Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Thor (2007), Vol 2

Thor’s second volume delves a bit too deep into backstories, but the art is still fantastic.

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With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.

Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!

Thor vol 2Writer: J. Michael Straczynski

Artist: Marko Djurdjevic, Olivier Coipel

Issues: Thor (2007) #7-12, 600

 

My favorite aspect of Thor’s comeback from “Ragnarok” in 2007 (besides the fantastic art) was the hilarious juxtaposition that occurred when Thor remakes all of Asgard on Earth – floating a few feet above the ground in Oklahoma. Finding and restoring all his Asgardian allies (within mortal bodies) was a fun plot hook, as was dealing with the political repercussions of suddenly having a floating city in the middle of America. Sadly this second volume moves away from all that to instead focus on heavy backstory and non-Thor Asgardians like Odin, Balder, and Loki. The art and writing are still incredible, but I found myself a bit bored with Loki’s tiresome manipulations and Thor’s self-doubting.  Continue reading “Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Thor (2007), Vol 2”

Shadowrun 5E “Splintered State” Session 1 Report

We tackle our first officially published Shadowrun adventure for our campaign finale.

shadowrun

Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central.

Note: For some reason OBS only recorded audio and no video. Argh.

Our final Shadowrun mission begins! For the first time in my Game Master Shadowrun career, I’m using a pre-written adventure. Published by Catalyst Game Studios, the creators of Shadowrun Fifth Edition, “Splintered State” is a story about a mysterious commlink that gets the runners into a lot of trouble. It’s designed as a springboard for new runners, but I’m using it as a finale for our street-level campaign with a bit of tweaking and modifying. Continue reading “Shadowrun 5E “Splintered State” Session 1 Report”

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – X-Men: Original Sin

Wolverine enlists Professor X’s help with his son Daken in this surprisingly enjoyable crossover between X-Men Legacy and Wolverine Origins.

With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.

Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!

x-men original sinWriters: Daniel Way (Wolverine Origins), Mike Carey (X-Men Legacy)

Artists: Mike Deodato (Wolverine Origins), Scott Eaton (X-Men Legacy)

Issues: X-Men: Original Sin One-Shot, Wolverine Origins #28-30, X-Men Legacy #217-218

 

The plight of self-pitying, guilt-stricken Charles Xavier continues as the focus of X-Men Legacy in 2008. This time we get a surprisingly effective crossover with Wolverine Origins.

Both Logan and Charles are men with checkered pasts that they’d sooner forget – even with Logan finally regaining his memories after House of M. This story, which begins with its own One-Shot issue before intertwining both series, centers around Wolverine’s son, Daken, and his quest to fix his son’s damaged psyche with Xavier’s help.  Continue reading “Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – X-Men: Original Sin”

Heroes of the Storm Review

I’ve always hated MOBAs but leave it to Blizzard to craft the most enjoyable team hero brawler I’ve ever played.

Read the full review at CG Magazine

heroes of the storm

I hated MOBAs. These weird games that called themselves Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas have all but supplanted my beloved Real Time Strategy genre. Requiring minute micromanagement, synchronized teamwork, and a critical familiarity with dozens of heroes and hundreds of abilities, MOBAs are not exactly known for their accessibility.

Leave it to Blizzard, the masters of gameplay iteration, to create by far the most accessible and enjoyable “Online Hero Brawler”. By leveraging their famous stable of larger-than-life characters and streamlining every single aspect of the genre, Blizzard have crafted one of the most enjoyable team multiplayer games I’ve played in years.

Read the full review at CG Magazine

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Deadpool: The Complete Collection Vol. 1

Deadpool is in good hands with a lively art style and excellent writing that explores his delightful insanity and penchant for mayhem.

With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.

Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!

Deadpool Complete Collection vol 1Writers: Daniel Way (Wolverine: Origins, Deadpool), Andy Diggle (Thunderbolts)

Artists: Steve Dillon (Wolverine: Origins), Paco Medina (#1-4, #6-12), Carlo Barberi (#4-5), Bong Dazo (Thunderbolts)

Issues: Deadpool (2008) #1-12, Thunderbolts #130-131, Wolverine: Origins #21-25

 

Ah, Deadpool. The Merc with a Mouth. Everyone’s favorite anti-hero. On the surface a GI Joe reject that constantly spouts one-liners and non-sequiturs should be the dumbest thing to come out of the 90s. Instead, Deadpool has become one of the most beloved figures in the Marvel Universe, and I’m inclined to agree. His witty retorts and likable (and somehow relatable) attitude is a refreshing change from the many brooding and angsty jerks that parade in costumes.

