Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Buffy Comic Project: "The Death of Buffy, Part 1"

Buffy the Vampire Slayer # 43

(Dark Horse, Volume 1, 1998-2003)

Creators:  Tom Fassbender & Jim Pascoe (story); Cliff Richards (pencils); Joe Pimenel & Will Conrad (inks)

Setting:  After Season Five

T.V. Character Appearances:  The First Slayer; Buffy (flashback only); Dawn; Willow, Tara, Spike, Giles, Xander, Anya

Major Original Characters:  Mr. Richardson (school principal); Coma (seller of mystical items)

Summary:  After Buffy's death, Spike drinks alone and mourns her loss.  He locks the broken pieces of the Buffy Bot in a chest.  Elsewhere, at a nearby school, Dawn gets into a fist-fight with another girl in the hallway because the girl called her "Gravestone Girl".  Dawn is taken to the principal's office for solving her problems through violence.  That evening, Willow, Tara, Xander, and Anya are returning from a double-date when they're attacked by a pair of vampires.  The vampires are defeated after a difficult struggle.  The next morning, Willow and Tara, who are staying at Buffy's house, receive a phone call from Principal Richardson.  They've been pretending that Buffy is still alive so that Dawn is not taken away, but are quite upset when they hear that Dawn was in a fight.  Principal Richardson insists that Buffy meets with him, but the women come up with an alternative: they send Giles instead.  Giles is able to persuade Richardson that Dawn will stay out of trouble, but the other Scoobies are torn over how to take care of Dawn now that Buffy is dead.
On a hillside overlooking Sunnydale, a trio of older gentleman vow that on this return to the town, they will not leave without "the scrolls."  Later, they find the mysterious bandaged woman known as Coma in the sewers underneath the town.  They demand the scroll, and when she resists, they kill her bodyguard and take the scroll.  Coma vows revenge.  Meanwhile, a frustrated, angry, and grieving Xander kicks down the door to Spike's crypt, planning on staking him through the heart.

Review:  It was a great idea for a storyline to fill in the gap between Seasons Five and Six, and the creative team did a solid job with it this issue.  One can definitely imagine Dawn getting in trouble at school and the rest of the Scoobies trying to figure out how to take care of her while also dealing with their own grief.  Too early to tell about the plot development involving the mysterious scroll, so hopefully it'll be something good; this creative team has done an excellent job on characterisation, but often come up with rather dull plots.


* The issue opens with a flashback of Slayers throughout history; I recognize the First Slayer, what I think is Yuki Makimura from issues # 35-38, and the Chinese Slayer killed by Spike during the Boxer Rebellion.  There's a few others that I think probably come from the Tales of the Slayers short stories or comics, but I don't have time to look them up unfortunately.  One is a Slayer in what looks like French Revolution times, one is dressed as knight during the crusades, and one is a blonde woman killing a Nazi vampire.

* Dawn really picked up some combat skills during her time watching Buffy.  She beats the crap out of the girl who was taunting her.  I'm not exactly sure why the girl is taunting her with "Gravestone Girl", since Buffy's death has been kept a secret.  Have the other kids seen Dawn hanging out at the cemetery?

* The letters' page starts with a scathing but (I think) quite well-argued letter about the poor quality of some past issues (# 39 specifically).  On the other hand, the other letter writers seemed to think # 39 was super-keen, so who knows . . .

* Fantastic artwork on this issue's art cover.  The series finally got away from the heavily cartoony/manga style that I don't think worked well.

Next Issue

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Fun Factoids About Jhaeman's Detritus

The following information comes from Blogger and is all true, even though I have no explanation for most of it.

*  This audience for this blog is overwhelmingly German.  In terms of all-time page hits, surfers in Germany were # 1, by a massive 4-1 margin over the next closest country (the United States).  Indeed, the audience from Germany alone is more than the next nine countries combined on the list.  I have absolutely no idea why.

*  In the top 5 list of keywords that brought people here, all are variations of the blog's or my own name except for one:  "truth or dare".  Why would people searching "truth or dare" come here?  This one I actually do have an answer for: my review of Buffy the Vampire Slayer # 6 which includes the phrase "spooky truth or dare" next to a pic from the comic of Buffy and friends having a sleepover and playing the game.  Other popular reasons people come here are "buffy comics" (makes sense), "call of cthulhu character sheet" (which I've never placed on this blog), and "avengers unplugged" (I did write a capsule review of this some years back . . .).

*  The most popular all-time post is the Buffy one mentioned above; that's followed by another Buffy comic review (# 5), which I speculate is popular because it contains a picture of Buffy & Willow embracing along with a joke line "The scene that launched a thousand Buffy/Willow slash stories".  In short, there are a lot of people who come here looking for something quite particular and end up disappointed!  The third most popular post is a short story from the Clone Wars Campaign, A Brief Stint in the Great Beyond; it's a really good story (if I dare say so myself), but I have no idea why it's so popular compared to all of the others I've placed on the blog.  Spot # 4 is filled by my walkthrough of the first mission in the Torchwood online game, and the fifth by a discussion of the 1993 Hawkeye limited series.

