Thursday, August 27, 2015

Star Trek Deep Space 9 - Some Thoughts and Reflection

for me, it comes down to one simple you like these characters?

I would have to say yes.

Other shows have awesome plots, well choreographed fights,...but even the best script won't survive if people don't love the characters involved. It doesn't matter whether they love them or love to hate them.

DS9 felt like a community, which is more then the enterprises and voyager ever did. Both the good and the bad things associated with it.

It wasn't just a stellar main cast...which they had. It was the many other characters that they just kept building on.

Sisko is my default star fleet captain for both character development and sheer awesomeness. He was tough as nails, but also funny, had a strong family and always sincere. He wasn't the first regular black starfleet captain to me...he was the starfleet captain that all others would be measured.

Kira I loved as 2nd in command and while she calmed down over the years, she was a tough old gal who was essentially rediscovering her Humanity (or her Bajority) in the process. The love story was just icing on the cake.

Odo would have been a one maybe two parter at most. Instead we got to see him develop over a 7 year period and found out stuff that both blessed and damned him.

Worf is probably the best character to compare the differences between tng and ds9. On tng he was the guy they beat up to show how tough he is. Near the end of the series they were trying to show off his kung fu action but it was almost a sideline. Hell the most memorable scene of showing off his awesome skills wasn't the series, but first contact, when he pulls out a blade and shows off his stuff against the borg drone. and even then he wasn't the savior, merely the tough guy. The savior role was reserved for Picard, Riker and Data more or less only.

In DS9 Worf had to abandon the culture he dedicated his values to in the very first episode. He was put through the ringer at a deeper and more scathin level then anything that happened in tng...and that was just in the first episode. Worf was shown to be extremely skilled, tough resourceful and often had the answer when nobody else did (his use of tractor beams showed he wasn't just physically tough, he was canny as well). He had to say goodbye to his brother to keep him alive, made amends with his son who was, let's be honest a joke character that actually got better when he become an adult, got married and lost her, and above all else, was considered the warrior of the group. He butted heads with Odo with security and was often right. Finally he regained his honor and his house and made friends with a man who you thought was the enemy of everything Worf stood for.

He was a truely 3 dimensional character that was allowed to shine.

Miles O' Brien has a similar story. In TNG he was a one note character and didn't even have Worf's regular billing. While he kinda got an episode or two, most of the time he was a "recyclable red shirt". Once he got on ds9, he was a family man, a darn good tech, a bit of a bigot that learned from it, a great holodeck buddy, a pub man, and an ex soldier. He might not have the miracle worker status of Scotty, or the interesting skill set of Georgi la Forge, but you knew when he set stuff up, it meant business. Plus his humor really added to any scene he was in.

The Dax entity's and their hosts was a great idea that added to the environment to remind people, this just wasn't the yanks in space. In many ways I'm glad their was a transition, but it should have happened half way through the series. both hosts were different . Jadzia was a warrior woman at heart with a lot of science under her belt. Ezeri reminded me of your pet puppy in manner and disposition.

If I had to say the most improved character in the series, it was Doctor Jullian Bashir. He starts as a brilliant newb who is pretty much the most hated member of the main cast. But through character development and interaction with many awesome characters, he begins to grow up and becomes a really amazing character. His genetic engineered nature only added a new facet to explore stories.

Quark was what happens when you subvert the concept of Guinen and play it in a more realistic manner. Unlike the majority of the characters above, Quark didn't go through much character development, but as a plot device and a character, he was brilliant, especially in showing Ferengi's culture and physiology. He was lovable, in spite of his nature.

If their is one place that DS9 shined when it came to character development, it was it's use of children. Jake and Nog started off as relatively realistic kids and we got to watch them grow up. While Jake suffered from "wonderboy" syndrome to begin with, as he got older, he broke many of the common conventions that make star trek kids bloody annoying. While they kinda wrote him into a corner, he did well. Nog on the other hand went from whiny brat to one of the best junior officers in the fleet. He was a neat blend of both his cultural values and star fleets military tradition.

This is why I love ds9.

