Wednesday, June 29, 2011

V&V Vednesday: Alchemist

Character Name: Alchemist     Real Name: Aliyah Qasim     Side: Good
Gender: Female     Height: 5'6""     Weight: 140 lbs     Age: 29

Physical Description: A woman in her late 20's of Arabic descent, with long black hair and brown eyes, and athletic build.  She is often seen wearing a lab coat over casual business clothes.  She does not have a 'super' costume.  

STR: 12     END: 19      INT: 21     AGL: 17     CHA: 16

Level: 1st     XP: 545     Basic Hits: 3     Hit Points: 18      Healing Rate: 1.5/day
Movement: 48”      Power: 69      Carrying Capacity: 254 lbs     HTH Damage: 1d6
Damage Modifier: +3     Accuracy: +2    Detect Hidden: 16%     Detect Danger: 20%
Inventing: 63%     Inventing Points: 1.2     Reaction Modifier: +2 good/-2 evil
Training: Agility

Heightened Expertise: +4 to hit with transmutation attacks
Heightened Mental Prowess (acts similar to Heightened Intelligence A and Heightened Charisma A, bonus may be split between those two attributes as desired): +7 INT, +6 CHR
Heightened Physical Prowess (acts similar to Heightened Strength A, Heightened Endurance A and Heightened Agility A, bonus may be split between those three attributes as desired): +3 STR, +6 END, +5 AGL
Transmutation (range 42", PR=8, only affects non-living materials)

Areas of Knowledge
Chemistry, Occult

Character Notes/Origin/Personality: Aliyah is a second-generation American of Arabic descent, her parents escaping from Iran in the late 70's after the Ayatollah Khomeini took control of power in that country. She grew up to be a brilliant chemist, working for a major chemical firm in the U.S.  One of her hobbies was the history of chemistry and pre-chemistry, specifically the study of alchemy and the theories thereof during the Middle Ages.  A year ago, she managed to acquire a tome from the late 14th century, written in Latin by a mysterious occult figure of the era, Jacobi Destworth, called Immutationis atque Ascensione.

To this day, Aliyah does not know what happened that evening.  The last thing she remembers is settling down in her den to start reading through the tome... and then three days later she found herself out in the Arizona desert.  The book was never found.   Aliyah soon discovered that she now had the ability to transmute elements.  She has since used this new ability to assist others in scientific research, usually to help build materials that might otherwise prove difficult or prohibitive in terms of cost.  She has resisted offers to join various superhero teams (from whom she picked up the nickname 'The Alchemist'), although she has assisted various super-scientists with various projects from time to time.  If attacked, she will usually use her abilities defensively, erecting barriers, and (if the attacker has not displayed super-strength) transforming their clothes into some sort of metal.  

Campaign Use: The PC's may wish to enlist Aliyah's unique abilities to help build some technological wonder of their design.  Depending on their abilities, she may also turn to them to try to find out what happened during those three mysterious days.  Finally, she may be targeted by various supervillain types who wish to use her abilities to their own nefarious ends (this has already happened once).

Monday, June 27, 2011

Capsule reviews: Comics from 6/22

Mystery Men #2 (of 5) (Marvel, $2.99, David Liss, Patrick Zircher) - We learn more about our two masked heroes, and a third hero makes their appearance.  The script by Liss moves along briskly, and doesn't skimp on surprises, which hopefully means there will plenty more twists and turns in the remaining issues.  There's a nice balance of characterization and action here, and Zircher's art continues to give this book the loving attention to detail that really helps to support the story.  My only complaint is the recap text page at the beginning of the issue; it gives info that really wasn't all that clear in the first issue, and this seems to be almost a tacit admission of error.  It really would have been better if we had learned this information through the actual pages of the comic.  Still, that's a relatively minor nitpick.  Besides, in what other comic books out there are you going to see Ayn Rand included in the cabal of villains?  Still recommended.  

The Spirit #15 (DC, $2.99, David Hine, Moritat) – The team of Hine and Moritat return with a rather twisted Valentine Day's story.  The Spirit has always had a way of attracting beautiful-yet-dangerous women, and Honey Steel, the subject of this particular tale, certainly qualifies.  There's more than a few surprises in this bleak tale of unrequited love, which ends with no small amount of genuine emotion and pathos.  Hine's scripts continue to entertain, and Moritat's art works wonderfully here; it's no real surprise that after this book gets wrapped up in a couple of months, Moritat has been tapped to work on the new Jonah Hex book, which should prove a good vehicle for his talents.

Fables #106 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99, Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham) – The conclusion of the Super Team storyline.  Willingham subverts expectations by giving a rather quick (but decisive) battle between the North Wind and Mister Dark; it's a perfectly logical ending, given what's been set up, but it's a safe bet that most people weren't expecting the final battle with Mister Dark to end in this fashion.  The rest of the issue deals with how the various cast members react to what has happened, something that many books would gloss over; the different characters and factions have their own individual takes on what occurred, and it's pretty clear that there's still plenty of trouble brewing, both from within and without.  The ending will no doubt piss some people off, but personally I think it works.

Conan: Road Of Kings #6 (of 12) (Dark Horse, $3.50, Roy Thomas, Mike Hawthorne) - The conclusion to the current story arc.  It's a somewhat by-the-numbers ending, and while this storyline hasn't been awful by any means, neither did it meet the expectations I would have for a Roy Thomas penned Conan tale.  That said, honesty compels me to acknowledge that a certain plot element that I complained about last issue wasn't simple padding after all, but actually the set-up for something that got paid off this issue.  Mea culpa.  Still, I just hope that the remaining issue in this mini-series are a little more even in their quality. 

Dark Horse Presents #2 (Dark Horse, $7.99, Paul Chadwick, Robert Love, David Walker, Neal Adams, Carla Speed McNeil, Howard Chaykin, Michael T. Gilbert, Patrick Alexander, Sanford Greene, Chuck Brown, Richard Corben, David Chelsea) - Anthologies of this caliber can certainly be fun to read, but they can also be a pain in the ass to review.  Let's jump right into it, then:

Another Concrete story by Paul Chadwick, 'In A Wound In The Earth', kicks the issue off.  For someone like me who doesn't have any previous familiarity with the character, you get a little of the character's backstory here, albeit mainly by implication.  It's a decently told tale, with possible implications for the future.

Next is the opening chapter of Number 13 by Robert Love and David Walker, a post-apocalyptic tale (which I'm pretty much a sucker for) showcasing the title character, who comes off as rather odd at first, but by the chapter's end it make sense, although there are plenty of question left as yet unanswered.  A good opening effort, one that wants me to read more.

Neal Adams' second chapter of Blood gives us some background for what's going on, but unfortunately it fails to make me care about any of these characters.  I hate to say it, but Adams' contribution to this series is the weak link here.

Carla Speed McNeil's latest Finder tale gives those of us new to the setting a better feel for what this world is like.  It's an amusing tale, one that plays its humor fairly straight, with the lead character a straight man who can appreciate the irony of his surroundings.

