Thursday, July 28, 2011

Temeris @ Level Four [D&D RPG]

Temeris, the character I wrote about here and here, has now reached level 4 in the great Forgotten Realms campaign The Wife and I play in. Temeris has rapidly become one of my all-time favorite characters--he's just a blast to play, as he's brave, brimming with curiosity, adventurous, good-natured, naive, and full of grand, improbable speculations (a surprising number of which turn out to be true!). I'm working to build him both mechanically and in role-playing to qualify someday for the Royal Explorer Society prestige class. Of course, it's only a matter of time before the inevitable reckoning with his long-suffering father takes place. With a character like Temeris, I can't wait to see what happens next!

Full recaps of his exploits as a member of the Royal Karameikan Fist Adventuring Company can be found at the DM's blog.

Here's Temeris as he stands at level 4:

Temeris Reginald Cottingswald III
CG Human Male, Rog3/Ran1

Strength: 14 (+2), Dexterity: 18 (+4), Constitution: 14 (+2), Intelligence: 16 (+3), Wisdom: 12 (+1), Charisma: 18 (+4)

Saves: Fort +5, Reflex +9, Will +2

AC: 16

Hit Points: 24

Attacks: Light Crossbow +7, d. 1d8; Dagger (magic +1) + 8, d. 1d4+3

Equipment: bedroll, crossbow bolts x 18, map case, chalk, light crossbow, dagger, flint & steel, leather armor, explorer's outfit, trail rations x5, torch, signet ring, thieves' tools, noble's outfit, treasure map, area map, short sword, smokestick, sunrod, tinderstick, dagger +1, 93 gp, 27 sp, 18 cp

Skills: Appraise +11, Balance +5, Bluff + 5, Climb +7, Concentration +2, Craft: Cartography +9, Decipher Script +8, Diplomacy +5, Disable Device + 9, Disguise +6, Escape Artist +6, Forgery +5, Gather Info +4, Handle Animal +4, Heal + 1, Hide +7, Intimidate +4, Jump +2, Knowledge: Geography +6, Listen +4, Move Silently +7, Open Lock +11, Ride +6, Search +7, Sense Motive +1, Spot +5, Survival +6, Swim +6, Use Rope +4, Knowledge: Nature +7, Knowledge: Nobility +5, Knowledge: Local (Cormyr) + 4

Languages: Common, Dwarven, Halfling, Elvish

Feats: Diligent, Nimble Fingers, AP: Light, WP: Simple & Martial, Weapon Finesse

Class Features: Sneak Attack (2d6), Trap Finding, Evasion, Trap Sense +1, Track, Wild Empathy, Favored Enemy (Zhents)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

Two events of life-changing importance occurred yesterday: (1) My son now sleeps on his own! and (2) The NFL lockout is over!

On the first subject, Boomer has been sleeping on my lap all night, every night, since he was born almost exactly two months ago. Various alternatives had been tried with no luck, but for some reason (perhaps he was just old enough?) Grandma got him to take a nap in a swing-chair for a couple of hours, and when I tried it again at bedtime he slept the whole night through. In fact, he's in it right now. It's funny how things that might seem really minor have such a major impact: now I can go to the bathroom at night without carrying him on my shoulder, I can microwave a hot meal at midnight, I can lie on the couch instead of sitting up, etc. I hope his love of the swing-chair sticks (and I will happily pay Duracell for the privilege of keeping that thing a'swingin). If so, our next big goal will be trying to transition him to his actual crib in his actual nursery.

I am equally ecstatic about the second subject. It's been a long summer with no interesting NFL news, and I've even resorted to watching the freakin' CFL to tide me over! (a subject I'll post about later). Already NFL players are getting cut, tomorrow trades and free agency signings will start, and we'll be officially in the preseason in just a couple of weeks (it sucks the Hall of Fame game got cancelled, but it's a small price to pay for a satisfactory deal being reached that'll guarantee labor peace for at least the next five years). The major downside of the loss of supervised workouts, mini-camps, etc., is that it hurts the most those teams trying to install a new offense, a new defense, or with a new coaching staff: and my poor Browns are trying to do all three! At least the Browns play each of the NFC West teams this year, which many consider as the weakest division in the league . . .

