Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Cape: Origins

So, another episode of The Cape and another Twitterfest; the tweets were flying just as fast and as varied as the first night. My completely unscientific assessment of responses breaks down the Tweets into several types: loved it, hated it, found it hilarious. It felt like most of the Tweets found the show lame and were quickly looking for something else to watch.
From The Cape web comic

A fair percentage of Tweets were comparing The Cape to other superheroes and finding the show lacking in comparison. (As an aside, many folks were comparing the episode's villain to Gambit after he dispatches a handful of goons with playing cards. Come on people, haven't you ever heard of Bullseye?!) I thought I'd take a look at how The Cape stacks up against the hero he seems most often compared to: The Batman. (Although, one person posted an interesting comment about The Cape being the opposite of the original Robin - Dick Greyson going from living with the circus to being a superhero and the cape when from cop to living with the circus)

There is a lot of ground to cover here, so it'll take more than one post. This time around I want to start with their origins. The Batman's origin has been modified and updated over the years, but I'll try to stick to the most basic elements. Bruce Wayne stepped on the road that led to him becoming The Batman when he watched his parents murdered in cold blood and was unable to stop it. He set out to seek his revenge on the criminals that made living in Gotham a dangerous proposition. He spent years gaining the skills and the means to get his revenge. He adopted the image of the bat to strike fear in to the cowardly lot of criminals that lived in his city.

Breaking it down, Bruce had his family ripped away from him and made a choice to seek revenge for this horrible crime. He trained his body and mind to be able to attain his goal. He chose to embody a symbol to strike fear into his enemies. Since he can never bring his family back, it could be argued that his mission of revenge will never be fulfilled.

Vince Faraday was framed for the crimes of the master criminal Chess and in an act of violence was seemingly killed. Having survived Vince looked for a way to get back at the criminal that did this to him. He found a tool (the cape) and trained to be ready for his mission of revenge. He adopted the symbol of a comic book hero that was important to his son, Tripp. In this way, Vince looks to bring hope to his son.

So breaking this down, Vince is torn from his family and kept apart from them to ensure their safety. He seeks revenge on his attacker in hopes that he can one day be reunited with his loved ones. He is already well trained as police office and decorated military personnel, but seeks to improve his existing skills and add more skills to his arsenal. Vince adopts the comic book hero persona as a symbol of hope. His mission has a goal which he could bring to fruition and allow him to hang up his cape.

While there are similarities, these are certainly two different heroes. I would say they come from the same archetype but cast very different shadows. Both were victims of a violent act, both chose to wear the mask and train to become a force of vengeance. The Batman uses fear and intimidation on the weak-willed criminals in Gotham to be the boogie-man that they dread. While The Cape is not above using fear and intimidation on those he hunts (hanging a lackey off a bridge by his foot and threatening to drop him on the street below), he still shines as a symbol of hope for his son (talking with his son on the rooftop to encourage him to always act with honor), and city at large.

And what father doesn't want to be seen as superhero in his son's eyes.

Follow your bliss,

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

So many games

Last night as I got ready to watch The Cape, I was putting my books and games back on their shelves. A recent flood on New Years Day in my basement caused me to have to relocate my books into boxes and last night was the first chance to apply some order to the chaos. What I realized as I went through this process is that I have a ton of RPGs, most of which I have never played.
Role-playing games

Many of these books I purchased with the intention of playing, but some were purely for the curiosity of seeing how the game worked. Naturally this got me thinking about all the games I'd love to play if I had the time.

I decided the only way to find the time was to make the time. Daniel Perez's words about copping out on my New Year's resolutions are still ringing in my ears. First I'll list what I'm currently playing and then the games I'd like to play this year followed by my all-time wish list.

Playing now:

Want to play this year:

  • Dragon Age RPG (Player/GM) - I've been bitten by the Dragon Age bug and am itching to try this one. I will get a chance to play with Daniel in a play-by-post game, but I'd love to play/GM this at the table.
  • ICONS (GM) - I'm a fan of superhero RPGs. This one was recommended by Daniel and seems like it would be a good fit for what I like out of a game.
  • Polaris - I've been wanting to play this game for at least two years now, so this is my year to make it happen.
  • Kingdom of Nothing (GM) - I've committed to running this game at conventions this year and very excited about it.
  • Mortal Coil (GM) - I love the system but have never seen it in action in a long running time frame. I'd love to see this happen this year.
  • Burning Wheel (Player) - I've played Mouse Guard and that makes me want to explore the original.
  • Mythender (Player) - I've been reading about Ryan's game for a while now, I'd love to give it a spin. Who knows, GenCon?
  • A Penny For My Thoughts - I played an early play-test version, but have not played the final release. I think this would be a good game for my wife and I to play with another couple.
  • Breaking the Ice - I've been wanting to play this game with my wife, so I will push to do it this year.

