Monday, January 30, 2012

Music Monday: "Because The Night"

The original, and for my money the best version of 'Because The Night', courtesy of Patti Smith:

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Review: "A Show Of Hands"

As the 80's were starting to come to a close, Rush continued their tradition of releasing a live album after every four studio albums.  Perhaps already aware that they would soon be moving into yet another direction musically, A Show Of Hands would wind up being a snapshot of the band's synth-heavy oeuvre from that decade.

The majority of the album consists of songs taken from the group's keyboard-based albums that ranged from Signals to Hold Your Fire.  Not counting the intro piece (the Three Stooges version of 'three Blind Mice' - who says the band doesn't have a sense of humor?) and Neil's now-signature drum solo, only two tracks are from earlier albums ('Closer To The Heart' from A Farewell To Kings, and 'Witch Hunt' from Moving Pictures).  Over half the album draws from songs originally on Power Windows and Hold Your Fire, from which four tracks each are drawn. 

The audio quality is clean and easily listenable, if at times somewhat over-produced.  It's not as rough as All The World's A Stage, but it also lacks the power of Exit... Stage Left.  Many of the songs don't sound that different from their studio versions, an while that's a testament to the skill of the band, it also means that much of the album lacks the spark that helps to make a good live show so special.  There are exceptions - the version of 'Closer To The Heart' which closes out the album has a two-minute instrumental jam added to the end of the song, giving the album a jolt of extra flair, but overall this is an example of an album that would have benefited from a little less production, and a little more spontaneity.    

It is also an example of an approach to live albums that I don't personally care for.  My preference for live recordings is that of a singular performance, all taken from one show.  Many live albums are actually compilations of recordings from different nights, sometimes even in different cities.  A Show Of Hands takes this to an almost ridiculous extreme, with different tracks actually taken from different tours, specifically the '86 Power Windows tour and the '88 Hold Your Fire tour.  Although the audio mix doesn't make it obvious - unlike Exit... Stage Left, there are no obvious breaks between the various tracks - but this is still essentially a compilation disc, as about as far as an example of a single night's performance as you can get.

This isn't the best of the the band's live albums by any means, but neither is it without merit.  Those who dislike the group's musical direction during the 80's won't find much here to their liking, but even if (like myself) you find the band's output during those years to be hit-or-miss, there's still much to appreciate here, as A Show Of Hands for the most part represents some of the high spots of an uneven era.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

V&V Vednesday: Loki

Character Name: Loki     Real Name: Darren Bradley   Side: Neutral
Gender: Male     Height: 5'9”     Weight: 170 lbs     Age: 27

Physical Description: A slender, almost wiry man in his late 20's with black hair and blue eyes. His costume is a black bodysuit with red boots, belt, gloves, and trim.

STR: 25     END: 27      INT: 18     AGL: 14     CHA: 19

Level: 2nd     XP: 2,875     Basic Hits: 4     Hit Points: 46      Healing Rate: 3.2/day
Movement: 66”      Power: 84      Carrying Capacity: 1,558 lbs     HTH Damage: 1d10
Damage Modifier: +2     Accuracy: +1    Detect Hidden: 14%     Detect Danger: 18%
Inventing: 54%     Inventing Points: 3.6     Reaction Modifier: -3     Training: Agility

Heightened Defense: -4 to be hit from all attacks
Heightened Endurance B: +15
Heightened Mental Prowess (acts similar to Heightened Intelligence A and Heightened Charisma A, bonus may be split between those two attributes as desired): +5 INT, +6 CHR
Heightened Strength B: +16
Invulnerability: 13pt
Illusions A (all senses, PR=5)
Transformation C (disguise)


Areas of Knowledge
Crime, Gambling, Psychology

Character Notes/Origin/Personality: Darren Bradley was a grifter, and a good one. He could have been a psychologist, and at one point had actually studied to do just that, but he was thrown out of college after getting caught cheating on his exams. After that he made his way wandering from town to town, surviving by means of various con jobs and other shady enterprises. Sometimes he would make a big score, only to lose it shortly thereafter gambling, but then again occasionally he would take some paltry sum and transform it into enough wealth via a game of chance that he could fund his next con job, so as far as Darren was concerned it all evened out.