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Le Dahlia Noir [Books]

James Ellroy's novel about the famous Black Dahlia starts out slow, telling the story of two boxers-turned-cops for the first hundred pages before the Dahlia's body is found. One of the cops soon disappears in Mexico, and the other one (the narrator) becomes obsessed with solving the Dahlia case. He spirals into a dark place, beating up suspects, sleeping with prostitutes, and dreaming of the Dahlia. The book is only average as a mystery, but it does present an interesting portrayal of 1940s L.A. policing. The book was the inspiration for the 2005 movie, but I haven't seen it yet.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Dead@17 Ultimate Edition Vol. 1 [Comics]

This starts off very much as a Buffy clone, with a teenage girl receiving special powers to fight the supernatural with the help of her friends and an older male mentor. The background mythology grows more elaborate as the series goes on, but it's pretty bland stuff that often appears to have been dropped in for the convenience of a particular encounter (Buffy had that problem sometimes, too). The cast of characters expands as well, but their personalities aren't memorable, and the fact that the artist gives all the various female characters pretty much the same face makes it hard to tell them apart. Since the dialogue is average as well, there's not much new or exciting to be found here unless you've never heard of Buffy and the idea of an empowered young woman fighting demons seems revolutionary

Clone Wars Campaign: Recap # 47

This session brought with it some memorable scenes for each of the main PCs.

Daal, for example, followed his standard practice of reprogramming every unaccompanied droid he met into following only his orders. For medical droid GH-7 ("Slicer"), this would come to have ironic and fitting side-effects. Also in this session, Daal famously displays his Zen approach to life: when the others discover his terminal cancer (contracted from the PlagueWomb), he basically replies with the equivalent of "It's no big deal, I'll figure it out."

Speaking of diseases, Arresta caught one from being bitten by rakghouls this session after an unfortunate sequence of rolls. Given their location, it seemed to be an incurable disease that would inevitably turn her into a slavering beast. The Wife was livid, but I trusted that my experienced players would figure something out sooner or later.

A'tel was the first to figure out (in a clever and surprising way) a lever to push one of the Altered to vote for a new leader. On the other hand, his giving a young boy a sporadically-functioning lightsaber earned him the title of "Last PC to call for baby-sitting emergency."

Doxen got to shine in a fun adventure directed by The Wife. I played the Indiana Jones rip-off Korriban-Adi, and A'tel's player ran the flamboyant pilot Jasper. I especially enjoyed all of the traps and puzzles (things I didn't put in often enough), and the session tied into Doxen's emerging awareness of Force-sensitivity.


Welcome to the city of Haven: a place where sleep is but a dream, death almost a myth, and violence a thing of the past. But even in Haven, there lies hints of a very different place nearby—a temptation that has led to a dwindling of the steadfasts and a forced corruption of evolution that threatens the end of humanity as we know it. A place called the Ascendancy.

