Tuesday, May 29, 2012

When a review becomes a rant

A quick link to Tim Marchman's article at the Wall Street Journal, which was nominally supposed to be about the book Leaping Tall Buildings, instead turns into a screed about the failures of the comic book industry.

"The people who produce superhero comics have given up on the mass audience, and it in turn has given up on them."

Sadly, he's not wrong.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Music Monday: "Brothers in Arms"

On this Memorial Day, as we remember those who have given their lives in service of our country, today's Music Monday is Dire Straits' soulful tribute to soldiers everywhere, "Brothers in Arms".

Friday, May 25, 2012

Collection... complete

Managed to stumble across the three classic Villains & Vigilantes adventure modules that I did not yet own physical copies of (had PDF copies, but that's not the same thing) at a used bookstore last night.

Wasn't actively looking for these modules - as I said, I already had them in PDF format - but now I can say I've got the the complete run of the 'classic' V&V line.  Woot! 

Photodump Friday 5/25

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

V&V Vendesday: Kaalis

Name: Kaalis    Side: Evil     Gender: Female      Height: 5'11"     Weight: 160 lbs

Physical Description: In her true form, Kaalis appears as a tall female with lightly purple-ish skin, goat-like legs, a prehensile tail, horns on her forehead, over-sized ears, and bat-like wings.  She normally carries a whip in this form.  She can shapeshift into a number of human-looking forms, all of which will be of attractive females.

STR: 13     END: 20      INT: 13     AGL: 18/21     CHA: 19

Level: 6th     XP: 20,696     Basic Hits: 4     Hit Points: 23/26     Healing Rate: 2.0/day     Movement: 51”/54" running, 567" flight       Power: 64/67     Carrying Capacity: 336 lbs  
HTH Damage: 1d6     Damage Modifier: +2     Accuracy: +3/+4      
Detect Hidden: 10%     Detect Danger: 14%     Inventing: 39%     Inventing Points: 1.8 Reaction Modifier: -3/+3     Training: END

Note: split attributes on the above stats represent first her abilities in a human disguise, the second in her true demonic form, which is higher due to increased AGL gained from her wings.  

Body power - prehensile tail
Dimension Travel (type 1)
Emotion Control (lust/desire)
Heightened Defense (-4 to be hit)
Heightened Physicality (+3 STR, +7 END, +6 AGL)
Heightened Senses: Detect Magic (automatic, range 13" radius)
Transformation (Shapeshifter/Disguise)
Wings (+3 AGL, 567" flight (129 MPH))
*Flame Power (attack only ("fireball"), PR 2, 36", 1d12 damage)
*Illusions (type A, visual/audible/odor/taste, PR 4)

*spells learned through the expenditure of Inventing Points

Demon Whip (+2 to hit, HTH + 1d6 damage, can also attack as Devitaliation Ray up to 13 times a day (carrier attack, no range, requires successful HTH attack to use), and Death Touch once per day (same limitations).

Takes 2d8 damage from a splash of holy water, x2 damage from silver and sunlight based attacks (and 1 pt of damage per turn in direct sunlight); if in human guise, any of these attacks will force her to assume her true form.  Also susceptible to summonings, banishings, and wardings.

Areas of Knowledge
Nether Realms, Seduction & Corruption

Character Notes/Origin/Personality: Kaalis is a succubus, a demon who has been seducing and corrupting mortal for untold ages.  She can travel between the nether realms and the earthly realm at will, which places her fairly high in the hierarchy of demons, above many such beings who are perhaps more physically threatening.  She is not adverse to using her demonic abilities when needed against normal mortals, but prefers to work in the shadows against superhuman foes whenever possible.  The seduction and corruption of superheroes is considered a grand accomplishment among succubi, but Kaalis is careful in choosing such targets; she will avoid magicians, psychics, and any one else whose abilities might allow them to deduce her true nature.

The destruction of the hated foe Sunshine Scout is considered a high priority among the demons currently on Earth.  Kaalis greatly desires this accomplishment for herself, but feels no inclination to confront Sunshine Scout directly, preferring instead to seduce various supervillains into attacking her, and perhaps even tricking a superhero into doing so.  Kaalis will only step in directly to finish the job if she is certain that Sunshine Scout is indeed helpless, having no desire to get into anything remotely resembling a 'fair' fight.