Less than a year ago Darren got word that his younger sister Joyce was dead. He hadn't been in contact with his family much after college, but he still was quite fond of his little sister. She had married a Pakistanian transfer student, and they were both killed as part of a Norsefire hate crime.

Upon finding this out, Darren suddenly acquired a new goal in life: destroy Norsefire. Using some of his ill-gotten gains and a few of his criminal connections, he created a new identity for himself, Andrew Holt. It was as Holt that he joined and infiltrated Norsefire, seeking to work his way up the hierarchy so as to better destroy the group from within. At one point he tipped off a local superhero group as to Odin's location, then made it appear as if he had overcome great personal risk to warn Odin in time that they could escape. The plan worked better than Bradley had anticipated: not only did Odin believe that 'Holt' had helped save him from capture, but the leader of Norsefire was so impressed that he offered the young man a chance to acquire superpowers so that he could further support Norsefire's goals. Inwardly, Darren Bradley smiled. The power to bring down Norsefire was being unknowingly offered by its own leader! There was risk, of course, but Bradley had never been afraid of staking everything on a big gamble.

Darren survived the transformation process, becoming one of Odin's New Asgardians, and with his new-found ability to create illusions, 'Andrew Holt' was re-named Loki by Odin. As Loki, Bradley has been overtly aiding Norsefire on its missions, while secretly minimizing the actual damage that the group does. Because of the role he has been granted, he is not fully trusted by the other members of Norsefire, even though Odin himself seems to trust him (“every court needs it jester”, the old man says). Bradley has not revealed his ability to shapeshift to the other members of Norsefire (explaining any change in appearance as just another aspect of his ability with illusions), and occasionally change his appearance to that of other members of the group in order to sow discord within the organization. He has covertly contacted both agents of C.H.E.S.S. and a couple of superhero groups with information regarding Norsefire and their strengths and weaknesses, but he is not entirely trusted by those groups either. He continues to plan and scheme; it isn't enough for Bradley to see Norsefire get merely defeated or weakened, but rather he's setting things in motion so that Norsefire is completely and utterly destroyed as an organization, and all of its members either killed or imprisoned, with no one free left to rescue them.

Mistrusted by both the group has infiltrated and those he would use to bring that group low, in the end Loki has no true allies to call upon. However, he is not discouraged – he's used to having to rely only on himself, and as far as he's concerned, this is just a really, really big con, with everything possibly coming down to a single roll of the dice. Truthfully, he wouldn't have it any other way.

Campaign Use: At some point Loki may approach the PC heroes with information regarding Norsefire. This should come after the heroes have already encountered the organization, including Loki, so that they are more likely to be leery of him and what he has to say. Loki will try to arrange it so that any actions by the PC's against Norsefire are coordinated with other superhero teams and agents of C.H.E.S.S. doing likewise, so as completely and utterly decimate the hate-group that took his little sister away from him.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ponies and Consequences

In yet another sign of the forthcoming apocalypse, Erin Palette over at Lurking Rhythmically has posted a rules hack that allows you to roleplay My Little Pony using the Unknown Armies rules.

As far as I can tell, the only thing missing from it is a proper alignment chart.  Fortunately, that's easily fixed...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Oh, to be a child in Portland, OR

This is the type of summer camp I would have loved as a kid:

The B.P.R.D. Training Camp (aka Camp Hellboy)

After all, how many other summer camps are going to teach you the necessary skills to survive a zombie outbreak?

"But with a catlike speed..."

"..He seemed more a part of the sun and high places of the outlands. His slightest movement spoke of steel-spring muscles knit to a keen brain with the co-ordination of a born fighting man. There was nothing deliberate or measured about his actions. Either he was perfectly at rest - still as a bronze statue - or else he was in motion, not with the jerky quickness of over-tense nerves, but with a catlike speed that blurred the sight which tried to follow him." - The Phoenix on the Sword

Happy birthday, Mr. Howard.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

WOTC to reprint 1st ed AD&D core rulebooks

For the benefit of the Gygax Memorial Fund

Wizards is definitely courting the OSR crowd at the moment.

