Thursday, April 27, 2017

Been a Month! What Have I Been Up To?

Man, April just flew by for me!

My day job as an Academic Librarian (Assistant) means that April is the pre-Finals Apocalypse. Lots of students that need help with research in the last few weeks of a big project being due, not even just procrastinators, sometimes students with really involved research topics that require weeks of lead time in order to get all the articles and documents. Which is sometimes cool when the topic is "the history of Martha's Vineyard as a deaf settlement in colonial America" or "the cultural impact of the N.W.A." and sometimes "how can I cite a blog in my paper?"

Yes, you can cite a blog in an academic paper these days, but I generally don't suggest that for students if there's no listed author. This is why librarians are always going to maintain a degree of relevancy.

So with work finally slowing down and a semblance of a steady scheduling developing between the Wife of Thunder and myself, I can devote some time to shouting into the abyss of the Internet about whatever the hell it is I want. That and play a lot more Heroes of the Storm. I stopped playing Heroes a few months after I got into the closed Beta, but with the new 2.0 update earlier this week, the game got really good!

Heroes of the Storm is Blizzard's take on the MOBA genre, which is fitting since the original DOTA was a Warcraft 3 mod based off of another Warcraft 3 mod (Aeon of Strife). Heroes is streamlined and refined in the usual Blizzard house style and of course, it features a roster of characters from existing Blizzard games. As of Tuesday, yes, Genji is now in Heroes of the Storm. He joins Zarya, Lucio and Tracer as the growing Overwatch section of the roster. 

Heroes has been much easier for me to casually play then League of Legends. There'as no items, no gold farming at all, XP is shared for the whole team and each map has different objectives which makes heroes better or worse on certain battlegrounds. One of my favorites, the Siege Tank driving Sgt. Hammer, is really good at pushing lanes but horrible at dealing with say, the battling Angel/Demon Immortals of the Diablo-inspired Battleground of Eternity and Sgt. Hammer is HORRIBLE at pushing the payload in the Overwatch map Hanamura. 

I'm sure I'll have something up soon in detail about Heroes, but for now, feel free to download the game as it's free-to-play and if you log in between now and the middle of May, you can get a bundle of 20 heroes for free. Choose between the Assassin, Support, Warrior or grab bag Flex bundle. Free. It's an insanely good deal. 

Anyways, the answer of "Why hasn't Dog updated his blog lately?" is the simple answer of "he has a job that gets busy with the academic calendar". 

Or he's an international assassin and was out of the country for a few weeks performing wetwork operations for Norway. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

RawDog Gaming Video - CrushCrush

Just me, a webcam and a harem of Waifus.

Needless to say, I'm working on editing, sound, presentation, etc. but gotta learn to walk before you can run.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Weekend Story Time: Best RPG Experiences

I used to have the time and energy to play a lot of tabletop RPGs. D&D 3rd edition mainly, with some World of Darkness thrown in for good measure. My wife got me into D&D actually, and we've played together since 2002. I started DMing in 2004 and was one of three storytellers for what my group called "The Big Game": 33 players, 1 World of Darkness campaign.

We had players that were Vampires, others were Werewolves, one was a Hunter, there were a tiny amount of Mages and one Mummy. No Fallen, as that was the Big Bad of the adventure (Raziel, created and run by myself). The highlight of the Big Game came early on in our very first session. One of the characters playing a Mage, decided to play a prank on the Mayor of the post-Apocalypse settlement the characters were a part of by setting his Bible on fire.

I had the player follow me outside the room into the Student Union.

I then explained that his character suddenly found himself blocked in by darkness on all sides giving the effect that he was standing in the only sphere of existence with the old Mayor. The old man then got up out of his wheelchair, stretched, sprouted wings and assumed his Demonic form. Without saying a word, he grabbed the player's Mage character and caused him to to be incinerated.

Without saying a word, the player walked back into the room, and in front of 32 players, held up his character sheet and ripped it in half. The look of terror spread across the room as everyone realized that shit was going to go down this campaign.