Coming off the very successful Cable & Deadpool run (four yeas and fifty issues, which I loved), Wade Wilson stars in his first solo series in years. While I was a bit annoyed by the constant crossovers with then-current Marvel events and other series, Deadpool is in good hands with a lively art style and excellent writing that explores his delightful insanity and penchant for mayhem.  Continue reading “Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Deadpool: The Complete Collection Vol. 1”

Shadowrun 5E “The Bodyguards” Epilogue & Recap

I recap our third Shadowrun adventure, “The Bodyguards,” from rock concert chaos to stealth infiltration at a mansion.

shadowrun

Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central.

Read “The Bodyguards” Session 1 Report
Read “The Bodyguards” Session 2 Report
Read “The Bodyguards” Session 3 Report
Read “The Bodyguards” Session 4 Report
Read “The Bodyguards” Session 5 Report
Read “The Bodyguards” Session 6 Report

When my friends and I first became interested in rekindling our online role-playing sessions from last year, I immediately suggested Shadowrun. The decidedly 80stastic cyberpunk-meets-fantasy world is just incredibly cool, and I was really digging the tactical RPGs being released from Harebrained Schemes.

Instead of diving into some pre-generated adventures to help us get started and familiarized with the world, I opted to jump write in with writing our own missions. My initial idea was the players working security at a magical rock concert, and having to prevent a chaotic kidnapping. I thought it might’ve been a bit too much to pull of originally, so I shelved it until our third mission.

“The Bodyguards” ended up lasting us six total sessions, with two shorter 1 hr weeks and one final, very lengthy 3.5 hour session. It consisted of four tactical maps in Roll20, three of which were quite large. I was incredibly excited to grow this adventure seed into a full-blown mission, though it ultimately ended up with mixed results.

BentonI encourage my players to create at least a bare-bones backstory for their characters, and I enjoy incorporating elements from their past into current adventures. In our previous mission, for example, Mauta nearly ran in to an old co-worker and boss she worked for at Ares before she went off the grid, which could’ve led to some interesting role-playing opportunities or combat (Mauta decided to avoid him entirely).

This time around I used an estranged brother of Ursev, our benevolent troll shaman as the quest-giver. This gave some personal motivation for one of our players and opened up some more meaningful dialogue.

The brother, Benton, offered the players the job as temp security guards for a One Night Only show for indie rock singer Lana Grace. He needed to double security, but wouldn’t divulge why. The players accepted the legitimate job and were given a chance to buy supplies as well as scout the gigantic converted warehouse location I’d built in Roll20 [Session 1 Report].

The night of the concert proved to be one of the single most enjoyable sessions I’ve had doing these online role-playing sessions. I had the major event planned with a strike team of kidnappers attacking and trying to abduct the singer. But first I wanted to explore the random events and situations that can crop up at a concert that the players would have to deal with.

There was very little actual combat, other than a surprise vampire that had a backstage pass. Players had to screen the backstage passers, confront a ticket scalper, deal with a drug dealer, help an unconscious fan and deal with the inevitable streaker on stage. It was a ton of fun, from Ursev crushing both tickets and drugs in his hands and scaring people off to Mauta spotting all the trouble from up in the catwalks. It still came down to me doing things and players reacting to them, but everyone enjoyed the structure and format [Session 2 Report].

shadowrun

Finally Lana Grace took the stage, and I played my hand. The singer had some magical talents which helped distract everyone. Further complications arose when one of the magically-gifted attackers cast an illusion, causing a dragon to appear on stage and attack everyone. My players annoyingly resisted most of the illusions, and were able to handily defeat the kidnappers [Session 3 Report].

Shadowrun doesn’t operate with traditional levels, so when crafting my own adventures from scratch I find it difficult to balance encounters. I’d rather err on the side of easy to make things go faster and make the players feel more heroic, but by now my players have pretty much cleaved through everything I’ve thrown at them. During our epilogue session, I revealed that the story could’ve branched depending on if Lana had been captured or not, and the players admitted that losing that fight and having to rescue Lana would’ve been the far more compelling outcome.

