Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Zod: Ewok Wrangler

We open the session in health class, where the students are being issued bags of flour which they’ll to treat as babies for the rest of the marking period. (Does this ever happen outside of TV shows?) Zod gets his and draws angry eyebrows on it, Amy gets hers and draws a happy face, President dog presciently brought a little red wagon, into which the teacher drops his flour child.

Lily has the habit of trying to co-GM, and dictate stuff that’s going on. (“Oh, President Dog is chasing his tail now!”) I decided that whenever she does this, it’s going to be her character staring off into the middle distance and daydreaming about what she’s describing, a la Scrubs.

Near the end of the class, Zod, Amy, Summer and Winter are paged over the PA. They head to the Principal’s office, where Doctor Mordred is sitting behind the desk, clad in his full supervillain regalia. I imagine him looking like Felix Faust, so that’s who I’m using for his image. (Not that it fooled the players. Lily knew he looked familiar from his DCAU appearances, and Zod’s player was able to name him right away.)

Doctor M was feeling them out, asking them about what they “thought they saw” in the museum last week. They each denied seeing anything unusual, and Doctor Mordred seemed to accept their answer, but he was so needlessly sinister throughout the entire exchange (think Alan Rickman as Snape) that it was difficult to be sure. He dismissed Amy, Zod and Summer, but asked that Winter stay behind. He talked with her for about fifteen minutes, and she was clearly upset when she left his office.

The freshmen return to their classes, and hear a loud explosion during science class. Strangely, no one else seemed to be able to perceive it. The teacher was named Doctor Minerva. Zod’s player thought she was Wonder Woman in disguise, but she was actually a character from my old Play By Post game, and also the name of my primary character from the City of Heroes RPG. (Apparently there is a minor Kree superhero by that name from the Avengers arc “Operation Galactic Storm”, but I made her up independent of that. I should have come up with a more interesting hero, so I’m going to say that the she was just a substitute, and the real teacher was absent that day.

Amy raises her hand and asks to use the bathroom. Dr. Minerva signs the hall pass, and Summer asks to accompany her too. Zod sees that he’s going to be left behind, so in desperation he pops one of his perpetually suppurating zits. She sends him into the bathroom to clean himself up.

On their way to the scene of the accident, Amy and Summer encounter the janitor. Lily suggests that he’s Booster Gold. I’m reluctant to incorporate many of her suggestions, because should she play an RPG with more than one other person, in a game where the GM isn’t her dad, he probably won’t be as receptive to them, but this one was actually too good to pass up. For some reason Booster could also sense the explosion.

When they got outside, they saw that the boom had come from a crashed spaceship. They fail a perception roll and run out to the ship, to find it inhabited by Ewoks. Zod rips it apart, Summer puts out the flames and Amy rescues the Ewoks with her ninja powers.

Vice Principal Hodor shows up to yell at Zod and Summer (Amy cloaks herself), but he seems unable to see the Ewoks or the ship. He gets a detention. They finally make their perception check, to find Doctor Mordred watching the unfolding tableau from the window.

Zod leads the Ewoks to the music room with some candy bars from the vending machine, while Amy seeks out Booster Gold for his advice. Booster lets them into the steam tunnels beneath the school, and they lure the Ewoks there with combos from the vending machine. The last bag fails to drop, so Zod picks up the machine and shakes it until it does, which amused me. 

Zod asks Booster if he knows how to repair a spaceship, and Booster replies that he knows a guy. We end on that note. I liked this adventure. We laid quite a bit of foundation for what's to come.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Big Finish Doctor Who Capsule Reviews: The Defectors, Last of the Cybermen, The Secret History

I haven't done one of these in a while, and in light of new evidence that people actually read my Doctor Who posts, I suppose we're about due.

I broke down and bought a subscription, and this review covers the mini-arc of older Doctors being transported into the adventures more suited for earlier Doctors. 

The Defectors: The Seventh Doctor winds up in a Third Doctor story! With Jo and Mike Yates!

When I think of Katy Manning,  I think of her more as Iris Wildthyme than as Jo. (I really enjoyed the stories where they team up, though. Manning is much better than I had previously given her credit for).

This would have been a pretty bland Third Doctor outing, though the novelty mostly carries it. It will be remembered as the story where Jo Grant commits genocide, which was probably not the intent of the writers, but there you go.

Rating: 3/5

Last of the Cybermen: A story with the Sixth Doctor, Zoe, Jamie and Cybermen?! Outstanding! Except Legend of the Cybermen wasn’t that long ago, and it also featured Sixth Doctor, Zoe, Jamie and Cybermen, and for my money, was the best Cybermen story ever told.

(Sorry, everyone at the Second Doctor panel at Regeneration Who. It’s better than Tomb of the Cybermen.) Taken on its own, it’s a solid, clever story with some great performances, but Legend set the bar so high that this one is a bit of a letdown. Nonetheless, Colin Baker has great chemistry with Wendy Padbury and Frazer Hines. Wouldn't mind seeing more of this particular team-up.

Rating: 5/5

The Secret History: They certainly captures the essence of a First Doctor story in that it takes almost three discs to get underway.

The villain behind the Doctor's recent troubles is...the Meddling Monk?


If the TV show can feature the Zygons as the 50th anniversary villains, I guess Big Finish can have the Monk as the adversary in their 200th main range story. The third act of this story is actually pretty great, but it's a long time getting there, and the resolution is rather abrupt.

Rating: 2/5, and that on the strength of the third act.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Nine Princes in Amber finally available in Kindle format!