My other favorite epic death was actually caused by a player on one of the "boss" encounters I had set up during a game of 3rd Edition D&D. The players had just come back to the Material Plane from a dimension hopping trip that took them from Dracula's Castle to the Mushroom Kingdom (just...don't ask...) and back in time to help the Empire hold off an invasion by the Dwarves. The Dwarves were attacking by sea (STEAMPUNK ships, because I was 21 and thought that was AWESOME) and being led by the Avatar of the Sea Goddess.

The players eventually make it to the Flagship, are about to throw down with the Sea Goddess' Avatar, when Steve, one of the players, made it to the session after his class let out. I had Steve, whom was playing a bard called Rupert the Merry, have Rupert unmask as one of the generic NPC soldiers that joined the players.

With a triumphant "AH-HA!" Rupert leveled his pistol at the Sea Goddess' Avatar and blew her head clean off in one shot.

I used the "really lethal" critical system whenever someone rolled a 20. I then had them roll again, and if they confirmed it was just double damage, but if it was another 20, they rolled a THIRD time. A confirm on the third roll meant quadruple damage, but if it was another straight natural 20, it was a kill shot.

Steve rolled 3 straight 20's during the surprise round I let him have before initiative was even rolled.

It was the most GLORIOUS kill I have ever seen a player pull off.

What are some of your favorite experiences, either as a Player or as a DM?

Post in the comments and share with others!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Tuesday Ten: ......5 Not So Awesome Comic Events

Comic event fatigue is a very real thing.

It seems like these days that DC and Marvel are pumping out so many line-wide events that it's impossible for any one book to settle into a good rhythm. While the first half of this list covered 5 events that I enjoyed, this one covers 5 that....well....I didn't.

It's impossible to cover all the different events in just two postings, so I'll come back at some point and talk about the ones that I REALLY REALLY loved when I can do them justice. So don't worry, Age of Apocalypse not being on the last list doesn't mean it's on here. What is on here, is an example of how NOT to perform a continuity reset...

5) Zero Hour - DC - 1994 

Hindsight has hurt this one. In fact, hindsight has hurt this one so much that I retroactively despise it even more then I did originally. Zero Hour came about as an attempt to fix the fix that was Crisis on Infinite Earths. Spoiler: Zero Hour made DC's problems even more pronounced and glaring. Zero Hour was the compression of time in the DC Universe from the two ends, future and past, resulting in characters from the future like Booster Gold and past, like Vandal Savage, just....disappearing. 

In an echo of Barry Allan's death in Crisis, Wally West tried to run fast enough to repair the timestream and wound up getting sucked into it. The result was that the |mysterious stranger" that gave Wally great life advice as a kid, turned out to be adult Wally after being sucked into the timestream. In another tie-in, Catwoman wound up making out with a caveman. 

While it was frustrating to read at the time due to the deck being so stacked against the heroes, once the villain was revealed, I got pumped. Hell yeah insane Hal Jordan! Hell no insane from possession by a space STD and not from having actual PTSD. The reveal of Parralax making Jordan do evil things instead of it being the natural result of seeing Coast City vaporized was.....really disappointing. 

The aftereffects of Zero Hour resulting in legacy heroes fading away to be replaced by dark and gritty heroes was also disappointing. I could rant for hours on how horrible Fate was or the way Zero Hour's mucking with timelines made the current Supergirl and Alexander Luther make ZERO sense. 

4) Infinity Crusade - Marvel - 1993

After the events of The Infinity Gauntlet, Adam Warlock had control of the the collected Infinity Gems, which wound up resulting in his evil dark side, the Magus, emerging and causing the Infinity War. With Magus defeated and the gems broken up with different protectors (Drax had Power, Gamora had Time, Pip the Troll had Space, Moondragon had Mind, Warlock kept Soul and Thanos of all people had Reality), things looked to be safe for awhile. 

Oh wait, if Adam Warlock has an evil, hyper-masculine side then sure he has a good, feminine side too. Enter The Goddess. The Goddess converted all of the heroes that had a "spiritual" or "just a really good person" bent to them as part of her Crusade, leaving the angtsy, asshole heroes behind to try and stop the Goddess from bringing about The Rapture. Yes, the actual Rapture. 