* On a monthly basis, this blog averages between 1500 and 2500 hits.  Except for July 2013, when it had over 55,000!  Yet, not a single one of my ten most popular posts were placed online in or near this month.

* There are 1195 posts on this blog, and 349 non-spam comments.  Hey, a .292 batting average is okay for Major League Baseball . . .

* Finally, an update on whether I am still The World's Most Famous Jeremy Patrick:  no.  According to Google, I've fallen to # 2 behind someone who has a Facebook account.  Damn you Mark Zuckerberg!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Realms Toowoomba Session # 44 [RPG]

[19 Kythorn 1372 continued]

In the library of the Oracle's Circle, Mellia's research into magickal means of finding the Crown of Horns is largely unsuccessful; she finds references to the dangerous Contact Other Planes spell she already knew about, and reference to a powerful spell to discern the location of objects that requires one to have had the object in one's possession. In the evening, after dinner, she becomes woozy and starts to faint. Fortunately, Fargrim catches her. Mellia explains that she over-exerted herself teleporting the group such a great distance, and that she needs to be more cautious in the future.

That night, while sleeping, Fargrim has visions of Nesme besieged by legions of undead creatures led by a dark knight mounted on a flame-breathing horse. In the vision, walls of ice so high they almost block out the sun surround the city, keeping the invaders at bay.

[20 Kythorn 1372 (Summer Solstice)]

In Mirabar, Dolcetto explores the city. She's generally disappointed by the lack of scholarly resources available. She does find a book stall and picks up a small tome on geology before returning to her room to finish enchanting Fargrim's greataxe. When it's done, she heads to the north gate to await the promised arrival of her new travelling companions. Several heavily-laden carts of ore arrive from the city's mines, but there is no sign of the adventurers. Dolcetto returns to her inn, contemplating whether she should start looking for another group.

Near the Rauvin, Tunak spends another uneventful day at the campsite. Bettina is obviously growing impatient with the fact that, after disappearing suddenly, the others have still not returned (despite having left a note saying they would be back days ago).

At the Oracle's Circle, Mellia tells her companions that her research has been fruitless. In the hallway, she encounters Procul, and the sneering student threatens to summon the school's headmaster. Mellia decides to hurry her friends outside so she can cast the spell to teleport them back west. As she begins intoning the arcane syllables of the spell, however, a good-looking man in his late 30s, wearing wizard's robes, emerges from the forest. He stops up short when he sees Mellia, and calls her name. Flustered, Mellia tries to decide whether to continue or abort the spell; resolving to continue, she then can't decide whether the destination should be Mirabar or Tunak's campsite.

The indecision causes the spell to fail, and Mellia is forced to explain her presence at the tower to Gideon Stormcrowe, Headmaster of the Oracle's Circle. Mellia reluctantly introduces Markus, Cain, and Fargrim. She says they're friends she made in the course of the fieldwork for her research project. She's evasive when asked about her progress on the project, why she's returned to the tower, or how long she's planning on staying. Gideon is somewhat perturbed by Mellia's attitude, but secures a promise to have dinner together that evening to discuss matters further.

The four adventurers decide to walk into the forest so that they can converse in private. Mellia apologizes for her failed attempt to teleport them away, but promises to try again the next morning. Fargrim tells the others about his vision of what was happening in Nesme. The group feel that, once again, they are being scryed upon. Seconds later, the Red Wizard named Felix Ruul emerges from a magical portal, levitating almost twenty feet in the air. He instantly hurls a massive ball of flame at the group, snarling that Cain has brought this upon himself. He denounces the cleric's failure to travel to Nesme as ordered, saying the result has been the ascension of the Aurilite clergy into positions of leadership in the city. He states that he volunteered to bring Cain back to the Flaming Brazier in Bezantur for discipline and punishment, but that he hopes Cain will resist.

Two gargoyles perched on the roof of the Oracle's Circle immediately swoop down on Ruul, but their claws only scrape pieces of stone from the wizard's body, while an arrow shot by Markus shatters against an invisible barrier. Ruul starts his counter-attack, but Cain surprises him by agreeing to go with him. "It's the only way," he explains to the others. The other adventurers don't seem convinced, but do not actively try to persuade Cain otherwise. A disappointed Ruul flies down to where Cain is and teleports him away.

Afterwards, Mellia voices her frustration over losing Cain, saying that she blames herself for distracting him from his task. Fargrim is clearly angry as well, shattering furniture in the tower's library. But Markus seems to be the most dramatically affected, as he's taking to calling a bucket with a crude face carved into it "Cain." The three adventurers vow that they'll find a way to get Cain back.

While the two males travel into the forest to visit an old friend of Mellia's for a healing salve, Mellia has her promised dinner with Gideon. She tells him that Allia is staying with others at the moment, and asks for his help in retrieving Cain. He says that Thay is an incredibly dangerous, distant place, and that he could not in good conscience send one of his students there. He tries to contact Cain with a Sending spell, but it fails due to his lack of familiarity with the cleric. Mellia remains determined to rescue Cain, and decides that she may need an expert on religion to aid her interaction with the Kossuthian temple hierarchy: Dolcetto.

