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Archive for May, 2013

Well since my very public relapse my comic consumption has redlined past what could even possibly be considered safe levels. You would think that there is an impending cataclysmic event that can only be prevented by my reading as many comics as humanly possible..or inhumanly possible, as at this point I would be willing to be cyberneticly enhanced to allow me to read even more comics, like some kind of 6 Million Dollar Nerd (patent and trademark pending).

In addition to the grotesque number of ongoing titles I am reading, I have been slowly putting together complete back issue runs of certain creators, you know for those cold lonely nights between the bottom of your pull list and new comic book day. So far I have acquired Kevin Smith’s Green Arrow, Grant Morrison’s complete bat titles work, two shy of Geoff Johns’ Flash run, and the complete Red Robin series, which I want to talk about today.  As an aside I have found it hard to get my hands on older modern age back issues. A lot of the stores, aside from online, seemed to have either moved away from carrying any back issues to mostly dealing in higher grade gold, silver, and bronze age books.

SPOILERS

I am about half way through the 26 issue Red Robin solo series and loving it.  The book kicks up in the aftermath of “Blackest Night” and finds Tim Drake/Wayne dealing with the emotional repercussions of his parents being reanimated and trying to eat him, the apparent death of Batman and then getting pink slipped from the Robin gig. The fist 2 arcs focus mainly on his trying to prove that Batman’s not dead, just jizzed into the time stream by Darksied’s “mighty” ray gun (a metaphor for phallic aggression if I have ever seen one) while negotiating Ra’s Al Ghul and his league of assassins, all through the back drop of him working through a bit of an existential crisis.

I find the story and writing to be excellent, so much so that I immediately googled Yost to see what else I could read of his. It’s not dense, flows well, and is easy to read with witty and amusing dialogue, well at least to me. The art is pleasing and dynamic. My only gripe would be the design

of the Red Robin costume itself as his cowl makes it look like he just pulled a condom over his head and in certain poses he looks a little bit like a pigeon.

I'm going in

I’m going in

In a way Tim Drake is the most Batman of all the Robins and Yost beautifully puts this in the forefront as you get to see him flex that Sherlock Holmes style brain of his. What sets him apart from Batman and makes him an awesome character in his own right is his access to the full emotional spectrum. So you get Batman with a self-deprecating humor or a Batman that craves and seeks out interpersonal relationships, a more human Batman if you will. This is illustrated in a great scene in issue #12 during the climatic confrontation as Ra’s is perplexed at how Timothy has managed to foil several simultaneous assassination attempts. Tim flippantly responds “I am not Batman; I have friends…dumb ass (I added that last bit)”

DC’s New 52 hasn’t been all that kind to Mr. Drake. Gone is his solo title. He has essentially been regulated to the Teen Titans with occasional appearances in the Bat titles. All this I could live with (although I’d love an ongoing series again) but with the new Creative team of Scott Lobdell and Eddy Barrows, Tim’s personality has really taken a detour into Doucheville. He just comes off as mean, arrogant, and harsh. Even his getting some action with two of his female teammates in the same issue, although kind of pimp, is still a pretty dick move. I am just finding him hard to like lately and that kind of bums me out a little given the history of the character. If you have never read his solo series you should definitely pick up the trades or you can be an idiot like me and collect the floppies.

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I am beginning to get a better understanding how edition warriors and grognards can be forged. Not that any one thing is ever solely responsible for that unpleasant phenomena as personality traits seem to be a likely culprit as well.  What I am really feeling lately is an inertia created by my system mastery of 4th edition D&D that is making it incredibly painful to branch out into other game systems. We have talked in the past about my impulsive shotgun approach to buying shinny baubles of the geeky persuasion, so it should be no surprise to anyone that I have an entire bookcase practically bowing under the weight of RPG systems that I have never played.  With the recent planned ending to my year long Dark Sun campaign I thought I might stretch my wings a little and take on a new system and genre for a change. I kind of narrowed the options down to Star Wars Saga for a little Old Republic love and DC Adventures (aka Mutants and Masterminds 3rd edition).

Given that my Comic Book reading/collecting has burgeoned into an all consuming junky habit of late, I settled on DC Adventures. I began reading the core rule book in spits and spurts over the last month or so, but haven’t made much of a dent. I think I have made it to second chapter.  I am pretty busy with work and young kids these days that my free time is fairly limited and occurs mostly while I am fighting off exhaustion, so when I look at consuming and mastering a new game system I feel like there is a pound of lead in my shoes.  I don’t think there is any surprise that both the potential systems I chose are d20 based as the familiarity seemed comforting.  The biggest sticking point however is how second nature 4th edition has become for me, I don’t really have to put much thought into prep and I can easily handle any in-game adjudication that might possibly come up. I am finding it very hard to move from this warm cocoon that I have enveloped myself in.

