Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Intrigued by 20th Century Fox's FANTASTIC FOUR

I've fluctuated in and out of being a fan of Marvel's iconic family superhero team The Fantastic Four. I love reading some of the original stories due to their raw Kirby-ism. Similarly, I enjoy much of the John Byrne era for the way it incorporated X-men style soap opera drama to the book. And the Waid/Wieringo era is wildly entertaining. As a whole though, the Richards family has always seemed a little out of place in the Marvel Universe. Sure Reed stopped Galactus, but that victory merely highlights the separation. The Richards family are first and foremost explorers who encounter cosmic entities of vast power and keep them destroying mankind through a combination of scientific know-how and a never-say-die spirit.

The key point here is that the Richards (and Grimm) are explorers. They are Marvel's version of the Challengers of the Unknown, another Kirby creation, with the addition of superpowers and foes the like that only Superman would encounter in DC. As great as the powers of the Fantastic Four are, they pale before Galactus, Annihilus, Ronan, and Kang. When the FF books are at their best, they focus on the super-science, exploration, and family elements. When they are at their worst, the writers portray the team as a superteam more like the Avengers than the explorers they are.

Neither the Roger Corman, nor the more recent Chris Evans vehicle, captured the team in all of its glory. The Corman movie gets some things right, but it also gets so much wrong. Similarly, Chris Evans and Ioan Gruffud are perfect casting for their characters, but the interaction with Doom was off and don't get me started on the Silver Surfer film. I really wanted to like that movie, and I own it, but it just falls flat. With these failures, I wasn't surprised the 20th Century Fox would attempt something completely new with an "update" to the franchise. Like most fans, I was baffled by the choices they were making. The actors cast in the film have talent as performers, but they somehow didn't match what my concept of this team should be.

Then I saw today's teaser trailer. Now I'm intrigued. It looks like the movie will be focusing on a Challengers of the Unknown style narrative, and that is where the FF really shine. I know it's just a teaser, and that teaser's always look good, but I'm willing to give the film a chance. It may not be THE Fantastic Four, but it might just be A Partially-Exciting Four. Besides, the final shot of the trailer is just so STAR TREK V that if the film is terrible, it may just be terrible in the best ways.

Now to decide what game system to use when I convert the film into a campaign.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Savage Worlds Christmas Adventure for Necessary Evil

I originally posted this adventure on my Savage Worlds Character a Day blog...a blog with a far too ambitious name.

THE NIGHT THAT HOPE DIED -- A Christmas Themed Necessary Evil Savage Tale


The V'sori have successfully conquered the Earth. Very few are powerful enough to oppose their occupying forces to free humanity. Many of the world's villains have been gathered by Dr. Destruction to resist the occupation and inspire others to join the fight against the alien overlords.

Up until last year, most people had completely lost hope and have become "good citizens" of the V'sori empire. Few noticed that their neighbors were disappearing, while the numbers of drones grew. Few realized that the Earth wasn't merely being conquered, its residents were being "altered." No one was fighting back. It's hard to be inspired by news of Dr. Destruction's recent terrorist assault against the local television network.

That all changed last year on Christmas morning. Children across the world received Christmas presents for the first time since the V'sori invasion. The V'sori had come to expect a few underground Christmas celebrants, but they were not prepared when all the world's children received gifts...gifts that included cards reading "Merry Christmas to All! S. Claus."

As news spread of the magical gift giving -- gift giving that had evaded V'sori surveillance, many of the people of the world began to experience a new emotion. They began to Hope. Here was someone, or potentially someone, who could evade/outsmart the V'sori who hadn't historically been bent on global domination.

The V'sori had to stop this S. Claus at all costs. And so began Operation Toybreaker. If the V'sori could capture this Claus, and transform him into a Super Drone, they could ensure that the toys delivered from here on out contained appropriate "citizen conditioning messages." They could take this figure of hope and transform him into a figure of domination.

