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16  Community / Off-Topic / Re: Avengers 2: Age of Ultron (Spoilers!) on: May 01, 2015, 09:32:21 PM
I didn't think I'd have to say this, but I disagree with the above assessment of the movie.

That's allowed. In fact, its encouraged Smiley.

It was phenomenal start to finish.

So you don't find Thor's jump cut from shorting out in the waters of vision to leaping onto the cradle with the intent of finishing Stark's attempt to download Jarvis into the super body just a little jarring?

Do you feel like events at the beached wreck were well in hand/understood when the scene cut to downtown?

The chitaurri battle in Avengers was actually a little long for me, but at least it had clear phases, with the fight evolving form a bunch of individual bouts to a cascade of mini team-ups. Also, the chitaurii forces had some variety from the boney leviathans to sky chariots to ground pounders. This was just the same bots over and over and over (and over...). With lots of 'Oh my goodness we'll all have to die to stop this thing' that just didn't ring true.

I also have to say (with geeky amusement) Nick Fury is mounting a serious campaign to seize the title "biggest douche-bag in the Marvel Universe" from the current long-time champion Reed Richards. I'll just whistle up a helicarrier and crew and lifeboat pilots after handing Agent Coulson the keys to the kingdom... a kingdom so destitute he nearly gets his cadre killed trying to steal one measly quin-jet. Roll Eyes
17  Community / Off-Topic / Avengers 2: Age of Ultron (Spoilers!) on: May 01, 2015, 02:21:38 AM
So, just got back.

I... Ok, weirdly, I'm a bit disappointed.


I really enjoyed Hawkeye stealing the show like three-and-half-times after the pasting he took in the first one, but I just can't shake the nagging sensation there's a lot laying on the cutting room floor somewhere. There's a lot of broken beats. After Ultron flips out over inadvertently mimicking Tony's speech mannerisms, I feel like there was supposed to happen again at some point and it didn't. There were beats that appeared once, appeared again, and yet really needed a third round... and I'm sure they filmed it (or at least storyboarded it) and it got cut, throwing off the cadence in spots throughout.

Its also got a strong case of middle-book-itis from the zinger that's pretty much "hey, no matter how awesome that was, what's coming next is more awesome" to grinding through 2.5 hours of Captain America being almost invisible he's so one-dimensionally white bread played against Tony's unrelenting anti-team megolamania. You're setting up Civil War, I get it. but it's forced in a big way. The characters didn't reach that point through a process or journey. They teleported directly to it about 12 minutes in.

I thought the action also got really kinda dull and repetitive after the Hulk fight. Robots. Endless, flavorless, crust-free robots the whole team chews up and spits out (literally in the Hulk's case). Did you notice that while they are bristling with weapons the only kill shot in the whole movie is after Ultron steals the Avenger's minigun? Emasculate your world-striding villain much? He started off so strong with a bit of commentary on the true narrative weakness of comics - the eternal march to status quo. Then we had some rejection of Tony as Father-figure and that was fun too. And even at the end there was some bizzare familiarity with Ultron trying to warn Wanda to get off the rock. But the middle? "Grr. Evil AI. Grr!" He needed just a little more screen time to make his plan a bit more creepily logical. That "A Modest Proposal" level of dispassionate reasoning. Spader was genius when he was allowed to be genius, but with so many cast members, his windows were limited.

And the kill shot... Unfortunately we did see it coming despite the snappy death one-liner to the contrary. It felt over telegraphed and frankly about equal parts "Oh, It's Joss Whedon... we gotta kill somebody" and corporate flipping the bird at the other studio that has Quicksilver rights.

I also felt unnecessarily left out of the evil scheme. Not monologuing was cool in the moment, but there were enough scenes where we see the world from Ultron's side of events that 1-2 more glimpses could have made me feel rising tension instead of "oh, of course he's levitating a rock. I mean, why wouldn't he? ...No, really, WTF?" I also really felt left out of Thor's vision quest. More broken beats between splashing in the kiddie pool of fate and "now I'm on board with the android plan, so much I inexplicably jumpstart the thing with Asgardian lightning." More 'huh?' from this seat in the audience.

I also felt like Strucker's base was used so well at the outset (location shooting for the win) and then the endless recurring tunnels under it were so lacking in that quality of texture and character the beginning delivered.

I sorta liked the sidekick brigade during the evac - nice to get some moments with the second string, but that being lead up to the last 15 seconds of the movie... meh.

There was lots of cool stuff on display, but I can't help but wonder if its not going to come together for another 6 months after waiting for the deleted scenes. I'm confident there isn't any more bot-bashing that was cut ('cause they certainly wallowed in that) so maybe we'll get some more of the plot that went MIA.

