Monday, February 13, 2017

Ric Garland Is Wrong

On Sunday, my pastor, Ric Garland suggested that we should treat our wives like fine china. Nah. Gotta say you’re wrong on that one, Ric, at least for Christy and I. My wife is a casserole dish.

Wait, wait, I mean that as the best kind of compliment because, see, she’s an old Corningware casserole dish.

. . .

Y’all aren’t foodies, huh? Okay, let me explain.

See, Corningware casserole dishes are made of a compound that’s extremely resistant to thermal shock - you can take it right out of the fridge and put it on a hot stove and it’ll stay together just fine. Try that trick with a glass bowl and . . . well, don’t, actually, because if you’re reading my blog, then you’re probably someone I don’t want covered in glass splinters.

So, why an old Corningware casserole? Well, the older ones had a property that the modern ones don’t - they actually got stronger the more you shocked them. That’s right, the more often they were moved from cold to hot and back again, the more resistant they became, to the point that you can take them from the freezer to an open flame and they won’t so much as pucker.

To make this stuff - it’s called “pyroceramic” - you have to heat it a hot fire with just the right mix of chemicals. And, I mean, hot, the kind of temperature that cookware just ordinarily shouldn’t even get near.

And that’s why my wife is an old Corningware casserole dish. She’s been through the fire and come out the other side stronger for it, and every time she’s tested, she gets stronger still. It has been a privilege to spend 20-plus years seeing her forged and forged and re-forged again without becoming brittle or wearing thin.

Perhaps somewhat coincidentally, she also makes a really fine casserole.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Captain America: Sentinels of the Multiverse

Those who know me have probably been strongarmed into playing at least one game of Sentinels of the Multiverse which is, overall, my very favourite coop game, in no small part because you get to play the part of superheroes who're teaming up to kick supervillains in the face. And with some 26 heroes you can use to assemble against 24 villains in 22 different environments, it's extremely replayable.

All that to say that it was no surprise to me that I had a dream last night where I was playing Sentinels. Except this time, I was playing with Marvel heroes. While dozing this morning at around seven, recovering from taking a kitten to the face, I thought through the idea and roughly statted up cards for a Sentinels version of Captain America. This is MCU Cap, from the first movie, and I think it works pretty well. That said, ideas are always welcome.

The First Avenger
HP 26
Power: Punch - Cap does one target 2 melee damage.

Nemesis: The Red Skull

Supersoldier Durability (Ongoing, Limited, Serum) (x2) - Cap reduces all melee and projectile damage by 1.
Supersoldier Reflexes (Ongoing, Limited, Serum) (x2) - Once per turn, before Cap would take damage, Cap does that target 2 melee damage. If doing so causes the target to be discarded or destroyed, Cap takes no damage.
Supersoldier Stamina (Ongoing, Limited, Serum) (x2) - Play two card during your play phase or draw two cards during your draw phase.
Supersoldier Strength (Ongoing, Limited, Serum) (x2) - Cap gains +1 to all damage.
Super Soldier (One-shot) (x3) - Play one card with the keyword Serum from the deck or from your trash.

The Shield (Equipment, Limited) (x3) - Reduce all damage by one. Power: Discard up to three cards. Deal 2 projectile damage to x number of targets, where x = the number of cards discarded.
Magnetic Clasp (Equipment, Ltd) (x2) - If you do not have The Shield in play at the start of your turn, search your deck or your trash for a copy of The Shield and put it into play.

Brawler (Ongoing, Limited) (x3) - When you do damage to 2 or more targets, increase damage by 1.
Field Commander (Ongoing, Limited) (x2) - All hero targets gain +1 to damage.
I Could Do This All Day (Ongoing) (x1) - When this card goes into play, Cap regains 2hp. If he is still below 10 hp, he regains 2 hp. At the start of his turn, he regains 1 hp.

All-Out Assault (One-shot) (x3) - Deal 2 melee or projectile damage to all villain targets. Cap then deals himself 1 psychic damage.
Coordinated Assault (One-shot) (x3) - Cap deals one target 2 melee damage. Until the start of his next turn, all damage dealt to that target is irreducible.
Shield Bash (One-shot) (x3) - Cap deals 1 target 2 melee damage. If The Shield is in play, draw a card.
Sock to the Jaw (One-shot) (x3) - Cap deals 1 target 2 melee damage. If this attack does damage, increase damage to that target by 1 until the start of your next turn.
Teamwork (One-shot) (x3) - Cap deals 1 target 2 melee damage, then one other hero uses a power.

