Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Board Game Christmas!

This isn't a real post ... it's just a note to say that I had something of a board game Christmas. Among my Christmas booty was:

Little Dungeon - Turtle Rock




D&D Attack Wing - Wave 1 x 2





Garden Dice



King of New York



Dig Down Dwarf



Sentinel Tactics - The Flame of Freedom




Sentinel Tactics - The Flame of Freedom Miniatures

 


Sentinel Tactics Uprising

 

Sentinel Tactics Uprising Miniatures



gad-ZOO-ks!

 Image is from the Kickstarter when the game was called, "Zu" ... changed to gadZOOks!



Wow ... so, I will try to write up some reviews of these games as I get a chance to play them!

Merry Christmas!!


Jeff







Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Disqus


So, I was the victim of my first malicious blog comment today. Sure, I get spam content. The odd advertisement for Viagra. But, this was different. It seemed someone just wanted to post something unkind on my blog for no reason.

And I realize that there may be little that can be done to police this kind of activity. And in a way, I am flattered. I figure you're not a real "celebrity" (LOL) until someone attacks you. So, I have left the comment up as a sort of badge of honor.  I've now undergone that right of passage ... cool.

I have added Disqus to my site to track comments. Please let me know if it makes the commenting process overly cumbersome. In the past, I haven't used any kind of comment screening and just kept up with the spam myself manually.

Thanks!

Jeff

Squadron UK Sourcebook on Kickstarter!


I am a fan of Golden Heroes and this book brings back all the characters of the original RPG and stats them out for the new Squadron UK which I reviewed a while back! And which I included in my personal list of Top 10 Free-RPG's on the internet. (Unfortunately, Squadron UK Basic is no longer free. But, it is available pretty inexpensively.)

I am a backer!! As a fan of Old School and Superheroes this one was a no-brainer!! And I'm not even from the UK!


Jeff

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Merry Christmas

That time of year to annually share my favorite Christmas Song ...




Warm regards,

Jeff

Monday, December 8, 2014

Diners, Drive-Ins, and Superheroes!



Welcome to part 2 of my latest "Hero DxD" play-test report.

When last we left our intrepid heroes the villainous Mamma Bear (wife of the evil J.J. -which although being played by Laurence Fishburne is named for James Earl Jones ... but, if you saw "evil J.J. and immediately thought I named the villain for J.J. Abrams, well that works too ... but, that was just a happy accident.) But, I digress ...

Mamma Bear (played exquisitely by Gina Torres) held a car in the air over her head and was poised to throw it at the heroes! (When I say "played exquisitely" I mean that I told my fellow gamers as I described Mamma Bear, "Imagine that she's being played by Gina Torres if this were a movie." And well, in my imagination she did an "exquisite" job.) But, I digress ...

Mamma Bear did indeed throw the car smashing it into the side of the diner. Debris flew everywhere, but thanks to a critical success on her defense roll, one player not only avoided injury for herself but also was able to protect any innocent bystanders from harm!

Now the fight is on! Mamma Bear, the super strong black beauty in one arena, and her less super, but just as evil pistol toting hubby J.J. in the other. J.J. went down quickly, but Momma took a bit longer to defeat. The Heroes did win the day and were personally congratulated by Guy Fieri (of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives) himself! The celebrity foodie there to do a follow-up on his piece on the "Diner on the Route" (now we know why it really closed!) Guy gave each of the heroes his business card with a number and time written on the back. Call me, he urged!  

The players had a bit of down time, but ultimately came together out of curiosity and made the call. The players disappeared from their calling location to reappear in the called location, the now abandoned, Justice League Satellite! It seems that Guy Fieri's true identity is one Ralph Dibny AKA the Elongated Man. EM had been struggling with an image problem. And with other high profile stretcher's stealing his thunder he decided to retire. He gave up his public ID as Ralph Dibny and went to work for the Food Network.

Now ... according to Guy (Ralph), the Food Network is looking to get into the Superhero biz and wants him to help promote a new supers team. They even offer a salary of $1000 a week. All they gotta do is thwart the occasional super villain and maybe get caught on TV doing it. Why not support the Food Network? The Heroes don't have anything against food do they?

The players agree to this arrangement for now. Guy's connection with the abandoned JLA satellite gives them access to information on criminals and instant travel access all over the globe. (The JLA have moved to a new headquarters (The Hall of Justice) in Washington DC. No sooner has the new team agreed to this remarkable arrangement, then a bank heist in New York sets off an alarm drawing their immediate attention!