Two weeks ago, while battling Omegans at a site where the frozen bodies of WWII heroes had been located, V'sori radar picked up an odd signature -- it appeared to be a flying reindeer. They followed the signature to its final destination and the location of Santa's Village had become revealed. It took the V'sori seven days to overcome Santa's defenses and capture this bastion of hope. It took another five days to convert all of his remaining elves into drones and to reprogram Santa's Toy Soldier Defense Androids. It will take two days for the V'sori to convert Santa into a complicit drone.

The Adventure:

Dr. Destruction has intercepted a broadcast outlining the V'sori's capture of S. Claus and their plans to convert him into a Drone. Dr. Destruction desperately wants to use Omegans to rescue the figure of hope as Santa would make an amazing gun runner for the Omegan underground, but he knows that Omegans are unlikely to rescue this saccharine sweet icon without some deception.

His plan is simple. Convey to an Omegan cell that the V'sori have captured the worlds "Last Figure of Hope" a person capable of supplying the criminal underground with a steady supply of weapons. The person has technology that can evade V'sori communications satellites and can make large simultaneous deliveries.

(At this point, most players will get what's going on, but their villain PCs should remain clueless).

The villains are sent to rescue this individual who is being held in a specially built temporary prison facility on Baffin Island in Nunavut, Canada. Once at the location the PCs will face 2 encounters.

The first encounter is an outdoor battle against the converted remnants of Claus's cohorts. The PCs should face 1 Toy Soldier and 2 Elves per PC.

After the PCs finish this battle, they will wander through what remains of Santa's Village. Don't hold back on the description. There should be dead elves everywhere, as well as dead snowmen, and the carcasses of Santa's Reindeer. Play up the V'sori cruelty. Feel free to have another small skirmish here, or roleplay moments where the PCs find Santa's list only to find out that they were indeed supposed to receive that Atari 2600 for their 10th birthday...or some other humorous moment.

Upon completing the visit to Santa's village the PCs will approach a specially designed prison containing 1 K'tharen Warrior per 2 PCs and 2 Drones per PC, as well as the unconscious body of Claus. Claus's body is encased in a DuraSilicon Container (Toughness 15) where robotic devices are slowly converting him into a Super Drone.

Once the PCs arrive at the prison, they will have 15 rounds to defeat everyone and free Claus before he is converted. Use the Toughness statistics in the initial Jail Break for the Claus prison, but modify the map to contain only one cell.

If the PCs rescue Claus, they save Christmas and have recruited the world's most efficient weapons smuggler to the resistance.

Mind-Controlled Elf

Race: Elf

Agility: d8 Smarts: d6 Spirit: d6

Strength: d6 Vigor: d6 (d12+2 on drugs)

Pace: 8 (d10 to run) Parry: 5

Toughness: 6 (11 on drugs) (2)

Charisma: 0


Fighting d6 Repair d10 Notice d8 Stealth d8 Shooting d8

Throwing d6


+2 to ranged attack if Elf does not move.


If the elves have eaten their cookies or egg-nog, they fight fearlessly (+2 vs. fear checks) and feel no pain (+2 to recover from shaken, and can take two wounds instead of one before going down). Because of the unsafe levels of drugs in the cookies, the elves must make vigor checks at -6 when the drugs wear off 1d4 minutes after consuming. They take 6 levels of fatigue (death) on a failed roll.


Gay Apparel Kevlar Vest (+4 armor vs. bullets, negates 4 AP, covers torso)
Candy Cane-shaped Vibro-Knife Damage: Str+d6 Heavy Weapon, AP 2

Pop-Gun (Disguised .50 Cal Rifle) Range: 30/60/120 Damage: 2d10
RoF: 1, Ammo: 7 (Hero-killer Rounds), AP 2

3 Presents (Disguised Grenades) Range: 5/10/20
Damage: 3d6 Medium Burst Template

Notes: The V’sori have given the elves Christmas Cookies and Egg-Nog laced with vigor-enhancing combat drugs, un-safe levels of pain killers and other mind-altering substances. Since they V’sori don’t care if the elves die, they have put near-lethal dosages into the cookies, and instructed the elves to eat the cookies if they are attacked.

