The God of Light

It is the 1990s and the world is ruled by Supervillains. Starting in the 1960s, the Supervillains of the world stopped working at cross purposes and started working together to take down the Superheroes of the world one at a time. Thirty years later and the Supervillians have ruled the world unchallenged for almost fifteen years. The war that raged between super-beings left a large part of the earth severely damaged and some places uninhabitable. Major sections of the globe have been carved up by the most powerful beings, while the less powerful and the henchmen have been installed at the regional and local levels. Life goes on much as it did before the war, except now there are no fundamental rights and the world is a patchwork of police states that are constantly either at war or teetering on the brink. It turns out, after all of the heroes were dead, the villains were quick to turn on one another.

You and your friends live in a small city in what use to be Ohio. North America has been divided into four major countries: The east coast running from Newfoundland down to what is left of Florida; the west coast, running from Alaska down to Cabo san Lucas, Middle Canada and Middle America. You live in Middle America, now known as The Kingdom of Metal. The ruler of the Kingdom of Metal is Vicious Vinny, a death metal themed villain with sonic-based abilities that can strip the skin off of a grape or level an entire city.

The Hook

Just across the border to the east is the Eastcoast, now simply known as The State of Misery. In what used to be Pennsylvania, there is an irradiated and unlivable wasteland where a nuclear based superhero was finally put to heel; however, the ensuing explosion ensured that the surrounding 50 square miles would be a wasteland for generations to come. It is into this wasteland that you and your friends must venture. You see, you and your friends are the grandchildren of several of the superheroes that were murdered in the war. A secret society has established many cells like yours across the world and has been waiting on an opportunity to strike back; that opportunity has finally arrived.

God of Light was the name of the hero who was killed leading to the irradiation of Pittsburgh and much of the surrounding area. However, the Society has intelligence that indicates that God of Light’s nuclear power core was left behind and still sits in the ruins of Pittsburgh. The Society has tasked you and your friends with recovering the power core which the Society plans to use as part of a weapon to start the war with the Supervillains of North America. The society has supplied you with radiation suits and supplies that will last approximately two weeks. You and your friends can select whatever powers you would like to have. I would suggest the Super Powers Companion from Pinnacle that works with the Savage Worlds rule set.

The Truth

God of Light never died. The Society is a lie. It turns out that God of Light was actually a mole: a secret Supervillain who infiltrated the ranks of the superheroes early in the war campaign. When the war was coming to a close, the other Supervillains came to realize that turning on each other was inevitable and that God of Light was powerful enough that he could potentially take out all of the other Supervillains and rule the entire world. Seeking to strike first, the Supervillains conducted a surprise attack. Dozens of villains died in the ensuing carnage. Those that remained realized that they would never be able to kill God of Light; instead, they settled for imprisoning God of Light in a large box made of a mixture of lead and an extraterrestrial metal. Although the box contained God of Light, it did not stop the radiation pouring from his wounds from contaminating the surrounding area. The box also did not stop God of Light from reaching out with his empathic abilities and influencing the formation of the Society. You and your friend fight your way through mutated monstrosities and low level meta villains to arrive at the box that you believe contains God of Light’s power core. Once you succeed in opening the box, you have two choices: join God of Light in his campaign to overthrow the other villains of the world or fight him in his weakened state and hope to survive in order to decide how to move forward with your shattered lives.

I Could Have Written a Better Screenplay for Mortal Engines . . . And I Kind of Did.

Universal Pictures, All Rights Reserved

**Spoiler Alert**

If you have not seen Mortal Engines and want to have a shot at enjoying it – do not read this review. You have been warned.

When I sat down to watch Mortal Engines, I did not have a lot of expectations. I had not read any of the related books nor had I read any reviews of the movie. I knew that the screenplay was penned by Peter Jackson and crew who had written The Lord of the Rings Trilogy screenplays (three of my favorite movies of all time), but even that did not give me any real anticipation of this particular movie. Good thing.

I would not say that I hated Mortal Engines as much as I was simply bored by it. One dimensional characters, a lumbering storyline and ham-fisted movie tropes all combine together into a perfect cacophony of icky gray blandness. If Hunger Games was a zesty southwest omelette, Mortal Engines is cold, unflavored oatmeal.

