Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mombi the Yookoohoo?

Back when I was designing AiO, I went through the stories in significant depth to make sure that everything that happened in the books was possible in the game. But there were still some things that didn't quite fit. "Edge cases" we call them. And one of them was Mombi.

For those who haven't read the novels, Mombi is the former Wicked Witch of the North. Before she was replaced by a Good Witch (who was not Glinda), she hid away Princess Ozma so that the Wizard could assume the throne of Oz. We first meet her in The Marvelous Land of Oz where she has been reduced to a mean old woman who dabbles in magic.

But the kind of magic that she does is kind of surprising. Most, if not all, of her magic is shapechanging, or as it is called in AiO, Transformation. But that's a power that Sorcerers (the most common type of spellcaster, based mostly on Glinda and the Wizard) don't get. For a while, I thought that she might have it as a unique power of some kind, sort of the like literary Wicked Witch of the West and her telescopic eye.

It only came into focus within the last week. Maybe it was talking with Pete about the magic system and explaining exactly what a Yookoohoo is. Maybe something on the Adventures in Oz Tumblr. We may never know.

I realized that even though Mombi didn't fit well into the mold of a Sorcerer, she fit being a Yookoohoo nearly perfectly. The only magic that she uses that isn't a Transformation of some kind is using the Powder of Life, which is a magic item, anyway.

 Does this make her any less of a Witch? I don't think so. Remember that Glinda was described as a Witch in Wizard, but afterwards, she is generally known as a Sorceress. My personal theory is that Glinda was given the title of Good Witch because she was a magic user who was opposed to the Wicked Witches who ran the east and west. With the defeat of the Wicked Witches, Ozian politics was more able to accept nuance and Glinda asserted herself as a Sorceress, a practitioner of Sorcery rather than Witchcraft.

Therefore, I find it perfectly reasonable that Mombi took the title of Wicked Witch (or had it given to her) because it suited her role regardless of her precise powers.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Letting It All Hang Out

Well, I just got done with my first Google+ Hangout. Pete Figtree and I had a lot of fun talking about the magic rules and a lot of other parts of how AiO works. If you missed out on the fun as it was happening, you can see it here:

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Making a Hash of things... Again

Oh, the things I do for my fans.

Some of you might recall the computer animated adaptation of The Tin Woodman of Oz that I reviewed a while back. Well, that team reunited and decided to adapt another Oz story. This time, it's The Scarecrow of Oz.

I'll start with what I did like about the movie: It did a decent job of tying the pieces of the story together. The Oz books have generally leaned toward the picaresque, with even the more plot oriented stories having some side adventure or unusual encounter along the way. So rather than winding up in Jinxland after some other adventures, Trot and Cap'n Bill find adventure while traveling to Jinxland.

I want to give this movie a lot of credit because it was made on a completely volunteer basis. Volunteer voice actors, volunteer animators and donated rendering time. From that viewpoint, it's kind of astonishing what amateurs can accomplish these days. But it never really lends itself to comparison with professional productions.

Particularly when it comes to Trot. Her eyes are often shadowed in a way that make her look partly like a creepy doll and partly like a creepy old lady. And the Jinxland guards look like they came from a video game, animated suits of armor with no evidence of a person underneath. I'm sure it was easier make one model and copy & paste it where needed, but it was one more thing that pulled me out of the story.

Overall, the character designs are in three major categories: attempted realistic (Trot) that looks odd, stylized characters (Gloria) that look interesting, and cartoony (the Witch, the Jinxland guards) that just don't work.

The story itself is changed from the book, though not as severely as Tin Woodman was. Perhaps the biggest change to the story is that it is set as a sequel to their previous film, even though Scarecrow came first in the novels (Scarecrow was #9 and Tin Woodman was #12). Well, that and the aforementioned tying the story together.

The Scarecrow is introduced earlier in the story, and is shown having an argument with his friend, the Tin Woodman, over his ability (or inability, as the case may be) to scare crows. Then there's a scene with the Tin Girl, who I didn't care for in the first movie, calling the Tin Woodman "Tinny." While I have no problem with pet names and the like, I would have preferred she called him "Nicky" or something. Something that shows she loves him beyond his tin nature, you know?

Scarecrow also meets Trot and Cap'n Bill earlier as well, meeting them in the land of Mo and participating in their encounter with the Bumpy Man. Button Bright fails to appear in this scene, or the story at all. They travel to Jinxland in a boat held up by balloons where they meet Pon, who was exiled from Jinxland because of his love for Princess Gloria.

Once they get to Jinxland, we meet Gloria (who is Trot's cousin in this movie), King Krewl, and Googly Goo. There's an attempt to make these characters look at least a little exotic, with Gloria wearing an elaborate outfit including harem pants.

The local witch is never referred to as Blinkie, mainly because the character has two functioning eyes. And while she does turn Cap'n Bill into a grasshopper, she doesn't manage to change him back. And the flying armada that saves the day is nor Orks, but crows, since the Scarecrow's inability to scare crows means that he can attract them in prodigious numbers.

Unlike their previous effort, none of the characters sing. There are a couple of songs in the movie, but they are in the background. Too much in the background, really. The sound levels are so quiet most of the time that you can barely hear the lyrics even when a character isn't talking over it.

In summary, the adaptation is at least a little more faithful than their previous effort, the animation is good on a technical level, but odd character designs and amateur writing and voice acting make it difficult to watch.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

What's in the Wizard's Magic Bag?

Okay, The Wizard's Magic Bag is slowly but surely becoming a thing. Although a lot of the stuff going into it is from the blog, it still takes some time.

For one thing, I'm rewriting everything that I had previously written. Not only with this allow it to have a unified voice, I'm also rewriting it trying to replicate the writing style that I used in AiO. I don't know how many of you have noticed, but the writing style in AiO is not what I use on this blog. It's much more simplified, though I try to avoid being overly simplistic. My primary enemy is commas. Not that there's anything wrong with commas, and I don't misuse them, but I tend to use an awful lot of them. In fact, all but one sentence in this paragraph uses a comma for some purpose or other.

For another thing, I'll be adding some things. Not just more magic items, but new magical options. Including some rules for letting your character chuck fireballs with the best of them, and an alternate system for sorcery based on Oz Points.

Here's the current list of what's going in:

Errata & Clarifications

This is where the "Effect Power is a penalty to your Brains Skill" is explained to those customers who don't read the blog. (Note: Make sure to include a link to the blog) The expanded Transmutation rules are going in there as well. This is first so that when RPGNow and DriveThruRPG show a preview on the product page, customers can get the patches for free.

New Rules

Here, we'll have rules for minor magics, battle magic, and using friendship as magic. Stuff that I haven't mentioned on the blog before. Something totally new.

Magic Items

Here's the big list of magic items from the books. I also want to touch on some interesting details and quirks of the magic rules, like when an item is just a spell, or having a magic item as a character's starting friend. I'd also like to try to find some room to discuss the story possibilities
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