It happens in nearly every game system. You’re generating a character that’s just a little wonky to better fit your play style or vision of the character and the mechanics get in the way generating Mechanic-Lock.

For GMs it happens at the most in opportune time during a game session when everything should be running smoothly someone pulls an obscure action out of their hat and the game skids to a halt while rules are referenced and interpreted thus destroying the momentum.

Starfinder being a relatively new game system breaks down when emphasis is placed on their starship mechanics. They’re not easily built, priced or upgraded because the game states quite specifically that ships are not the focus… of a space-based game; ships are not the focus. There are other methods of traversing the universe, of course, but the thrill of stealing, owning and customizing a party asset like a ship is inevitably one of the many focuses of the game.

Pathfinder 2.0 has addressed some of the things that drastically imbalanced the game but introduced a rather clunky mechanic for character generation. Generate your abilities, choose an Ancestry (Race), Class and a Background. Now, as you advance, your character gains benefits not only from their Class but also their Ancestry (Race). Now you level up as a Human as well as a Fighter. Sure it allows some customization so not every Human or Goblin is just a template but it seems like more complication for the sake of breaking a mold that has worked just fine for the last 35-ish years.

We recently returned to 2nd Ed AD&D for a few games and it was quite refreshing to shed all the feats and tweaks that came with D&D 3.0 and just got more ridiculous with Pathfinder. Looking at Pathfinder 2.0 the Backgrounds feel alot like the 2nd Ed Secondary Non-Weapon Proficiency system lending a ‘career’ skill to building the character’s background before they were an adventurer. Funny how some mechanics get recycled.

Role playing has been part of my life since the mid to late 1980’s. I received the ‘Red Box’ Dungeons & Dragons set as a birthday present around 8 or 10 and had no clue what was actually supposed to happen. I dutifully gathered up my friends and we commenced to LARP… sort of. As this was 1985-ish the concept of role playing was lost on my squishy brain. The fantasy setting was shuffled away and my adolescent life continued.

When my brother returned from his military service he graced me with AD&D 2nd Ed training and I was hooked. This was the Greyhawk hey-day and the idea of participating in a story gave me the escape from reality I needed to grow and imagine. I vividly remember my first character and his death. I didn’t deal well with the development but it illustrated cause, effect and don’t mess with the game master.

Now, here i am in 2017, still gaming. Gone are the days of hand trucks and milk crates full of books but the complexity and stories are all still there. We may use laptops to generate characters and track loot but the energy is still there every game session. Adventure to be had around every corner and loot to be gathered and spent. No episodic TV series will ever replace the character backstories, witty dialogue and perilous dungeon crawls.

Now, by my closest accounting I’ve been actively gaming for around 30 plus years. Does that make me Old or Vintage? I’ve had just as many formative life experiences around a game table in a fantasy world as I have in real life. It’s helped to form the very core of my being. Critical thinking, various math skills and understanding that actions have consequences. We played high fantasy, high technology and so many variations of modern settings it’s impossible to catalog everything. Moral tails, good vs evil, political intrigue, world breaking and god wars, we’ve done it all.

Through the 90’s we met nearly every weekend when jobs and family didn’t interfere. Now we’ve settled into an every other weekend cycle that seems to be meeting everyone’s need for escape. Sure, we could go to a bar or about any other activity but gaming is what we anticipate as the weekend draws closer. Saturday nights are reserved for being someone else, far away from the banality of real life.

My gaming peers are friends, confidants and comrades in arms when a dragon needs slaying or when one of us needs to move a washer across town. I never developed deep social bonds with people other than family outside of gaming. I actually quit gaming for a year or so around 2000 as I relocated 100 miles away and needed to focus on career and family. I eventually found a group in Indy and bonded with them very quickly. I’m back in my home turf now with the group I’ve been gaming with since the 90’s but I still go back and game with the guys in Indy anytime possible.

Some bond over sports, some bond over education, some bond over careers; I’m a Gamer, we bond over tavern brawls and dragon slaying!

So, we all are fairly familiar with the concept of a movie franchise. It started out to tell a complex and compelling story. Now it seems to be all about milking the box office public for everything they’re worth.

In this post I’m going to discuss comic book based franchises and an attempt by another studio to reinvent themselves. I’ll be upfront; I was NEVER a comic book hero junkie. What i know of any individual franchise is essentially from friends and video media interpretation.

DC

Arguably, DC started the whole comic book movie franchise with Batman and Superman back in the black n white TV days. The draw to their stories seems simple enough but the reinvention of both lines over the years has been chock full of hits and misses due to both direction and acting.

This summer we have the release of Wonder Woman. I paid to see it, it was worth the money and i was surprised at the overall character development and depth they managed in the time allotted. It was gritty and told the story well. It did feel a bit abbreviated and the big reveal seemed to be telegraphed about mid film.