Aside from establishing Sleepwalker as strong enough to take down multiple other heroes by himself, no one really came out of Infinity Crusade for the better. While Magus has been referenced in later stories, the Goddess has been shoved into the same failed character closet as all the other new characters (23 of them~!) Marvel tried to spotlight in 1993. 

It was a dark time for Marvel. 

3) Original Sin - Marvel - 2014

Who shot The Watcher is a great hook. 

Original Sin is a horrible story. 

What starts off as a great mystery quickly devolves when the Watcher's eye is used as a "truth bomb" in the middle of New York City and all sorts of 'secrets' (or "retcons" if you prefer) are revealed. These range from "Angela is actually Odin's daughter" to "Tony Stark messed with Banner's Gamma Bomb" or the less earth-shattering "J.Jonah Jameson was a fan of Spider-Man as a wrestler!" and the horrible "Dum Dum Dugan has been dead since 1966 and Fury kept rebuilding a Life Model Decoy". 

The Dum Dum Dugan revelation makes zero sense, especially since it then raises the question of how could the Skrulls have impersonated Dum Dum during Secret Invasion when he was actually a robot since the Skrull technique used back then altered them on a genetic level. The whole story ended up being how Nick Fury is a jerk with not much of real consequence taking place. 

It was just boring and the "secrets" tended to be poor retcons. 

At least the prologue issue, with Nova and The Watcher was really cool, as we learned about the background of Uatu and how he became The Watcher. 

2) Bloodlines - DC - 1993 

Covering every DC Annual in 1993, Bloodlines was about a group of extra-dimensional aliens that have covertly invaded Earth and drain the spinal fluid from their victims. The problem is that sometimes this process leaves the victim alive and grants them superhuman powers. This was basically an excuse for DC to debut a brand new character in every Annual, leading up to a two-issue event series called "Bloodbath" that required all of the newly created heroes to save the planet. 

Some of the newly created characters were horrible, one-note characters that just scream 90's comics, such as Ballistic (an Asian-American mild mannered cop gets invulnerable skin) or Razorsharp (hacker gets ability to create sword arms). Oh! My favorite!? JAMM! 

Jamm is a surfer dude slacker that gets the ability to command people to do whatever he says. He's a slacker though, so he can't think of much for people to do except of course, order female members of the Legion of Superheroes to get naked in front of him. Jamm is hands down the worst character I have ever seen in a comic book. He was quickly forgotten after the events of Bloodbath and I think he was killed off during either Countdown or Final Crisis. 

The only good characters to come out of Bloodlines? Sparx, a Canadian electricity based heroine that worked real well with the Superboy of the time, and Hitman, whom got his own solo series written by Garth Ennis and went on to become a hit. That's about it. Though the concept of Geist, a guy that is only invisible in darkness, is so stupid I have to applaud it. 

Bloodlines is a great example of how NOT to create new characters. 

1) AXIS - Marvel - 2014 

The same year that Original Sin was released, Marvel decided to punish everyone with Axis. The event has some great moments in it that are overshadowed by all of the other stupid. Red Skull grafts Professor X's brain onto his in order to harness Xavier's mental abilities and after getting murdered by Magneto (that whole Nazi thing again), Red Skull becomes RED ONSLAUGHT. By sending out waves of HATE across the world, Red Onslaught is able to cause chaos and anarchy. The solution?

After corrupted Stark Sentinels capture the heroes, Magneto rejoins the fight leading a team of villains (Carnage, Absorbing Man, Hobgoblin, Deadpool, Dr. Doom, Enchantress, Jack O'Lantern) as the Stark Sentinels are programmed to counter the usual heroes and not the villains. Stuff happens, plan for a stupid inversion spell to reverse the hatred spread by Red Onslaught which sort of goes off and ends up "inverting" everyone on the island of Genosha. Whoops. 

That means Tony Stark is evil, Captain America is evil, Carnage is good, Dr. Doom is good, etc. 

In a smaller dose, that could be really amusing and lead to some good redemption stories. The way it was handled? Well, it degenerated into another hero vs. hero event, Carnage sacrificing himself to stop the X-Men from setting off a gene bomb and Dr. Doom reviving Dr. Voodoo and Stature. Much like Original Sin a good concept hook was woefully mishandled and the event fell on its face. 

