Sunday, July 24, 2011

Captain America is still my hero

I saw Captain America: The First Avenger on Friday morning, and I was very happy with it. My comments here have spoilers, so here's the obligatory alert.

Like the rest of the recent Marvel movies, it took some liberties and changed a few things from the comics. While some people have seen that as a fault of the movies, I am willing to give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt in most cases and look at the films on their own. Since Cap is such a favorite of mine, I was afraid I wouldn't be able to do that in this case. Fortunately, I didn't find any of the changes that jarring, and they all seemed to make the story flow better on its own and, eventually, into the storylines of the other movies leading to the Avengers movie next year.

I commented before that Cap isn't a hero like a lot of others, in that he is not best on his own. He works best as a leader and inspiration, and this film captured that well. None of the Invaders make an appearance except for Bucky and, possibly, the Human Torch. The Howling Commandos do appear, sans Nick Fury, but they are never credited as such. Cap assumes the role that is normally reserved for Fury in regards to the Commandos. He leads them into a situation and then lets the wreak havoc.

Bucky is a fairly central character in the film, taking the role of friend more than sidekick here. I liked the presentation of Bucky's character and the shift from being the "plucky sidekick" kind of character. It kept the tone of the movie away from camp.

Overall the movie had a fairly serious tone that is absent from a lot of superhero movies that befits the character of Cap. There were a few humorous scenes, but these all helped to stage the development of Cap as a soldier and leader forced to be a symbol of his country and, ultimately, as a man out of time. The film definitely demonstrates a different attitude toward patriotism and duty than what is commonly touted as such today, and I was glad to see it.

There were plenty of nods to the classic Cap canon in the film as well. He participates in stage shows to rally the civilians in the US to buy bonds. In the show he "punches out" Hitler for the audience, an obvious nod to the first issue of the Golden Age Cap. There is a scene that shows him in a black and white movie that appears to be a nod to the B movie from 1944. In the expo where he and Bucky see Stark demoing the floating car, there is a synthetic man on display that is a nod to the original Human Torch, all the way down to the red body suit costume.

The one thing that seemed odd at first in the movie was that there were very few nazis portrayed in the film. A few nazi officers menace the Red Skull early in the movie, but the Skull kills them to show that his aims are separate from those of Nazi Germany. This puts the focus squarely on Hydra. That actually works in this case, as it allows Cap to be involved in fighting the war without being in the thick of otherwise historical events. World War II is fought and won by the GIs because Cap and his team take on the threat of the Red Skull and Hydra. It's a nice touch that preserves a lot of the Marvel continuity and history.

Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull is perfect. He has a particular air of arrogance and malice that I have not seen in any other Marvel screen villain so far. Chris Evans plays Cap well, but Weaving is definitely the strongest actor in the film.

Now I just have to wait for the Avengers...

Snow White what?

I don't know anything about the Snow White and the Huntsman movie that's going in production. I just heard about it through some of the Comic-Con news. I did see some pics of Kristen Stewart all dressed up in armor, though, and had to say, "What?" Snow White apparently suits up like Joan of Arc to take on the evil queen. OK. Whatever.

Said evil queen looks great. Charlize Theron is definitely channeling her inner Maleficent in this:


But does anybody else think that Stewart looks like she should be fighting alongside Merry, Pippin, and the defenders of Gondor:


Maybe it will be cool. Meh.

Note: None of these images are mine, and I do not have permission to use them. If you're the owner and you want me to remove them, let me know.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dancing with Dragons

I've been quiet the past few days because I've been reading A Dance with Dragons. Fortunately, I got to meet George R.R. Martin and get my copy signed this past Saturday. I also got him to sign a couple copies of the Hedge Knight comic, too.

I don't drive, so I got a copy of DWD for my mom and she drove us to the signing. We got there early to get an armband for the line and ended up being in group 11. Banded and ready, we went out for breakfast and then back to the bookstore. Neither of us really like crowds at all, and we especially hate being in a cramped space with a crowd. There were a couple thousand people there for the signing, so we spent a couple hours walking around the store and trying to stay out of people's way.

