Tuesday, January 31, 2012

ICONS Villains: Blitzkrieg & Panzerfaust

Out of fascist Germany come the brother and sister team of Blitzkrieg and Panzerfaust. Nazi agents to sabotage the American war effort.

Harriet Hess


Prowess 4
Coordination 3
Strength 3
Intellect 4
Awareness 4
Willpower 3

Stamina 6

Athletics Expert

Super-speed 5 (prowess/coordination 5 for defend)
Fast Attack 6 (3 attacks)
Elemental Control 5 (gadget - electrical bombs)

Connections: Brother Hans Hess
Motivation: National Socialist, patriotic

Personal - distrusts men
Weakness - Always looking out for her brother

Orphaned at a young age during World War I, Harriet Hess and her brother Hans grew up on the streets of Berlin. Always looking out for each other they became the only family they ever known. With Hitler's rise to power, Harriet saw an opportunity to become a part of something and to lash out at those that caused her and her brother hardship. She proved to be a vicious follower of Der Fuehrer's draconian laws. When an opportunity arose to become part of a secret Nazi project to create Uberman based on the research of a Prof. Dickersham Harriet jumped at the chance. One of the few successful experiments in Nazi Germany to date, Harriet was given the powers of super-speed. She took her name, Blitzkrieg, from Germany's strategy of lightening war-fare.

Hans Hess


Prowess 5
Coordination 4
Strength 6
Intellect 2
Awareness 3
Willpower 6

Stamina 12

Wrestling Expert
Weapons (chest blaster)

Invulnerability 5 (armor)
Blast 6 (Chest Blaster - explosion)

Connections: Sister Harriet Hess

Personal - Protects sister at all costs
Weakness - Slow witted

Orphaned at a young age during World War I, Hans Hess and his sister Harriet grew up on the streets of Berlin. Always looking out for each other they became the only family they ever known. When his sister became an agent with the Nazi SS, Hans became her personal muscle. After Harriet became Blitzkreig, the Nazi scientists had a different plan for Hans, he was to become a living war-machine. Thus the armored Panzerfaust was born.

Always working together, Blitzkreig and Panzerfaust were sent to America under the direction of the mysterious Baron Zero to demoralize the Americans and to seek the secrets of other Meta-humans.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Icons Session Issue 1: Vanguard 13

As promised, the session rundown from our first Icons game.

After a brief introduction that went something like this:

On a brisk spring afternoon in downtown Shore City, the grim populous goes about their business with the ever presence of the war in Europe weighting heavy upon their minds!

In a lecture hall on Tuska Avenue we find Professor Millicent Barnes giving a lecture on her theories of artificial intelligence along with the mechanical marvel of wires, vacuum tubes and pneumatics Automaton!

Professor Barnes: “As you can see, this marvel of wires and vacuum tubes walks on his own, thinks for himself and reasons! Much more 'evolved' that the cold and calculating Mr. Roboto!”

In Stan's Red Cup Cafe, a small coffee shop down the street, we find Nate Brown sipping at a cup of joe and reading the Shore City Chronicle!

Waitress: "Would you like me to warm that up for ya?”

While at not far away at the WEGG Radio studios we find that ace reporter Penelope Kirt interviewing Lord Genovasis, formerly professor Dickersham, the father of Meta-humans!

Penelope Kirt: “Don't you think it's the obligation of meta-humans to support the war effort?”
We got into it with three giant robots attacking the Old Mercantile Exchange on Tuska Avenue (see The Shore City Chronicle for complete details of these metal monsters!).

No sooner had two of the three robots burst into the building in a blaze of gunfire when another metallic being walked out of the Hogarth Lecture Hall across the street and engaged the villainous robot.

The metal being known as Automaton saved a number of citizens from the gunfire of the devious machine before it was taken down by what appeared to be a janitor named Nate Brown, aka the Sponge!

It was then that the infamous Lord Genovasis appeared on the scene.

While preaching his usual rhetoric of meta-human supremacy, he was attacked from behind by the two remaining machines leaving the Mercantile Exchange.

