31 Jan 2013

Subject 13 #4 - Commentary

As usual, go read the issue before continuing on here.

The title deserves a note here.  A scrum is a crowd of journalists crowding around a subject, typically a politician who doesn't bother with press conferences.  In this case, I coupled it with the phrase "scum of the earth".  Other than that, no extra meaning.

The first three scenes show reaction to Nasty's television appearance from Issue 3.  The first shows the football players who aren't Tommy and the injured player.  The second scene is from Eric's view, going to show that Nasty's point-of-view isn't necessarily accurate.  The third is from the Consortium, who now know who they're seeking.

After that, Nasty is doing everything she can to get her mother (still nameless, though by now, I did have a name for her) to the school.  Now, again, it does look like Nasty's mother drinks heavily.  However, again, this is Nasty's point of view.  But, yes, her mother drinks heavily.  It'll be shown better later, though.

Next, well, the Consortium did send out Subjects 4 and 7.  Here they are.  A quick glimpse into their personalities, and, much to the consternation of Nasty's mother, they get names.  At this rate, people are going to wonder if Nasty's mom is a redshirt.  Then we go back to Nasty.  Hey, the Feds are involved now.  Some subtle foreshadowing, and end issue.

The last bit is Subject 4.  You might want to note his powers.

25 Jan 2013

Subject 13 #4 - Scrum of the Earth

[Once again, language warnings.]

I wasn't home at the time.  I didn't see anything when I got home.

"Look at her squirm!  Tommy really got her!"

24 Jan 2013

Subject 13 #3 - Commentary

Once again, go read "Crushed" before you continuing.  You'll be glad you did.

Still more world-building in this issue, as Nasty's school gets fleshed out a little more.  Also introduced, a love interest, because almost all superheroes have love interests.  Really, Superman has Lois Lane, Spider-Man has Gwen Stacy and Mary-Jane Watson, Mr. Fantastic has The Invisible Woman.*  Naturally, Nasty needs someone, too.  Humanizes her even more.  Thus, Eric, a classmate.  Right now, the interest is one-sided.  Nasty's other weakness, socialization, is shown.  Isn't young love fun to watch, when you're not involved?

Then the fallout from beating up the football players returns.  Powered people show up and hurt someone, naturally it's going to make the evening news.  The name of the reporter isn't significant; same goes for the channel number.  It's a fictional station, deliberately done.  The full name of Nasty's school is finally revealed, WH Seward, and, like the TV station, is also fictional.  However, the name is taken from a governor of New York State, William H. Seward, who seemed to be a good choice to name a private school after.

The end brings us back to the evil organization, who now knows who the girl was trying to help their driver.  They have plans, plans that they haven't revealed, even to me.  The organization loosely based off the different ones from comics and cartoons, like Cobra, AIM, and Hydra, with a dash of Across from Excel Saga.  Essentially, my so far evil organization, the Consortium, was going to take over the world, but do it slowly by getting its tentacles into everything and starting small-ish.  Right now, it has a good sway over things in New England, especially New York.

Tomorrow, Issue #4, "Scrum of the Earth"

* Note, I didn't mention anything about Batman and Robin.

22 Jan 2013

Variation of a Theme - Girls as Cars

In a discussion with Steven Savage about the trend of anime to have teenaged (or younger) girls represent odd objects.  Examples include Strike Witches (girls as lolicon fighter planes), Hetalia: Axis Powers (girls as countries), Girls und Panzer (girls as tanks, and the womanly art of tank-do), and Upotte (girls as military weapons, such as rifles and submachine guns).  Naturally, I exercised my Craft (Disturbing Image) skill and suggested girls as cars.  Not military vehicles (covered partially already by Girls und Panzer), but everyday cars.  And, during a bus ride to work, I started filling in details.  I wanted the girls to reflect the cars they represented instead of just being Sarah Ford, Kelly Chrysler, or Lenore "the General" Motors.  No, that just wouldn't do at all.