Campaign Use: A friendly NPC might fall under Kaalis's wiles, with the PC's eventually having to save them.  Alternatively, Kaalis may target a PC directly (the 'girlfriend from hell' storyline pretty much writes itself, doesn't it?).  If Sunshine Scout is in the PC's city, Kaalis is sure to be nearby, trying to manipulate others into attacking her.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Music Monday: "Teen Angst"

Apparently, what the world needs now is an acoustic version of Cracker's "Teen Angst"...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

V&V Vednesday: Demons

For as long as mankind has existed, demons have walked the Earth.

Fortunately, their numbers on the Earthly plane at any given has been relatively small.  Only a handful of demons have the ability to traverse the planes at will; most only appear in our reality if summoned by one with magical skill, or during those thankfully rare occasions when the barriers between the Earthly plane and the hellish dimensions are weaker than usual.

It is said that no two demons are alike, which can make dealing with them problematic.  It can also be problematic for the GM, especially if he or she needs to come up with a suitable demonic foe at short notice. The following charts can help when an 'instant demon' is needed.

Roll 3d6 for each of the basic characteristics as for any NPC.  Level is determined randomly as per section 4.3.C of the V&V rulebook, then halved (round up),with the minimum level being 4th.   Add training bonuses to characteristics as per section 4.3.D, either ignoring results of 6 (i.e. don't bother with Inventing rolls), or treating any Inventing rolls as a chance for the demon to acquire some sort of magical spell/ritual.

All demons get the following powers: Adaptation, Heightened Physicality (+1d10 each to Strength, Endurance, and Agility), and Heightened Senses: Detect Magic (range is a radius equal to the demon's INT in game inches).

Next, roll a d12 to determine which Animal Powers the demon has (this also determines their basic appearance).  A roll of 1 does not give plant-based powers, but instead allows the demon to re-roll twice, indicating that the demon's appearance (and abilities) is a hybrid of two different animal forms.  A roll of 8 or 10 does not grant one-celled or lower class animal abilities, but rather indicates that demon is human (or at least humanoid) in form - they gain no animal powers for this, but have a chance (1-3 on d6) of instead having Transformation C (Disguise).  All other rolls grant 1d6 species-based abilities, as per usual for Animal Powers (if the demon has two different animal forms, it still only gains 1d6 species powers, but can choose the more beneficial or desirable roll from the two different tables).

After that, determine the demon's defensive abilities, by rolling a d8:

1. n/a
2-3. Armor
4. Heightened Defense 
5-6. Invulnerability
7. Non-coporealness
8. Regeneration

Each demon also gets a chance at some movement-based powers (roll d6):

1. n/a
2. Dimension Travel (type 1)
3. Teleportation
4-6. Wings

If Dimension Travel is rolled, a second roll is made to see if any other transport powers are possessed (re-rolling Dimension Travel means no further travel abilities).  If the demon does not possess Dimension Travel, then that usually means that it has been summoned by others.  Wings are usually of the bat-like variety, but if the demon is otherwise human in appearance, they with be more feathery/bird-like.

After that, roll a d12 to give the demon a noticeable physical trait:

1. n/a
2. Body power - extra limbs (+4 to HTH attacks)
3. Body power - prehensile tail
4. Heightened Endurance B
5. Heightened Senses
6. Heightened Strength B
7-8. Natural Weaponry (claws)
9. Poison/venom
10-11. Size change, larger
12. Size change, smaller

A demon with the poison/venom ability will also have natural weaponry/claws (if not already possessed through the demon's animal abilities) at the minimum rating (+1 to hit, +2 to damage).  Both size change abilities are permanent/always on, and are at the minimum rating respectively (x1.5 height for larger, 1/2 height for smaller).

