Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sunnydale High Yearbook

Christopher Golden & Nancy Holder (1999)

RATING: 5/5 Stakes

BACK-OF-THE-BOOK SUMMARY: "It's senior year for Buffy Summers and her friends. And that means homecoming, senior prom, finals, graduation--all the usual evil doings guaranteed to make the Chosen One long for recess. Slayer duties caused Buffy to miss picking up her yearbook, so Willow took it for her and elisted the help of Xander, Oz, Cordelia, Giles, and Angel to make it truly special. Filled with personal notes, candid photos and in-jokes about Slayerfest, Halloween, substitute teachers, the principal who was eaten, Ascenscion, etc. Buffy's Yearbook is part school publication, part memory book."


An oversized hardcover like the Sunnydale High Yearbook isn't something you're likely to find in a used bookstore, but it really is worth seeking out as it makes for a great "keepsake" of the first three seasons of Buffy. It really has all the characteristics of a high school yearbook: signatures and goodbyes both profound and vapid, a "congratulatory" message from the principal, special sections on sports and student clubs, student photos (including all those one-episode day players), ads from local businesses, and even an "In Memoriam" section (something especially necessary in Sunnydale!). Flipping through it is a really fun way to remember those early episodes and it lends a nice air of authenticity to a setting that was usually just a backdrop for Buffy's adventures. It's only about 90 pages long and is a quick read, but I found it more enjoyable than most Buffy novels out there.

Torchwood: Something in the Water

I've gotten hooked on Torchwood. I have no idea why everyone on the net didn't think very highly of the first season (which I'm about halfway through), but I love the darker, sexier, gorier tone of the show. A guy should follow his passions, so I picked up my first Torchwood novel, Something in the Water by Trevor Baxendale. I really like the handsome design of the books, small hardcovers with nice cover art--though I don't know why they put a blank page at the end of each of the book's 29 short chapters, which basically means over ten percent of the book is blank pages. But anyway, it was an enjoyable, fast-paced read that captured what I've seen of the show quite well. It has the usual "evil alien (are there any other kind on Torchwood?) has come to Earth to cause a ruckus" plot, but the "water hag" alien reproduces like something out of . . . well, Alien. It's a damn gory & gross book, though unfortunately without the sex and profanity of the show. I'll definitely pick up another one in the series to see what I think--I'd consider some of the Doctor Who books, but I've heard they're written more for a younger crowd.

Return to Torchwood Main Page

Random Law Review # 2

Christopher Newdick's Preserving Social Citizenship in Health Care Markets: There May Be Trouble Ahead, 2 McGill Journal of Law & Health 93 (2008).

Newdick, a Professor at the University of Reading in the UK, looks at three recent cases from England, Canada, and the EU to suggest an unravelling of what he calls "social citizenship" in the area of health care law. In his view, individualist and market-based understandings of civil rights are being used to undermine the common good as embodied in welfare/universal health care regimes. For example, courts are increasingly allowing individuals to buy private health insurance or seek private treatment abroad (and then be reimbursed domestically), which can put enormous burdens on a state health system. It's a moderately interesting article, though the thesis is an obvious one to draw from the three cases discussed and there's nothing new here that would make one think this will be an enduring piece of legal literature: it's more of a "look what's happening" type of article. From what I've read here and elsewhere, health care law certainly seems to be a fascinating intersection of economics, ethics, administrative law, constitutional law, and more.

As it relates to my own interests, I've always found the distinction discussed in this article between "negative" rights (rights against the state, like traditional freedoms of speech, religion, etc.) and "positive" rights (demands citizens can make to the state for welfare, education, health care, etc.) to be an important and enduring dividing line between competing conceptions of the proper role of constitutional rights in democracies. I've always thought the former belonged in bills of rights and the latter was something to be dealt with by legislatures, but there's an interesting case to be made for more inclusion of positive rights in constitutional documents.

Last Issue Special # 6: Justice

SERIES: Justice

DATE: 1989

THOSE RESPONSIBLE: Peter David (writer); Howard Mackie (editor). For some reason the colorist is credited as "Don't Ask." But I really want to.


First of all, I've always loved that cover blurb, "# 32 in a Thirty-Two Issue Limited Series." Comics need more self-deprecating wit like that. Justice was one of the few New Universe titles to make it past the first year, though it had a major reboot--the details are vague in my memory, but I think the main character, Tensen, went from being an other-dimensional fantasy realm type to a hardnosed paranormal investigator. According to the frontispiece, his current mission is "to travel the land, find other paranormals . . . and judge whether or not they are using their powers properly."

Apart from the cover blurb and the words "Now, the end" on the frontispiece, there's no mention this is the final issue, but it seems like the main storyline is wrapped up as Tensen becomes the permanent sitting judge for paranormal disputes in the Coney Island area, leaving the reader with these final thoughts: "They look at me, and in their eyes I see hope . . . need . . .a plea for fairness. But no fear. Finally . . . I am home."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Roscoe & The Gamecock

Captain America # 183 cracked me up for two reasons. First, this pic of Cap (in his short-lived "Nomad" outfit) upon learning of the death of short-lived supporting character Roscoe:

Second, this pic of Cap's super-villain rival in the issue, the dorkiest villain of all: The Gamecock.

Last Issue Special # 5: Zorro


DATE: 1991

THOSE RESPONSIBLE: Philip John Taylor (story) & Ian Rimmer (script)


A lot of companies have had the license for Zorro comics over the years, and in 1990 Marvel got its chance, producing 12 issues before cancellation. I think the comic was based on the concurrently-running syndicated tv-show that I used to watch with my Dad on Sunday afternoons--it was pretty generic stuff, but entertaining nonetheless. As for the Zorro comic, the last issue cover blurbs that it's the "Grand Finale" issue, which would have to suffice as notice to readers since there's no text or letters page inside. It's not easy to tell whether the story was written specifically to be a final issue or not--it's a sort of It's a Wonderful Life, where Zorro ponders whether his career has been worthwhile and then a ghost or delusion named Fernando shows up to present an alternate reality in which everything's gone wrong because Zorro never existed (there's a surprising degree of continuity, with frequent footnotes to earlier issues). Seeing this, Zorro of course decides to take up his sword and get back to work--I especially like what he says to the evil Alcalde (the ruler of the town) after punching the crap out of him:

"I'm here to hammer home a message. I've had enough of your injustice, your tyranny . . from now on, I own your evil heart! Fear your own shadow, in case it hides my blade because I'll be watching your every step. Put one foot out of place . . . and I'll swoop down on you like God's Thunder and crush you out of existence!"

