospect I was wrong: this system is great. As an experiment I rolled up a few characters just to see what I'd get, one using the base system, the other using the Ultimate Powers Book. The first guy turned out to be some sort of Iron Man clone. Not bad at all. The second guy, however...normal human with every stat either Typical or Poor, except Reason which was Excellent. Resources were determined to be Incredible. Only two powers, randomly rolled True Invulnerability at rank Incredible...which counted as both. Okay. So a super rich guy who cannot really be hurt by anyone besides the heaviest hitters in the Marvel universe and conversely can't really do anything himself. Totally awesome. I envisioned this character being a wealthy man of leisure, funding a group of real heroes, getting involved in the adventures due to boredom. The ultimate punching bag, he could go toe-to-toe with most villains, distracting them enough for the others to take him out. I certainly would not design a character like this in HERO, but honestly he looks pretty fun to play. I imagine he'd be extremely reckless due to his power, starting fights for fun. A philanthropist who donates most of his money to charities, and sometimes purchases a new Ferrari which he promptly crashes into a rampaging robot hell-bent on destroying downtown. You're not going to get this guy from a point-buy system because he's so ineffective in fights, but he's pretty much exactly the sort of character that would be fun to read about in the comics.

I should probably revise this post for clarity, but I won't because it's a blog and no one reads this tripe anyway. However, in closing, the old Marvel RPG is great and I'm sorry I ever doubted it. My new goal is to run it as soon as I get the chance, all characters rolled completely at random.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Technology Sucks...

...the life out of social interaction. While there are plenty of awesome things about blogs, web forums, Facebook, G+, Twitter (okay, there's nothing good about Twitter whatsoever), the mere fact that it stands as a barrier between truly socializing with other people means it sucks. For instance: G+ rpgs. Beats the hell out of not playing at all, right? But there's definitely something much more compelling and satisfying about table-top play that cannot be duplicated over the internet.

I watched this video a few days ago:


While this dude reminds me exactly of the type of person who probably watches way too much porn on the internet, he has a good point: all this virtual non-interaction replaces true physical contact with other people and really fucks up your ability to act like a normal person in society. A bunch of websites have popped up using his talk as their basis, which tells me a lot of dudes need to go outside more often...

Anyway, I'm not saying I hate technology, but it really does seem to impede people. When I was a kid, you'd walk down the street and say hello, sometimes people would say hello back, sometimes they'd sneer. Regardless, there was some form of interaction. Now when I'm walking around campus, for instance, EVERY SINGLE PERSON is on their phone. Every single one. Texting or talking or playing games or listening to music or whatever. No eye contact, no greeting, might as well be fucking robots. This is somewhat disturbing to me to say the least. Go to a bar, every one is on their phone doing the same shit. Why even bother going anywhere to hang out with your friends if you're just going to play video games or text some random girl the whole time? I'm the first to admit I've done this before, which is why I started leaving my phone in the car or my backpack when I'm doing anything. The distraction is enough to make me anti-social even though I have a reasonable amount of social skills. They're slowly being depleted, however, through the use of technology.

Forums are the worst; people are incredibly argumentative and idiotic in the extreme. In reality, they're mostly normal. Well, normal for nerds, I suppose. But the most aggressive individuals on forums tend to be the sorts of people who'd never say anything in public for fear of ridicule. It's way too easy to sit behind a keyboard and pump out stupidity in massive quantities when no one is around to call you on the carpet.

Going back to the G+ games, that seems to be the way of the future, and I can't say I enjoy the prospect of never again sitting around a table in a friend's basement, rolling dice and drinking ridiculous quantities of Mountain Dew. The internet is a wonderful tool for meeting new people and sharing ideas, but it's not really social, at least not in a way that allows true friendships and relationships to develop.

I know no one reads this blog, but I'm asking all of you to make it a goal next month to meet at least one other gamer, in person, and drink a beer or whatever. This hobby is full of quite a few of the most sociopathic assholes in the world, but some of you must be normal people with normal lives. Seek out other normals who like rpgs and interact with them, in person. And turn off the fucking phones.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Panacea OR using big words to make it sound like stupid shit I say is important

I know I've said this countless times on this here blog (I could count them but really don't feel like it), but for whatever reason I'm never quite satisfied with D&D. Actually, I'm never satisfied with any roleplaying game of any genre. Take for instance my series of posts a while back about superhero rpgs: it became evident when I finished that what I really want does not exist. I can tell you what I DON'T like, but nailing down what I do is difficult. Random character generation vs. point-buy, for instance. I like both at the same time, even though they're almost mutually exclusive. Honestly, I also like the V&V approach of basing characters on the players; makes it a lot easier to get into the game. Back to D&D, though. I need to stick with one thing...

