Thursday, August 30, 2007

L5R: Characters

So, last week (for certain values of "last") I was talking about Legend of the 5 Rings. Now that you know the basic mechanics (or "engine", as we in the scene call it), we can talk about characters in part san of this series.

First, you choose your clan:
  • The Crab have defended the Empire's borders against the corrupt armies of the Shadowlands for a thousand years. Existing in a perpetual state of war, they have no time for such social niceties as politics, etiquette, or bathing regularly. Their hobbies include hard drinking, building fortifications, witch hunting, and beating demons to death with tetsubo.
  • The Crane are the politicians and rock stars of Rokugan. Yes, they have pretty white hair. Yes, they mince around in sumptuous kimono of the finest silk. Yes, they are widely regarded as effeminate. They also have the best dueling school in the Empire and will be happy to cut you to pieces for that insult. You'd be surprised how effectively policy can be changed when its chief opponent is lying dead after an ill-chosen remark.
  • If you prefer zen and meditation, then the Dragon are for you. Their warriors are practically monastic and their school is patterned after Miyamoto Musashi's philosophy of "Two hands, two swords." Their priests are cryptic and one of their samurai families is actually an order of magically tattooed monks. If they didn't spend so much time contemplating the mysteries of the Tao they'd be a force to be reckoned with.
  • "Our chief weapons are honor, courage, and fanatical devotion to the Emperor" -- such is the code of the Lion clan. These guys adhere so strongly to the code of bushido that it's a wonder they can walk, what with that stick shoved so firmly up their asses. Of course, these professional warriors have the largest army in all the Empire and are second only to the Crane in terms of wealth and political power, so maybe there's something to be said for sphincter-lock.
  • The Mantis clan, depending on which era of the game you use, may or may not be a major clan. They aren't in my game. Besides, they're just a bunch of honorless pirates and yakuza -- pay no attention to the fact that their family tree contains no less than two deities, I'm sure they won't amount to anything.
  • The Phoenix clan are masters of magic. While this does mean they tend toward seclusion, it also means that if you absolutely, positively, need something smote from the face of the earth, these are the guys to do it... if you can convince them. And to convince them, you have to get past the Shiba, an entire family of yojimbo ready to die in their service. It takes a special kind of courage to die for people who despise you.
  • There are no ninja in Rokugan. None. It's all peasant tales and superstition. And even if there were, the clan of the Scorpion would have nothing to do with them, because ninja (if they did exist) are criminals and traitors. No no, the Scorpion are the Emperor's spymasters. Truly. Would she lie to you?
  • Sometimes you just want to thunder across the steppes on a mighty steed, wearing fur and leather and generally acting like a Mongol. The rest of the Empire regards you as barbaric but fuck them, you're a Unicorn, and your ancestors lived this way so it's honorable. Your clan has been to gaijin lands and came back changed, all in service to the Emperor. You're a misfit, and oddly that means you can get along with just about anyone.
  • And then there are the Ronin, for people who like having the deck stacked against them when they play. Nobody likes you, everyone thinks you're dishonorable criminal scum, but hey, it's better than being a peasant...
  • Finally, there are half-dozen minor clans, which I won't describe due to space and the tendency for them to come and go depending on which edition of the game you're using.

Then, you choose your school:
  • Bushi: You whack things until they fall down dead.
  • Shugenja: You cast spells based on the elements of Air, Earth, Fire, Water and, if you're a badass Phoenix shugenja, Void. (See character sheet for an idea of what effects elemental spells have other than the obvious; for example, Fire can make you more agile in addition to burning things.)
  • Courtier: You don't just talk pretty; the Imperial Court is your battlefield.
  • Other: This wildcard slot depends on your clan. The Dragon have a monastic order, the Crab have witch-hunters, and the Scorpion have ninja actors.
Based upon your clan and your career path, you are given a set of beginning skills and your school technique -- for instance, a Dragon bushi learns to dual-wield his Katana and Wakizashi simultaneously, while a Scorpion shujenga gains a bonus to spells that aid in duplicity and information gathering.

You then round out your character with what are essentially freebie points, to be spent on increasing stats or skills or purchasing advantages. You can get more point for taking disadvantages, yadda yadda yadda, if you've played an RPG within the past 10 years you know how this goes.

Now here's the neat thing: you learn the next rank of your school's technique once you have accumulated a certain amount of Insight. Now, insight is not XP; you don't get it from killing monsters. Instead, you gain Insight as you increase your skills. The effective upshot of this is that your big bad killing machine Bushi can in fact reach the next level of martial enlightenment by learning to arrange flowers. In any other game system this would be regarded as game-breaking and cheese-mongering, but in this pseudo-Japanese setting -- where a warrior is supposed to exemplify excellence in all things and be well-read and well-rounded -- it works.

Next: the Setting!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

WNW: Hung Like a Hammer

Picture courtesy of Chris Sims, meme (hopefully) by me.

If you don't get it, just go kill yourself now.


Phantom Girl explains it all!

