Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Capsule reviews: Comics from 5/25

(one of these days I will figure out how to get these reviews out in a timely manner - that said, today isn't that day, and next week isn't looking to good in that regard, either)

King Conan: The Scarlet Citadel #4 (of 4) (Dark Horse, $3.50, Timothy Truman, Tomás Giorello) -This ends pretty much the way you expect it would, with Conan returning to Aquilonia, to face foes from both within and without.  That's not necessarily a bad thing; there are only so many ways to to wrap up a Conan tale that don't wind up feeling 'not-Conan'.  Of course, if you stick too close to how Howard ended his Conan stories, then you risk falling into the banal end of pastiche.  Truman's wrap-up feels like something that Howard might have found acceptable, and if this winds up comfortably on the side of pastiche, it's at least a fairly enjoyable romp.  It's a little rushed in spots, and would probably have benefited from having at least a few more pages, but overall the story holds up decently well.  Assuming you haven't already been following this mini-series, this can be safely recommended for Conan fans when it gets collected in trade paperback format. 

Conan: Road Of Kings #5 (of 12) (Dark Horse, $3.50, Roy Thomas, Mike Hawthorne) - Conan continues to pursue Fharos and Olivia into the lands of Ophir, dealing with border guards and a rather unnecessary monster along the way (seriously, the monster scene does nothing but pad out the pages).  Fharos makes it to the court in Ophir first, but finds out that getting his desired reward is not in the cards, as palace intrigue places both him and Olivia in mortal danger.  Meanwhile, Conan finally makes his way to the royal city, and decides to pick a fight with an executioner for... well, no damned good reason, really.  He finds his foe is not so easily bested, leaving Conan at risk for a perfunctory cliffhanger.  Another weak issue in what has been an uneven story arc.

Transmetropolitan vol 8: Dirge (DC/Vertigo, $14.99, Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson) - collecting together issues 43-48 of the original run, things heat up as an invisible sniper terrorizes the City in the midst of a raging superstorm.  Spider and his Filthy Assistants come to realize just what they're up against, as the President Callahan ramps up the danger several notches, and gives a tactic demonstration why it's a bad idea to underestimate the power of the Presidency.  Oh, and just to make things worse, Spider comes face to face with his own looming mortality, in a manner even his occasionally delusional demeanor can't ignore.  This is not a good jumping in point for the series; too much is building to a head, and it would be a disservice to the reader not to start at the beginning.   But for those who do work their way up to this point, the payoff is worth it as the series truly kicks in high gear, with a sense that anything truly can happen, and that no one is safe.  Highly recommended.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Trollslayers - Revised Weapon Charts

The main difference is that weapon damage is now a set number, instead of a multiple based on STR. While I like the idea of damage being based on STR, the scale didn't jibe with the damage for the different sizes/pulls of various bows and crossbows. Now, a character just adds his or her's STR modifier to the base damage for the weapon (but not for bows and crossbows).

Let's see if I can format this a little better...

Weapon         Type  Hand   STR   DEX   DV   DEF   ENC   Cost  Notes

Battle Axe       C     1     14    11    7    +1    3     12   A
                       2     12    10    8    +2               A
Club             B     1      8     8    6    +1    1      -
Bastard Sword    C     1     14    11    8    +1    3     35
                       2     11    10    9    +2
Dagger           C     1      5     8    3     -    1      3
Flail, hand      B     1     13    12    7    +1    2      9   A B
Flail, war             2     12    12    8    +2    4     12   A C
Great Axe        C     2     14    12    8    +2    4     22   A
Greatsword       C     2     14    11   10    +2    4     55   A
Hand Axe         C     1     11     9    5    +1    2      3
Lance            P     1     13    11   10     -    5     25   A D
Mace             B     1     13    10    7    +1    2      6   A
Mace, spiked     B     1     13    11    8    +1    3     10   A E
Maul             B     2     15    12    8    +2    5     12   A
Pole Arm         P     2     11    10   10    +2    5     15   A F
Quarterstaff     B     2     10    12    8    +2    2      2
Short Sword      C     1      7     9    6    +1    1     15
Spear            P     1     12    12    6    +1    2      2   F
                       2      9     8    7    +2  
Spear, long      P     2     11     9    8    +2    3      4   A F
Sword            C     1     12    10    7    +1    2     25
Warhammer        B     1     15    12    6    +1    3      8   A
                       2     12    11    7    +2
Whip (20')       C     1      7    13    3     -    1      4   G H

And now missile weapons...

Weapon         Type  Hand   STR   DEX   DV  Range  ENC   Cost  Notes

Bow, short       P     2      9    10    4   360    2     12   H I J
Bow, medium      P     2     12    11    6   540    3     20   H J
Bow, long        P     2     14    12    9   720    3     35   H J
Bow, great       P     2     17    13   12   900    4     60   H J 
Crossbow, light  P     2   7/8/13   8    7   600    3     40   I K
Crossbow, medium P     2  8/12/17   9   11   750    4     50   K
Crossbow, heavy  P     2  9/14/22  10   16   900    5     75   K
Dagger, thrown   C     1      5     8    3    x3    1      3   I
Hand Axe, thrown C     1     11     9    5    x5    2      3   I    
Rock, thrown     B     1      5     8    2    x6    1      -   I
Sling            B     1      5    10    4   x20    1      1   H I J
Spear, thrown    P     1     12    12    6    x4    2      2   I 

Type indicates the basic damage type the weapon inflicts, which includes Blunt, Cutting, and Piercing.

Hand indicates whether the weapon is used one-handed or two-handed (for human-sized users).  If a weapon can be used either way, different values will be shown for STR, DEX, DV, and DEF.

STR indicates the minimum Strength required to use the weapon without penalty.  The number listed is for Experts and for Commoners with some combat training (i.e. "zero-level men-at-arms").  For Warriors and Paragons, the number required is reduced by one.  For Magicians and Commoners without combat training, the number required is increased by one.

If the user's STR is less than the listed minimum, the user suffers a -1 penalty on their attack roll.  If their STR is half or less of the listed number, the penalty is increased to -2.

DEX indicates the minimum Dexterity required to use the without without penalty.  This otherwise functions as per the notes above on STR.