BUT, instead of going on and on about specifically what is wrong with this movie and offering nothing constructive, I am going to give a try at putting my money where my big mouth is; I am going to offer a critique and then try to offer a workable solution. You can let me know in the comments how great – or not great – of a job that I do.

Okay, let’s get started.

What the hell is going on and why are cities on tank tracks / wheels?

Let’s just call this problem the complete and utter lack of exposition. Here is what you get from this move: There was a big apocalyptic event caused by this machine called “Medusa” that took all of an hour to transform the world into a wasteland. Now cities are on wheels! EXCEPT for the part of the world that is NOT on wheels but it is behind a really, really big wall. Makes sense, right? Right?!?

No. 

What we need here, is some good old fashioned exposition to let us know exactly what the crap is going on.

Some of you out there hate direct exposition in a movie; that’s fair. But, what I think you actually hate is badly done direct exposition. If done correctly, direct exposition can help set a movie up to move forward with all wheels churning instead of leaving the movie audience scratching their heads and asking: why are all of the cities on wheels again? An example of good direct exposition was done by *GASP* Peter Jackson at the beginning of the Fellowship of the Rings. The first five minutes of the movie explain thousands of years of history in an entertaining and awe inspiring way. We see armies decimated by a mighty evil being. We see a magical ring float to the bottom of a river to be discovered thousands of years later. We are being told the history of Middle Earth and we are loving every second of it. This kind of exposition to explain what Medusa was, why it was and what is caused could have been easily just as entertaining in Mortal Engines. It took me Google searching to figure out that the cities were on wheels because apparently the tectonic plates of earth had been disrupted by the Medusa weapon. Why the movie could not have told us that, I do not know.

The Cardboard Cutout Characters

Why is Tom prancing about the wastelands as if he is vacation? Why is he utterly unaffected by being attacked by cannibals and almost being enslaved? Not to mention that he just found out that the savior of his society is a lying sociopathic serial killer bent on destruction for destruction’s sake (more on that later)! Tom needs to be hurting. Tom needs to be questioning the very nature of his existence because his whole world just got turned upside down. But instead he is a happy clown who is bouncing around the wastelands just waiting for his chance to fly a Rickshawesque plane thingy. Be less Tom and be more Jon Snow.

Why does Thaddeus Valentine want to kill everyone just to recreate a weapon that seriously screwed up the earth the first time around? I mean, seriously – what is his motivation? It ain’t family – after all, he killed the mother of one of his children and all but abandoned both of his daughter when it suited his purposes. It is not wealth – he seems to care little for the fact that he is throwing his entire life away to blow up a wall. What is behind that wall anyway? Do we even know that? We need a backstory here, folks. Maybe Thaddeus had a father that was abusive? Maybe his ancestors helped develop Medusa to start with? Just an iota of a reason for his actions would be better than the nothing that we are left with.

Hester Shaw wants to kill Thaddeus Valentine because he killed her mother. That’s all you really need to know as far as the makers of this movie are concerned and by limiting Hester in that way, they are missing out on a goldmine of character development. Hester was raised by an undead zombie cyborg names Shrike who is, by all accounts, the most complex and interesting character this movie has to offer (What does it say when the movie’s best character is literally the emotionless dead guy?). Shrike was a man once with a family. He yearns for the life that he had before becoming a killing machine in way that he does not understand. He has a photo of himself as human with his son that he hides away even from himself. He collects dolls and broken things and repairs them because he longs to repair the broken thing that he himself has become. He takes in Hester – scarred and broken from her battle as a child with Valentine – and he nurses her back to health. All the while, he is still a green eyed emotionless killing machine. Shrike wants a family so bad that he makes a cyborg body for Hester and makes her promise to join him in his eternal life of not-quite-living. He is a tragic and triumphant figure full of contradictions that we can all relate to. Focussing more on the relationship between Shrike and Hester would have helped to humanize Hester as well. A good chunk of the first part of the movie should have been devoted to that story instead of giving it short shrift as paltry flashbacks.