[21 Kythorn 1372]

In Mirabar, Dolcetto spends the day learning a new flame spell and posts a notice seeking other bands interested in finding information about Myrkul and the Crown of Horns. Before long, however, she's visited by Mellia, Fargrim, and Markus, as the adventurers teleported to the glade south of Mirabar earlier in the day. Dolcetto hands a pleased Fargrim the enchanted greataxe that continually glows and has dwarven runes engraved on it. Mellia tells Dolcetto about their desire to retrieve Cain. Dolcetto says she has heard of the Flaming Brazier, but that it is such a distance away that travelling there would take quite some time. Dolcetto says the primary centers for worship of Kossuth in Faerun are in Thay and Mulhorand, but she has heard of a small temple in Mulmaster. The group decide their best bet is to teleport to Tunak's campsite, and from there to travel overland to Silverymoon. In the Gem of the North, hopefully, they will find either a powerful spellcaster or a magical portal that will take them to Thay.
Director's Commentary (August 19, 2016)

Two big things this session!

Sorry Gideon, wizard chicks only like bad boys.
First, the first "on-stage" appearance of Gideon, who was Mellia's mentor at the Oracle's Circle (her divination magic school).  The person who ran Mellia was very big into romance in RPGs, especially after the success of that major plot element in my previous Clone Wars campaign.  There was a lot of pressure on me when it came to portraying Gideon, as Mellia's player had established a lot of backstory involving Mellia and Gideon that could blossom into an in-game romance.  On this score, I (unintentionally) disappointed completely by making Gideon a "nice guy."  That immediately got him "friend-zoned" as we'll see in subsequent sessions.  I actually liked my three-dimensional portrayal of the character and thought I RPd him in an interesting way, but everyone else in the group just thought of him as a hapless loser.

Second, Felix Ruul teleports Cain away!  Felix, a Red Wizard, was an original part of Cain's backstory as a major rival.  Cain had been told a long time ago (in-game) that his superiors wanted him to oust the budding Aurilite (winter goddess) presence in Nesme, but he never took any real steps to do so.  So a confrontation was inevitable, and I thought I'd have a big fight for the session.  Instead, I was quite surprised when Cain volunteered to go along with Felix.  This meant that Cain's player had to introduce a new PC (as Cain would be off-stage for months of time in real life).  Moreso, it introduced a major new detour to the campaign, as Mellia launched a lengthy crusade to get Cain back.  There'll be a lot more on that in future commentaries.

Next Recap

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Wrath of Ashardalon Adventure # 5: The Closed Doors

It's been several months, but The Wife and I finally got a chance to play Wrath of Ashardalon again.  In "The Closed Doors", the heroes unwisely decide to investigate a section of the tunnels below Firestorm Peak that are mysteriously closed off.  The adventure makes use of the door tokens, which frankly are not particularly interesting.  Generally speaking, the heroes wander around until they reveal the Horrid Chamber Entrance tile, at which time they place a beholder (Gauth) and several additional monsters in the Horrid Chamber tiles.  The heroes win if they defeat Gauth and those new monsters.

The Wife and I had a strange experience with this adventure.  The first two times we tried it, we got massacred, and lost before we even unveiled the Horrid Chamber.  Those games were long and featured our heroes getting worn down by enemies and traps with seemingly little to be done about it.  We decided to tinker with our strategy just a little in the third game by using four heroes instead of five (by ditching the thief), and, inexplicably, cruised to an easy victory.  Not only did we reveal the Horrid Chamber while our heroes were all still in good shape, we defeated Gauth and the new monsters without even using a single Healing Surge.  I can't imagine using four heroes instead of five as having made such a big difference, as the game is designed to balance itself for the number of heroes used.  All I can point to for the easy win after the two crushing defeats is, perhaps, pure luck; we drew a lot of tiles with white triangles (no encounters), got some very good treasures, and were able to keep the monsters from ganging up on any one hero.

The next adventure looks quite fun, as it's a "campaign" of three mini-adventures strung together . . .

Next Adventure

Vegan Police: March 2014

A month that started out okay, and then went downhill fast.  The Subway cookies will no longer be a problem, as Subway ended that deal.  The cheese pizza is a tough one to deal with because the pizza places in Toowoomba don't have pasta, and their cheese-less pizza is quite crappy; but the household loves pizza, and every other fast-food option is way too expensive.

Mar. 7:  Spinach & Feta Triangle

Mar. 9:  Garlic Aioli sauce

Mar. 11: Cheese Pizza

Various:  About a bazillion homemade sugar cookies

Various:  Subway cookies--cursed cheap meal deal!

Mar. 16: Cheese Pizza

March 19-20:  Chocolate, Mac & Cheese

Mar. 22:  Puddin, Subway cookie

Mar. 23:  Cheese pizza

Mar. 25:  Peppermint patties

Mar. 27: Cheese Pizza

Mar. 29:  Cheese Pizza