The supervillains Lightning Serpent and Sparrow Hawk (both created by me by the way when I was in 4th grade!) are hold up in the bank and have taken hostages! Time to beam down to action!!

*End of issue 2* (and our play session!)

So the rest of the playtest went really well. The combat between Mamma Bear and the PC's was exciting the flow was quick and everything felt easy. New mechanics for difficulty levels and critical success all came into play effortlessly and the rules continue to stay out of the way of the role-play, perhaps more for Hero DxD, than they did even with Five by Five.

My new superhero game rocks! I have another play-test scheduled here at Watchtower next week on Saturday, 12/13. I am really looking forward to it!

Regards,


Jeff

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Beards and Superheroes!



Play-tested Hero DxD (formerly Super Five) with friends at my new apartment in Baxter Springs, KS. Please note, I have officially renamed Baxter Springs: Smallville. Also, my apartment shall hereafter be referred to as: Watchtower.

We started with the random character creation which went remarkably well. I was actually shocked at how everyone's characters came together with minimal fuss. And everyone was really happy with the characters that they got. My group of 5 players all had characters created and ready to play in under an hour. It was amazing!

The adventure started with everyone brought to a diner in Baxter Springs called: Cafe On The Route. This was an actual place in Baxter Springs that was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (with Guy Fieri), but then closed down before I ever moved here. So, of course in my version of Baxter Springs the place is still open! Yay! And this is where the players begin.

I explain to my group of players how Baxter Springs is actually Smallville, how Superman moved to Metropolis years ago, and how the name was changed to protect Superman's secrets from his enemies. I then go on to describe a freak storm of green glowing rain that each of them were caught in a few weeks before (providing a reason for superpowers to those who need it circa the Smallville TV series.)

We go around the table and each player describes their characters, powers, and origins/backstories, then I go around again and we discuss the circumstances that brings each character to the diner. Finally, I talk about two shady characters talking mysteriously in the corner. One played by Peter Dinklage, and the other played by Laurence Fishburne (recast from James Earl Jones ... will explain in a moment.)






The Fishburne character - called JJ (James Jones) was asking about the delivery of a mysterious package by the Dinklage character called only "Dwarf" by the JJ character. Suddenly, the Dwarf screams, "I am not a Dwarf!" ... as the hairs of his beard begin moving and growing shooting from his face and grabbing JJ around the throat!

The players aren't sure what to do at the sight of this spectacle and only take action when it's clear that the Dwarf is in danger of killing JJ. At the first signs of opposition, the Dwarf's prehensile beard lashes out, hitting everyone, putting holes in the walls, breaking windows, and elevating the Dwarf through the roof and above the crowd (in the manner of Doc Ock's arms.)

One of the heroes manages to teleport the Dwarf away as JJ comes up wielding a firearm. It becomes quickly apparent that JJ is outclassed and he yells for help. At his call, a 7 foot tall black woman in a fur bikini steps from the a car outside. She also wears bear-claw slippers.




This is Mamma Bear. For her I cast, Gina Torres. With that decision came the immediate decission to recast JJ (James Jones) as Laurence Fishburne as JJ is Mamma Bear's husband (see told you that I'd explain.) Mamma Bear, seeing her hubby threatened picks up a car holding it above her head and prepared to throw!

Come to Mamma!!

This seemed like a perfect 1st Issue cliffhanger and we declared a break here and ordered some pizza!

(Next: Hero DxD play-test report part 2!)


Regards,


Jeff


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Friday, November 7, 2014

My 10 Favorite Comic Covers and More News ...

So, I have started an online playtest of Hero DxD (my Five by Five based Superhero RPG) with a friend from high-school, Michael Curry author of: "Abby's Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption: And how Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt helped!" And it's been so cool to reconnect with my old friend (we learned to play D&D together) that I have become a bit of an eStalker ... reading his blog and what not.

So, I'm going to take a moment, because he's cool ... to plug my friend. Check out his book! Check out his blog! I'll wait. And, we are play testing my super's RPG and despite some of the most turbulent times that I can remember in my personal life (and there have been some doozies!) I am on top of the world. I have an "in person" live play test of DxD coming up on the 22nd, and the game is in great shape!

And that's the update ... however, so that there's something interesting to talk about mixed in, and because I am all about the superheroes right now, I am stealing a page from Michael's blog (He writes about comics and RPG's more than me!) and sharing a list of my, "Top 10 Favorite Comic Covers!"

These will all be from comics that I owned at one time and remember fondly. These are all books in my "rebuilding my collection" buy list, and I believe all from the later part of the "bronze age" of comics.