Boring, Safe Storytelling

Look – within the first 15 minutes of this movie, we know who the bad guy is, who the big-hearted romantic lead good guy is, who the grizzled female lead who will give into love is and how this is all going to play out in the end with the good guys winning (living) and the bad guy losing (dying). The only thing that takes a while to get introduced into the movie is the best part of the movie: Shrike.

So, let’s do a little exercise. Let’s flip things around a bit and see how it plays out:

The scene is a dark scrubland at dusk. There is red dirt rock everywhere. A few clumps of grass grow here and there. A single tree is silhouetted against the setting sun. The tree and the land begin to shake. The shaking grows in intensity until rocks jump on the ground and a flock of small birds erupts from the tree. Suddenly, an unbelievably large tank tread is roaring deafening by, missing the tree by inches. It digs and cuts at the land. As the vehicle moves further away, we see that it is, in fact, a small collection of buildings undulating on some sort of flexible platform set atop the giant tank treads. In its wake – close to the camera view – it has churned up a human skull caked in dirt. We watch the mobile town drive further into the distance. Suddenly a large metal, claw-like food crushes the skull like an egg. The camera pans up to show us the back of Shrike, with an eerie green glow emanating from his face. He clutches a tattered doll in his hand and we hear his voice whisper one word, “Hester.”

Cut to the half covered face of Hester Shaw as she walks the streets of what is obviously the same small city that trundled past in the opening. She peers back over her shoulder ominously.

From here, things would be similar to the movie where Hester’s city meets up with other small cities and then gets consumed by London. But now, let’s change things again. Instead of Tom intervening and saving Valentine’s life, resulting in Valentine all but yelling “I’m the villain” as he pushes Tom to his doom, Shrike boards London in secret soon after the smaller city is consumed. When Hester makes her strike at Valentine, Shrike intervenes to try to stop Hester from becoming the killer that he has become. A struggle ensues between the forces of London and Shrike. Hester flees and Tom pursues. Tom slips and falls after Hester when trying to pull her up from the swirling vortex exiting London. Shrike is captured and Valentine, using some of the technology he has accumulated, hacks into Shrike’s memories, learns who Hester is and reprograms him to execute Hester and Tom. Up until the point that he commands Shrike to kill Hester, we are lead to believe that he is trying to gather information to help save London and to send Shrike to rescue Tom and bring Hester back to justice. This would be a much more gradual and satisfying reveal of Valentine as the villain.

This version of the movie would proceed in a more realistic manner with a slower pace and with a more in depth and realistic look at the characters.

I could go on with several more aspects of this movie that could use some TLC; heck, I wrote like the first 25 pages of a new screenplay for this joint in my head in the shower the other day! Alas, though; I have other things to attend to at the moment. I have to go get my house fitted for wheels just in case the tectonic plates doing the tango and I have to drive it away from bigger cities trying to eat me!

Missing! at the Krog Street Tunnel

The city of Atlanta is known for its thriving music scene, down-home restaurants, southern hospitality and now a budding art scene. The classic art scene has given rise to a growing street art scene. Street artists from around the country have started to flock to Atlanta to be part of the this new cultural touchstone.

The Krog Street Tunnel is known throughout Atlanta for its ever changing array of graffiti. Normally it is crowded with locals contributing their art and by tourists looking to take in the urban and eclectic atmosphere, but for the last few weeks, it has been all but abandoned.

This hook is best suited for modern settings with either a horror or fantasy element. It can be adapted to just about any gaming system.

The Hook

In the last two to three weeks, several people have been reported missing soon after visiting the Krog Street Tunnel. There seems to be no consistency in the type of people disappearing: they are young and old, male and female, local and tourists. There also seems to be no rhyme or reason in when the disappearances occur. Some people seem to go missing while visiting the tunnel itself, while others have disappeared weeks later and hundreds of miles away. Thus far, no bodies have been recovered. The most evidence that has been recovered is a smattering of blood drops in the tunnel.