In another series, he would have been a 2 parter and then discarded or devolved into an extra.

Instead, in many ways this is the day Nog became a great unofficial main character, up there with Garek.

Hell to this day, one of my most favorite scenes is when Jake and Nog share an apartment and it's Nog whose the straight laced one.

and it shows something that is often swept under the carpet despite being one of the Ferrengi's best traits: they have one hell of a work ethic.

Villains were solid in this series. The Cardassians were a brilliantly talkative people that had just raped a planet. They had one of the best spy agencies in the entire alpha quadrant and were alien in both feel and design, while still feeling sympathetic in some ways.

Gul Dukat was an amazing character ride that truly earned a place in the top 3 trek villians. While I didn't like the last couple of year turn, it kinda made sense and really should have been the base for the ds9 movie. Damar went from flunky, to great leader, to martyr all while showing his qualities of whom he is. His last season development should be a case study on how to build a character quickly, while not taking time away from the rest of the main cast.

The Dominion is an amazing villain that is uniquely suited to the ds9 environment. On a spaceship, a shapeshifter is comparatively easy to track down. On a station with people coming and going, it can be a needle in a haystack.
Then you mix in their servator races: the Jemhidar and the Vorta and you feel like that when they looked through the wormhole, the wormhole starred back. Hell Weyoun you got the feeling that if he weren't a middle management slave he'd be almost likeable.

The Klingon empire roared during ds9 and it added both worthy adversaries and loyal allies. Martok is an amazing character in his own right and if they would have done a star trek: birds of prey he should have been a reoccuring character.

However, the most hated villain isn't Dukat and the Cardassians, or the Dominion or the was a single elderly bajoran trying to gain ultimate power. Wynn was the character you absolutely loved to hate, especially when she was right. She pushed her beliefs and her needs to the point where you really wanted to see her fall.

But it wasn't the heroes and villans that made this show something special. It was the many different characters that would have been redshirts on any other shot. From Morn...who didn't even need to talk, to excellent example of what happens to Ferengi who don't have business savvy, to his wife, a Bajorian bimbo who, when coupled with Rhom, added a whole new dimension to both.

and above all else, I learned what a simple tailor can do

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Rifts - Siege on Tolkeen - an analysis

Siege of Tolkeen rebuttal

The siege of Tolkeen has a ton of potential. A nazi like war machine attacking a relatively powerful but underdog kingdom of magic is a simply awesome concept. 

I really liked the first siege of Tolkeen book, even with its lack of key information and preachiness. It had some awesome ideas for spells equipment and had an epic feel.

However, it is generally considered one of the reasons why palladium lost market share (between it, the –10 rule and the rise of d20).

Here’s my opinion why:

1. Tolkeen had no chance: From the main book, we were essentially told that Tolkeen had no chance. The only person to say otherwise was CJ Carella in rifts mercenaries and he hinted what he wanted to do with the book. It would have been interesting to see his version of it.
It didn’t help matters by having the book series called Coalition Wars, pretty much saying whose going to win.

2. Tolkeen we hardly knew ya: If there is one thing I have learned from siege of Tolkeen (and rifts Africa, but that’s another story) is before you destroy something, you gotta create it first. It bugs me to no end that the map of the provinces is in the 2nd last book , the movers and shakers, as well as the map of the city in the last book…as the city burns.
It adds insult to injury that the Tolkeen map is actually pretty darm good, but it’s hard to take seriously when every section lists what it used to be, rather then what it was.
How the heck do you expect to have an emotional attachment to something you know little about. That emotional attachment translates into sales so it’s bad from a marketing perspective.
All the above info should have been in the first book, with the 2nd pulling away the onion skin and showing the leader’s of tolkeen’s dirty laundry. Like the juggernauts…what the secret is behind them (never revealed). Or the consequences of summoning the daemonix (we got a couple of daemonix lord’s names, but they were never revealed).