It's lavish. Some great dialogue. I love globe-trotting and it delivered on that. Viewed objectively I give it a high 8.

But for a Marvel Studio flick its a 7. They've done better. And undoubtedly will again.
18  Products / Fantasy Craft / Re: First time GMing. Any advice? on: April 29, 2015, 09:19:47 AM
Functional near miss:
  Pick a character that is not a talker or stealth/escape artist. Have that character abruptly framed and surrounded by guards. A LOT of guards if they are a combatant. It happens virtually without warning and while they are isolated so it's obvious they are screwed. Mysterious benefactor steps in, appeases the guards with a display of position or just a profoundly huge bribe. Benefactor has a proposition to offer, and clearly has the influence or wealth to make listening worthwhile even if the whole thing stinks enough to make simple gratitude a little iffy.

Ooo, I know were I that player I would get really suspicious.  I would wonder if the "Benefactor" set up the situation in the first place.  Time to organize the party into two groups, one to investigate this guy, and another to look into his offer.

Yeah, lots of potential there depending how the players go with it.  The investigations could turn up all kinds of fun and intrigue.  And there could be all kinds of interesting twists.  I like it.

At my table the odds would be split just about evenly between 3 possibilities:

1. They set you up to put leverage on you. No surprises there.
2. They are rivals with the people who actually set you up and they want to simultaneously screw over the other side and get you to do something that helps them - a.k.a they are friendly but they have ulterior motives that are not in conflict with the players.
3. Players are heroes. Somewhere along the way they did somebody a solid they never gave any further thought to. Everybody has friends and the word worked it's way up the web until what seems like a total stranger comes along and gets you out of the poo because you don't suck. The pitch could be pure altruism, enlightened self interest or a passing fancy, but there is zero deliberate malice at work.

If you've watched the movie Training Day...
(click to show/hide)
19  Community / Off-Topic / Re: Video game news and reaction on: April 29, 2015, 09:01:09 AM
My data is out of date Grin. They're up to 80 million dollars and had more than $500,000 in a single day earlier this week. (new line of cargo haulers went on sale that day I think)
20  Products / Fantasy Craft / Re: First time GMing. Any advice? on: April 29, 2015, 03:36:07 AM
  I thought I'd expand on using near misses. As an example using near misses to set players on the path of an adventure.

Functional near miss:
  Pick a character that is not a talker or stealth/escape artist. Have that character abruptly framed and surrounded by guards. A LOT of guards if they are a combatant. It happens virtually without warning and while they are isolated so it's obvious they are screwed. Mysterious benefactor steps in, appeases the guards with a display of position or just a profoundly huge bribe. Benefactor has a proposition to offer, and clearly has the influence or wealth to make listening worthwhile even if the whole thing stinks enough to make simple gratitude a little iffy.

Awesome near miss:
  As above but the benefactor is no mystery - its one of the player's own root characters. A mentor or family member steps in. Because everyone likes having friends. The same quest gets pitched, but now instead of it being a commission, its an opportunity being shared by someone who genuinely has your best interests at heart.

More awesome near miss:
  As above but the benefactor is one of the other player's root characters. They know who the character is and felt they had to help because you run with their PC buddy. No expectation of reward and no pitch. Simple graciousness because the character glows with the reflected cool of the other PC. You pitch the quest to the benefactor's player and this player is inclined to go along because he kinda owes the other player.

  But in every case there's that leery moment of "oh shit" when 40 crossbows are trained on you by people who probably think you should die, even if you didn't really do it.
21  Community / Off-Topic / Re: Video game news and reaction on: April 28, 2015, 11:03:12 PM
By way of contrast its fun watching Star Citizen vacuum up 70+ million dollars direct to the studio -- the largest gaming crowd funding total ever -- for a game that will be strictly PC.

(and that 70 million does 6-10 times as much work compared to the same money going thorough retailers and then to a publisher before being doled out to the studio)
22  Products / Fantasy Craft / Re: First time GMing. Any advice? on: April 28, 2015, 10:36:58 PM
I somehow picture Morgenstern with a corncob smoke pipe sitting on his desk lecturing to an RPG University about RPG stuff.  In an English accent.  Someone asks about what he prefers over D20 or D6 Dice Pool and suddenly, they're going into how Homer would play with rounded spherical balls with letters on them as he wrote his tales.