Trollslayers - Aspects

As mentioned here, all spells in Trollslayers are defined by Eight aspects, with a few examples:

Energy - fireballs and lightning bolts, of course, but also includes healing energy, sonics, hologram style illusions, and many other applications

Gaseous - air-based spells, of course, and many weather effects involve this, but also gases of more harmful natures as well

Liquid - anything to do with oceans, rivers, etc, as well as any other liquid state - not the first choice for many, but essential for potion-making

Matter - from moving the earth beneath you to affecting the human body, a popular choice for young spellcasters, as it has many applications, and is one of the easier Aspects to visualize

Mind - the use of skills, charm spells, illusions (mental as opposed to visual), telepathy

Spirit - the transference and binding of Essence to or from another, curses, communicating with and binding spirits/ghosts - required for the creation of any magic items

Distance - any ranged spells, clairvoyance and clairaudience, any sort of travel, including teleportation

Time - anything with a duration beyond 'instantaneous', precognition and postcognition, time travel

A few examples - a Flight spell would have Aspects of Gaseous and Movement; a Sleep spell would have Distance and either Gaseous (creating a knock-out gas), Energy (draining the target's natural vitality) or Matter (triggering the body's fatigue receptors); a Light spell that lasts for several minutes would be defined by Energy and Time; Pollute Waters would be Liquid (assuming you did so by touch, otherwise throw in Distance as well); Create Zombie would be Matter and Spirit; Summon Demon would be Matter and Distance; Weather Control would include Energy, Gaseous, Liquid and Distance; Shocking Touch would only require Energy, while a Lightning Bolt would require both Energy and Distance.

Magicians start out with KNO/3 bonus Talent points that can only apply to Aspects.  Paragons get KNO/4.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


No V&V Vednesday entry, or any other postings today, in protest of the really, really stupid Protect IP Act (PIPA) and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bills currently under consideration in Congress.  Both bills would fail to stop actual online piracy, but could instead be used to block legitimate web sites sans any form of notice or a trial.

Alien Shores could easily be taken down under such proposed laws, for either the Music Monday or Photodump Friday posts, or just the pictures that posted occasionally to accompany other posts.  Please take a few minutes here to learn more about this dangerous legislation, and how to contact your local senator to let them know that this is NOT what you want.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Trollslayers - Magic (the basics)

All spells in Trollslayers are given a Rank, which determines the idea skill (i.e. character level) of the spellcaster required to cast the spell, and an Essence Cost (EC), which shows the base cost in Essence the spellcaster needs to expend.  For example, a spell of the third Rank might have an EC of 8.

For every level the spellcaster is above the Rank of the spell, the EC is reduced by one, though it can be reduced no lower than half the base EC for the spell (round down), and the minimum EC is always one.  Example: a 4th level Magician casting the above mentioned Rank three spell would only have to expend 7 Essence points to do so, while any spellcaster of 7th level or higher would only have to spend 4 Essence points to cast the spell.

If a spellcaster is trying to cast a spell of a Rank higher than their character level, the EC is increased by the Rank number of each increment of Rank beyond the caster's character level.  Example: a second level Magician trying to cast the above 4th Rank spell would have to expend a total of 15 Essence points to do so (base EC of 8, +4 because a 4th Rank spell is above the caster's character level (2nd level), and also +3 because there is the 3rd Rank of spells between the caster's character level and the Spell's actual Rank.

Spellcasting is divided into two forms, Sorcery and Ritual Magic.  Some spells can only be cast by either Sorcery or Ritual Magic, while other spells can be cast in either form.  Spellcasters can buy either, or both, Sorcery and Ritual Magic as talents to aid in their spellcasting ability.  Both are PRE-based talents.

Sorcery is very quick to enact (usually no more than a combat round), and the type of magic most likely used by adventurers.  Sorcery requires an KNO of 13, a PRE of 13, and a DEX of 9 to use.  Ritual Magic is slower (usually requiring 10 + Rank level in minutes to cast), but not without its advantages.  The attribute minimums for Ritual Magic are lower than that of Sorcery, and only require an KNO of 9, a PRE of 9, and a DEX of 7 (which make it a useful option for Experts who could not otherwise cast spells through Sorcery).  Also, the very act of going through the required ritual motions can draw forth extra Essence that can be used to power the spell.  Finally, there are certain times and locations that can grant extra Essence to those attempting Ritual Magic.

