Thursday, June 30, 2016

On diversity in the Reborn DC Universe

Not quite a soapbox, but something I wanted to address...and there are some mild spoilers to be found within this, so be forewarned...

Diversity has been a bit of a buzzword for comics...and the DC Universe in particular...for quite a while now, and rightfully so.  The universe's roots are in a time when no one really questioned that the most important characters were a bunch of white folks, even if those characters were aliens, Amazons, Atlanteans, etc.  Times have thankfully changed, and it's worth some effort to bring a more multicultural flair to the world.

With DC Rebirth, the company seems to be once again shaking things up to define the "baseline" heroes of the universe for the next generation of comic readers.  You wanna diversify, now's the time to do it.  And I can't help but feel like DC just keeps coming up a little bit short on doing it in an effective way.

Now, I've thought for a while now that the best way to go about this...what I'm going to call "Plan A"...would be to just take one or more established characters and make them non-white.  No one seemed to question it when a half-Asian guy played Superman.  No one seems concerned about the cinematic Barry Allen being a clearly non-WASPy guy (apparently Jewish, although his ethnicity inspires discussion).  But something tells me that if Bruce Wayne were African American, there'd be articles galore about the "new" black Batman.  I've resigned myself to the idea that Plan A probably isn't going to happen in any significant way, at least not anytime soon, and not with the biggest guns of the DCU.  We've seen little glimpses.  Iris West can be black.  So can Aqualad.  The Earth-2 Green Lantern can be gay (yep, I'm just lumping sexuality in with ethnicity).  Guess who's a lesbian...Batwoman...y'know, the one who's like #10 on the list of Bat-family characters you care about.

I'll come back to Plan A in a minute.

There are other ways of going about it, of course.  You can make new characters that fit into different demographics.  This is tough, though, and takes time to implement.  I love Jaime Reyes, but I'm not going to pretend that the newest Blue Beetle is nearly as meaningful to the DCU as a traditional JLA member.  I like that the new Green Lanterns comic features two(!) minority Corps members...and that they'll apparently rep the Corps in the Justice League...but they're quite explicitly new to the game, and not as respected as...oh, let's say Hal Jordan.

What's weird is that the GL route is probably the best option DC could have in taking the third route to diversifying...the route where you promote existing minority characters to the big time.  John Stewart is an established veteran in the DCU and probably the Green Lantern to a generation who grew up on Justice League cartoons.  And in Rebirth...he's not very prominent.  Not so far at least.  (Not in what I've seen.)  Seems like a missed opportunity.

There's currently a gambit in play to make Cyborg one of the JL's "Big Seven."  Over time...some years to sink in, some big screen appearances...this may work.  And he's a cool character with a good history, but so much of that history is tied to being a (Teen) Titan, and at the moment, he might be the only core League member who can't hold down his own book.  So close once again...just not quite there.

Now, let me go back to Plan A...where existing characters "change" ethnicity without a bunch of fanfare...and this is what is sticking in my craw about Rebirth.  With African American Iris West came African American Wally West.  On TV and in the comics!  This was who I grew up with as the Flash...arguably, the most high-profile traditional character that DC would have yet incorporated as non-white.  And then, one of the central hooks of Rebirth is...that black Wally?  Yeah, not the "real" one you're used to.  Don't Wally is still out there, and he's gonna set things straight.  So close...

This is by no means a comprehensive analysis of DC's approach to diversity and probably comes across more like a rant.  I applaud DC for the swings they're taking; it just seems like they're not quite connecting.  Am I missing something?  Way off on my approach?  Worried about something that has less meaning than I think?  I'd love to know what some of you other comic fans think.

Monday, June 27, 2016

MonsterMascot Monday: The Phillie Phanatic

All's still Monster Monday!  Since last week's entry already broke my streak of underground elemental beasts, I'm going to spend at least one more week letting my one-track mind guide me.

And for this past week, that means...mascots!

Why not stat up the most monstrous of them all...and one of the true icons of costumed mascotdom...

The Phillie Phanatic

Yeah, this could be fun to run into on the gaming table.

Here's his background from the Monster Manualhis website:

And here's how I'll play him...

Monster, Level 8 Mystic (80,000 XP)
AC 14, 8d6+16 (44) HP
STR 11  DEX 14(+1)  CON 16(+2)  INT 15(+1)  WIS 13(+1)  CHA 15(+1)
Size Code 5 (human-sized)

Tongue (+4, d6 damage) / Punch (+4, d4 damage)
By weapon (T-shirt gun, ball grenade, etc.)