  I have given classes on occasion but I like to think that I was maybe a little less stuffy - I like to build my credibility on the spot with ideas rather than have it conferred by position. But nothing wrong with bringing together GMing technique and the long history of storytelling and our place in it as heirs to the campfire tradition Smiley. Given a choice I might go with the image of the weird old Viking veteran dude illuminated by flames and speaking of the truth in the heart of the old tales as the bounty of the hunt sizzles over the blaze. Gather 'round, gather 'round. Grin
23  Products / Fantasy Craft / Re: Fist time GMing. Any advice? on: April 28, 2015, 10:07:10 PM
+1 to Krensky's and Ares'.  The most important thing I've ever found in all my RPGs is that everyone should have fun.  GM and Players alike.  The object isn't to kill or save the princess or get the +12 Longsword of Holy Kickassing.. it's to tell a story where years from now, you go "Remember when I said you open a door, and you see a minotaur and you decided to say Moo?" and everyone just shakes their head laughing. 

Agreed, lots of good stuff in this thread.

The real treasure in gaming is war stories you can share for years.
24  Products / Fantasy Craft / Re: First time GMing. Any advice? on: April 28, 2015, 12:23:35 PM
A few thoughts, sort of in order:

Rule 0 - No game can make a person have fun if they don’t want to

  Most of the time your players want to have fun, but you can still stack the deck. Think about meeting at a time when people will be relaxed, reasonably rested, and able to concentrate. If its a work day, allow time to unwind before hitting the dice. Pick a place with minimal distractions. That means limit the noise, don’t have a TV on, definitely don’t have a game consol handy, and don’t have too many toys out that aren’t part of the game. Comfort is important too, both in seating arrangements and having drinks/snacks.
  Consider a planned meal break (do not mock the meal break!). Its a fantastic opportunity for you set a cliff hanger then assess the in-game situation and come up with new schemes that make you look like a total storytelling genius Wink. Fifteen minutes of not being on the spot as the GM can do wonders for your poise and confidence. That it gives you a chance to nom some pizza is pure bonus compared to that chance to catch your mental breath.
  If somebody is obviously out of sorts, play, but don’t push for extra innings. They may come around and remember it as an exceptionally good night because it was so much better than the rest of their day, but be aware they’re starting at a little bit of an energy deficit. You don't have to pander to them, but don’t kick a player when they’re down, for realsies.

Rule 1 - Its a group activity: all characters MUST be able to fit into a team

  This is my only ABSOLUTE rule during character creation: PCs have to be able to work together. There is a UNIVERSE of difference between “the guy that backstabs his allies” and “The guy that people worry might backstab his allies.” You can do some great things over time with characters granting grudging acceptance. Its kinda the core of many buddy stories. But Lay Down The Law that deliberately screwing other players or anything malicious or intended to generate bad blood will not be tolerated. “Chaotic asshole” is fine, as long as the rest of the players can expect them to be “our chaotic asshole”.
  You can move things along in this direction by making the players set up a relationship web for you - every player has to pick two other PCs and explain how or why they are connected. “Our fathers worked the same mine”. “We met at a faire as kids and got into all kinds of trouble but he didn’t rat me out.” “We were enemies in the war, but he showed me great honor.” Whatever is appropriate to the setting (more on that as a moment). A little bonding up front goes a looooong way.

Rule 2 - Say ‘No’ early, but not often

  Character creation is a great time to establish you are not a complete push over. There are going to be times when you are going to have to make snap rulings and table debate until end of session to move things along. Get your players used to the notion that you must occasionally exercise narrative authority for the good of everyone’s enjoyment.  Things aren’t set in stone yet so character generation is a chance to work with your players and explain the setting to them if they aren’t super familiar with it. Even if they are you’re probably picking out a specific starting place that can and should influence what people play. Exercise a little ‘conservation of weird’. If a player wants to do something really out of place, say ‘no’ now, not later. They are already going to be outliers because of how damn amazing all PCs are in Fantasycraft. Being the child of three gods and coming from another universe (or even simply running counter to every cultural norm they know about) are generally not needed to create a satisfying badass. Teach them to pick their battles and negotiate (same as you will have to do).

Rule 3a - Ask each player what they’re thinking

  There is nothing wrong with having each player explain to you what they’re up to when they’ve picked that Origin, Class, Feats (and to a lesser extent attributes and skills). If they are putting all their resources into some elaborate combo, its better to know before dice start flying - and not so that you can screw them, but because it lets you know what kind of situations you should feed them from time to time. There’s little less satisfying that building a character around a stunt you think will look awesome and it never comes up.