First of all, D&D is its own genre. I've heard people call it generic fantasy, but really it's not. It is D&D Fantasy. And it is an actual game vs. an exercise in community masturbation. I honestly hate all those collaborative story telling systems, because they're really not games at all. A game is a diversion, played for enjoyment. It is competitive and involves skill or chance. "Everyone's a winner" is a phrase attributed to roleplaying that honestly annoys the fuck out of me. If your character died, sorry, you lost. Losing has nothing to do with having fun. The most fun I ever had during a game was a session of Supremacy wherein I was nuked to bits by the other players. I didn't come close to winning, but it was still enjoyable. No, I do not like losing whatsoever, and am a highly competitive person. So what? The process is fun. Back to D&D, character death is a very real part of the game. Gaining levels means you're winning, getting killed means you lost. You get a particular score and then start over. Without the possibility of imminent death, what's the point? I can arbitrarily make high level characters, give myself the best score and say I'm the winner. That's boring as hell.  So much to sticking to one thing; this time, I promise. D&D is a game, and that's cool and it is it's own genre. Alright.

Browsing through B/X, I see the appeal. It's simple, open to interpretation. But I think about adding a few more spells, so I crack open the Mentzer set. This leads me to looking through the Cyclopedia, lamenting the lack of distinct character races, importing that from AD&D and then just using the PHB in toto. But now I'm stuck with a bunch of crap I don't like, namely inflated stats and a much more complex combat system. In the past I never had a problem with this, and I tried to figure out why. D&D was the perfect rpg for years, it was my panacea, and I wanted nothing more. After some careful consideration I came up with the answer as to why it worked so well: I made shit up. All the time I was making something up. When we actually played D&D, I usually ran the games and would do whatever was necessary to have fun. If a player wanted to be an elven thief, who cares? Elf thief it is, I don't give a fuck if that's in the rules or not. There are plenty of spells in the PHB, no reason why I can't just use those. No rules for drinking, I'll just have them roll against CON to see what happens. Etc. Now, there is too much rationalization, too much discussion, too much intellectual discourse, not enough playing. When we played, making up stuff was paramount to moving the game along. If I saw something cool in a magazine or another game I liked, into the game it went. Laser guns and battlemechs? Hey, at high enough level sure. In fact nearly all the high level games turned into some weird pulp action at some point. My best character, a 36th level fighter who became a deity, ended up flying around in a spaceship and conquering alien races. Why the fuck not? It was fun and that's all that mattered. We even used the ship combat rules from some crappy boardgame to play out battles. The notion that things needed to be balanced or make sense wasn't even considered. However, failure was still possible. Even with all the crazy things going on, never once did any of us think our characters were invulnerable or immune to death. Another critical point: the stats on the page really were not very important at all. Outside of combat rolls, no one every really paid attention to their character sheets. Wizards could decipher arcane runes and thieves had lots of underworld contacts.

Every time I try to codify how I want the game to run, I fail. The elusive panacea is nothing I can pin down because it's an ephemeral concept that only exists during play, not externally. There must be SOME beginning, though...right? Okay, how about this. Mentzer Red Box but allow race differentiation, allow clerics to cast at first level. Add the spells from AD&D, use those spell casting charts. Cut-off is 14th level; after that the game breaks down anyway...so use the thief skill charts from B/X. Any of the classes in the PHB allowed, back ported to Basic. Add more stuff whenever it needs to be added. The End.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Marvel: Heroic Roleplaying...a review of sorts

By popular demand (someone asking me to post this last night after a G+ game) I will review the new Marvel: Heroic Roleplaying Basic Game, or whatever it's called. To preface, I got it last night; it was sitting on my doorstep as I remembered the possible delivery in a moderate whiskey stupor. This should in no way reflect my actual intellect (hopefully), because some of my comments could be taken as the ramblings of an idiot. Generally that is the case, but not this time.