3. Magic doesn’t work that way:
After Federation of Magic, I was mostly happy with the rifts magic system. It allowed me to cast spells beyond carpet of adhesion and magic net.
It’s funny that for the siege of tolkeen, it was pretty much impossible to do the casting that was shown on the covers of the books.
The first reason is casting times. Before siege on tolkeen, I assumed it was a “power attack” namely you took two actions to cast a spell and it was because you were putting your life force into it. It still only took one actions worth of time. Then at the same time as siege of tolkeen, it was decided from above, that spellcasting needed the full two rounds to cast spells. 
This was caster suicide in a game with energy weapons. A poster at the tame (Taf I believe) posted an unfair scenerio that confirmed that the only way for a wizard to be at all effective was to be prepped ahead of time, and quite frankly that’s usually a rare possibility. 
This eventually got fixed first by Jason Richards awesome PPE channelling rules and then in RUE, but for SOT these were the rules.

The other part of this was the wearing of armor. Before SOT, I usually just grabbed a set of crusader armor for my spellcasters. There was no real restrictions on armor, but I preferred having light armor in cased I had to sneak (no mobility penalties) and it was environmental.
Then somebody had a brilliant idea to try to bring rifts spellcasting armor rules in sync with pfrpg: so no environmental, and natural armors only. This meant no metal, plastic or ceramic armor, so the spellcasting O.C.C.s defensive capabilities were nerfed at the same time as their offensive capabilities.

So why play a spellcaster? You can compensate with prep time and with TW items, but how is that different then just grabbing a blaster and some armor and probably do just as well or better? And this was in a scenario where magic needed to be on par, but different. Instead spellcasters got nerfed before it really began.

4. Military Tactics: I don’t expect great tactics, but I do expect a well thought out situation and a backdrop that allows gamers to build from. For me there are two big failures in military tactics.
The first is air strikes. This is the main reason why the cs would dominate the sot conflict. However, it was completely handwaved after an attempted strike on the cities cause they regenerated. 
I can’t believe they didn’t keep piling on the bombs in the ground conflicts.
The other is supply lines: Even with spell nerfing, magic has the big advantage on not needing one. This should have been where pc parties excelled at. A “terrorist” attack on the grain fields of Missouri would have been a much better use of resources and would have stalled the conflict in itself.
I also found out a ton of stupid magic tricks, that should have been addressed to some degree in the books itself. Why doesn’t a ley line walker doesn’t just shoot a bomb down the ley line till it gets to a predestination then detonates it by radio control? Why aren’t earth elementals attacking the foundation of key buildings in cs territory with impunity…forcing the army to divert resources away from tolkeen? What about necromancy and using the very dead dressed in cs armor to come close enough to troops before acting as “suicide troops”. I am sure there are others, but SOT needed to have a question and answer period before it started so that they could take these tactics into account in the storytelling.

5. Murphy Storytelling: I like a good story. In order for a good story to take place, at the very least you need: consistency and awesomeness.
CS Genocide is the big one. After being listed in the main book as the cs emperor being interested in Hitler’s work and listed in many books of nuking d-bee settlements, they then grow enough of a conscience to make the death camps done by a renegade cs general. I am sure this was done to try to give a shades of grey in the world, but quite frankly, it’s dumb. Assuming that the news got past the heavily propagandad news, I seriously doubt the majority of cs citizens would give a damn about the enemy being worked to death.
The fable Holmes march is another. I understand they wanted to make him seem like John Wayne, but he came off to me more like Pvt Fredrick Zoller from Inglourious Basterds. So our John Wayne Substitute plunges a sizable chunk of the CS army into xiticix territory. 
Let me ask you a question: would you as a gm allow this? I believe the answer is no.
The sad part is it could have been done with a single sentence. Either they grabbed xiticix glands and sprayed down their equipment, or the lazlo cullings from a previous book reduced their numbers to the point where it is feasible. Neither happened or was explained.

Free Quebec is another. Tolkeen extended their hand to a xenophobic group of humans whose main reason for seceding from the CS was to avoid meddling in an international war. Whom thought it was a good idea again?

Erin Tarn preachiness is another. Often Erin Tarn is used as a mouthpiece, but her request to move an entire kingdom that has been attacked by an enemy that has declared no quarter, and you’ve prepped to fight against for years. It becomes all the more hard to stomach when she is proven right.
What is a better theme for a war series?
"We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and the oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."


