Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Song of the week

So, let's talk covers.

For those of you who don't know, Peter Gunn was a television series about a private detective.  It is famous more for it's awesome theme song than for the show itself.  It was covered by the Blues Brothers for their movie back in 1980 and then in '85 it was covered by The Art of Noise featuring Duane Eddie on guitar.

And if it was not for Duane Eddie's guitar work I think this would have been a disaster.

Admittedly this version is not for everyone, but I like it...

But not as much as the Blues Brother's cover.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Song of the week

Before last Thursday I did not know this guy existed.  I was channel chasing that morning, came across VH1 (VH1 shows music videos early in the morning: Jump Start) and this was playing: Gary Clark Jr., Ain't Messin' Round.

And I seriously dig everything about this song.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Eyes Have It

Okay, well, it’s been a while since I submitted an actual article at the blog.  There have been three reasons for this.  The first is my contributions to The Agony Booth.  Recaps there take a little longer, as I have to repeatedly watch episodes of the subject matter, do screen caps and then format the Word documents in a format that can be posted there.  There is a very gracious man there named Albert O’Boogie that makes the whole thing possible and who acts as unofficial editor of my material.  So if you read one of my articles there and thought it sucked??  It could have been worse.  I new posting is up, by the way.  You can see it here.

The second reason is I admit I have been slacking.  These are the last days of City of Heroes.  When November 30 passes so does COH.  I am very, very depressed at this. City of Heroes is one of the best games out there and it’s passing will be mourned by a great many geeks.  So I have been playing the game a bit more than I really should.

Finally, the third reason is due to a lack of material to write about.  I am working up another series of articles regarding bad guys much like I did last year.  But this means sitting down and watching at least a few key episodes of the various series that these characters appear in.   But other than that there had not been a great deal of inspiration regarding what to talk about, RPG wise.

And then this week, inspiration struck.  Struck the way a car plows into a deer.

I am running a second game.  Yeah, I think some time in the past I might have said I was never going to do that again.  So past self?  Shut up.  I am running a second game: Star Wars, Rise of The Republic.  Taking place one year after Return of The Jedi, ROTR recounts the adventures of a group of misfit heroes on the outer edge of the galaxy, fighting a rogue Imperial admiral with aspirations to create an empire of his own.  Some familiar players are participating and I managed to snag a few new ones.  One of them turned out to be a problem

I will not note the player’s name here.  Allowing this player into my game was, well, a mistake.  A big mistake.  You see, the player turned out to be a SpecialSnowflake.

What is a Special Snowflake, you ask?  Well if you did not go to the link I so helpfully provided, I will briefly explain.  A Special Snowflake is a player who has to run the outrageous character, the unique one that stands out.  The half giant assassin, for example.  Or the neutral Jedi.  The Special Snowflake pushes, then breaks the rules regarding character creation and to the GM who allows it, woe betide them!  On top of that, more often than not...in fact almost always...the Special Snowflake has to run the most powerful character in the game as well.

This player submited a character: a hybrid.  In Star Wars.  Amazingly enough there are hybrids in Star Wars, among one or two races (Combined with humans.  Of Course.).  To my knowledge we never, ever saw on in any of the six films but they do show up in other works.  I suppose the character was annoying to me because hybrids are so prevalent in Star Trek games, to the point of ridiculousness.  One of the reasons I am running a Star Wars game was to get away from that nonsense!

So being the one race was not good enough.  But this was just the character’s base; building upon it was the story that the character’s spouse managed to download their beloved’s mind into a droid body!  I expressed by reservations regarding this character and so the player came back with another one.  This one was a humanoid droid modified to be able to pass for human, superficially.  At least, that was how I interpreted it.  The player ran the character a bit differently.
Back to that later.  The character piloted an outdated Naboo starfighter, explaining that numerous modifications made the vessel competitive.  To use an analogy, this is like saying her character was flying an F4 Phantom, first flown in the late fifties:

-and saying that it could still somehow be competitive against an F-15, first flown in the early seventies-

 -by just updating the computers.  Now one could argue that they were not flying an antiquated aircraft, that they were flying a brand new one.  The problem with that is, the only people allowed to produce fighter craft by this point would have been The Empire, so no nation has their own fighter program.  But even, for the sake of argument, the character got their hands on a brand new fighter an upgraded it much like the Northrop F-5 Tiger was upgraded to the F-20 Tigershark.

That aircraft was meant to be sold to foreign markets, while the Americans were meant to fly the superior F15s, F16s, and their still formidable F14s.  The point I am making is, by the time of this game the Naboo starfighter is obsolete.  Hell, Lucas was pointing out the evolution of starfighters by including TIE Interceptors and A-Wing fighters in Return of The Jedi!

...So yeah...um...the point is I thought their character flying the Naboo starfighter was a dumb idea. Add to that the player wanted a R6 astromech droid, the latest and greatest as well as a “blaster shotgun”, a nonexistent weapon in the SW universe and I should have known I was in trouble.