DV is the base Damage Value of the weapon, which is modified by the user's STR attribute modifier (except for bows and crossbows).

Range is listed in feet.  If a multiplier is give, that number is multiplied by STR to determine the weapon's range.  Point Blank range is 1/10 the maximum range, and gives a +1 to hit. Short Range is from 1/10 to 1/4 the maximum range, and gives no modifier.  Medium Range is from 1/4 to 1/2 the maximum range, and is -1 to hit.  Long Range is from 1/2 to 3/4 maximum range, and gives a -2 penalty to hit.  Extra Long Range is from 3/4 maximum range to the maximum range, and is -3 to hit.

DEF is the bonus to the user's Defense score when using the weapon, indicating the user's ability to parry incoming attacks with the weapon.  The DEF bonus for melee weapons does not protect against missile attacks.  Missile weapons provide no DEF bonus. 

ENC is the Encumbrance score of the weapon.

Cost is the standard cost for the weapon in Silver Pieces.


A - whenever this weapon is used to attack, it suffers a -1 penalty for Initiative on the following round.

B - this weapon negates up to 2 points of DEF from a defender's weapons and/or shield.

- this weapon negates up to 4 points of DEF from a defender's weapons and/or shield.

D - this weapon is usually only used when mounted; if on foot, it requires two hands to use and is treated as a long spear.  When mounted and the mount is charging an enemy, 2/3 of the mount's current MOVE score can be added to the user's STR for determining damage, up to double the user's current STR.

E - treated as Cutting vs Leather armor, and Piercing vs Chainmail.

F - this weapon may be braced against a charging attack; 2/3 of the charger's MOVE score is added to the user's STR for determing damage, up to double the user's current STR score.

G - may be used to try to 'grab' small objects within its range.

H - if the user does not have a talent with this weapon, an extra -1 penalty to hit is incurred.

I - may be used from horseback.

J - normally takes one round to reload; someone with a talent with this weapon can attack the same round the arrow is nocked at a -1 penalty.

K - the first STR required score is simply the minimum STR needed to use the weapon without penalty. The second score is the STR needed to reload the weapon using mechanical aids; this normally takes four rounds. The final number is the STR needed to reload the weapon manually, which takes one round.

     *     *     *

This is also as good as time as any to mention that a character's base Initiative Modifier has been changed.  Instead of merely being reflected by the character's DEX attribute modifier, it is now the combination of both the DEX and PRE attribute modifiers, as well as getting an additional +1 for every four levels in their character class (round down).

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

V&V Vednesday: Scarlet Queen

(Two weeks ago we were having computer problems. Last week I had no such excuse, I just wasn't able to get a V&V character posted that Wednesday. Hopefully this will get us back on track...)

Character Name: Scarlet Queen     Real Name: Rebecca Brighton     Side: Evil
Gender: Female     Height: 5'9"     Weight: 140 lbs     Age: 91 (appears to be in her early to mid 20's)

Physical Description: A stunningly beautiful redhead with green eyes and a cruel smile. Her costume is a burgundy-red bodysuit, complete with cape.

STR: 30     END: 16      INT: 12     AGL: 13     CHA: 26

Level: 7th     XP: 33,254     Basic Hits: 3     Hit Points: 19      Healing Rate: 1.2/day
Movement: 59” ground, 112" flight     Power: 71      Carrying Capacity: 2,002 lbs
HTH Damage: 1d12     Damage Modifier: +1     Accuracy: +1
Detect Hidden: 10%     Detect Danger: 14%     Inventing: 36%
Inventing Points: 2.4     Reaction Modifier: -5 good/+5 evil     Training: Agility

Heightened Charisma B: +18
Heightened Expertise: +4 to hit with telekinesis and bio-control
Heightened Strength B: +21
Mutant Power: Bio-Control (range 32" (Ex2), PR=8 per use, attack as Paralysis Ray, can be used to alter the biological functions of others (or self) - examples include causing paralysis (as per Paralysis Ray), painful nerve spasms (2d8 damage), causing fatigue (as per Devitalization Ray), altering the senses (causing blindness or deafness, increasing Detect scores, etc))
Mutant Power: Power Creation (see below)
Telekinesis: 2,100 lbs capacity, range 91", flight 112")
Willpower (type A)

Power Creation - this allows the character to create superhuman powers in otherwise normal human beings (this is generally a NPC ability, and is usually reserved for supervillains at that). Upon picking a suitable candidate, the process for determining powers is much like that for creating a beginning character: roll 1d6+2 powers (on the non magic/psi power table) plus weakness, drop one power, drop 2nd power if no weakness is chosen. Also, reduce the number of powers by one for each Skill (type A Heightened Attribute, Heightened Attack, Natural Weaponry, etc) the recipient has, and add one power if recipient has a pre-existing Weakness, minimum one power granted. The process is quite painful and dangerous for the recipient, as the process causes 1d20 damage for each power granted, potentially killing the candidate before the powers can be fully assimilated. For the person attempting to create powers in others, PR=25 per attempt, takes 5 minutes + 1d4 turns per power granted, will be Fatigued for 2d6 hours, and is only usable once per week)

Psychosis - This character suffers from both Multiple Personality Disorder and Schizophrenia. Her MPD is represented by her two personalities, the villainous Scarlet Queen, and the kindly, charitable Rebecca Brighton. The Scarlet Queen is the dominant personality these days, but on rare occasions Rebecca can temporarily assert control. If the SC takes any damage from any sort of psychic attack, there is a 1% chance per pt of damage taken that Rebecca will briefly take over (if SC suffers some sort of psychic trauma that isn't represented by damage, allow Rebecca a 8% chance to try to take over, based on her normal CHR). SC can then make a % CHR roll once per turn to try to reassert control.

Her schizophrenia is represented by the fact that she believes her powers are granted to her by Satan, and that he is commanding her to use those powers to commit evil deeds. SC can occasionally be seen talking to herself, responding to a voice only she can hear.

Areas of Knowledge
Inheritor (former), Social Work/Charity, Crime

Character Notes/Origin/Personality: Rebecca's father Jack was an explorer and adventurer during the early 20th century. He managed to acquire no small amount of wealth for himself during his African travels; he also at one point came across a fragment of alien technology that had been left behind be a star traveler from previous centuries. Unknown to Jack, his interaction with the strange technological device subtly altered his DNA.