The Truth

There is a Warlock / Witch who has taken up residence in the city of Atlanta. He uses material representations as his magical focus. Over the years this individual has increasingly focussed and harnessed his abilities to the point that he can bring two dimensional representations to life. Using this ability, he can bring to life everything from stick figures to intricately painted representations of people and animals. The drawback is the more complicated the representation, the less amount of time that he can keep it going. Additionally, if the representations are simple, then he can bring more than one of them to life, but the same drawback applies – the more living representations he creates, the less time he can keep them going. The Warlock / Witch has used this ability for petty theft and other small time crimes for most of his life . . until now.

A month ago, the Warlock found a Grimoire left in his apartment with a note encouraging him to expand his horizons. In it, he found spells that allowed him to summon beings from other planes of existence to inhabit his art and bring it to life; however, the spells come with a price that must be paid in blood. Not interested in sacrificing himself, the warlock began to graffiti his representations on the Krog Street Tunnel and bringing them to life to do his bidding and then take the lives of unsuspecting victims.

The game runner could use various explanations as to why there is no consistency as to the victims. One explanation could be that some of the victims were just randomly selected to satisfy the needs of the summoned beings whereas some of the victims were the results of personal scores being settled by the Warlock. Another explanation could be that the Warlock’s control and mastery of the new spells being limited, he summons beings from different planes at random and each creature has specific prey that they use to meet their price.

Critical Success, Indeed: CritSuccess Spinning Dice Ring Review

Empty out your dice bag. Take out all of the six-sided dice and look at what you have left. Mostly D20’s, right? Those icosagons take up a lot of room, am I right? Okay, put your dice away before someone steps on those caltrop-like D4s. So what the solution to your over abundance of twenty-sided buddies? Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Dice Ring by CritSuccess.

Now, my clever little introduction was limited to the twenty-sided version of the ring, but the folks over at CritSuccess have more options than that? There are rings for the D4 all the way up to the D100. Play the Fate System? There is a Fudge Dice ring as well. There is also a ring you can use as a life counter and a ring that has a complete deck of cards on it. There are more rings than that. You can check out the complete line of rings available HERE.

When Danny and I were at GenCon, we started to notice a lot of people walking around with spinning rings. While gaming with the folks from Standard Action – second place winners in the Series category at GenCon Film Fest 2013 – we finally had to satisfy our curiosity. Come to find out the guys from CritSuccess had a booth set up in the massive Exhibitors Hall and we selling all types of spinning dice ring.

We headed to the Standard Action Booth and met up with Aaron and Sam who ran the KickStarter that funded the CritSuccess spinning rings. Sam demonstrated how to wear the ring on our left index finger and spin the ring using our thumbs; he also helped us find the right sized rings. Then, we headed over and geeked out over the rings with Aaron Laniewicz. After chatting and taking some silly pictures, Danny and I each walked away with a D20 ring. Danny chose the blue ring and I took a classic gold ring.

It has been a week and, although I have not had a chance to game with the ring yet, I have been wearing mine most every day to try and evaluate the ring. As a piece of jewelry, the ring is pretty cool for the mere fact that it shows the whole world that you are a gaming nerd if you choose to point out what kind of ring you are wearing. Otherwise, if you are wearing the more classic colors, like gold, you can probably get away with wearing the ring and no one being the wiser to your nerdy ways. The only downside, as just jewelry, is the rattle sound that you get from most any spinner ring; it is no big deal and I stopped noticing it after a few hours.

As a gaming implement, I have noticed just a few potential issues. First, it is pretty difficult to spin the ring hard enough to get a full revolution. That means that you might be more limited in the potential outcome than you would be by rolling a die.

*Update*

The first thing you want to do when you get your rings is to wash them in warm soapy water. The rings have dust and debris in them from the manufacturing process, which just needs cleaned out.

I find it best to make a big bowl of soapy water, and submerge the rings completely. While they are underwater, grip the spinning bands and push them hard against the inside band while turning. You’ll want to apply a good amount of pressure. The idea is to try to use the outer bands to grind/polish the inner grooves. Then rinse thoroughly. Some rings may need more work than others, and you’ll want to keep at it until it feels completely smooth on all sides. Use dish soap for the best results, since it does not leave a residue.

Once a ring is cleaned out appropriately, it will spin AMAZINGLY!

Another small issue is that the two small arrows on the outside of the ring do not always indicate a clear roll. About 1/3 of the time, I have to do a “re-spin” because the arrows are pointing at the line in between two numbers.