Next, roll a d12 to give the demon some unusual ability:

1. n/a
2. Chemical Power
3. Darkness Control
4. Death Touch
5. Emotion Control
6-7. Flame Power (option one)
8. Heightened Attack
9. Heightened Charisma B
10. Heightened Expertise
11. Illusions (type A, all senses)
12. Lightning Control

Chemical power does not change the demon's body, but does allow it to emit noxious fumes/vapors as an attack.  Emotion Control is usually fear-based, but if the demon is humanoid in appearance, it may be based on lust instead...

Almost done!  Each demon has a 1 in 10 chance of carrying a weapon of some sort.  If the demon is armed (and already dangerous), roll a d6 to determine the type of weapon:

1-2. Sword
3-4. Battle Axe
5. Spear
6. Whip (+1 to hit, HTH + 1d4 damage)

All demon weapons are more powerful than their normal earthly counterparts, imbued as they are with negative energies.  If the demon is small, damage is normal (despite the weapon being smaller than normal).  If the demon is human-sized, add an extra +1 to hit to the weapon, and bump up the damage to the next die type (a d4 becomes a d6, a d6 becomes a d8, etc).  Weapons wielded by large demons have an extra +2 to hit, and the damage die is bumped up twice (a d4 becomes a d8).  Also, there is a chance that the weapon has 1-3 powers, determined on the magic/psionic items chart in section 2.5 of the rulebook.  Roll a d20 and compare to the demon's level.  A natural 1 indicated the weapon has 3 powers, a roll equal to or below half the demon's level indicates it has two powers, and a roll equal to or below the demon's level means it has one power.  For example, if a weapon-wielding demon is 7th level, a roll of 8-20 means the weapon has no extra abilities, a a 4-7 means the weapon has one extra ability, a 2-3 means two abilities, and a 1 means three abilities for the weapon in question.  Such weapons invariably corrupt their users, and obviously are not recommended for superhero use (of course, a misplaced demon weapon can essentially result in the creation of a new supervillain!).

Obviously, these demons are fell foes, and can prove dangerous to even experienced superheroes.   Fortunately, demons also have several Weaknesses, many of which are well known.  A splash of holy water does 2d8 damage to demons (treat as a Chemical Power attack); actual immersion in a fountain of holy water means instant destruction for all but the greatest of demon lords (if you really feel like rolling, treat the damage as per a medium nuclear bomb). Silver weapons do double damage to demons, and no demon will willingly abide its touch.  Bright sunlight is also repellant to demons; simply standing under the sun's rays does 1 point of damage to the demon per combat turn (the demon can 'roll with the blow', so this usually comes off of Power instead of Hit Points), and if a Light Control attack is sunlight-based, then the demon takes double damage.  In all of these cases, Armor and Invulnerability does not protect the demon, and Regeneration will not heal the wounds created by these attacks.  Also, demons are susceptible to summonings, banishings, and wardings such as some occultists and holy men are capable of casting.  Obviously, demons hate having their actions dictated by mere mortals, and will seek to bypass whatever control that the caster can manage. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Over The Edge goes OGL

Atlas Games has released the rules system for Over The Edge (one of my all-time favorite rules-lite RPG systems) under the Open Game License, under the name WaRP (Wanton Role-Playing) System, in celebration of OTE's 20th anniversary.

Check it out here.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Music Monday: "Blue on Black"

Because you can always use some bluesy guitar riffs to get your week started...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sandbox superhero campaigns (part 1)

There's been no small amount of talk of late among gamers (especially the OSR types) about sandbox campaigns, and how to run them.  This usually is geared toward fantasy campaigns, although sci-fi games can get the sandbox treatment as well.  One particular genre of tabletop RPG gaming that hasn't gotten a lot of play in this regard is superhero gaming.

And not without reason.  In most four-color superhero comics, the heroes tend to be more reactive than proactive.  Supervillain robs a bank, criminal organization acquires apocalypse weapon, aliens show up to invade... a crime/threat is committed by others, and then the heroes try to stop it.  Every once in a while some superheroes try to go proactive, but this rarely lasts long... mainly because such comics, with a few exceptions, tend to be rather crappy (Quick, does anyone remember Extreme Justice? No, me neither.). 