The battle lasted mere moments but the two machines were destroyed and the three mystery men were victorious.

However, the battered and fearful citizens turned their rage upon Automaton and began to attack him but were soon dissuaded by the twenty foot presence of Lord Genovasis.

Before more chaos erupted a convoy of military trucks appeared. After a brief discussion with Col. Buckler and the the three mysterious 'heroes' who were joined by Professor Millicent Barnes, they boarded a military truck and drove off.

The disabled machines were placed onto trucks and hauled away.

Col. Buckler and the trio of heroes arrived at Lord Genovasis' lab. There Buckler revealed that President Roosevelt had started a secret project called Operation: Vanguard. In it, groups of super-heroes would be gathered together to help with the war effort. Roosevelt wanted Lord Genovasis, The Sponge, and Automaton to be the thirteenth Vanguard group to work for the Government. Thus Vanguard 13 was born.

For their first mission, they were to discover where these robots were coming from and put a stop to it.

Automaton had earlier examined one of the defeated robots and found what appeared to be a type of homing device. With that they were able to determine that the robots were being called from a rural area 200 miles south of Shore City.

Hopping on a transport plane, they headed for the area and parachuted down.

They discovered an abandoned farm. Exploring the silo they found it to be just a cover for some kind of metallic wall. Wanting to keep they element of surprise, they entered the barn. Exploring the barn they found that there were grooves in the floor. Automaton found some wires and tried to hot wire the mechanism to open the trap door but was only somewhat successful. Moments later, though, the floor opened up. Nate Brown , aka, the Sponge, leaped away in time to save himself from falling in, Automaton grabbed hold of the edge while Lord G. fell through the opening. He quickly grew to his 20' height to cushion his fall. He helped the other two down into the darkness.

Once down, a mysterious voice crackled over a loudspeaker: “Typical witless Americans. You are no match for Der Fuher's war machines and no match for me, Baron Zero! Now face your end!” And with that, six panels opened on either side of the heroes and out charged Nazi Guard-bots firing machine-guns. The Heroes made quick work of these machines but they were soon joined by a speeding blur assaulting the heroes, Blitzkrieg, and her armored brother Panzerfaust!

The Sponge absorbed Blitzkrieg's speed abilities and soon she was unconsciousness. Her brother Panzerfaust shouted her name and ran to her aid firing his chest blaster at the group. Sponge, taking a gun from Lord G. and using his new found speed to fire round after round at the armored foe, eventually striking him in his only weak spot, his face!

The the two Villains defeated, they heard a rumbling sound as the mysterious Baron Zero took off in a Nazi rocket hidden in the silo.

Thus ended the first adventure of Vanguard 13!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Gameplay Thoughts: ICONS

So last night we had our first session playing ICONS the rules lite super hero rpg.

Every first session of a new rpg is always a little bumpy but we got through it mostly unscathed. Here's my initial thoughts on how the game played through.

The story portion of it went well as did most of the mechanics. We seemed to get a bit stuck on the slams and stuns but it did appear we did it correctly for the most part. The tests against slams and stuns, though simple, slowed us down and took us out of the combat. Though combat was easy it took a bit to get things flowing.

Having the GM not rolling any dice is a bit odd and took a while to get use to. The thing that I like about it is that the GM can just sit back and enjoy manipulating the game and not have to mess with any dice. As GM I did roll for NPC stuns and slams but I think I may bounce that back towards the players. Dunno yet.

The great thing about the game is it's open-ended rules. There's a lot of space for interpretation which is both a good and a bad thing. Taking the rules as is, some powers are extremely powerful - at the moment it seems too powerful while some weren't powerful enough. That caused some conversation at the table that took us out of the game. I guess if you're using ICONS as a one-shot that might not be such a big deal you just kind of play though it and have a good time, but for something more substantial like a campaign, those issues become much more important.