The followup Justice League movie should be interesting as my only memories of that group were Saturday morning cartoons. I wasn’t a fan of Batman vs Superman for various reasons. The acting was likely hobbled due to the script which in turn was limited by the need to cram the whole story into a single movie. It was intended to jump start the path to Justice League and there’s only so many times you can retell origin stories for either title character.

TV series are another bright spot for superheroes. The CW has done an amazing job bringing DCs catalog of characters to life on the small screen.

The only fly in the ointment is Supergirl. Her shows seem to be written with an agenda to beat down stereotypes no matter the effect on the actual story. I had to stop watching the show because the politics were overpowering the suspension of disbelief required to really enjoy a superhero story.

Marvel

Marvel has a solid franchise history and I’m mostly happy with the films they’ve produced even though they seem to think rebooting is the only way to get it right, or not. Besides the X-Men series Marvel has started building up their own stand alone heroes. Spiderman, Logan, Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Antman and the Avengers. All decent action movies that tell their tales and feed into the larger Marvel Universe. Soon we’ll travel to Africa to experience Black Panther’s tale. The trailer looks promising but they always do.

Universal Studio’s ‘Dark Universe’

Now comes the re-re-reboot of the classic tales of darkness and horror that have been rehashed so much that there’s really nothing new to tell in the genre. Universal launched their new franchise with The Mummy starring Tom Cruise.

The movie is an attempt to retell the story of ancient evil trying to destroy the world. It’s a definite departure from the adventurous films starring Brenden Frasier being set in modern times with all the associated trappings. I missed the mix of classic adventure and comedy but understood they need to reinvent the story for a new generation.

Overall the back story feels very familiar and if you’re willing to enjoy the ride there’s room for some fun. The shift to a female lead monster is an interesting twist, the creep factor is there in many scenes but the tale feels compressed and hurried to fit the allotted time. The foreshadowing for the planned Dark Universe theme is fairly blatant in one scene but wasn’t enough to jar you out of the story.

Apparently the next installment will be the Bride of Frankenstein. Why the focus on the female leads out of the gate? Is it bowing to the political correct loons who sacrifice a good story for not offending their sensibilities? We shall see.

I enjoy franchises but as I get older it seems like Hollywood is just rehashing the same stories with a slight adjustment of characters or settings.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

I have been refining my World of Andrus wiki content since setting it up. I’ve come to the conclusion that the path of least resistance is the best one; I’m citing and linking Pathfinder OGL content in every entry where it’s applicable and focusing on the flavor and re-crafting content so it meshes with my initial vision. Thus far I’ve managed to get entries on 90% of what I have had rolling around for over 15 years in notes and my head. Getting it down for review has helped educate me on the ‘mechanics’ of races, classes and monsters.

Combing through all this has also afforded me the chance to eliminate the obvious influences of authors i happened to be reading while developing my ideas. How playable would a leashed spell caster really be? Why would another player accept being ‘bonded’ to another character? They’re cool literary tools but the mechanics in a role playing game would be nightmarish.

I’ve realized that i need a map. I had one way back at the beginning generated using Wilbur and Campaign Cartographer 2. Seems that i’ve lost the data files somewhere. I’m going to have to reproduce it or restart the process based on hard copy notes. Might be a good time to re-imagine the whole setting anyway. The question is do i focus on a single continent or generate landmasses of the entire world to be ‘fleshed out later’? I’m leaning toward a single continent for simplicity. Work out the scale and scope before opening Pandora’s box with a pile of other land masses to distract myself further.

I’m nowhere near producing a source book style publication for my setting but ironing out all the oddities has really illustrated how much work goes into generating role playing game content. It’s more than just coming up with odd names and themes. Being able to find parallels using Pathfinder and other publisher’s OGL content has really been grease for the creative machine.

Through this process I’m also working with a longtime friend on his campaign setting material. He’s been actively working on his setting since the mid 90s and generated a very detailed map using Profantasy’s Campaign Cartographer software. He is utilizing OGL content as well so i’ve tried to help him streamline his process as i’ve wandered through my processes. His world is very much more developed than my own having been under active design and play for the last decade.

I will likely setup another Wiki for his content as we get into publishing his original content. This will be a significant project based on the volumes of game notes and development content. Fortunately most of his content is in MSWord or OneNote so it should be alot of cut-n-paste work with layout, spelling and syntax corrections as needed.

I have decided to build a wiki for specific topics like my World of Andrus so that I can stay focused as i’m entering information. Hopefully i can grow this ecosystem with minimal trouble and maybe dedicate more time to content creation.

The lack of a database and simplicity of backup really won me over. The formatting is simple enough. Building the structure has also turned out to be fairly simple as you just create a link, click on it and create the associated page.

No uber cool templates but that’s not the point really. I need to get the information up and be able to cross link as needed within the content. I am leaning heavily on the d20 Pathfinder System Reference Documents as i don’t have the time, patience or willingness to reinvent the mechanics.

I will keep WordPress as my ‘blog’ updating what’s going on in the wiki(s) as i set them up.

For now you can visit the World of Andrus wiki and see what’s new.