As an 8th-level Mystic, the Phillie Phanatic gets his full level bonus to all WIS ability rolls and +4 to saving throws vs. wands and heckling.

Mystic abilities:  Light, Stupor, Invisibility, Dispel Effect

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Saturday Evening Cartoon: Sam the Olympic Eagle anime

All right...building on the mascot theme...

One of my favorite mascots during my formative years was the symbol of the 1984 Summer Games, Sam the Olympic Eagle:

I even still have the little PVC figures of him that I got when I was a kid...

It's only recently, though, that I discovered that Sam starred in a Japanese TV series!  Or...a TV special.  Or something.  For some reason, we never got this in the USA.  Which...well, it seems like we'd be a great target audience, doesn't it?  Here are what seem to be the intro, outro, and something else (a clip? a commercial? a cold open?) for the Sam the Olympic Eagle anime.

You can also catch a complete episode at Dailymotion!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

So, I pretty much lived a dream yesterday.

I've never tried to nail down a detailed "bucket list."  But if I did, one item that would surely hover near the top is the chance to be a costumed mascot.  Weird?  Probably.  But it's been a semi-obsession for a while now, and unfortunately reached that status in my mind well after it would have been a practical goal in my day-to-day life.

Until yesterday.  For reasons of the trade, I don't want to say too much, but I do want to note that this gathering of mascots at yesterday's Atlanta Dream game (no pun intended on the post title, by the way) was a pretty awesome deal for me...

Snagged this pic from Atlanta Pet Rescue and Adoption's Facebook page.  They're an organization worth checking out!
I was at that game.  I got to interact with some mascot greats.  I'll leave it at that. pull this post closer to the blog's focus, I'll also reveal that perhaps an even weirder dream of mine has long been to develop a comic or RPG based on the concept of mascots as superheroes and villains waging a long-running war with each other.  Sometimes, the thought has been to portray the mascots as people in "costumes" that are actually carefully constructed battle suits.  Sometimes, it's been to actually have a bunch of anthropomorphic animals...and other stuff...that are working to defend (or conquer) our world.

For this post, I'm going with the latter.  Because I had a lot of fun with this week's Monster Monday, where I statted up a kaiju for an imaginary OSR game based on the Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game, I'm also going to stat up a character for a similar game using this ridiculous high concept.  Heck, maybe it's the same game as the kaiju game.  You know what, this imaginary world where I play imaginary games, I'll go with that.

Here's Bango, the deer with no fear who pumps the crowd at Milwaukee Bucks games.  He may be best known for this playoff stunt from a few years back:

(The wider world of Bango was also featured on the excellent Hulu documentary series Behind the Mask...definitely worth checking out!)


Deer, Level 5 Acrobat (10,000 XP)
AC 14, 5d8-5 (18) HP
STR 15(+1)  DEX 17(+2)  CON 8(-1)  INT 12  WIS 10  CHA 14(+1)
Height 7ft (w/antlers)
Size Code 5 (human-sized)

2 punches (+3, d4+1 damage)
Sumo slam (+4, d8+1 damage)
By weapon (T-shirt gun, ball grenade, etc.)

As a 5th-level Acrobat, Bango gets his full level bonus to all DEX ability rolls, +4 to saving throws vs. falling and rays/missiles, and an Acrobatics skill of 70%.

(Here are a few more Bango highlights for those interested.  Which should be everyone...)

Monday, June 20, 2016

Monster Monday: Gorgo's Mother

I'm switching things up a bit for today's #MonsterMonday entry.  No pitfighting elemental beast for me today, although Tim at The Other Side has posted a great monster for 5E that may find its way into battle against the likes of the Quadropod and the Ohmadillo.

Today, I'm letting my one-track mind keep me on the topic of daikaiju.  Here's Gorgo's mother, aka Ogra, from the 1961 British monster flick Gorgo (which was featured on MST3K for one big day before the rights expired to it...and which got some tie-in comics from Charlton that apparently are in the public domain to stay).  I'm building on the daikaiju as player character idea, so the stats here are from an imaginary giant monster RPG that plays a lot like the Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game.