The effects of a given spells is defined by one or more of eight Aspects: Energy, Gaseous, Liquid, Matter, Mind, Spirit, Distance and Time.  Spellcasters can take any Aspect as an KNO-based talent to aid in the use of spells defined by said Aspects.

The base difficulty for spellcasting is 8+ for spells cast via Sorcery, and 6+ via Ritual Magic.  Magicians and Paragons add a +1 to all spellcasting.  Any talents in either Sorcery or Ritual Magic are added as appropriate.  Talents corresponding to Aspects that define a spell being cast are also added (if a spell is defined by more than one Aspect, the bonus is equal to the lower number of the relevant talents, or the highest elevant talent divided by two, round down).  If the Magician or Paragon has a specialization that covers the spell in question (i.e. Divination, Weather Wizard, Necromancy), or an Expert's profession is appropriate to the spell (i.e. a woodsman casting nature magic, or a thief casting stealth-based magic), another +1 is added to the roll.  Finally, the attribute bonus for either KNO or PRE, whichever is lower, is also added to the roll.

Magicians start off with KNO/3 spells of the first Rank, while Paragons start off with KNO/4 such spells.  The maximum number of spells that any Magician can know at a given time is equal to the KNO attribute + PRE modifier + character Level.  For Paragons, the number is half compared to a Magician, and Experts can only learn 1/3 the number of spells that a Magician could.

Music Monday: "My Delirium"

It's like the 80's all over again, courtesy of Ladyhawke:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

V&V Vednesday: Sif

Character Name: Sif     Real Name: Amanda Strucker    Side: Evil
Gender: Female     Height: 5'10"     Weight: 160 lbs     Age: 22

Physical Description: A strikingly beautiful, athletically built female with blond hair and blue eyes.  Her costume is a white bodysuit, with silver-colored trim, belt and boots.  She carries a sword and scabbard, as well as a bandolier with a half-dozen throwing daggers.  On her belt she has various pouches that contain basic first aid equipment.

STR: 24     END: 28      INT: 12     AGL: 15     CHA: 16

Level: 3rd     XP: 5,364     Basic Hits: 4     Hit Points: 48      Healing Rate: 3.2/day
Movement: 67”      Power: 79      Carrying Capacity: 1,330 lbs     HTH Damage: 1d10
Damage Modifier: +1     Accuracy: +2    Detect Hidden: 10%     Detect Danger: 14%
Inventing: 36%     Inventing Points: 3.6     Reaction Modifier: -2 good/+2 evil
Training: Heightened Expertise with sword

Heightened Endurance A: +15
Heightened Expertise: +1 to hit with sword, melee attacks (from training)
Heightened Strength A: +13
Invulnerability: 17pt
Mutant Power: Blade Sharpness - add extra die of same type when using edged weapons (i.e. daggers would add +2d2 instead of +1d2 to damage, and a sword +2d6 instead of +1d6 to damage), max bonus +1d6, PR=3 per turn.  Also, any damage inflicted is treated as double when being countered by Invulnerability or Armor (example - a dagger strike for 8 points of damage would require either 16 points of Invulnerability or Armor to stop it).  Any damage that gets past the Invulnerability or Armor does damage normally (example - if someone only had 12 points of Invulnerability, 6 points of the above dagger damage would be stopped, and the last 2 points of damage would get through).

Psychosis - Bigotry:  hates all non-Caucasians, and may have to make an INT roll if taunted or attacked by a minority (a d20 roll if taunted, a d100 roll if he takes damage) to avoid attacking that person directly.  He also suffers a -4 reaction roll penalty from most people who do not share his views. 

Sword (+2 to hit, +1d6 damage)
Daggers (+1 to hit, +1d2 damage, +2 to hit if thrown, range = 15")
First aid kit 

Areas of Knowledge
Medical, Military, Hate Groups

Character Notes/Origin/Personality: As a child Amanda was always a bit conflicted in her personality.  She always had a bit of a temper, and was never one to shy away from a fight, but at the same time she had a natural talent for helping others, and for acting as something of a caregiver.  This would lead her, after graduating from high school, to join the Army, with the intent of becoming a nurse.