That said, in a gaming context it's not an impossible proposition, just one that needs a little extra work and planning to pull off.  Part of what gives a sandbox its appeal is the ability for the players to choose the type of adventures they embark upon.  In a superhero setting, this means that there needs to be multiple threats present, and that the PC's can prioritize their responses as they see fit.

Okay, so first you need a map of the campaign city.  The PC's can, and probably will stray beyond its borders from time to time (sometimes you have to go out into the boonies to stop those Lovecraftian cultists), but the city in questions acts as an anchor for the campaign.  If you're using a real city, no problem, just grab a few maps, with at least one concentrating of detailing differing neighborhoods/boroughs (actual street maps aren't quite as important - you rarely need that much detail - but can still prove useful on occasion).  If you want to use a fictitious city - and while some may scoff, doing so has some real benefits - well, you could design your own, or use one of the many that show up in various superhero RPG's... but that said, it's probably easiest just to take a map of Green Arrow's old stomping grounds Star City, change the names of the city and its various neighborhoods, maybe change the compass directions to suit to local geography, and use that.

Trust me, unless you tell your players what you've done, they won't recognize the source.  They would probably recognize a re-named Gotham, and might recognize Metropolis with a name change, but they are not going to recognize Star City with a face-lift.

Next, you need lots of villains, to give your PC's a proper target-rich environment.  Why there are so many supervillains in a city where (ideally) there are no other superheroes (except for the PC's, of course), is for each individual GM to decide.  Perhaps there has been a recent massive jailbreak from a nearby super-prison.  Or maybe the superhero who had defended the city for years has died, or is no longer available (the old DC Heroes adventure module 'King of Crime' uses this basic premise - after Barry Allen is dead, various villains move to Central City to run rampant, and it falls to new heroes (the PC's) to come in and save the day). 

As a minimum, I would recommend the following:
  1. At least 2 supervillain groups - the possibly for conflict between said groups should always be a possibility
  2. At least 12 solo villains, or a number of solo villains equal to twice the number of PC heroes, whichever is greater - these villains should have a wide range of motivations and M.O.'s
  3. At least 3 major criminal organizations, or a number equal to half the number of PC heroes, round up, whichever is greater - groups like the Mafia, Cobra, the Brotherhood of Assassins, the Acolytes of Moloch, etc. - they are not limited to one city, but they have a major stronghold in the campaign city.  They may have some supervillains on staff or retainer, and may even be run by someone with superpowers, but the majority of their rank-and file members fall into the goon/mook category.
  4. At least 6 major street gangs, or a number equal to the number of PC's, whichever is greater - most of these groups won't pose any real threat to your average superhero team, but they give solo heroes something to do when the rest of the group can't show up, and sometimes it can be fun to wallop some gangbangers, especially if the local supervillain contingent has been giving the heroes lots of problems and you need to salve your ego.  Most street gangs usually fall form along ethnic lines, and you can always watch Gangland to inject some hints of realism into said gangs, but honestly, given that this is for a superhero campaign, you can probably get more mileage from watching The Warriors and ripping it off shamelessly.
This is in addition to whatever friendly/neutral NPC's you want to work up - the nosy reporter, the local police liaison, co-workers for the hero's secret identity, etc.  You also want the campaign's superspy organization (S.H.I.E.L.D., Checkmate, U.N.C.L.E., etc.) to have a local branch - besides being very useful in other regards, you want an organization that can legitimately take down a supervillain or three on their own: part of the freedom of a sandbox for players is deciding that there are certain things you don't want to bother with, so delegating those threats to others should be an option that they can occasionally employ ("We'll handle the supervillains threatening to take over the city, if your organization can handle the Cthulhu cultists we got a line on - yeah, we can curbstomp them easily enough, but those guys still creep us out.") 

Now get a copy of your neighborhood map, and place the various villains and groups in the various neighborhoods accordingly.  Villains may live in one neighborhood, but mostly target other areas, depending on the individual M.O.'s; mark both for them, and unless they can teleport, you may want to note the travel points in-between (this will become important when we get to patrolling in a later post).  This constitutes a villain's or organization's Area of Operations (AoO).