First of all, what the fuck? Seriously, what the fuck? Let's start there: What. The. Actual. Fuck. Okay, I shall explain, if I can. You know what, no, how about this...think of all the heroes you'd imagine would be in a basic entry-level game dealing with the Marvel universe. Got a fairly decent image in your mind? Is one of those heroes Emma Frost? No? What about Ms. Marvel? Luke Cage and Iron Fist? They're all in there, 100% serious. That's FINE with me, but you don't include the stats for Dr. Doom or Venom? Instead stats for a gigantic T-Rex. A fucking dinosaur. The Fantastic Four and Spiderman are statted out, but their major nemeses are not. Captain America is there (thank Jesus), but no Red Skull. What. No Hulk, either, for some reason. Hmmm...yeah, you're actually supposed to play though an Avengers scenario with, not even making this up, Cap, Spiderman, Iron Man, Wolverine and Spider-Woman. I am not making this shit up. I repeated that to stress that I wasn't making it up. Have the writers of this game ever read an actual fucking comic? No, see, the Avengers are Cap, Thor, Hawkeye and Namor, sometimes Hulk. Get that new age crap the fuck out. This is pathetic. After flipping through the book and seeing what constituted the hero write-ups, I almost couldn't read another page due to outright apathy.

But I did, and unfortunately (this is where the argument that I might be stupid has more weight) I couldn't understand the die mechanic at all. It's some form of die pool that allows you to roll a bunch of dice and use them in ways that drive the plot. You can also spend meta-points to drive the plot (called Plot Points, oddly enough), all well and good. There's also a die pool called the Doom Pool, which (not making this up) is the GM's die pool. Apparently, it is directly affected by the distribution of Plot Points to players and all sorts of other shit. Yes, the GM is basically playing against the players and has to keep their die pool transparent. If you read the rules, though, it almost seems like there doesn't need to be a GM at all; it reminds me of some collaborative story telling bullshit. This isn't a fucking game, it's a die-rolling activity that allows sociopaths a way to generate their own comic book adventures. Hey, why not just write the shit out in narrative form and be done with it? No need to interact with anyone else at all.

The powers section is actually cool, even if it's sparse as hell. You get a die value (d8, d12, etc.) assigned to a power, and the bigger the die the more crap you can do. That's fine, it's objectively measurable, and whatever, it's the comics, heroes never really have rigidly defined powers. Shapeshifting d6 means you can alter your face in minor ways, d10 indicates the ability to shift form completely. But you don't actually roll the die to Shapeshift; it's part of your die pool and it allows you to do plot crap. At least from what I can tell (I told you...I didn't understand it one fucking bit). So it's entirely possible the ability to Shapeshift will result in exactly the same result per the die rolls as something like Fire Control. Okay. The abstraction is either stupid, or I am for not "getting it". Either way, I don't care.

Fuck, Thor is RIGHT THERE on page 75, about to open a can of whoopass on Storm. Why no stats? Why oh why? No matter, I can play Sentry instead, the "greatest hero nobody knows". You got that right. Christ in heaven, how the hell can you play Spiderman without the Green Goblin or Venom? Don't come at me with some rubbish about how Carnage is in the book; that's asinine. I'd rather fight fucking dinosaurs as Kitty Pride, no joke. At least Colossus in in here, too, so we can act out some pedo-sex scenes or something...

Also, and I don't want to harp on this but I shall, Wolverine and Cap have the same fighting ability. The very same. Sorry, you know what, fuck you Wolverine fan boys. Cap is the best, The End. This game can suck my fucking dick.

The art is pretty good, I'll admit that at least. Nice, glossy pages. High production values throughout, obviously well edited. You know, they could have at least included Black Cat as a foil for Spiderman. Okay, I'll stop...but just look at the cover. Spiderman, okay. Cap, yes. Wolverine, well I hate Wolverine, but iconic Marvel character. Iron Man, fine. Spider-Woman and Ms. Marvel. Seriously, what in the ever living fuck is that? No Hulk? What about Thing? I'd be happy with Jean Grey or Invisible Woman if you need a female character to please all the PC people out there, but why choose two characters no one cares about? What message are you sending me with this shit cover? Storm, stats in the book, not on the cover. No, this is idiotic as fuck. You know what, Wasp would have been fine. Seriously. At least I know something about her. I want to punch my monitor very badly.

Emma Frost? What the fuck were you thinking? Fuck this game.