Let's not even mention Kluh, the Hulk version of the Hulk himself. 

At least AXIS: Carnage and AXIS: Hobgoblin were enjoyable. 

Tuesday Ten: 5 Awesome Comic Events.....

I bought a comic book over the weekend. 

An actual, print book that I can hold in my hands. 

After years of reading just Marvel Unlimited, it feels odd to have an actual trade in my hands again. What did I pick up you ask? Blackest Night, the Green Lantern event from 2009. I never actually read it and my local Books-A-Million had the trade for $20. With my coupon, I got it for $9. Why not? 

While browsing the shelves I saw trade collections of all sorts of comic events, going back to the 1985 DC Crisis on Infinite Earths, which set the template for universe status quo altering events. That got my wheels turning on some of the awesome events I've read over the years, so here's a Tuesday Ten of Awesome Comic Events which of course, will be followed tomorrow by the not so awesome events. 

5) Acts of Vengeance - Marvel - 1989 

Why are the villains of the Marvel Universe so set on going up against one particular hero or team? What's stopping Magneto from going after Iron Man? Doctor Doom from tussling with the X-Men? Juggernaut crashing into Thor? Red Skull launching a scheme against anyone not named Captain America? 

Acts of Vengeance answers those questions as Loki recruits the villains of the Marvel Universe into a scheme that boils down to "Hey, let's go against someone that has never faced you before and take advantage of the lack of experience!" The villains, especially the lesser ones like Hydro-Man, Wizard, Gryphon, etc. go along with this plan resulting in the typical initial success and then crushing defeat. 

It's a series of Marvel fan "What-Ifs" at least, as we get to see the Avengers take on the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (Blob, Toad, Pyro, Avalanche), Thor and the debuting New Warriors against Juggernaut, Fantastic Four against Shocker, Beetle and Stilt-Man, and Magneto finally realizing "Hey, Red Skull is a Nazi, why haven't I killed him yet!?" 

The highlight of the event is of course Spider-Man being imbued with the powers of Captain Universe and becoming a cosmic level hero as a result. Empowered Spider-Man takes on Graviton, Count Neferia, Magneto and a Mega Tri-Sentinel. Which is AWESOME. 

The only lasting fallout from the event is Spider-Man's experiences as a cosmically powered being and all the villains realizing Doctor Doom is a dick (he didn't bother showing up and just sent some Doombots instead). 

4) The Infinity Gauntlet - Marvel - 1991

The series that launched a franchise. The Infinity Gauntlet is what the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been building to for the past decade. I doubt the Infinity War movies will include Thanos killing half the lifeforms in the universe and then going on to destroy Eternity and ascend to become the spirit of all existence. Just a hunch. 

The Infinity Gauntlet series is about Thanos attempting to impress Death with his mastery over the Infinity Gems. That's why instead of wiping out all life and giving the heroes no chance of success, he just wipes out half of all existence and gives the heroes a sporting chance. This event was an instant classic and the repercussions are still being felt in comics, movies, tv shows and games to this day. Establishing the power of the Infinity Gems 26 years ago gives the Marvel Universe a simple touchstone of "When these stones start to appear, shit is about to get real". 

As for the immediate sequel series to The Infinity Gauntlet, Infinity War was pretty good and we'll talk about Infinity Crusade later....

3) World War Hulk - Marvel - 2007


After the events of Planet Hulk left his wife dead and his newly won kingdom a burning husk, Hulk heads back to Earth for revenge on the Illuminati (Tony Stark, Reed Richards, Charles Xavier, Black Bolt, Dr. Strange) for sending him to space in the first place. The result is a months long cross-over event with Hulk going up against almost every hero on the planet. Ghost Rider even drops a building on him, before realizing that Hulk isn't actually evil as the Penance Stare found no sins. Making Hulk out to be sort of the Villain and sort of the Good Guy at the same time is what elevates World War Hulk above other "one long fight scene" events, like for example, Maximum Carnage. 