#10 Marvel Premiere #47 - This shot of Ant-Man caught under a magnifying glass by artist Bob Layton just jumped out at me when I saw it at the local 7-11. That combined with the interior art by John Byrne made this comic a must keep! Alas, I no longer have it, and with the impending appearance of the Scott Lang version of Ant-Man scheduled to be Disney/Marvel movie blockbuster, copies of this gem are bringing hundreds of dollars on eBay ... guess I'll be waiting a while to get this one.



 

#9 - Superman #331 ... Ross Andru is one of the unsung comic heroes of the Bronze age. In addition to great covers like this (Just look at how sexy Lana is!) he gave us an incredible run on Amazing Spider-man over at Marvel.





#8 - Detective Comics #473 ... Great shot of Batman and Robin fighting ordinary looking thugs by the iconic team of Marshall Rogers and Steve Englehart. One of the best, shortest creative runs in comics. Batman never looked so good!




#7 Fantastic Four #170 - This is the oldest book on my list (from 1976.) Before the New Teen Titans made George Perez a household name, he worked for Marvel on books like the Fantastic Four and the Avengers! Just check this Perez cover!!





#6 Brave and Bold #149 - Speaking of the Teen Titans, here they are before they were "new" and man are they awesome drawn by Jim Aparro! I love the art of Jim Aparro! He is one of the best comic illustrators to ever put pencil to paper!!



#5 - DC Comics Presents #24 ... Superman and Deadman! And Deadman says, "I thought being Superman would be FUN!!" Fantastic!! Cover by Garcia Lopez one of my favorite Superman artists!!


 
#4 ROM Spaceknight #8 - I loved ROM for the story. Interior art by Sal Buscema was good, but so steeped in the "Marvel Style" that it just never held any surprises for me (that is until inkers Akin and Garvey came on board.) There was a brief run of covers however by Michael Golden that are some of the most beautiful covers you'll ever see!



#3 Marvel Two-In-One #50 - This cover literally "jumped out at me" from the comic rack at the 7-11. It was 7:40 somethingish in the morning and I was sitting on the school bus at a stop light and I saw this cover through the window. This comic taught me how to cut school! (Seduction of the Innocent, indeed!) I immediately bee-lined to the 7-11 and bought this one with my lunch money! This may be the first comic I ever bought by myself. Story and art by John Byrne!




#2 Crossfire #12 - I have always had a huge crush on Marilyn Monroe and this cover by Dave Stevens is just so incredibly beautiful. I think it speaks for itself. The newest book on my list, this one from 1985. So, with this and the Fantastic Four comic from 1976, that pretty much frames my decade of collecting comics. The comics that I have read since (even older issues from before '76) just don't carry the same magic. The comics from 1976 to 1985 ... these were "my" comics.


 


#1 Marvel Team-Up #59 - This might seem an odd cover to make my #1 spot. Not that Dave Cockrum isn't a Marvel legend deserving of praise, but this one earns its accolades for the comic more than the cover. Still ... this is probably the most fondly remembered comic of my one-time collection. This was my introduction to the art of John Byrne. His clean simple yet dynamic style inspired me to draw. I destroyed this comic, tracing every panel until the art inside was creased with my efforts as I worshiped the skill of the illustrator who I wished to emulate. And I learned a lot about drawing from this one book. So, this comic and its cover is forever etched in my memory. And this one I have already replaced, as well as the follow-up issue that allowed me to resolve a 37 year long cliff hanger ... (Spoiler: Yellow Jacket didn't die!)


And there you have my personal top-ten comic book covers from my collection that was (and will be again!)

Thanks to Mike for the inspiration!!

Regards,


Jeff

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Kaylee: Sometimes a thing gets broke can't be fixed. - Out of Gas episode of Firefly


In my real life ... my day job ... I work with technicians to support the repair of broken computer equipment. One customer called us in to troubleshoot damage related to an accidental venting of steam. This picture from the technician in the field is the real deal. It was just too awesome not to share.

Regards,

Jeff

Monday, September 29, 2014

Super-Five Playtest


My play-test group for Super-Five has fallen apart, and I couldn't be more disappointed. The game is in pretty good shape, but I'd like for it to be better before I try to release anything to the public. But, right now game play itself has stalled and with it some of my enthusiasm for writing and developing for it and for my blog. So, my apologies for the sudden lack of game design content of late.

Super-Five will introduce another substantial change to the Five by Five roll. It's an important enough development to warrant a Five by Five version 4 down the road. There's some really good stuff in this version of the game just waitng to get out. But, I am not going to release it until I am sure that it's ready.