The second part of Howard Chaykin's Marked Man expands a bit on the basic premise, but still plays it a bit cagey in terms of where this will be going.  Very curious to see how this plays out.

To be honest, I had kind of expected that last issue's Mr. Monster by Michael T. Gilbert not to carry over into this issue; Mr. Monster is absurd enough that it was entirely possible that the Earth be taken over would have been no more than a single punchline.  As it turns out, this isn't the case, and the current chapter continues the storyline, in its own absurdest and over-the-top manner.  A highly enjoyable romp that continues to be a great deal of fun.

Patrick Alexander's The Wraith is a light but amusing piece, showing us what a masked vigilante (in a rather familiar-looking costume) would really be like.

The other debut serial is Rotten Apple by Sanford Greene and Chuck Brown.  The first chapter hints more than explains, but it seems that it's a futuristic setting, and our main character is a young female merc who has signed on for a battle between two warring religious factions.  The art by Greene is quite appealing, and is probably my favorite story of the lot, visually.

Richard Corben's installment of Murky World, 'The Treasure', is a fairly thin piece of greed and betrayal, but it's also a fairly standard Corben piece, so if you like Corben, you'll like this, and if you don't, this won't do anything to change your mind.

The book wraps up with another charming chapter of Snow Angel by David Chelsea.  Our lead character doesn't react well to change, and winds up altering the Earth's environment to better suit her needs... all in good fun, of course!  This continues to amuse.

Overall, this anthology continues to entertain, and if its uneven in spots, there's still more good than bad to be had. 

Rocketeer Adventures #2 (of 4) (IDW, $3.99, Mark Waid, Chris Weston, Darwyn Cooke, Lowell Francis, Gene Ha, Geof Darrow) - Another anthology series, albeit a shorter one; fortunately, this issue is pretty consistently entertaining throughout.  Mark Waid and Chris Weston's 'It Ain't The Fall That Kills Ya...' is a fun romp, and if it's perhaps the weakest of the three stories here, that's only because there other two are so darned good.  Darwyn Cooke's 'Betty Save The Day' re-imagines the Rocketeer concept as a period movie serial; if you can't see how that would be entertaining, you've probably never had the pleasure before of seeing Cooke's sense of graphic design and all the strengths he brings to his storytelling.  The highlight of the issue is Lowell Francis and Gene Ha's 'TKO', which uses the device of having the narration of an unrelated event (in this case, a boxing match) parallel the main story.  It's handled quite well, and the appearance of a certain pulp hero (who've we've seen before in previous Rocketeer pages) and two of his assistants just adds the cherry to the top of the sundae.  A nice two-page pin-up spread by Geof Darrow rounds out the issue, showing our hero in mid-air battle against several Nazi aircraft.  Very nice, and so far this mini-series has done a fine job of showcasing Dave Steven's flying hero.

I'm not normally one for movie remakes...

...but man, I would be the first in line to see this:

What if Pixar re-made the Rocketeer?

Music Monday: "Blue" (live)

The video quality isn't terribly good, to be honest, but the song (by the Seat Belts) is wonderful, and when Mai Yamane starts hitting those notes the way she does... well, just damn.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

V&V Vednesday: Amazon

Character Name: Amazon     Real Name: Nicole 'Nicky' Woodburn     Side: Evil
Gender: Female     Height: 6'1"     Weight: 190 lbs     Age: 23

Physical Description: A tall, athletically-built woman with an olive complexion, raven-black hair, and brown eyes. Her costume is a orange bodysuit with red boots, belt, gloves, and mask.

STR: 40     END: 34      INT: 9     AGL: 16     CHA: 13

Level: 4th     XP: 10,318     Basic Hits: 4     Hit Points: 81      Healing Rate: 4.0/day
Movement: 90”      Power: 99      Carrying Capacity: 6,403 lbs     HTH Damage: 2d8
Damage Modifier: +1     Accuracy: +2    Detect Hidden: 8%     Detect Danger: 12%
Inventing: 27%     Inventing Points: 3.6     Reaction Modifier: -1 good/+1 evil
Training: Agility

Heightened Defense: -4 to be hit in combat
Heightened Strength B: +25
Heightened Expertise B: +19
Heightened Expertise: +4 to hit with melee attacks
Invulnerability: 16 pt
Natural Weaponry (martial arts): +2 to hit, +4 to damage in unarmed combat

Drug addiction

Areas of Knowledge
Sports, Crime

Character Notes/Origin/Personality: For as far back as she could remember, Nicky had pretty much always been taller and stronger than other kids her age. Growing up in a poor part of the city, with a deadbeat dad and a mother who turned tricks for a living, it wasn't much of a surprise when she began bullying the other kids at school, either for money or simply for the sake of power. Later on when she entered her teens, she began running with one of the local street gangs. It was during this time that she first fell prey to drug addiction, specifically to crack cocaine. At age sixteen sent was to juvie for armed robbery. During the two years that she was locked up she managed to clean herself up and kick her drug habit.

Released on her eighteenth birthday, Nicky made an legitimate effort to go straight. She decided to channel her natural tendency toward violence into something useful, and began competing in female mixed-martial arts competitions, where she picked up the nickname 'Amazon'. For a while she did well for herself, but her success became her undoing. As she acquired more money and fame, she eventually slipped back into drug addiction, this time primarily for heroin. Eventually, this got her kicked out of the MMA organization she had been fighting for.

Nicky found it surprisingly to slip back into her old criminal habits. She began working for various criminal outfits as muscle, and eventually found herself working for the supervillain known as the Scarlet Queen. The tall, striking Nicky quickly found favor with the villainess, and after a brief fling between the two, the Scarlet Queen agreed to grant Nicky a shot at superpowers.

Nicky hasn't had her superpowers long, but she has a fair amount of practical experience as a fighter, and her augmented strength and toughness just make her even more dangerous. She works well as part of a team, for the most part, but her drug use hasn't gone unnoticed by her companions. It has yet to seriously jeopardize any of their operations, but her fellow villains are keeping a close eye on her in case that changes.

Campaign Use: Every supervillain group needs a brick, and Amazon fits that role perfectly. She might also make a suitable solo threat for a small group of neophyte heroes.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Capsule reviews: Comics from 6/15

Legion of Super-Heroes #14 (DC, $2.99, Paul Levitz,Fernando Dagnino, Raul Fernandez) - Part I've-lost-track of the current storyline, as the battles between the two Legions continue on... and on... and on.  I realize that this is supposed to be a big epic storyline, but while the individual battle sequences are decently well done, they don't seem to contribute much to the advancement of the plot.  Interspersed between the action sequences is Professor Li being all mysterious, and Dyogene continues to speak in riddles.  While I know that we will (hopefully) gets some answers soon, can I respectfully suggest a 3-issue limit on side characters being deliberately mysterious?  If they violate that limit, the main characters should be able to jackslap them without repercussion.

I'm actually starting to root for Saturn Queen a bit, solely on the basis of her scenes are at least fairly entertaining to read.  Given the nature of the upcoming changes to the Legion comics, I suppose there's actually a chance that SQ just might be able to kill of a Legionnaire before she is defeated, and hey, that's pretty much the gold standard for a Legion villain.