“We need to fight for something that by fighting we lose any right to fight.”

Your call.

I guess the best way to explain this logic is compare two shiny movies Phantom Menace vs Avatar. I would rather have a simple storyline that makes sense, then a complex storyline that makes no sense.

6. Aftermath

So now that it’s all said and done, palladium published a book on the aftermath of the siege of tolkeen. While actually one of the best parts of the series, it left me hanging after all that.

I guess the big part I got from these, is that other then stirring up some enemy's, their were little repercussions for their actions. A coup would be interesting considering how much resources were expended, for so little gain. At the very least, putting Joesph Prosak II on the throne would have been a great capstone to the series.. 

The other is the end results. Tolkeen surviving adds a ton of potential new plot hooks. The destruction may add quite a few, but not nearly as varied. For the cs type games, it’s an itch that needs to be still scratched and here’s how we’re going to scratch it. For the tolkeen side, we might have won today, but what about tomarrow ? What will be destroyed, what sacrifices will you have to make and what horrible actions will you have to do to survive one more day? Plus having a place to build on after going through a war might give more camaraderie for your party.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Anaylsis of Colosonaut era - Part 3

Now as a fan, I feel it is my obligation to not just complain, but also show how things could be better

some of this has been posted elsewhere, but is being put in place for ease of reading.

for starters, colossus in general.

1. Show, not tell he is a class 100 brick: He needs at least one feat of strength per comic he is involved in. As well as one example of durability. Even one quick panel would improve the character.

2. Show why he is, more often then not, the confident of many of his friends: There is a reason why he's close with Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Storm. 

3. Show why Kitty loves him: He should be a sensitive gentlemen who opens doors, pulls out chairs. Now that they are broken up, we need to see as he mends his broken heart that he's a sucker for a damsel in distress, even if he's trying to hide his fealings.

4. Show why Illyana and Piotir are close: The raputin siblings, when together, should almost be teambreakers on their own. 

5. Show his artistic side: A fun thing to do is make him the illustrator for one of the x-men comics and have it told from his point of view.

6. Every so often, show that legendary temper of his: It's a long fuse, but when it breaks, it should be like setting off a nuke.

7. Give him some decisive wins: Often Colossus is a victim of the "worf effect". When he's involved it should be a "dear god" event as he lumbers towards you and your puny weapons just bounce off. 

You remember that feeling in x2...more of it. 

8. Play on his russian heritage and use it to launch stories.

9. colossus is uniquely suited for fighting the supernatural: besides being a class 100 brick, he's fully environmental (which means you can blind him, but not poison him and can wade through fire and brimstone with minimal effects), plus his osmodium steel body has many similar qualities to cold iron...which usually does a number on most supernatural creatures.

cold iron is bad enough, but being slammed by a class 100 strength punch made out of it should make most demons lives a lousy day.

His history seems to agree with me. In inferno saga, he was all but immune to most of the magical effects (to say nothing of one of the greatest body tackles of all time on the demon lord s'ym).

10. Beefcake: As much as I loath to say it, colossus is a perfect candidate for...well beefcake shots. Women and gay men need their pron too .


usage of him in the colossalnaut era.

I'm of serious mixed feelings on him being cytorak's avatar. Honestly, he should be quite literally unstoppable against just about anybody at this point.

1. His big win was stopping Kuurth in his tracks, but he needed more of these. He didn't get them. 

2. what about Kurt?: his best friend died and he now has the power to save him.

hell I even came up with a scenerio to try it:


magik finds out that nightcrawler's soul has been grabbed by mephisto.

colosonaut then demands to be dropped in hell.

he then makes a b-line towards where his soul is being kept...allowing nothing to get in his way. Even elder demons are not as "unstoppable" as the juggernaut.

when he gets there, he demands the soul as his own and cykorrat backs him up...mainly because he sees mephisto as a rival.

if done right, it would have great visuals and be up there with doom quest.

plus it could be a great way to make a monster manual and/or a future nemesis.

edit: use magik as his virgil and it could give her some good character development as well.