Daal Mordo awakens in the med-bay of The Flaming Halo to find GH-7, a medical droid, looming over him. When the droid is unable to satisfactorily answer his questions, Daal searches the ship for his missing companions. After finding little of interest, he examines the nearby Jedi starfighter and the Sun Runner II, again with little insight. After returning to The Flaming Halo, Daal prepares for a walk by organizing his myriad belongings: he carries a portion himself, places a portion on a medical repulsor-stretcher, and reprograms GH-7 to follow his commands to carry the rest of his gear. Eventually, Daal stumbles upon the rope left behind by the others that leads down into Haven. However, the Duro is unable to pierce the dissuasion field and resorts instead to throwing messages down the hole, along with another length of rope tied to the same rock.
Down in Haven, A’tel continues teaching Triv rudimentary Jedi fighting techniques—he even goes so far as to give the young boy a (partially-functional) lightsaber. Arresta talks further with Mazim and learns that his son went missing months ago, and was last seen with Sangla’Annex. Later, when Lucef meets with A’tel and Arresta, the three agree that the Third Steadfast is the weakest link in the triumvirate that keeps Leisha Camdeni in power as Speaker.
A’tel visits the Third Steadfast and manages to get an audience with its First, Eron-14. The former Jedi calls upon a subtle and delicate use of the Force to transmit images and emotions of life outside Haven, including the horror of war, the elation of love, the pain of betrayal, and more. Eron-14 is stunned and intrigued by this real-life alternative to the Dream, and agrees to call a Conclave to elect a new Speaker if A’tel will take him and his Second, Eron-15, with him off-planet.
While A’tel and Arresta concentrate on lobbying for Mazim to be elected the new Speaker, Lucef puts a back-up plan in motion: he sets about finding the spare parts necessary to assemble a ramp high enough to allow him to grasp the cut piece of rope still dangling high above the center square. After several hours’ work, Lucef has collected the parts and starts assembly on the ramp only to realize that another rope is hanging all the way down to the ground. After a difficult climb, Lucef reaches the surface and finds Daal aboard The Flaming Halo. Following a quick debriefing, the two return outside and join efforts in trying to destroy the orbs attached to the starships—although energy weapons have no effect, Lucef manages to damage one by repeatedly firing his mass-dispersal slugthrower.
Having found a potential means of removing the orbs, the two descend back down the rope to Haven. With everyone reunited, Daal is confronted about the mysterious illness hinted at by GH-7. Daal makes light of the seriousness of his condition and states that it is not something that the others need to be concerned about.
When the Conclave is held that evening, Leisha makes one last plea to remain Speaker. However, the newcomers help push through the votes needed to install Mazim as Speaker, and he agrees to allow access to the Excess (vacated Steadfasts) by opening the massive barrier-doors. Mazim tells them that if they climb a tower in the center of the Excess, they’ll find the Ascendency where their missing friends might be located. However, the Excess is a dark and foreboding place, and Mazim doubts anyone can survive there for long, as the Accelerated have used the Excess as a dumping ground for failed transformations and experiments on alien species brought to them by Captain Jorus.
The group decides it’s safer to spend the artificially-replicated evening in Haven and pass through the barrier in the morning. Through Lucef’s persuasive efforts, Sangla’ allows Daal to examine her N-field device. The Duros is able to glean some insights into how to disrupt such a protective field in the future.
Arresta is approached by Iagos Aurellius, Second of the Second Steadfast. Iagos is afraid that his First plans for the entire Steadfast to ascend, and has decided to try to destroy the Accelerated before this can happen—to that end, he gives Arresta a thumbnail sized explosive he claims can destroy the Accelerated entirely. Although Arresta can’t figure out how to set the timer on the explosive, she enlists Daal in the secret plot for help.
A’tel allows Praxeus Domanidrus to perform extensive and painful examinations in order to find out the secrets of the Force and its link with Midichlorians. In return, Praxeus agrees to use her advanced technology to Alter Daal and potentially cure him of his affliction. However, Daal decides the risk of death or insanity is too great and refuses treatment.

[A.G. 1050]

On the other side of the barrier, the adventurers find the Excess to be dark and depressing: empty streets, crumbling architecture, and a lingering feeling of despair. As they travel through the wide lanes toward the central square, where a massive tower can be seen from a distance, they start to hear the wind pick up—but this is no ordinary wind, as the rolling miasma brings with it echoes of what once was—snatches of voices, terrifying and disheartening presences, and a chill that grows colder as the black wind advances. Although the others scramble for safety, A’tel finds himself trapped in the wind, his mind twisted and scalded until he finally faints from the experience. Later, when he eventually wakes up, something is not quite right . . .
Arresta’s escape from the black wind brings her into another danger entirely, as she finds herself surrounded by a pack of slavering, toothy, deformed beasts. Seeking refuge in a corner, she fights viciously until rescued—but not without a cost, as the bite of the beasts carries with it a virulent toxin that will, if untreated, transform Arresta into one of the creatures. Lucef and Daal, meanwhile, have far more success destroying a strange winged creature.
After the group is reunited, it is once again faced with danger from dozens of massive arachnids. The adventurers are victorious, but emerge from the fight bruised and bloody. After reaching the central square and examining the tower, however, they feel the ground start to shake from underneath them and see a shadow looming in the distance. As it approaches, recognition dawns on their faces that one last obstacle remains: a giant, silver-scaled Rancor has smelled fresh meat.