No complaints about the fill-in art by Dagnino and Fernandez, but Levitz's plot is beginning to drag a bit.  Part of me wonders if this storyline was originally meant to wrap up a bit earlier than it now will, and that it's getting padded out to end the storyline in September along with all the other DC books.

Cinderella: Fables Are Forever #5 (of 6) (DC/Vertigo, $2.99, Chris Roberson, Shawn McManus) – The penultimate issue of this storyline (I just like typing out the word 'penultimate' - it's such a fun word).  Cinderella has allowed herself to be taken in a trap in hopes of being led to her enemy's domain, but she seems to have forgotten she's facing off against someone just as good as she is, if not better.  There's a nice twist at the issue's ending, adding a genuine sense of menace for the upcoming finale in the deadly desert sands.  Not much to say about the plot without giving anything away, so I'll just say that if you haven't already been picking up this series, be sure to get it when it comes out in collected trade paperback form, as this mini-series has been consistently entertaining.

Conan: Island of No Return #1 (Dark Horse, $3.50, Ron Marz, Bart Sears) - I wasn't expecting much from this, to be honest, primarily because I've thought of Ron Marz as a thoroughly average writer.  That said, while this isn't the best Conan comic book story I've ever read, it isn't the worst either, and I found myself surprisingly entertained by it.  After a bit of fleeing from the law (as Conan is wont to do, in this case because he slept with a Judge's wife), he falls in with two female thieves (looking for all the world like they just showed up from a 90's Image fantasy comic book), who enlist his aid in stealing a treasure from a long-lost island palace.  It's pretty clear that it's less a matter of whether or not the two will betray Conan at some point, but more a matter of when, and whether or not Conan has a betrayal of his own planned.  The script by Marz moves along nicely; the art by Sears is at times rough and almost freakish, but at other times a strong sense of design manages to shine through.  A somewhat flawed but still promising first issue, good enough to intrigue me enough to see how this plays out.

Undying Love #3 (of 8) (Image, $2.99, Tom Coker, Daniel Freedman) - This is the issue where we get a little background on our two main characters and how they met.  We get a sense of John's background, as someone who has known war for probably most of his adult life, but for all that appears to be a fundamentally decent human being.  Mei, by contrast, shows herself capable of great destruction, even though she also appears to be a decent person at her core.  The flashback sequence gives a good sense of how these two might fall for each other, without over-explaining things or playing it too thick.  Overall, the story moves along nicely, and the art is quite nice (there's a one-page spread near the end of the issue that is both beautiful and horrific at the same time).  If you haven't been picking this series up, you should probably correct that immediately - so far, this is pretty much tied with Moriarty for my favorite new series of the year.

The Walking Dead vol 14: No Way Out (Image, $14.99, Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard) - Reprinting #79-84 of the monthly series, we see the current cast try to keep the Community functioning, only to find out that the town isn't as safe from the dead as they once thought.  Over the course of events, some characters die, of course, and others are changed permanently by their experiences, and not for the better.  This is, after all, a pretty bleak series, and there's not a whole lot of happy moments to buffer against the unrelenting darkness.  I've seen the series occasionally referred to derisively as 'misery porn'.  I don't think that assessment is entirely fair, but it is true that this is a pretty damned depressing series.  Of course, if you've read the earlier volumes, you know the sort of thing you're in for.  That said, if you're willing to dive into the muck and the grime, Kirkman and Adlard make it one hell of a continuing ride. Obviously, if you haven't read the earlier volumes, star with the first one, and then decide of you want to continue on from there.

The Sixth Gun book 2: Crossroads (Oni Press, $19.99, Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt) - Collecting issues #7-11 of the monthly series.  Laying low in New Orleans for a bit, Drake, Becky, and Gord have five of the six guns; the question now is, of course, what to do with them?  Becky prefers to keep one of the guns close to her person, but Drake wants nothing more to do with them.  Of course, being rid of the guns isn't as easy as all that, especially if you don't want them falling into the wrong hands.  Several parties want the guns for themselves, and along the way everything from a voodoo threat to a charming grifter make their play for the eldritch weapons.  Of course, there are others interested in the guns as well, but for different reasons.  All told, there are plently of surprises along the way, and this series continues to entertain.  It's not quite as strong as the first volume, perhaps, but that's a danger with any sequel, and overall this storyline holds up quite well.  Recommended.

Music Monday: "Rusty Cage"

A Soundgarden song covered by Johnny Cash, with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers as his backing band. Is it humanly possibly to get more awesome than that?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Trollslayers - Combat Example

Been busy with other things, but it's time to get back to working on Trollslayers.  Let's detail a sample character or two, and see what sort of mayhem we can put them through...

Drogo is a human Expert whose profession happens to be that of a Thief.  He likes to think of himself as a charming rogue, but at this point he's pretty much just a thug with ambitions.  He recently reached 2nd level (improving his END from 7 to 8 in the process), after being the sole survivor of a dungeon expedition, and at the moment is pretty much broke.  His relevant stats are as follows:

STR 12 (-)      DEX 14 (+1)     END 8 (-1)       KNO 12 (-)      OBS 11 (-)       PRE 16 (+1)
HEALTH 15     ENC 7              MOVE 16         DEF +3           INITIATIVE +2

His combat talents are Sword +1, Dagger +1, and the recently acquired Dual Attacks +1.  His other talents include Stealth +1, Lockpicking +1, Climbing +1, Seduction +1 (also recently acquired), and Ambidexterity.

He carries a sword (DV 7, +1 to DEF) and a dagger (DV 3, no DEF bonus); he often uses both to fight two-handed style (no penalty for attacking with his left hand due to ambidexterity, and he only suffers a -1 penalty to attacking with two weapons due to his Dual Attacks +1 talent).  He also has a spare dagger.  He wears leather armor, effectively reducing his DEX to 13 (which doesn't change his attribute bonus), adds +1 to his DEF score, and gives him an AR or 2 vs Cutting and Blunt attacks (AR 1 vs Piercing attacks).  His total DEF score is +3 (+1 for using his sword vs melee attacks, +1 for the leather armor, and +1 for his DEX attribute bonus - the bonus from the sword would not count against missile attacks, and the bonus from the leather would not count against piercing attacks).  As a Player Character, he has 2 Hero Points he can use during any given gaming session.  One of the few benefits of his recent poverty is that he is Unencumbered (2 ENC for his sword, 1 ENC each for the two daggers, 2 ENC for the leather armor, and 1 ENC for the thieves' tools he carries equals 7, which is equal to his base ENC score).  He has a Serious Wound Threshold of 5 (2/3 of his END).

Drogo's player tells the GM that he wants to prowl the city in hopes of finding an easy target for robbery, so that he can acquire some quick money, and hopefully won't have to sleep under the open stars tonight.  After several hours of searching the streets, he finally finds a suitable target: a fat merchant with a belt pouch full of coin, and too much alcohol in his belly.  As it turns out, a very negative reaction roll means the drunken merchant actually attacks the thief.  Drogo's blades make quick work of the foolish man, leaving the merchant a bloody corpse in the back-alleyway.  Drogo would have preferred to take the man's money without resorting to violence, but what's done is done.  He takes the merchant's hefty coin purse and ties it to his own belt, preparing to leave the alleyway and find an inn where he can acquire a room, some food and drink, and perhaps a prostitute.