I am considering opening up the game to a few in the community here, or running an online playtest myself. Please message me and let me know if there's any interest in this.


Regards,


Jeff

Friday, September 12, 2014

Krash Karts


My friends and I played "Krash Karts" about a month ago now, and I had been meaning to talk about the game. Krash Karts is the first Kickstarter that I have backed and actually received product for. One cool thing about Kickstarter is since you really can't be completely sure when things are going to be finished and mailed out, receiving the packages can come as a surprise. This felt a little like a Christmas present.

Krash Karts is a card game that plays like a board game, and is about racing and battling go-carts. It is completely obvious that the designer of Krash Karts wanted to make a board game that emulates the video game "Mario Cart." The cool thing about this game is he not only succeeded in his goal, he made a game that is darn fun to play in its own right. None of the people I played with had ever played Mario Cart (Tragedy ... I know!) and they all had a blast! I have spent many many many hours playing Mario Cart on my Wii ... and I had a double blast! This game is fun.


Each player begins with an equal number of cards (I think we each had 3.) These cards are pieces of track to drive on. In Krash Karts you build the race course as you play. This is part of the strategy and part of the fun. Every one has 3 action points they can use to do stuff. Move or draw a weapon card. Since everyone has the same access to resources, using your resources (especially weapons) is the key to victory!

When your car drives off the edge of a track, you must place a new card for your car to drive on. If you are out of cards and can't add to the edge of the track when your car passes over, that's it! You win the game!

This is a PvP battle game but combat is fun and never felt malicious. I really enjoyed the sense of competition and watching the race track take form as we played. The weapons are clever "generic" versions of something very like what Mario Cart might offer and they work really well.




The item cards are really clever they pull triple duty allowing you to attack, defend or lay a certain number of track pieces or short cuts depending upon how they are played. Short cuts are an especially clever device as they allow a car to leave the track and enter at a different location. You can only lay shortcut tiles that form a complete path off and then back onto the track, and since the track is built while you play, it means that the car that's in the lead isn't going to be able to use them because the track ahead hasn't been built yet and you can never go backward. But, the shortcuts can be a game changer for a racer that's gotten stuck in the rear who needs a quick way to catch up. (A single short cut counts as 1 space of movement for a car that uses it no matter how many cards are used to actually make the shortcut!)



We only played once, but things felt really balanced. Everyone has said that they'd like to play again! The game comes in a really small box and everything was really well packaged. I can see carrying this around with me to play on the go. Although the modular track does require a decent amount of table space.

If I could change anything I would make the 3 different tiers of item tokens different colors. Items are balanced and you draw from the pile that corresponds to your placement in the race: 1st, middle, or last. This is also very "Mario Cart" and works well. However all item tokens are the same color. They are marked with the appropriate tier, but these things are tiny and hard to read at a glance. It would have really helped if the different item tokens were different colors based on their tier.


If you like competitive modular games with a decent amount of strategy that's easy to play. I would recommend this game. If you love Mario Cart as I do, I would really really recommend this game. The game and theme here are perfectly presented. One thing I didn't mention is "drivers." The game also has driver characters that you can play to give yourself special advantages in the race. I wasn't that impressed with these, but to be fair, we didn't play with them so I can't speak to how much fun they really are, or what they actually add to the game. I think we might play a few more times without before we add the character cards.


Regards,


Jeff


Thursday, September 11, 2014

SPAM!


This is what I had for lunch today. It was surprisingly pretty good!

Jeff

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A few words about Robot of Sherwood



I saw a review for the latest episode of Doctor Who calling it a "farce" and panning it pretty bad. But, I liked the latest episode (Robot of Sherwood) a lot. I feel the show has been taking itself far too seriously of late and that it needs to lighten up. Sure Matt Smith was a huge hamm... but the stories were all pretty heavy. I much prefer a "heavy Doctor" in a light story. We'll see. Wow, I thought that the Sheriff looked so much like the Master!! I was almost certain that we were getting the Master back. Plus in this episode the classic tactic of the Doctor getting himself captured on purpose so he could figure out what was going on, and telling Robert and Clara that this was exactly what he was doing ... and then Clara taking advantage of this tactic herself to interrogate the Sheriff. These were all really good, classic Doctor Who bits. These worked above and beyond the obvious farcical comedy. I loved the episode. It felt like "classic" Doctor Who to me, and I can think of no higher praise. Oh, and I LOVE the opening credits.