(Special thanks to Jeff for the picture!)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hickman on Guys in Loincloths

OK, so again, where was I in the grand story of "Troy Hickman's Non-Existence in Comic Land"? Oh, yeah, I had just gotten a write-up in Wizard for Holey Crullers, which is the equivalent of a nocturnal emission for a mini-comics publisher (actually, mini-comics publishers don't need equivalents for nocturnal emissions, but I digress).

So there I was, basking in something my addled brain was letting me think was fame, when I got a phone call from someone claiming to be Fabian Nicieza, head of Acclaim Comics. I was just about to tell the obvious faker to kiss my rosy red backside when it became apparent that it wasn't a gag. Fabian was interested in having me do some work for Acclaim. Wha---?

Before I could say "Velociraptor," I had a gig on a Turok one-shot. I was thrilled, not just because it was the first somewhat "mainstream" character on which I'd had a chance to work, but because the synchronicity of it seemed right; one of the very first comics I'd ever owned was a Gold Key Turok comic from the mid-sixties, with a cover featuring Turok and his pal on a raft being attacked by some damned giant gar or somesuch (I still have it around here somewhere).

It was an interesting assignment, given the particulars. I was told that it needed to feature Turok, obviously, as well as Adon, a female character who played a pivotal role in the previous Turok one-shot, and who was also included in the video game that the comic was supposed to help launch.

The only problem was that I wasn't that familiar with the "new" Turok, so I had to bone up on the character. In doing so, I found out he wasn't my father's Oldsmobile. Gone was the prehistoric Indian who went after dinos with his trusty knife. The current Turok was able to pull weapons galore out of his bag o' tricks, ala Felix the Cat. It was an interesting switch, but one that gave me a bit of trouble at first. In one memorable phone conversation, Fabian was puzzled as to why I had Turok pull a slingshot out of his bag when he could've accessed a plasma rifle or a photon cannon. Oops. (I tend to pull boneheaded moves like that occasionally, though, like when I wrote a Green Lantern Corps story that editor Kevin Dooley liked, except for the fact that I had GL form a giant umbrella...for like the 956th time in comic history!)

I wanted it to be my own take on Turok, though, not just one more big guns vs. dinosaurs epic, so I hit on a solution: I made the damned thing a love story. Turok and Adon would fall for each other, but in the end, it would be a tragedy beyond Shakespearean proportions.

And the Acclaim team dug it. So they gave it to artist Ryan Benjamin to draw, they stuck on a painted cover by fan favorite David Mack (though, I have to ask, don't you think his Turok on the cover bears a strange resemblence to Val Kilmer?), and they sent it to press. And voila! My first color comic project.

Of course, it was a one-shot, so it wasn't a regular gig. And it was magazine-sized, so a lot of shops didn't have room for it on the stands. And they probably only printed up 5000-10000 copies total. OK, so it wasn't Secret Wars, but dammit, it was a big, colorful comic with my name on it!

And they even made an action figure of Adon, a character I hadn't created, but had largely fleshed out and brought to life.

And Acclaim liked it enough to offer me more work, including one of the three issues in their big company crossover that was going to restructure the whole Acclaim Universe.

And, as with 98% of everything else in my life, the gig went south. They eventually lined up Jim "Little Fucks" Shooter to script the event, and truth be told, I never even bothered to read the thing.

Unfortunately, a short time later, Acclaim was no more, at least not as a comic book publisher.

But I'd had my fling with them, and I'd gotten my name out there a bit more, and I'd worked on a character that at least comic book fans had heard of. And that was something.

Something that would have to tide me over for the next four years...

Next: Whatever Happened to Roy Hobbs?

Aut viam inveniam aut faciam

I'm very sorry that this blog post is late. I was waiting for something.

Obviously, it didn't happen.

No, I don't intend to elaborate upon that.

On a related note, I suspect that I will have to revert to a thrice-weekly schedule for the foreseeable future, mainly because I spend most of my days covered in dog shit.

Allow me to explain. I currently live at home with my parents, who are in their early 70s. Since the beginning of the year, each of them has had various operations which left them unable to do their regular chores about the house. Since I'm living here without paying rent, it is my duty to play the dutiful daughter and help out whenever possible.

Let me emphasize: I have no problem with this.

The problem lies with my mother's two dogs, both of whom are old... incontinent... and all but paralyzed from the waist down. This last fact means that, when it is time for them to go outside and do their business, a sling must be put underneath their bellies. Their potty time is a perverse game of wheelbarrow, which would be funny if they didn't end up doing their business all over my feet and legs.

You see, owing to my mother's recent knee surgery, I must cart these dogs out. The larger of the two dogs 96 pounds. I have to do this a minimum of 4 times a day for each dog, and even then, they STILL manage to pee or poop in the house.

I am, quite frankly, exhausted from this constant workout. The entire house smells very strongly of urine, which isn't doing my allergies any good. Because of this, I'm not sleeping well. Between the lack of the sleep and the constant stopping of whatever I'm doing in order to attend to spoiled, insecure, and incontinent dogs -- whom I have taken to calling The Amazing Shit Machine and Princess Pee -- I can't seem to get the focus I need to write effectively.