Gorgo's mother

Amphibious Reptile, Level 10 Brawler (360,000 XP)
9d12-7 (52) HP
STR 7(-1)  INT 11  WIS 10  DEX 10  CON 7(-1)  CHA 11
Height 70m/230ft
Size Code 10 (Godzilla-sized, +/-25 modifier vs. human-sized creatures)

2 punches (+6, d6-1 damage) + tail slap (+6, d8-1 damage) + bite (+6, d8-1 damage)
Ram (+8, d12-1 damage)

Gorgo's mother (Ogra) is known for wreaking havoc on London in saving her son from his human captors.  As an amphibious reptile, Ogra can breathe underwater and gets +4 to saving throws vs. atomic energy or paralysis.  A Brawler, Ogra lacks any atomic or magical attacks but is able to apply her DEX modifier to all attack rolls.

An ancient monster, Ogra has been somewhat weakened by her years of slumber.  It is unknown how much strength she may gain after acclimation to survival in the modern world.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

On Giant Monsters (and Scaling D&D)

Funny how random events can guide the idle activity of one's brain.  My wife is out of town for the week, so I've found myself watching things that wouldn't get much play on the Linneman television when we're both in on the decision.  Earlier this week, that meant a healthy dose of Ultraman.  Eventually, Rodan also worked its way onto the menu.  So, when Justin over at Halls of the Nephilim posted today about kaiju in RPGs, I was destined to spend more time than I should thinking about giant monsters on the tabletop.

I've played around with some daikaiju rules based on West End Games' D6 System (it's free and open, y'all!).  One of the things that I really like about D6 is the straightforward way it scales attacks and damage...for every size category larger one object is than another, it becomes 1d6 easier to hit (the "broad side of a barn" effect), but resists 1d6 more damage.  I like being able to think about huge monsters, or mecha, or whatever, as just bigger versions of characters.  There's something unwieldly about having to give every giant monster dozens of d20s as hit dice.  Maybe that's part of the appeal...?  Maybe some players and GMs love the idea of chipping away at 500+ HP...?  That's entirely possible.

Since D&D and its many derivatives already venture into the territory of size modifiers, I wonder if there's an across-the-board fix that we could use in such icosahedral systems.  I think it'd be awesome to be able to run a campaign where everyone gets to play a daikaiju, but all the numbers are set to a scale that we're used to for PCs.  And then, when you want that campaign to cross over with your 5E adventuring party, you still have tools to make them work together.  I'd like to do it something like this (cue the pump-up music)...

First, we'd have to designate the size categories.  How about these...not too far from RPG "standards," I don't think:

Size Category (sort-of-rounded average height in meters/feet)
Small (1/3)
Medium (2/6)
Large (4/12)
Optimus Prime (8/25)
King Kong (16/50)
Godzilla Junior (32/100)
Godzilla (64/200)

We can then think of giant monsters in the same terms as as humans of that size.  Godzilla doesn't have to have 50 Strength or whatever in order to simulate what he/she (hereafter simply "she") can do.  How strong is she compared to what a 200-foot human would be?  On the really strong end?  Okay, 18 Strength.  How about HP?  I guess we'd have to do that based on a monster's "level"...and Godzilla's pretty legendary, so I'll just go with a flat 20 hit dice.  "Average" HD is a d8, so assuming Godzilla's of a hardier "class" (and has a pretty good CON score), 20d10+80 would give 190 HP, on average, which is still a little unwieldly to me, but not out of the range of high-level characters (and this is a high-level character).

And now for the modifiers.  The difficulty classes of d20-based games (and the D6 system, for that matter) have nice increments of 5.  To my (fairly untrained) eye, +/-5 actually seems like a reasonable modifier, per size category, that could be used in a number of situations.  A human attacking Godzilla (5 size categories larger) would get +25 to hit (c'mon, it should be a piece of cake to hit that bigass lizard)...but then counter it by giving Godzilla damage reduction of 25.  (I know 5E has eschewed damage reduction in favor of resistance, but this seems like a situation where it'd work to bring it back!)

Conversely, if you arm King Kong with a King Kong-sized sword, he might get -10 difficulty trying to land a blow on a pesky little human (2 categories smaller), but every time he does, there's +10 damage.  You could probably even use the same modifiers for checks of Strength (easier when you're bigger) and Dexterity (easier when you're smaller).

I realize there's nothing revolutionary in this...I'm just a little surprised I haven't seen this used (or, used more...?).  I don't think there's anything absolutely game-breaking in the hands of a good GM, but maybe I'm missing something big.