You may also want to work out a relationship map, a la various Indie and old White Wolf games, between the various villains, organizations, etc.  Alternatively, you may want to leave this fast and loose, and let tensions, alliances, etc. arise between the various criminal elements during ongoing play.

Get a sheet of paper, and list all of the solo villains, supervillain groups, organizations, and street gangs on them.  Each week (or every other week, or month, or whatever), roll one die for each of them to see if they do something newsworthy that grabs the public's and/or law enforcement's attention.  Solo villains roll a d6, supervillain groups roll a d10, organizations roll a d12, and street gangs roll a d20.  On the first week of the campaign, each villain/group that rolls a 1 does something that the heroes can react to.  Those that don't, put a check mark by their name.  Each check mark increases the odds of something occurring for dice rolls on following weeks; one check mark means you need to roll a 1-2 on the given die, two check marks require a 1-3, etc.  If they don't make their roll, add another check mark.  When they do finally make their roll, erase all check marks and start over (assuming the villain/group hasn't been captured/put out of of business by the PC heroes).

ExampleWindwitch is one of the many solo villains in a GM's campaign.  The first week she needs to roll a 1 on a d6 to commit a crime; she rolls a 4 and is laying low.  On week two she needs to roll a 1-2 to become active; she rolls a 3, probably planning something, but not quite ready yet.  One week three she needs to roll a 1-3 to do something; she rolls a 2, and steals some expensive jewelry and some cash for herself from a high-end jewelry store.  Assuming she is not captured by the local heroes, on week four she starts over, needing a 1 on that d6 to indicate further activity.

As long as you have enough villains present, someone will being doing something during any given time-frame to catch the PC's attention.  Preferably more than one person or group, so the players have to make decisions which to concentrate on, or alternatively to split up their attention and divide their efforts accordingly.

These numbers alone should give PC heroes plenty to do for several weeks of campaign time to come, but there's more to superhero gaming than just bashing baddies.  Forthcoming posts will give some extra details and options to help ensure the game feels sufficiently superhero-esque.

(part two continues here)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

V&V Vednesday: Sunshine Scout

Character Name: Sunshine Scout     Real Name: Amelia Norton    Side: Good
Gender: Female      Height: 5'5”/5'2"     Weight: 150/120 lbs     Age: 36

Physical Description: As Amelia Norton, she appears as a reasonably attractive woman in her mid-30's with brunette hair and brown eyes, usually dressed smartly but conservatively (although this will vary heavily depending on what sort of assignment she is on at the given moment).  As Sunshine Scout, she appears to be a slender teenager (also with brunette hair and brown eyes) dressed in a stylized version of a girl scout uniform, complete with domino mask.

STR: 12/15     END: 13/19      INT: 15     AGL: 13/22     CHA: 16

Level: 7th     XP: 30,315     Basic Hits: 3     Hit Points: 11/25       
Healing Rate: 0.9/1/5 per day     Movement: 38”/56"      Power: 53/71       
Carrying Capacity: 227/317 lbs     HTH Damage: 1d4/1d6  
Damage Modifier: +2/+3     Accuracy: +1/+4      
Detect Hidden: 12%     Detect Danger: 16%     Inventing: 45%     Inventing Points: 1.5 

Reaction Modifier: +2/-2     Training: Combat Accuracy w/ Light Control

Languages: besides English, Amelia is fluent in both Japanese and Spanish (from training)
Natural Weaponry (martial arts): +1 to hit, +2 to damage in unarmed combat (from training)
Transformation A: grants the following abilities (stats with split scores indicate Amelia's normal form first, then her transformed stats as Sunshine Scout) 
     Heightened Attack: +7 damage to all attacks (see below)
     Heightened Defense: -4 to be hit from all attacks
     Heightened Expertise: +4 to hit with all attacks (see below) 
     Heightened Physicality (acts similar to Heightened Strength B, Heightened Endurance B and Heightened Agility B, bonus may be split between those three attributes as desired): +3 STR, +6 END, +7 AGL
     Heightened Senses: sense demonic presences, 15" radius (based on INT)
     Light Control: range 44", 2d8 damage, PR=1

Special Requirements: Heightened Attack and Heightened Expertise only work vs demons, or demon-possessed foes.  Also, Amelia must recite the Girl Scout's Promise, combined with a series of specific hand gestures, to activate her transformation ability and become Sunshine Scout (no special requirements are needed to transform back into her normal form).