Life-Sized Toy Soldier

Race: Robot

Agility: d4 Smarts: d4 Spirit: d4

Strength: d10 Vigor: d10

Pace: 4 Parry: 5 Toughness: 13 (6, Heavy Armor)

Charisma: 0


Fighting d6 Notice d4 Shooting d6

Size +2

Toy soldiers are very large, about 7 feet tall.


These toy soldiers are robots and therefore get +2 to recover from shaken, immune to disease and poison. Arrows, bullets and other piercing attacks do half damage, and they do not suffer from called shots. Constructs do not heal wounds normally, and cannot recover wounds from the Healing skill or power. Repair is used instead. Each Repair roll requires tools and spare parts (-2 modifier without tools, another -2 without spare parts) and 1d6 hours work.


As robots, these soldiers are immune to fear effects.


These toy soldiers have infrared sensors that can see in the dark.


Plasma Rifle (A Toy Soldier’s Fusion Reactor regenerates 1 shot every 2 turns)

Range: 12/24/48 Damage: 3d10 RoF: 1, Ammo: 12, Heavy Weapon, AP 2

Vibro-Bayonet Damage: Str+d10 Heavy Weapon, AP 2

Notes: Made of heavy iron plating, these robot soldiers are super-tough, but very slow-moving. They are powered by large internal fusion reactors, which also power their plasma rifles.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

B.A.T. Undercover -- A Gumshoe Setting

B.A.T. Undercover -- Gotham's Secret Weapon

Imagine if you will a world where a young Bruce Wayne, after seeing his parents murdered by a low level mob enforcer is saved from a similar fate by the Green Lantern (aka Alan Scott). The sympathetic Scott, and his friend Ted Grant, help Bruce to overcome his grief. While under the mentorship of Ted Grant, Bruce remembers a small detail that he shares with a sympathetic Detective James Gordon. Due to advancements in forensic investigative techniques, this clue allows Gotham P.D. to catch the man who murdered the Waynes. Young Bruce gets a glimpse of how effective police work can save his city and he embarks on a new career, but he also learns how even those with great power - like Green Lantern - cannot be everywhere at once. Superheroes need the aid of everyday citizens, like Ted Grant and James Gordon, who are willing to stand against injustice. 

Bruce Wayne uses his vast fortune to support anti-corruption political candidates (with a keen eye for discerning the deceptive), set up homeless shelters, supports education in hard hit communities, and scholarships for highly skilled people to enter law enforcement.

Early attempts to assassinate Young Bruce are thwarted by his Butler Alfred, a man of a particular set of skills, who trains the young man in Tradecraft. Bruce is trained in several martial arts by Ted Grant. As a teenager, Bruce uses his skills to aid police in investigations and to help Gordon root out corrupt police. By the time Bruce Wayne graduates from Gotham State University with several Masters degrees in Criminology, Chemistry, and Forensics, the Gotham PD is largely a clean law enforcement agency. There are still corrupt cops, politicians, and businessmen operating in the shadows, but many of the foes an older Bruce Wayne would battle against are his allies in this world. He'll need these allies because threats like the organized crime, Solomon Grundy, Killer Croc, the KGBeast, the Brotherhood of Evil, and the vampire lord Ra's Al Ghul's League of Assassins threaten Gotham and the world. It is in this setting that the Bureau of Advanced Tactics (B.A.T) fights the enemies of mankind.   

This setting is perfect for the GUMSHOE game system designed by Robin D Laws and expanded upon by Kenneth Hite and others. In addition to the OGL documents, a pile of DC Comics, and a stack of Man from U.N.C.L.E./NCIS/24 dvds, it is recommended that you purchase the Night's Black Agents and Mutant City Blues role playing games.

Key GUMSHOE rules for use in B.A.T. Undercover:

The MOS rule from Night's Black Agents. This rule is similar to the Area of Knowledge rule in the classic James Bond 007 role playing game published by Victory Games and allows for each of the Player Characters to have a moment where they really shine in each adventure.

