07 June 2017

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge

Ok, the year is almost half over, and I just discovered this reading challenge. It's still not too late, as the Challenge only requires one book, fiction or not fiction, to succeed. I believe I'll do more than that. 

I'm not sure where to start...so many choices. I could revisit the Hollows or maybe peruse a history of the Salem Witchcraft trials or re-read "The Crucible." I'm leaning toward Frank L. Baum's The Wizard of Oz for my entry point. We'll see. Hopefully, next week or two, I'll have my first review up.

Until then, gentle readers, look out for black cats and hats on the bed! And don't get your feet swept!

10 March 2017

Review: Batgirl, Vol. 1: Batgirl of Burnside

I am not the target demographic for this story. Not in the least.  I'm old, fat, 47, and married with 5 children. On the flip side, I am a big geek and love my super hero stories; plus, the graphic novel club I'm in chose this for our D.C. selection for the month, so here we are.

First of, I know I should look at a volume in s series as part of a whole, but I still expect my stories in a collection to be fairly well-contained. The main plot of this story is self-contained, but there references to the previous run of Batgirl as well as Birds of Prey. so, going in, I'm a little lost. Where does this fit into main continuity? Is it pre-Killing Joke, post Killing Joke? If post, how is BabswalkingwhatthehellisthistensionwithDinahwhostheoldroommateandthenewonewhatsgoingonwhycantanyonehelpme?!!!!!! So, a minor quibble, as most of these are answered eventually.

Second, the resolution of the main plot is a bit of a cliche' or trope. Spoiler-free! Now, as the plot unfolded, I did not see the particular end coming until the Big Reveal and then I groaned. Of course, I'm as old as dirt, so maybe I read too much into the reuse. In some ways, it was a bit fresh and it's more akin to something from Star Trek than comics...although I have seen this same idea in comics as well.

The art is awesome! There are nice reveals and the color palette is wonderful. It's a hard rule, but most of the brightly-colored scenes take place in the day as Babs and most of the dark-shaded ones take place at night with Batgirl. Again, not a hard rules, but generally followed. Oh, and the "Sherlock" detection scene at the beginning is extremely well done.

Costume. Very nicely done! In some way elements of it harken back to Yvonne Craig's 1966 costume such as the palette and the bright yellow belt pouches. The yellow combat boots are a wonderful change from high-heel boots of any color. And the cover for the volume is simply adorable!

Friends & Allies. Diversity. It's a thing. It has always been a thing in the U. S. of A., culture was just completely whitewashed in the 1950s and early 60s. Her relationship with Dinah is complex...I'm a big Green Arrow/Black Canary fan since the Grell run, and I cannot see Dinah leaving Babs in the lurch like she does (bridge scene). Also, where they channeling Josey and the Pussycats or Dazzler for Dinah's arc?

Antagonists. We did not see the Bat Family Galley of Supervillains. Thank you, D.C. and Cameron Stewart! Sequins and bedazzler on the loose, too.

Burnside. Burnside is a borough of Gotham. As one of my friends described it, it's "gentrified." Hipsters and young 20-somethings. Very cliched, but not the same gritty dirty feel as Gotham "proper," or at least what we expect Gotham to be ("The audience knows what to expect, and that is all they are prepared to know."). But, from what we see of it, it feels like a place where hipsters and college students would hang out.

Social Media. Was it to excess? No. Social media is the world- and reality-filter that those 23 and below live in, by and large. It's well done. We live in an age where we carry mini-computers around with us, the power of the Interwebz in the palm of my hand. It's nice to see it used correctly and better and the tony Stark MySpace reference in the first Iron Man movie.

Overall. As i said at the beginning, I am not the target demo. The target demo is a 16-23 y.o. young lady with a touch of geek and hipster who wants to be Babs. That's the nature of comics; they are power fantasies that people can relate to and there's nothing with that. Women have been sorely mis- and underrepresented in the Super Worlds, and that is slowly starting to change (thank you!). 