After an uneventful journey from Etti IV, The Gentle Lover touches down on Firrerre. Captain Jasper Falen and Doxen (poorly disguised as a Jawa) make their way to a sedate cantina where they hope to follow a lead, gleaned by Arresta’s intelligence network, on where Senator Orelus’ kidnappers can be found. Once in the cantina, Doxen is recognized and hailed by a Cerean named Maj (“Korriban”) Adi.
It turns out that, several days earlier, Adi hired a group of Rodians to help him in an “archaeological dig” on a forbidden planet. Although the “dig” turned up several precious artifacts, the Rodians decided to keep everything for themselves. While on board the Rodian ship, Adi befriended a distinguished looking gentleman: Senator Orelus. Orelus told Adi all about his kidnapping at the hands of a Rodian named Horan, who was apparently seeking revenge for his brother’s murder. Orelus told Adi that only a being named Doxen would be able to rescue them and help Adi recover his stolen merchandise. Adi eventually managed to slip away from the Rodians and circulate Doxen’s name until it came to the attention of Arresta’s contacts.
Doxen and Adi agree to work together to find the Rodians. Adi remembers where their ship was headed before he escaped, so (after dealing with a corrupt Judicial) the pair of adventurers, joined by Jasper, return to The Gentle Lover and receive lift-off clearance. On board the freighter, Adi meets Kako, a real Jawa and Jasper’s right-hand mechanic. Adi begins to feel mildly ill.
After a few hours of interstellar travel, The Gentle Lover picks up another freighter on its scanners. Jasper uses a false transponder signal and some fast-talking to convince the other ship that The Gentle Lover is a garbage scow badly in need of spare parts for repairs. Once the suspected Rodian ship docks, however, a strange thing happens: the airlock opens, but no one is waiting. Doxen, Jasper, and Adi prepare themselves for battle and board the other ship, only to be confronted with the mocking voice of Horan. Horan, the adventurers realize, has set this whole series of events (Adi’s “escape”, Jasper’s “successful” bluff, etc.) as a trap for Doxen. A holo-image shows Senator Orelus shackled by durasteel cables and Horan’s voice states that any attempt to open the door to Orelus’ chamber without first inserting all three keys will result in the man being torn apart by the cables.
Horan’s first diabolical trap is a moral one: Doxen is presented with a choice between picking either one of the three keys he needs or picking what the adventurers realize is the cure to the disease infecting Adi. Doxen takes pity on the Cerean adventurer-archaeologist and picks the cure. The next challenge is a question of reflexes: door swing open, containing keys inside. However, the rooms are actually incinerators and the adventurers end up with burnt feet as the cost for success. Soon after, Doxen is trapped by forcefields in a corridor and narrowly escapes a blaster battery. The corridor leads to another large chamber, this one containing two cages: one with a vornskyr, and the other with a vornskyr and an unconscious woman. While Doxen and Jasper lay down covering fire, Korriban Adi manages to dash in and rescue the woman. Jasper’s mechanic, Kako, takes her back to The Gentle Lover for medical attention. The search continues, and another clever trap is revealed: a key lies on the floor in the center of the room, surrounded by battle droids. But with one arm each, the droids hold up a massive permacrete slab. If the droids are destroyed, anyone and anything standing underneath the slab will be crushed. Once again, Adi’s speed pays off as he manages to dart in and snag the key with his whip, narrowly escaping the falling slab.
Having obtained all the necessary keys, the adventurers unlock Senator Orelus’ cell. However, one last obstacle stands in their path: a series of symbols quickly flash on and off a screen, and if Doxen fails to input them in the correct order, a sharp pole lances into the Senator’s body. With Jasper and Adi backing him up, Doxen manages to save the Senator’s life—but the older man is severely wounded. A trapdoor opens up down to the cargo hold. After escorting Orelus safely back to The Gentle Lover, the trio of adventurers decide to venture through the trapdoor: Doxen has yet to seek vengeance on the Rodians responsible for kidnapping Orelus in the first place, Adi has yet to find his stolen artefacts, and Jasper can’t leave until the other two are satisfied.
Adi hurries down the rungs, only to stop short when he realizes he’s blundered into the final trap: Horan and several of his Rodian clan-mates are there, pointing blasters and an E-web at the ladder. Doxen follows him down and exchanges words with Horan, but in moments a battle breaks out. The Rodians hurl grenades and take aim with the deadly E-web, but Doxen turns the tide by picking off the cannon’s gunner. Doxen confronts Horan face-to-face, only to realize that the Rodian is holding a strange black cube that coruscates with energy. The cube quickly drains the lifeforce from Horan, and the Rodian’s body crumbles into dust. When Doxen picks up the cube, he feels something long buried awaken within him. With Horan and his allies dead, the Senator rescued, and the artefacts recovered, Doxen, Adi, and Jasper return to The Gentle Lover for the long voyage that lies ahead of them.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Torchwood: "Something Borrowed" (S2, E9)

