kent_allard_jr: (Default)
There's a new Green Hornet movie coming out, although it looks like direct-to-DVD quality:
It's interesting how Kato's competence, relative to his boss, has changed over the years. I listened to the old radio shows and Kato, while clearly second-fiddle, was a smart and a capable guy. In the 60s TV show (which I haven't seen) Bruce Lee's character was so much better in a fight that folks wondered what the Green Hornet was good for. In today's movie it looks like the Hornet can't even use his gas gun properly, and Kato treats his "boss" with polite condescension.

It recalls an old idea I had of a superhero team member, a guy who had a job and an apartment where his team-mates could sleep and put their leotards on. (This was no doubt inspired by Arthur in The Tick.) Today the Green Hornet is just a schmuck who buys stuff to help Kato kick-ass. It reflects a more egalitarian take on the world, and I think it's more realistic, too. Ask yourself, who would make a better superhero: Paris Hilton, or your average struggling community college student? I'd vote for the second myself, as long as someone else was paying the girl's bills.
kent_allard_jr: (Default)
This will probably be the last of my posts on Two-Fisted Tales: The Golden Age, as there aren't enough of you who are both ex-2FT players and Golden Age comics fans. I'm planning to use a number of public domain superheroes as examples, and Will Eisner's ever-so-derivative Wonder Man was an obvious choice.

Wonder Man

The not-so-great Wonder Man was created by the great Will Eisner to be a blatant rip-off of Superman. His debut in Wonder Comics # 1 (May, 1939) was his last appearance, as National Comics (Superman’s publisher) successfully sued Fox Feature Syndicate before the second issue hit the stands.

Fred Carson was a radio engineer and amateur inventor. On a trip to Tibet he met a yogi who gave him a power ring, one that gave him amazing strength. This interpretation of Wonder Man was built at the Astonishing power level1 from the Professor template.
Brains 14
Luck 11
Mind 10
Muscle 612
Reflexes 10
Savvy 10
Status 11
Wealth 11
Weird 72
Specialties Brains (Science)
Masteries Brains [Engineering]
Schticks Crime Televisor3
Wrist Radio
Thick Skin
Defects Power Source (-10)4
Hero Points 0
1 I had to make four new power levels beyond "Amazing" - Incredible, Astounding, Astonishing and Uncanny - which have an extra 20, 40, 60 and 100 Hero Points, respectively. "Uncanny" is for Stardust the Super-Wizard or other characters who can do just about anything they feel like; I considered calling it "Insane" instead.
2 This was Superman's precise Muscle rating, I realized, after I found out it was how large a Muscle score had to be before you could "leap an eighth of a mile." Since Wonder Man was such a Superman ripoff, it should be his Muscle rating, too.
3 Speaking of Stardust the Super-Wizard, both of them had this crime-viewfinder thing. Since Wonder Man came first I guess this was actually original.
4 You'd call this "Defect" a "Limitation" in most games. It indicates you could take away Wonder Man's powers by stealing his power ring.
kent_allard_jr: (Default)
I just wrote this for Two Fisted Tales: The Golden Age. It was supposed to an essay on the plots you might have in a Golden Age super's game, but shifted at the end to more of a historical note. I'll probably have to expand it and split it later. In the meantime ... I'd appreciate feedback from anyone familiar with Golden Age comics.

Read more... )
kent_allard_jr: (Dungeon Master)
I promised Brett Bernstein I'd write a Golden Age superhero supplement for Two Fisted Tales, and its been hard-going, to the point that Brett's own Genre Diversion-based superhero game The Brave and the Bold is almost ready for publication and I've got nothing but scattered notes around. (For the record, I think Brett's GDi system is really badly suited for superheroes ... but that's another issue.)

My problem is this: The schticks in Two Fisted Tales were constructed using a point-build system of sorts. I could make it explicit for the superhero module, but unfortunately it's really horribly complicated. That didn't matter in 2FT because it was hidden from players and GMs (which is how, BTW, I think the Hero System really ought to work), but once it's made public it will look awful. Unfortunately, to work as intended, I think point-build systems should be extremely complicated, even more so then they tend to be.

Take an Energy Blast power, for example. At first blush, you would think it'd be easy to charge for a blast power: Make the cost proportional to the damage it does, so cost = damage x C. Problem: You'd have to spend a lot of points to get an EB that's no better than a Glock. Champions "solves" this by demanding you spend points to carry a gun. I say bollocks to that; you might as well charge them for picking up a rock and throwing it.

My solution: The base cost gets an EB that does as much damage as a gun; each extra C points increases damage by 1. A complication in Two Fisted Tales, though, is that stronger characters can use bigger and better guns, and a point-build system should take that into account. So ultimately I came up with a cost chart that looks like this:be afraid, very afraid... )
kent_allard_jr: (Default)
[ profile] wellgull and [ profile] moonlightalice showed me the demo for Arkham Asylum a few weeks ago, and like most folks I was incredibly impressed with the game. It seemed perfectly tailored for Batman, in that every fight required good judgment as well as Bat-Gadgets and acrobatic ability. It made me think about ways a game could approach other superheroes. Superman, for example.