In the process, I found out a copy of the collected fiction of HP Lovecraft that is now published by Barnes & Noble. Happy birthday to me! Once we finally got in line, it only took about thirty minutes to get to the table to get things signed.

While he was signing, I talked a bit about the important stuff -- gaming. I found out that he doesn't game in Westeros, but he does like the various game products that have been developed based on his books. He still games regularly in a GURPS-based historical Rome game, which I already knew about from some of the other gaming-related interviews he's done in the past. I also asked him if we could ever expect to see him at GenCon. He acknowledged that there has been a lot of interest and even some formal requests for him to go. Unfortunately, there are so many other things going on about the same time (San Diego ComicCon and a couple other big shows) that it has been impossible for him to fit GC into his schedule so far. He did say he'd like to get there sometime, though.

The pic at the top is my mom and I talking with George after he signed my books. Here's the other stuff:
This one goes to 11
My copy of A Dance with Dragons
Image Comics Hedge Knight #1
Hedge Knight #1
Convention Special from Wizard World Chicago 2003,
signed by Mike S. Miller (penciller and art director) and (now) GRRM
The Complete Fiction by H.P. Lovecraft published by Barnes & Noble,
1098 pages of Lovecraftian goodness!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Still hoping for the best with Cap

I've been a Captain America fan since I was a kid. Even without a lot of over-the-top powers, he still holds his own. I'm still hoping the new movie lives up to its hype. It's at least nice to see they got his fighting style right!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Old school sandbox in Indy

I already posted this on the OD&D boards and the Goblinoid Games forums, but I figured I'd throw this out here in case someone local is looking for a game.

I am trying to put together an old school sandbox-style game in Indianapolis. I don't have a lot of details yet, but I'd like to play in person about every other week. I don't expect to have all the same players there every week, necessarily, but I would like to get a good core group.

More than likely, we'll need to find somewhere downtown to play. I have limited transportation options, and none of the local game stores are easily accessible. If someone is willing to make sure I have a ride, I'd be willing to play at Gamerz in Greenwood.

I'm open for playing either on a weeknight or the weekend.

Once I have a half dozen interested people, I'll get things rolling. I already have one person I'm in contact with about it, so I need five more.

Anyone interested?

My plea to Disney


Please, don't suck. That is all.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Checking Out Chainmail, Part 7

This time we turn to the fatigue rules and some questions about Swiss troops. Prior posts in this series can be found by following the links in the left sidebar.

The fatigue rules introduce an interesting element to the game. Basically, if troops try to do too much continuously, they suffer penalties to fighting ability, defensive ability, and morale. The things that cause fatigue are movement, charging, and morale. To recover to full strength, the unit must spend one full turn not moving.

Swiss and Landsknechte take twice as long to become fatigued, presumably because of the combination of light armor and better training, discipline, and experience. Several other bonuses and exceptions apply to these troops as well. I will describe some of these as we get deeper into the rules, but here's a quick list of what I found flipping through my notes. In addition to taking twice as long to get fatigued, they incur half the penalty of other troops when changing formation. They have the option of forming a true hedgehog if arranged in a square. They receive additional dice in combat, are not slowed by taking prisoners, have morale bonuses that prevent them from breaking, and force morale penalties on anyone they charge.

From what I can see, if there could be an exception to some kind of rule that would make these troops better, they have it. These guys are definitely the supermen of the Chainmail battlefield! I understand that Swiss were considered the best mercenaries at the time and achieved a storied reputation. They did shield the Pope well enough to become his personal guards, but were they really that good?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Angry elves in Iceland

How much do I want to incorporate this into a modern D&D-style game.