Unfortunately for Drogo, a random encounter check means a town guard just happens to be passing by.  Pulling out a random member of the guard from a stack of 3x5 index cards with various NPCs listed on them, the GM determines that the guardsman is none other than a man named Kedrick, a 1st level human Warrior:

STR 13 (+1)     DEX 15 (+1)     END 14 (+1)      KNO 8 (-1)      OBS 13 (+1)     PRE 11 (-)
HEALTH 21      ENC 8              MOVE 14           DEF +6           INITIATIVE +1

His combat talents are Spear +1 and Shield +1, and he has Sharp Eyes +1 as well.

He carries a spear (DV 6, +1 to DEF), which he usually uses one-handed, so that he may also use a Medium Shield (DV 4 if used as a weapon, +3 to DEF, with an additional +1 because of his Shield talent).  He also has a dagger as a back-up weapon, but he rarely uses it.  He wears chain mail (his prized possession) for his armor, effectively reducing his DEX to 12 (dropping his attribute bonus to nil), giving him AR 5 and +2 DEF vs Cutting attacks, and AR 2 and +1 DEF vs Piercing and Blunt attacks.  His total DEF score is +7 vs Cutting attacks, and +6 vs other attacks.  As a NPC, he has no Hero Points.  His total ENC score from his spear, medium shield, dagger, and chain mail is 12, which makes him lightly encumbered, reducing both his MOVE and his DEX down to 11.  He has a Serious Wound Threshold of 11 (half of his Health score).

The alleyway is about 10 feet wide, and perhaps 50 feet long.  The moon is clear and bright overhead, so there are no darkness-related penalties for this combat.  The walls at the end of the alleyway (where Drogo and the corpse are) are about 25 feet high, as they are all part of two-story buildings.  Drogo could try to climb up the walls to escape, but he knows it would probably take him at least one round, maybe two, to get up over the walls, and he would either have to take a round to sheath his now-bloody weapons, or drop them and leave them behind before he starts climbing.  Not relishing the idea of the guardsman getting a few chances to poke him in the back with that spear while he would be climbing up the wall (possibly causing him to fall), Drogo sighs and instead prepares himself for a fight with the guardsman, hoping to end it as quickly as possible.

At this time, the GM reminds Krogo's player that the coin purse is fairly heavy, and counts as ENC 1.  This is enough to give Drogo a total ENC rating of 8, making him lightly encumbered; this reduces his MOVE to 12, and more importantly lowers his DEX to 12 as well, which means his attribute bonus would drop from +1 to nil.  Drogo's players mutters several obscenities regarding the GM's ancestry.

Round one:  Drogo rolls a total of 5 for initiative, and the GM roll a total of 3 for Kedrick.  The GM declares that Kedrick will advance forward slowly, yelling out for his fellow guardsmen, standing in the middle of the alleyway to best block Drogo from running past him.  Drogo's player declares that he will be throwing his spare dagger at the guard (this will reduce his encumbrance score, so that if nothing else he will be unencumbered again), while also advancing forward slowly.

Both characters move; Drogo winds up being just a few feet outside of Kedrick's spear range, so the guardsman gets no attack this round.

Drogo throws his dagger.  His target number to hit is 8, plus Kedrick's DEF score of 7, is 15, which is what he needs to roll on two dice (including any doubles) to hit.  Drogo doesn't get any DEX bonus this round, and gets a +1 to hit because of his skill with daggers.  That means he needs a total of 14 or better to hit, which means he has to roll doubles to succeed.  He rolls a 9; the dagger bounces harmlessly off Kedrick's shield, landing off to the side of the alleyway. 

Round two:  Drogo rolls a 6 for initiative, while Kedrock rolls a 4.  Kedrick stands his ground (he knows that time is on his side; the longer things goes on, the better chance another guardsman will show up).  Drogo will step forward and attack.

Because of the length advantage Kedrick has with his spear, he gets a free attack as Drogo closes in.  Even though Drogo has the initiative, Kedrick gets his free attack before Drogo can act.  Kedrick gets a +1 to hit because he is a Warrior, and another +1 because of his spear talent, giving him +2 to hit.  Drogo (whose effective DEX is back up to 13) has a DEF score of +2 (remember his leather armor doesn't give a DEF bonus vs Piercing attacks).  This means that Kedrick needs a 8 + 2 -2 = 8 to hit.  He rolls a 6 and misses.  Drogo draws his spare dagger, and attacks with both his sword and dagger.  He has a -1 penalty for attacking with two weapons in one round, and suffers a -1 penalty with the dagger because he is attacking with it the same round he unsheathed it (there's also a -1 penalty on initiative for this, which means his dagger attack goes at 5 instead of 6).  He needs a 14+ to his with his sword, and a 15+ with his dagger (climbing up that wall now sounds like it may have been the better option).  He lucks out and rolls a 17 on his sword attack.

Because he exceeded the needed attack roll by 3, the DV for his sword attack is increased by +1 to 8.  Kedrick's armor absorbs 5 points of damage, so 3 points of Cutting damage gets through, leaving Kedrick currently with a Health of 18.

Drogo rolls a 6 on his second attack with his dagger, missing badly.  Kedrick then gets his normal attack for this round.  He needs a 8+ to hit, and rolls a 8 exactly, which is a graze.  His base damage with the spear is a DV of 7 (base 6, +1 for STR mod).  This is halved to 4 because it's a graze.  Drogo's armor reduces 1 pt of damage against Piercing attacks, so Drogo also suffers a 3-pt wound this round, leaving him with a Health score of 12. 

Round three:  Kedrick rolls a 6, Drogo rolls a 4 for initiative.  Knowing that the odds of winning a straight-up fight is pretty slim, he will attempt a feint this round, with the description of trying to draw Kedrick over to one side of the alleyway.  Kedrick will continue to fight normally.  Kedrick rolls a 6 on his attack roll, and misses this round.  Drogo's 'attack' roll for his feint has the same +2 modifier to the roll, but his chances of success are much better, as Kedrick only has a +1 DEF against this maneuver (+1 for OBS attribute modifier, no mods for armor or shield).  He needs a 7+ to succeed, and rolls an 11, giving him a +2 to his next attack roll.       

Round four:  Kedrick and Drogo both roll a 6 for initiative, so their actions are simultaneous.  Drogo wants to use All-Out Defense (foregoing any attacks, giving him a +2 to DEF this round), and add the +2 bonus from last round's feint to his DEF instead of his attack score (the GM rules that this is acceptable, but notes that if Drogo tries to break free while engaged in combat with Kedrick, the latter will get a free attack), while darting past on the opposite side of the alleyway that he maneuvered Kedrick to last round.  Drogo's total DEF score this round is +6.  Kedrick needs an 8 -2 + 6 =12 to hit this round; he rolls an 8 and fails.  Drogo sidesteps the guardsman and begins to sprint down the alleyway.

