Saturday, July 18, 2015

Ant Man Capsule Review

Ant Man turned out pretty funny. All the actors did good work, but the secondary cast really brought it and nearly stole the show more than once. It is very heavy on the continuity nods. Marvel movie junkies will want to see Avengers 2 before this one, and stay to the end of the credits, though there aren't any big surprises. On the Marvel Cinematic Universe scale, the tone is even sillier than Guardians, and the entertainment value for my tastes puts it firmly in the mid-range above 1st Thor  and Iron Man 2, but behind the big tent poles of Avengers and Cpt. America. I like that they took some time for the set up, because it feels like there was just the right amount of ant antics and big/small fighting without wearing out the gimmick. Yes, this is Marvel going very, very comic book with a movie, and still pulling it off.

A warning for the realism inclined: just don't even worry about it, the physics in this movie lives squarely in the realm of utter nonsense. Consider this your warm up for the future one about a magician. Assuming the talking tree and raccoon didn't already get you settled. Or the two starring a Norse god and his flying hammer. Or the... yeah, you get it.

Friday, July 3, 2015

RPG Settings in My Head

I suspect nearly everyone who enjoys playing role playing games, and almost certainly everyone who referees them, has settings they would like to play in. Or maybe it's just me. In any case, being without a gaming group at the moment, I need to get my set of settings out of my head to free up room for other things. Also it's a fun exercise at a time when my creative side has had most of its juice squeezed out by relentless, difficult, mental work going on at the real job.

1) The Far Realm.
The Eternal Empire is a place of order, serenity, and control. Its holy rule has tamed the wild lands and given all safety, opportunity, and surety of their place in society. But not all people recognize the benefits of this. A few, a very few, people refuse to accept their natural place, or seek to sow chaos in the great realms. Those people are found by the Empire. And since they can not fit into an ordered society, they are deported for their own good. The Empire's mightiest barges risk crossing the Black Sea, carrying the people to the Far Realm.
This one would be stock swords and sorcery with some steam-punk or sci-fi if the players desire. (It could easily go full pulp if desired as well.) Patterned with Dungeons & Dragons (any version) or similar games such as Pathfinder in mind, I originally envisioned this as a setup for a West Marches style exploration campaign. All characters have in their background a reason why the Empire wanted them gone. It could be anything, from being a criminal or revolutionary, to studying the wrong magics, to trying to court the wrong nobleman's daughter. They begin on a deportation barge arriving at the massive iron fortress controls the only harbor and passes through the Stone Wall mountains to the lands of the Far Realm beyond. The barge opening provides a chance for initial social encounter, they are released into the town of Iron Wall in the valley below the Fortress.

2) Unnamed dark fantasy
Our world stands on the brink. Too much of it has been used up. Too many lives lost. Magic tears at its fabric, and from the rends come chaos and things unspeakable. We must continue to fight to hold it together, for the alternative is utter destruction.
Swords and sorcery as slow apocalypse, with horror elements. Pull some of the magic and insanity rules from Call of Cthulhu and derived games, place into a war torn world with dwindling resources. Think of a setting similar to westerns, with an emphasis on bust rather than boom, on its way toward becoming Roland's "moved on" world from The Gunslinger. Sorcerers driven insane seeking powers beyond those of mortal man. Dark cults seeing evil forces as their salvation. Destruction, chaos, and death, all adding to the strain on reality, opening magic portals (rends) to a dark realm (along the lines of Mortal Kombat's Outworld) which bring even greater dangers. I see this setting as more appropriate for a generic rule set such as Savage Worlds, GURPS, or GORE than D&D.

3) Saturday Afternoon at the Movies
In the not-too-distant future, teams of troubleshooters drawn from the best and brightest scientists, soldiers, engineers, and negotiators are formed by the UN to handle the increasingly extreme threats being faced by the world.
This one is B-movie sci-fi pulp in a post-global warming, post limited nuclear exchange, post bio-engineering, post-any-other-bad-sci-fi-movie-plot-device-you-can-think-of world, the UN troubleshooters faces mutant beasts, weather gone mad, callous corporations, and overzealous warriors of all stripes. I pretty much made this one up with Savage Worlds in mind. My original idea for this setting was for a series of stand alone scenarios rather than a full blown recurring-character campaign. I thought it might be a good format for irregular play schedules, varying player count, and all the other inconveniences imposed by actual adult lives.

4) Cyberpunk set in a spin on the Car Wars/Autoduel America setting.
Probably Savage Worlds again, with some additions from Interface Zero. This could easily shade into Saturday Afternoon at the Movies territory, but as envisioned I would try to keep it more toward a noir-ish tone. Autoduel America has some very nice elements as a setting, including a company that will clone you and back up your memories, for a price, political splits from a second civil war, and its own take on a mini-apocalypse that kicked off the return of death-sports and made the country outside of "fortress towns" a rather dangerous place to go without a well armed and armored car. I think it would be a pretty interesting place to set a combat heavy cyberpunk campaign.

I've probably got a space opera setting in me somewhere, but the capsule pitch always comes out as Star Wars without the Force, so I probably need to give it some more thought. In any case, if you made it this far, would you most like to see me expand on any of these? What strange worlds would you like to take a fictional ramble through?