Rule 3b - Ask your players what they aren’t thinking

  This is where you get players to hand you the tools to make them want to do what you want. Ask things like are their parents alive? Do they have siblings older or younger? Do they have a pet at home? Do they have a favorite teacher/mentor/patron? Do they have love interests (current or past)? What are their ties to the world? Letting them create their roots makes you look so good when the critical news comes from a patron they chose, or a sibling brings the much needed help or maguffin. They also make handy hostages, but honestly that’s too easy. Making players glad they have some roots is much more useful than strangling them with them.

Rule 4 - They’re telling you how they want to succeed... and how they want to fail

  You’re going to have to know the PCs stats pretty well (not as well as the player, since you have lots of things to keep track of, but well). Rule 3a is intel gathering. Rule 4 is stockpiling. For each character you need four boxes to jot notes (one scratch page per box per character works well if you are keeping a campaign binder):

* Desperate plights: Ways to ruthlessly exploit a gap or weakness in the character’s build. This is all the dirty tricks for when a character needs to be beat down before being rescued by an ally (or other player) or making their own way out through remarkable creativity or luck. This is your darkest before the dawn arsenal.
* Narrow misses: Chances for the player to see how they could have been screwed badly, but dodged the bullet either because of luck, foresight, or the timely intervention of allies before getting hammered. Also useful for foreshadowing later major beatings.
* Time to shine: Ideas for how you can set up a character to do what they do best. Like narrow misses, the challenge is limited, but it’s the PCs own abilities that bring about a positive outcome - including rescuing someone else from their plight or narrow miss.
* Rise to the occasion: Ideas for how you can challenge a player in an arena they are used to dominating. This is where rivals and big bads contend with the player strength for strength and exceptional play or rolls or coordination of the whole party are required to avoid a stinging defeat.

 The first two are of course about character weakness with the last two being guided by their strengths. The first and last are challenges and likely dramatic scene fodder. The middle two are exposition - chances to reveal a character without testing them. All of them are tools that let you focus attention on that player when they need a little time in the lime light.
  When you have these boxes, you can dump ideas into them between sessions whenever your creative juices are flowing. And then dig into them later as planned events or not-quite-improvisational tools when the action needs a kick up or down.

Rule 5 - Don’t sweat it.

  Players worth having know GM is demanding. They’re on your side. They want you to succeed because that’s how they have fun. If something does blow up - a snap ruling you regret, a foot stepped on, even a plain old rough night because of bad choices or evil dice, keep and share a positive outlook that there’s more to come next time. Your craft will improve, which means every session starts with you a little more experienced than the one before. GMs get XP too  Smiley.
25  Products / Spycraft Third Edition / Re: Ralph McQuarrie and James Bond on: April 27, 2015, 07:09:04 PM
  Even before I looked at the caption, I was instantly reminded of similar 'stunt shows' I've seen in Las Vegas. I'd totally pay to see a Bond version.
26  Community / Off-Topic / Re: Video game news and reaction on: April 26, 2015, 04:57:38 AM

I started cheering out loud as I watched that. So awesome!
27  Community / Off-Topic / Re: The Silver Screen: Movie News, Reviews & Reactions 2015 on: April 25, 2015, 08:21:30 PM
  I'm actually more confused why Joker would be put forward as a potential member of the Suicide Squad at all. Putting a bomb in he head/around his neck is not going to control him. At best it's gonna make him find someone very important/innocent to hold against the bomb while laughing madly. More often than not you're gonna push the failsafe button and someone else entirely will die.

  The few times he's be used well in a team-up its as a immensely capable but very unorthodox mastermind. Combined with the ruthless pragmatism of a high-functioning sociopath. Most of the usual suspects in the Suicide Squad are just not good foils for him to play off of.
28  Community / Off-Topic / Re: Video game news and reaction on: April 23, 2015, 04:58:11 PM
Hmmm. Its pretty if not overwhelmingly creative. Pretty much the definition of the franchise if I understand correctly.

The problem from a narrative stand point appears to be the technology is being used where it makes the most sense - the do or die environment of the battlefield where such changes are fairly defensible as saving citizen-soldier lives. The reintegration of such troops back into the broader society is where the interesting things happen and is so unlikely to be the sort of soul searching a shoot-'em-all video game is likely to pursue...
29  Community / License to Improvise / Re: [Notebook] Seizing Initiatve on: April 22, 2015, 11:44:11 PM
Would it be terrible if Dance Off, Bro worked as an instance of beguiling?

It would add a ton of power the effect doesn't really need and would empower other beguiling effects with the 1 free hit effect. Neither seems like a good call.
30  Community / License to Improvise / Re: [Notebook] Seizing Initiatve on: April 22, 2015, 11:55:24 AM
I was just wondering if anybody had tried it out Smiley.
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