Regards,


Jeff

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Cursed-Disco-Ball-McGuffin Adventure!

My buddy Larry ran another play-test of Super-Five and it went really well. We are all members of Xavier's School ... sort of new new new new new mutants. This game was part-two in our adventure. In the first part we met some of the other members of the school. I met the other players, a female mutant with a sort of shadow casting ability, and another female mutant with like super-human spacial awareness that allows her to do incredible things. I am Ricky O'Shea a redheaded kid from Cardiff who has transplanted to the school.

My body is covered in a kind of "repulsor-ray force field" that pushes things away from me if they come at me just a bit too hard or too fast. Also, when I jump, the field causes me to bounce when I hit the ground or pretty much anything else, so think Bouncing Boy from the Legion of Superheroes. I have trouble controlling the field effect however (my weakness) and ended up bouncing all over the school cafeteria on my first day.



The buzz about the school was about an upcoming concert, Dazzler! Everyone at the school was in attendance when Magneto attacks with his team of evil mutants! Gosh! As new members of the school, we know when to high-tail it to safety! As Ricky (code named: Rebound.) and his new friends seek shelter, the battle rages and there is a huge explosion!

The one in our party who actually paid attention during orientation remembers mention of a tunnel that accesses the sewers that is to be used in emergency to evacuate the school and we head there. Shortly after making it "safely" to the sewers we encounter some Morlocks!

There's one Morlock that things stick to (my antithesis!) and his mother(?) a mind controller. We end up battling these misunderstood mutants but not before discovering that we suddenly have to sing everything. That's right, sing! It's like that Buffy episode, "Once More With Feeling." but, you know of a decidedly lower musical quality.

About this time Prof. X appears in our brains and shows us an image of a device, now broken into pieces, that was apparently part of Dazzler's stage show techno equipment. The device is apparently responsible for our current "singing" dilemma and the pieces of it must be found.

Anyway, we battle the Morlocks between musical numbers and eventually defeat them to discover one of the pieces that we seek is stuck to the sticky Morlock and we retrieve it.

We leave the sewers not sure where to go next, but the shadow casting mutant, feels a "pull" city-ward, so we follow her lead. Shadowgirl (not her real name) leads us to Cloak (of Cloak and Dagger fame) the source of the "pull" but he doesn't stick around to talk ... "sing" with us. Oh, and Dagger isn't with Cloak, he was running alone.

As Cloak was our only lead, we try to follow him! While bouncing around NY we draw the attention of Spider-man! Yay! We tell him about the broken music device and following Cloak. Spidy asks us about Dagger whom we don't know about. He swings off in search of Dagger while we continue our pursuit of Cloak. This was where the first session ended.


Some of the fiddly (what I thought were clever) new game mechanisms just weren't working. Over the next few weeks I went back and reworked Super-Five in preparation for the next play-test.

By the time we played this second half, I had not only cleaned up the mechanical problems but completed the big bunch of random tables needed to make random supers (for those so inclined) bringing the whole package much closer to being the game that I have been striving for.

Larry informed us that the "singing" effect was still a factor, but that we as players and he as GM didn't have to sing anymore. We were all a bit relieved to hear this. It was fun, but a one game only thing. This game starts a little shaky ... apparently, Shadowgirl (man I need to find out what her name is) can't "sense" Cloak anymore and we are left to wander. Eventually, we spot a kind of unnaturally deeper darker shadow draped over and up the side of some buildings. My character leaps right into the center of it. This might not have been the wisest of moves.

Kudos to Larry for writing an encounter designed to take place entirely "inside" Cloak. It was a pretty novel concept. It seems the one piece of tech that we had found glows like crazy and the second one (now lodged inside Cloak) was the same ... and it's glow was feeding Cloak like a drug ... in a bad way! Shadowgirl to the rescue here as she was able to move around inside Cloak when we really couldn't. She was able to get the piece away from Cloak and we all ran like crazy back towards Spidy and Dagger with Cloak in hot pursuit! We made it and with C&D reunited things got much to the better quickly.

We returned to the school with the pieces that we found, but couldn't find a soul! We made the mistake of going into the danger room and we had to fight some drones there because someone had left the program running. We triumphed ... mostly because of Shadowgirl again, because her dice were on fire! She couldn't throw a bad roll.

We got to the heli-pad area and something about the presence of the two missing pieces there caused Dazzler to come back into phase! That's right, the place was abandoned because everyone had been shifted out of phase by the weird disco-ball thingy (Larry didn't describe it as Disco-Ball like at all ... it was some kind of advanced tech, but Disco-Ball is how I imagine it.) Dazzler appears just in time to scream, "Look Out!" As we are attacked by Klaw!