One power that caused us all kind of trouble was Power Theft which turned out to be quite powerful; stealing opponents powers almost at will. The player took the bonus of being able to siphon powers from a distance without having to touch them. Powers stolen are retained for 10 times the level of power in pages (rounds). So Power Theft with a power level of 6 can hold a power for 60 pages (round). Since combat lasts only about 3 to 10 pages, an opponent can be rendered helpless for the combat or even game session. There's no limit, that I can find, on the number of powers that one can steal. Also no mention on which power is siphoned if the opponent has multiple powers. When running a villain, you don't really want to advertise what powers he might have, that should be left up for the players to discover. That can be fixed with a random dice roll.

Also, my issue as a GM was I felt that Power Theft would only work against natural powers and not gadgets or mechanical powers as these were machines mimicking a power and no real power energy would be available. That was a point of debate especially since a good portion of the villains were machines. And any debate at the table takes away from game play.

Other powers that have come up that the rules leave vague or seem to be too weak or too strong are Invisibility and Regeneration. I'll touch on those a bit later.

Also, during gameplay, powers had to be looked up frequently. The way the book is laid-out makes reference a bit of a hassle. I made a number of cheat sheets and downloaded others but the looking up powers were a bit of an issue. It would be nice if they had a simplified version of the powers with quick reference stat blocks that you can reference at a glance, like monster manual stat blocks. I'll have to look at the powers and see what can be worked up.

Beyond those issues, the action and story moved forward and the mechanics did become easier to work with. It is rules lite and fast paced and I think it's perfect for our rotational GM campaign as a game session can be pretty easy to run. I ran my session last night and Corey is up next. We'll see how the game irons out as we progress through the circle. Overall the feelings were pretty positive.

I'll be posting a session summary soon as well as stat blocks of the villains.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Game Prep: ICONS

A few days closer to the start of our ICONS campaign and I'm really looking forward to it. I've brushed up on rules once again and I think we're ready to go on Monday.

Two of the players have rolled up some ICONS heroes, Automaton, the Mechanical Marvel! A wonder of wires, vacuum tubes, and pneumatics! and Lord Genovasis the father of Meta-humans! The character creation process is great in ICONS and these first two PCs really show that off. We should have a pretty full house on Monday with at least three more PCs and we'll start with chargen for the rest of the players.

The general setting for the beginning of this campaign takes place in Shore City in 1942. Shore City is the campaign city created by John Stater found within his Mystery Men! rules. He did a great job setting up that sandbox, fleshing it out with all manner of locations, plot hooks and characters.
To go along with the campaign I created The Shore City Chronicle, a newspaper formatted blog for the rotating GMs to add plot hooks, red herrings, and general campaign color. You can check it out here.

There's an audio file I made to add atmosphere and kick off the campaign as well. You'll find it in one of the columns of the newspaper or at the bottom of this post.

I'll have more next week about our session, characters, villains and thoughts about the play of the game.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

And Now A Word From Captain America About SOPA

And now a Public Service Announcement from our Star Spangled Avenger.

Click on me for in yo'face Cap!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

ICONS Campaign Preparations

Next week we will have our first ICONS session. Since I will be running the first session, I will be spending this week in final preparation, polishing up my knowledge of the rules, settings, creating some 'props' etc. in the hopes of having everything run smoothly.

The quick summary of what this campaign is about:
  • The goal is to create an entire campaign universe through game-play with everyone's input.
  • The campaign will start in 1941, the Golden Age of comics, pass through the Silver Age (60's) and then into the bronze age (70's and 80's) and finally end in the modern era.
  • This campaign will rotate GMs every session with each GM running one session from each era of comics. When all GMs have run their session within the first era, called a sessions round, we then move to the next era.
  • For the most part, sessions will be one-offs but if a session is one that needs to be continued the next GM will take the reigns of the story for the next session. This should be a good exercise in keeping GMs loose with a play-it-by-ear approach.
  • The GM order is determined randomly at the end of every session.
  • Players are not obligated to GM if they do not desire.
  • All GMs will be able to use NPCs and situations that have occurred in all previous sessions.
  • GMs have free reign over what their session is about though it must begin by being rooted in the era of the session round.

ICONS seems to be a fairly easy game to run and is pretty rule's lite system. The story progress and game events relies just as much on the players as the GM so there should be a good community aspect at the game table. I'm thinking that this would make GMing the sessions easy for those out of practice or looking to get their feet wet.