After the Great War, Jack settled down and married a woman named Mary, and soon after they had a daughter, whom they named Rebecca. Although Jack and Mary were happily married for a few years, eventually Jack's wanderlust go the better of him, and when Rebecca was three years old Jack went off on yet another African adventure; this time, his luck ran out, and he died under mysterious circumstances near the Amazon river.

In her grief, Mary turned to religion, and concentrated on raising her daughter as best she could. Finances weren't a problem, thanks to Jack's previous adventures, and Mary was (somewhat unusual for the time) content to remain a single mother. They did later on lose a significant amount of their wealth during the Great Depression, but did not lose as much as some did, and Mary was able to continue raising Rebecca without having to resort to work, albeit in a more financially modest manner.

In her teenage years, Rebecca began to develop the ability to move things with her mind, and to be able to affect other people's bodies, both manifesting through a reddish energy that emanated from her hands. In a time when superpowers were not yet well known, Rebecca believed that these abilities were 'gifts' from Satan (red being the color of the devil, after all). For several years she resisted the temptation to use these abilities, but when her boyfriend Johnathan died in the early days of WWII, and her mother shortly thereafter was killed in an automobile accident, she finally gave in to temptation. Calling herself the Scarlet Queen, she used her abilities to rob banks and commit other crimes, coming into conflict with several stateside crimefighters fo the day. In the final days of the war, she clashed with a psychic detective named Dr. Blackstone. He used his psychic abilities to convince her that Satan had deemed her unworthy of his gifts, and had stripped her of her powers. He then re-asserted the kindly personality of Rebecca, placing psychic blocks to prevent the Scarlet Queen from ever taking control again.

For over six decades Rebecca lived a fairly normal life, dedicating her time to supporting charities and various social causes. Just recently, as she was living her final years in a retirement home, she suffered a massive stroke, causing a great deal of pain and trauma. It was in what would have otherwise been her final moments that the Scarlet Queen personality was able to re-emerge. She de-aged her body (using a combination of Bio-Control and Willpower) to what it was back when Blackstone had de-powered her all those years ago. In the process she also altered her physical form to give herself super-strength.

Given a second chance, the Scarlet Queen plans to make the most of it, engaging in what pleasures suit her whims, and is determined to please her 'master', Satan, so that he never has reason to deem her unworthy in the future. She is wanted for several felonies, but the most dangerous aspect to her resurrected villainy is that she has discovered the ability to alter the DNA of non-powered humans so as to give them super abilities. She usually grants these abilites to those of her henchmen who have pleased her, both in terms of criminal ability, as well 'pleasing' her on a more private and personal level. Law enforcement agencies like CHESS are afraid that she could over time single-handedly significantly increase the supervillain population across the nation.

When facing superheroes, the Scarlet Queen is usually surrounded by various henchmen, both powered and non-powered (the latter usually hoping to impress her enough so as to be granted powers by her). If a fight looks actually be risky to her, she will be fairly strighforward in combat, mainly relying on her telekinetic abilities. However, if she is confident that she has the upper hand, she will often toy with a foe by using her Bio-Control powers.

Campaign Use: On some levels, the Scarlet Queen is a tragic figure; her psychosis means that deep down inside there is a good person who opposes her villainous ways, but has little ability to do anything to stop it. A PC with the right powers might try to re-create Dr. Blackstone's psychic blocks, but that would probably only be a temporary solution.

More importantly, she is a constant source of new supervillains, thanks to her ability to grant powers to others. Most of these former henchmen will usually have around 1-3 Skills (i.e. type A Heightened Attribute, Heightened Attack, Natural Weaponry, etc) already, making it more likely that they were able to impress SC, as well as meaning they would have less powers granted to them, increasing their overall odds of surviving the power-creation process.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mongoose to no longer publish Runequest

Info here.

More specifically, they're ditching the links to Glorantha.  Given that this was a matter of licensing between two companies, this isn't terribly surprising; such deals ending are a matter of when, not if.   It looks like the rule system itself will be rebranded as something called Wayfarer.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Music Monday: "The March of the Sinister Ducks"

Even before he became known for deconstructing comic book tropes, Alan Moore always was a twisted sort...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Capsule reviews: Comics from 5/18

Legion of Super-Heroes #13 (DC, $2.99, Paul Levitz, Yildiray Cinar, Jonathan Glapion) – The battle between the two Legions continues. We get to see some Legionnaires in action that we haven't seen much of up until now in this storyline; Element Lad, Invisible Kid, Polar Boy, Shadow Lass, and Quislet all get too show off their chops, facing off against more of Saturn Queen's forces. That said, the story doesn't advance all that much, as it can pretty much be summed up as “the two sides continue to fight.” There are a few subplots advanced, the most interesting of which is Saturn Queen's attempt to recruit Earth-Man to her side, and have him turn against the LSH. A decent chapter, but little about it is terribly noteworthy.

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes: The Early Years (DC, $14.99, Paul Levitz, Kevin Sharpe, Eduardo Pansica) – A collection reprinting #515-520 of the recent run of Adventure Comics, with stories concentrating on the Legion's early years, back when Superboy was still a regular member. The stories vary in tone – many of them have something of a light-hearted feel to them, but the subplot of the Legion's battles against Zaryan build toward one of the darker moments in LSH history. There's also (yet again) a new spin on the Legion's origins. Overall, the stories by Levitz are fairly enjoyable, with a good mix of the optimism that permeated the early LSH stories mixed with just enough realistic touches to make it more accessible to modern audiences. The art by Sharpe is solid, as is the one issue penciled by Pansica. Overall, a good collection for both new and older fans who are following the current run of Legion. Recommended.

The Spirit #14 (DC, $2.99, Matthew Sturges, Victor Ibanez) – A nice fill-in issue that is essentially a love-letter to many of the classic comic book artists of the past. The writer/artist of a beloved comic book character is murdered by some suitably slimy criminal types, and the Spirit must try to keep his lovely assistant Alabaster Cream from meeting a similar fate. There's a suitable prize to be won, but it's not quite what anyone was expecting. A nice one-shot; nothing spectacular, but it's a fun romp.