Players choose one or more Backgrounds, and given the secretive nature of B.A.T. they all have Cover 10 and Network 5 at the beginning of character creation.

Players receive Health of 4 for free. Given the action orientation of the base "Shadows"  setting, Stability is not used. Though if you wish to play an "Arkham" mode, characters start with Stability 4 for free.

Depending on the number of players each player gets a number of build points to spend on investigative abilities (the numbers below are for a "Shadows" setting game and would be slightly lower in an "Arkham" game).

Players receive 70 points to spend on General Background abilities and should have at least one skill rated at an 8 signifying an area of specialty where the character is one of the best in the world.

The THRILLER Combat rules from Night's Black Agents are highly recommended as are the MASTERY rules from Double Tap.

Super Powers from Mutant City Blues should only be allowed for FOES of the Player Characters and reflect the types of foes the characters might face. These are threats that are too powerful for normal Gotham PD officers, but might also be beneath the notice of Cosmic Heroes like Green Lantern.

The B.A.T. Undercover Team:

Bruce Wayne (aka The B.A.T. Man) -- Bruce Wayne (35) is the founder of the B.A.T. team and has dedicated his life to following the legacy of his idols Alan Scott and Ted Grant. He will do whatever it takes to fight corruption in Gotham and provide hope to its residents. He understands that one of the keys to this endeavor is citizens being able to trust that their police department is there to protect them. That is why he partnered with Commissioner James Gordon to create a secret squad within the Gotham PD that fights the foes normal police officers cannot, and who work in the shadows allowing regular cops to take the credit for taking down corruption. He is highly skilled in Forensic investigative techniques, Tradecraft, and the Martial Arts.

Edward Nigma (aka The Cryptographer) -- Edward Nigma (35) almost became one of Gotham's greatest enemies. Having discovered that cheating could help him get ahead as a young man, he used his talent for mathematics and riddles to hack into the computers of the wealthy elite and those he believed thought too highly of themselves. His hacks would make the computers and finances of such individuals unavailable unless they could solve a puzzle and unlock their information. Edward's college roommate Bruce Wayne discovered what Nigma was doing and convinced him that Nigma could find more challenging puzzles fighting against criminal entities who used arcane ciphers to hide their communications. To Nigma's delight, he discovered a world of truly challenging puzzles and talented foes and agreed to turn himself into the authorities based on a plea negotiated by Wayne Enterprises attorneys which required him to aid Gotham P.D. as an alternative to prison time. It took a while to convince Nigma to make the deal, but then he encountered a H.I.V.E. cipher and his obsession with puzzles took over. Nigma is now the programming and computer expert for B.A.T.

Selena Kyle (aka The Cat) -- Selena Kyle (35) was a young girl living on the streets when she witnessed Bruce Wayne's parents being murdered by a mafia enforcer. She expected the situation to end like all other such situations; no witnesses, no real investigation of related crimes, and no justice. She was surprised when Detective James Gordon took on the case. She wasn't surprised that Gotham PD would investigate the murder of wealthy citizens. She expected that the PD would want to look good, but she never expected that the investigation would expand into the criminal underworld's engagement in human trafficking in the poorer neighborhoods. Gordon took the investigation where it led him and brought justice not only to Joe Chill - the Waynes' murderer and Falcone enforcer - but also brought light to the connection between the Falcone family and their human trafficking violations. Gordon became a father figure to the young Kyle and she has used her talents for Stealth and Observation to aid the team in fighting the threats that Gotham faces.