Dream List of games to play:

  • AD&D T1-4, A1-4, GDQ (GM) - I have always wanted to run this classic series of modules using the Advanced Dungeon & Dragon 1st edition rules. Their called classics for a reason.
  • AD&D DL1-12 (GM) - For similar reasons I have always wanted to run the original Dragonlance modules. I'd be tempted to run them using the 3.5 edition rules, but this is my Dream List of games to play so AD&D 1e it is.
  • Thieves World, Lankhmar, Wild Cards (Player/GM) - These classic settings have been realized in various rule-sets. I'd love to have the time to explore them.
  • Mage: The Ascension (GM/Player) - I've talked about why I love this game, I'd love to get back to it some day.
  • Amber Diceless (Player) - I'm fascinated with the system, but have never read the original novels. I'd like to explore them someday.
  • Call of Cthullu (Player/GM) - Do I need a reason?
  • Mutant City Blues/Trail of Cthullu (Player/GM) - I've read, but never played, the games of the GUMSHOE system. I've love to explore them.

That should do it for now. Now I have a list to work off of when someone says, what do you want to play.


Follow Your Bliss,

Friday, January 14, 2011

An Experiment: The Cape

Sunday night, January 9, 2011, I rushed home from a game of D&D Essentials so that I could catch the premier of The Cape on NBC. It was crucial that I watch it as it aired as that was one of the parameters of this little experiment. As the show started, I logged into Twitter on my iPhone and did a search on the show's hashtag: #TheCape. That's when things got interesting.

I watched the show unfold as I monitored the comments flying by on Twitter. I commented as well, replied to some and in general, enjoyed the show and experience of participating in this national conversation over the ether. It was a very interesting experience, kinda like I was sitting in the world's biggest living room as I watched the show.

Now, the comments were generally very disparaging; it was clear that most of the Tweets had little nice to say about the show. I rather enjoyed the pilot episodes. I think I'm going take a few posts and unpack that last statement, as I can't put my finger on why that is.

I'll start by saying that I think one of the impacts on the reaction to the show had to do with expectations. From the Tweets it was clear that some folks were hoping for another Heroes; The Cape is not Heroes. Some folks seemed to be expecting a Batman Begins type of show. I haven't seen that movie yet so I can't speak to that. Some folks seemed to be expecting a higher level of "realism" than the show was offering; they were definitely disappointed.

I came into the show little as possible. I watched the trailers, well crafted gems designed with picture-perfect clips of action and mayhem and just enough of Summer Glau to want you coming back for more. I expected action and mayhem, but the thing that caught me, the thing that made me want to watch this show was all about why Vince Faraday, played by David Lyons, would put on a mask and do battle at risk of life and limb: to protect his family and become a symbol of hope for his son.

IMHO, that is pure gold, as far as super-heroic origins go.

I should probably mention that I love superhero comics. That certainly helped with my expectations. So this isn't really a review of the show. If someone asked me how it was I'd say, "It was good, I'd watch it again." I don't get the same sense of "wow, cool" I got when first watching Heroes a few years ago. But I'll keep watching to see what becomes of the show. Judging by the general reaction on Twitter, there may not be a lot of hope for this show's longevity, but I'll watch it while I can.

Like I said, I think I'll be unpacking this one for a little while at least. If you're interested, feel free to check back.

Follow Your Bliss,

PS. Join me on Twitter @CinderellaManJJ Monday, January 17, 2011 to join in on The Cape Tweeting. And follow the show @NBCTheCape as well if you are so inclined.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Jumping Geomorphs

Recently, while surfing the Internet when I should have been working, I discovered a very cool Geomorph Mapping Project by Dyson Logos on his A character for every game blog. I'm not certain what brought me there, but it was a nice bit of serendipity.
Dyson's Geomorph 5-e

A Geomorph, in RPG terms, is a unique map segment that interlocks with other, similarly designed map segments. This allows for the easy creation of rather elaborate dungeons and town for exploration with your favorite old school fantasy game.

Now, Dyson's maps are beautiful vignettes in and of themselves. Take them and connect them up and you have expansive realms for your party to delve. Dyson also writes on his favorite subject (and mine): RPGs. Be sure to check out his other project, and original focus of his blog, creating 2 characters for each of the over 200 RPGs he owns.

But my fun didn't stop there. Linked from Dyson's Geomorph page I found David Millar's Morph Mapper. This fun web app take's David's and Dyson's maps, along with several other contributors, and puts them together in a random fashion to create endless maps for your dungeon delving pleasure.

The Mapper is a work in progress, but David seems dedicated to making it the best that it can be. In fact, when I posted a suggestion for a possible feature, David soon replied that he had a similar thought in mind.

With so many possibilities it makes me want to print some off, stock them with monsters of all varieties and let my players loose to see how far they can get.

Follow your bliss,

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Dragon Age RPG

@Highmoon and @ newbiedm have been giving lots of love to the Dragon Age RPG (DARPG), from Green Ronin, on Twitter. So much so that I contacted my FLGS to order me the boxed set. When these guys recommend a game, I can't help but to listen. If you are at all curious about DARPG, then check out their new blog, Dragon Age Oracle, devoted to the game (and follow the DAO blog on Twitter as well).