Fables #105 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99, Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham) – Bigby and his father have a little chat regarding the killing of Ghost. The North Wind has all the justifications he needs to kill his grandson, but Bigby, though helpless physically against his father, is able to make a few good counter-points, as well. By the time Mister Dark begins to make his play against the remaining Fables, the nature of that battle has changed dramatically. A nice swerve, logically handled, and a satisfying chapter to lead into the conclusion of this story arc. As usual, highly recommended.

Rocketeer Adventures #1 (of 4) (IDW, $3.99, John Cassaday, Mike Allred, Kurt Busiek, Michael Kaluta, Mike Mignola, Jim Silke) – A collection of new stories featuring the classic character created by Dave Stevens. The issue starts off with a beautifully-illustrated piece by John Cassaday, which almost looks like it could be the lost chapter of a Stevens story. Next is a short tale by Mike Allred; much of how one feels about this story will depend heavily on how much you care for Allred's idiosyncratic style. The high point for the issue is the collaboration between Busiek and Kaluta, showcasing our hero's wartime adventures, told from his girlfriend's POV. Two pin-up pieces from Mignola and Silke help to round out the issue. It's a mixed bag, of course, but overall there's more good than bad... although IDW's $3.99 cover price only makes me question just how much bang for the buck we're getting here.

The Goon vol 0: Rough Stuff (Dark Horse, $13.99, Eric Powell) – Despite all logic to the contrary, jumping in with volume one of The Goon wasn't the best place to start. You see, apparently there's a volume zero, collecting the three issues of The Goon that were published by Avatar, before the series went to Dark Horse. While everyone involved acknowledges that these early tales aren't as polished as the stuff Powell would later do with the character (hence the title of the collection), it still has the manic and twisted humor that would show up later on. Quite frankly, I suspect there are a lot of artists who wish that their first published works were as 'rough' as what we get here. If you're a Goon fan, don't make the mistake of bypassing the stories here.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Trollslayers - Hero Points

Each PC gets one Hero Point per character level that they can use per gaming session.  A HP can be used to increase a PC's roll by 1 point per HP spent, or can increase the damage done by an already successful attack by 1 point per HP spent.  Alternatively, a PC can spend HPs to reduce the attack roll and/or damage of an opponent, as long as the attempted attack or action directly affects them.

HPs are generally the domain of Player Characters, but the GM may choose to occasionally give an NPC some HPs as well, to perhaps stretch out any fights that might occur, and to give the NPC in question a chance to avoid getting dropped by one lucky shot.  That said, encountering an NPC with HP should be a fairly rare occurrence; a 'standard' dungeon setting should probably only have one NPC with HP (and perhaps a favored henchman who has HP equal to half their level).  In a 'megadungeon', one NPC with HP might be a good rule of thumb.

The use of Hero Points isn't terribly 'old school' in feel, and not allow PCs to have HP would not be too out of place.  That said, as the combat system for Trollslayers is pretty damned harsh and unforgiving, and the use of any given HP has only a minor effect, allowing the PCs a chance to affect their chances in small ways shouldn't alter the style of play overly much.  

Here's what the OSR means to me...

If other people want to get wound up about what is the right way to pretend to be an elf, that's their right, but it doesn't mean I'm not going to think they're being silly for taking it just a bit too seriously.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Trollslayers - Broken Swords & Shattered Shields

Note: the following is essentially a lift of an idea that Trollsmyth puts forth here, which I've swiped for my own purposes, with some tweaks and modifications.

During combat, a participant can forgo taking damage from a successful attack by sacrificing either a shield or a weapon, under the assumption that is was shattered while parrying/ deflecting an incoming attack. 

The only caveat is that it must make a certain amount of sense for the defender's shield or weapon to be able to absorb the damage of the incoming attack.  In practice, this generally means that the incoming attack must either be a blunt or cutting weapon (not counting daggers), as piercing attacks usually would not break an opposing weapon or shield.  The defending item to be sacrificed can be either a shield, or pretty much any weapon except a dagger (not counting main-gauches, daggers just usually aren't used much as parrying weapons).

If being attacked by a big monster (one that has enough mass and STR to break a defending weapon) that is attacking with its natural limbs and/or claws, if a cutting weapon is sacrificed to deflect the incoming attack, said cutting weapon in this case also does half the weapon's base damage to the monster.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Capsule reviews: Comics from 5/11

Doc Savage #14 (DC, $2.99, J.G. Jones, Qing Ping Mui) - Part 2 of the 'Raise The Khan' story-arc.  This one moves along nicely, with our heroes threatened at multiple intervals by various threats, and multiple bad guys who are working against each other.  Throw in a mysterious femme fatale, and some as-of-yet unexplained psuedo-science regarding genetically-altered crocodiles, and you have a decently well done makings for a pulp adventure.  Oh, there are more than a few quibbles with the plot - crocodiles generally aren't known as ocean-dwelling animals, and all but the most incompetent of prison guards usually search prisoners for any hidden items they might be carrying - but for me this didn't detract from the overall story too much.   Unfortunately, the art does continue to detract from what is probably the best of the stories of this current incarnation of the Man of Bronze.  Still, that last-page cliffhanger is a doozy. 

Cinderella: Fables Are Forever #4 (of 6) (DC/Vertigo, $2.99, Chris Roberson, Shawn McManus) – This issue continues to bounce back and forth between past and present encounters between Cinderella and her nemesis - it's worked pretty well so far, so why stop now?  This issue to me feels just a little padded; if this was part of an OGN, I suspect this chapter might be a few pages shorter, but overall that doesn't detract from the story too much.  We get something of an explanation for Silver Slipper's villainous ways, but it's kinda thin, to be honest.  If that's really all there is to her heel turn, I'll be a bit disappointed.  Not the best issue so far, but good enough to keep the story rolling along.  Still recommended, but if you haven't been picking this up before now, you're probably better off waiting for the trade.