I'm hoping that the rules carry themselves well among our seasoned players. I'm thinking it will. After all, any RPG is more than just rules, it's what you as players make it.

I'll be off and on this week posting my game prep.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Old Marvel Universe and the Marvel Movies

With our upcoming ICONS campaign and with the upcoming Avengers movie release later this summer I've been thinking a a lot about how the movies relate to the Marvel Universe that I grew up with.

Regardless of some of the movie elements tying in more with the Marvel Ultimates line, I think that the movies, especially in a particular order, pretty well mimic the thrill of the original Marvel Universe of the Silver Age.

So how would one watch these movies best to recreate the initial excitement of the characters created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and other silver age creators? We'll this is what I've put together:

Captain America: The First Avenger
The obvious beginning; Jack Kirby's and Joe Shuster's 1941 star-spangled creation put the Timely/Atlas/Marvel comics on the map. A well done film which stands as a strong foundation to the marvel movie universe and introduces the super-serum which appears again in The Incredible Hulk. I suggest skipping the post credit sequence, just end it with Cap 'disappearing'.

X-Men: First Class
Though the X-Men comics began in 1964, the same month that the Avengers debuted, I felt that because a portion of this begins during WWII and concludes in the early 60's, this is the obvious second film in the series. The X-Men were always a bit off on their own so this just reinforces that aspect of the movie universe. Another good flick and sets the foundations for the Mutant heroes.

Fantastic Four
Yes. The first FF movie. After Cap and the 'death' of the super-hero during the 1950's (thanks to Prof. Wertheim) superheroes didn't make a comeback until the early 1960's. DC had the Justice League and Marvel came out with the Fantastic Four. As a movie, it has it's problems but I still liked the first one enough. We'll get to the second one in a bit.

The second super-hero book marvel put out was Hulk, so the Ang Lee movie places here. I still like this movie especially since it has the Hulk jumping around the desert in a purple spedo.

The Hulk comics only lasted 6 issues but it's canceling made way for the coming of Spider-man in Amazing Fantasy #15. Though the Spider-man series wouldn't actually begin until a few months later, Sam Raimi's first Spider-man movie shows up here.

Now, Thor actually made his debut the same month that Spider-man did but I'm going to hold off on Thor a bit until we enter the more cosmic era of the Marvel Universe timeline.

Iron Man
So now we come to the next hero created, Iron Man. With Robert Downey's portrait of Tony Stark and the Golden Avenger (complete with clunky original Iron Man armor) is a perfect fit for this movie series. SHIELD begins to make it's film universe appearance here.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
We begin now with the cosmic era of the Marvel Universe with the introduction of Galactus and the Silver Surfer in this, yes, sub-par flick. Sure it's a bit of a let down, what with Mr. Fantastic doing his fantasti-dance and all, but they did get the Surfer's look right, though Galactus was a huge disappointment. I swear, if you look closely at that cloud at the end you can just barely make out the head of the Big G - barely. But it's included here for continuity sake.

Okay, in full cosmic mode. Though Thor was getting cosmic a bit before the FF introduced the Silver Surfer and Galactus with the late 1965 appearance of the Destroyer and the full grandeur of Asgard I think it actually fits better after FF2. Again, SHIELD is present with hints towards the Avengers.

Spider-man 2
With the 'death' of the Green Goblin in mid-1966, Doc Ock became Spidey's main protagonist. While the rest of the Marvel Universe went cosmic, Stan Lee kept Peter Parker and Spider-man grounded in the dramas of day to day real-life. Thus Raimi's second flick places here.

The Incredible Hulk
With Ed Norton's portrail of the troubled Bruce Banner, the introduction of the Abomination and the birth of the Leader I'll place The Incredible Hulk here. An appearance by Tony Stark (and SHIELD) unifies the Universe and begins the build up to the Avengers.

Iron Man 2
We start to break a way from the early 60's chronology a bit by this point as a drunken Tony Stark doesn't really appear until the late 70's (or 80's?). But you do have Whiplash, a classic late 60's Iron Man villain and Titanium man. SHIELD's presence along with the Black Widow tie up things nicely for the debut of the Avengers.