"The hero always gets the girl."

Something Borrowed

Season Two, Episode Nine ("As Gwen Cooper prepares to walk down the aisle with Rhys, something has hitched a lift inside her.")


* Gwen waking up to realize she's hugely pregnant. What a pre-title sequence hook!

* Seeing characters we've heard about but that haven't been depicted before: Banana Boat, Rhys' folks, Gwen's folks, etc. Main characters in genre shows always seem more real when they've been fleshed out with friends and relatives.

* The killing of the Nostrovite: hilarious, and both Jack and Rhys get some heroic moments.

* The ending: Ret-con spiked punch was an elegant solution, and seeing Jack and Ianto dance is a moving testament to how far we've come.


* Nothing really. Intentionally light-hearted episodes can be risky and easily turn stupid, but this one worked.


* The photo of Jack and his wife. Does it fit in with what's revealed in Children of Earth?




* Deciding locations for the wedding.

* Filming the breakaway window.

* The Jack/Gwen/Rhys triangle.

* Developing make-up for the Nostrovite victims.

* Filming the scene in the stables.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Buffy Comic Project: "The Blood of Carthage" (Part 5)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer # 25

Dark Horse (Vol. 1, 1998-2003)
Creators: Christopher Golden (writer), Cliff Richards (penciller), Joe Pimentel (inker)
Setting: Season Four

T.V. Character Appearances: Buffy, Willow, Spike, Giles, Xander, Anya

Major Original Characters: Vraka (demon lord); Xerxes the Blind (demon); Hiram (demon henchman); Xiu (vampire twin); Ky-Laag (ancient demon); Scipio (guardian; flashback only); Tergazzi (demon informant); Lucy Hanover (Slayer; ghost only)

Summary: Vraka tells the Scoobies the story of how he first encountered the ancient demon Ky-Laag centuries ago, when it was summoned by the Roman general Scipio to oust Vraka from Carthage. Meanwhile, Ky-Laag wreaks havoc on the streets of modern-day Sunnydale. The ghost of Lucy Hanover assumes temporary control of a human body and teams with Tergazzi to try to slow it down. Buffy and Vraka join the fight, while the Scoobies try to collect the ingredients to collect the binding spell for the second time. Xiu dies in battle, and Hiram is killed by Vraka in order to get the demon hearts needed for the spell. The spell works, and Willow casts an additional spell to make the residents of Sunnydale forget what happened. Vraka and Xerxes flee overseas, and Buffy decides to give college another try.

Review: Having Buffy and the Scoobies team up with a demonic order to destroy an even greater threat was an interesting and original plot point. Vraka grows a little more distinctive as the storyline continues, and I liked the twist that he survives at the end. Unfortunately, Ky-Laag is 100% generic ancient demon and his banishment is straight out of the Buffy bible. Still, Golden told a decent five-part tale and improved the series overall, especially with his use of small character moments and arcs, such as Xander adjusting to life as Willow's sidekick (loved the flashbacks) and Buffy trying to decide whether the college life was for her. Overall, not awesome, but a step up, and good groundwork for future stories.


* The connection with Roman history was certainly unexpected, as was the idea that Mad Jack was actually an ancient general named Scipio.

* Next issue begins a "Darker. Scarier. Deadlier." theme for Dark Horse's Buffy books, trying to return to the concept's horror roots. Sounds like a plan to me.