Greg Pak's work on the Hulk comics is incredible and during this event he even made Amadeus Cho to be a decent character, showcased just how powerful Dr. Strange can be and gave plenty of opportunity for heroes to show off what they can do when they unload on someone as strong as the Hulk *and* show some characterization based off of if they agree with the Illuminati's actions. 

It's smashy, it's got good characterization and it's a tight plot so you can avoid the many side stories if you want. 

2) Flashpoint - DC - 2011 

The latest DC event I've read, Flashpoint continues DC's strong history of really cool alternate-reality stories (see the entire line of Elseworlds). Barry Allan accidentally causing drastic changes to the state of reality is almost totally worth it just for Thomas Wayne as Batman. Deathstroke as a pirate and the "villains" of this reality being Aquaman and Wonder Woman make for a better, "what the hell is going on!?" story then it sounds. Granted, I'm a fan of Geoff Johns work and DC alternate realities, so this was a great event for me! 

The end result being the establishment of an entirely new DC Universe (the New 52) was great as I like when there's repercussions for the heroes. Now the later event, Convergence, which undid most of the good will built up from least it didn't involve alien parasites. 

1) Crisis on Infinite Earths - DC - 1985

Speaking of large scale DC events that reset the entire universe, here's the original reboot button! 

Crisis on Infinite Earths was the attempt by DC's Editorial Staff to make sense of the 50 year history of their characters, keep in mind this was also over 30 years ago, so is it any wonder that today we're getting arguments over the origin of Wonder Woman? How about the connection between Superman and Superboy? Crisis temporarily resolved the issue of heroes having multiple origins and vaguely defined powers. Pre-Crisis Superman was far too strong for most writers to create compelling stories after 50 years of slowly adding more powers, so Post-Crisis Superman became dramatically toned down. 

Batman started the process of shaking off the campy nature of the Adam West show and would soon be given new life thanks to Frank Miller. Older heroes were killed off or phased out, letting new characters fill their spots, most notably with Wally West taking over the Flash mantle of his uncle, Barry Allen. 

When it comes to in-continuity reboots, Crisis on Infinite Earths is the original and it blew my mind as a kid when I first read it. I had never seen stakes this high and the aftereffects this huge! 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Getting Ready For The Warhammer 40k: Fiesta of Fury!


I signed up to take part in my first Warhammer 40k tournament since....hmmm.....a 2015 Labor Day event. It's been awhile since I took part in competitive play! To put in perspective what a 40k tournament looks like, here's the rules as laid out by the organizer:

Entry Fee is $15.00 (includes lunch). Registrations end on May 16th and lists are due at this time as well. No Refunds after May 16th. This is a singles 1850 event. You are allowed a CAD and Ally only (no formations). No Super Heavies, Gargantuans, Macro Cannon Aquila Strongpoint or Vortex Missile Aquila Strongpoint allowed. Armies must be constructed using a CAD and are allowed one Allied detachment.

Allies table in effect. Lords of War are allowed but no Super Heavies or Gargantuans. Player will be using War Zone Atlanta Missions and all players will play 3 games. A Championship round will be added if no clear winner is decided after 3 rounds. Check in will be at 9:30am and games will start at 10am and run until 6pm or 9pm (if a championship round happens). Lunch will be at 12:45 pm. Prizes to top 3 players (top 2 if less than 8 players). 

Players must have 3 copies of their army list and it must be readable (Army Builder preferred but not required. One copy is turned into the judges on May 16th. Lists will be checked in Army Builder). Players must have rules for all their models in digital, written PDF, Codex and FAQ, etc.

That's a lot of fine print. Here's a basic breakdown for those not familar:

CAD - Combined Arms Detachment. A fancy name for "standard army." 1 HQ mandatory, 2 troops mandatory, up to 4 more troop units, 3 elites, 3 fast attack, 1 HQ and 3 Heavy support.

Ally - Using the ally matrix, a supplementary force to your CAD. Your ally can contain 1 HQ, 1 Troop (required), 1 elite, 1 fast attack and 1 heavy support.

No Super Heavies or Gargantuans means nothing that's absolutely massive, like a Baneblade tank or a Squiggoth.