However, Kedrick gets a free attack before Drogo can completely escape out of range.  Not only does Keedrick lose his +1 DEF bonus from his sword (since he's facing the other way), but Kedrick gets a +2 attack bonus for attacking from the rear.  Drogo's total DEF bonus is +5, Kedrick's attack roll is at +4; Kedrick needs a 9+ to hit.

Rolling doubles, Kedrick rolls a total of 16 to hit.  Becasue he made his attack roll by 7, not only does he add +3 to the damage (for a total of 10), but he can also target a limb as well; the GM declares that Drogo's right leg was hit.  Drogo's armor stops one point of the Piercing attack, but he still suffers 9 points of damage (reducing his Health to 3); this is a Serious Wound.  Not only is Drogo stunned, but he must make an END roll of 11+ (base 10+ because the damage exceeded his END score, -1 for END attribute mod) to avoid getting his leg impaled.  He rolls a 9, failing the roll by two.  Drogo then spends his 2 Hero Points to make the roll a success.

Because he was running, got stunned, and had his leg injured, the GM makes Drogo roll against his DEX to avoid falling down.  He needs a base roll of 8+, and gets a +1 for his DEX.  He rolls a 7 and barely succeeds; he stumbles, but does not fall. 

Round five: The GM declares that if Drogo wins initiative he can make his way out of the alleyway before Kedrick can attack, but if the guardsman wins initiative then Kedrick can get another attack at the fleeing thief.  Kedrick rolls a 6, and Drogo rolls a 7.  Drogo turns the corner and runs for all he's worth,  Kedrick follows, but more slowly.

     *     *     *

A couple of minutes later, Drogo crawls into an abandoned house, in hopes of escaping the town watch.  Because of the serious wound he suffered, he's been losing one Health point per minute from the bleeding.  Knowing he is about to pass out, he rips off a piece of his shirt and tries to bandage the wound to his leg (i.e. an unskilled First Aid roll).  He roll well and manages to succeed.  He then passes out, confident that his Health score won't drop any further while he is unconscious.

     *     *     *

Several hours later, Drogo wakes up, not in abandoned house, but instead in the town gaol.  It seems that blood trail wasn't that hard to follow...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

V&V Vednesday: Vulcan

Character Name: Vulcan     Real Name: Jason Petras     Side: Evil
Gender: Male     Height: 5'11"     Weight: 180 lbs     Age: 24

Physical Description: A man of average height and build with black hair, brown eyes, and a dark complexion. His costume consists of a dark blue bodysuit (including mask) with black boots, gloves, and belt.

STR: 12     END: 14      INT: 13     AGL: 22     CHA: 14

Level: 2nd     XP: 4,327     Basic Hits: 4     Hit Points: 17      Healing Rate: 1.2/day
Movement: 48”      Power: 61      Carrying Capacity: 282 lbs     HTH Damage: 1d6
Damage Modifier: +2     Accuracy: +4    Detect Hidden: 10%     Detect Danger: 14%
Inventing: 39%     Inventing Points: 2.6     Reaction Modifier: -1 good/+1 evil
Training: Endurance

Heightened Agility A: +11
Heightened Expertise: +4 to hit with all weapons
Mutant Power: Weapon & Armor Creation (see below)

Weapon & Armor Creation - Vulcan can create weapons and armor from nothing: PR = 2, maximum weight = 14 lbs (based on END), lasts up to 13 hours (based on INT). Any firearm he creates will have a full clip of ammo (of whatever type he chooses), and if there is leftover mass, he will usually create a spare clip or two along with the firearm. He can also create weapon accessories such as rifle scopes. He must have studied the weapon or armor in the past to be able to create a duplicate of it. Primitive weapons and armor (middle ages or earlier) require five minutes of study, and his success chance of creating such a weapon is equal to x3 his normal Inventing chance (a roll of 00 still fails). More complex weapons of modern design (up to modern day technology, including most firearms) require 15 minutes study and has a success chance of x2 his Inventing score. Any high-tech or futuristic weaponry or protection devices (i.e. laser weapons, any device that duplicates a super-power) requires an hour's study, and his success chance of duplicating it is equal to his Inventing score. If he does not succeed on his roll to know how to duplicate a weapon or protection device, he can keep re-rolling as long as he still has the item to study. Note that this does not require the expenditure of Inventing Points. At this point in his career, he can duplicate most of the basic weapons is section 3.3 of the rulebook (including laser weaponry), although he (thankfully) has not yet had a chance to study a nuclear device (and probably couldn't duplicate one due to limitations of mass).

Areas of Knowledge
Military, Communications (radio), Crime

Character Notes/Origin/Personality: Even as a kid, Derek was dangerous when he had something in his hands to use as a weapon. He just had an instinctive knack for how to hurt people. Upon graduating from high school, he signed up for the Army. He tried to become a sniper, but was rejected for psychological reasons, and was instead assigned to a communications unit. Disappointed, he continued to practice with various firearms and other weapons in his spare time. To his surprise, he did come to enjoy working with communications, and to this day enjoys ham radio as a hobby.

After leaving the military. He eventually drifted into a life of crime. After working with several other small criminal organizations, he wound up working for the Scarlet Queen as a henchman. His talents made him very useful to her, and after he wound up pleasing her in other ways as well, she offered to make him a superhuman. He agreed.

At first, it appeared that the Queen's attempt failed; no obvious superpowers appeared, despite much testing and prompting. It wasn't until a surprise raid by CHESS that, wishing he had a weapon handy, an assault rifle suddenly appeared in his hands out of nowhere. He was able to defeat the agents facing him, and was able to give the Scarlet Queen and his other fellow henchmen enough warning to fight back and hold off the CHESS agents until they were able to retreat to another hiding spot.

After practicing a bit and learning how to use his new abilities, he chose the name Vulcan (after the Roman god of weaponsmithing), and proved even more useful to the Scarlet Queen. He is somewhat jealous that she has turned her attention to others, but for the moment he his loyal to her. However, he has contemplated going solo, working as an assassin-for-hire.

Campaign Use: Vulcan works well as a support member and sniper for a supervillain group. He could also be a solo threat for low-level supers; keeping him in jail may prove difficult, as ballistics evidence would disappear long before he could come to trial.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Review: "Exit... Stage Left"

Touring for what would wind up being their signature album, Rush recorded various live shows from their Moving Pictures tour; different performances from different three different shows would be put together to become one of the all-time classic live rock albums, Exit... Stage Left.

The album is a snapshot of the band at a time when they were reaching heights of popularity that they had never known before.  At this point the group had been touring for several years together, and musically they're much tighter here than they were on All The World's A Stage.  As one might expect, the songs here are weighted toward what was then their more recent releases (three tracks each from Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures, two each from A Farewell To Kings and Hemispheres, and a single track each from Fly By Night and 2112).  Overall, the songs balance the hard rock moments with the slower pieces better than Stage did.