She didn't have a problem with her studies, quickly becoming an excellent field medic.  However, the prejudices she inherited from growing up in a small rural area didn't get any better upon having to deal with fellow soldiers of different faiths and ethnicities.  After multiple racially-charged fights with her fellow soldiers, she was eventually booted out with a Dishonorable Discharge.  She went back to her hometown, and worked for a bit at the local hospital as a nurse, until she eventually joined up with Norsefire.

Odin would have preferred not to have females among the active Norsefire combat personnel, but people with actual military training of any sort were in short supply, and Amanda's medical training made her doubly valuable.  After she had proven her worth, Odin offered to grant her the chance at acquiring super-powers, if she would accept the risk.  She did, and soon joined the front line of the New Asgardians as Sif, the warrior goddess.

Sif looks up to Tyr with admiration (her own father had been a police officer before he died).  Thor had decided that Sif would naturally be his wife, and while she has held off on any idea of actually getting married, because the big lug amuses her they have very publicly become a couple.  However, because she has set her sights somewhat higher, she has also recently begun having a discreet affair with Odin as well.

Campaign Use: Sif is a team player, and is unlikely to strike out on her own, although she might engage in a solo mission for Norsefire if Odin commanded it.  In combat she keeps focused on the mission at hand (unlike the hothead Thor), and does not have a problem with a tactical retreat if a situation goes against her and her forces at hand.  She likes targeting opponents with armor or natural Invulnerability; her ability to quickly bypass such defensive abilities tends to be a rude surprise for her foes.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Just in case you somehow missed it on every other gaming blog...

Wizards Of The Coast has officially announced the forthcoming 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons.

(Yes, every other gaming blog has already jumped on this.  I was out working when the news broke.  Not all of us live in front of a computer.)

One of the stated goals by Mike Mearls is to have "a game that rises above differences of play styles, campaign settings, and editions".  Which sounds nice, but how do you go about doing that?  The only way I can visualize it is to have a dead simple core set of rules as the skeletal framework (something no more complicated than the old Moldvay/Cook B/X rules), and then have lots, and I do mean LOTS of optional rules, with multiple options for pretty much every aspect of gameplay.  The DM decides which options they want for the game they're running, ignoring everything they don't want.

(This brings up the question of tournament play - I would expect that certain option would be flagged as 'convention standard'.)

If this this is indeed the approach that would be taken - and I'm just guessing here, of course - then that brings up the question of PDF gamebooks.  WOTC no longer sells PDFs of any of their games, past or present, a move that helped lead to the rise of the Old School Renaissance.  I would personally hope that WOTC would make the 5th edition rules available as a PDF, because such a rulebook could be a bit unwieldy in print format - having lots of optional rules that you aren't using might create a sense of diminished value, if you're ignoring over half of the rules in the books you're using.

But with a well-designed PDF, that might be less of an issue.  A customizable PDF that allowed you to put all those rules you aren't going to use anyways on 'ignore', slimming down paragraphs of unused walls of text to a small tab that you could re-open at any time, might cut down a 300+ page document to a much more manageable number, perhaps even half the size of the entire document.  Suddenly you have a leaner, less cumbersome rulebook, yet easily customizable to to the different playstyles of different DM's.

At the very least, it seems we'll have plenty of time to figure out if 5th Edition might be geared to our individual tastes.  The open playtests would appear to be a good sign (assuming that WOTC actually listens to the playtesters, instead of just looking for justification for decisions that they would make anyways); even if the new rules aren't to your or my taste, we'll probably have a pretty good idea if that's the case by the time 5th Edition hits the stores.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Review: "Hold Your Fire"

After finishing the tour for Power Windows, Rush would go back into the studio with co-producer Peter Collins to create what would be the last of the band's synth-heavy albums. The result would be the most pop-friendly and radio-accessible of the band's albums, but despite (or perhaps because) of this, Hold Your Fire would wind up being something of a commercial disappointment.