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Random Law Review # 1

Whew! That's quite the mouthful for a title, and one not likely to entice the casual reader (if there is such a thing for law reviews). I can't blame the author, though, as the topic isn't one that easy to sum up (I've tried a few different ways, without much luck). Basically, this student note discusses a recent case decided by the European Court of Justice, which adjudicates disputes between member states of the European Union.* The UK wanted Cadbury's Ireland subsidiary to pay income taxes at the UK rate, whereas Cadbury naturally wanted its Ireland branch to pay the much lower (by 2/3) Irish income tax rate. The Court sided with Cadbury, holding that member states can't require that foreign-based subsidiaries pay higher domestic rates unless they can prove that that subsidary is basically a sham designed for tax evasion. The author is of the opinion that the decision is sound, but that the Court's rule is too difficult to apply in practice.
This is a perfect example of the drawbacks of publishing student casenotes in law journals: there's nothing you could get from this note that you couldn't get from simply reading the case itself. There's very little in the way of meaningful analysis in the casenote (so little I would give this a pretty low grade if it were a seminar paper), which means that any tax professional looking for insight on the EU's law in this regard would be wasting their time coming here first. Good legal scholarship requires a "value-added" element that is rarely present in casenotes.
*And to digress completely, how come whenever I put books on the European Union, bioethics, or Thomas Jefferson on my Christmas list, they never show up? (you people know who you are!) Are you worried I won't be as excited by them on Christmas morning as I am by a giant AT-AT Imperial Walker? You're probably right, but still.

The Random Law Review Experiment

Looking back over my posts for the past year, I see I've spent a lot of time on a couple of my favorite things (comics, gaming) and only a little on one of my other major interests, legal scholarship. I doubt there are many blogs that appeal simultaneously to both pop culture junkies and law profs, but a guy's gotta write about what he likes.

I think the main reason I don't talk much about legal issues is that I'm by nature quite cautious about offering opinions. I like to do loads of research and thinking before writing down what I think the right approach should be, and most of my energy in that field goes towards my dissertation. At the same time, it's probably not healthy for me (career and intellectual-development wise) to become too narrowly focused on an obscure sub-field like the history of Canadian blasphemy law. Ideally, a good general knowledge of what's going on in various fields helps to make connections that apply from one to another and establishes a better "common sense" or "guesstimate" about what courts will do in a given situation.

To this end, I plan on occasionally reading and discussing truly randomly-selected law review articles. An odd idea, I know, but also kind of a fun one, as I never know what I'm going to end up with. The selection process is based on a combination of Hein Online and the Random Number Generator--a randomly generated number between 1 and 26 gets me the first letter of the law journal title, and a second randomly generated number gets a specific journal (excluding ones that have stopped publishing) and I'll then read the most recent article available.

If nothing else, I may pick up some more obscure topics I can write about once I'm done with blasphemy . . .

Last Issue Special # 4: Mister Miracle

SERIES: Mister Miracle (v.2)

DATE: 1991

THOSE RESPONSIBLE: Doug Moench (writer); Kevin Dooley (editor)


Perhaps more series had dignified final issues than I remembered, as we have yet another example of a nice wrap-up to an otherwise short run. The theme of this series of Mister Miracle (there's been a few others) was Scott Free's yearning for a "normal life" on Earth; issue # 28 provides a nice conclusion to this theme, as Scott realizes that he and his wife simply aren't meant for such a thing. Instead, Scott decides to return to New Genesis to embrace his heritage (I'll have to check the Wikipedia to see if it took). On the letter's page, Dooley says "this isn't the end of Mister Miracle", citing a planned Jack Kirby's Fourth World book that would include MM. Dooley obviously holds the King in high regards, as demonstrated by these closing words:

"[W]e would like to thank not a god but a King: Jack Kirby, without whose creation and inspiration this and so many other countless books could not have sprung or continue to spring. We may have bent his vision a bit, but it was always with love and tribute. We dwell not in his shadow, but in his light. Thanks, Jack."

Clone Wars Campaign Recap Extra: Holonet # 2

Here's the second Holonet News clipping for the Coruscant story arc. The Greesh Leedo story came out because Marpa got a tip about where Greesh was staying and decided not to follow up; the result was that the police raided the place and some of them were killed, with Greesh being presumed killed (of course, he wasn't!). The story about the prosecutor's apartment break-in was designed to be a fun spin on the bumbling adventures of Zero and Natany, while the continued discussion of Arresta's fashion & partying was to show she's become something of a papparazzi "get."

Friday, April 24, 2009

Last Issue Special # 3: Haywire

SERIES: Haywire

DATE: 1989

THOSE RESPONSIBLE: Michael Fleisher (writer); Andrew Helfer (editor)


At first glance, Haywire may seem like an Iron Man clone. But at second glance, Haywire may seem like an Iron Man clone. But at third glance, Haywire comes across as a moderately original concept--Haywire is a suit of super-powerful armor, but nobody (including the reader) knows who wears the armor and there are several possible suspects. Happily, the last issue of the 13-issue series wraps up the mystery and provides a nice conclusion to the storyline. On the letters page, assistant editor Keven Dooley gives quite the literary goodbye:

"Dickens, Tolstoi, Melville, HAYWIRE. Wow. With this issue HAYWIRE is, as Scrooge said of Marley, 'Dead as a doornail.' Michael Fleisher planned the plotlines to go in 'novels'--storytelling cycles. This issue completes that first, albeit sole, novel ('To produce a mighty book you must choose a mighty theme,' as Melville said). HAYWIRE is complete, then, and no need to be sad ('Regrets are the natural propriety of grey hairs.'--Dickens). We hope we have accomplished something with this book, challenged you somewhat, provoked some thought, tried to transmit to you 'the highest and best feelings to which men have risen' (Tolstoi). 'It was as true . . . as turnips is. It was as true . . . as taxes is. And nothing's truer than them.' --David Copperfield, Charles Dickens."

Whew! Dooley's book of quotations got a heavy work-out!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

La Malédiction

My journey into French-ness continues with Sonia K. LaFlamme's La Malédiction, the other French teen novel I picked up at the Toronto Reference Library sale. It's also about ghosts, though more in a haunted house vein than Le crime de Culdéric. The book tells the story of a 14-year-old girl named Juliana, whose father lusts after a mansion owned (but not lived in) by Juliana's grand-mother, Joséphine. Joséphine believes the mansion is cursed and doesn't want it to fall into her son's hands when she dies, so she draws up a will to leave the house to the government--but on the very night she croaks, her son finds the will and destroys it. Soon after, Juliana and her family move into the long-abandoned house. That covers the first few chapters and the book starts off with a good premise, but it simply gets kinda boring after that. Nothing really scary happens in the "cursed" house--instead the reader suffers through a long flashback of what happened to Juliana's grand-mother that caused the curse in the first place (and it's not a particularly original cause either). The one good thing I'll say about the book is the cover art, with that creepy ghost in the background.

Clone Wars Campaign: Recap # 16

This was the second session in the big Coruscant trial story arc. It was an interesting experiment for me as a director, as I didn't have a fixed adventure or encounters set up because I wanted to give the players as much freedom as possible to gather evidence for their case and role-play their characters in "civilian" life. I tried to give Coruscant its due as the capital of known civilization, since the previous story arcs had been mostly set on fringe worlds. I think it worked fairly well, though the session could probably have used a little more action (a problem I would remedy in the next one). There was a lot of secret stuff going on between players, so as usual I've redacted anything pertaining to the two characters who are still in the campaign (Marpa & Arresta).