Undying Love #2 (of 8) (Image, $2.99, Tom Coker, Daniel Freedman) -A large part of this issue is essentially a protracted fight scene between John Sargent and some vampires.  That's not a bad thing - the fight scene is handled well, and I could easily see this sequence being done in a movie. Also, while John comes off as suitably badass, he certainly isn't unstoppable, and pays a heavy price for his current victory.   We also get a bit more on the particular rules and mythology for vampires in this setting, some appropriate dark humor thrown in for good measure, and a cliffhanger with Mei.  Coker and Freedman are confident enough in their art to let it tell the story when dialog isn't necessarily needed, which I personally appreciate. A strong second issue, one I really enjoyed.

Moriarty #1 (Image, $2.99, Daniel Corey, Anthony Diecidue) - Two decades after his confrontation with his arch-nemesis atop the Reichenbach Falls, a man who was once once known as the Napoleon of Crime wanders the streets of London, a shadow of his former self.  With World War I looming throughout Europe, the man now calling himself Trumbold is drawn into a plot involving government subterfuge, as well as the disappearance of both a colleague from his University days, and the reclusive brother of his former nemesis.  By the time he realizes just how deep he is into someone else's plot, an old fire re-ignites, and Moriarty finally finds a reason to shed off his meager disguise, the sense of challenge reviving the once vital criminal mastermind.

Holmes' purists may not care so much for this; the basic concept assumes that Moriarty, not Holmes, survives their battle at the Falls, and furthermore hints that Watson's re-creations of Holmes' various cases might not have been entirely accurate.  That aside, there's much to like here.  Corey's script is a strong one, and gives us a well-realized, nicely fleshed out Moriarty as a character.  In many ways, he approaches the mystery at hand much as Holmes would have, emphasizing the idea of Holmes and Moriarty being more alike than different in many ways (in fact, by killing Holmes, Moriarty seems to fill the void by becoming a dark version of the master detective).  There's a lot of information that the reader is being asked to absorb, much of it via exposition, but such is the nature of mysteries.  Diecidue's artwork has a dark, almost horrific style to it, which may not work for some, but that personally I found very fitting given the type of story being told and the time period thereof.

This isn't an easy comic to read at times - the plot is complex, and assumes the reader is willing to invest more than a cursory read to understand what's happening.  Still, if you're a non-anal Holmes fan, a fan of mysteries, or you just like comics that are more than the usual punch-em-ups, this is a series to keep an eye out for.

The Goon vol 1: Nothin' But Misery (Dark Horse, $16.99, Eric Powell) - Okay, what the hell did I just read?

Don't get me wrong, I liked what I read... but how the hell do I describe it?  I guess I could say that it's about a brutish character who fights zombies (as well as other beasties) in a manner that is both over-the-top in its violence, and slapstick in its humor.  Which is true, as far as it goes... but that really doesn't manage to convey the quirky and oddball nature of this book.  Unabashedly low-brow in its approach (and not at all afraid to be more than a little sick at times), the Goon reads like a collection of old EC horror comics mixed with the early Mad magazines, and never makes the mistake of taking itself too seriously.  Thematically, it's not completely dissimilar to Hellboy, but only if the latter ramped up the wacky by about eleven notches.

It's hard to recommend one way or the other whether someone should pick this up - this sort of humor isn't going to appeal to everyone, not by a long shot - but there's nothing else I've encountered on the stands that's quite like this, and dammit, that's a good thing.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Music Monday: "Nextwave Theme Song"

Greatest song based on a comic book, or greatest song based on the greatest comic book EVAR?  You decide!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Alan Moore + childhood TV entertainment...

...equals AWESOME:

Slowly getting back into the groove

Looks like we finally managed to get the main computer problems resolved, although there are a couple of secondary issues we're still keeping an eye on for the moment.  I'll be getting back into what might laughably be termed my 'normal' posting rate here, but it may go a little slow for the next few days.

(on the upside, I completely missed the Great Blogger meltdown of 2011)

Finally, after over three months since I resolved to do so, I finally got the comics boxed up and sent out to Greg's cartooning students out in the Seattle area (damned box weighed almost 64 lbs - oh my back!).  Getting that out of the way was nice, and has given me a small kick in the pants, inspiring me for some other projects that have been sitting idle on the backburner for a while.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Having problems with the home computer, may be a few days before I'm posting again.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Trollslayers - Death, Unconsciousness, and Recovery

Once a character is reduced to zero Health or below, they must make an END check to stay conscious (8+ if the injuries were caused by cutting or piercing weapons, 10+ if from blunt weapons).  If they manage to stay conscious, they act as if stunned (-1 DEF penalty, -3 to hit, and a -1 to their Initiative rolls) until their Health score becomes a positive number again.  If they manage to remain conscious, and further injuries suffered will require another such END check to avoid succumbing to unconsciousness.

Also, once their Health score becomes a negative number, an END check (10+, or 12+ if caused by a serious wound) must be made to continue avoid losing Health (1 pt per 10 minutes) if the negative Health state was caused by cutting or piercing weapons (unless indicated by the results of a serious wound, blunt weapons generally don't cause continued bleeding at this point).  If the roll is failed, then the characters gets to make another roll every 10 minutes; if they succeed, the Health loss is stopped, and if they fail the character continues to lose another Health point.

If a character's Health is reduced to a negative number equal to their END score, they are dead.

Unconscious characters can make a roll once an hour to regain consciousness (8+, or 10+ if they are losing Health points due to continued bleeding).

Characters at rest and partaking in minimum activity heal a number of Health points per day equal to END/10.  Health points being healed from a negative score are recovered at END/20 per day.  If the character suffered an impairment from a serious wound, the overall healing rate is halved until their Health score equals their END, at which point the impairment (impalement, broken limb) is healed.  Also, if the character does not rest and stays active, the healing rate is again halved.

If a healing character has the benefit of being tended to by a skilled healer (i.e. someone with some sort of medical/healing skill), the healer's skill level, plus their KNO attribute modifier, is added to the character's END score for determining their healing rate.