What I've done is come up with a small cast list for the girls who go to an international school.  Teenaged girls from all countries attend, with an associated boys school nearby.  I've linked the various cars and other references in the cast list below, to keep things easy and clean.

The Girls:
Portia, from Germany.  A strong competitor, loves track events, especially sprints where she can run full out.

Mercedes, from Germany.  A very proper German  girl, but can keep up Portia when she needs to.  Has a rivalry with Martin Astin (see below).  Has a younger sister who she loves dearly but thinks is very nerdy.  Older brother is Baron Benjamin XXIII, the latest in a long line of Bens.

Opal, also from Germany.  A more matronly lass than Portia, above.[link to car selection]  Has a brother, Adam (see below).

"Mustang" Shelby, from the US.  More tomboyish and rowdy than the other girls.  Works out.[link to muscle car]  Loves riding horses, thus her nickname.  Despite her appearance, she can give Portia and Mercedes a challenge, especially in short sprints.  Is seeing Martin Astin.

Arachne, from Canada.  Much prefers the outdoors and cross-country running.

Agnese "the Lamb" Gallardo, from Italy.  Soft spoken and shy.  Capable of out running Mercedes and Portia, but isn't interested in the competition.

Clio, from France.  Tends to fade into the background, but is reliable.  Often joins Adam (below) on his cross-country runs.

Kia, from South Korea.  Enjoys soul music.

Lan, from Japan.  Fan of Initial D.  Engages in illegal parkour in the city.

Kaoru, from Japan.  Also a fan of Initial D.  Also into parkour, often getting into trouble with Lan (above)

Octavia, from the Czech Republic.

Samara, from Russia.  Tries her best but has trouble keeping up with the others, especially Portia and Mercedes.  Injury prone.

Barbara, from the US.  Specifically, from Malibu, California.*  Laid back.

The Boys:
Martin Astin, from England.  A rival to Mercedes, especially in school performance.  Is currently seeing "Mustang" Shelby (above).  Wants to be a secret agent after university.

Adam, from Germany.  Opal’s street smart brother; enjoys cross-country running.

David Harleyson, from the US.  The bad boy of the story.  When he was younger, he was called "Fat Boy", but after bulking up over summer, he's known as "Iron"

Holden, from Australia.  Enjoys long walks in the wilderness.

Other Cast:
Frau Westphalia, from Germany.  A teacher at the school, she dresses like a hippy.  Enjoys brownies, which she never shares with her students.

G.P. Willis, from the US.  The running team coach.  Served in the Army.

Catherina, from Sweden.  Teacher.  Brother Viggo was a Swedish Air Force pilot.

Have an idea for other people at the school, either student or teacher?  Want to submit a pic of one of the characters above?  Let me know, either through my contact email or in the comments!

* This one gets tricky.  Barbara represents the Chevy Malibu.  So, why Barbara?

20 Jan 2013

Fun with Traveller - The Aslan Veteran Warrior

I may have mentioned Traveller a few times in the past.  One of the fun aspects of the game is the character creation.  It can be interesting to see what sort of character results from the process.

This time around, I went with the Aslan character creation.  In the Third Imperium setting, the Aslan are a leonline species in the same galactic arm as Terra (our homeworld).  The Aslan have a gender distribution of three women for every men.  As a result, the men do the fighting, with the goal of gaining territory.  The women manage the territory, turning the land into something productive.  As the Aslan improved their technology, the men learned how to use new weapons and vehicles.  The women designed the tech.  The power in an Aslan family is held by the women, really.  The menfolk are raised to only fight and leave the hard stuff like fixing things and mathing the jump coordinates of planets to the women.

This brings us to the character.  The second son, he starts out with a name and the need to get his own territory.  He's not inheriting anything, only the first son gets the father's land.