Musically, there's nothing to complain about here; the band is in fine form (one continues to wonder how a trio can sound like they have twice as many members as they actually do), and the production values are excellent (it really benefits if you have an superior sound system, admittedly).  My only complaint is that, not even counting breaks where the original vinyl album sides would have ended, there are occasional breaks between songs as they shift between versions recorded on different nights.  This helps to break the aural illusion of recreating a live concert performance.  That, admittedly, is a rather minor nitpick, and should in no way deter any Rush fans from owning what may be their most famous live effort.  It's also a very good sampling of the best of Rush's first decade, and the uncertain fan could always listen to this album before investing in any of the early studio albums.    

Oh, and if you do decide to pick up a copy of this, be sure to get the remastered version.  The original CD release of Exit... removed the version of "A Passage To Bangkok" that was on the original vinyl release for time purposes.  The remastered CD release re-includes "Bangkok", so that's the version you want to get.  Doing so will make Jerry Stiller happy, and you don't want Jerry to be sad, do you?

Music Monday: "The Trooper Believer"

It's kinda frightening how well the Monkees and Iron Maiden synch up together...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Capsule reviews: Comics from 6/8

Doc Savage #15 (DC, $2.99, J.G. Jones, Dan Panosian) - Part 3 of 'Raise The Khan" introduces a new artist; I know most comic fans don't like having a change of artists mid-story, but in this case I'm not going to complain.  Panosian's work here is rough and a bit rushed in spots, but the flaws are more easily forgivable that those of his predecessor, and overall this is still a step up.  As for the story, the pacing moves along nicely, things become a little clearer without giving everything away just yet, and hey, this issue has Doc shooting at a pterodactyl with a pistol while flying with a jetpack and carrying a pretty blonde; it's hard to screw that up.

Mystery Men #1 (of 5) (Marvel, $2.99, David Liss, Patrick Zircher) - There's a bit of a controversy regarding the release of this title; that's a shame, because questionable moves by Marvel aside regarding trademarks,this is a very good first issue. In the early 1930's, a shadowy anti-hero calling himself the Operative finds his alter ego framed for murder, and the story spins off from there, as he fights his way through corrupt policemen, and encounters another masked figure known as the Revenant.  It's a fairly dark set-up; this isn't an idealized 30's, but rather a world of brutal and corrupt policemen, union busting, racism, and stratified social status.  To my mind, it shares some thematic similarities to Matt Wagner's Sandman Mystery Theatre, which is hardly a bad thing. 

The story by Liss flows well, and Zircher's art is some of the best I've seen from him, with a strong sense of period design.  This is supposedly set in the Marvel Universe,but aside from a reference to the Daily Bugle, this first issue could easily be set in any other publisher's timeline (that said, is it too much to hope for an appearance by Dominic Fortune in later issues?).  An intriguing and engaging first issue.

Supreme Power #1 (of 4) (Marvel/Max, $3.99, Kyle Higgins, Manuel Garcia) -This story seems to pick up a bit after Chaykin's 'Bright Shining Lies' story arc.  Hyperion has dropped off the radar, and for the last couple of years Joe Ledger, aka Dr. Spectrum, has taken over as America's primary hero.  Ledger is pretty much the focus for the entire issue, and we get to see how he feels about being thrust into the spotlight, as well as his battle with a middle eastern superhuman terrorist.  More worrying to Joe is the fact that the crystal embedded in his hand still has the capacity to take over in times of stress and danger.  Overall, the issue moves a little slowly, but it gives us a good feel for Joe as a character, so I'm not complaining too much.  Curious to see where this goes, so I'll be along for the rest of the ride.

Robert E. Howard's Savage Sword #2 (Dark Horse, $7.99, various writers and artists) - As always, anthology series tend to be a mixed lot.  Fortunately, this issue has more good than bad to it:

We start things off with "The Incident at Hakim's Rest", an El Borak story by Mark Finn and Greg Scott.  A well told tale with a nice, compact script, and good art to carry it through.  A strong start to the issue.

Following that is the conclusion to the to-part Dark Agnes story "Storytelling", by Mark Andreyko and Robert Atkins.  I didn't care for this one as much, in part due to Agnes causal reaction to the threat she and her friend faces; it's as if she had already read the script and knew she wasn't in any danger, undercutting any sense of tension that might otherwise be present.  Also, the art didn't particularly stand out.  As someone who very much enjoyed the original Sword Woman prose stories, this was pretty much a disappointment.

Next is "A New Game for Costigan", by Joe Casey and Pop Mhan.  Humor is not an element that one immediately identifies with Howard's stories, but 'Sailor Steve Costigan' is put through his paces in what is essentially a comedy of errors.  This was better than, quite frankly, it had any right to be.  Quite fun and enjoyable.

"Sea Curse" is a REH story presented in it's original prose form, with the occasional illustration by Tim Seeley.  This isn't one of Howard's best stories by any stretch, but it is an enjoyable enough yarn, concerning a young woman done wrong, and the curse that follows the men who wronged her.  For my money, Howard's not-best is still pretty enjoyable.

The high point for the issue is "The Valley of the Worm", by Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, and Gil Kane, originally published by Marvel in Supernatural Thrillers #3 back in 1972.  It's a faithful and well-done adaptation of Howard's story, with wonderful art by Kane, and I'm glad Dark Horse chose to reprint this.

Finally, there's part two of the three-part "Conan and the Jewels of Hesterm", by Paul Tobin and Wellington Alves.  It's decent enough, but there's little here that really makes it a Conan story; this could easily be the tale of any other sword and sorcery hero.  That said, it's no worse, and no better, than most other Conan pastiches we've seen through the years.

Moriarty #2 (Image, $2.99, Daniel Corey, Anthony Diecidue) - Moriarty and his sole ally, the Jade Dragon, make their way through a twisting plot concerning the Black Hand and the mysterious Dark Chamber, crossing paths with both Mati Hari and Dr. Watson along the way in this slightly oversized issue (36 pages instead of 32, with only two pages of that being ads).  The high point of the issue is the portrayal of Dr. Watson, who thankfully is not depicted as a bumbling idiot, as has been the case in other adaptions of the character.  This issue isn't quite as a strong as the first one, but it lays a lot of groundwork and moves the plot along nicely.  Recommended.

Blue Estate #3 (Image, $2.99, Victor Kalvachev, Kosta Yanev, Andrew Osborne, Toby Cypress, Nathan Fox, Robert Valley) – The two frat boys from last issue pay for their mistake in judgement, and then we switch to a drug dealer who is being staked out by our narrator's father, Big Roy Devine.  Unfortunately, while this all no doubt ties in to the overall plot, my complete lack of being able to care for, or even be interested in, these characters pretty much  kills this issue for me.   The only high point is when Roy Jr. shows up for a few pages. Hopefully, next issue will get back on track, because this one has kinda stalled out.  Disappointing, but I'll stick with this for the current story arc.

Glamourpuss #19 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, $3.00, Dave Sim) - It's no great secret that Dave Sim has some strong, and unpopular, views toward women.  Throughout the run of Glamourpuss, there's been a fair amount of satirical skewering of the glamor and modeling industry... which, let's face it, is an easy target.  Up until now,  Sim's views towards women in general haven't shown up as much, outside of the focus on female fashion.