Well, well, well.

Nine Princes in Amber: Book One (The Chronicles of Amber 1) Kindle Edition

Much like anyone who reads this blog, I already have it in a zillion formats, but I'll buy it anyway!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Legion of Super-Heroes cosplay

Lily and I were watching some episodes of the Legion of Super-Heroes, when she said that next time we go to a comic convention, she wanted to wear her flight ring. I suggested that it might be fun to go as Saturn Girl. She agreed, and then I said I should go as Bouncing Boy.

She said "You can't go as Bouncing Boy, because you're" and I thought she was going to say "too skinny",

but she completed the sentence with "too old" instead.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Enter...Doctor Mordred!

We had our second session of our superheroes in high school game and it went pretty well. (You should probably read that earlier post, or this one isn't going to make any sense.)

We opened with Mr. Kent Clarkson teaching a class on secret identities. He’s a big guy with glasses and a spitcurl.

He announces to the class that there was a field trip with a few open spots, and the students who performed best on the pop quiz would be allowed to go along. Zod partnered with Raven (going by “Raveen”, because this was secret identity class) and Amy partnered with Summer. President Dog did it on his own, because he’s President Dog.

The field trip was in honor of a young archeological student who made first contact with a group of Durlans. He was receiving an award on the museum they had established on the dark side of the moon.

The quiz was a collection of trick questions. Do they have a Fourth of July in England? A plane crashes on the border between Canada and America, where do you bury the survivors? That kind of thing. I thought it would be fun, but Lily groaned and said “Do we have to take the test for real?!” She warmed to it somewhat, because she likes solving problems like these, and I’m happy for having attempted it, but it wasn’t received as warmly as I had thought it would be.

Our heroes perform well on the test and are allowed on the trip. Winter, the mean upperclassman, is a chaperone.

When they arrive at the site, Zod notices a number of Neil Bobbleheads and t-shirts with his brother’s face on them. He figures out several moments before the announcement that it’s going to be Neil who is receiving the reward. He’s right, and as an added bonus, the Durlans, a species of shapeshifters, all changed shape to look like Neil. Neil was equal parts articulate and humble in his speech.

After that, they walked around the museum, and Zod noticed something odd going on with the security system. This is where the game started picking up. I’m still extremely rusty, and the first part felt like me doing a lot of “This happened. Then this happened”, but it got increasingly interactive now that they had a mystery to solve.

At first they tried to inform the guards, who were initially willing to assist, and they paged Mr. Clarkson and told the kids to wait for him at the ticket desk. He didn’t show, so after a time they went back to the guards and asked them to page Winter, but they were much less receptive this time around. They were ready to tell the kids to get lost, when Amy threatened to activate her cloaking field and tell everyone that they lost a little disabled girl.

They page Winter and she arrives, annoyed. Amy is unable to speak to her without getting into an argument, so they start bickering, and their argument culminates with Winter telling Amy to meet her behind the bleachers after school, so they can have a little chat. Despite this, Zod manages to convince her that there is something amiss, and she tags along at a distance.

They travel through the museum, with Amy sneaking past the guards with her ninja skills, and then revealing herself so that she can taunt them, prompting Zod to exclaim "You're the worst ninja ever!"

As they’re making their way through the room of ancient weapons, some of the suits of armor spontaneous animate, and attack, but our heroes fight right past them. The arrive just exactly too late to prevent Doctor Belchin, the museum’s director and a mild-mannered professor of Mordredology, from stealing the Rod of Mordred, and claiming its mystical powers. He teleports away after issuing a vague threats.

The heroes return to their group and find out that someone clobbered Mr. Clarkson from behind, but when they suggest that it was Dr. Belchin, Clarkson's eyes go unfocused for a moment, and he appears unable to process what they're saying. I tell the players Out of Character that Dr. Mordred has an ability that prevents adults and most kids from connecting the dots and understanding that he's really the mastermind. I thought this was kind of a clever solution, because it averts the question of "Why don't they tell their parents/mentors/teachers?" always found in children's books, which is usually "solved" by making authority figures phenomenally incurious about the villain's paper-thin disguise.
Yes, Count Olaf. I'm talking about you.

We have two epilogues. The first is when Vice Principal Hodor introduces the school's new principal, who is, of course, Doctor Mordred. He's walking around in his full supervillain regalia, but no one seems to care.

The other is when Amy goes to meet Winter for their chat behind the school. When Lily said that Amy was going out there to talk to her, I was like "You know that she wants to fight you, right?" Realization dawned..."Oooooohhhh." I don't know how she missed this, because the child watches about twelve hours of Disney Channel zitcoms every day.

Anyway, she rolls out, and a large crowd had already assembled. I thought she would suit up, which would allow her to fight, but instead she baits Winter. "Do you really think it's going to look good fighting a little girl in a wheelchair?" Winter was already more ambivalent than she had been, because she witnessed Dr. Modred's transformation, and is one of the few who can understand the threat he represents. She would probably win the fight, but she understands that understand that the optics of being perceived as someone who would beat up a little girl in a wheelchair are...not good. So she storms off with a face saving "You just keep your nose clean!"

I do like those kind of moments that arise spontaneously in play. The other day, Lily was describing to our neighbor the argument her character had with Winter in the first session like it was the “Tomorrow” soliloquy from MacBeth, but for me, it had been a completely off the cuff interaction that I would have otherwise forgotten

I wouldn't have scripted either of these events, but I love that they happened but I love making them with people that I like.