I'm tired all the time. My arms and legs ache. I can't concentrate. I suspect it's rather like having a newborn in the house, except that there are no diapers involved.

Now, I did not tell you this to elicit sympathy. Don't tell me how you feel bad for me, etc, because frankly a Cinderella mindset will do me more harm than good. Yes, it's bad, but it's not that bad; I just need to find a way to adapt.

Adaptation, however, will take time, which is why I may miss blog posts. I can't guarantee that I'll have the time or creative energy to write something worth reading. It's my hope that with a day and a half between posts, I'll be able to cobble together something worthwhile.

And now, a bunny with a pancake on its head:

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Project Perseus

Nifty name, huh? I think it has some real zing.

Oh, what's it mean? Well, it's the name I've given to my Super-Secret Writing For Actual Money Project. So instead of saying, "I spent all yesterday doing research for my Super-Secret Writing For Actual Money Project," I can instead say "Yesterday, Project Perseus took one step closer to completion."

Then I can smirk ominously and chortle menacingly like a cheesy Bond villain.

Before I go: the Serenity Ship's Papers go on sale today... just as I predicted.

All is going according to plan.




Thursday, August 23, 2007


Eh, I don't really have anything pithy to say about this.

I don't have anything against Whip-Snap, per se; she seemed capable enough most of the time, but the constant crying and harping on her rough childhood was getting very old.

I think Hygena actually deserved to leave this time, but eh. Her days are numbered anyway, since to my mind there are only two real heroes on that show: Hyperstrike and The Defuser, who needs to watch his back since this was his second time on the red block. I'm worried that if he goes up there again, he's gone.

My money is on Hyperstrike; not only has he never been up for elimination, but he's got that infectious grin and goofy good-natured wholesomeness that Stan goes ga-ga over.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

WNW: Holy d20

This will be my next D&D campaign.

Even the hairy woman. I'll just say she's a dwarf or something. Her father is TOTALLY a dwarf, rocking that pimp beard and all.

For those of you who don't get the joke, watch the original video by Ronnie James Dio here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Save vs. Stupid Marketing Decisions

Dear Wizards of the Coast:

Did you fail your saving throw vs. Stupid Marketing Decisions?

Putting aside the fact that a promotional video for your own product shouldn't underscore all the ways it has sucked over the years...

Putting aside the annoying, lisping little Frenchie...

Putting aside the fact that even a casual D&D player knows you can't just behead a troll like that without using fire or acid to overcome its regeneration...

All of that aside, you have still made a huge and stupid blunder: You announced 4th edition before Christmas.

Goodbye, Christmas sales of 3.5 edition books.

You remember Christmas, right? The one month of the year that brings in more revenue than the previous eleven combined? Yeah, you just screwed yourself out of that money.

I know that I, for one, will certainly not buy any D&D product until 4e comes out, because it's 99% certain that it won't be backwards- compatible, and I know I'm not the only one to think like this. Regardless of whether or not I switch to 4e, since I know that 3.5 lifespan ends in May 2008, I'll just wait until the hordes of fanboys sell their "obsolete" books back to the stores. I'll bet I can get a very nice discount on them....

Seriously, that's a totally bonehead maneuver. What you should have done was wait until January to make the announcement, and then release the books in August at GenCon 2008.

See how tidy that is? You get your Christmas sales, you announce "A new edition for a new year," and you release that edition at the biggest fucking gaming convention in the U.S.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go stake out a place by the bargain bins.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Gone Writing

Sorry gang, no amusing blog post from me today.

I'm currently experiencing a major creative breakthrough regarding my secretive writing-for-pay project and I'm sure you'll understand when I say I need to focus my energies on that.

Because it amuses me, I shall give a vague, tantalizing hint:

  • 1 c. red wine vinegar
  • ½ t. dry rosemary
  • 1 c. dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup fresh thyme
  • 1 c.water Salt & pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 3 T. vegetable oil
  • 2 t. black pepper
  • ½ c. chopped onions
  • 4-6 juniper berries
  • ½ c. chopped carrots
  • 4-6 bay leaves, divided
  • ½ c. chopped celery
  • 4 lbs. roast beef
  • ½ c. chopped turnips, optional
  • 4 T. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 c. gingersnap crumbs
In non-aluminum pot bring to boil the first 6 ingredients and 2-4 bay leaves; remove from heat and cool for marinade. In glass dish place meat and cover with marinade. Refrigerate for 3 days, turning twice a day.

After 3 days, remove & dry meat, saving marinade. In a bag with flour, herbs, salt & pepper, shake meat to coat thoroughly. In Dutch oven bring 3 T. oil to hot shimmer & brown meat on all sides. Remove meat and add to pot with oil the chopped vegetables; saute until limp. Sprinkle with 3 t. flour & stir until flour begins to brown. Drain off most of remaining oil. Return meat to pot. Add 2 c. marinade & 1 c. water; bring to boil. Add 2 more bay leaves. Cover tightly & simmer on stovetop for 1 ½ hours. If liquid gets too low, add more water & the rest of the marinade.