Music Monday: "Bad Seamstess Blues/Fallin' Apart At The Seams"

Beneath all that big metal hair, Cinderella had some seriously bluesy roots:

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Capsule reviews: Comics from 5/4

Adventure Comics #526 (DC, $2.99, Paul Levitz, Geraldo Borges, Jeffrey Moy, Philip Moy) – The Chemical Kid/Taurus Gang storyline concludes, with Chemical Kid and the other trainees none the worse for wear, thanks mainly to Glorith's help. One might hope that CK's a little wiser for the experience, although it's hard to tell with these cocky types. Their criminal activity gets smoothed over, which is just a little too convenient, although there are hints that this isn't the first time the Legion has covered up the mistakes of their own. Overall, it's a decent but slightly deflating ending for this story arc. It's not awful, but it could have been much better. At least the art is nice, as Geraldo Borges does a decent job of filling in for Phil Jimenez.

The back-up story deals with Jenni Ognats (aka XS), and quite frankly feels like an excuse for Levitz not to have her in the main Legion book. Jenni is building a mosaic – slowly – based around the extended Flash family, when Night Girl comes to visit, offering her a position at the Academy. Jenni reacts badly to the suggestion, as she was once a full-fledged Legionnaire, and going to the Academy would be a step back for her, even though by her own admission she never had much in the way of training. She then acquires a funky blue-green rock for the mosaic (probably tying in to the current Legion story-arc), which triggers a pretty intense vision/hallucination, and in her own words, “that tasted of the speed force, and the time barrier... and the ugliest soul I could ever imagine.” With that knowledge she... continues on the mosaic, not bothering to let the other Legionnaires know what's up. Wait, what? Unless that rock is somehow influencing her thoughts, this is a pretty crappy way for Levitz to keep her out of the current Legion storylines. If he dislikes the character that much, could he have perhaps given a reason for her not being in the current LSH without coming off as a self-centered brat? I want to know what happened to the real XS, a hero by family tradition who would never shirk her duties to the Legion, who seems to have been replaced by some whiny doppleganger. A very disappointing back-up, although the art by the Moy brothers is nice.

Jonah Hex #67 (DC, $2.99, Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Jordi Bernet) – The hunter becomes the hunted. Jonah has a bounty on his head for various crimes he hasn't committed (and considering the crimes and other violent acts he has committed in his past, that's saying something). For most people this would be a matter of concern, but Jonah isn't most people, and takes it pretty much in stride, until he's able to resolve things in a rather decisive manner. Gray and Palmiotti continue to show how you write a satisfying story with a beginning, middle, and ending, all in one issue – something the rest of the industry could benefit to study. Jordi Bernet is the artist this time around, and once again the book has an artist who compliments the story, setting, and tone nicely, even if the art style wouldn't fit nearly as well on a more mainstream title. As usual, recommended.

Jonah Hex: No Way Back (DC, $14.99, Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Tony DeZuniga) – The OGN that was originally released at the time of the Jonah Hex movie is now available in softcover. It starts with a bounty of Jonah's mother, introduces us to a brother that Jonah never knew he had, and builds toward a bloody ending, with the themes of family and death explored along the way. It's not an origin story per se for Hex – we pretty much know that part already – but we do get to see some background on his mother, and how it shaped young Jonah's life. We do get something of an origin for Jonah's longtime nemesis El Papagayo, finding out just why he hates Hex so much, and how the stories of their families are intertwined. It's excellent stuff, as we get to see both Jonah as a very human character, while at the same time he comes off as almost an elemental force of sorts – even when he doesn't intend it to, death just seems to naturally follow in his wake.

This isn't DeZuniga's best art, to be honest, but it still serves the story well, helping to create the gritty atmosphere necessary for a tale like this. It's a bit scratchy in places, but the art really helps to convey the dirty, grimy setting, and the action sequences are suitably brutal, as they should be. Overall, this is an excellent addition to the Hex mythos; pretty much a necessity for any serious fan, and an excellent introduction to the character for those who have not yet been introduced to the scarred, bitter anti-hero that is Jonah Hex.

Blue Estate #2 (Image, $2.99, Victor Kalvachev, Kosta Yanev, Andrew Osborne, Toby Cypress, Nathan Fox, Robert Valley) – The second issue delves into the character of Bruce Maddox's wife Rachel, who has a few secrets and schemes of her own. We also are introduced to her A.A. Sponsor Johnny (who has a few secrets of his own), and her brother Billy, who runs a strip club that also has mob ties, as well as working the real estate business. On the good hand, the exploration of Rachel and her motivations is the issue's strong point. However, the absence of our narrator (for the most part) Roy Devine Jr. means this issue meanders a little bit here and there, and not necessarily in a good way. Overall, the art is decent enough, and holds together well enough given the multiple artists at play here. Not as good as the first issue, but interesting enough for me to pick up at least one more issue to see where this is going.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Free Comic Book Day 5/7/11

Just as a reminder, be sure to stop by your local comic book shop tomorrow to help celebrate Free Comic Book Day!

Trollslayers - Class-based level improvements

This probably should have been included in the earlier Levels & Improvements post...

Warriors gain +1 to the Health score at 1st level, and gain an additional +1 to Health per level acquired. The maximum amount of Health that a Warrior may gain by leveling up is equal to his or her END score.

Magicians start off with an Essence score at 1st level equal to (KNO+PRE)/2.  Every level gained after that, they add 5 to their Essence score.

Experts gain an extra Talent at 2nd level, and at each even level afterwards (i.e. 2nd, 4th, 6th, etc).

Paragons add +1 to the Health score at 1st level, and add another +1 to Health at each odd level acquired (i.e. 3rd, 5th, 7th, etc).  The maximum amount of Health that a Paragon may gain by leveling up is equal to half his or her END score.  Also, they start off with an Essence score at 1st level equal to (KNO+PRE)/4, and every level gained after that, they add 3 to their Essence score.

Photodump Friday 5/6


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Trollslayers - damage and injuries

(if there is any question that  would need an editor on the off chance this was to be published, this post should remove all doubts - I know what the rules are in my head, but communicating those rules clearly and effectively seems to be beyond me) 

Damage inflicted by a successful attack roll is modified by how well the roll is made.  If the attack roll is made exactly (i.e. you needed a 9+ to hit, and you roll a 9), this is considered a Graze, meaning you only inflict half your normal listed damage for that weapon.

For every two points above the needed roll an attack roll is made by, the damage is increased by +1 (i.e.if you need a 5+ to hit, and you roll a 10, you add +2 to the damage inflicted).