Name: Hfyustiykoarl
Age: Second Son
Species: Aslan
Gender: Male
Homeworld: Ralaiw/Hkea'as (B4205M4-D Ni Po De Ht)
Rank: Veteran Warrior (4)

His name's a mouthful.  I've referred to him as Dumbass, as his stat block coming up will show quite well.  His world of birth is smaller than Earth, barely has an atmosphere, has no freestanding water at all, has a light population (~100 000, the size of a small city or a large town), and is a high tech world.  His final rank after serving as a Warrior (see below) is "Veteran Warrior", meaning he survived many battles.  The (4) is the rank number, used as a game mechanic.

Clan: Major Clan
 Ancestral Deeds: Glory days long gone
 Grandfather's Deeds: Barely manged to hold on to landhold
 Father's Deeds: Barely manged to hold on to landhold
Rite of Passage: +2
Territory: 0
Hfyustiykoarl comes from a major clan whose fortunes have long faded.  His grandfather and father were barely able to keep what the clan owns.  This is perfect for Dumbass; he can go out and create his own family and glory without having to deal with the family.

  Str E/+2
  Dex 5/-1
  End C/+2
  Int 2/-2
  Edu 2/-2
  Soc 2/-2
Traveller uses a hexidecimal system for stats.  Human average is seven across the board.  Above twelve (C) is rare.  Aslan get a bonus to Strength and Endurance and a penalty to Dexterity.  However, Dumbass is strong, even for an Aslan.  He is also the least educated with the mental processing power that makes a VIC-20 look good.  He's also considered by other Aslan to be utter scum - he's landless; what woman would have him?

 Animals 0
 Athletics 0
  Running 1
 Battle Dress 2
 Drive 0
 Gun Combat 0
 Heavy Weapons 0
  Launchers 1
 Independence 3
 Melee 0
  Claw 2
 Recon 0
 Stealth 2
 Survival 0
 Tactics 0
  Military 1
Dumbass's skills.  Almost everything he knows relates to fighting.  The exception is Independence, the ability to figure out how the world works.  Independence is a skill found only in male Aslan; the women don't need it.  Somehow, Dumbass has figured out the connection between land and money.  Another odd result is that Hfyustiykoarl knows how to use powered armour, but his best trained weapon is his own claws.  He knows the basics of shooting small arms, he can fire rockets, but he's best at sneaking behind enemy lines (yes, in powered armour), and slicing sentries to death with his claws.  Hfyustiykoarl is a hands-on type of guy.

Career - Military/Warrior
Term 1: (7,7) Life Event: New contact; promoted w/mandatory re-enlistment
And his career.  Hfyustiykoarl joined his clan's military as a Warrior, which they figured he'd either be useful in a fight or be cannon fodder.  In his first four-year term, he met someone (I have to determine who, but possibly another PC).  He also served extremely well and received a promotion and was required to stay in the military.  That pleased Hfyustiykoarl.  He's good at fighting.

Term 2: (3) Unit is sent into the maw of hell, severely injured; promoted
In his second term, his unit got sent into a meat grinder.  Looks like the military saw him as cannon fodder.  Hfyustiykoarl received an injury which needed Cr7000 to recover from.  But, his officers liked what they saw of him in battle and promoted him again.

Term 3: (5) Involved in border skirmish; promoted
More fighting, but not as intense as before.  His superiors are seeing the benefits of having the big dumb guy in powered armour.  Again, Dumbass exceeds expectations and gets promoted.  Let's face it, though.  With his Intelligence and Education, most people would have low expectations of him to start with.

Term 4: (6) Given advanced training; promoted
Someone higher up realized that maybe, just maybe, Hfyustiykoarl could be a better warrior with some training.  What they didn't expect was that he'd fail to learn anything during the training.  Thick as a superdense plasticrete brick.  (No, really, it was an Education roll to pick up skills.  He learned none of them.)

Term 5: (3) Unit is sent into the maw of hell; unable to continue service
Back into the grinder.  At this point, the Veteran Warrior has proven that he's a fighter, not a thinker.  Best place for him is on the front lines.  He didn't get injured this time, but the officers saw something that he didn't like and recommended that Dumbass be removed from service.  Hfyustiykoarl now goes into his new career of Traveller.