When meat is tender, remove & discard bay leaves. Add gingersnap crumbs to pot & simmer until dissolved. Pour this mixture into blender & puree for sauce. Carve meat & serve with sauce. Makes 6-8 servings.

Friday, August 17, 2007

St. Gulik, the Quantum Messenger

It's been far too long since Discordian goodness graced my blog, and in honor of the recently defrocked Basura I've decided to sermonize for a bit upon one of my favorites within the Discordian Frying-Pantheon: St. Gulik.

Let that roll around in your noodle for a bit: the chosen messenger for Eris, the Goddess of Chaos, is a cockroach. Consider all the biological, metaphysical, and quantum ramifications of this.

All done? Good! Well, thank you for coming, I'll see you all next week, and don't forget the potluck on Tuesday...

Beg pardon?

You have no idea what I'm talking about?

Oh. Well then, let me enlighten you.

1. The fact that Eris chose a cockroach as her chief messenger speaks to the enduring nature of the Gospel of Discord, for a cockroach can survive such environmental extremes that it will be one of the few species to thrive in the event of global catastrophe, up to and including nuclear war. As long as the messenger survives, so does the message.

2. Messages are quantum in nature, specifically, Heisenbergian in nature. To whit: just as the act of observing a quantum state changes it, so does the receipt of a message change the recipient. Change. Transformation. Metamorphosis. What was Kafka's The Metamorphosis about? A man who is turned into a cockroach. Receipt of Eris' message changes you into one of her messages.

3. Want to know something weird? I meant to type "one of her messengers" but "messages" came out instead. I'm keeping it that way. Hail Eris.

4. A roach is the unburnt end of a joint of marijuana that remains after smoking it. A cockroach can survive for days without its head. A head shop is a place where you can buy roach clips. I don't know where I'm going with this but it's all very deep.

5. Is a cockroach without a head alive? It possesses qualities of both the living (moving around) and the dead (it doesn't have a goddamn head). Thus it is both alive and dead, and therefore (according to Schrödinger) it exists in a superposition of eigenstates. If an undead cockroach that may or may not also be a cat inside a box isn't a perfect messenger for Discordianism, I don't know what is.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Vaya con dios, Basura....

It's too bad, really, because I really liked her concept. It was, dare I say it... fresh? Well, unusual, at least. I can't think of any comic book character, hero or villain, that had trash-based powers.

*sets stopwatch and waits for Chris Sims to correct her*

No, I don' t think the Tatterdemalion counts.

But anyway, as much as I liked her, and as much as I think Hygena is an utter joke... I can't fault Stan's logic. While every other hero took time out of his or her schedule to help find the lost little girl, Basura hesitated, and that's something that just doesn't fly in Stan Lee World.

(If I had been her, I would have said the following: "Stan, I had the choice between helping find a lost girl in a park full of security personnel, and stopping the theft of my compatriots' secret identities. If that information got out, not only would the lives of my teammates be endangered, but also the lives of their loved ones. I did not think the little girl's life was in danger, and that is why I did not volunteer to help." Who knows, it might have worked....)

PS: Her exit interview can be found here, if you can stomach that horrible dress she wears. How can an artist wear something that indescribably ugly?

PPS: Her name is Aja, pronounced "Asia"? That is such a porn name! What were her parents thinking?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

WNW: 'Cause Blimps are Pretty Pimp

Some of you have been asking me, "Palette, whatever became of Heliumpunk?"

The answer is, real life got in the way. But don't worry, it's not forgotten. In fact, earlier this week I happened upon what can only be called the Heliumpunk Theme Song.

FACT: Hydrogen is kept far away from Helium so as to prevent Helium from kicking Hydrogen's ass.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Much Ado Aboot Nothing

Well, then.

It would seem that yesterday's post stirred up a bit more controversy than I intended. Indeed, the proverbial hornet's nest was given a good solid thwack.

I'm not going to bother explaining the intent of my post, because if you didn't get it, you'll just think I'm trying to cover my ass. All I have to say is, those of you who were offended by it probably came here looking to be offended.

I'm not going to apologize for it, either. From all the ad hominem attacks I've received, you might think I'd managed to personally insult every single person in Canada and their mothers. It wasn't my intent for you to feel insulted, but I have no control over how you folks choose to feel and react.

I will also say that it's the purpose of a writer to elicit an emotional reaction from her readers. Judging by the volume and intensity of the comments I've gotten, I'd say I've succeeded in that regard.

Speaking of comments, I'm quite enjoying the spirited discussion that is occurring in the comments section. I currently have no plans to intervene in the discussion or close comments. However... insults and personal attacks will no longer be tolerated. The moment this becomes a flamewar, I'm deleting those comments and quite possibly locking the section.

Additionally, anonymous posts are disabled. If you want to leave a comment, you have to put your name to it and own your words, just like I own mine. Registering with Blogger takes all of 30 seconds so I doubt that's an impediment to anyone with a serious desire to let their opinion be known.