Jack Laffer (aka The Joker) -- Laffer (40) is the team's resident "class clown." A former chemical engineer who was in desperate straits when he discovered his wife was pregnant days after losing his job at ACE chemicals. Knowing how desperate he was, the Falcone family met with Laffer in an attempt to convince him to aid them in a raid on ACE chemicals. College Student Bruce Wayne had been observing Falcone activities and recognized the difficulty of Laffer's position. He had his friend Ted Grant - who was working with Gotham PD as an undercover muscle for the Falcones - visit Laffer and convince him to work with Organized Crime Task Force Commander James Gordon to stop the crime and bring some of the Falcone family to justice. Laffer agreed, but corrupt cops within Gotham PD informed the Falcones who sent hitmen to kill Laffer's family. Ted Grant overheard the assignment and was able to intervene saving Laffer's family. While the ACE chemicals raid was a bust, Laffer found that there those in the city who could be trusted. Thanks to a generous research grant from the Wayne Foundation, Gotham PD had a new secret position for a Forensic Chemist under the direct supervision of James Gordon open up and Laffer was offered the job. Ted Grant arranged for Laffer and his family to be "killed" and enter the witness protection program. Laffer ads his unique sense of humor to the team and expertise in Chemistry of all kinds.

Dick Grayson (aka The AcroBAT)

Helena Bertinelli (aka Huntress)

Stephanie Brown (aka The Robin)

Just an idea, but it's working its way into a campaign setting for my group.

Friday, November 07, 2014

GRIMM -- Genre Show with Geeks on Staff

I've been a big fan of GRIMM since it first aired a couple of years ago. Sure, it started as a monster of the week show, but it quickly progressed into a monster hunting cop procedural that featured a grand conspiracy and a shadow war between monsters, royal families, and the mysterious Grimm. When the show first came out, there were some among my friends who called it a Buffy rip off. To a certain extent it is. The show's creator was a first season screenwriter on Buffy, but like a lot of shows made by Whedon alum this show is out-Whedoning Whedon. Tim Minear's (Firefly, Angel) show American Horror Story is a wonderful creepy ride, Once (Andrew Chambliss, Jane Espenson, others) has a great following, Arrow (Drew Z. Greenberg) is one of the best super hero shows ever to grace the airwaves -- all of them are outperforming the Whedon produced Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in either ratings or storytelling. It's a testimony to Whedon's ability to forge creative talent, but it's also a testament to how much those older Whedon shows owed to talents other than Joss.

Now that I've stirred the pot, and guaranteed that I'll receive at least 3 death threats, on to the main point of the post...one of the reasons that GRIMM - and possibly the other shows - are out-Whedoning. I think it's because the shows are written by geeks. Now's when you come in and say...but Whedon is a geek. No he isn't, at least not in the way he once was. Whedon is now a big name with big expectations, expectations he delivers on the big screen, and that leaves him less time to be a geek than he'd probably like. He's producing several projects. Do you have any idea how time consuming that is? A friend of mine was an assistant to a screenwriter who writes comic book movies...and is a huge comic fan. You know how you are 6 months behind on your reading? This writer was years behind because the writer was writing. It's hard to be a geek/fan when you are busy creating content on a massive scale. That's what Whedon is doing, he's juggling several projects. He was a geek, but now he's too busy...in my opinion.

That brings us to the staff of GRIMM. They might be busy, and writing is difficult and time consuming, but they aren't "running a media empire" busy. That leaves them more time to maintain their geek hobbies. It's kind of like how attorneys need to do continuing education, only way more fun. If you don't spend time feeding the geek, it atrophies. So...how do I know that the staff of GRIMM is comprised of at least one geek who's relatively up to date on continuing education credits?

It's because of a Twittersation I had with the "@GrimmWriters" today. My wife and I just watched the first two episodes of this season and we were struck by how D&D inspired the first monster of the season looked.

Image Source NBC.com
I mean...that's a pretty D&D monster. So D&D that it's not in the SRD. This led me to post a tweet which received a quick response from the writer's room.

In addition to earning my permanent allegiance to the show, this tweet confirmed my suspicion in the best way. It was a great moment of fan interaction. It also makes me want to stat up the Gedachtnis Esser for Savage Worlds or d20 Modern. It also demonstrated just how geeky the writer's room (or at least the assistant responsible for the tweet) is.

Image Source NBC.com

Oh...and it might just be hinting that the @GrimmWriters need to do some continuing education and buy the 5th edition rules.