X-Men 1
Since the X-men and the Avengers comic series both began in September 1963, I'm placing the first X-Men movie here (for now) though I think after the release of the Avengers movie I would place X-Men after it. But until that happens I'm happy with it here.

The Avengers
The release date of May 2012 should give you plenty of time to view these Marvel movies in this order to 'relive' so to speak, the thrill of the birth of a comic universe that changed comics.

From here I would place
X-Men 2
Spider-man 3 (if you can tolerate another viewing of it)
Ghost Rider
X-men 3

Monday, January 9, 2012

D&D Evolutions

At last, the 5th edition displacer beast is outta the bag. By these initial accounts, WOTC is foregoing designing a FRPG by committee and instead going with designing a FRPG by community.

Now, one might initially feel that by going with an 'open forum' style of design you might get the best of the best ideas, the creme de la creme. Well, I'm more of the belief of "too many cooks..."

Lets take a walk down the evolution of Dungeons & Dragons with the 1st level Wizard:

Creators: Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson
1st level wizard was lucky to survive leaving the tavern. Hell, most characters were lucky to survive leaving the tavern.

1st ed D&D
Mostly Gygax (one man vision)
Wizards still started out quite weak but, if surviving initial adventures, became quite powerful. Big If. What?
I can only cast one spell!?!

2nd ed D&D
Zeb Cook
1st level wizards were still pretty wimpy, no doubt influenced by the earlier editions, but had much room to grow. Looks cool but still only 4 hp.

3rd and 3.5 ed.
WOTC (Okay, I don't know who really put this one together but it's not just a single vision).
The 1st level wizard begins to break away from the wizard tradition into something more super-heroic and super-profitable for WOTC.

4th ed D&D
Designed by focus groups and in committee meetings and directed by suits who know nothing about gamers, games or gaming but only how to produce the maximum profit.
Enter the indestructible Super-wizard.
"I can fuck you up with Magic Missile every round, sucka!"

5th ed D&D
Designed by a fickle community

Or in other words...

Being a graphic designer, there are many times when I have to please a committee and I can tell you from experience that you end up with a product and I would be ashamed to put in my portfolio. Sure, everyone is somewhat happy and was able to put in their two cents worth of their inflated ego onto paper or on the computer screen but they ended up with crap.

So, now WOTC is going to pass the buck and let the game be designed by a bunch of fickle gamers. WOTC can say don't bitch at us, we gave the community exactly what they wanted. Nice to show some real cajones.

So how much coin do you want to bet that 5th ed D&D will be a collectible card based board game?

But I don't really care one way or the other as I haven't bought any of their products.

Oh well, on to games that are actually fun created by people who love them.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Dungeon Art: Mountain Hag

Here's an illustration for the Mountain Hag soon to appear in a revised Monster book for Swords & Wizardry.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy New Year From The Warlock

Greetings my followers! It has been many cycles since I have spoken as I have been traveling the Outer Rings of Alpha Space and return with tidings of 2012!

I feel that for me, 2012 is going to be a super year and by super I mean in the heroic sense! It seems that the ICONS campaign (which I'm calling Universe) will be moving forward with rotating GMs and all. Sessions beginning in 1942 and working their way up to the present day, whatever that may look like. I'm looking forward to being a GM as well as a player.

Great movies coming out this year including Ridley Scott's Prometheus, The Hobbit (part the first), and the highly anticipated Avengers! Don't forget John Carter too (I wish I can get past that flippin' Disney logo). Thankfully there won't be any new cinematic Conan debacle this year!

Our Swords & Wizardry campaign is still moving forward, clocking in at over two and half years and over 40 sessions now. I wonder if my players will finally come face to face with Zenopus? We'll see, but knowing this lot, they may end up on the other side of the universe before that happens!

So, 2012 looks to be shaping up nicely! Remember, however, there's less then a year until the Eater of Worlds arrives to really f-things up! So until then, Merry New Year and Game On!