And finally, to those people who have informed me that I have lost them as readers: well, I'm certainly sad to see you go, and I hope you change your mind at some point once you've cooled down, but the honest truth of the situation is that over the course of my writing career I'm bound to offend someone, and if you didn't leave over this then odds are very good that you'll leave over something else that I write.

So fare thee well, my Canadian readers. I truly do like you, truly meant no offense, and truly wish you all well, regardless of what you have said to me.

Monday, August 13, 2007

An Open Letter to Canadians

Dear Canadians:

I like you. I really do. I can't easily prove this, of course, so I hope you'll take me at my word when I say that I actually, honestly, sincerely like you and your country. In my mind, I see America and Canada as brothers, so when I say what I say, please know it's out of love and respect.

But seriously: shut the fuck up about American politics, okay? Please. You're trying my patience.

Look, I get the fact that our Conservative Republican Texan President rubs you the wrong way. I understand that American Foreign Policy essentially pisses in your poutine. I realize that as gross generalizations go, you are far more liberal and left-of-center than we, and that's why you're frequently so appalled at our actions.

But you've got to stop bitching about American politics. It's not a healthy mindset. I mean, you care more about our politics than we do, and there's precious little you can do to change our government. You can shake your fists and stamp your little feet and it will do bugger-all in the grand scheme of things.

You want to change our government? Immigrate, become an American citizen, and vote in elections. Then you can bitch all you want, and you might actually change something.

As it stands now, though? You're like the bitter ex-boyfriend who can't let go of being angry at his ex for breaking up with him years ago. You obsess about us, write screeds and diatribes and blogs about us, and it's really quite sad because, overall, we barely know you exist. Look, I'm not proud to admit my ignorance, but I will to make this point:
  • I know that Felipe Calderón is the President of Mexico, a nation which doesn't share our language.
  • I know that Gordon Brown is the Prime Minister of England, a nation which not only doesn't share a border with America but is also on the other side of the Atlantic.
  • But Canada and America share a common language, a common border, and most (though not all) of a common culture, yet I still don't know who your Prime Minister is without Googling him.
In fact, I can only name two Canadian PMs at all: Trudeau and Diefenbaker, and I only know of the latter because of Due South (an excellent show which I enjoyed because it managed to poke fun at both American and Canadian stereotypes while at the same time celebrating our common bond of shared heritage).

So please, for your own mental and emotional health, let it go. Or dial it down a notch, at least. I mean, I couldn't stand Chirac, but I can count on my fingers the number of times I gave him enough thought to warrant even a slightly annoyed mood, much less a high dudgeon or good old-fashioned spleen venting. And when he lost the election to Sarkozy, I didn't throw a party; I merely nodded my head, smiled, and said, "Oh, good, I can like France again," and that's all the thought I gave it, because that's all it deserved. Much like psycho unstable exes, who are also better ignored than fretted over.

So please, Canada, I am imploring you: let it go. Let us go. We aren't going to change to suit you, much like you refuse to change on our account. Find a hobby, watch a hockey game, get drunk on your awesome Canadian beer; but if you keep obsessing about American politics, you're just going to end up on the White House lawn at three A.M., playing Peter Gabriel at top volume and begging us to take you back.

And no one wants that.

Erin Palette

Sunday, August 12, 2007


Quick! Engage Sims Protocol One!*

Ah yes. That should do nicely. And now for a suitably Kirby-esque benediction:

Chris Sims, the Count of Chin-Checks! Will he survive the ticking timebomb of face-fracturing calendric chaos known only as.....


Find out, dear readers, in: "The Quarter-Century Suckerpunch!"

*A cute goth girl kicking people in the head.

RAC: Update on the Ship's Papers

Sources deep within my Radion Accelerator Corps tell me that the Ship's Papers will have a release date of August 25.

You heard it here first.

Friday, August 10, 2007

RAC: Ship's Papers

Pay attention, Browncoats! This is important.

Remember when I leaked the Official Press Release by Quantum Mechanix and I said that while I knew what Whitefall was making, I didn't yet have proof?

I have proof now.

And, as promised, this is at the very least as shiny as the Serenity Blueprints, and probably moreso, since this is something you can touch/hold/play with/use as a prop.

Fellow Flans, I present to you... the Official Serenity Ship Papers:

As I mentioned before, Whitefall has a reputation within the Flan community as a quality maker of props and replicas. One of his top sellers was, you guessed it, Firefly Ship's Papers, so when I heard that he'd been hired by QMx my initial guess was that either the Ship's Papers or the Map of Serenity Valley would be his first official product. I didn't say anything about the papers, because they seemed too complex to make compared to a map and, quite frankly, I didn't want to say anything for fear of jinxing it.

"But Palette," I hear you say, "how is this new product any niftier than Whitefall's old stuff?" I'm very glad you asked me that, Voice in my Head, because here is why:

Old Stuff:
  • Only 5 pages.
  • Made one at a time... each packet took months to make.
  • Cost between $200 - $300 when they were put on eBay.

