Captain America

July 25th, 2011
 Captain America and his signature shield

Captain America and his signature shield

I’m still in the middle of moving — new job and new home means very few blog updates, as I’m sure anyone who’s still following me has noticed — but I had a chance yesterday to catch the Captain America movie, and it demanded comment.

Captain America is a very interesting sort of superhero.  He doesn’t follow the general arcs other superheroes do.  By far the most common superhero character-development arc is Tragedy – Vengeance – Responsibility:  something bad happens to the character that drives him to become a superhero, and once he’s addressed the situation, he feels responsibility to continue to pursue justice.  This arc describes many Marvel heroes, including Spider-Man and Iron Man, as well as DC’s Batman, who is similar to Captain America in that he’s not a “true” superhuman but rather a human operating at the pinnacle of his abilities.

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Cool Alone Isn’t Enough

March 25th, 2011

So, it’s been a while.  In the midst of that real-life stuff that I’m not going to get into, my games more or less evaporated, and lack of gaming leads to lack of inspiration to write about gaming.  Things seem to be picking up on both fronts, though.  Fingers crossed for the gradual relaunch of A Butterfly Dreaming.  But on to the post…

I went to see Sucker Punch today.  (No spoilers in this post, if you’re thinking of seeing it.)  I was skeptical about it for a number of reasons, but I went anyway, because it looked like mindless, stylish fun, and I could use a little of that.

If you’re a gamemaster or aspire to be one, I’d recommend seeing it, but not exactly for the reasons you might think.  It was not a good movie.  Oh, it was stylish, and there were good moments in it, but in the end, as was said of Oakland, “when you get there, there’s no there there.”  The reasons to see it?  One, to steal the cool ideas for your games.  But more importantly, two, to see firsthand why the movie isn’t good.

Cool ideas?  Oh, yes.  There’s a well-choreographed fight scene between a heroine and three samurai wielding, respectively, a naginata, a katana, and a chaingun.  There’s a steampunk World War I pastiche that’s as good as anything I’ve seen since Inception.  There’s an assault by armored knights and a bomber against a castle full of orcs and a dragon, which feels rushed but is still pretty cool.  Tropes and genre blending: this movie has them.

What it lacks is substance.  The underlying plot of the movie is obscured, but not in a way that’s interesting.  The resolution, such as it is, is unsatisfying.  The characters are not well-developed.  There’s a twist, but it’s not surprising or affecting.  The movie is over-the-top, stylish, and hilarious at points, but there’s no human element to it.  (Aside from the early introduction, where the backstory is set up in pantomime prior to the title screen.  That’s quite well done, but afterward the movie loses what connection to its characters it had begun to establish and never gets it back.)  The dialogue is overwrought yet shallow.

I came out of that movie impressed by the execution of some of the ideas… and yet disappointed, and that disappointment is because there’s no emotional core there.  Not even to the extent you’d get in better action movies like Terminator or AliensSucker Punch is a movie with competent production values and imaginative ideas, but it has no soul, because its script and its characters are lacking.

The lesson applies to gaming.  Cool stuff is good, and the active pursuit of cool is a worthy goal for a GM.  But cool alone isn’t enough.  Cool will get you memorable moments.  A story and characters with heart will get you a memorable game.

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A bit of Halloween surrealism…

October 31st, 2009

In going through my old emails, I came across this gem from Amazon.com:

Dear Amazon.com Customer,

As someone who has purchased or rated “Rashomon – Criterion Collection”, you might like to know that “Zombie Self-Defense Force” will be released on October 13, 2009.

Yes, I can see the similarities.  Thanks, Amazon.

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Never Split the Party

June 17th, 2009

Words of sage advice.

Of course, there’s always someone, some time, who feels they know better.  Some players are inclined to split up at the drop of a hat.  I offered a little bit of advice for handling that situation in the article I linked, but what more can you do?

Personally, I let my players know, before the game begins, that I have no compunctions about allowing players who split from their parties to die.  Ordinarily, I don’t allow random chance to kill a character outright; I’ll fudge things far enough to give the character in question a chance.  I do, however, allow a character’s own stupidity to kill him outright.  I consider splitting up an act of stupidity most of the time.  It’s dangerous out there!

Perhaps an amusing cautionary tale would help, too.

(Okay, so that was all to share a cute video and ease back into blogging.  Sue me.)

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I Watch the Watchmen

March 11th, 2009

Watched, rather.  And it was good.  Some spoilers below, though I’m not sure whether spoilers really apply to movies based on comics published more than two decades ago.

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