The player decided on their own that they did not want their character's most distinctive features-the eyes-to get in the way of her being able to move about with impunity.  Without consulting me beforehand they decided their character possessed flip-down contact lenses to disguise the eyes; the player ASSumed such a thing would be just fine.  Me?  No, it was not.  The final straw was their playing style.  Setting aside their inability to use the caps key on their keyboard, the player decided their character would be confrontational with an NPC, right after another PC had been confrontational with said NPC and was called on it!

Of course the player attempted to defend their actions, saying their character was merely trying to point out how useful they would be to the NPC and that the confrontation was done privately.  Regardless of the motivation, this player’s actions were little better than the others. But the result was the same; to the PC’s mind the NPC had made a stupid mistake.  How repeating the same thing the other player said using different language was supposed to help I have no idea.  Apparently the PC was offering their services as a protocol droid to smooth things over.
I confronted the player on this privately and they just could not get what they did wrong.  And that was when I decided I had made a terrible mistake.  I should have proofed the character better, I should have been more adamant in my requirements.  Instead I saw the character not on its own merits but was comparing it to the prior submission and in that light it was a vast improvement.
Just not enough of one.

The player claimed I was taking this personally.  And hey yeah, maybe I was.  Perhaps I was seeing her PC's criticism of my NPC's actions as an attack on my abilities as a GM.  I won't deny that I took it personally the first time it happened.  But I think I took more offense to the stupidity of this character to do the very same thing after I expressed my frustration the first time it happened.  

Here is what really made the character unplayable.  Bad enough the weapon (Which could be excused, as there are all sorts of weapons in the SW universe), bad enough to antiquated Naboo starfighter (Admittedly, it is a nice looking work of art.), bad enough the R6 protocol droid (In the player’s defense, perhaps they were not aware the R6 came out the very year the game was being played.).  It was the eyes.  The eyes did it for me.  For all intents and purposes this character could pretend to eat and drink and have sex and walk around with normal looking eyes.  It could pass for human.  It was 76 years old, could speak 2 million dialects, was not vulnerable to those things fleshy creatures were.  It could exist in the harsh environment of space and talk to droids!
So where was the downside?

When running a game the GM must try to insure there is some level of parity between PCs.  Not everyone is going to run the same sort of character but there has to be some checks and balances.  If a PC wants to run a character with some extraordinary powers like Vulcans and their superior strength, intellect, and telepathic ability then at least there is the check that that player must role play the Vulcan in a certain manner and there may be things that the Vulcan might be vulnerable humans are resistant to.  If a GM is not careful then he winds up with a Luke Skywalker circa Return of The Jedi in the party-

 -a character far more powerful than the rest.  Or for you Firefly fans, a River Tam who is basically a five foot three inch telepathic murder machine.

If one is playing a droid with a host of extraordinary abilities then the downside is droid racism.  Droids are considered second class citizens, they are viewed largely as property.  They are not allowed in some places (Who can forget the bartender from Star Wars, Episode IV nodding at C-3P0 and R2-D2 and saying “We don’t serve their kind here!”?).  And this player decided without consulting me on it they did not want to have to have to deal with any of that. They wanted all the pluses, none of the minuses.
There is another name for the type of character the player was running: a Mary Sue.  Highly skilled, possessing numerous advantages, few if any disadvantages (or disadvantages that could be easily countered).  Yes, Mary Sue is a perfect name for this character.

The player is gone, now.  Having been unable to see eye-to-eye (pun intended) I booted them from the game.   So, what can you learn from my errors?   When you start a game you should have standards you need to adhere to, and you should stick to them as best you possibly can.  Take each character on it's own merits rather and measure them to the ideal you have in your head.  If the character exceeds that ideal in any way then you should consult the player and discuss that which bothers you.  If a player presents a character you do not like then presents a second character that is marginally better, do not settle for marginally better just to get them in the game.  Remember, it is not just for yourself you are doing this; you are also doing this for your fellow players.  The ones who are more interested in role playing rather than engaging in some sort of competition to be the most powerful or skilled.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Song of the week

Well, I finally have an article in the works.  I can't say I am exactly happy regarding the circumstances of the article's inspiration but if life gives you potatoes you make vodka, right?  I should have it up by Saturday, maybe sooner.

In the mean time, one of my favorite U2 songs.  A pity it is wedded to a mediocre movie. :/

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Song of The Week

Billy Squier's Don't Say No is one of the best albums ever recorded.  It has songs like The Stroke, My Kinda Love, Lonely Is The Night, In The Dark and Two Daze Gone.  It is one of the best rock and roll albums ever pressed to vinyl.

Now, that being said, my favorite Billy Squier single is not on Don't Say No.  That song is Everybody Wants you, from his follow up album, Emotions In Motion.