Post Colossalnaut era

It's starting with promise. Colossus has been betrayed by everybody he has sworn to protect and needs some recovery time. From what I understand he's going to be on the run so it's going to be heck to get that. Shacking up with mercs, we might be able to get those "made of rage moments" that he despirately needs.

He needs to also stay the heck away from the x-men. Even discounting Illyria's [Spoony]BETRAYAL![/Spoony] as far as he's concerned, his friends betrayed him as well. They have to mend a ton of fences if they want their beloved gentle giant back.

Aftermath: I'm of seriously mixed feelings about how easy it was to remove it. It makes the pathos greater, but I kinda hope that it wasn't perfect. It would show maybe Illyana isn't as all powerful as she thinks she is in limbo. Cyttorak should haunt Peter and maybe have left a fragment or two in his psyche and his power base. If he ever gets made of rage again, maybe the channel reopens.

This will also setup a mortal enemy with Juggernaut as he's now in a relationship where he's considered 2nd choice for the power he's bearing. This should give Cain his flashbacks with his brother charles and setup a ton of potential for stories.

Rogues Gallery: Besides being on the run from the avengers, betrayed by the x-men and possibly having a vindictive juggernaut on his trail, this could be a good time to setup a personal rogues gallery. From jobs gone wrong with cable, to the return of russian meta humans such as omega red (fox's cartoon's greatest repackaging), He also will get illyana's overflow of demonic rivals who think he's the weakest link, even if they aren't on speaking terms right now. A good rogues gallery will make him easier to use.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Anaylsis of Colosonaut era - Part 2

AvsX - the blundering of potential.

I don't mind a story arc whose main purpose is to have hero fight hero. I'll let others argue the details of the arc itself. the main purpose of this is to show Colossus' context within it.

Right off the bat, the crossover sped up his time as this world breaker...which we never saw.

1. the red hulk/colossonaut fight was decent, but it required a moral victory for colossus, which resulted in his defeat. I guess we should be grateful we at least saw it, but man, the first major fight we see and he loses it.

2. Colossalnaut/Thing: This time we finally see how much powered up the new form is. I'll give them credit for it, but it didn't need the kick from red hulk to begin with. Kinda takes the wind out of the sales of a win when it starts with a humiliating cheap shot.

3. Colossalnaut/Spidey: While this was the curb stomp we expected, we didn't release this was used to set up sillyness later. quite frankly, normal Colossus can sonic slam spidey.

4. Phoenix 5: One of the few good things that came from this is he was treated as the one whom had the least bad intentions when it went out of control.

a. the breaking up of Kitty: He shows up, woos his beloved thinking the phoenix force could balence the darkness inside him. Kitty rejects him and he flips out. Yet despite being augemented by both cyttorak and a fragment of the phoenix force, he almost gets his heart ripped out.

Honestly, it probably wouldn't have done anything as it's been proven that classic juggs can regenerate better then wolverine, but they presented it as a death blow if ripped out...kinda a dick move here. I'm hoping it was just a pausing that got him to 

b. Thor vs the Rasputins: We got lucky this time...we got a single picture and that's it. 

c. the Spiderman incident: This is probably the reason why spidey was curbed stomped by colossus earlier. I have no problem having spiderman play the trickster, but it was badly written. So we have this epic fight between Illyria and screen. 

My only solsice is that at least Piotir dealing with demonic forces actually made the world a better place, unlike some Peters .

5. Post Phoenix Reveal: Oddly enough, I don't have an issue with the reveal. I think it advances both characters and gives them some space. Both have been through a lot and it makes sense that illyria is so messed up that she did this out of love. once anger issues have been worked through it will be a healthier relationship, but illyria will have to get her conupence. She pissed off cyttorak hard and spends most of her time in a realm where she is at a fragement of her magical power. It's not going to be pretty.


Don't get me wrong. I like the internal struggle that he was going from. Colossus augmented with the Juggernaut should have been an event in itself, but it was horrifically sidelined. Most of his greatest fights happened off panel so we have no evidence of this era.