This session is also the first for the character Natany, who was the replacement character for the anomaly-trapped 8P-MD-4. Natany was of the species called the Ryn, who seem from their description in the book to be space-gypsies with an odd species trait: an incredibly pungent smell. Natany & Zero quickly took to each other, in part because they were both scoundrels and probably in part because their players were good friends.

Update (June 11, 2012):  I've now added in the material that was kept secret between the players.  Here, we see Arresta putting her plan to romance Tarn for information into motion, and Marpa begin his elaborate plotting to escape from the watchful eyes of the Judicials and war crimes charges hanging over his head.

Episode 2.4, "Capital Offenses", Session 2

Forced to remain on Coruscant while their trial for war crimes draws nearer, members of the group enjoy a brief respite from the rigors of space travel. Tarn continues his training at the Jedi Temple, coming home each night bruised and bloodied. Arresta has become an instant celebrity and spends her days in Coruscant's upscale shopping districts, while Marpa is rarely seen without his jumpsuit covered in oil and grease. Zero, a new addition to their ranks, has rarely been in contact as he presumably tracks down leads and gathers evidence. Speculation runs rampant in the holosphere: can the accused work together to mount an effective defence, or do their futures lie in a Republic penal colony?
[103 AG]

Three standard weeks have passed since the funeral escapade. Arresta has become something of a tabloid star, Marpa busies himself tinkering with droids, Tarn continues his training at the Jedi Temple, and Zero hits the pavement to gather evidence for the upcoming trial. Zero's time has been well-spent, as he learns that the prosecutor is rumored to have a secret "star witness" stowed away. Tarn's lessons with Jedi Knight Horellius Creen have proven unusual. Days spent organizing dusty old scrolls is touted as a lesson in patience and the value of learning about one's enemies, while weeks of brutal hand-to-hand combat training with Clone troopers is stated to be "preparation for what comes next."

Some days, while ostensibly "shopping" or "hitting the nightclubs", Arresta goes undercover to gather information and call in favors.  She learns the location of Greesh Leedo, a way to reprogram the adjudicator droid, a potential way to blackmail the prosecutor, and background information on Tarn, Marpa, and holojournalist Erelea Cadal.  She also begins slipping Tarn an aphrodisiac, sets up an "assassination attempt", and arranges for threatening letters to be sent to herself.

On the evening of 103 AG, Tarn comes back to the apartment he shares with Arresta, bruised and bloodied from training, as has become the pattern in recent weeks. Arresta reluctantly shares with him several threatening letters accusing her of being a Separatist and murderer. Later that night, a sleeping Arresta is attacked by a reprogrammed housekeeping droid. She trades blaster fire with the droid as Tarn cuts through two doors with his lightsaber and then strikes it down from behind. Marpa is called in to examine the remnants of the droid and decides to take it back with him for analysis. Tarn conducts a thorough search of Arresta's drawers and then spends the night sleeping in her closet.

[104 AG]

The next morning, everyone travels to the Judicial Center to meet with Doolb Snoil to discuss progress on the case. Snoil introduces Natany Ossikine, a Ryn friend of Zero's hired to assist with the investigation. Little is accomplished before Arresta asks to end the meeting early because she isn't feeling well.
After the meeting, Arresta, Tarn, and Marpa meet at Marpa's workship to discuss their frustration with the pace of the investigation and their distrust of the investigators hired by Snoil.
Arresta later brings Marpa her protocol droid for analysis, and tells Marpa about the possibility of reprogramming the adjudicator droid or bribing the prosecutor. The two decide to wait for now.

Marpa analyzes the assassin droid and discovers it's a model manufactured by a company called Publictechnic on the planet Sennat, distributed and maintained locally only by an operation named "Grigg's Droid Warehouse & Repair Service".  The protocol droid shows nothing unusual.

Tarn secretly meets with Laruse Hyak, the Black Sun agent who had contacted him earlier. Tarn learns that Bel Sekand still expects him to carry out his end of the deal and incapacitate Greesh Leedo. Tarn is told he'll be informed the next time Black Sun gets a fix on the assassin's location. Later, at the Jedi Temple, Tarn verifies that Doolb Snoil really is a lawyer hired by the Order.
Natany and Zero see Prosecutor Rap-Seri wait for several cabs to pass before getting into a six-seat red-topped model. Natany spends the evening in military bars trying to gather information on any connection between the Republic and the Both sector, but has little success. Zero meets with Senator Orm Mandell and gathers a few clues.

[105 AG]

Everyone attends another meeting with Doolb Snoil. A list of possible enemies is discussed, the two investigators are assigned leads to follow, and Snoil agrees to contact a list of potential witnesses. After the meeting, Marpa attends a hearing before the adjudicator droid for permission to buy certain armed droids under heavy limitations, while Tarn and Arresta have lunch with Senator Orm Mandell and are invited to a masquerade ball to be held at the Coruscant Opera House. Tarn subsequently contacts Jedi Knight Sarigar to ask for his help in investigating the refugee ship Mercy's Errand, but is brusquely turned aside. Meanwhile, Natany stealthily follows Prosecutor Rap-Seri and learns the location of his apartment, while Zero leaves a message for Intergalactic News anchor Zax Barton.

Marpa uses some underworld connections and meets with a Kaminoan named Je' Taru at the Outlander nightclub about the cost of plastic surgery and removing his subdermal tracker.  Je' Taru quotes a price of 20,000 credits (including fingerprint and retinal mod, but not DNA ID treatment), but is willing to do it just for expenses if Marpa is willing to make a delivery for him.  They agree to speak more at another time.

[106 AG]

During a conference call, Doolb Snoil reports on the defence witness list: Padawan Lee, Ignatius D'avilos, and Clone Commandos Deuce, Trips, and Quaddie are all confirmed to appear; Saala of Bothawui is unconfirmed, while Ycram Notwal and I-5YQ cannot be found. He goes on to remind them that witnesses cannot be asked questions that would violate Republic security by revealing confidential details of military operations.

Later that night, Natany and Zero trick an elderly woman into allowing them access to the floor of the building where Prosecutor Rap-Seri's apartment lies. Zero shoots out a security camera in the hallway and Natany tries to pick Rap-Seri's door lock but is forced to give up in frustration. Surprised by a security guard in the elevator, Zero quickly draws his blaster and stuns the guard into unconsciousness. The two then make their escape and flee into the night.

[107 AG]

Marpa makes a deal with Zero and Natany: in exchange for two thousand credits, the two investigators will buy a blaster pistol and an ion pistol (forbidden to Marpa) and then secretly leave them in Marpa's workshop.  The plan is carried through without a hitch.

Marpa secures mainframe time at Coruscant University's Comp-Sci Laboratory and begins to analyze the massacre holovid for authenticity. Zero and Natany book passage aboard a tramp freighter and take off for Bothawui. Arresta buys an expensive gown in preparation for the ball, but Tarn emphasizes to her that "Jedi Don't Dance."

