Monday, June 25, 2012

Song of the week

I close out movie music month with a true monster of a film: Heavy Metal.

Not the greatest movie ever made, but it does boast one of the greatest soundtracks ever compiled.  Look at the bottom of the poster at the acts gathered to contribute to the movie; Black Sabbath(!), Blue Oyster Cult, Sammy Hagar, Don Felder...


Ah, Eagles guitarist, one solo album.  Thank you, Wikipedia.

It was hard for me to pick my favorite song from this soundtrack (and unlike many...most soundtracks today which sport music "inspired by" the film I believe every single song is featured in some way, shape or form in the movie).  It came down to Hagar's Heavy Metal, an awesome rock anthem, and Cheap Trick's Reach Out.  I know Cheap Trick has already been featured here on GM's Revenge and I try not to repeat acts, but Reach Out is my all time favorite Cheap Trick tune.  And while Sammy's song is great, it is barely played while 'Trick's tune plays a major part.  That was the deciding factor for me.  Who knows?  Maybe if I do Movie Music Month again next year Sammy will get his chance.  With luck every song from Heavy Metal will get a shot. :)

A final note: That Guy With The Glasses teamed up with Diamonda Hagen to do a review of Heavy Metal recently.  It was pretty fun to watch.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Song of the week

It might be hard to believe now, but there was a time just about the only thing you knew about an upcoming movie was usually the poster.  Me and my friends thought Robocop was going to be horrible cheese based on the cardboard stand up in the theater lobby.  I thought for sure Die Hard was going to be a lame film based on this:

Seriously, the guy from Moonlighting is supposed to fight terrorists?  Yeah, sure....

So one afternoon I decided to see a film and there is this poster for Highlander:

Huh.  Okay, I'm thinking.  Maybe, I dunno, I-

Oh my Gawd, Sean Connery is in this film!  It must be seen!

Little was I to know this would become one of my most favorite films, or that it would spawn a franchise of some of the worst sequels in history.  The television series was all right, though.  Adrian Paul is a good actor and he looked like he knew what he was doing when he sword-fought.  I just think it lasted too long, like most television series.

Oh, there was supposed to be a song of the week in this article somewhere.  If you never saw this movie the opening is epic, with a song from Queen: Princes of the Universe.

Queen.  The gods of opera rock.  They had composed the music for Flash Gordon and a few years later they provided this awesome opening song for Highlander.  Combined with Sean Connery(!) providing a bit of voice over exposition, I knew I was in for the great time.  At least that is how it felt to me as the credits rolled.  Then I had a moment to calm down.  Okay, just a movie, just a movie-

The credits then cut to Madison Square Garden and a professional wrestling match starring the Fabulous Freebirds.  It was like the director Russel Mulcahy was sitting around asking himself, what would make this movie even more awesome?  Sean Connery voice over: check.  New Queen song: check.  Freebirds: check.  Now what?

Ten minutes into the film, a man gets decapitated in the parking garage.

Best.  Movie.  Ever.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Generating GMPCs, part 2

Back in March I wrote an article about creating GMPCs.  After finishing the character I decided that perhaps I needed some advice and my friend and player Earl offered me his opinion.  He had some good points, the big one being there were simply too many alternate personalities.  So I re-tooled the character, made her leaner and meaner.  The point here is that there is nothing wrong with having someone take a look at your character if you feel there may be some issues.  It is not always possible, especially if your friend is one of your players and you do not want to spoil the surprise, but there is a good reason why writers need editors even if your written work is just a character for a role playing game.

I was working on another GMPC because I admit that I can get a little bored playing the same characters year after year, and I think introducing new characters can help to shake the game up a bit.  A GMPC is there to fill in any power or skill gaps a team may possess, but what a GMPC can also bring to the table are new plots and adventure hooks.

Months ago I decided to push the game forward a year because I had originally had in mind a series of space adventures for some of the players.  But the closer I came to pulling the trigger the colder my feet got.  What if players with PCs on the space adventure quit, leaving other players hanging (People sometimes quit my games.  Unbelievable, I know, but it happens. :)  Oddly enough, more often than not they come back years later. I compare it to alcoholics falling off the wagon.)?  What if players grew bored?  I tried running a space based super game before and it quickly fizzled out so my concerns were well justified.  So I decided to push the game forward a year and say those things that needed to be done in space had been accomplished off camera.  And with that one year jump that gave me opportunities.  What adventures did the PCs have in that missing year?  What enemies did they make, what friends?  What are the consequences of their as-yet unknown actions?  What GMPCs could such adventures have produced?

Obviously, some of the actions that took place during that missing year need to be discussed with the players it directly affects. It would not be fair to, for example, say a character had an affair with a high priestess or they committed a heinous crime for which they are now being hunted.  That is known as "god moding" and it is not right.  Saying they were at some point incarcerated by the authorities?  Not bad, because this is something that could conceivably happen.  Saying they murdered a guard to escape?  Hell no.  The details of the incarceration have to be discussed and the GM has to be fair and the players have to realize the GM is trying to set the stage for future adventures.  I will add this one thing: what I did?  I did because after eleven years the players in question trust me not to screw them over.  If you are just starting a game with a bunch of guys who do not know you and you tell them "By the way, you guys were incarcerated in space prison some time in the past." That is not going to fly.