Supposedly no one has ever designed a successful Superman video game, and I can understand why. Most Superman fights are pretty straightforward affairs, in which Superman beats up villain until villain gets Kryptonite, and then villain beats up Superman. (Even the famed Superman-vs-Batman battle in The Dark Knight Returns worked this way.) The fact is, Superman's talents are wasted beating people up. Anyone can beat up crooks -- they beat up each other all the time -- but only Superman can, say, stop a flood from wrecking a city.

I bring up the flood example because the first great Superman story was probably "Superman and the Dam," Action Comics # 5. A dam was breaking and he rushed in to save people. Along the way he came upon a bridge that was about to collapse:

You could imagine a mini-game derived from this scene. A train is coming, quickly, and you have to hold the bridge up so that the tracks are perfectly straight.

Many of Superman's challenges, in fact, would be a lot like this, involving a very careful application of force at just the right time and position. Take the airline scene from Superman Returns:

The airliner was a fragile object. If Superman just held his hand out and caught the plane as it fell from the sky the vehicle would have collapsed like an accordion, killing everyone inside. He had to grab the plane at the right spot (he screwed up at first by taking the wing) and then slow its descent. In a game much of this could be explained in voiceover ("I've ... got ... to ... match ... its ... speed!") but it would take a lot of skill to get right.

Obviously I'm not a computer/console-game designer so I'm never going to put these thoughts into practice, but no harm in fantasizing I suppose.
kent_allard_jr: (Dungeon Master)
Alright, I know this is futile, but ... The new patch cleared up a lot of the performance issues, removing perhaps my greatest reservation about the game. If you're curious, a WoW Players Guide to Champions Online was posted recently.

Also, one of the cool things about Champions Online is you can pick up random objects and throw them at people (at least if your Strength is high enough). I'm a huge fan of the Action Comics # 1 design, so I couldn't resist pulling this stunt:
From Superhero MMO Screenshots

Just in case you wondered ... the gangbanger who took this in the face didn't last long.
kent_allard_jr: (Dungeon Master)
I've been playing Champions Online a lot recently, and I've found that I like it. Mechanically it's a lot like City of Heroes/Villains, but the environments and the missions are much less repetitive, and much more interesting. I can't say there's no grind, but it doesn't seem to have more than any other MMO. If nothing else, the quests are very quick, so you aren't stuck fighting the same bad guys for very long.

From Superhero MMO Screenshots
Characteristics and so forth resemble the Hero System's, but only on a superficial level; naturally, you don't have the same freedom you would in the tabletop RPG, since it would create absolute chaos in an MMO. Costume design is the main creative outlet, and as always I created three sexy super heroines. My main is "Ms. Natural," pictured on the left; she got the name when I realized she looked like an R. Crumb character.

Champions Online is not flawless, by any means. The game is quite buggy, more so than any other MMO I've tried. It requires a lot of memory, good graphics card, etc., and since my comp is a little old there's a bit of lag all the time. (I don't know why MMO's go the heavy graphics route, instead of following WoW's more inclusive example, but there you go.) Still... I like it, and it may be worth your time. If anyone wants to join me my screen name's Fantomah (yes, taken from my City of Villains main).
kent_allard_jr: (Default)
Just a couple quick hits today. First, Lou Anders tries to summarize the Grant Morrison "plot" arc for Batman R.I.P.. The results are not pretty.

Matt Springer tries to estimate the orbital period of Krypton. He figures it's about 69 Earth years, although it's based on pretty sketchy assumptions about Krypton's sun Rao. (He freely admits they're sketchy; it isn't his fault!)

Finally ... the pilot for the Japanese Spider-Man TV show!

[ profile] ecmeyers linked to the opening credits a while ago, but this is a video of the whole episode. Admittedly, I could only stand the first 15 minutes or so. Not to spoil it for you, but they changed the origin story, so Spider-Man got his powers from aliens of the planet Spider. No, I'm not making this up. No idea why they thought this was an improvement over the original story. (Maybe because the giant robots were easier to integrate, or something.)
kent_allard_jr: (Dungeon Master)
I stopped by the Champions Online website, and damn was I disappointed. According to the FAQ: "Champions Online does not use the HERO System." Goddamn it! It looks like they're using Champions for the background, not the rules, which seems a little weird to me, since I never thought the Champions universe was all that interesting. The rules were the whole point!

For those of you who are new to RPGs and never played Champions, let me just say it was the primordial point-build system; like GURPS or Tri-Stat, but 10 times as disgusting. The point wasn't to actually play the game -- the rules were so cumbersome it took forever to do anything -- as to create the most obscene characters possible, by abusing the rules as shamelessly as you could get away with. Third edition understood this appeal, and gave us some gloriously disgusting examples:
  • "PlanetMan: This is your average guy -- with the ability to shrink planets down to pocket size ... if he is annoyed, he pulls one out and throws it, turning the Shrinking off while one of his six DNPCs teleports him to another dimension...
  • "Landlord: For only a handful of points, you can build a base with grounds that cover the known universe. The Landlord bought it. He owns everything. And for 165 more points, Landlord can have 4 billion loyal followers (that's everyone on Earth)[at the time].
  • "NovaMan: A man with an explosive temper. If bothered while in his private intensive care ward, he explodes, doing about 700d6. This will level skyscrapers within about a kilometer radius..."
Now what kind of spoilsport would keep guys like NovaMan out of their MMO game worlds? Game designers have no sense of adventure anymore.

Update: Joking aside, I really do admire the HERO system, even if it was an easy game to satirize and it probably wouldn't work in an MMO.


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