And the final piece of the gizmo? Inside Klaw's klaw of course, making it extra powerful! We manage to help Dazzler defeat Klaw and bringing the three pieces of the Cursed-Disco-Ball-McGuffin together dispels the phase and the singing effects. The villains who attacked the concert are pretty disoriented and decide to beat feet, and we saved the school. Ricky asked Dazzler to the Prom, but it was kind of an off the cuff thing and Larry laughed it off. So, I don't think it'll happen. Oh, well.

The second half of this adventure was a big success! And amazingly I haven't rewritten a single word of the Super-Five game since. I didn't feel the need. It seems like Super-Five might be getting to the place where I want it. And, I couldn't be more pleased!

I will learn more as we play more, but things feel really good right now. I still want to infuse more examples, both to augment the rules and a bunch of character examples. I also want to include a sample adventure or two to demonstrate how everything works together, but the rules are in great shape at the moment and I am very optimistic!

Regards,


Jeff

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Comic Collecting - Marvel Team Up #54 (1977)


Last night was supposed to be our normally scheduled Five by Five game. Our Five by Five game has turned into an interesting hodge-podge of mixed genre television adventures. The group was in Smallville where they had a run in with General Zod, Lex Luthor and Ra's al Ghul (who is revealed to be a PC's uncle - LOL), then they go to Sunnydale, CA to rescue another PC who was kidnapped by the Initiative and they meet not only Buffy and the gang, but Scooby Doo! Currently they are en route to Raccoon City to investigate a potential disturbance there!!

It's been a lot of fun and Five by Five is loose and easy enough to handle not only the leaps in genre conventions, but also the rotating of GM that we've been playing with. But, last night I was down 2 players and we pulled out Munchkin to play rather than advance the Raccoon City story line with players missing. I had considered briefly running a Super-Five one-shot. For those just joining, Super-Five is a superhero themed variation of Five by Five and it has enough new things built into its design when compared to the original Five by Five that game play should feel quite a bit different.

Which brings me to why I am talking about Super-Five as a lead in to my comic book review. I wanted to run a Super-Five playtest, but I didn't because I didn't have any pre-made characters ready. As this was to be a last minute substitute game, spending the whole time making characters didn't make sense. Yes, I have made creating superheroes with Super-Five as quick and easy as I can ... but, making superheroes of any kind requires a bit of forethought, as the superhero genre is perhaps the most varied and versatile in all of adventure fiction. So, I needed pre-made characters ... and I didn't have any. Which brings us up to this comic book review.

As I have decided to share my comic collecting project with my blog community anyway, and said community is likely here more because of my RPG design projects than anything else ... I am going to add write-ups of key characters appearing in the comics that I review as Super-Five characters. I think this will be especially cool as I am reviewing Marvel Team-Up right now and that promises to offer a range of different and interesting characters. And the next time an opportunity for an impromptu play test presents itself, I will have characters all ready to go!

Now ... about Marvel Team Up #54. More great Byrne art! This one was another quick read. As you might remember from last issue, Spider-Man had just jumped right into the middle of a fight between the Hulk and Woodgod ... who I might have neglected to mention had red glowing eyes and appeared to have been possessed! But if you take a quick look back at the final picture in my review, Spidey didn't forget to mention it! He noticed the red glowing eyes right off!

As we start this issue all reference to the red glowing eyes is forgotten. Now it's just Hulk and Woodgod and Spidey all toe-to-toe, but the animosity from last issue has dissipated and Hulk and Woodgod don't seem particularly hostile towards Spider-Man. Spidey is told by the government agents that now surround the trio to clear out of the way, which he does, and the agents proceed to shoot some kind of super-shocker cable netting at Hulk and Woodgod to capture them.

The nets seem particularly dangerous to Spidey who surmises that the agents are actually trying to kill the Hulk (which we find out in a few pages isn't true) and Spidey breaks the Hulk and Woodgod free of the nets as he quickly switches sides!


This team-up is short lived as the government agents blast the whole group with knockout gas that they were saving for just such an emergency! The three heroes are captured by the "government" agents and had Spider-Man been correct about their intentions this would have been the end of his comic book! But he was obviously incorrect, because he awakens to find himself (and the other two heroes) captured as the agents claimed that they were trying to do in the first place.