These unknown adventures give me the opportunity to create a GMPC, and with that GMPC comes with it a potential collection of adventures.  Why have they come to Earth?  What problems do they bring with them?  The first step has to be what sort of character is this GMPC?  Are they a lovable rogue, a fellow prisoner that aided in their escape?  A space born super hero?  Perhaps they are some sort of government functionary.  Looking at Marvel and DC Comics one can see a wide variety of characters for inspiration.  DC has The Green Lantern Corps;

The Legion of Super Heroes;

and The Omega Men;

 while Marvel has The Nova Corps;

the Guardians of The Galaxy;

 The Imperial Guard (seen in the pic below battling The Inhumans);

and Starjammers;

That wide variety does not even include all the solo characters such as DC's Adam Strange;

Heck, I could use non-comic book resources for inspiration, such as Doctor Who;

And yet, none of these character examples and archetypes really appeal to me.  Playing a Nova or Green Lantern type just feels...uninspired.  So what are my options?  Why not something outside the norm?  What about a source of inspiration from elsewhere? Going back to my modest library of game supplements, I came across across Kingdom of Champions:

Let me say first that this is an awesome supplement.  KOC contains an abridged history of the British Isles, an insight into British culture, super hero and super villain teams and solo characters as well as plot ideas.  Author Phil Masters produced a wonderful source book.  And one of the characters he created was The Consul:

Space ambassador.  Brilliant.  Finally(!) I have a character concept that does not feel like it has been done to death.  So, space ambassador, right!  Time to look at my image library, and I come across a piece of concept art by Aly Fell, a steampunk type character.  I come up with a reason why she is dressed that way; mental interrogation of the PCs and NPCs have given the aliens the wrong impression regarding how humans dress.

Only...Only if I use that image I am just copying Phil Masters a little too closely, aren't I?  I might as well give her the same power set while I am at it!  There is a difference between being inspired by source material and blatantly ripping it off.  No, better at this point to go my own way.  The GMPC is an agent of a government department that deals with primitive cultures, cultures that might have something their government wants.  It might be raw materials or art or some plant unique to their planet.  These agents are used to dealing with varied and primitive cultures, are trained to work on their own with a minimum of support. I find a couple images from my collection and combine them to give one the idea of what the character is like, someone equally at home at court or in the field:

Now comes the part concerning super powers and skills.  An agent like this should have a broad skill set because she does not know what she is going to run into.  But what about powers?  Right away I love the idea of creating a super martial artist.  I love the concept of martial arts taken to an extreme, perhaps it is due to my early love of Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat.  Marvel's Mantis is a great example of a super cosmic martial artist.  Ah, but then there is that little issue regarding GMPCs overshadowing PCs.  The team already has a trained martial artist in The Adjudicator and an aspiring one in Apex.  Bringing in a martial artist that makes these PCs look redundant would likely (and justifiably) annoy my players.  I look at other cosmic heroes like Quasar (I gravitate more towards Marvel cosmic characters than DC.  I just think Marvel's cosmic characters are cooler.) but his power set is quite a bit like my GMPC Valiant and that just seems boring to me.  So, a power none of the PCs possess but also ones unlike the current GMPCs.  How about...matter manipulation?  Add in the limitations that she cannot manipulate organic matter or magic and that provides her with enough limitations to prevent her from being too powerful.

Then I come up with a name and create a logo:

Why is she on Earth?  Mental interrogation of the PCs and NPCs revealed there exists on Earth an artifact, an artifact that one of her superiors desire.  So she goes to Earth, retrieves the artifact, goes home.  Simple.  Problem is, the person who knew about the artifact, Lionheart, is dead.  So it appears "Envoy" is sticking around for a while...

Monday, June 11, 2012

Song of The Week

The Mad Max trilogy is a perfect series of films in that each one is different enough from the others in tone that you do not feel as if you are watching the same movie over and over again.  Mel Gibson is great and each film had a wonderful collection of villains.  Some might say the third film is cheesy and it is true Mad Max, Beyond Thunderdome is more lighthearted than the two films that preceded it.  Still, it is a lot of fun to watch and damn it, is has one of the best opening songs: Tina Turner's One of The Living.  The music video below was fan made, neckisstiff used footage from The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome.  I think they did a wonderful job.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ray Bradbury, RIP

I think most people who read my blog have by now heard that Ray Bradbury has passed away, he was 91 years old.  My earliest memories of Bradbury go back to high school, when I read The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man, the latter for Mister Hart's English class.  Bradbury was some of the first serious science fiction I had ever read and I am forever grateful to him.  I think maybe why I loved his work so much was when I look at modern science fiction some writers can get so very much caught up in the technical side of things to such an extent that I feel, well, stupid for not being able to follow the math, as it were.  With Bradbury I feel he started off with the idea for a story and the science side of it was not as important.  Martians land on Earth and cannot handle the consumer culture.  It doesn't matter how the martians got here or how their advanced guns work. What is important is seeing how one culture can be so utterly alien to another that exposure to it can drive another mad.

Man, I loved The Martian Chronicles.

And I love the horror aspects of some of his works.  Bradbury could write children stories, stories full of optimism and hope.  But the man could also write from a very, very dark place.  The Illustrated Man is a great example of this.  Something Wicked This Way Comes is another. I also enjoyed The Ray Bradbury Theater television program as well.  I recall one episode, Banshee, starring Peter O'Toole.  Again, a tremendously good horror story.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Song of the week

When I was writing the last article I mentioned how Dave M. and Dave K. were huge fans of Heart and Jethro Tull respectively, and recently The Nostalgia Critic co-reviewed Heavy Metal with Diamanda Hagan.  All of this gave me the idea for this month's Song of The Week theme, that being songs I liked that were prominently featured in motion pictures.  I will not be touching any songs used in James Bond films as I will be doing a top five James Bond songs around November, when Skyfall debuts.

As to why Heart and/or Jethro Tull helped give me this idea, after I watched the Heavy Metal review I was thinking of what songs might fit into this category and almost immediately this one sprang to mind.  Eddie Murphy's The Golden Child was a mediocre movie.  However, Heart's Ann Wilson really nails it with her theme to the movie, Best Man In The World.