Areas of Knowledge
Journalism, Girl Scout Lore

(note: 'Girl Scout Lore' covers a rather wide range of skills - basically, if there's a Girl Scout badge for it, Sunshine Scout (and to a lesser extent, Amelia) can do it)

Character Notes/Origin/Personality: Ever since she was a little girl, Amelia loved being a Girl Scout.  She loved the camaraderie, being able to help others, and the sense of belonging to something greater than herself.

In 1989, the world was still recovering from the Reality War the preceding summer.  Although the worst of the world's wounds had healed, what wasn't known to most people was that the barriers between their reality, and other dimensions, had not been fully repaired.  Demons, which had shown up here and there across the Earth since the beginning of history, was beginning to appear with greater and greater frequency.

It was one such demon that appeared in the woods where 13-year-old Amelia and her troop was camping one summer night.  Separated briefly from the others, hiding where she saw her friends being threatened with imminent and horrific death, Amelia prayed for a miracle.

It was then that time seemed to freeze momentarily, and that Amelia saw the angel.  An angel, as it turns out, that looked an awful lot like Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts.  The angel told Amelia that she could help her friends, if she did as instructed.  This involved reciting the Girl Scout Promise ("On my honor, I will try to serve God and my country, to help people at all times, and to live by the Girl Scout Law.") while making a very specific set of hand gestures.

Uncertain, Amelia did as told, and was transformed into something similar to what she already was, but stronger, faster, tougher.  Also, wearing a domino mask.  Time now unfrozen, Amelia leaped at the demon, fighting it with her new-found abilities.  She almost died during her first fight, until she discovered that she could create sunlight from her hands, the bright light anathema to the demon, destroying it.  In the confusion of the aftermath, she slipped away, transformed back into her normal form, and rejoined her troop before it was noticed that she had been missing. 

For the next four years, Amelia led a double life - a normal teenager most of the time, but also a superhero when needed.  She fought primarily against various demonic forces, but she occasionally fought against more normal superhuman threats, as well.  Upon learning of the young heroine, the press dubbed her the 'Sunshine Scout', based on her costume and powers - the name stuck, somewhat to Amelia's consternation.

By 1993, the frequency that demons showed up upon the Earth had gotten even greater, enough so that other superheroes were starting to take note.  Those in the mystical community feared that, at the rate things were going, the floodgates would open and all the demons of Hell wold walk the Earth.  

It was then that the wizard Zarthwyn made his presence known to Sunshine Scout.  No hero by any means, he still knew better than most what would happen if the barriers between realities crumbled completely.  He informed her that he knew of a way to re-form the natural barriers between Earth and the nether realms, but that a sacrifice would be required.  She offered her life.  He told her that death was not the way to defeat the demonic threat, but that the cost would be great nonetheless - she would have to sacrifice the knowledge that allowed her to transform into Sunshine Scout, and to completely forget that she had ever been that hero.

Tearfully, she agreed.  Zarthwyn performed the ritual, sealing the barriers between the nether realms and the earthy plane.  Amelia found herself afterwards in her bedroom; she remembered nothing of her second life from the last four years, but she still felt a sense of loss that she could never quite explain. 

Her sense of justice and responsibility was still with her, though, and after graduating from high school, she went to college, eventually earning a degree in journalism.  She would over time become a highly respected print journalist, earning more than a few awards, and several times getting herself into (and out of) various dangerous situations.  More sympathetic to the superhero community than most reporters (while also holding them to a higher ethical standard than many), she has also gotten over the years several exclusive interviews with different superheroes (and even a few supervillains, as well).   Although she never married or had children, she also helped to sponsor a local Girl Scout group in her community.