That changes entirely with this issue, in which the first half is dedicated to a fairly vile and mean-spirited superhero spoof called 'the League of Extraordinary Hosebags', where Sim goes through a string of ugly stereotypes regarding women who actually dare to enjoy sex.  Beyond the basic offensiveness, in terms of Glamourpuss the greater crime is that it simply isn't very funny.   In the past even when pushing boundaries Sim has shown no small amount of wit and subtlety, but this has all the comedic ability of a ten-year-old struggling to tell a dirty joke for the first time.

The second half of the issue gets back on firmer ground, continuing the Stan Drake/Alex Raymond narrative.  Still, half of a good issue isn't worth the three dollars, and this issue takes a nosedive in terms of overall enjoyability and merit.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

V&V Vednesday: Transporter

Character Name: Transporter     Real Name: Timothy Miller     Side: Evil
Gender: Male     Height: 5'4"     Weight: 155 lbs     Age: 29

Physical Description: A short, wirey male with blond hair and blue eyes. His costume, when he wears one, is a simple black bodysuit with a black mask that covers everything but his eyes.

STR: 11     END: 13      INT: 15     AGL: 14     CHA: 12

Level: 2nd     XP: 4,916     Basic Hits: 4     Hit Points: 9      Healing Rate: 1.2/day
Movement: 38”      Power: 53      Carrying Capacity: 204 lbs     HTH Damage: 1d4
Damage Modifier: +2     Accuracy: +1    Detect Hidden: 12%     Detect Danger: 16%
Inventing: 45%     Inventing Points: 3.0     Reaction Modifier: -1 good/+1 evil
Training: Strength

Heightened Defense: -4 to be hit
Heightened Expertise: +1 to hit with laser pistol (from training)
Natural Weaponry (martial arts) +1 to hit, +2 damage in unarmed combat
Teleportation (PR = 6, range = current Power score x 100,000 in game inches (with a full Power score this comes out to a little over 5,000 miles), creates 1” square portal)

Laser pistol (+2 to hit, 1d10 damage, range 42”)

Phobia – Transporter has a serious fear of heights (acrophobia).

Areas of Knowledge
Education, Crime

Character Notes/Origin/Personality: Timothy Miller was an elementary school teacher whose mutant power manifested relatively late. He was at a jazz concert one night when a fire broke out, quickly spreading throughout the nightclub. Engulfed in smoke, Timothy instinctively created a teleportation portal to escape the fire, arriving back at his apartment several miles away.

Not exactly thrilled with his day job, Timothy began using his powers to commit robberies. Although he was able to get away with various petty thefts, the nature of teleportation demands that you know where you're teleporting to; this made stealing high-wealth items from protected sites more difficult that he had initially anticipated, since most of the really good stuff usually wasn't publicly displayed.

It eventually occurred to him that he could make good money by instead acting as a 'courier', transporting people and illicit items across borders and past any legal obstacles, for a suitable fee. Word got out throughout the underworld, and over time the Transporter, as he now dubbed himself, became quite wealthy. Need to get someone out of the country quietly? Call the Transporter. Want to get that drug that gives people temporary super-powers from South America to New York? Call the Transporter. For the right price, he can shift the goods, or the people, wherever you need them to go.

Timothy prefers to avoid combat if at all possible; the laser pistol he acquired in one of his earlier thefts is carried as a last ditch defense. Although he has long since quit his job as a teacher, he avoids dealing with criminals whose goods or actions are likely to target young children. He's a little touchy about his height, but won't let any negative comments thereof interfere with his ability to perform the task at hand; he considers himself a professional, above such petty taunts.

In dealing with a new client, he will meet with them to establish a 'drop point' where any goods are to be delivered. He now has several memorized 'drop points' across the globe. Because of his fear of heights, he will not fly to a new location via plane, or for any other reason. In the past he has traveled by boat to get to a new continent, and will travel by train to get to a new city.

Campaign Use: The Transporter is unlikely to be the focus of an adventure. Rather, he will usually be a part of the chain of events that the heroes must investigate to stop a particular criminal activity.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Capsule reviews: Comics from 6/1

Adventure Comics #527 (DC, $2.99, Paul Levitz, Geralso Borges) - An issue spotlighting longtime Legion trainee Comet Queen, as she relates her origins and past misadventures to Glorith.  How much of this is new and how much had been previously established, I couldn't tell you - CQ is one of those many characters I remember from past incarnations of the Legion, but other than her bubbly and somewhat ditzy personality, she never left much of an impression on me.  The story here is well-told and surprisingly bittersweet; by the end of it Levitz makes you genuinely care about the character.  The art by Borges is also nicely done, detailed but not cluttered.  Not a spectacular issue, but an entertaining one.

Jonah Hex #68 (DC, $2.99, Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Rafa Carres) - A murder in a small town demands that someone pay for the crime, and a recently-arrived stranger seems a likely candidate.  But when that stranger is Jonah Hex, you know it's going to end in a rather messy and brutal fashion. One of the things I like about this issue is that it doesn't just show Jonah as being tough, it also shows him being smart, and a keen observer of human nature.  Unfortunately, the art is a little uneven this issue; it starts out decently enough, but gets a little looser (and not in a good way) as the issue progresses.  Still, the story is strong enough to help make up for any flaws in the art.

And now for something a little different...

Muppet Sherlock Holmes (BOOM!, $9.99, Patrick Storck, Amy Mebberson) - "When you remove the impossible, whatever remains is still not guaranteed to make much sense."  And so we begin a collection of delightfully demented stories, featuring Gonzo as Holmes, Fozzie as Dr. Watson, and Kermit as Inspector LeStrade.  Four of Doyle's stories get put though their paces here ("The Adventure of the Speckled Band", "A Scandal in Bohemia", "The Red-Headed League," and "The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual"); by the time the Muppets have their way with these stories, there's often not that much of Doyle's originals left, but they're still entertaining romps.  Storck's plots move quickly, and are filled with puns and other bad humor; if the occasional pun falls flat, that's okay, another pun will show up quickly enough in another panel or two.   Mebberson's art here is a delight, wonderfully capturing the incongruity of the Muppets on Victorian London.  This isn't for comic book fans lacking a sense of humor (of which there are far too many), but it's a great read both for younger readers, as well as (as the saying goes) kids of all ages.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Thoughts on the DC reboot

If you have any interest or connection to the world of comic books, then you have no doubt already heard the news about DC's rebooting of their superhero comic books.  Much has been made of this in the last few days, both positive and negative.  Personally, I wanted to wait a few days to give some thought on the matter before commenting.