Damage inflicted is generally assumed to be to the chest/torso area, unless the head, or a limb is specifically targeted before the dice are rolled (-1 attack penalty to target a limb, -2 to target the head).  However, if the attack roll exceeds the target number by 4 or more, one of the target's limbs suffer the effects of the wounds, even if it wasn't declared before the roll.  If the attack roll exceeds the target number by 8 or more, the attack can be considered a 'head shot'.

Any single attack that does damage equal to or greater either half the target's Health score, or 2/3 their END score (whichever is less), is a Serious Wound. Anyone suffering such a wound is momentarily stunned, suffering a -1 DEF penalty for the rest of the round, -3 to hit for their next action, and a -1 penalty to their Initiative roll for the following round.

Moreso, any serious wound has a chance to inflict extra injuries, depending on the type of weapon used.  Blunt weapons have a chance of breaking bones, cutting weapons of causing continual bleeding, and impaling weapons of getting stuck in their target.  In these instances, the victim must make an END roll to avoid these further effects. The base roll is 8+, unless the amount of damage done is equal to or greater than the victim's END score; then the base roll is 10+. The results of failed END rolls are listed below:

Blunt attacks: chest/torso – broken ribs, MOVE score is halved, -4 to Initiative, -2 to attack, -1 DEF, 2nd roll must be made to avoid internal bleeding (lose 1 pt of Health per hour)

Blunt attacks: arms/legs – broken bones, limb is useless, ½ MOVE for legs

Blunt attacks: head – skull broken, doing double damage; if still alive, 2nd roll must be made to avoid internal bleeding (lose 1 pt of Health every 10 minutes)

Cutting attacks: chest/torso – serious bleeding, lose 1 pt of Health every minute, -2 to Initiative, -1 to attack

Cutting attacks: arms/legs – limb is severed, continued bleeding causes loss of 1 pt of Health per combat round, severed legs halves movement, and victim falls down

Cutting attacks: head – head is severed from body; get ready to create a new character (barring access to some serious magic)

Piercing attacks: chest/torso – weapon is impaled in chest; attacker must make STR roll (8+) to remove the weapon, and doing so does the base weapon damage again to the victim, as well as resulting in serious bleeding, lose 1 pt of Health every minute, -2 to Initiative, -1 to attack

Piercing attacks: arms/legs – weapon impaled as per chest/torso (including penalties and serious bleeding, but only a 6+ is required to remove weapon), any actions with impaled arms are at -2, impaled legs reduced MOVE by ¼

Piercing attacks: head – brain is punctured, character killed

Also, any Serious Wounds to the head, assuming he victim is still alive, requires yet another END roll to stay conscious (8+ for cutting and impaling attacks, 10+ for blunt attacks)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

V&V Vednesday: Undertow

(posting the various V&V characters was so much fun, I'll be continuing to do so, albeit at a saner (weekly) pace)

Character NameUndertow      Real Name: Joesph Conner     Side: Evil
Gender: Male     Height: 5'9"     Weight: 180 lbs     Age: 17
Physical Description: A young Caucasian male with pale skin, gills on his neck, and webbed fingers and toes. He has black hair and brown eyes, and generally just wears swim trunks. 

STR: 11/27     END: 12/29    INT: 9     AGL: 8/16    CHA: 10

Level: 2nd     XP: 3,856     Basic Hits: 4     Hit Points: 4/48     Healing Rate: -/3.2/day
Movement: 31"/132”      Power: 40/81    Carrying Capacity: 228 lbs/2,033 lbs     
HTH Damage: 1d4/1d12 Damage Modifier: -/+1    Accuracy: -2/+2   
Detect Hidden: 8%/24%     Detect Danger: 12%/36%    Inventing: 27%      
Inventing Points: 1.8     Reaction Modifier: -     Training: Agility  

(splits numbers indicate score while out of water, and then in water)

Heightened Endurance B: +17 (in water only)
Heightened Senses: Detect scores are x3 underwater
Heightened Strength B: +16 (in water only)
Speed Bonus: +60” underwater
Telekinesis: 220 lbs capacity out of water, 540 lbs in water, limited to manipulating and moving water
Water Breathing (type B) – Heightened Strength and Endurance only activate while in water, Reduced Agility activates out of water

Reduced Agility: -8 (out of water only)

Areas of Knowledge
The Ocean

Character Notes/Origin/Personality: During his early childhood, Joesph Conner was a normal boy, not that much different than most. It was in his early teenage years that his mutant abilities began to manifest. Showing signs of massive dehydration, Joe almost died until he was submersed in water. His body continued to mutate, and eventually the gills and webbed digits made it fairly clear is body was adapting itself to aquatic life. Beyond the basic changes in his body, Joe learned that he could also telekinetically manipulate nearby water to do his bidding.

Unfortunately, the extended research and study of Joe's condition was quite costly, something that his parents eventually wasn't able to afford. In desperation, Joe attempted to get the needed money by robbing a nearby ocean cruise liner. Joe's inexperience in such criminal matters meant that he was quickly identified.

Now wanted by the law, Undertow, as he now calls himself, continues to commit various marinetime thefts, even though the need for money is now pretty much moot. In part, he likes having nice things for himself in his underwater abode, even those things that no longer work for him (you try hooking up an Xbox underwater). Partially, he steals things out of spite; if he can't have nice things, why should anyone else?

Campaign Use: Undertow is a villain that presents an environmental challenge; defeating him out of the water is fairly easy, but it's not like he's going to make things that easy for any PCs. More than likely, they must confront him underwater. While still somewhat inexperienced, he knows enough to use the underwater environment, combined with his 'hydrokinetic' abilities to his best advantage.

If the PCs need a reason to confront Undertow, one of his thefts may have him acquiring something of great importance to the heroes, such as a much-needed vaccine to help cure an ailing ally or friend.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Capsule reviews: Comics from 4/20 and 4/27

(What, you expected prompt and timely?  Hah!)