I don’t think this inertia has as much to do with my love of 4th edition as it is my reluctance to change.  Change in any form whether it is good or shitty can be difficult or stressful and can result in a retreat. I am beginning to think that some of my apathy and disdain for D&D Next is colored by this inertia (aside from my dislike of WOTC‘s business model in general).  Armed with some insight I need to push myself a little and embrace this kind of change. I think I will set a goal of running mini-games (I am going to stay away from longer more open ended campaigns for the time being) in some different systems over the next while and see how it goes. In the meantime I am going to run the season 4 Lair Assault tonight. I am looking forward to it as there is no need for any of this collaborative storytelling bullshit or alternative goals, it’s just straight up DM vrs douche bag munchkin players with coup de graces for everyone…you know the way D&D was meant to be played….. ;0

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I read a blog post the other day that made me groan inwardly and let out a deflated sigh at my desk, once again requiring me to reassure my officemates that no one had died. I would post a link but that would mean diving into my twitter feed, and as you know I’m kind of lazy and prone to half-assing things. Oh yah I am on the Twitters now, you can follow me @middleageddm. I don’t really twat a lot…is that the right term? Is it twating or tweeting? Whatever, anyways it wasn’t like this article was a provocative flame war punch to the crotch; it was just the depiction of modern D&D that rankled me a tad. The gist of the post was about gamers retreat from the heavy rules focused editions of D&D back into the loving embrace of the OSR. The part that stuck in my craw was a statement that 4th edition’s particular rule set and combat focused mechanics had eliminated role-playing from Dungeon’s and Dragons.    

I just find assertions like these a little rigid and myopic. Don’t get me wrong this has nothing to do with the OSR. I fully understand the desire to dust of those old 1st edition texts on the shelf and head off into the bowels of the Moathouse, holy symbol in hand, to kick Lareth the Beautiful’s ass six ways from Sunday. When I hear assertions about role-playing and how 4th edition discourages it or has an absence of it, I feel like that person is erroneously applying their subjectively held schema about what role-playing is for them in a weird sort of nerd pattern recognition.

Look I will grant you that the rules/mechanics can make combat pretty long in 4th edition, which can be off-putting to some, but I don’t find that it reduces or discourages role-playing in anyway…well at least based on my subjective schema of what role-playing is. You see for me combat is or can be role-playing. It’s all there for the taking; you get character-character interaction, character-npc interaction, character-environment interaction, character-monster interaction, collaborative storytelling, and narrative descriptions of character actions/moves and the corresponding DM narrative moves. Combat itself can be a rich, flowing tapestry of smack down, that is if you want it to be. So are we then talking about a lack of exploration or interaction scenes? I don’t find this to be true either as these things seem more dependant on group play-style and taste, as games can have as much or as little of each as desired. Are we then talking about how the clearly defined and codified combat and pc mechanics stifle creativity? I haven’t really found that to be the case either, maybe even the opposite for some people as this allows for easy fluffing..er I mean re-fluffing (fuck why does my mind always go there first?) or re-skinning as desired. For example I had two wizards in my last game that weren’t even recognizable as wizards. One was essentially Green Lantern and the other was a dumb as rocks gladiator.

I think in reality I have found 4th edition’s rule set to be the most flexible and inclusive of multiple play-styles. I have seen or heard about games that run the full spectrum of the continuum. On the forums one guy was describing his multiple 1-30th level campaigns that don’t even have a DM and are a series of delves and completely combat focused. While at the other end of the spectrum I have heard many descriptions of peoples games were they proudly declare having an entire session without any dice being rolled.  As an aside this seems to be the gold standard seal of approval for grognards when championing the greatness of the older editions and the bastard demon spawn that is 4th edition. This is something I don’t really get as I tend to get kind of jittery if I don’t smash something in the mouth during an evening of gaming, but that’s me.

Role-playing isn’t necessarily inherent to a system, unless were talking like a diceless system such as Amber or some heavy story game, it really seems more related to the individual people playing the game and what they do with the rules. Take Battletech as another example. That game is essentially a tactical Mech Fighting game but some cats have created such deep role-playing rich campaigns that would make some of my 1st edition campaigns look like a game of checkers. So when people say that the older editions of D&D encouraged or had more role-playing in them I just don’t buy. My personal experience and anecdotal research shows that a lot of people just killed things and took their stuff through endless dungeon crawls back then just as much as they do now.

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