This was not the end of the adventure – I had a whole follow-up planned. The kidnappers were sent by Lana Grace’s parents, who were involved with the Yakuza and wanted her returned. She just wanted to be free of them, and hired the runners to infiltrate their mansion and steal some blackmail-able evidence. This was our first real chance for a big stealth mission, and I was inspired by games like Deus Ex and Dishonored in creating a giant area filled with guards and opportunities. Unfortunately it kinda fell apart at the end.

First my players had to get inside, and I was quite impressed with their plan to mind control (a way too easy and borderline broken spell) one of the more agreeable kidnappers, using him to set up a return trip to the mansion. Falkirk dressed up as one of the strike team assassins while Mauta pretended to be the captured and unconscious Lana. This lead to an interesting splitting up of the party when they got through the gates. Saren stayed in the guardhouse downloading the floor plans, Mauta was taken to an upstairs bedroom, while the rest were able to just drive into the garage – after a little nudging from myself.

I also used this opportunity to introduce a new player – a law enforcement officer that was staked outside the villa. Referring to herself as Ms. Johnson, she offered to pay the runners if they brought the evidence to her – giving my players a dilemma they would face later on [Session 4 Report].

Inside the split-party situation proved tense and fun at first as everyone scrambled to poke around. Unfortunately they didn’t really have a game plan, nor even really worked together other than stumbling around the house spotting guards [Session 5 Report].

We discussed the issues at length during this Epilogue & Recap episode. A major problem is our reliance on Roll20 – I build everything on the tactical grid, so my players naturally just respond to whatever they see. Instead of asking me more questions or trying to think outside the box, for example, they see the main set of stairs and focus on that. After becoming frustrated with their options, they decided to sneak attack the guard in the foyer. It did not go well, and we rolled for initiative.

shadowrun

I honestly wasn’t sure my players would be able to survive a full-on assault, and that’s quickly what this turned into as more guards responded to the alarm. The guards were quite strong for random minion NPCs, rolling 10 dice on their assault rifles and 8 for defense. I also had a souped-up augmented boss that leapt down from the 2nd story and nearly killed Ursev with two blows. Two edge points later and my boss lie dead instead – another Shadowrun system that feels super cheap to me.

At least this time the players wouldn’t get through unscathed. Both Mauta and Falkirk took heavy amounts of damage, and Ursev definitely would’ve died had he not used an Edge point. Saren did have a funny and tense moment as she was outside the mansion by a car, only to be attacked by a patrolling guard dog. She tried to hack the car but the powerful, custom-engineered dog broke through the windows, and she had her hands full.

After a very long but tense combat sequence the players turned the foyer of the mansion into a bloodbath. They went upstairs and confronted the parents, and their exhaustion and bloodied appearance led them to get exactly what they came for. They decided to blow of Ms. Johnson and head straight for Lana – but not before some delicious deliberating that I enjoyed hearing. These actions could definitely have consequences for them in the next adventure [Session 6 Report].

We definitely learned that the team prefers shock and awe tactics to stealth, though they also enjoyed the larger focus on fun role-playing moments versus heavy combat. In fact the whole mission was extremely light on combat having only two real encounters, though the last one was a doozy.

I thought “The Bodyguards” went pretty well but I also hit peak reliance on Roll20’s visual aides by using these giant custom-built maps. Ultimately I think it was detrimental as we relied on them far too much. Basically I’ve turned tabletop role-playing into a tactical wargame, and that’s not at all what I was going for. Future maps will be used sparingly. I’m also going to be using a pre-generated mission for our next adventure, “Splintered State.” That will be our final Shadowrun mission for the time being, as we plan on trying out a new RPG system in Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition – Coming Soon!

Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central.

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – X-Men: Legacy – Divided He Stands, Sins of the Father

The life and times of Charles Xavier are on display in semi-clip show format in this new series following the mega X-Men crossover event Messiah Complex.

With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.

Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!

x-men legacy divided he standsWriter: Mike Carey

Artist: Scott Eaton

Issues: X-Men: Legacy (2008) #208-216, X-Men: Odd Men Out

 

The death of Professor Charles Xavier has been greatly exaggerated. To be fair most deaths in the modern Marvel age do carry some significance, even with the caveat that they’ll eventually come back. Steve Rogers, for example, was gone for several years (an eternity in comics) following his highly publicized death after Civil War. What follows is the life and times of Charles Xavier wrapped up in an X-Men clip show, as Xavier’s past sins are put on full display in this entertaining but at times repetitive new series. Continue reading “Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – X-Men: Legacy – Divided He Stands, Sins of the Father”