Legion of Super-Heroes (DC, $2.99, Paul Levitz, Yildiray Cinar) - The ongoing conflict between the Legion and their villainous counterparts continue.  We see elements of the two teams battle on different fronts, with a fair amount of back-and-forth, as Saturn Queen continues to recruit new members into the LSV ranks, and by the end the bad guys have definitely gained the upper hand for the moment.  Interspersed between these fight scenes we get some more info on the Star Boy subplot, Kodama's appearance last issue is explained somewhat, and Mon-El and Dyogene's investigation into the destruction that Saturn Queen has wrought.

Levitz seems to have finally hit his stride on this book, juggling multiple characters, scenes, and setting with aplomb.  Cinar's art continues to shine; this month he's inked by Jonathan Glapion, who seems to work well with Cinar, giving a little extra edge to the fight scenes. Overall, this title has picked up nicely, and continues to entertain.

The Spirit #13 (DC, $2.99, David Hine, Moritat) - The Clockwork Killer storyline concludes. As the gang war escalates, Spirit fights his way through the city in hopes of somehow ending the bloodshed, and Ellen comes to understand the nature of the Professor's obsessions.  It's a damned shame that this book seems to be destined for cancellation, as Hine and Moritat are doing fine work here.  Hine's dialog for the Spirit works in ways that other writers would probably screw up (*cough*FrankMiller*cough*), and Moritat's art, if anything, continues to improve, wonderfully illustrating the mixture of pulp and noir that a book like The Spirit demands.  The highlight of this issue is the treatment of Ellen as a character, who holds her own and shows why she's worthy of being the Spirit's love interest.  Pick this title up while you can, because it probably won't be around that much longer.

Fables #104 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99, Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham) - Part three of the 'Super Team' storyline.  The cover is, of course, a nod to the cover of the 1987 reboot of the Justice League by Kevin Maguire.  The issue starts off with some of the characters visualizing how the fight with Mister Dark will go, in a rather four-color fashion.  Someone who isn't paying attention might think these early pages are a waste of space, but besides acting as a contrast to how the fight will eventually go down, it also hints at the desperate nature of the fables, as they try to talk themselves into believing they really have a chance to survive and win.

There are other training sequences, and more subplots here and there, but the kicker to the issue is Bigby being confronted by his father, who informs him of his intent to kill Ghost. Man, talk about lousy timing.  It's hard to tell where exactly this is all going, but it continues to be a hell of a ride.  Still recommended.  

Dark Horse Presents #1 (Dark Horse, $7.99, Paul Chadwick, Howard Chaykin, Neal Adams, Carla Speed McNeil, Michael T. Gilbert, Frank Miller, Harlan Ellison, Richard Corben, Randy Stradley, Paul Gulacy, David Chelsea, Patrick Alexander) - The inaugural issue of the revival of the classic anthology series.  Now in an 80-page format, with a metric truckload of comic book talent included inside its pages, this is probably one of the best values in the industry today.  Of course, the content is uneven, and it's highly unlikely that all of the stories will appeal to any given reader, but even so, there's a lotta bang for the buck.

Paul Chadwick's Concrete is one of those books I keep intending to check out but have never quite gotten around to doing so.  Here we get an entertaining story with the lead character stumbling across not one, but two different crimes, although the second isn't immediately obvious.  It's a nice little piece, giving a good taste of how the rest of this series probably reads.

Howard Chaykin's Marked Man is the first part of a storyline concerning a criminal who is desperately trying to keep his wife and family from finding out about his illicit activities.  It's a little light, but sets up the premise well, and knowing Chaykin there will be no lack of the characters being complete and utter bastards as the story progresses.

Neal Adams' Blood has some really nice art, as one might expect.  As for the story... well, let's just say that as a writer, Adams is a really good artist.

I don't have any previous knowledge of McNeil's Finder, but part one of Third World is certainly entertaining, and has me interested in possibly checking out more about McNeil's work.

Michael T. Gilbert's Mr. Monster story is pretty much what you would expect if you have any previous familiarity with the character, which is to say, goofy, over-the-top shameless fun.

Next is an interview with Frank Miller plugging his upcoming sequel to the 300 mini-series, Xerxes, with a few pages of art to act as a teaser.  The preview doesn't really give enough to indicate how the sequel might turn out, although the interview has a certain entertainment value.

How Interesting: A Tiny Man is a short prose piece by Harlan Ellison.   It's not Ellison's best, but Ellison's not-best is still usually pretty entertaining, and this is no exception.

Part one of Richard Corben's Murky World, set in what appears to be a post-apocalypse world, is pretty much what you would expect, in terms of both Corben's art and writing.  If you like Corben's past stuff, then there's no reason you won't like this.

Stradley and Gulacy's The Third Time Pays For All comes off as little more than an ad for the latest Star Wars: Crimson Empire mini-series; it's decent enough, but if you're not already following this story arc, this probably won't sway you to start.

David Chelsea's Snow Angel is quirky and cute, and the sort of thing that would never sell big on its own, but complements an anthology series nicely.

Finally, there are two one-page strips by Patrick Alexander; 'quirky' is probably he best way to describe his dark humor and minimalist art style.

Overall, this is an excellent value, and should be sought out by comic book fans who are looking for something new, but don't know where to start.  This first issue is a bit heavy on older, well-established creators, but hopefully following issues will showcase some newer talent alongside the old pros.

King Conan: The Scarlet Citadel #3 (of 4) (Dark Horse, $3.50, Timothy Truman, Tomás Giorello) - The penultimate chapter of the mini-series.  Things start to crank up as Conan struggles to escape his prison, fighting various unholy threats, and encountering a wizard along the way, who may or may not be trustworthy.  Truman's script picks back up a bit from last issue's somewhat pedestrian approach, and Giorello's art continues to shine.  A good setup for what should hopefully be a satisfying final issue.

Conan: Road Of Kings #4 (Dark Horse, $3.50, Roy Thomas, Mike Hawthorne) - Sometimes the enemy of your enemy is your friend.  And sometimes, the enemy of your enemy is also your enemy, and the best you can hope for is that they'll fight each other while you get out of the way.  Conan in this chapter faces torture and death, but the multiple factions at play in this story gives him a chance to escape and fight once again.  Things are slowly building, some secrets are revealed, and this storyline, after a couple of hiccups, is moving along nicely.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Music Monday: "Batman"

Does anyone know enough French to translate the extra lyrics they're singing?