My army of choice is the Alpha Legion Chaos Space Marines. These traitorous bastards are, according to their lore, the deep cover operatives of Chaos. They strike by making it look like someone else is doing the actual attacking, typically they do this by causing rebellions on Imperial planets. Unlike other Legions, the Alpha Legion has no clear hierarchy, no figurehead in charge of the Legion. Both of these aspects of the lore have recently been brought to the tabletop with some awesome rules.

The big reason I want to take Alpha Legion is the "I Am Alpharius" rule. Since no one knows who Alpharius is, or what he looks like, your opponent never gets a point for killing your Warlord unless they kill ALL of your character models. Well, the way I play, I typically have a dozen character models on the table, making this a brutal penalty for all of my opponents playing me in a tournament.

Secondly, all of my troop units get to Infiltrate. That means I can set up outside of my assigned deployment zone at the start of the game. It's really powerful and perfect for the objective heavy missions of a tournament.

Here's a rough outline of what I think I'll be taking to the Fiesta of Fury:

Sorcerer w/Legion Item that makes Cultists Fearless within 12"
Sorcerer w/Legion Item that lets unit teleport 3d6" in movement phase

5x Chosen - Meltaguns on everyone
5x Chosen - Meltaguns on everyone
30x Cultists - 3x Flamers (the better to deal with Eldar)
30x Cultists - 3x Flamers (BURN!)
30x Cultists - 3x Heavy Stubbers (objective holders)
30x Cultists - 3x Heavy Stubbers (Hold the line!)

Fast Attack:
7x Raptors - 2x Meltaguns

Heavy Support:
3x Obliterators (Weapon morphing demonic beings)
Vindicator (Tank with massive, short range gun)
Vindicator (TWO massive guns!)

Basic CSM list for me. I'll probably tweak the Cultist numbers a bit and need to settle on bringing Demons as allies or Renegade Guardsmen. Leaning Guardsmen for the extra armor and ranged firepower. We'll see what happens when I run some test games over the next few weeks!

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Logan FAQ

Logan is the third solo Wolverine movie and the....hmmm.....okay math time....first 3 X-Men movies + First Class + Days of Future Past - X-Men 3 + Apocalypse = 5 X-Men movies. Logan also earns the distinction of being the best of the X-Men universe of films except for Deadpool. 

Like Deadpool, Logan is also rated R, which is something that will be expressed in great detail once we hit the page jump. Since I saw the film on opening night, technically opening afternoon since the Wife of Thunder and myself are old people, I'm qualified to answer all of your Logan related questions. Hopefully you had the same questions that I thought to ask myself, and if not, just post them in the comments!

Is the movie really based off of the 'Old Man Logan' story arc from the comics?

Nope. The only thing the comics has in common with the movie is the concept of an old Wolverine that's beaten down and defeated by life. The movie is not a post-apocalypse setting, despite being an actual post-Apocalypse movie in that the whole timeline Logan takes place in is disconnected from the "mainstream" X-Men movies now. 

There is no Hawkeye, no in-bred Hulk clan, no grand-kid of Peter Parker and no world in which the super-villains killed off all the heroes. 

Does it at least involve a road trip? 

Chuck, Logan and X-23 go on a roadtrip from southern Texas across the country. Sadly, it is not in a Spider-mobile. 

X-23 is actually in this? It's not just a few scenes and she's handled better then past mutants in Wolverine movies right?

X-23, Laura, is one of the highlights of the movie. She's not as old in the movie as she is in the comics, which makes her bloody fight scenes either disconcerting or extra-awesome. Like Hit-Girl from Kick-Ass but with claws. 

Blood and gore!? We actually get to see Wolverine cause people to bleed!? 

And how! Also, tits. 

Hold on to that thought until after the page break. 

Here's where everyone that hasn't seen the movie, needs to go see it if they had any sort of passing interest in the X-Men movies. The quality jump from X-Men Origins: Wolverine to Logan is unbelievable. There's an actual plot to Logan and a cohesive style (it's a Western) that is a breath of fresh air in the superhero genre. It's not perfect, but it's really good.