Before I continue, I recommend you read Greg Hatcher's excellent analysis on the subject.  Go ahead, I'll wait.  Finished?  Good.  I'm pretty much in agreement with everything Greg says, so instead of repeating any of that, I'm just going to throw out a few extra random thoughts:

1)  52 titles?  Hopefully a decent chunk of those will be one-shots or mini-series, because as it currently stands DC simply does not have the talent pool to pull off that many ongoing monthly titles.  For the titles that have been announced so far, only Morrison taking over a Superman title is of any real interest to me, and even then there's the danger that it will wind up a watered-down version of his work on All-Star Superman (I was briefly interested in Teen Titans, until I found out that contrary to rumor Fabien Nieceza will not be writing it).

2)  Bob Wayne says it isn't a reboot, but at least some of the characters appear to be getting their origins rewritten (most notably Firestorm), so... "to-ma-to, to-mah-to".

3)  The books that Geoff Johns have been most closely associated with (Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman) seem to have the least amount of tampering with their backstories.  What a shock.

4)  The online/digital thing is a (potentially) much bigger game-changer that the reboot, but DC is straddling the fence here; they want to step outside of the confines of the direct market, but do not want to abandon the direct market just yet.  If digital sales do well, then DC may well drop the online costs further in hopes of moving beyond the comic book shop.

5)  While Greg notes that this is an excellent opportunity to get rid of some in-comic aspects that wouldn't do well when marketed to a larger audience, it should be noted that any changes to the Superman character are also probably inspired by the fact that Joe Shuster's heirs will be reclaiming some of the aspects of the character that were established in Action Comics #1.

6)  It's utterly hypocritical of me, but while I don't care much one way or the other about most of the changes that might occur, I would just as rather that the Legion of Super-Heroes and Jonah Hex books continue relatively unchanged.  LSH has already been rebooted multiple times to its detriment; if any title deserves to get a pass, it's the Legion ("that's okay, we already gave at the office").  Now that Levitz is finally starting to hit his stride on the book, I'm hoping he can work in any changes with a minimum of fuss.  As for Jonah Hex, there's no guarantee that it will even be among the 52 titles - sales for the book have never been that strong, which only goes to show just how much a large percentage of comic book fans suck - but if it is, hopefully DC will be smart enough not to muck things up too much.  

Finally, these changes don't take place until September.  We've got a good three months to see how things are going to play out; no need to go into a tizzy just yet.  Which doesn't mean some fans aren't doing exactly that...

(wonder what Hitler thinks of the new Mr. Terrific title?)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

V&V Vendesday: Shockwave

Character Name: Shockwave     Real Name: Miguel Freeman     Side: Evil
Gender: Male     Height: 6'1"     Weight: 210 lbs     Age: 26

Physical Description: A stocky, broad-shouldered man of mixed Hispanic-Caucasian descent. He has brown eyes, and short, curly black hair. His costume is a rather gaudy mix of yellow circular patterns emanating out from his chest over a green background.

STR: 12     END: 30      INT: 13     AGL: 12     CHA: 15

Level: 3rd     XP: 33,254     Basic Hits: 5     Hit Points: 33      Healing Rate: 4.5/day
Movement: 55”      Power: 67      Carrying Capacity: 496 lbs     HTH Damage: 1d8
Damage Modifier: +1     Accuracy: +1    Detect Hidden: 10%     Detect Danger: 14%
Inventing: 39%     Inventing Points: 0.9     Reaction Modifier: -2 good/+2 evil
Training: Gain Weight (from End)

Absorption: Damage (physical attacks, or energy attacks with a physical/kinetic aspect to them only)
Heightened Endurance B: +17
Heightened Senses: Motion Awareness (highly sensitive to and aware of any nearby motions, effectively functioning as a form or radar sense, range 13”)
Natural Weaponry (martial arts): +1 to hit, +2 damage
Vibratory Powers (range 24”, 2d8 damage, PR=5, 24% destroy device on special attack, PR=2 to use as a defense)

Areas of Knowledge
Communications (postal), Crime

Character Notes/Origin/Personality: Miguel didn't seem to be the type to become a supervillain. He was a likable sort who had a decent job as a mailman. He would occasionally go bowling with his buddies, and have a brew every now and then, but overall kept to himself.

It all went downhill when he took a Social Security check for himself that was part of his regular mail delivery; Mr. Harris had just passed away, and that check wasn't going to do him any good at this point, so Miguel decided it wouldn't hurt if he could somehow cash it himself. A friend of a friend knew how to do such things, and Miguel had a little extra spending money that weekend.

Soon, Miguel began occasionally taking checks and various other items that were intended for the various people on his mail route. He was careful not to take anything that would be missed overly much, or could be traced back to him too easily. For a while he got away with it, but eventually he got busted. Event though most of the stuff he took wasn't that valuable in and of itself, stealing from the Postal System was a federal crime, and that meant a short stint in the federal pen.

Although his size managed to deter casual violence, Miguel quickly learned to defend himself from those who saw the big man just as another challenge. His stay in prison wasn't that long, but it certainly hardened the former mailman, who up to this point had seen himself as a not-bad person who was just getting a little extra here and there.

Upon getting out of jail, it was clear he couldn't get his old job back. A friend mentioned to him that there was a new supervillain in the area called the Scarlet Queen was looking for some henchmen to help her with her various crimes. More than anything, Miguel had wanted to get a new job somewhere and forget his time in prison, but his prospects didn't look good, so he eventually did wind up working for the Scarlet Queen.

The first few gigs went pretty well, and Miguel had managed to impress his new boss by keeping his cool and not screwing up. One night between jobs, the Scarlet Queen took a more personal interest in Miguel; for his part, having sex with the super-hot villain wasn't something he was going to shy away from, even if she was obviously kinda crazy. This went on for a few days, when she told Miguel that she believed that she could create superpowers in otherwise normal people. There was risk, of course, but the rewards were potentially great. Would he take the risk?

He did. There was pain, of course; the process hurt more than anything he had ever encountered before, but in the end Miguel had joined the ranks of the superhumans. After a few days of trying out his new abilities, he took on the name Shockwave, and began assisting the Scarlet Queen on more ambitious crimes.

In time, she turned her attentions to other criminal followers in her ranks, looking for both those who would satisfy her desires as well as prove suitable candidates to receive superpowers, making her group even more powerful. Miguel didn't mind her turning her attentions to the others; while they made an effective force to be reckoned with, he knew that her insanity would eventually trip her up, and he would just as well not be around to be caught when that happens. For the moment, he's still working for the Scarlet Queen, but is trying to work out a way that he can exit her group of followers (with his proper share of their ill-gotten loot, of course) without angering her or anyone else; the last thing he wants is for a group of supervillains led by a crazy supervillain to have a reason to go hunting him.

Personality-wise, Shockwave would prefer to pull off whatever crime he's attempting with a minimum of fuss. Although he won't shy away from a fight if necessarily, he won't engage in one for its own sake – violence is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. He lacks the true 'killer edge' that some other superillains have, but on the other hand his lack of an inflated ego means he will wisely flee from an unwinnable fight instead of duking it out until the end.

Campaign Use: Shockwave can either be used as a part of the Scarlet Queen's supergroup, or he can break away and try his hand as a solo villain. His ability to phase through solid objects (via his Vibratory power) makes him an excellent thief, and his other powers can give most superheroes enough of a fight that he can usually escape before being captured.