*Update* 

As a rule, if the ring lands on a line, the result is the face above the line. You should never have to reroll. As long as you consistently declare the result the face above the line, the statistics are reliable and accurate.

I have not had the ring long enough to make a clear comment on  durability. So far, there does not appear to be any visible wear after a week of use.

There are definitely positive points to the ring. If you were it everyday, then you will never be caught in an impromptu gaming situation with having a D20 (or whatever ring you are wearing) handy. The cool factor you get the first time your friends see you spin a ring instead of roll a die is definitely worth the price of admission in and of itself. One last note, be prepared to get a little callous on the side of your thumb if your spin the ring a lot. I have been spinning this thing like crazy just as a nervous tick and I can feel a callous forming already.

Final Word: The Dice Ring is worth getting just for the cool / nerd factor alone. If you use it for gaming, great; if not, it still makes a nice piece of jewelry to show the world you are a gamer. I suggest all GMs get their players one of these rings for Christmas!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

#071 Depths of Insanity Season 2, Episode 1: Out of the Depths

Depths of Insanity Season 2 is finally here! Join Kriv, Aramil, Lucius, Varys and Axar as they help the dwarves of U fight for their survival! Will they triumph? There are major battles fought and sweet loot to be had. Check it out!

Please consider giving us a 5-star review on iTunes as well as subscribing to our podcast as those two things help our ratings more than anything else. Thanks for listening and as always please send gaming questions and comments to podcast@goblinbeat.com and we will possibly answer them on the air!

Play

#070 Savage Worlds Realms of Cthulhu – Blake Andrews Dies Episode 3

Tune in for the final episode of Blake Andrews Dies! Will Blake Andrew actually die? Will Special K finally annoy Jim enough to earn a bullet to the head? Will everyone be abducted and probed? There’s only one way to find out, so grab a soda and listen in!

Please consider giving us a 5-star review on iTunes as well as subscribing to our podcast as those two things help our ratings more than anything else. Thanks for listening and as always please send gaming questions and comments to podcast@goblinbeat.com and we will possibly answer them on the air!

photo-3 photo-2

Play

#069 Savage Worlds Realms of Cthulhu – Blake Andrews Dies Episode 2

Get ready for the second installment of the latest pants-wetting adventure with the crew at Paranormal Investigative Enterprises. Blake, “Special” K, and James head into the Etowah Indian Mounds during the dark of the night and run across some creepy goings-on. Is it aliens? Eldritch? Smurfs? Tune in and find out!

Please consider giving us a 5-star review on iTunes as well as subscribing to our podcast as those two things help our ratings more than anything else. Thanks for listening and as always please send gaming questions and comments to podcast@goblinbeat.com and we will possibly answer them on the air!

Play

#068 Interface Zero 2.0 Interview with Dave Viars and Stan!

The Goblin Beat Crew brings you another fresh, hot-off-the-press interview, this time with Dave Viars, Line Developer of Interface Zero 2.0, and Stan! Brown, the forthcoming author of the Japan sourcebook for newest iteration of Interface Zero. So, sit back, chillax, and enjoy some cyberpunk fanboy talk!

Please consider giving us a 5-star review on iTunes as well as subscribing to our podcast as those two things help our ratings more than anything else. Thanks for listening and as always please send gaming questions and comments to podcast@goblinbeat.com and we will possibly answer them on the air!

Play

#066 Savage Worlds Realms of Cthulhu – Blake Andrews Dies Episode 1

Join the guys from Paranormal Investigative Enterprises for another bone-chilling adventure. It has been several months since the events in Five Lanterns on Halloween, and now Blake Andrews and Dr. K are about to encounter the paranormal in their own backyard. Plus, there is a new, mysterious “bodyguard” for Blake, who might just have his own secret agenda.

Please consider giving us a 5-star review on iTunes as well as subscribing to our podcast as those two things help our ratings more than anything else. Thanks for listening and as always please send gaming questions and comments to podcast@goblinbeat.com and we will possibly answer them on the air!

photo Tentacles Creepy Frog Death Tree Elder One Eye Grey Man Hyper Cube Eldritch

Play