* Cliff Richards continues bringing strong artwork--all the cast are easily recognizable without simply being traced from publicity shots. I would have liked a little more creativity with some of the demons, especially Vraka and Hiram. Ky-Laag, on the other hand, although boring in personality, has an awesome appearance, as this full-page panel indicates.

Next Issue

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cyclops (Ltd. 2001) [Comics]

The 2001 Cyclops limited series provides a good demonstration of why the character remains popular enough to appear in most iterations of the X-Men but not popular enough to sustain an on-going solo series. Scott Summers is a natural team leader and tactitian, and his interaction with characters like Professor X, Emma Frost, Wolverine have provided some great subplots over the years. On the other hand, his one-dimensional power and seriousness means his solo adventures are on on the bland side.

Issue # 1 starts with Xavier telling Scott to take a few personal days from the X-Men. Scott heads out on his motorcycle, only to run into an ambush by long-time X-foes Black Tom Cassidy and Juggernaut. They've been hired by a mysterious villain named Ulysses. There's a great fight scene in this issue, showing off why Cyclops is a thinking man's warrior. Issue # 2 introduces Ulysses, who is capable of super-speed and invisibility. He blames Cyclops for the death of friends caught in the crossfire of an old mutant conflict. Scott escapes, but is trapped in a cave-in in the Savage Land. The third ish sees him aiding a group of blind tribespeople against a creature called the Visigon. #4 has Scott escaping and tracking down Ulysses and his allies in Paraguay. They wear high-tech battlesuits that reflect concussion blasts, but Scott of course figures out a way to defeat them anyway.

Overall, a perfectly average super-hero yarn.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Dead High Yearbook [Comics]

This was a fun over-sized graphic novel for horror/splatter fans. A clever framing sequence connects brief vignettes, written and drawn by a host of talent. Light in tone but heavy in gore, it was a quick, entertaining read.

Torchwood is Back!

This weekend sees the return of Torchwood to television (on Starz in the U.S. and Space in Canada). You know I love the show since it accounts for more posts on this site than anything else except for comics. The new season has an interesting premise (a day where no one in the world dies) and is a collaboration between British and American networks (a phenomenon I would like to see more of instead of the tendency towards complete remakes).

Word on the street is that Captain Jack will personally show his gratitude to everyone who watches . . .

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Wonder Man: My Fair Super Hero [Comics]

Wonder Man: My Fair Super Hero was a five-issue limited series with an interesting premise. After going on and on about how no one is irredeemable and everyone has a spark of good in them, Wonder Man is challenged to personally oversee the rehabilitation of a super-villain. He picks a young assassin named Ladykiller as his subject, and with the reluctant help of Ms. Marvel and Beast, sets about on a major reformation project. The series has a great, albeit underdeveloped framing sequence that takes place in some far-flung future where the immortal Wonder Man is the only living being left on Earth. The book is written by Peter David which pretty much guarantees good dialogue and some laugh-out-loud moments, but the artwork is ugly in places, especially when it comes to anatomy. I picked up the TPB for $ 5 and think that's about right in terms of value

Monday, July 4, 2011

Torchwood: "A Day in the Death" (S2, E8)

"Three days ago, I died and they think I'm fine. But they're wrong."

A Day in the Death

Season Two, Episode Eight ("Owen Harper must track down a reclusive millionaire and retrieve a mysterious alien artifact before it vaporises Britain.")


* The actress playing Maggie turned in a solid performance.

* Interesting conception of what it means to be undead: not rotting flesh or invulnerability, but an extremely fragile body that can't repair itself.


* Martha leaving. She had great chemistry with the cast and added a different sort of energy--why not make her permanent?



* Gwen and Martha commiserate over Owen.

* An extended, uncut scene of Owen's conversation with Parker.


* Discussion on Owen's so-called life.

* Filming Owen's jump into the bay, and filming underwater.

* Casting Richard Briers as Parker

Sunday, July 3, 2011

See Below

One of the weird things about Blogger is that if you start a post, save a draft, and then finish it days or weeks later, the post appears with the date it was started, and thus below other posts. This is a long-winded way to say I just posted a new Clone Wars Campaign recap, dated last Friday.