The album starts off strong (as Rush albums tend to do) with 'Force Ten', a driving, percussive song that was the tenth (and last) song recorded for the album, hence the song title. Musically, this is one of the best songs on the album, and the lyrics (co-written by Pye Dubois, who also collaborated with Peart on 'Tom Sawyer') hold together nicely as well. Following next is 'Time Stand Still', which features backing vocals by Aimee Mann of 'Til Tuesday (and why Mann didn't achieve greater success in her solo career is one of the great mysteries/injustices of the music industry), an effective piece that manages to be both reflective and engaging at the same time.

'Open Secrets' isn't as strong as the first two tracks, and has little to distinguish it either musically or lyrically. 'Second Nature' is better musically but not as good lyrically; there's a nice opening sequence with the keyboards that sounds closer to a classical piano that the normal synthesizers on display throughout the album (which in some ways would hint at the bands approach to come regarding keyboards on Presto), but the lyrics, dealing with the need for big business and other powerful entities to take responsibility for how their actions affect others – a far cry from the Rand-inspired 'Anthem' – unfortunately suffers from some rather clumsy and forced turns of phrasing.

'Prime Mover' picks things back up nicely, with a nicely up-tempo tune with some excellent musicianship that might be easy to overlook at first, but can sneak up and grab you after repeated listenings. 'Lock and Key' sounds a bit like it may have been conceived as an extension of Peart's “Fear” series, but it lacks the punch of those songs, and comes off as something of a retread. 'The Mission' deals with the costs and demands of creativity, and while it is quite nice musically, lyrically it may not appeal to everyone (because, let's face it, whether it's justified or not, few people want to hear an artist tell you how difficult it is to be an artist). 'Turn The Page' (no relation to the Bob Segar song of the same name) is another fast-paced rocker, one that has some nice time-changes that help to carry it and give it some extra oomph.

The last two songs of the album, 'Tai Shan' (inspired by Peart's visit to China) and 'High Water', end the album on a weaker note than one might hope for. Both songs have a mystical quality to their lyrics; unfortunately, Neil's lyrics are sometimes at his weakest when he tries to get touchy-feely with his subject matter. Of the two songs, the former at least has some nicely evocative music; the latter doesn't even have that going for it (although it does have one of one of Lifeson's more noteworthy solos).

This is probably the most musically uneven Rush album since Caress of Steel, and the weakest of the band's four synth-based albums that they made in the 80's. There are some really good songs here, but about half of the album fails to really stand out, dragging down the better songs with them somewhat. The synthesizers continue to dominate musically, although Geddy does also give us some awesome bass riffs throughout the album. Neil's drumming is solid and inventive as usual, with some nice flourishes here and there. The guitar work by Alex is well done, but except for a few really nice solos, most of it is relegated to rhythm work backing either Geddy's keyboards or bass leads. The production work isn't bad, comparable to that of Power Windows (as an aside, this is the first Rush album to take advantage of the CD format, clocking in at about 50 minutes – most previous Rush studio albums were about 40 minutes long, give or take).

Commercially, Hold Your Fire was something of a disappointment for the band. It was their first album since Hemispheres not to reach the Top 10 of Billboard's album charts, and only went Gold in terms of overall sales, unlike the majority of Rush albums which eventually go Platinum. As a result, it's a somewhat disappointing coda to the band's experiments with a more synth-driven sound. After this, the group would once again begin to shift gears musically, evolving their sound yet again.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

V&V Vednesday: Thor

Character Name: Thor     Real Name: David Hawthorne    Side: Evil
Gender: Male     Height: 6'4"     Weight: 240 lbs     Age: 24

Physical Description: A tall, muscular man with blue eyes and red hair (dyed, originally brown).  He has a beard, which is also dyed red.  He wears black leather pants and a leather vest, the latter studded with gold.  He carries an oversized ball-peen hammer with him at pretty much all times.