Return to Clone Wars Campaign Main Page

Cleopatra 2525 Part II

The second part of Season One and the aborted portion of Season Two of Cleopatra 2525 continued in much the same vein as the early episodes, but delved deeper into the backstory of the main characters: we meet Hel's father, learn the origin of Sarge's nickname (it's not the obvious answer), and learn what Cleopatra's life was like before she got frozen. The series finale doesn't wrap everything up, but does reveal the true nature of the Baileys and the identity of the mysterious Voice. I'm always a bit skeptical of investing time in shows that got cancelled in the middle of a season, but Cleopatra 2525 had a satisfying enough ending that I thought the series was worth it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Last Issue Special # 2: Vigilante

SERIES: Vigilante

DATE: 1988

THOSE RESPONSIBLE: Paul Kupperberg (writer), Mike Gold (editor)


I don't actually have many issues of Vigilante, though I'd definitely like to get more. One of the relatively few series to actually wrap things up in the final issue, the series ended with the surprising suicide of the main character after several issues depicting a slow drift into paranoia and guilt-ridden murder. A text box by the editor and writer on the last page is quite forthcoming, explaining that while "sales on this book weren't setting the world on fire, it was the two of us who asked for the cancellation of this book in order to tell this story." There's perhaps a touch of denial in the promise that the supporting cast would regularly appear in a follow up book by Kupperberg (Checkmate), which itself was cancelled less than three years later. Still, Vigilante is a good example of how a series should end and I wish more would follow its example (though not necessarily with the suicide of the main character--you know what I mean!).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Last Issue Special # 1: Justice League International

SERIES: Justice League International (formerly Justice League Europe)

DATE: 1994

THOSE RESPONSIBLE: Christopher Priest (writer) & Brian Augustyn (editor)


For Justice League International, doom would come in the form of the company-wide Zero Hour crossover. DC's post-Crisis Justice League titles were in a state of flux by the early 90s, and Justice League International was no different, with frequent line-up and creative changes that left the book in a lackluster state. The final three-issue story arc deals with the bland super hero Triumph, who, in a burst of retroactive continuity, is revealed to have been one of the original members of the Justice League erased from everyone's memory by a time-blip. The final issue ends like most tie-ins to Zero Hour, with the last few pages gradually fading out into pure white. Unlike the other tie-ins, however, there would never be a follow-up issue.

Last Issue Special: Introduction

Longtime comics fans might have heard of the short-lived DC series First Issue Special, a mid-70s anthology series that had the purpose of (re)introducting characters to the DC universe.

I've always been more fascinated by the final issue of a comic series--there's such a range of how cancellation is handled. In my experience, final issues can be sorted into the following categories:

SURPRISE: Neither the story nor text pages mention cancellation, and the presence of a cliffhanger or next issue box indicates the creators didn't even have time to prepare for impending doom.

DENIAL: The creators acknowledge cancellation in a text page, but assure readers that the character and concepts will continue in "another series", "graphic novels", "one-shots", "limited series", or "after hiatus." Once in a while this is even true, but even then the other format is rarely successful.

ACCEPTANCE: Forthright recognition of cancellation, with existing storylines wrapped up as much as possible.

SILENCE: No mention whatsoever of cancellation--the issue ends normally, there just isn't another one.

All good (and bad) things come to an end, and in this occasional series of posts we'll see how well it was handled.

Jeremy the Character

My perusal of dusty old gaming papers continues. Back when I was a teenager, the gaming group I was in decided to have a little fun and write ourselves up as gaming characters. It was an interesting experiment to try to analyze one's own strengths and weaknesses and express them in the mechanics of a gaming system--in this case, the Hero system which assigns "normal humans" a certain number of points to spend on attributes and skills, with the option of earning more points through disadvantages.

Looking over the "Jeremy" character sheet, I apparently was of the opinion at the time that I was quite spry--I gave myself a Dexterity of 15, when the base human only has a 10. I guess I also considered myself quite the martial artist, as I spent most of my points on being skilled with various attacks--I even included "swords", "staffs", and "sais" (which was not completely unrealistic, as I did train with them) but for some reason I listed myself as familiar with "pistols" when I'd only gone shooting a few times. More oddities: why did I think I was good at "gambling"? Why did I think I was good at "computer programming" (has BASIC or DOS come back into fashion)? Did I really know just as much about "American History" as I did "Comic Books"? Probably not. On the other hand, I acknowledged that I was "Argumentative", a "Night Person", and had a "Hatred: Country Music", all of which persist to this day, so my self-assessment must not of been too far off.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Film Crew # 1: Rue MacClanahan, Stripper

Before moving on to Rifftrax, Mike Nelson & compadres released four riffs of classic movies under The Film Crew moniker. First up was a 1968 drama named Hollywood After Dark starring future Golden Girl Rue McClanahan as a stripper. Or as Mike puts it, "She looks like my crazy aunt dancing at a wedding." It really is as off-putting as you might imagine, as Rue just isn't an attractive lady and the stripping sequences go on for a surprisingly long period of time. The original movie also features a twenty-minute robbery scene with absolutely no dialogue, light jazz music during fist fights, and an electrifying opening scene about the purchase of a $ 3 water pump from a junk yard.


I recently came across the "Spectacular Double-Sized Premiere Issue" of Supercops. The series only lasted four issues back in 1990 and followed the NOW Comics formula of combining solid cover art with barely servicable interior art and mixed writing. The idea behind Supercops is probably spoiled a bit by the title--there are these cops, you see, and they're like, Super. Indeed, they're a batch of clones that have been trained since birth to be the ultimate law enforcement operatives--but to keep them from rebelling, they've been given fake memories of happy childhoods and an artificial desire to obey orders. There's actually a passing resemblance to this and Joss Whedon's Dollhouse, as the first issue of Supercops features two of the officers starting to realize their memories aren't real and trying to escape the organization. Anyway, this isn't anything that needs to be memorialized in a $ 75 hardcover archives edition, but I'll let you know if I come across the remaining issues.

DC Universe RPG

Apart from the current mini-campaign I'm playing in and my goofy teenaged experience with Gabriel Knight, I've only been involved in one other super hero role-playing game. Back in 2001, my then-best friend and I tried out the DC Universe RPG. The campaign only lasted two sessions but I remember the setting as being fun but the game mechanics being difficult to pick up. My friend played a super-hero named (I think) the Mosquito (the first session was an "origin story" complete with standard radiation-induced powers), while I directed and ran an NPC hero named the Humanist (yeah, kinda wish fulfillment there) and NPC super-villains like the Executioner (who was armed with gimmicks like a Lethal Injection Gun and a Noose of Death). We played in the four-color, rather light setting of Superman's Metropolis, complete with S.T.A.R. Labs, the S.C.U., LexCorp, and more. For each session, I started by giving out the front page of a mock Daily Planet that contained clues to what the session's adventure would be--a decent gimmick that I'd probably recycle if I ever directed super heroes again.