Bucky (Ally, 5 hp) (x1) - At the start of Cap’s turn, Bucky does 1 target one projectile damage. When Cap would take damage, he can redirect that damage to Bucky.
Dr. Erskine (Ally, 4 hp)  (x1) - Power: Play any number of cards with the keyword Serum.
Howling Commandos (Ally, 9 hp) (x1) - At the start of Cap’s turn, Howling Commandos can do 2 points of melee damage to the first target, 2 points of projectile damage to the second target, and 2 points of fire damage to the third target

Sunday, September 11, 2016

9/11: A Liturgy

"Liturgy" is kind of a dirty word in some Christian circles - it's often associated with a formulaic approach to faith, a reduction of one's interaction with God to a checklist to follow on Sunday mornings. And it can be that. It has a use, though: a liturgy forces you to deal with things you might otherwise want to avoid. Judges 21, for example.

Today is the 15th anniversary of the 19 men who'd allowed themselves to become blinded by hate and anger, and believing themselves to be soldiers of God, killed almost 3000 civilians and knocked down the buildings of the World Trade Center, and it happens to be on a Sunday. So, today, you get to go through my liturgy, my unblinking stare at the day.

If you're expecting some tearful recollection of the day's events, you'll have to look elsewhere - my memories are fairly dull ones, the sort of things most people experienced that day. This about our memory, our collective memory. But we're in church - that means we have to start with a song.

Sounds really churchy, doesn't it? Yeah. It's about the Hindu god, Krishna, although you might've figured that out by the end of the song there. It sounds like a church song intentionally, though. George Harrison was way more syncretistic than I am, but he intended for the song to bridge the gap between groups of people who were separated by faith, which is kind of a theme for today, so it seemed appropriate.

And now, God speaks. Well, sort of.

God Angrily Clarifies 'Don't Kill' Rule

That's a link from The Onion, a satirical newspaper. It was written in the weeks just after the attack and it's raw, angry and, yeah, not necessarily on point theologically. I don't really care in this case. It does what good satire should do because it makes me think of my own insufficiency, my own hatred and all the times I've helped humanity fail to listen to its better angels.

But enough from me. We have a guest speaker: Alan Moore

This Is Information

This is a comic that was originally published in a graphic novel put out by DC Comics in which their writers, artists and employees, past and present, reflected on what 9/11 meant to them. There's a lot of really great stuff in those pages, and if you can get a copy of them, I highly recommend them, but, well, in the meantime, you have these bootlegged pages of what may be the book's most powerful piece.

Alan Moore has a reputation as a sweaty-toothed madman, and he's worked hard to earn that rep and to keep it but here he reminds me most of the protagonist of Twain's The War Prayer after he's had a chance to get a cold drink of water and a bit of a rest. There's anger here still, and sorrow, but it seems more measured and driven toward making that sadness and pain useful, and it is.

I'll let Jon Stewart give the benediction.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Making MHR Characters ANOHotMU:U #2: Hulk (2099 A.D.)

Ceci n'est pas une Hulk.
The only 2099 AD titles I bought were the first 3 issues of Spiderman 2099. Miguel O'Hara continues to be my favourite of the various alt-Spideys that have been kited over the years, and I'm glad to see that he's had a chance to come back.

Hulk 2099?

Ugh. I read a copy of it in the comic book store, dodging between aisles and periodically rifling through something else to cover my tracks. The Earth-616 Hulk was currently going through a plotline where he was affiliated with The Pantheon, and was basically a group title, which was dreadful, so I thought this might be just what I needed to soothe my fix for the big green guy.

It wasn't. This Hulk is a . . . knight? Or something? His rage rises the more his honour is questioned, or maybe it's the same as The Hulk and he's just honorable, but it's still just plain weird. And his alter ego is a smug jerk that I really just wanted to punch in the face. I mean, I was never a big fan of Banner, but I never actually wanted harm to come to him.