Just last month, while covering a story on a local Satanic cult, Amelia was as surprised as anyone when the rather-clueless cultists actually managed to summon a demon.  As the cultists were being slaughtered, old memories resurfaced within Amelia's mind.  Somewhat despite herself, she found herself making the old gestures as she recited the Promise. To her surprise, she transformed once again into Sunshine Scout, whom the years seemed to not have touched.  In her youthful and superpowered form, she once again went into battle, eventually destroying the demon.

Transforming back into her normal, adult form, the joy she felt upon regaining her memories and her abilities was soon dashed when she began to ponder the implication of what had happened.  Had the demonic forces managed to overcome what Zarthwyn had accomplished, negating her sacrifice?  Or had the return of her memories for whatever reason cancelled out Zarthwyn's ritual, inadvertently threatening the world with Sunshine Scout's return? 

Now, both as journalist Amelia Norton, and as superhero Sunshine Scout, she seeks out the truth, hoping and praying that the world is not once again on the verge of a demonic apocalypse. 

Campaign Use: Any demonic activity in the area (that the PC's might be investigating) will also cause Sunshine Scout to show up as well.  If any of the PC's are magicians, or otherwise versed in occult lore, she may try to find out if there has been an upswing in recent demonic activity, possibly even letting them in on her secret identity, if they come across as both knowledgeable and trustworthy.

She will also be trying to track down and find Zarthwyn (no easy feat), which may draw the attention of any PC's (or other superheroes) who are also hunting after the wizard; they may be somewhat surprised to find out that she is looking for him to get help and information, and that her impression of him is not necessarily a negative one. Her search for Zarthwyn may also draw the attention of Khronos.

On a lighter note, while she mainly fought demons back in the day, she did also occasionally fight the odd supervillain here and there.  If one of these villains made a return appearance, the PC's might wish to speak to Sunshine Scout to get some insight on how to defeat them.

As Amelia Norton, her job as a journalist means that she can serve any number of useful roles in a campaign; ally, foil, contact, perhaps even as a romantic interest.  

Inspired in part (twice!) by Shadowjack's various 'In Which I Watch Sailor Moon' threads on the RPG.net forums.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Music Monday: "The Confessor"

"On the bottom words are shallow 
On the surface talk is cheap  
You can only judge the distance 
By the company you keep"

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Yeah, I saw the Avengers

Okay, to say that I enjoyed this film would be something of an understatement. In many ways, this is the film I've been waiting some three and a half decades to see. The plot is solid, the action sequences are great, and perhaps most importantly, the acting and characterization are absolutely spot-on - all of the leads have a great chemistry with each other.  In particular, there's some wonderful one-on-one interactions (Iron Man  fighting Thor, Black Widow interrogating Loki, Tony and Bruce bonding, Cap and Iron Man squabbling, Thor throwing down with Hulk, Tony verbally sparring with Loki) that really highlights their individual strengths and characterizations quite nicely.  All of our heroes get their individual moments to shine, and the script does a good job having your 'street-level' heroes (Hawkeye, Black Widow) fit along side your heavy hitters (Thor, Iron Man).

It's of course a big summer blockbuster film, but it's not a *stupid* action film - the plot holds together well enough, and if anything at times it moves along so quickly that it's sometimes easy to occasionally miss some of the little bits here and there (gosh, I guess that means I'll have to go back and re-watch it sometime soon).

There are some nice touches if you've seen the various films leading up to this, but it stands alone nicely if you haven't. In short, the inner 9-year-old fanboy in me is still bouncing off the walls from seeing it (actually, my outer 44-year-old self is kinda doing the same, only in a more sedate manner).

Oh, and as he was the only lead who wasn't in any of the previous movies, props should be given to Mark Ruffalo, who really nailed playing Banner in the film.  As much as I liked Ed Norton's portrayal in the previous Hulk film, Ruffalo just brought a whole 'nother level to the character.

Oh, and if you haven't seen the movie yet, be sure to stay through all the credits.  There are two bonus scenes - the first sets up a villain for future films, the other...well, just stay all the way through the credits, okay?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"Live To Rise"

About 24 hours from now, my wife and I, along with a couple of friends, will head out to see the Avengers film, something that I'm pretty darned hyped for.  What to do until then?  Hey, I know!  Let's listen to (and watch) Soundgarden's "Live To Rise", which is part of the Avengers soundtrack, and is the band's first single in about a decade and a half.