New Stuff:
  • No less than thirteen pages, plus an Alliance bribe and a designer's certification of authenticity.
  • All sheets were made under the supervision of Geoff Mandel, the graphic designer of the Serenity movie, to ensure that each piece is as authoritative and accurate as possible.
  • Access to studio archives means movie source art is included, so that the entire package has the look and feel of the Serenity 'Verse.
  • One of the sheets is a "Crew Roster" with signature spaces. That's right, if by some chance you should happen to meet our Big Damn Heroes at a convention, you not only have a gao guhn place for them to put their autograph, but doing so only increases the value of your Ship's Papers!
  • Of course, there's also the fact that since this is an official licensed product, buying this means that there will be more shinies being made by QMx for Browncoat consumption, and of course you don't have to get on a waiting list as each unit is made.
So as you can see, it's not so much an expansion of the original as it is a completely new and much better re-imagining.

Keeping in mind that such things are subject to change, here are the specifics as I know them:

  • 13 full-color sheets, up to 8.5 x 14" in size.
  • Certificates are hand-stamped with official Alliance seals, and hand-signed in both English and Chinese.
  • They come in a fashion-grade leather wallet with brass snap fittings (for the cover) and a screw-down plate (to keep the papers in place).
  • Limited to 1,500 pieces.
  • Price: between $120 and $130. So for essentially half the price, you get twice the goods. Where in the 'Verse will you get a better deal than that?
Eris willing, my Bothan spies will be able to get me a review piece and then I'll be able to tell you in graphic detail why this product is so incredibly awesome, you'll want to sell a kidney for it.

But then, I suspect you're all rabid fans anyway, so I'm preaching to the choir. Still, I promied you bowel-looseningly cool, didn't I? And I delivered!

Edit: new information here.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Legend of the 5 Rings: Mechanics

Welcome to part ni of my L5R series. I had originally meant to talk about setting today, but halfway through I realized I was using concepts that really belonged in the mechanics section, so here we are.

Don't worry, I'll be gentle.

Character Sheet
I don't know how many of you do this, but when I pick up a new role-playing game, the first thing I do is go to the back and take a look at the character sheet, because it's a great summation of the game itself. I can see what the designers think is essential information based upon the kind of information on the sheet: where the stats are placed, how big certain sections are, etc. If you are like me in that regard, you can look at a PDF of the character sheet here.

Dice Engine
Now if you haven't been living in a cave for the past 15 years, when I tell you that L5R uses 10-sided dice you'll probably have a very good idea of how this game plays because, yes, it's quite similar to Vampire in that it's a stat + skill kind of game. What's different is how those rolls are made. L5R's core mechanic is what's known as "Roll and Keep", in which you roll your stat+skill but only keep your stat. I think this is very nifty because your skill rating gives you more dice to choose from, or "breadth" if you will, but your stat dictates the "depth" of your roll.

Let's say you want to hack someone into pieces with your Katana. That's an Agility + Kenjutsu roll. Let's say that you're what I like to call "heroically average" and have a 3 in both. In that case, you will roll 6 dice (3 for Agility and 3 for Kenjutsu) but you only keep 3 for your Agility. You roll 6 dice and get the following: 3, 5, 8, 8, 9, 10. Since you only keep three dice, you will in all likelihood choose 8, 9, and 10.

But oh! You rolled a 10, and in this game, tens explode, meaning you roll that die again and add 10 to it. If it rolls another 10, then it explodes again, meaning you can get some really heroic rolls. (Or some really gruesome damage totals, because tens explode there, too; you could conceivably kill someone in one hit with a lucky enough roll.) But in this example, when I re-roll it I get a three, which means my total is 13.

So! 13+ 9+ 8= 30, which is quite a good roll. The base difficulty for most skill uses is 15, but when it comes to combat, 20s and 25s are usually the norm.

There are only two other things you need to know. First, if you really need to succeed, you can spend a Void Point, which is measured by -- you guessed it -- your Void stat. A Void point can do many, many things in this game, but its biggest use is in a skill roll. By spending a Void point (and you can only spend 1 per roll), you can roll and keep an additional die. Wow!

Second-- and this is where it gets complicated, so if you want to know more you'll have to buy the book -- you can call a number of Raises on your roll. A Raise increases your difficulty number by 5, but if you succeed, you have a greater or more complete success. In effect, you're stating, "I can hit a 15 with no problem, but I want to do this with style and grace, so I'm going to bet that I can hit a 25." Raises can be used to execute difficult maneuvers, perform called shots, deal more damage in combat, or perform multiple actions in a single round.

That's the basics of the game system. If I've forgotten anything, I'll certainly feel foolish when I bring it up later, but for now I feel like I've blathered on enough as it is.

Tomorrow, I hope to cover the basics of the setting.

Lurking Happily

Dear Stan Lee:

For eliminating both Idiot Blonde Girl and Token, the Hebrew Wonder today, you have my gratitude.

I will accept this gesture as an apology for last week's elimination of Mindset.