Because of some of the flaws I mentioned above, I would normally give this 3-3.5 stars. However, it does reach its target demographic and speaks to them more than it does to me, so it gets a bump to 4 stars.

05 December 2016

Fantasy Monday: OD&D Single Volume Read-Through, Pt. 3

Well, here we are again, gentle readers. Pts. 1 & 2 are here and here. Today, we're looking at Section 5: Encounters & Combat!

The section starts off with movement and reemphasizes the 120' per turn for an unarmored man and also the fact that chase scenes double the speed, but mapping is not allowed. Monsters reactions are next, and each monster is likely to be aggressive, neutral, or friendly, all things being equal.
Dungeon Encounters are next and there is a 1-in-6 chance every turn (or 10 minutes) of a wandering monster encounter. So, there should be at least one per hour; that's pretty steep! Distance of the encounter is 20-80 feet, unless surprise (2-in-6 chance) occurs, then distance is 10-30 feet. A chase sequence mechanic is laid out which seems like it would work well in practice and be easy to adjudicate. It is interesting to note that animals are more likely to stop pursuing for food, and monsters are more likely to stop for treasure; the two are inversely proportional.

Wilderness Encounters are similar, but encounter distances are greater: 40-240 yards normally, 10-30 yards for surprise. Wandering monster checks are only made at the end of the day, however; apparently the Wilderness is more desolate than the Dungeon! Staying in one place is bad, however; for each full day of rest in the Wilderness, two wandering monster checks are performed. Evading in the Wilderness is a little more complex and is "a function of the size of the party of adventurers and the number of monsters, modified by surprise, terrain and comparative speed," (pg. 32).

And now the meat of the Section: (MORTAL) COMBAT! The combat sequence is fairly simple and composed of 8 steps:

Combat Sequence
  1. Determine Surprise.
  2. Roll Initiative.
  3. Winning side acts first. Referee may determine monster action and morale.
  4. Movements can be made.
  5. Missile attacks/spells cast if applicable.
  6. Melee attacks occur, damage rolled.
  7. Losing follows steps 4-6 and round ends.
  8. Next round begins at step 2.
Surprise is determined by rolling d6 with a 1 or 2 indicating that the party is surprised. The distance is determined (10-30"); if the distance is 10" the non-surprised group will attack; otherwise, they get a free move action to either close, flee, or cast a spell. And then there's the best "eff-you!" rule in OD&D, or any version of D&&D for that matter: "There is a 25% chance that any character surprised by a monster will drop some item." Oops.

Once surprise is determined and acted upon, Initiative is rolled and modified upwards by 1 for high DX or lowered by 1 for low DX (the penalty, but not the bonus, is optional); highest roll on d6 goes first. Simple enough.

Then combat ensues: Movement, Missiles/Spells, Melee by the initiative winner, and then that sequence is followed by the losing side (if any remain able to resist). Initiative is rolled again, and the cycle repeats. Isn't this way simpler than AD&D, even using DM Prata's ADDICT article

Some interesting notes: first, AC maxes out at two. Thus, magical armor's bonus adds to the target number to hit, and the plus of a magic weapon adds to the roll. Missile fire is a little different, and medium range adds 1 to the target's AC and long range adds 2. All weapons do 1-6 points of damage. 

Unarmed combat is a single paragraph; each combatant rolls a number dice equal to level/hit dice and the highest number wins the grapple. Attackers pins the victim if he wins, and the if the victim wins, the attacker is thrown off and "stunned for a number of turns equal to the difference between the scores," (pg. 33). (A tie indicates that they're both still up and struggling; try again next round).

Saving throws are next, and there are no surprises here. Of note is the fact that the magic items only need to make a saving throw if they are unattended or the bearer is dead (exception -- helmets). Next follows two sections on aerial and naval combat which are pretty useful and well-written. 

All-all-all, the section is short and to the point. It really doesn't get any easier than this. The only complicated (if one can call it that) parts are the sections on aerial and naval combat, but those are both special situations where a more in-depth look is appreciated.

And that's all for now, Next time, we'll pick up Monsters & Treasures!