STR: 33     END: 29      INT: 8     AGL: 14     CHA: 14

Level: 3rd     XP: 8,292     Basic Hits: 5     Hit Points: 52      Healing Rate: 5.0/day
Movement: 76”      Power: 84      Carrying Capacity: 4,660 lbs     HTH Damage: 2d8
Damage Modifier: +1     Accuracy: +1    Detect Hidden: 6%     Detect Danger: 11%
Inventing: 24%     Inventing Points: 2.4     Reaction Modifier: -1 good/+1 evil
Training: Heightened Expertise with hammer

Heightened Endurance A: +15
Heightened Expertise: +1 to hit with hammer, melee attacks (from training)
Heightened Strength A: +18
Invulnerability: 17pt
Lightning Control (range 58", 2d8 damage, PR=4, 58% chance to short out electrical items)
Weather Control

Power Limitation - Lightning Control needs to be directed through a metal object (such as the hammer he carries, but he could also transfer electrical energy along other metal items, such as a metal floor or wall).  Also, while he can use this power to attempt to short out electrical items, he cannot use it to try to control electrical items.
Psychosis - Bigotry:  hates all non-Caucasians, and may have to make an INT roll if taunted or attacked by a minority (a d20 roll if taunted, a d100 roll if he takes damage) to avoid attacking that person directly.  He also suffers a -4 reaction roll penalty from most people who do not share his views. 

Hammer (+3 to hit, +1d6 damage)

Areas of Knowledge
Crime, Music, Hate Groups

Character Notes/Origin/Personality: David was a none-too-bright skinhead who played bass guitar in a hate-punk band called the Steel Boots. Having already drifted in and out of various white power organizations, David had already been arrested twice for assault by the time he joined up with Norsefire.  He took an immediate liking to Odin, respecting him and his leadership the way he did few others.  Odin, for his part, was able to instill a smidgen of discipline and tactical awareness into the angry youth, which only made him even more dangerous.

Odin eventually decided that David was worthy of receiving the powers he could grant.  Despite the dangers involved, David readily accepted the chance to acquire power for himself, so that he could do more for the cause.  Surviving the process, his new-found electrical and weather-based abilities made him a natural choice for the role of Thor in Odin's New Asgardians.  Growing his hair and his beard out, and dying them red to better fit the role he has been granted, David is now even more devoted to Odin and his agenda.  He carries an oversized ball-peen hammer, which he uses as his primary weapon.  If an opponent is stunned or otherwise unlikely to be able to avoid being hit, Thor will 'power up' the hammer, using his Lightning Control as a Carrier Attack, in an attempt to finish off his opponent.

Unlike the others granted abilities by Odin, Thor genuinely believes that he is the reincarnation/avatar of the Norse thunder god.  He no longer thinks of himself as David Hawthorne - that was another life, an empty, hollow shell that was merely a precursor to his true destiny.

Campaign Use: An overpowered hothead who isn't terribly bright, Thor isn't above striking at perceived foes on his own, if his emotions and temper can overcome what little common sense and restraint that Odin has tried to teach him.  If the PC heroes can defeat and capture Thor, then they must contend with the inevitable break-out/rescue attempt from Odin and other Norsefire agents.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Music Monday: "Wipeout"

How to kick off 2012 properly?  With a kicking guitar solo, of course, courtesy of Gary Hoey.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Year Two

Another year, time to reassess where the blog is going (or not going, at the case may be).

When I started Alien Shores last year, I had three stated goals for the blog.  One was to get back into gaming on a regular basis, the second was to have a rough version of Trollslayers ready by year's end, and the third was to average at least three posts a week.  The first one was a bust (not counting playing a couple of one-shots at DragonCon), and the second one is a long way from being completed (still need to buckle down at start working on the magic system).  I did succeed on the third one - not even counting fluff posts (like Music Monday and Photodump Friday), I averaged over 3 1/2 posts a week, although those numbers did dip downward near the end of the year.

Besides still looking toward finding a gaming group, and finishing Trollslayers in at least a rough format by the end of 2012, a few secondary goals are also now on the table: get back into occasionally posting some more V&V characters, as well as posting some more reviews of Rush albums.  Also, while I'm not going to attempt trying to post any more comic book reviews on anything remotely resembling a weekly basis, I will try to sneak one in occasionally here and there.  Finally, I'd like to at least double the site's overall traffic I had last year (shouldn't be too difficult - nowhere to go but up, after all).

Finally, just so that this post isn't just a boring list of resolutions, I present you with what just may be the finest piece of television dialogue of all time: