Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Long post covering several subjects

First of all, can you smell smoke?  Because my players have been on fire these past couple months.

As the unimaginative title suggests this post is going to cover some varied ground, so I have decided to break the post up into sections so if you wish to skip parts that do not interest you, that will make things easier.

Song of the week:

From the anime Macross Plus, a song composed by the amazing Yoko Kanno and  Gabriela Robin, performed in the Zentran language by Mai Yamane.



Self indulgent trip down Memory Lane and some recommendations

Back during the nineties when I was a student at Oakland University we used to have Anime Night once a month.  Dave Zyn was in charge of it and he would bring in an eclectic mix of stuff. I recall some of his choices were Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, Irresponsible Captain Tylor, The Enemy's The Pirates, Giant Robo and Macross Plus, among other things.  Sometimes his choices were a little weird and did not take.  Here Is Greenwood, for example, was just...Look, after watching a couple episodes of that anime I have decided I will never, ever understand the Japanese.  Some of Dave's choices were not popular.  One time he brought in one of the Super Sentai episodes that the Power Rangers series is adapted into for American audiences, it was the one with the giant SUVs.  It was fun to see the original product but some people were not amused.  He brought in the new Gamera movies and I recall a couple people just walked out, because damn they were just too highbrow to watch a live action movie with guys wearing rubber suits tearing up scale models of Tokyo.

Me?  I ate that stuff up and came back for seconds.  I loves me the giant flying turtle who coughed up fireballs.

Godzilla is Gamera's bitch.
Gamera, Guardian of The Universe is an outstanding movie.  It was a reboot of the franchise and the production values are outstanding.  But I guess since there weren't any animated tits in the feature some people just couldn't get into it.

So some of Dave's choices were unpopular.  I think Dave was just trying to show people there was more out there than the standard fare some anime clubs were showing.  He was trying to get the casual fan interested in other things.  That is part of the reason I have song of the week; listen to something new, maybe you will like it.

So some members of the Order of Liebowitz decided they wanted to take over anime night, and they pretty much took over.  The Anime Junta, as I called it, kicked Dave out.  I don't know what happened to Anime Night after that because I stopped going and I largely distanced myself from the Order.  Eh, it was time to move on, anyway.

So while some of what Dave exposed me to was not to my taste (man, I hated Irresponsible Captain Tyler) some of the other shows utterly blew me away.  There was the aforementioned Gamera, but there were two shows that were unanimously popular.  The first was the aforementioned Macross Plus:

Macross Plus was about two test pilots and the woman they both love.  When they were teenagers they were all great friends, but now as men and talented pilots, Goa and Isamu, cannot stand one another.  What has caused the rift between them?  What event transpired in the past between them and Myung?  It was a wonderful story combining romance and action, with complex characters.  I remember we were watching episode three and the big show down was about to commence, and the song above, the one that played during the end credits, kicked in.  Many of us cried out in horror because damn it, we were getting this well crafted pay off and we could not stand the thought of waiting a month to see the finale!  We were collectively that drawn in.

And then there was Giant Robo:



Giant Robo is a masterpiece.  In the future Earth's energy problems have been solved by the incorporation of the Shizuma Drive, a clean source of energy that fuels everything from aircraft to cigarette lighters.  In this utopian society there exists Big Fire, a terrorist organization bent on world domination.  Only the United Nation's Experts of Justice stand a chance of defeating Big Fire.  Only now Big Fire has what appears to be a Doomsday device, a weapon that could destroy every single Shizuma Drive on the planet, plunging the world into a new Stone Age.

If you get a chance I highly recommend the Gamera reboot movies, Macross Plus and Giant Robo.  Yes, you might need to know a bit more before seeing Macross Plus as it is a sequel to the original Super Dimension Fortress Macross (later adapted for American television as the first third of the series Robotech) but I think it largely stands on it's own.

The part touching upon PBEMs

What made me think of these anime was a conversation I had with a new co-worker.  He is an artist and I have been loaning him my Giant Robo DVDs, and he thoroughly loves the artistic style of the series.  I mentioned to him Macross Plus and how much he might like that as well, and it got me to thinking about why I love both series so much above others.  I mean sure, I have seen other anime; I own Nadia, The Secret of Blue Water, and I will always have a special place in my heart for Project A-ko, and one of the first series I ever purchased was Dominion, Tank Police.  But I think what sets Robo and Macross Plus above the others was how I looked at them as a GM.  Both worlds possess immense potential for a GM to exploit.  In Macross Plus' case that world is rife for epic war stories.  And what player could resist role playing a pilot strapping on fighters that fly through space and transform into robots with giant guns?

If you don't think this is the least bit cool, stop reading my blog.
And Macross Plus showed how a game can be more than just blowing shit up.

And Giant Robo?  The Experts of Justice is a Japanese version of a super hero team and the "retro futuristic" setting looks awesome.  Players could be other Experts based in other parts of the world taking on factions of Big Fire or other organizations bent on supplanting them.

What we have here are two rich environments for a GM to exploit.   There is plenty of information online for both series if one wishes to do some work and find it.  Both shows are available to purchase on Amazon for very reasonable prices.

But what are GMs (or "moderators") running these days?  X-Men games.  Lots of X-Men games.  Or a Batman game where you get to play one of Batman's many members of his supporting cast or one of the Joker's minions.  In the former you get the same plots: world fears you, someone is likely trying to kill you, you are probably playing a very pretty mutant who bemoans the fact that you have rugged good looks or a nice set of tits as your secondary mutation.  In the latter you are playing a game where you get to play a sidekick in a story with a closed ending.  Where is the creativity?  Where is the originality?  There is an Avengers game that will start up the day after the movie comes out, so you get to play one of the Avengers shown.  No original characters, please.  Only canon characters.  We wouldn't want to challenge your imagination.  And yes, there is an Avengers game out there that gives you the option of playing original characters but according to the "moderator" that got back in touch with me about it you have the option of playing a Master of Evil, and I have all sorts of problems with games where PCs play good guys and bad guys both (and I will be writing an article about that later on), so I have an entirely different set of issues there.

Just this past week someone advertised a Hunger Games game.  What.  The.  Hell.  What, exactly, are people supposed to do in a Hunger Games game, I ask you?  Hunt one another?  Mope around and angst over their fate?  I guess there is a market for that; there are Twilight games out there so I guess the sort of people who play those would love to indulge in that sort of whiny downer role playing.  Oh, right.  X-Men games, I forgot.  Well no, I didn't.  The number of X-Men ads never lets me forget they exist.

If you are running a game then you should be fostering a feeling that the players have options.  Options in what characters they can play.  Not just canon characters someone else created, but encourage them to make their own. There are players out there eager to create their own characters.  I have the extreme pleasure of running games where my players run original characters.  Sure, original characters pose challenges and it can be frustrating, but in the end I find it very rewarding.  Over the years I have been blessed to see some wonderful characters, and to run players playing them.

And what about the world, the environment your games takes place in?  Yes, you want to attract players and do to that it is easier to run a game with an established, well known universe.  But that can also be a trap because not every fictional world works for a PBEM.

Hunger Games?  Really?

If you are running a world make it one that is unique or one that has seldom been seen, and one that provides you as the GM with a wide variety of options in regards to plots and adventures.  So your X-Men game takes place in the future.  Same fucking problems the X-Men face in the present, nothing new.

Are you as a "moderator" lazy?  Is it that you do not want to work at creating your own world?  Or that you do not want to take a risk and choose a world that has not yet been exploited?  Or that you lack the creative juices to create you own world?  Do you think that once you choose a pre-established world that all the hard work is done?  Not likely.  Or are you afraid of all the hard work a unique world would entail?  Sure, that is always a risk.  I ran a game called the D-Police, extra dimensional cops.  I created a lot of background.  The game failed.  Twice.  I was terribly frustrated.  But I chose to take that risk, there were no guarantees that it would work.  I tried, I failed, I dusted myself off and tried again.  It's like the Monty Python joke from The Holy Grail, where the owner of Swamp Castle talks about how every time they built a castle it sank.  Finally he built a castle upon the remains and it was the strongest castles in all the isles!  That's what I do.  I keep building, despite the occasional sinking.  Because it is fun for me to do.

Unused pre-established worlds are out there, you simply have to have the will to look for them and the courage to take a chance and use them.  Unique worlds are difficult to construct but I see them as fun to make.  Canon characters are easy but it is the unique character where the creative payoff lies.

I hope you enjoyed the song of the week, were not too bored by my nostalgic indulgence, found interest in my recommendations and were more inspired than insulted by my observations.  Peace out!

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