See! They told Spidey that they weren't trying to kill anyone! Hey, does Tremens' uniform kind of remind anyone else of Captain Kirk? Because that's sure the impression that I got. And perhaps that was intentional foreshadowing ... because these "government agents" must be working for some top secret branch of NASA. It seems that their entire plan is to launch Woodgod into space!

Not so long story, even shorter ... Spidey breaks himself free followed by Woodgod and the Hulk. The government agency thugs attempt to stop the escape and fail, but manage to accidentally launch Spidey into space ... which as far as I can tell is okay with them. Sure, they really wanted to launch Woodgod into space, but any hapless superhero will do in a pinch!


Tears welled in my eyes as the Hulk called Spider-Man, "Friend!" for the first and perhaps the last time... what will next issue hold? Is Spider-Man doomed to become some government space experiment?! We find out next issue!!

I have to admit, when I read these comics half the fun for me is the nonsense ... but this story right now ... makes absolutely no sense whatsoever! And now with Spider-Man blasting off into space and leaving the mysteries of Liberty New Mexico behind him, I wonder if things will ever be explained, or if this is all we get. I suppose I will find out next time. It's funny, in issue 53 there's a explanation in the letters column about Woodgod's use of the word "Scream" which Jim Shooter was apparently worried that readers wouldn't understand. The use of "Scream" within the context of the story was super obvious and no problem at all, and it makes me wonder ... did Shooter read the rest of the story?? Because there was plenty here that didn't make sense! Maybe he was reluctant to bother Mantlo any further after giving him such a hard time over the "Scream" thing and so decided to let the rest of the story slide. See ... this is why it's important to pick your battles!

Below are write ups for Spider-Man, The Hulk, and Woodgod designed for Super-Five (as the game rules exist of this writing.) Those familiar with Five by Five should have no problem playing with these characters in a standard Five by Five game if you want to!



Spider-Man (Millstones: 0 / Milestones: 3)
I have spider-like reflexes that enable me to react quickly to avoid injury! (D8)
I also have the proportionate strength of a spider, that allows me to lift a car over my head or throw a pretty devastating spider-strong punch! (A6)
I can also use my patented web-shooters to entangle bad-guys, or as makeshift projectile weapons! (A6) 
I can cling to any surface just like a spider, this allows me to crawl along walls and ceilings (M6)
My web-shooters allow me to swing thorough the city attaching my web-lines to the tallest skyscrapers or anything else overhead! (M6)
I have an amazing sixth sense that I call my spider-sense that alerts me to danger! (N4)
I work for J.J. Jameson at the Daily Bugle snapping pictures! Unfortunately, it barely pays the bills! (P2)
My real passion is science ... specifically chemistry! I designed my web-shooters and the amazing web-fluid that they project! Even Reed Richards was impressed! (H4)
My Aunt May has cared for me all on her own since my Uncle Ben was killed. She is the bravest person that I know and a real inspiration to me! (E4)
J.J. Jameson has it in for me. His campaign against Spider-Man has half the world convinced that I'm the bad guy! (W0)

The Hulk (Millstones: 0 / Milestones: 3)
I got low ... I put a gun in my mouth and pulled the trigger ... the other guy spat out the bullet. ~Nothing can hurt the Hulk!~ (D8)
Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry. ~Hulk is strongest one there is!~ (A8)
I wander from place to place with nothing but the clothes on my back. ~Hulk jump higher than puny Banner!~ (M4)
I've learned to be very aware of my environment and to keep things under my control. This allows me to live in relative piece without "incidents." ~Hulk will find Banner and smash!!~ (N4)
I am the foremost authority on Gamma Radiation in the world. ~Banner stupid! Hulk no have puny job!~ (P6)
I've become very computer savy over the years. ~Hulk smash Face Book!~ (H4)
I love General Ross's daughter Betty. ~Shut up, Banner! Hulk loves Betty more!~ (E3)
I can't lose control. I can't let the other guy out. ~Hulk hates Banner! Banner makes Hulk go away!~ (W0)

Woodgod (Millstones: 0 / Milestones: 3)
Scream hurts Woodgod, but Woodgod is tough and he will not be stopped by the Scream! (D10)
Woodgod is strong. Woodgod will beat those that bring the Scream to Woodgod. (A6)
Woodgod has the legs of a goat and hooves for feet. Woodgod can run and climb and jump better than the man who brings the Scream! (M6)
Woodgod is of the forest and can track and follow the odors others have left behind them. (N5)
Woodgod is an experiment. Why did the man make Woodgod? (P2)
Woodgod wants to return to the forest where he can live at piece with nature. Animals understand Woodgod. (H4)
The Scream took Woodgod's father. Woodgod remembers his father. Woodgod will avenge his father's memory. (E4)
Woodgod doesn't understand much of the world. Woodgod's mind is like a child's. (W0)

A quick note about the "powers" the number at the end is the Five by Five target for using that power/resource to do something. The letter following shows the general type of power to which the tagline refers.