Cr 3250
Medical Expenses: Cr3750 still owed
Clan Shares: 2
Contacts: 1
Secret School: Melee (claw)
Secret School: Heavy Weapons (launchers)
Secret School: Gun Combat (rifles)
The mustering out benefits.  Although there are two tables (monetary and non-monetary) Aslan men are restricted from making rolls for money unless they have the Independence skill.  That just happens to be Hfyustiykoarl's best skill.  Unfortunately, the dice hated him and didn't give him much in terms of cash, and part of it had to pay off medical expenses.  He did pick up a couple of clan shares to be used in clan endeavors, such as getting a one-Aslan scout vessel to find new territory.  Dumbass also got involved in some secret schools.  Apparently, the people in charge of recruiting for the schools saw what he was capable of and gave him extra combat training.  He gets benefits in certain situations when using his own claws, using a rocket launcher, or using a slug rifle of any sort.  What Dumbass doesn't have and can't really afford are weapons and armour.  But, with the right crew of compatriots, they can handle getting him something to use and Dumbass can go ahead and be the dumb muscle every adventuring group needs.

18 Jan 2013

Subject 13 #3 - Crushed

         The last bell of the day rang.  Nasty packed up her books as she watched her classmates rush out the door.  She let out a sigh as she stood up.

         "Problem, Natasha?" her teacher asked.

17 Jan 2013

Subject 13 #2 - Commentary

Back in Issue #1, Nasty gained her power, an energy punch she wound up using on a classmate and on her mother's coffee table.  Issue #2 starts where Issue #1 ended, with Nasty blowing a hole in the coffee table.

I used Issue #2 to show Nasty's reaction to getting her power and to expand her world.  I wanted to show that's she more than a violent, foul-mouthed teenager.  I also wanted to show that she sees herself as an outsider at her school.  She's also at a private school, adding a little mystery.

I tried to make sure that the injured linebacker wasn't just brushed off.  Nasty did serious damage to him in Issue #1.  He didn't bounce right back.  Nasty's "power punch" carries a wallop, enough to seriously hurt a normal human.  There's now a rough scale for when Nasty uses her power against a supervillain.

The scene with Nasty and her teacher shows that Nasty isn't always confident, that she has areas where she is unsure of herself.  I wanted to give her some humanity, again, to show that she's not just a ball of anger waiting to explode.

The last bit before the personnel file introduces my main villain.  Most superheroes have at least one recurring villain: Superman has Lex Luthor, Thor has Loki, Darkwing Duck has Negaduck.  Here, then, is the beginnings of Nasty's recurring Rogue's Gallery.  More about these people will come out, and they do act in fields where Nasty herself isn't able.

Issue #3, "Crushed", will be posted Friday.

13 Jan 2013

D&D Next Reactions

For the past few months, I've been involved in a D&D Next playtest campaign.  I am honestly impressed with character creation.  Sure, the classic classes are there, but they're flexible, capable of containing a multitude of ideas.  My first PC in the campaign was a Halfling archaeologist.  "But wait," you may be thinking, "there's no 'Archaeologist' class in D&D."  And you'd be right!  However, D&D Next comes with optional backgrounds and specialties, and these I do so love.  If used, every character can have one of each, and they really don't affect game balance.  Used well, and you add depth to a character with a quick stroke.

So how does one play a Halfling archaeologist?  First, take the Rogue class; you want access to skills like Open Lock and Remove Trap.  Next, take the Sage background.  Ta-daa, your rogue now knows all sorts of lore, just perfect for being an archaeologist.  Finally, I took the Ambusher specialty, but others may work just as well.  For flavour, I bought the PC a whip, because what sort of adventuring archaeologist doesn't have one?

Sadly, he was eaten by a ghoul while being the meat shield for the party's wizard.  (Rogues aren't good in that role.)  My next character took me all of twenty minutes to create, from scratch, including figuring out the concept.  That's twenty minutes to create a Human monk PC who is one part Friar Tuck and one part Ryu from Street Fighter.