Anyhow, this is a version of the Hulk that can die in a fire. Uhh, I mean that literally, he actually died in a fire, and I had to emulate that somehow. So, he's definitely tankish, but not at all undefeatable.

Hulk 2099
Solo    1d10
Buddy 1d6
Team   1d8

Driven by Honour
Fueled by Rage
Split Personality

The Hulk
Enhanced Reflexes 1d8
Enhanced Senses    1d8
Godlike Durability  1d12
Godlike Stamina     1d12
Godlike Strength    1d12
Jumping                 1d10
Psychic Resistance 1d8
SFX: Bash - Step up or double Godlike Strength against a single target. Remove the highest rolling die and add 3 dice for your total.
SFX: Crush - Add a 1d6 and keep an additional effect die for each additional target.
SFX: Immunity - Spend 1 PP to ignore physical stress, trauma or complications from poison, disease, aging or radiation.
SFX: Invulnerability - Spend 1 PP to ignore physical stress or trauma unless caused by another gamma-irradiated foe.
SFX: Second Wind - Before you make an action including The Hulk, you may move your physical stress to the doom pool and step up The Hulk power by +1 for this action.
SFX: Smash - Add 1d6 to your dice pool for an attack action and step back the highest die in the pool by -1. Step up physical stress inflicted by +1.
Limit: Conscious activation - If stressed out, asleep or unconscious, shutdown The Hulk. Recover it when stress is recovered, or when you awak. IF mental trauma is taken, shut down The Hulk until trauma is recovered.

Making MHR Characters ANOHotMU:U #2: Hitman

He and Gun Runner are grimace
buddies, though.
A nice palate cleanser from the train wreck that is Gun Runner, Hitman is a tough-as-nails mercenary and assassin with a heart of steel, and manages to do so with just a handful of guns, exactly zero distracting scars and who's mostly known for a four-issue plotline that basically launched the modern notion of Frank Castle, The Punisher, as a guy who, well, punishes criminals.

Hitman (Burt Kenyon) and Castle met in Vietnam because of course they did, where Kenyone saved him from a group of Vietcong soldiers, fighting them off singlehandedly, and establishing that Castle now owed him a life at some point in the future.

After the war, the two men took very different paths. Castle had a good life, settled down his family, while Kenyon took his military skills and used them to become a, well, hitman. And a good one. Years later, Castle was once again playing catch-up with his old buddy, trying to right the wrongs of the world by killing off one criminal at a time, when Kenyon took an assignment to kill Spider-Man. After a lot of back and forth gunfire and a few explosions, it culminated with Spider-Man and Kenyon dangling from the Statue of Liberty.

Castle saved Spider-Man, and Kenyon called them even. And fell to his death.

It's a great plotline, with a good, believable villain with an understandable motive and a connection to several of the characters. It's one of my favourite Spider-Man plotlines, actually. Hitman is a pretty good threat here, but it should be kept in mind that he was always prepared with a lot of traps, escape plans and similar tomfoolery - either the Doom Pool should be a bit higher for this one, or he should get some special out of the Scene Distinctions.

Solo     1d8
Buddy  1d6
Team    1d4

Expert Marksman
Killer for Hire

Mercenary Gear
Guns                         1d8
Enhanced Durability  1d8
Weapons                  1d8
SFX: Focus - If a pool contains a Mercenary gear power,  you may replace two dice of equal size for one die at +1.
Limit: Empty Clip - Add a die tot he doom pool and shutdown Guns. Activate an opportunity to recover.

Mercenary Training
Enhanced Speed      1d8
Enhanced Stamina   1d8
SFX: Double Down - Spend a die from the doom pool to reroll when using a Mercenary Training Power.
Limit: Honor Code - Increase mental stress by +1 when caused by something that requires you to violate a contract or break an oath.

Combat Expert    1d8
Covert Expert      1d8
Crime Expert       1d8
Menace Expert    1d8
Tech Expert         1d8
Vehicle Expert     1d8

Making MHR Characters ANOHotMU:U #2: Gun Runner

Gun-Runner is everything that's went wrong in the 90s.
"Good, bad? I'm the guy with the
antigravity ponytail."

His visual design is over-the-top, with pouches, belts and straps festooning every plausible part of him, and a power mullet tied up into little corn-row like pontytails. And, of course, face scars and tattoos, just enough of them for the penciler and the inker to screw up from page to page.