For posterity's sake, here's the stats for the Humanist

HERO NAME: Humanist
REAL NAME: Alex Sokofska
OCCUPATION: Undergraduate Philosophy/Science
BASE OF OPERATIONS: Gotham State University
TECH LEVEL: Post-Modern

Tech Level: Post-Modern
Spec. Equip.: Baton
Spec. Equip: Shield

Enemy: Religious Fanatics
Secret Identity

SPEED: 30 ft.round
PDV: 3

REFLEXES [Base 3d]: Acrobatics (4d), Climbing (4d), Dodge (5d), Martial Arts (5d), Melee Weapon: Baton (5d)


PHYSIQUE [Base 2d]: Leap (3d)

KNOWLEDGE [Base 4d]: Research (5d), Computers (5d), Scholar: Philosophy (6d), Science: Electronics (6d)

PERCEPTION [Base 2d]: Engineering (3d), Invention (4d)

PRESENCE [Base 2d]


Force-Shield: 12 AV, Physical Attacks Only, One round to activate

Electro-Baton: 7d, Uses Martial Arts skill, affects only living creatures

Nuptial Update

When I got down on one knee and proposed to my lovely sig-other, I had no idea she'd have the wedding pretty much booked by the time I stood back up! Our fates will be sealed forever (or at least until she understandably gets tired of me) at the beautiful Queen's Landing inn in Niagara-on-the-Lake this November.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Clone Wars Campaign Recap Extra: Holonet # 1

For the Coruscant story arc, I prepared a Holonet News clipping after each session to reflect the fact that the heroes are operating in the limelight for the first time.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Le Crime de Culdéric

As the Toronto Reference Library had a big sell of withdrawn books, I managed to pick up a few French novels to help with my daily hour-or-so quasi-immersion. First up was Le Crime de Culdéric by Francine Pelletier, a teen novel about a girl named Maxine who is friendly with the eponymous ghost Culdéric. Only, Maxine's friend Damien encounters a second ghost, that of a recently-murdered young woman named Karine. Basically, it's who killed Karine, and why won't Culdéric help? I can't say it was an awesome novel, but I did like some of the small touches: for example (as far as I can tell with my rudimentary French), Maxine is madly in love with Damien and considers him her boyfriend, but Damien never really seems to notice. I didn't realize until a few chapters in that this was the third (and apparently last) novel in a series about these characters, but I didn't feel like I missed much.

Dan Morton's Space 1958

I picked this up for a buck as a modern example of retro 1950s "good girl" sci-fi art. It definitely stays true to form, as each of the three eight-page stories is a classic "twist-in-the-tale" like old EC comics--that is, every story has a big "surprise" ending that is usually foreshadowed circa page 2. For example, in the story "Full Circle" we learn that the boyfriend of a female space miner went missing a year ago in the Arcturian sector; now that the girlfriend has reached that sector, her and her friends kill what they think is an evil alien--only to learn in the shock ending that that alien was her boyfriend, mutated by the crazy planet. Oh the humanity! Anyway, the stories really are vintage 1950s, and the artwork has a similar authentic feel, though perhaps a bit more gory than was sometimes allowed in that time period. Looking on-line, it appears there never was a second issue of Dan Morton's Space 1958, which I take to mean that the nostalgic, over-sixty senior citizen crowd just isn't as big a comic audience as Dan Morton thought.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cleopatra 2525 Part I

Rogers Video Direct recently sent me the first disk of Cleopatra 2525, a short-lived half-hour SF series from 2000. Here's what I thought:

*The show obviously has a large T & A element, what with the three hot chicks running around in brightly-colored skin-tight outfits. A.K.A., tagline "The fight for earth has never been hotter!"

*However, the setting and plot are pretty interesting. Five centuries into the future, humanity has been completely driven underground by an inscrutable alien race into a massive complex hundreds of levels deep . The show's main characters are freedom fighters working for a mysterious boss known only as "The Voice" (a little Charlie's Angels here).

*The show has a good mix of humor but often plays it straight, a lot like fellow Sam Raimi/New Zealand productions Hercules and Xena.
*Special effects are pretty good, with great CGI for the aliens and nice stuntwork (the background sets are often a bit cheap).

*Gina Torres of Firefly fame plays a character not too dissimilar to Zoe.

*The theme song is a classic bit of cheese (see my post below) and will get stuck in your head.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Naked Public Square

For $ 1 in a clearance bin I found a signed copy of Richard John Neuhaus' famous 1986 book The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America (2d. ed.). This is one of those books I had seen cited hundreds of time in legal scholarship on religious freedom but hadn't actually read until now, though I enjoyed reading (and completely disagreeing with) Neuhaus' work in First Things until his recent death.

The central thesis of the book is that liberal democracies cannot survive with a "public square" (i.e., public debate and discourse about political and social issues) that is divorced from religion. According to Neuhaus, the shared conception of morality and values is what binds disparate people together and provides legitimacy to the results of the democratic process. In the absence of this shared morality, something else will step in to fill the void: the state as a totalitarian project.

I think what I like most about the book is that Neuhaus really strives to be fair. The book is not a polemic against liberalism and Neuhaus has a great sense of the internal debates that go on within liberalism, fundamentalism, and mainstream Christianity. The book is also deeper and more encompassing than you might think from citations made to it: it's as much a warning about the rise of the "new religious right" as it is about secularism.

It's definitely worth reading, even if you can't find it for a buck. The only disclaimer I'll make is that some chapters show an ugly anti-gay sentiment and (from my post-Cold War perspective) a surprising paranoia about Communism.

Blasphemy at the AAR

The American Academy of Religion has approved a panel submission that I'm part of on blasphemy at their annual conference in Montreal in November. I'll post more details as soon as they become available.

Clone Wars Campaign: Recap # 15

This session is the beginning of the story arc in which the PCs have been accused of war crimes and have to gather evidence to exonerate themselves at a Guantanamo Bay-style military tribunal. It's interesting to speculate how different the campaign would have evolved if Marpa had succeeded in stunning the Clone trooper at the end of the previous session and made a getaway.

Part of the theme of the story arc is to show the slow suspension of civil liberties that accompanies the Clone Wars; later, we'll see the suspension of Holonet access to non-military personnel and new weapons restrictions to further the theme.

This session was also the first for a new player in the campaign, running the Rodian scoundrel named Zero. I think maybe Zero was intended to be a darker anti-hero, but he came across pretty comically and we used to always joke that when he would "talk to his sources on the street" it meant calling his Mom for the latest gossip. The fact that his expensive, multi-function, intricately-designed masterwork blaster blew up in his hand in his very first battle thanks to a critical fumble added to the effect.

The NPC barrister, Doolb Snoil, became another player favorite thanks to my nasal voice inflection. He comes from the novel The Cestus Deception, in which he gets killed (several months after the events in this story arc).

Finally, this session led to two infamous Tarn Tamarand events. The first is failing his Use the Force check when it came to levitating a pebble. The second was that he told his friends that a mysterious assassin was going to attack the funeral, but only much later did he remember that the assassin was a cybernetic Rodian named Greesh Leedo--info that certainly would have made keeping a lookout easier!

Episode 2.4, "Capital Offenses"A heroic foray into the anomaly has restored hyperspace traffic and communication to the Ansion System, restoring shipments of the xoorzi kelp and saving the lives of thousands of clone troopers. Instead of a parade, however, the heroes of the anomaly adventure sit in a makeshift brig aboard the Broken Diamond, awaiting transport to Coruscant on charges of murder and war crimes. Now, faced with a challenge more mental than physical, can they clear their names and regain their freedom?

Aboard the Broken Diamond, Marpa, Tarn, and Arresta are locked in a makeshift brig and stripped of a surprisingly large collection of weapons. The three discuss the long list of potential enemies who could be behind the frame-up and decide the only course of action is to wait until they reach Coruscant to hear the exact nature of the charges levied against them.

[80 AG]

After reaching Coruscant, the three prisoners are transferred to a military brig. They meet a lawyer appointed by the Jedi Council, a Vippit barrister named Doolb Snoil. He explains that under the recent Military Creation Act, crimes against the Republic or the laws of war are tried by a military tribunal with very few safeguards for due process and no right to appeal. In addition, Snoil explains he can only provide pure legal advice and can't appear within the courtroom tomorrow for the arraignment. After leaving Snoil, Tarn receives a visit from a second attorney and Marpa is also summoned for another interview.

Tarn meets with Laruse Hyak, a Bith agent for the notorious Black Sun organization. Hyak secretly delivers a message to Tarn that Bel Sekand is calling in Tarn's promise that the Jedi would hunt down the cybernetic assassin Greesh Leedo in exchange for Sekand keeping the judicials away from him on Ansion. Hyak explains that Leedo will be targeting Senator Orm Mandell at his father's funeral but that any increase in visible security will scare the technologically-enhanced Rodian away.

[81 AG]

The next morning, the three detainees appear at their arraignment. The prosecutor is a two-headed Troig named Rap-Seri, one head of whom speaks quite quickly while the other adopts a far more solemn, deliberate pace. The judge is a CZ Series Adjudicator droid. Each of the inmates is charged with multiple counts of murder and treason, and Marpa is additionally charged with resisting arrest. After they all plead not guilty on all the charges, the adjudicator grants bail but under strict conditions: limited access to weapons, injection of subdermal tracking devices, and the company of hovering surveillance droids. Tarn is ordered to act as Arresta's bodyguard, since threatening letters have been received. Following the arraignment, Doolb Snoil introduces a hired underworld investigator named Zero, a youthful Rodian.

Moments after leaving the Judicial Center and entering a large plaza, unseen attackers open fire. Arresta dashes inside to help spot the attackers from up high, while Tarn and Zero return fire. Zero's high-tech blaster explodes in his hand and damages his hearing, but Tarn bullseyes one of the attackers and forces him to flee in an aircar. He almost escapes but Marpa suddenly sprints out of the Judicial Center and leaps into the vehicle. A vicious knife fight ensues as the aircar narrowly avoids crashing into traffic and then spins out of control. The attacker suddenly jumps from the vehicle, but Marpa regains control of the aircar and rams his fleeing assailant, who just barely survives the collision. A second attacker is apprehended by clone troopers and both are taken away for questioning.

After the battle, Zero staggers away to repair his blaster, while Marpa instructs Snoil to file a motion for relaxed weapons restrictions to be heard the next day and then leaves to obtain lodging. Arresta and Tarn head to the Jedi Temple.

Arresta stays in a waiting area while Tarn runs into General Sarigar and his Padawan, Lee. Sarigar tells Tarn to be wary of Horellius Creen and to pull a particular file in the Jedi archives before making any commitments. Meanwhile, Arresta arranges for a high-class luxury apartment complete with protocol droid, housekeeping droid, and jacuzzi!

Tarn then makes his way to the Council chambers and meets with Master Yoda. Master Yoda tells Tarn that the youth does not have the makings of a great Jedi Master, but perhaps the potential to become a heroic warrior. However, Master Yoda continues, Tarn must find himself a teacher and establish the truth of the accusations made against him or prepare to depart the Jedi Order. Afterwards, Tarn spends some time in the Archives and finds the document General Sarigar told him to look for: it's an investigation report prepared by General Sarigar about Horellius Creen. It seems that Creen's first Padawan is presumed to have perished in a terrorist attack, and that each of Creen's subsequent students have either died violent deaths or been refused further teaching. The Council barred Creen from taking on any further apprentices and placed him under Temple Arrest, but the restriction was lifted at the beginning of the Clone Wars when the Order became desperate for warriors. Tarn nonetheless seeks out Creen and asks to become his Padawan learner. Creen asks him "Do you understand the ways of the Force?" and Tarn says that he doesn't. Creen agrees to be Tarn's teacher and tells the youth to return the next day to begin training.

[82 AG]

Arresta, Tarn, and Marpa meet early to discuss Tarn's secretive statement that they need to stop a suspected assassin from attacking Senator Orm Mandell at a funeral service that evening. Because the unknown assassin will be scared away by increased security, they have to infiltrate the service. The group contacts Zero and everyone agrees to meet at the funeral, but otherwise they split up. Arresta goes shopping, Tarn spends his first day as a Padawan arranging dusty old scrolls, and Marpa finds work fixing droids and buys himself a protocol model, missing the weapons-restriction hearing before the adjudicator judge. Zero spends the day at a bacta tank (thanks to a 3000 credit loan from Marpa) and has his hearing restored.

Early that evening, everyone meets at the funeral home. As the first guests begin to trickle in, Zero tells the lone security guard about the assassination plot and the guard hurries to call for a complete police cordon of the building. Tarn tries to stop the guard by referencing his status as a Jedi, but the guard demands to see proof. Tarn fails to levitate a pebble and the guard calls for back-up, which arrives immediately.

The mourners are all seated and waiting patiently when an airhearse arrives outside. The pallbearers bring a repulsor-lift casket towards the building; but the cybernetic assassin Greesh Leedo has spotted the increased security through wirecams from his hiding place inside the casket! He bursts out of the casket, dumping the body of Senator Mandell’s father on the ground, and sprints away into the night before anyone can react.

The pallbearers act quickly to replace the body, but with the increased security the civic official who had planned on giving the service has been turned away. Tarn is drafted into service, and with the lovely words of Arresta coming through his comlink, delivers a beautiful and memorable elegy, bringing a tear to many an eye. After the service, Senator Mandell gives his heartfelt thanks to Zero and Tarn. Tarn, however, tells his friends that they may have just provoked the ire of Black Sun.

Return to Clone Wars Campaign Main Page

Friday, April 10, 2009

Gabriel Knight

A few weeks back, in the context of discussing that I was playing in a new super-hero RPG, I mentioned that back when I was a teenager and played in a super-hero campaign, I made, for some completely inexplicable reason, a private investigator named Gabriel Knight who had no super powers but instead massive expertise with his pistol. (I'll save for another day the story of my sci-fi character "Eboni Snoe" who similarly had nothing going for him other than a massively-powerful blaster pistol.) I'm pretty sure I swiped the name "Gabriel Knight" from the name of a computer game series (one I hadn't played but had heard of).

Under my description of the character, I wrote only "Wears trenchcoat. Smokes cigarettes." The cigarette-smoking was actually a major feature of the character, both in role-playing and because he had a special trait that if he ever went more than an hour without one, he started taking a hefty amount of damage every round.

I honestly have no recollection of the few sessions in which I played this character, other than that the story ended on a never-resolved cliffhanger with him trapped in a grain silo with a Joker-like super-villain responsible for the dastardly deed. Looking at my old character sheet for him, I'm not even sure what gaming system we used or even what many of the abbreviations stand for. I do remember really like how much you could customize characters and that if you took Disadvantages you got extra points to spend on stuff you wanted and Disadvantages made for better role-playing. For some reason, he's very noir except for some Dick Tracy tech like a wrist communicator and a "rebreather."

Now, because you didn't demand it but I managed to unearth it, I present to you: Gabriel Knight, Private Investigator!


Str: 15
Dex: 15
Con: 10
Body: 15
Int: 13
Ego: 10
Pre: 13
Com: 10
PD: 8
ED: 8
SPD: 4
REC: 5
END: 20
STUN: 40

Final OCV: 21

Final DCV: 12

PD/rPD: 8/12
ED/rED: 8/12
ECV: 3


Concealment (3 pts): 12

Shadowing (3 pts): 11

Stealth (3 pts): 12

Bugging (1 pt): 8

Bureaucracies (1 pt): 8

Computer Programming (1 pt): 8

Criminology (3 pts): 12

Interrogation (1 pt): 8

Lockpicking (1 pt): 8

Off. Strike -2, +4d6 (5 pts)

Security Systems (3 pts): 12

Streetwise (3 pts): 11

Contact: CIA Agent (1 pt): 8

P.I. License (2 pts.)

Concealed Weapon Permit (2 pts.)

+7 DCV (35 pts).

+16 OCV Gun (32 pts.)

WF: Gun (1 pt.)


Dependent Cigarettes (1 hr/3d6)

Distinguishing Feature: Trenchcoat

Watched by NYPD <>

Normal Character Max Attributes

Code: Police Procedure

Susceptible to Teleport (3d6)


Kevlar w/ Inserts (Def=12)


Concealed Weapons License

P.I.'s License



9 mm Browning (5 clips)

$ 827

Wrist Communicator


1 Havana

Siskoid's Blog of Geekery

I've been spending a lot of time over at Siskoid's Blog of Geekery lately. He does a lot of what I do, only better and more often. It's worth looking through the archives for the "RPGs That Time Forgot" feature for the scoop on a lot of old games you may never of heard of but that sound like a lot of fun.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

NFL SuperPro Special Edition

"A New Star is Shining . . . in the Marvel Universe!"

Yes, that star is NFL SuperPro, "From Football Hero to Super Hero!"

College football phenom Phil Grayfield was drafted in the first round by the Philadelphia Eagles, but then disaster struck! Phil tore knee cartilage on the first day of training camp! Then, after a year's recovery, in his first game he broke his femur! Then, after another year's recovery, in the first week of training camp, he twisted his knee! No, I'm not making it up. This guy's got bad luck. For the last injury he at least had a decent excuse, as he saved a kid (coincidentally named Jeremy) from falling off the bleachers. So anyway, the string of bad luck continues when Phil meets "the Howard Hughes of NFL memorabilia", who has created a $ 5,000,000 football uniform. Only, robbers pick that exact same time to attack and Phil gets himself all doused with burning hot "chemical foam, gasoline, plastics, and chemicals from the old [football] films." Normally, you might think that was a bad thing, but not for Phil! He puts on the super-special uniform and becomes . . . NFL SuperPro! In this special first issue, Phil tracks down a steroid-using Chicago Bears player. I always knew those Bears were up to no good! How else could their defense be so strong? I have to go, but I can't leave without mentioning that NFL SuperPro likes to sprinkle his dialogue with football terminology like: "I've been on the the trail of an illegal steroid production ring . . . but this little play from scrimmage didn't gain me much yardage, so . . . arrivederci!"

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Poor Chemistro

You know you're having a bad day as a super-villain when a normally dry comic book encyclopedia mocks you in print. A true quote from The Marvel Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to the Characters of the Marvel Universe in the Chemistro entry:
"Although it made him look the part, Chemistro's spangly outfit did not prevent him from losing a foot when he accidentally shot himself."

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Heroes Unlimited Update

The first session of our Heroes Unlimited mini-campaign got off to a pretty good start this weekend. My Ringmaster character proved to have a nice range of diverse powers, as the flight, invisibility, and psionic attacks all game in handy. The downside was I blew through something like $ 3,000 worth of gems in the first encounter, so raising cash is going to be a constant concern for this character. My sig-other's Handmaiden character proved great from both a role-playing and a pure strength perspective, while the PC based on the Question/Rorschach had a strong personality but learned that bustin' heads for information apparently is easier in the comics than in Heroes Unlimited. Our final PC can both shrink like the Atom and turn himself into stone, so I think he'll be quite handy from a spying and smashing perspective.

Theme Song from Cleopatra 2525

I just started watching Sam Raimi's short-lived series Cleopatra 2525. I'll definitely blog more about this story of an exotic dancer who went in for a boob job in 2001 and woke up to lead an anti-robot rebellion five centuries later, but for now I've gotta link to the catchy, incredibly cheesy theme song:

Friday, April 3, 2009

Heroes Character: Handmaiden

Tomorrow our gaming group starts a short adventure using Palladium's Heroes Unlimited system. A few weeks ago I posted the stats for my somewhat strange, randomly-created character Ringmaster. Tonight I present my sig-other's character, archaeologist turned super-hero Aphrodite's Handmaiden. This character was made using the "Mystically Bestowed Abilities" class, which basically means that she transforms from an ordinary human into a magically-powered Hero through a magic word or spell (kinda like Shazam! or Dr. Fate).


HEROIC CLASS: Mystically Bestowed Abilities


LEVEL: 1 (Exp. Pts: 0)


Physical Strength
Normal (18 + 1 Acro): 19 (+4 damage)
Transformed (19 + 11): 30 (+15 damage)

Physical Endurance
Normal (10 + 1 Acro): 11
Transformed: 11

Normal: 12
Transformed: 12

Mental Affinity
Normal: 13
Transformed (13 + 8): 21 (65% Trust/Intimidate)

Physical Beauty
Normal: 10
Transformed: 10

Physical Prowess
Normal (15 + 1 Acro): 16 (+1 Parry, Dodge, & Strike)
Transformed (16 + 6): 22 (+ 4 Parry, Dodge, & Strike)

Mental Endurance
Normal: 9
Transformed: 9

Normal: 10 (50 m/round, 12 m/action)
Transformed (10 x 5): 50 (250 m/round, 62 m/action)

Ordinary (10 + 1 Acro): 11
Transformed (11 + 130): 141

Armor of Ithan (if cast) (lasts 4 rounds): A.R. 18, 110 S.D.C.
Energy Field (if cast) (lasts 4 rounds): A.R. 4, 60 S.D.C.

P.P.E. 60

HIT POINTS ( 11 Base + 3 Random) = 14

COMBAT: ORDINARY (4 attacks/round)
1) Handgun: +4 Aim, +2 Burst, + 1 Wild (damage: 3d6)
2) Punch: +1 Strike (damage: 1d4+4)
3) Kick: +1 Strike (damage: 2d4+4)
4) Backhand: +1 Strike (damage 1d6+4)
5) Elbow: +1 Strike (damage (1d6+4)
6) Judo Throw (Body Flip): +1 Strike (damage 1d6+4, victim loses initiative & one attack)
7) Pull Punch: +3
8) Dodge/Parry: +1
9) Roll w/ Punch/Impact: +5

COMBAT: TRANSFORMED (4 attacks/round)
1) Punch: +4 Strike (damage: 1d4+15)
2) Kick: +4 Strike (damage: 2d4+15)
3) Backhand: +4 Strike (damage 1d6+15)
4) Elbow: +4 Strike (damage 1d6+15)
5) Judo Throw (Body Flip): +4 Strike (damage 1d6+15, victim loses initiative & one attack)
6) Pull Punch: +5
7) Dodge: +4
8) Short Swords w/ Paired Weapon Fighting (x2) +5 Strike (damage: 2d4+15); +5 Parry
9) Quarterstaff +5 Strike (damage: 2d6+15); +4 Parry
10) Short Bow (May Fire 2 per attack, 110 m Range) +4 Strike (damage: 1d6); +5 Parry
11) Mirror Blast (mirror within 6 m gives 67 m Ranged attack) + 4 Strike (damage: 1d6)

ALIGNMENT: Good (Scrupulous)

POWERS: Mirror Mastery (p. 80 PU) (includes Mirror Blasts, Mirror Image, Mirror Porting & Mirror Viewing)

SPELLS: Charismatic Aura (p. 324), Heal Wounds (p. 327), Calling (p. 326), Charm (p. 326), Armor of Ithan (p. 323), Turn Dead (p. 322), Energy Field (p. 324), Globe of Daylight (p. 321)

SPECIAL ABILITIES (only when transformed) +1 Saves vs. Magic, +1 Saves vs. Possession, +2 Saves vs. Horror, +2 Pull Punch

SKILL PROGRAMS (+ 30 %): WP Ancient, Science, Business Program, Language

WP: Paired Weapons (short swords) (may parry & attack w/ one action, attack twice w/ one action, or parry two different opponents)
WP: Archery & Targeting (adds 6 m. to effective range, +1 Parry, ROF: 2)
WP: Staff (+1 Strike)
WP: Sword (+1 Strike & Parry);
WP: Semi-Automatic Pistols (+3 Aimed, +1 Burst, + 0 Wild)
Hand to Hand: Martial Arts (2 extra attacks, +3 to Roll w/ punch/fall/impact, + 2 initiative, +3 pull punch)
Acrobatics (Kick @ 2d4 damage, 62% Balance, 63% Tightrope, 72% Climb Rope, 55% Back Flip, 40% Base Climb, 30% Base Prowl, +2 Roll w/ Punch or Fall, +1 P.S., + 1 P.P., +1 P.E., + 1d6 S.D.C.=1)
Seduction (23% or 24% Transformed)
Holistic Medicine (25%)
Pilot Automobile (62%)
Pilot: Horsemanship (54%)
Pilot: Airplane (54%)
Basic Math (80%)
Business & Finance (70%)
Computer Operation (75%)
Law: General (60%)
Research (85%)
Advanced Math (80%)
Chemistry (65%)
Archaeology (55%)
Anthropology (60%)
Astrophysics (60%)
Latin: Written & Spoken (85%)
Greek: Written & Spoken (85%)


Origin: She is an archaeologist who was on a dig in Greece when she got word that her fiancé had been killed by muggers. In despair, she went into a ruined temple to contemplate ending everything. Her pain reached the spirit of Aphrodite who appeared before her and realized how much trouble the world was in. She made Astrid her avatar, who fights on her behalf to help the cause of love. That doesn't mean everyone she helps is in love, or is even going to be - it just means that whatever is happening to them will damage the cause of love - maybe they were supposed to introduce two people or were supposed to do something critical at some point....

Super Hero Costume: When "transformed" she wears a short white toga, with knee high boots. She carries a bow on her back and two short swords.

How She Affords to Live and Fight Crime: Her job as a Museum Curator, specializing in ancient artifacts, allows her the money to live and since much of her job description involves her locking herself away among "the archives" or visiting "dig sites", she has a great deal of freedom to fight crime. In addition, since the death of her fiancé (who was killed by muggers), she has basically no social life so there are few to notice her absence anyway. She's not a very "social" person - standoffish, unfriendly - although, when transformed she is very likeable - she's so full of the "spirit of Aphrodite" that she's a much happier chick. On a regular basis, she's kind of surly.

How She Finds Crime to Fight: "Signs" from Aphrodite - either a premonition, aura or profoundly strong feeling.

CASH: $ 2,657 (ready cash); $ 5,000 (life savings)
Car (1 year old) (free)
Glock 9 mm Service Pistol (Cost Unknown)
100 Rounds 9 mm Bullets ($ 30) (3d6 damage)
Ankle Holster ( $ 40)
Hair Spray ($ 3)
Cell Phone ($ 165)
Superior Lock Pick ($ 225)
Shoulder Purse ($ 35)
Short Bow ($ 165)
30 Arrows ($ 30) (1d6 damage)
Two Short Swords ($ 450) (2d4 damage)
Quarterstaff ($ 200) (2d6 damage)

Money Spent: $ 1343

Only 30% Evil

According to a website which uses some esoteric calculations, this blog is:

This site is certified 30% EVIL by the Gematriculator

Drums of Fu Manchu

Until this week, I had never actually sat down to watch an old-fashioned movie serial, complete with a crazy cliffhanger at the end of every chapter. I decided to give the 15-part Drums of Fu Manchu a try, just to see what it was like, and actually found it quite enjoyable. The evil criminal genius Fu Manchu is seeking the ancient sceptre of Genghis Khan which will unite the warring tribes of "The Orient" under his leadership; set against him are a two-fisted, all-American-type hero named Alan Parker and an older member of the British Foreign Office, Sir Neville something-or-other. The classic cliffhangers are fun to see resolved (two trains are about to collide! Alan Parker is being attacked by an octopus! ) and happily, there's not much if anything in the way of the ugly racism and sterotyping that I was afraid of for a movie with a Chinese super-villain. It was enjoyable enough that I've decided to try a couple of other serials, including Captain Marvel (a.k.a. Shazam!) and The Undersea Kingdom (which I know of only through MST3K).