Sacred Cows

Last year when I started my blog here I didn't have a Facebook account. At the time, I realized that I didn't want to spend the time to keep up with it. A few months ago, I changed my mind and decided to get one. I got laid off soon thereafter, so I've had plenty of time to keep up without having to worry too much about it eating my soul.

For the most part, I don't use Facebook for a lot of gaming stuff. I follow a couple of gaming companies and have a few friends that I've met through gaming, but mostly I try to keep the gaming stuff to the blog, forums, and email. If I get a Google+ account started, I'll probably use that for more gaming stuff, but we'll see when that happens.

One of the people I'm friends with on Facebook is Monte Cook. Regardless of what I think about how D&D has developed since WOTC took the property, I really like a lot of what Monte has put together. He's had a ton of interesting ideas, and I'm always happy to steal ideas from him.

Anyway, today he posted a question on Facebook:

Back when I worked on 3rd edition D&D, we developed a list of "sacred cows"--things we had to make sure we didn't change or screw up. These were things that, if they weren't in game, the game wasn't D&D. Some of them were mechanics, like stats from 3-18. Some were flavor, like beholders. Some were actions at the table, like picking up a bunch of 6-siders when you said you cast fireball.

What would be on your list?

I don't really have a lot of scared cows. The ones that come to mind quickly are: 3-18 for basic player ability scores, armor class, hit points, separate to hit and damage rolls in combat, saving throws, the big four classes, a variety of monsters, treasure and magic items of inexplicable provenance, and a vast subterranean environment in which to thrash said monsters and acquire said treasure. Everything else is up for grabs, and I've been known to compromise on some of these in the past. Like I said, I'm not too worried about sacred cows.

What I am concerned with are central ideas. I think this is because I'm not really thinking of or trying to develop a new system. I like developing campaign and adventure ideas, instead. So, what I want to think about are not the sacred cows of the system but the setting. For the most part, D&D settings have a few sacred cows that define them. Greyhawk assumes a late medieval tech level, the involvement and machinations of various gods and demi-gods in mortal affairs, a moderately high magic level, and an integrated cultural history. Forgotten Realms assumes a slightly later tech level, more magic, less immediate involvement of the gods (at least before second edition AD&D), and an anything goes cultural basis. Ravenloft takes slivers of a lot of worlds and juxtaposes them, mixes magic and tech levels, and tinges everything with horror. The list goes on, but you get the idea.

So, what are the sacred cows on your list for a setting to be considered D&D?

Waiting for Dave

One of the NPR blogs has a post about an Ericsson commercial that is really creepy. Go check it out. I'll wait.

Okay, now that you're back, I'll tell you why I'm talking about this on a gaming blog. This commercial and the analysis in the post reminds me why I prefer to play pen and paper games instead of electronic ones.

I like all of the personal, human stuff that goes along with the actual gaming. I like that the other characters in the game are created and played by real people. Their response is not based on some algorithm, however complex. They are not constrained by the decisions coded into the AI of the game, as is the case for computer RPGs. Their response to any particular thing I do in the game is based on the human supposition of how their character(s) would respond in that situation.

Also, whatever happens in the game, half of the activity is getting together with other people. Whenever I game with other people, we eat and drink together, share stories, banter and tease, and generally have a good time with each other. Most game sessions we don't accomplish much in the game, but we have a good time together nonetheless. Online gaming has some of the banter and teasing, but without the actual presence and interaction that happens with immediate personal proximity.

I don't look forward to the dehumanization of our world through the implementation of technology. Fortunately, there are still enough people that agree with me that pen and paper RPGs are still being played.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Checking Out Chainmail, Part 6

This time I'm going to look at the formation and facing information. This is the sixth post in the series; the other posts are linked in the left column.

In Chainmail, units have movement penalties for changing formation or facing. The rules give the penalties for a unit changing from a column to a line formation and vice versa, from a column to a square, and from a line to a square. Only foot troops can form a square. Essentially, you could chart out the formations like so:

Line – Column – Square

Any change from one to the next incurs a penalty of one move. So it takes one movement to reform for each step across the range. As a unit reforms or turns, it loses movement in order to maintain its organization. That makes sense. A unit has to exercise some discipline and energy to reform itself.