Oh, and if you guessed if there was some clumsy Christian symbolism to the design, you're right! A scare over his chest in the shape of a heart.

His name is, frankly, terrible. Seriously, gun runners are generally not good people, and the few who are, aren't him. He's basically a guy who runs, and who has a gun.

His storyline is wholly unoriginal, with the name of a few sci-fi tropes filed off and renamed.

The dialogue and the action are astoundingly poorly done.

I sincerely hope that before they gave a pen and paper back to Dan Abnett for Civil War II, they had him sit in a corner and think about what he'd done here.

Still, the idea's an all right one. A guy is artificially enhanced* to fight an alien race that threatens to, well, make the universe boring? With mystic goo? Or something? I dunno, I read three issues slightly out of order and it was mostly grimacing while brandishing improbable weapons. Still, outer-space freedom fighter, enhanced with cyborg body parts - this can work.

* And what are these artificially enhanced fighters called? . . . The Enhanced. Dan, back to your corner. Back.

Gun Runner
Solo    1d8
Buddy 1d6
Team   1d10

Enemy of the Cynodd
Old Soldier

Enhanced Modifications
Enhanced Durability   1d8
Enhanced Senses       1d8
Enhanced Speed        1d8
Enhanced Strength     1d8
Superhuman Reflexes 1d10
Superhuman Stamina 1d10
SFX: Burst - Step up or double an Enhanced die against a single target. Remove the highest rolling die and add 3 dice for your total.
SFX: Focus - If a poole includes an Enhanced power, you may replace two dice of equal size with one die +1 step larger.
Limit: Tactical - Gain 1 PP to turn one Enhanced power into a complication.

Hand Cannon
Weapon      1d10
SFX: Area Attack - Add a 1d6 and keep an additional effect die for each additional target.
SFX: Overload - Step up or double any Hand Cannon power for one action. If the action fails, add a die to the doom pool equal to the normal rating of your power die.
Limit: Gear - Gain 1 PP and shutdown Hand Cannon. Take an action vs. the doom pool to recover.

Combat Master   1d10
Covert Expert     1d8
Crime Expert      1d8
Menace Expert   1d8
Tech Expert        1d8
Vehicle Master    1d10

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Making MHR Characters ANOHotMU:U #2: The Elementals

The Elementals are a quartet of powerful supernatural entities who ruled the Earth millennia ago before they were unseated by the *yawn* Whazzat. Uh, sorry, I fell asleep partway through my own description there, it was so boring and predictable. Anyhow, the Elementals are basically Elder Gods who dress like they escaped from a Renaissance Faire, despite supposedly predating the Asgardians, and whose power is constrained by the existence of a mystic doodad called the Ruby Scarab.

And, yes, the token female is very scantily clad, of course.
Back in the Dawn Times (okay, fine, the '70s), they enlisted the aid of a dude called The Living Mummy to help them get control of the Scarab so they could get their full powers back. It . . . didn't work, and the ended up getting collected by the Collector.

Has anyone else noticed just how on the nose 70s Marvel was? The Elementals have elemental powers. The Ruby Scarab is a scarab, made of ruby. The Living Mummy is a mummy, only he's alive, and then the Elementals get collected by the Collector.

Anyhow, there's no stat block here, so it's up to me to figure out how to make this into a thing. First, there's block for the Ruby Scarab, and then a block for how to use it in an Event.

Ruby Scarab
Elemental Interference 1d12
SFX: Complication - In any dice pool in reaction to the attack of one of the Elementals, spend 1 PP to use Elemental Interference as a complication even if not in the scene.
SFX: Growing Threat - On a successful reaction, add a die to the Ruby Scarab, or step up a Ruby Scarab die by +1.
Limit: Draws Down Power - When wielded by the Elementals, shutdown Elemental Interference. Any other dice on the Ruby Scarab are renamed to match the Elemental's power set.

Ruby Scarab (5 XP/10 XP/15 XP)
For 5 XP, once in the next scene each of the heroes can use the Ruby Scarab without spending PP.
For 10 XP, they can use the Ruby Scarab in any reaction against the Elementals, even if the action isn't directly against a hero.
For 15 XP, they can use the Ruby Scarab in attacks against an Elemental as well.