D = Defend - what you roll to avoid damage.
A = Attack - what you roll to bring the "scream!"
M = Move - what you roll when in hot pursuit!
N = Notice - make a perception check!
P = Profession - what you do!
H = Hobby - what you'd rather be doing!
E = Excelsior - who inspires you to greater heights?
W = Weakness - what gives you trouble!

I had done write-ups for Spidey and the Hulk before, but Super-Five has evolved a bit since then, so these new examples are a little different. Also, Milestones are advancement points used to improve your Hero. I couldn't create Spider-Man's very wide range of powers using just the "new character" creation rules, so I gave him a few Milestones to finish him up. I went ahead and gave Woodgod and the Hulk a like amount and their character write-ups reflect this.

The only thing I know about Woodgod is what I've read in these two issues of MTU. So, I created a Super-Five character for him the best that I could extrapolating from that information. Hope you like what you see. You should be able to use these characters in your standard Five by Five game if you want. (Just ignore "Millstones" they're a new concept that is unique to Super-Five and I'll reveal more about them later!

Regards,


Jeff

Friday, August 1, 2014

Comic Collecting - Marvel Team-Up #53 (1976)


Memories of this one are faint ... I liked the Hulk. I liked Spider-Man ... and this new guy ... Woodgod ... he was cool. I was 11 years old when this comic was on the stands. And although I don't have strong connections with this issue specifically, it is part of a set of comics that I'd really love to have for my personal collection. I am speaking of the John Byrne illustrated issues of Marvel Team-Up. There aren't a lot of them, but they are all really beautiful to look at.

This issue has the distinction of being the first time that John Byrne ever drew the X-men. They appear briefly at the start of the story in what is a really overly contrived set-up to get Spider-Man into the story. It's painful enough that I wonder if this story wasn't originally penned to appear in the Hulk comics and somehow got pushed to Marvel Team-Up.


John Byrne draws the X-men for the first time, and they do look beautiful. But basically, the entire group including Spider-man are coming back from another adventure and are in the vicinity of New Mexico when some weird stuff happens, the group gets attacked, and the X-Men just dump Spidey in New Mexico to take care of the trouble alone while they continue on their way to New York. Maybe they figure Spider-man won't mind since both New York and New Mexico have "New" in their name?

The bulk of the story centers on the Hulk (who finds an abandoned town and so immediately adopts it as his own. "Hulk is all alone in town! Hulk is all there is -- so town must be Hulk's town!" And so declaring he begins to beat up the only other "person" he finds in the town. Not a person at all, but a goat legged monster creature basically a satyr ... but much bigger than I ever imagined a satyr to be (almost Hulk's size) ... a satyr on steroids. Woodgod is clearly trespassing and needs a beat down.



This exchange comprises the majority of the action of the issue. That and the "mystery of the town of Liberty" which is covered in a unidentified purple mist, an odd smell (or was that Woodgod ... I am unclear), and toxic levels of radiation. Men in radiation suits are amazed to find Spider-man alive, who thinks, "Lord save that old Russian - Doc Mishkin! It must be the anti-radiation mist he sprayed on me and the X-Men that's somehow keeping the gas from affecting yours truly!" and ... not, "Oh, my God! I've got to get out of here, that anti-radiation mist that the crazy Russian scientist sprayed on me could wear off at any minute!" Good old Spider-Man.

I actually enjoyed rereading this comic book quite a lot, despite the silliness. Byrne's art is nice. It's consistent and clean. It's the type of Byrne art that I really fell in love with. And the story was a quick read. I miss that. I don't feel like a comic has to occupy me for an hour or more to be enjoyed. A nice ten minute read is awesome. I'll go back and read it again, and spend more time enjoying the art. I miss the pacing of older comics like this one.

Sure the story this time had a lot that left me scratching (or shaking) my head especially where Spider-man's involvement was concerned ... But, as I said, Spidey doesn't really have a whole lot to do this issue, so if making sense would get in the way of his page count ... then I am all for the nonsensical. However it does look like Spidey will get to make up for things next issue as the final page cliff hanger dumps him right in the middle of the action.



I can't wait to read the next issue!!


Jeff