Something big.  Haha.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Yu-Gi-Oh! for HoloLens

I've mentioned the fact that I was finally drawn into gaming by CCGs...specifically one involving a certain electric when I saw this pointed out over at Maser Patrol...well, this is pretty danged cool.  There would seem to be some amazing possibilities for RPGs, too...

Monday, June 13, 2016

Monster Monday: Quadropod

For's another Underground Elemental Beast pulled from a public domain comic (the Blast Bennett story in Weird Comics #9).  It was designed with 5E in mind but should work somewhat reasonably with any icosahedral ruleset.


Armor Class  13
Hit Dice  5d12+5 (40 Hit Points)
Speed  40 ft.
Damage Vulnerability  Lightning
Challenge  2
XP  450

Grab -- Melee Attack +5 // 10 (2d8 + 1) psychic damage

Targets hit by a Quadropod's Grab are typically held for one round.  While held, any intelligent being is unable to move due to the sheer fright conveyed by the Quadropod's tentacles.  Unintelligent beings may escape (and take an action in the subsequent round) if successful on a moderate difficulty (DC 15) Strength saving throw; they are also not vulnerable to damage from the attack.

Upon sleeping for the first time after being grabbed by a Quadropod, a sentient being is in danger of having its dreams invaded by the monster.  The being must succeed at an easy (DC 10) Wisdom saving throw or take 5 (1d4 + 1) psychic damage upon waking.  After a failed saving throw, the DC of the check increases by 5 with the next sleep.  The pattern can be ended with a successful save or curing via magical means.


Quadropods are usually solitary and are often found in regions that have experienced great joy or extreme psychological trauma.  They move very methodically, picking up sentient beings long enough to absorb some of their psychic energy, then placing them back down and moving on.  Many observers believe that the monsters are part of a hive mind that is simply working to catalog the spectrum of emotional experience on the material plane.  Others feel that something more nefarious is in play.

Quadropod hides are prized for their use in leather armor.

They're also really big.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Saturday Evening Cartoon: Muhammad Ali intro

I really should have posted this "tribute" last week, but better late than never, I suppose.  Just over a week ago, we lost an American icon and a great citizen of the world.  Here's the intro to his 1970s cartoon, to which he lent his voice:

(And of course, let's not forget his other adventure that fits this blog so well...)

We'll miss you, Champ.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Monster Monday: Biceratung

This week's beast isn't based on a cheap plastic monster...I'm gonna pull the next few from public domain comics instead (this critter comes from the Flint Baker story in Planet Comics #1...larger pic is at the end).

It still gets thrown into the horrific pits of the underground beastfights, however.

The Biceratung does not show the same fear of people displayed by many beasts, leading some scholars to believe that those found in the wild are actually feral descendants of a once-domesticated species.  Biceratungs are often chained to be used as guards; many people find their odor to be just as unpleasant as their demeanor.

Due to the nature of their acidic saliva, chains used to hold a Biceratung must be specially coated to avoid corrosion.

Armor Class  14
Hit Dice  5d8+3 (25 Hit Points)
Speed  30 ft.
Damage Vulnerability  Cold
Challenge  1
XP  200

Lick -- Melee Attack +7 // 10 (2d6 + 3) acid damage
Gore -- 2 Melee Attacks +3 // 10 (2d8+1) piercing damage
Slash -- 2 Melee Attacks +5 // 5 (2d4) slashing damage

When a Biceratung hits with its Lick attack, metal armor worn by the defender takes a permanent -1 penalty to the AC bonus it grants.  These penalties are only cumulative to a total of -2; however, unless the armor is thoroughly cleaned or magically protected from further damage, an additional -1 penalty will be added every 24 hours.

When a Biceratung misses with its Lick attack, any metal weapons wielded by the defender have a 50% chance of facing similar corrosion, with the penalties applied to the damage dealt by the weapon.

Armor or weapons are destroyed if the penalty reaches -5.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Saturday Evening Cartoon: Saturday Morning Watchmen

I finally picked up (and read) DC Universe: Rebirth.  Darn good comic.  I guess that at the end of the day, I'm still a bit of a sucker for Geoff Johns' "continuity porn."

Now, if there happens to be someone reading this who has a real interest in the story and has somehow managed to not have it spoiled for you, you should AVOID READING THE NEXT PARAGRAPH.

So, now we know that the Watchmen characters are becoming part of the DC multiverse proper, and that the antagonist(s) of Rebirth seem to be one or both of Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias.  Here's a little nod to that revelation...