Tuesday, March 26, 2013

When in China...

While I may not have been impressed with the movie as a whole, I did really enjoy the character of the China Girl. One of my disappointments with the movie was that we didn't get enough of her.

Now, if you own Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road, you might be thinking of making a character like China Girl in your own campaign. Unfortunately, AiO doesn't make it easy for you. It's not impossible at all, but it would require juggling things around a little bit. You could use the Crafted Person template, then reduce Size down to 1 and use those 2 points to buy Basic Skills and Traits. Or start with the Small Animal template and spend 1 of your points to buy off No Hands.

Or you can use this shiny new template to create China People or a number of other curious Oz inhabitants.


Size: 1

Athletics: 2
Brains: 1
Presence: 3
Sneaking: 2
Wits: 1

Traits: Crafted

Customization Notes: Some toys are made of materials that have a hard time standing up to the rigors of adventuring, so consider taking a Weakness to represent that. China People would have a Weakness to Blunt Injury (Common, Damaging). A pastry citizen of Bunbury might have a Weakness to Getting Soggy (Common, Damaging). High Presence Skill and Presence Specialties are common among toy characters, whether it's the "lovely appearance" of a China Princess or a living toy bear who is "soft and cuddly." Sneaking skill and specialties can also be used when a character is likely to be mistaken for a mundane, non-living item.

Sample Character:
Name: China Girl
Template: Toy
Size: 1

Basic Skills

Athletics: 3
Awareness: 3
Brains: 2
Presence: 4 (cute little girl)
Sneaking: 3
Wits: 3

Traits: Crafted, Weakness: Blunt Injury (Damaging, Common)

Friends List: Oscar Diggs

Bonus question: What do you think of the Toy template? Should I have thought of this years ago and put it in the book?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

My review of Oz the Great and Powerful

Well, I finally got around to watching Oz the Great and Powerful. It was visually stunning, I'll grant that. But I can't really say I liked it.

The opening black & white sequence is supposed to introduce us to Oscar Diggs back home in Kansas, a con man and philanderer. We are also introduced to the actors who will be portraying CG characters later. Zach Braff is in there a lot, while Joey King only gets a brief moment. She could have used more development, as her one line as a human seemed kind of random to me.

I don't know if this makes James Franco a good actor or a bad actor, but I found it hard to dislike him. He struck me less as a conniving con artist than as a politician who believes everything he says, at least for the moment he says it.

Once he arrives in Oz, his adventures mirror Dorothy's fairly closely. The first person he meets is a good witch then he goes to the Emerald City but can only get what he wants once he kills a Wicked Witch. Even the Dark Forest scene is reminiscent of the forbidding domain of the Wicked Witch of the West from the classic movie.

Then we get to the first big plot twist. This Wicked Witch is revealed to be a hot blonde named Glinda. And partly because she's hot and partly because we in the audience all know who it is, she survives the encounter and the plot then becomes one of the fairly standard Hollywood plots: Unlikely hero must learn to face his destiny.

One of the big conceits of the film is that the Wizard's prestidigitation wins out over real magic. And looking at how the magic is presented, it's not that hard. Because most of the magic that the witches use in the film is either zapping something with some kind of energy and flying. Which means that the Wizard's illusions automatically win because they cannot be blasted or flown at.

A couple of characters and their abilities were presented inconsistently in the film. Just about everyone who has seen the movie noticed that Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West will sometimes fly with a prop (bubble or broom) and sometimes without, with no real reason given. But also we have a very touching scene with the Wizard helping the China Girl get ready for bed (implying that she does sleep) while a later scene has her walking around the Poppy Field with no effect at all.

Finley and the China Girl (who gets no name beyond that) were overall fun characters, but were not really part of the story. Finley seemed mostly there to provide Oscar Diggs with someone to explain things to. China Girl is there to be cute and fragile.

I was really disappointed with the Wicked Witch of the West once she finally appeared. They used a lot of prosthetics to change the shape of the actress' face and the end result only really worked from a couple of angles. While we do see her vulnerability to water, it's never explained. Is it a general witch thing, or just her? Because it's definitely not part of the Wicked Witch transformation.

It's a good mindless fun, but make sure you turn your brain off for the whole movie.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

This Year's Haul

As is my usual tradition, I'll be sharing my DunDraCon haul with you in this post. I do this for a couple of reasons. First of all, it gives me an opportunity to geek out (and who doesn't love an opportunity to geek out?). Also, since not all of my fans are gamers, I like to show them some of the options out there.

Starting from the top of the pile, we have:

Dungeon World:  This game uses the rules of another game (in this case Apocalypse World) and rebuilds them into a D&D style game. It's a pretty thick book that I haven't gotten entirely through, but the system works on the basis of "moves." Some moves are unique to a character, like a skill or power, but other moves can be made by anyone, and the GM even has moves. While it looks like a potentially fun fantasy game, I have a hard time seeing it handle the good ol' player vs. environment, dungeon crawling playstyle of old-school D&D.

Monsterhearts (not pictured): This game also uses the Apocalypse World engine. Since it's a smaller game with fewer moves, it's somewhat easier to grok. It aims to model the supernatural horror/teen drama genre made popular by shows like Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and True Blood. As it encompasses sex and violence as well as angst, you might want to be careful who you play this with.

Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: The latest licensed game from Margaret Weis Productions. It uses a modified version of the Cortex+ system originally developed for their Smallville game, then modified even further for more action-oriented drama. Like most Marvel RPGs I've seen, they presume that you will be playing an existing Marvel character. This book provides a modest set of these, as well as tips for assigning stats and powers for existing characters. There is also a free download of random tables for creating original characters. (There are currently no rules for "point-based" or designed characters, but there's nothing stopping you from simply choosing on the random tables rather than rolling.)

Arduin Eternal: This one was actually something my wife bought. Many years ago, we found the two-volume Compleat Arduin set at a used bookstore. I thought it was a neat, if slightly kludgy system, but my wife fell in love with the plethora of exotic races. When she saw that there was a new, updated edition of the system, she did an impressive impersonation of Igor from the Dork Tower comic strip (catchphrase "IT MUST BE MINE!"). It looks much cleaner than the Compleat Arduin, though I have not yet looked to see if the critical hit charts still include the possibility of losing a buttock. (Yes, I just typed "losing a buttock." Meaning the character will sit lopsided for the rest of their days.)

Five Nations: A setting sourcebook for D&D's Eberron setting.

Stormwrack: A D&D environment sourcebook giving campaign options and adventure tips when sailing the seven seas (or however many seas there are in any given fantasy world).

Pathfinder Core Rulebook: Actually, we already have one of these. And all the other hardcover books that Paizo has published. But having an extra copy is always nice. That way, it takes two people looking up rules for all of the books to be taken up rather than just one.

Amazing Adventures: This is a pulp-style RPG using the SIEGE Engine, the same rules that power the Castles & Crusades fantasy RPG. Although it is a fun read and looks like it would be fun to play, I have a a hard time grasping the idea of a "level 1 pulp hero." When I think of pulp heroes, I think of people who are already at the top of their game.

Rifter #10: Due to a number of issues with Palladium's business practices, I prefer to buy their books on the secondary market. That is, used. In previous years, the Buyer's Bazaar has offered a decent selection, but this year, I only found one Palladium product. On the up side, the GM advice from Hugh King is worth its weight in gold for any Rifts GM.

Don't Rest Your Head (not pictured): A very surreal game about insomniacs who find themselves in the Mad City, a place of Neil Gaiman-esque nightmares.

Munchkin Deluxe: I already had Munchkin, but this was just too cool to pass up. The set includes not just the cards and die (just one die) from the original game, but a playboard with a very cool dungeon-style level tracker and Munchkin shaped pawns, more cards, color illustrations on all the cards, and two-sided cards for tracking a player's gender (which can change at the drop of a hat in this game).

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Adventures in Oz: Greater and More Powerful Than The Movie.

So Oz The Great & Powerful is opening in theaters tomorrow. But once you've seen the movie, what are you going to do? Watch it again? Maybe you'll check out some of the other Oz movies out there. Or maybe you'll pick up a book. The classic Oz books by L. Frank Baum are all wonderful reads. Then you might pick up the extended Oz series, including the works of Ruth Plumly Thompson. A quick search on Google or Amazon should turn up lots of places to start.

Or you could pick up one book that contains an infinity of Oz adventures. Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road is not a single story or a collection of stories. It's a rulebook for a game of creating your own Oz stories.

In a roleplaying game, you don't have to be a great actor like James Franco or Mila Kunis to have fun. Your performance is only for the other people at the table and they'll all have their own characters to portray as badly as they want, too.

And the Narrator isn't like a movie director (like Sam Raimi), who tells all the actors what to say and how to say it. Their job is to present the challenges and scenarios that your characters will face. You don't even need special effects or expensive costumes. All you need is imagination, friends, paper, pencils, dice, and maybe counters of some kind.

You can even get the digital edition at a discounted price this weekend only. RPGNow and DriveThruRPG are offering 25% off (and 10% off the Print/PDF Bundle) as part of their GM's Day Sale running until March 13th. Paizo.com, home of the Pathfinder RPG, is offering 20% off as part of their GM's Day Sale, but theirs only runs until March 10th. Even Lulu is getting in on the fun, offering 20% off your order until tomorrow with the coupon code SPARK.

And for those who prefer convenience to price, you can buy Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road from Amazon.com or get it as an ebook directly from your iPad, Nook or Kindle!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Find A Path To Adventure!

It's March 4th again, and this year it marks the 5th anniversary of the passing of E. Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, the first roleplaying game. In his honor, gamers everywhere have declared March 4th GM's Day. To help you buy gifts for that Game Master, Dungeon Master, Storyteller, or Narrator that takes you on amazing adventures, RPGNow and DriveThruRPG have traditionally held a GM's Day Sale over this week. And just like last year, Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road is there. You can get 25% off all the PDFs and even get a good deal on print editions.

This year, it seems that Paizo has joined in and set up a GM's Day sale of their own. I don't know if they've done this in previous years, but this is the first year they invited me to participate. I consider this a step in the right direction from them and encourage you to encourage them to keep it going.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Wizard of Oz CCG on Kickstarter

For all you Kickstarter fans out there, there is currently a Wizard of Oz CCG looking for funding. There are two things that make this project particularly interesting to me. First of all, the designers have turned to the novels for their inspiration. Each of the expansion sets they want t0 do are based on the books of the Oz series. Secondly, I happen to know that some of the card art has been done by Loraine Sammy, who was kind enough to do the cover art for Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road as well as a couple of interior illustrations.

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