Now, considering that there's no such thing as script immunity, I do have another idea in the back of my mind for a new PC, which I could also use for the next season of D&D Encounters - a swashbuckler.  Swashbucklers are common enough in historical fantasy; the lightly armoured dandy with a rapier and keen wit.  Can D&D Next handle the concept?

Well, yes, in three different classes.  Once again, backgrounds and specialties come to the rescue.  There is a Swashbuckler specialty.  Most of the work is already done.  For backgrounds, check out Minstrel and Noble.  Do you want the bard-ish swashbuckler (Elan, Order of the Stick) or the foppish dandy (Giogi Wyvernspur, from the Finder's Stone trilogy set in the Forgotten Realms).  Lastly, class.  The obvious two are Fighter and Rogue.  Fighter has the Duelist option, which out and out suggests Swashbuckler as a specialty.  Rogue has the Rake.  Most of the work is already done for me.  Sweet!

That's two.  What's the third?  Cleric.  It's not as bizarre as it seems at first.  The latest documents include sample deity types and what benefits they grant.  One of the types is the Trickster.  Keep the Swashbuckler specialty.  Take a look at the Jester background.  Not your typical swashbuckler, but you now have a memorable cleric who is capable in a duel.

Overall, this just makes me happy.

11 Jan 2013

Subject 13 #2 - School Day

[Once again, a mature language warning for the series.]

"I am not denying anything! I didn't get into a fight, damnit!" Nasty slammed her fist on the coffee table for emphasis. With a flare of purple light and a loud bang, she punched a hole through the tabletop.

10 Jan 2013

Subject 13 #1 - Commentary

Last Friday, I posted "Family Life", the first issue of Subject 13.  As mentioned before, the idea behind the story was to do a written superhero story while also letting me work out the frustration of being the tech line phone firewall at a major ISP's call centre.  Go read "Family Life" first before reading the rest of this post.

Back?  "Family Life" was meant to be Nasty's origin issue, showing where she got her powers, what she was like before, who the important people in her life are.  First thing you notice is that Nasty and her mother (who does have a name, but the reveal comes in a later issue) don't get along.  Well, Nasty doesn't get along with many people, really, as shown by the football players.  A lot of that characterization came from where I was writing - at work.*  I really began hating the callers.  From the people who couldn't figure out left from right after three tries to the people who demanded the impossible, I wanted them all to suddenly realize what they were doing and die of the brain infarction that resulted.  Nasty's lack of patience with others and desire to be by herself come from how I felt while working, minus the migraines.

Now, that isn't to say Nasty is a thoroughly rotten piece of work who should be locked away.  You'll notice that she tried to help the driver of the crashed truck.  She never started the fight with the football players.  Keep in mind, too, that the story is written from Nasty's perspective.  She's not quite an unbiased observer, and the narrative reflects that.

The file at the end was a retrofit.  The people who maintain the file will be appearing in a few issues, but I had realized that the turning point of the serial was going to be Issue 13, appropriately enough.  I created Nasty's file, then backfilled the previous twelve subjects.  Nice thing, though, is that there's some foreshadowing building.  Made for a nice addition at the end of my 2008 NaNoWriMo story, Crossover.

Coming Friday, Issue 2 of Subject 13.

* It's a cliché that call centre techs hate the people who call in.  It's also a cliché that the techs don't know what they're doing.  The secret: it's expensive to have good techs, so call centres hire warm bodies and give them scripts to use.  The scripting was put in place during my time on the firewall.  So, while below average tech types brought up their ability to close calls (solving them was never a metric for us), the better techs were limited.

4 Jan 2013

Subject 13 #1 - Family Life

This is it!  Welcome to Subject 13, a text-based supers comic.  Please note that the story has strong language.  Readers sensitive to gratuitous swearing may want to avoid.

Subject 13 #1 - Family Life