Sincerely, Palette

Seriously, though, it should not have taken this long. I think the reason they lasted as long as they did is because Mr. Mitzvah is Jewish, just like Stan Lee, and because Ms. Limelight is 19 and therefore had the "She's just a kid" sentiment going for her.

(A brief aside to Tom Foss: You remember when I told you I hated the Wasp because she seemed to exemplify every "dumb girl" stereotype? Ms. Limelight is exactly that same kind of person. The stupid giggle, the nervous playing with the hair... I just want to beat her with the collected works of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley until she shuts up!)

Their exit interviews can be found here.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Legend of the 5 Rings: Overview

So yesterday I talked about Legend of the 5 Rings, and I figured I could stand to tell you more about it, since it's partially responsible for my "Taste of Things to Come" post last month.

Last month? Eris on a pogo stick, I'm seriously slacking here. *sigh*

Before I continue, I want to get this out in the open right now: I hate writing book reports. I will never ever be a good journalist because talking about facts is boring; I'd rather inflict my opinions on you instead. So if this review is a little light on data, either deal with it or investigate the game on your own, because I'm going to spend more time telling you why this game is awesome.

L5R in a Nutshell
Quoting Chris Hepler:
"Let me get this straight," I thought. "You want me to play a fantasy RPG in which your characters bathe daily, are literate, polite to one another, and work in a team. You will be given a badge in the form of a pair of very sharp swords. Magic is considered a respectable, skilled profession among the upper classes, so five spellcasters in a group doesn't stretch plausibility. The warriors will be professionals with licenses to kill, but the second they overstep the bounds of their lord, they will be reined in, because the social order will be more powerful than any one man. There will be no mixing of incompatible characters such as thieves and ninja that inevitably lead to intra-party homicide.
"You want courtly love, moral dilemmas, and loyalty to your lord to play an inherent part of the game system. You will define the role of women among each of the clans, creating a stereotype intended to be broken. You will have a responsibility to those you guard both above and below you, and you will have a license to kill.

"In other words, I as a GM will have a plausible reason why a mixed batch of armed psychos will get into trouble every week from now until eternity.
"Twist my frickin' arm."

In other words, this setting can handle just about anything you could want from a game:
  • Do you like killing? Then join the Crab Clan's thousand-year war against the creatures of the Shadowlands and their insane god-king Fu Leng who, when he fell from heaven, left a crater so deep that it literally tore a hole into hell.
  • If you'd prefer a more socially refined setting, you can be a courtier and engage in political maneuvering between the Great Clans and the Imperial Families, where insults and marriages can start and end entire wars.
  • Want angst and depression and to have your character suffer daily in an attempt to survive? You can be a ronin, who while technically still samurai in caste are considered to be criminals pretty much by default and can be slain without repercussion by "true" samurai.
Seriously, if that doesn't make you want to run out and either GM or play L5R, there's something wrong with you. In my experience, this game has appeal across the spectrum of RPGers, whether they're combat wombats, drama queens, or character-depth plumbers.

Coming tomorrow Thursday: either setting or mechanics, I haven't yet decided.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Weekend Update

So, some of you may have noticed that I didn't post anything on Friday. I decided to play hooky and have an early three-day weekend. Want to hear about all the fun stuff I did?

Of course you do!

I discover a neat game called Heroscape. This is probably old news, since it came out in 2004, but it's still nifty for a variety of reasons:
  1. It has constructible, interlocking hexagonal terrain that can be used for just about any game with miniatures, be it Battletech, Dungeons & Dragons, or any of the Clicky-base games.
  2. It comes with 30 pre-painted miniatures of approximately the same scale as HeroClix / Mage Knight, and you can buy more in non-collectible expansion packs. If I want zombies, then I can go out and buy a goddamn zombie 6-pack. As a miniature-using Game Mistress, this is of critical importance to me.
  3. Finally, it has the best miniature I have ever seen in all my life: an orc using a T-Rex as a cavalry mount.

This is so ridiculous that it becomes awesome. I never ever entertained the possibility that orcs might ride dinosaurs, but now that I have seen the result, the argument is so compelling that now I must introduce dino-cav orcs into my next game.

This is harder than it sounds, however, because the game I'm currently running is not D&D, but rather Legend of the 5 Rings, the Samurai RPG where damn near everyone carries three-foot razor blades and therefore are excruciatingly polite to one another.

This is a game system where a decent katana hit will seriously fuck up a PC, if not kill him outright, which has the advantage of making the players seriously consider the ramifications of combat before trying to kill everything. Even so, I have had to seriously school my players for making foolish choices, and more than one game session has very nearly ended in a TPK. If you're a fan of RPGs with high Bothan ratings, this is the one for you.

Fortunately for my players, they have learned from their schooling and no further lessons are required today. In fact, they show a shocking degree of cooperation and adaptability. Since I want to encourage this kind of behavior, I refrain from dipping into my bag of dirty NPC tricks and let them succeed after only beating them nearly to death.