The interesting bit in this section, though, is the reliance again on some former knowledge or assumptions. Specifically, none of the formations are described or specified in any way. This caused me to exercise the extent of my stupidity until I realized some of the assumptions inherent in these particular rules.

Initially, I was looking at the straight geometric arrangement of the troops as the determining factor for their arrangement. I assumed that a line is a single file formation of troops, a column is a rectangular body of troops that is significantly wider or longer in one direction than the other, and that a square is a body of troops that approximates a square as closely as possible. So, if you have 24 models in a unit, a line would have them arranged in a 1 x 24 formation of figures. A column would be either 2 x 12 or 3 x 8. A square would be 5 x 5 with a missing model in the formation, possibly in the back rank or the very center of the formation. A 4 x 6 formation would either be a column or a square, depending on how literal you wanted to be about a square.

Then I started thinking in terms of historical formations. Thinking in these terms, a line is the same, a single rank or file of troops. A column is a block of troops, arranged in ranks, facing in a single direction. A square is a block of troops arranged in equal ranks around a central command, facing outward in all directions. The important thing to consider in determining the unit's formation is its facing. A column faces one direction, and a square faces in all four outward directions.

This facing also determines how it can move and how much it is penalized for doing so. Any move in other than a straight line is penalized. Oblique moves incur a 1/4 move penalty, left or right face incur a half move penalty, and turning about takes a full move. So, units in lines and columns move in a particular direction with the appropriate movement penalty. Most troops formed into a square formation, though, would need to reform into a column before moving. The only exceptions would be the troops that are allowed to form a hedgehog as described later in the rules. Square formations are not subject to flanking, but they are immobile until they reform for movement.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Wargames Research Group Ancient and Medieval rules

In the comments to my most recent Checking Out Chainmail post, faoladh pointed out some similarities in the old Wargames Research Group Ancients rules and Chainmail. I found a site where you can read about the development of the WRG rules and download copies of the old rules to trace their development. I downloaded all of the rules sets that were available during the time when Chainmail was being developed. That includes the first edition, published in February 1969 up to the fourth edition, published in 1973. Later I'll be taking a look at these rules to see how they may have influenced Chainmail. If you're interested in checking them out as well, you can do so here.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Digital Orc's blog list

Digital Orc has put together a list of a ton of old school blogs, including this one. Check it out.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Checking Out Chainmail, Part 5

This is the fifth post in this series. You can find links to the other parts in the left-hand column of the blog.

After the terrain section, the next thing we see is the movement table. This shows the movement rates and base missile ranges for the various troop types in the game. The movement rates for foot troops arebetween 6" (armored foot) and 12" (Landsknecht/Swiss, arquibusiers/crossbowmen, and longbowmen). For cavalry, the moves are 12" for heavy horse, 18" for medium horse, and 24" for light. All artillery move 6".

Cavalry and artillery benefit when using roads to travel, gaining a 3" or 6" bonus to movement. Most foot and cavalry also gain a 3" or 6" bonus when charging. Only armored foot and heavy crossbowmen gain no bonus to movement from a charge.

Missile ranges are from 3" for heavy foot armed with throwing axes and spears to 24" for heavy crossbowmen.

None of this really sticks out as being unusual, except possibly the lack of a difference between the normal and charge move for armored foot and crossbowmen. I can only guess that Gygax and Perren assumed that the heavy armor worn by armored foot was too heavy for running or that their weaponry was too unwieldy to allow for a running charge. In the case of heavy crossbowmen, I can only assume that they were thinking of difficulties in movement for these troops caused by firing stands, winches, and other equipment. Otherwise, both of these troop types should probably have the 3" bonus when charging that other infantry do.