Free Comic Book Day this Saturday

Not only do we get the Avengers film this weekend, but this Saturday is also Free Comic Book Day, as well.

You can find a nearby participating comic book shop here.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

V&V Vednesday: C.H.E.S.S.

(something a little different here - instead of a new character created from scratch, this post details the changes I've made for my own campaigns to the classic organization used in so many V&V games)

Pawns represent about 99% of the overall membership of C.H.E.S.S.  Agents of this rank are almost never referred to by said rank (except occasionally when getting dressed down by a superior officer), and any agent not referred to by a higher rank is usually assumed to be a Pawn.  This includes non-combat support staff, combat troops, and secret agents.  Some Pawns (especially more experienced ones) chafe at being referred to as such, but those higher up in the organization figure a little humility can't hurt (given the egos that sometimes show up), and that rising above being a mere Pawn gives agents something to aspire to.

Rumors have run wild over the years about the robotic duplicates that C.H.E.S.S. uses in various operations.  C.H.E.S.S. allows the rumors to go (mostly) unchecked, figuring that misinformation about their capabilities can only work to their advantage.  In truth, there have never been more than a dozen of these in operational use at any one time, primarily due to expense.  The tendency for these units to seriously malfunction upon being damaged has been, for the most part, corrected.  That said, their use is fairly limited - the main ongoing use is as a duplicate for the King or Queen (see below).  These robotic servants also technically qualify as Pawns.

Bishops are operatives who possess some sort of paranormal mental ability, usually either telepathy, precognition, or postcognition.  They usually do not function as field agents, and most have little to no offensive or defensive powers.  Their primary role is to gather information, not to get involved in firefights.  Much of the success C.H.E.S.S. has enjoyed can be traced back to information gathered by their telepaths, or being warned in advance of some terrible calamity by their precogs.

A small sub-branch of the Bishops include those who deal with magical phenomena.  They are almost never actual spellcasters, but rather are those well-versed in occult lore, who can usually cast a number of various magical rituals if needed.  The psychics and the magicians haven't always played well with each other in the past, but the two groups can usually put aside their differences when needed.

Knights are the elite combat arm of the organization, wearers of a formidable powered combat armor.  There are only about a hundred or so of these suits in existence (they are hideously expensive to both create and to maintain), so there are usually only a few of these agents available in any given city.  Those who become Knights were usually at least 5th level as Pawns, and also usually have to display a decent amount of technical expertise before being considered for this rank.

Rooks represent the best in the organization, with usually between two to three dozen agents at any given time qualifying as such.  Pawns (and Knights who for whatever reason no longer wear the armor) must usually be of at least 8th level to qualify for this rank; Bishops who get more involved in field operations may qualify upon reaching 5th level.  All Rooks have individual code-names, and usually have access to whatever cutting-edge technology that C.H.E.S.S. may have available at any given moment.  Any superheroes that work with C.H.E.S.S. on a regular basis are often given honorary Rook status (but are not included in the number of agents listed above). 

King/Queen represent the current leadership of C.H.E.S.S., the exact title depending upon gender.  Congress must approve the appointment of any new King/Queen - in the past this has generally meant that those with more bureaucratic temperments were usually chosen, sometimes at the expense of those chosen actually having sufficient field experience.  Internal C.H.E.S.S. regulations now require any potential King or Queen to have served for at least two years in one of the non-Pawn ranks (in practice, Bishops are virtually never considered for the leadership role, as there would appear to be a slight bias against those with any actual superhuman abilities taking control of the organization).  Some have complained that this has swung the pendulum too far in the other direction, with the most recent Kings/Queens having too much of a 'cowboy' mentality.

CHESS Identicard design by Justice Carmon, based on Jeff Dee's fictional super agency presented in Villains & Vigilantes RPG

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

You can laugh if you want...

...but whatever else you may think about the x-rated parody of the upcoming Avengers film...

...it at least appears to have a better representation of female characters than the actual theatrical release does.