Afterwards, some of us decide to go out for a round of miniature golf. Naturally, I pick the black golf ball, which leads to comments about it actually being a goth ball, and thence to jokes about playing miniature goth: Each time I miss a putt, I put my hand to my forehead and aaaaaaangst about it. Complicated puns about Nietzschean philosphy abound, but I'll spare you that exquisite agony.

Afterwards, we adjourn to the Daytona Ale House for food and drinks.

I sleep late, recover from my gaming hangover, and do domestic chores like laundry.

I play City of Heroes, do prep work for my next L5R game, and in a burst of insane creativity that actually woke me from sleep, I invent the most beautifully deranged motivation ever for the Big Bad in the story I'm currently writing. It's so twisted and brilliant I can't stop giggling.

Finally, as a sorbet to cleanse the Palette, I watch part 1 of The Company, a nice little miniseries about the early days of the CIA. It's brainy in all the ways a James Bond flick isn't, and makes a rather nice companion piece to last year's The Good Shepherd.

Suitably refreshed, cleansed, entertained, prepared, and creatively fulfilled, I retire to my lavender-scented coffin for sleepies.

Edit: Moved Chris Hepler's quote to a different post.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Okay, I call bullshit

Let me see if I've got this straight, Stan Lee.

Of the three heroes you put up for elimination today, two of them were on the chopping block last week as well, and one of those is up there for the same reason as he was up there last time. And instead of kicking one of these repeat offenders, you boot Mindset?

Fuck you, man. I call bullshit.

1. Idiot Blonde Girl can't even elucidate what her power is, which should have gotten her kicked out immediately. How many auditions did she have to go through to get to this stage? Isn't she supposed to have a carefully crafted persona that she must live 24/7, and which will be tested throughout the course of the show? Add to that the fact that last week, she saw someone in distress and chose to do nothing. And then there's the falling apart in tears when Mindset basically calls her on her "ditz" act... ah, she's fucking useless. Each episode she remains a contestant is an insult to everyone else who failed to make the auditions.

About the only good thing I can say about her is that when her faults are pointed out and she is challenged to grow -- either by Stan, or by another teammate -- she does manage to improve. This, I suspect, is the reason she hasn't yet been cut.

2. Then there's Token, the Hebrew Wonder, who has consistently proven that he is not a team player, does not like the other contestants, is in this thing just to win, etc. Worst of all, he has a magical Star of David ping-pong paddle.

A magical,
Magen David,
Ping fucking pong fucking paddle.

Why couldn't it have been a shuriken? A "Throwing Star of David" would've been fucking awesome. There are plenty of Bible stories about amazing heroes of Jewish legend, and both stealth and cunning in battle have been highly prized qualities among the Israelites. A Jewish ninja would've been incredibly cool.

Oh well. If you want to see a good example of a Super-Jew, Seraph will not disappoint.

3. Finally, there is Mindset, whose only real flaw this episode seems to be zero tolerance for bullshit. I admit, there were better ways for him to have made his point to Limelight, but I think she totally overreacted and took insult when none was really intended. (But she's 19, so what do you expect? At that age, everything's so dramaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatic.)

And you know what? I completely agree with his reasoning in the "Spelling Bee". If a villain can make you concede anything, no matter how minor, then all that proves is that you are susceptible to coercion and can be made to do it again. This is why our government has a strict policy of "Never negotiate with terrorists."

Oh hell, just go watch his exit interview, he makes his points better than I could.

I am appalled that, of these three, Stan keeps the two asinine repeat offenders and dismisses one of the few people there with a great concept, the wherewithal to stay in-character through multiple challenges, and a well-considered, well-articulated, and well-argued position: "A hero doesn't lie just to get out of a challenge. The truth is more important than discomfort."

What I think irks me the most, however, are Stan's parting words. I don't have the transcript in front of me, but he said something to the effect of "A true hero thinks of his team before himself."

*cough Spider-Man cough The Hulk cough Daredevil cough Silver Surfer*

Pardon me. I seem to have a contradiction caught in my throat. You created those rugged individualists, didn't you, Stan? Those misfit loners?

I call bullshit.

Brief Reminder

If you missed last week's Who Wants to be a Super Hero, there is a repeat of the first episode tonight at 8pm EST on the Sci-Fi channel, followed by an all-new episode at 9.

And then at 10, a program called Mind Control, where a strange British man compels people to give him their wallets, and buys rings with pieces of blank paper.

Just FYI.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

WNW: Anime Girls Rock Your World

Today's anime may be done on computers and be visually perfect, but it's often soulless. Anime from the 80s and 90s had HEART, dammit!

The Look, starring: Yuri and Kei, aka the Lovely Angels, from Dirty Pair: Project Eden; Priss Asagiri from Bubblegum Crisis: 2032; Faye Valentine from Cowboy Bebop; and some chick from Kimagure Orange Road (I never watched that series because it was this wacky soap opera with psionic siblings and there were, like, a bajillion episodes made).

Empowered women who kick ass and look hot while doing it.. one of the main reasons I love anime.

The Fine Print

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