Follow Your Bliss,

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

GMing Aspects: Dresden Files RPG

DM Samuel wrote a great post looking at what he called his "speedbump" when trying to GM games of Dresden Files RPG (DFRPG) for his players. He attributes his problem to years of DMing D&D. I get exactly where he's coming from and feel much the same way. I thought I'd continue the discussion here.

The Dresden Files Roleplaying Game cover
Assessment vs Declaration
First I wanted to make a minor clarification regarding mechanics for any of those unfamiliar with the FATE system. DM Samuel uses the term Declaration as the act performed by the player to add story elements to the game. I want to expand the idea by adding the game term Assessment as an game element for further exploration.

Assessment is an application of a successful skill roll to discover an existing Aspect, whether the Aspect is on an NPC, scene or object. This differs from a Declaration in the fact the GM needs to identify specific Aspects before-hand. Declared Aspects need not be previously established by the GM, publicly or privately.

Skills vs Aspects
Building off this, it is important to note that skills are equally important to performing these two functions. a character good at Driving may be able to Assess any modifications performed on a vehicle or Declare a potential problem on the car that is chasing them. The fact that the character was "Born with a wrench in his hand" will certainly help make those rolls successful.

DM Samuel does a great job discussing the beauty of Aspects and their elegant nature, so no need to repeat what he said. I think they're the bee's knees of the FATE system, but they do require a shift in thinking when approaching play, especially if your experience has been heavily GM-centric (regardless of which side of the screen you were on).

Player Empowerment vs GM Preparation
The true art to using Aspects falls on both the player and the GM. DM Samuel was focusing on his role as GM, but some of the weight is squarely on player's shoulders.

The player needs to be aware of what their skills can do. Many skills grant players opportunities to make Assessments and Declarations. Players should be very familiar with all the Trappings of their skills. Knowing what the skills allow is just the beginning, they also need to watch for opportunities in play to use those skills to make Assessments and Declarations.

For the GM, the previous paragraph also applies; you have to know what the skills can do so you can support your players as they Assess and Declare. Even better is to create scenes that present players with opportunities to use those skills. DFRPG makes it easy to plan for in this respect given the skills "pyramid": a definite hierarchy of skills rated most skilled to least skilled. Plan for Assessments from the character's highest ranked skill, give them a chance to use those skills and build familiarity with this element of the game. I guarantee if they get a taste of it they will want more.

DM Samuel touched upon the idea that the GM has to prepare fewer details because the players can fill in the details that are important to them using Declarations. I think the preparation has to be focused in a different way. A certain amount of flexibility is required to GM DFRPG. Too rigid a setting or story will not allow players (and their characters) the freedom to explore and contribute.

As far as specific advice on how a GM can do this I have two "don'ts":

  • Don't plan for every contingency. Feel free to establish scenes that have no clear resolution. If the players have to break into the villain's lair, loosely sketch possible opposition and let the players use their Skills to Declare some Aspects on the scene. 
  • Don't be afraid to say "yes" to your player's declarations.

I'm sure I'm missing some points here; my experience running DFRPG almost matches DM Samuel's exactly. I look forward to learning more of the nuances in the game as time goes on and will plan to share what I learn here.

Follow your bliss,

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, January 10, 2011

Microlite75 is here and it's FREE

Do you enjoy old school style games? Do you prefer your your RPGs to focus on playability and not padding page count? Then Microlite75 may be the game for you. Check it out for yourself and take it out for a spin.

Follow your bliss,

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Future so bright: 2011

I've been avoiding this blog post. I'm not good at setting goals. That's not true; I'm great at setting goals. Following through? Not so much. So I did what I always do to when I want to avoid something: I read. I could call it "research" since I was reading many posts by other bloggers about New Year's resolutions and goals, but let's call it for what it is: avoiding a troublesome task.

I did enjoy the blogs I read; they were many and varied. Some tackled the New Year with the ferocity of a pit bull, others were calm and serene in their approach. And none helped me figure out what I wanted to do. (However, I did find a more convenient way to keep up on blogs using Twitter and Instapaper for the iPad.)

See, I've been struggling with what to do with this blog. I haven't really been posting lately which really makes me wonder why I'm doing it at all. At first I thought I had something to say, but my voice and focus was never very clear. I'm not an authority on gaming, I can only speak from experience.

Then I thought it was to stay in touch with the friends I met through podcasting. Well, Twitter seems better suited to that. The blog did start some dialogue with others on the interwebs, but it wasn't quite what I was looking for.

I generally have more ideas then I have the time to follow up on and discipline is not my strong suit; OCD is which makes writing a post take twice as long as it should. Family, work and other commitments are all making their demands known.

And then it hits me while I'm typing that last paragraph: this blog is my thing. It is more personal than almost anything else it do. I loves me some RPGs and gaming. I love talking about them, playing them, designing them and reading them. I'm not writing this for anybody but me.

So, no resolutions, no goals - it just is. Chaotic, eclectic and all over the place: that's me.

Follow your bliss,

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad