International House of Heroes

Hey true believers (he says in honor of Stan) – I caught a couple superhero flicks recently that I thought were worth a review and some Mystery Men! stats. The hook – neither of these epics came from the good old USA!

GUNDALA (2019)

So I recently installed the Roku TV channel on my Roku, and going through the channels on their live TV I came across Gundala. I think I’d read about the character some time in the past, but I didn’t know much about him and figured this was a great opportunity to learn more. Besides, I don’t think I’d ever watched an Indonesian-made film before.

First and foremost, the Gundala character was created in 1969 by Harya Suraminata. The movie features an updated version of the character – which, funny enough, means that if I’d grown up with the character I’d probably be annoyed at the movie. Fortunately, I didn’t, so it’s all new to me. The film is the first in a planned Bumilangit Cinematic Universe, and based on this movie, I hope they can follow through.

The film has a subdued, bleak aspect to it that didn’t bug me. It involves a hero coming to grips with his powers and responsibilities, as well as the corruption infecting Indonesian government, and, I suppose, society. I thought the acting was excellent, the special effects were fine for me – I’m not much into computer effects, and since they weren’t overused in this movie, I give them high marks. The main villain is a powerful gangster called Pengkor and his legion of orphan assassins. There’s plenty of martial arts action in the film, and I liked it. The movie ends with a more powerful villain coming to the fore, and the teaser after the credits introduces the next hero to be filmed – Sri Asih.

I really enjoyed this movie – honestly, I enjoyed more than many of the MCU films. It was fun seeing what Joko Anwar could do with the subject, which he clearly loves – and folks – he did it on a budget of just $2.1 million!

Here’s my MM! take on the film Gundala (with the triumphant return of my old stat format that I never should have abandoned) …

GUARDIANS (2017)

I remember seeing the trailer for this a few years ago, but never had the chance until recently to see the film. It showed up on Tubi (another streaming service) in the English-dubbed version, so I gave it a shot. Apparently, this film was panned by critics … and while I’ll admit it wasn’t a great film, it really wasn’t terrible. At worst, I’d say it didn’t meet its potential, and I’m sorry that it doesn’t sound as though they’ll get another shot at the movie.

The Guardians are a group of genetically-modified heroes from the old Soviet Union days, reassembled by a SHIELD-like organization called Patriot to meet a new threat – August Kuratov, an angry, traitorous scientist who is mutated when his laboratory is attacked. This gives him super strength to go with his genius. He’s back, he wants revenge on Russia, and the Guardians have to come together after years alone to fight them.

Let’s start with the bad – the plot isn’t ground breaking folks, though frankly, most superhero plots are not. I didn’t love the design on the villain. In fact, I hated it. Could have been much better. The ending was a bit forced, and the acting in the dubbed version was not always great.

The good – while the first half of the movie is a bit grey and bleak (very Russian, one might say), it brightens considerably in the second half and I liked the characters much more after this shift. The shift actually makes sense in the film, as the heroes go from hunted, hated misfits on their own to a family of sorts. I’ll also say that I enjoyed a bunch of Soviet-era superheroes that were not dressed in red with hammers and sickles all over them (which is coming from a guy who created a bunch exactly like that in a much older post …). I mean, yeah, they have a guy who turns into a bear … but he’s really pretty cool and he has a big machine gun and stuff … I won’t count that against them.

All in all, I’d give the movie a C, maybe C minus. I think it had potential, and I mostly enjoyed the second half of the film.

As for the Guardians …

Take a Hard Ride

As I am currently in the middle of writing a GRIT & VIGOR supplement for adventures in the “Old West”, I’ve been reviewing some favorite westerns. Today, the subject of Take a Hard Ride came up, and it occurred to me that working up some character stats for the film’s three heroes and main villain would make for a good post.

Take a Hard Ride was released in 1975, and starred Jim Brown, Fred Williamson, Jim Kelly and Lee Van Cleef. A “spaghetti western”, it was filmed on location in the Canary Islands, and had as its three heroes some names made well known in the “blaxploitation” films of the 70’s. The movie does not come off as a gimick to me, though – Jim Brown plays Pike, a classic western hero, Fred Williamson is awesome as a Maverick-esque anti-hero Tyree, and Jim Kelly brings something akin to Kung-Fu into the picture as Kashtok, a man raised by Native Americans.

The story involves Pike transporting $86,000 to his boss’ ranch – he made a promise on his boss’ deathbed to do it, and he aims to get it done. Hunting down Pike, his allies and the money is Lee Van Cleef as Keifer, a bounty hunter and Kane, a corrupt sheriff, played by Barry Sullivan.

It’s well worth a watch … and if you want to put those characters into action in a game of G&V, here’s my take on their stats:

(For those wondering how I determined levels – I just used the actor’s ages at the time the movie was made, minus 16 years as a guide)

Pike (Jim Brown)
Lawful Good Cowboy, 8th level

S 16 I 12 W 11 D 15 Cn 13 Ch 11
HP 40
AC 11
ATK +5
F8 R8 W11

Knacks: Handle Animal, Ride Mount

Skills: Appraise Value (Livestock), Endure, Gamble, Handle Animal*, Jump, Ride Mount*, Survive Outdoors, Track

Feats: Bum Rush, Exploit Weakness, Mounted Combat, Power Attack, Pugilist

Weapon Proficiency: Club, knife (large), knife (small), lasso, revolver, rifle, shotgun

Special: +2 save vs. fear and anxiety, temporarily increase two physical ability scores, delay damage (8 rd), rope and ride, choose exceptional horse, surprised (1 on 1d8, or normal while sleeping), no penalty grappling creatures one size larger than cowboy

Tyree (Fred Williamson)
Neutral Gunfighter, 7th level

S 13 I 10 W 11 D 16 Cn 12 Ch 13
HP 35
AC 11
ATK +6
F10 R10 W13

Knacks: Bend Bars, Gamble, Move Silently

Skills: Bend Bars, Break Down Doors, Endure, Gamble*, Lift Gates, Sleight of Hand

Feats: Ace Shot, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot

Weapon Proficiency: Brass knuckles, club, dagger, knife (large), knife (small), lasso, revolver, rifle, shotgun

Special: Extra attack, specialist firearm (revolver), +4 AC fighting defensively, +2 initiative with firearm

Kashtok (Jim Kelly)
Chaotic Good Boxer, 6th level

S 15 I 12 W 13 D 16 Cn 14 Ch 9
HP 42
ATK +5
AC 16
F9 R8 W12

Knacks: Survive Outdoors, Track

Skills: Acrobatics, Bend Bars, Break Down Doors, Endure, Hide in Shadows, Jump, Lift Gates, Listen at Doors, Move Silently

Feats: Dodge, Elusive Target, Far Shot, Lightning Reflexes

Weapon Proficiency: Bo staff, club, compound bow, jo staff, knife (large), knife (small), lasso, spear, tomahawk

Special: Extra attack, unarmed damage 1d6+2, 70’ movement, stunning attack (5/fight), deflect arrows

Kiefer (Lee Van Cleef)
Neutral Evil Ranger, 9th level

S 11 I 12 W 13 D 16 Cn 14 Ch 10
HP 54
ATK +8
AC 12
F7 R11 W12

Knacks: Track

Skills: Bend Bars, Break Down Doors, Hide in Shadows, Lift Gates, Move Silently, Ride Mount, Survive Outdoors, Track*

Feats: Blind Fight, Brawler, Great Fortitude, Improvise, Intuition, Mounted Combat, Pugilist, Rough & Tumble

Weapon Proficiency: Club, dagger, knife (large), knife (small), lasso, revolver, rifle, shotgun +1

Special: Avoid surprise, specialist terrain (desert Southwest)

 

Daddy-o Appreciation Day

Hey all you cats and kittens – just a quick note today in between Father’s Day festivities (my dad and fam was over yesterday, wife’s dad and fam today) to wish all the dads and their loved ones out there a happy day.

Hey all you cats and kittens – just a quick note today in between Father’s Day festivities (my dad and fam was over yesterday, wife’s dad and fam today) to wish all the dads and their loved ones out there a happy day.

In case you have some time today for fine cinema, enjoy this little gem from MST3K (ah, the old Comedy Central days – MST3K, Kids in the Hall) … Daddy-O:

Fun side note – a guy I worked with at the Video Park was friends with Dick Contino’s son. It’s a small world afterall!

For GRIT & VIGOR fans out there, here are some game stats for good old Daddy-O (or just about any other similar character from an old misunderstood-teenager b-movie)

Daddy-O

Grease-Monkey

AL NG, LVL 3, HP 14, AC 12, ATK +1, SV F12 R10 W12

Str 12 Int 11 Wis 13 Dex 16 Con 12 Cha 14

Special: Fearless (+2 save vs. fear), temporarily increase physical ability score (+1 for 3 rd), use wrenches as maces in combat, maximum performance from motor vehicles, +10% to motor vehicle’s top speed, apply combat feats to vehicles, +1 to attack and +1 damage to constructs

Knacks: Communicate, Mechanics, Perform

Skills: Appraise Value (Cars), Drive Car, Endure, Mechanics, Ride Bike, Search

Feats: Fancy Driving, Leadership, Stuntman

Weapons: None

Buried Treasure

In my youth, I thought he really did speak in word bubbles

Folks who regularly read my blog will recall my “timely reviews” of old games. I love old games (which reminds me – review of the Six Million Dollar Man coming soon), sometimes for the nostalgia, sometimes for the design, and sometimes for the discovery value. When it comes to buying old games, there are two different kinds of discovery.

The first, of course, is discovering a new system and new ideas about how to simulate whatever the game is trying to simulate. Even simple games meant for children can have clever ideas in them. The old game I just recently bought does not offer that kind of discovery, because it’s a game I used to own. Well, sorta.

Our old logo was a rip from the NFL Vikings – this is the new one

Back in 9th grade, in which I was technically a freshman at Valley High School (Valley Vikings Rule!), but was still being taught at Cannon Junior High (it was how they did things back then), there was a small corps of gamers (meaning role-playing gamers … everyone played video games back then, so they didn’t get a special designation) at the school, and we all knew each other. I remember a friend named Irfan who carried a briefcase to school so he could screen from the teacher that he was reading the AD&D Monster Manual in class – very smart guy, as well, got way better grades than me – so it was that sort of group.

At some point, a new kid in school discovered that I ran D&D games, and he wondered if I would run a game for him. The kid in question was new to town – I got the feeling that he moved around alot – so he didn’t have any friends in school. He lived close to the school, so I went over to his house one day to see the game he wanted me to run. It was something new.

It turned out to be the Marvel Superheroes RPG. Well, it also turned out that he had a big box full of old Playboys, which is another story, but this MSH game and the Secret Wars module he wanted me to run was the point of the visit and it was intriguing. Beyond the Spider-Man bits on the Electric Company, the Super Friends and Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, I knew nothing about comic books. I had a few war comics, but that was it. This was all very new to me.

The kid lent me the Secret Wars booklet, and I had my first introduction to the likes of Storm (in her 80’s punk phase, which is still my favorite) and a host of other characters. It got me interested in comic books, and I remember the next time we were at a 7-Eleven I convinced my dad to buy me a comic book – a slugfest between the Avengers and the Hulk, so it had tons of characters in it, and it made me a comic book fan. The same way D&D got me into reading  the Lord of the Rings, the Marvel Superheroes game got me into comic books. I do everything back-assward!

My first ish – Hulk #316

Naturally, along with reading comic books, I also got my own copy of the game – the advanced version! The kid in question moved away before I could even give him back the Secret Wars booklet, so I had that for years in my own advanced game set. Some time in the late 1990’s I gave virtually all my RPG stuff away to some friends. When I got back into gaming later, it turned out they had kept most of it, and I got it back … but not the Marvel game. Somebody claimed that beauty.

Recently, my daughter, who digs the movies and has an interest in the comics, found out about the game and wanted to play it, so I went looking for a copy and … WOW! I made a huge mistake giving that sucker away – copies are so expensive these days! Fortunately, last week I found a copy of the basic game at a reasonable price and snapped it up. It arrived yesterday, and this is where the buried treasure comes in.

As I perused the contents, I found some old character sheets filled out by the previous owners. The first one was for Wolverine, but the next was for an original hero created using the game rules. I love that kind of find. It made me wonder who the old owner of the set was … and a few pages more, I found out. It turns out that the owner not only filled out the application for the RPG Association but never sent it in (me to), but also weote a letter asking some questions about how Wolverine’s powers worked, also never sent, with his name and address on it.

It was fun reading the letter, because it reminded me of myself back in the day – a wide-eyed geek trying to wrap his head around these games and things that were so new to me. Going back in time like this is nice. The times really weren’t any simpler then than now for adults, but my life was much simpler as a kid. I miss the people I’ve loved and have lost – friends and relatives – and although I cannot get them back, looking through old games and books and photographs sparks cherished memories of them and makes me happy … a bittersweet happiness, but happiness just the same.

Now, I present a forgotten superhero of the 1980’s, discovered in a beat-up old game box and created by a person whose name I will not reveal (but who I think I found with a search on LinkedIn) … Spazmo Joe! Maybe his creator will come across this, and it will bring back some happy times. I sure hope so!

SPAZMO JOE … of SHIELD!

Fighting: Excellent
Agility: Remarkable
Strength: Remarkable
Endurance: Amazing
Reason: Excellent
Intuition: Remarkable
Psyche: Good

Health: 130
Karma: 30

Known Powers: Extra attacks, Weather control (Amazing)

Talents: First aid, law enforcement, guns, special weapons, martial arts

Special Devices: Plasma gun, 30-cal machine gun, mandarin armor (at least, I think it says mandarin)

And yeah … there was art!

Is that a SHIELD-regulation haircut?

‘Nuff Said!

Mannix!

Mike Connors recently passed away. He’s best known for playing Joe Mannix, private investigator, on the TV show Mannix, which ran from 1967-1975. Great show, and one of my all-time favorites. It was also an odd duck for its time because it forewent the idea of a detective with a gimmick (fat, wheelchair-bound, old, etc.) and just created a detective in the hard-boiled tradition.  James Rockford was probably Mannix’s spiritual successor on television.

Mannix is an interesting character with an interesting history, and that interesting history makes him a perfect character for a game of GRIT & VIGOR.

R.I.P. Mike Connors, and thanks for the fine entertainment.

Joe Mannix
High school football and basketball star, Korean War veteran, former P.O.W., mercenary in Latin America and current private investigator

5th level fighter, 7th level private eye

Strength: 13 / +1
Dexterity: 14 / +1
Constitution: 16 / +2
Intelligence: 11
Wisdom: 13 / +1
Charisma: 11

Hit Points: 3d6 + 4d10 +14
Armor Class: 11
Attack: +4
Saves: F11 R10 W12

Feats: Pugilist, Power Attack

Knacks: Athletics, Communicate, Drive Car, Endure, Pilot Aircraft

Fighter Skills: Bend Bars, Break Down Doors, Endure*, Jump, Lift Gates, Ride Mount

Private Eye Skills: Cant, Crack Code, Gather Intelligence, Hide in Shadows, Listen at Doors, Move Silently, Search, Sleight of Hand, Track (humans only)

Class Abilities: Note clues and concealed items, mull things over, backstab +2d6, extra attack vs. opponents with 3 or fewer Hit Dice

Equipment: Colt Detective Special (1d6), 1975 Chevrolet Camaro (in the show’s final season, but Mannix drove an astounding array of cool cars over the course of the series – check Wikipedia’s entry for a list)

Lest We Forget

Today is Veterans’ Day (formerly Armistice Day) in the U.S. of A. First and foremost, I offer my thanks to those who have served – God bless you.

Since this is a game blog, I now offer Grit & Vigor stats for a couple genuine war heroes, Sgt. Alvin York and Audie Murphy.

Sgt. Alvin York

Class: Fighter
Level: 4
Hit Points: 26

Strength: 14 / +1
Intelligence: 9
Wisdom: 12
Dexterity: 13 / +1
Constitution: 16 / +2
Charisma: 11

Feats: Dodge, Elusive Target, Point Blank Shot

Knacks: Climb Sheer Surfaces

Alvin York was an odd choice for military heroism. When he reported for military duty during the First World War, he let his superiors know that, as a Christian, he didn’t believe that he could take part in fighting.

After many discussions with the camp chaplain, and a lot of soul searching, he finally decided that a Christian could fight if called to do so. With that, he was off to Europe, where he soon earned a Medal of Honor for, according to Wikipedia, “leading an attack on a German machine gun nest, taking 35 machine guns, killing at least 28 German soldiers, and capturing 132 others”.

Audie Murphy

Class: Fighter
Level: 5
Hit Points: 35

Strength: 13 / +1
Intelligence: 10
Wisdom: 11
Dexterity: 16 / +2
Constitution: 13 / +1
Charisma: 12

Feats: Ace Shot, Diehard, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot

Knacks: Electronics, Handle Animals

Skills: Demolitions

What Audie Murphy did in real life would seem unbelievable if you saw it in a movie. Serving in the U.S. Army in the Second World War in Italy, he took part in many distinguished acts of heroism. Via Wikipedia, here’s what earned him the Medal of Honor:

“The Germans scored a direct hit on an M10 tank destroyer, setting it alight, forcing the crew to abandon it. Murphy ordered his men to retreat to positions in the woods, remaining alone at his post, shooting his M1 carbine and directing artillery fire via his field radio while the Germans aimed fire directly at his position. Murphy mounted the abandoned, burning tank destroyer and began firing its .50 caliber machine gun at the advancing Germans, killing a squad crawling through a ditch towards him. For an hour, Murphy stood on the flaming tank destroyer returning German fire from foot soldiers and advancing tanks, killing or wounding 50 Germans. He sustained a leg wound during his stand, and stopped only after he ran out of ammunition. Murphy rejoined his men, disregarding his own wound, and led them back to repel the Germans. He insisted on remaining with his men while his wounds were treated. For his actions that day, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. The 3rd Infantry Division was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for its actions at the Colmar Pocket, giving Murphy a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster for the emblem.”

This was after several bouts of malaria and losing a bit of hip muscle to gangrene. Murphy left the U.S. Army as a first lieutenant, and later achieved the rank of Major with the Texas Army National Guard.

Happy Veteran’s Day to all you veterans!

Back from Vacation

After a week away from work (the real job), I’m back delving into the wonders of the Las Vegas real estate market. Over the past nine days, I managed to almost finish NOD 29 and got some heavy work done on my World War II supplement to GRIT & VIGOR. I also watched some B-movies, did some yard work, got the hard copy of MYSTERY MEN! Second Edition created and ordered a proof copy (it’s going to be in color), found some cheap old AD&D artifacts at a used record store, watched my daughter in her first Shakespeare play (she played the nurse in Romeo & Juliet) and didn’t shave.

I also didn’t do any blog posts, though I did keep in touch with the gaming community via Google +. For those who didn’t see that, I present two characters for GRIT & VIGOR, one a character from an old movie, the other an actor. For those who did, I’ll throw in a third character – a dangerous lady.

Vince Kane – A Character You Probably Do Not Know

Vince Kane is the main character in an old George Raft picture called A Dangerous Profession (1949). It’s not a great movie, but a movie doesn’t have to be great to inspire usable game material. The beauty of B-movies and simple stories is that they’re usually easier to adapt into modern game scenarios. Much of what makes a movie great – strong characterizations, interesting character relationships, etc. – does not always translate well into a game, or at least should come from the interaction of the players and game master, rather than be programmed and forced on everyone. A good game often revolves around a good plot that is not too hard to follow, since players are usually grasping around in the dark during game play. Vince Kane is also an interesting idea for an detective who isn’t technically a professional detective, much in the way that Matlock and Perry Mason are detectives who are technically lawyers.

Vince Kane is an ex-cop turned bail bondsman. Things heat up when a buddy of his from the police force, Lt. Nick Ferrone (played by Jim Backus) picks up Claude Brackett, who skipped bail a few years back for an embezzlement charge. Checking Brackett’s room, Kane discovers that he’s in town with the woman who broke his heart, who turns out to now be the embezzler’s wife, Lucy Brackett. When Claude Brackett turns up murdered, Kane investigates and discovers a web of lies.

N Private Eye, LVL 8, HP 36, AC 11, MV 40, ATK +5, SV F12 R7 W9

Str 10 Int 12 Wis 15 Dex 14 Con 13 Cha 8

Special: Detect clue (2 in 6), detect lie (4 in 6), get a clue from Venture Master, back stab, note concealed items, +2 save vs. fear

Knacks: Cant*, Influence People

Skills: Cant*, Crack Code, Gather Intelligence, Hide in Shadows, Listen at Doors, Move Silently, Search, Sleight of Hand and Track (humans only)

Feats: Grappler, Iron Will, Lighting Reflexes

* Cant in this context is the tough talk of old Hollywood gangster movies

Hoot Gibson, A Man More Interesting than His Characters

Now we shift from a character to a real person who was, himself, quite a character. It’s not too often you come across an actor’s biography which is more interesting than the characters he played. Hoot Gibson is one of those fellows.

Hoot started riding horses as a boy in Nebraska, and after the family moved to California he started working on ranches. He showed a talent for it, and soon started competing in rodeos, winning several honors. It was during his rodeo days that he started acting in silent movies. After a stint as a sergeant in the Tank Corps in World War I, he went back to rodeo and movies, usually as a bit player and stunt rider. In 1922, when demand was high for cowboy pictures, he moved into starring roles and made a whole slew of pictures. Hoot also learned to fly planes and even got injured in a crash while racing planes.

Like I said, he was an interesting fellow.

N Cowboy/Fighter, LVL 7/3, HP 39, AC 12, MV 40, ATK +4, SV F9 R8 W12, Str 13 Int 9 Wis 11 Dex 16 Con 13 Cha 13

Special: +2 save vs. trample attacks, rope (add half horse’s HD to lasso attacks), select exceptional horses, surprised 1 in 8, no penalty when grappling large animals, extra attack against opponents with fewer HD

Knacks: Don Disguise, Handle Animals, Pilot Aircraft

Skills (Cowboy): Appraise value (livestock), endure, gamble, handle animal, jump, ride mount, survive outdoors, track

Skills (Fighter): Bend bars, break down doors, endure, gunnery, jump, lift gates

Feats: Dodge, Knack, Pugilist

Weapons: Colt Single-Action Army (1d6), Winchester M1894 repeating rifle (2d4)

Ma Barker

I don’t know how much cache’ the gangsters of the Depression have these days with the young people, but they once had a standing approaching folk heroes. Bonnie and Clyde, ‘Baby Face’ Nelson, John Dillinger, etc. And then there’s Ma. Ma Barker. Ma Barker had four criminal sons, Herman, Lloyd, Arthur and Fred, and served as their ring leader … or did she?

From the sound of it, Ma Barker as criminal mastermind of her sons’ foul play is the bunk. One gangster, Alvin Karpis, described her as “superstitious, gullible, simple, cantankerous and, well, generally law abiding.” She was clearly an accomplice in the criminal activities of the gang, helping them before and after crimes, but probably was not the gun-totin’ mama of popular culture. When J. Edgar Hoover described her as “the most vicious, dangerous and resourceful criminal brain of the last decade”, he was probably full of shit. I know – J. Edgar Hoover, an agent of the federal government – lying is hard to believe.

But in GRIT & VIGOR, when truth isn’t stranger than fiction, we slap it around a little until it is. Our Ma Barker is the gangster of the movies, engaging in gun play and maybe even chomping on a cigar while her minions rob banks.

NE Rogue, LVL 8, HP 28, AC 10, MV 40, ATK +5, SV F12 R9 W10, Str 8 Int 15 Wis 13 Dex 11 Con 11 Cha 12

Special: Backstab for +2d6 damage, note concealed items

Knacks: Gather Intelligence*, Treat Injury

Skills : Appraise Value, Cant, Don Disguise, Gather Intelligence*, Hide in Shadows, Influence People, Listen at Doors, Move Silently

Feats: Exploit Weakness, Improvise, Iron Will, Leadership

Weapons: Thompson sub-machine gun (1d6)

Mystery Men! Let’s Go!

Perhaps one of the saddest departures from television in the last few years, for me, was the Aquabat Super Show! The Aquabats are not just the greatest band to ever punch a tortilla monster in the face, they’re also bona fide superheroes, clashing with the likes of Cobra Man and Space Monster M.

In addition, they’re the perfect superheroes to stat up for Mystery Men! Second Edition, on sale now as a PDF at both Rpgnow and Lulu.com! The second edition cleans up a few errors in the first edition and streamlines the powers a bit, all while keeping character creation fun and easy, and game play just as fun and easy. It’s an old school take on superhero gaming, with a sample setting – Shore City – a sample adventure – “All Fall Down” – and skads of heroes and villains all ready to be battled. All for $6.99!

And now … the Aquabats!

M.C. Bat Commander (Super Hero)
Christian Jacobs, Lead Singer

The M.C. Bat Commander is the ever-brave, ever-pugnacious leader of the gang. While not the world’s greatest tactician, he is supremely skilled at winging it. His distinctive face decoration is designed to thwart ne’er-do-wells who would vandalize his face on posters.

Like all of the Aquabats, the Bat Commander has the following pieces of gear: An anti-negativity helmet, radioactive rash guards, and a power belt to allow him to enter “stealth mode”.
The ‘bats also have their Battle Tram, a hi-tech RV capable of flight and survival in Outer Space!

STR: 3
DEX: 3
CON: 5/+1
INT: 3
WIS: 2
CHA: 4/+1

LVL: 6
HP: 27
ATK: +5
AC: 12
XP Value: 4,850

Powers
Weapon Master (meta-, fists)

Gear
Anti-negativity helmet
Radioactive rash guard (resistance to radiation)
Power belt (invisibility, 1/day for 5 minutes)
Battle Tram (RV + rocket launcher, fly, immunity to vacuum)

Crash McLarson (Super Hero)
Chad Larson, Bass Guitar

Crash is a man-child, strong and sensitive and prone to becoming a giant when he becomes emotional. He’s the heart and soul of the Aquabats, and once met a genie that looked surprisingly like Rip Taylor.

STR: 6/+1
DEX: 2
CON: 4/+1
INT: 2
WIS: 2
CHA: 4/+1

LVL: 12
HP: 54
ATK: +9
AC: 12
XP Value: 4,075

Powers
Enlarge (cosmic; but only when emotional)
Weapon Master (meta-, fists, vs. sharks only)

Gear
Anti-negativity helmet
Radioactive rash guard (resistance to radiation)
Power belt (invisibility, 1/day for 5 minutes)

Jimmy the Robot (Super Hero)
James Briggs, Keyboard and Saxophone

The most logical and mature of the band, Jimmy the Robot was built by a farming scientist to pick apples, but instead went to the big city and joined a superhero band.

STR: 4/+1
DEX: 3
CON: 4/+1
INT: 12/+3
WIS: 4/+1
CHA: 3

LVL: 6
HP: 27
ATK: +5
AC: 14
XP Value: 5,000

Powers
Invulnerability (meta-)
Power bolt (lasers)
Sense vibrations
Super science (10,000 XP)
Super intelligence (meta-)

Gear
Anti-negativity helmet
Radioactive rash guard (resistance to radiation)
Power belt (invisibility, 1/day for 5 minutes)

Ricky Fitness (Super Hero)
Richard Falomir, Drums

Teenage heart-throb Ricky Fitness loves the ladies, but not as much as he loved fresh veggies!

STR: 3
DEX: 6/+1
CON: 3
INT: 3
WIS: 2
CHA: 5/+1

LVL: 10
HP: 35
ATK: +8
AC: 13
XP Value: 4,250

Powers
Super Speed (meta-)

Gear
Anti-negativity helmet
Radioactive rash guard (resistance to radiation)
Power belt (invisibility, 1/day for 5 minutes)
Drum-Copter (mini-helicopter with the equivalent of a non-lethal heavy machine gun)

Eagle “Bones” Falconhawk (Super Hero)
Ian Fowles, Guitar

Perhaps the most determined member of the band to right wrongs, Eagle “Bones” Falconhawk has an evil brother called Eagleclaw and enjoys a relationship with the Sun Spirit, Lou Diamond Phillips. His eagle, The Dude, is an invisible spirit eagle. So he has that going for him.

STR: 3
DEX: 5/+1
CON: 3
INT: 3
WIS: 4/+1
CHA: 4/+1

LVL: 11
HP: 39
ATK: +9
AC: 12
XP Value: 4,250

Powers
Conjuration*
Sense Vibrations

Gear
Anti-negativity helmet
Radioactive rash guard (resistance to radiation)
Power belt (invisibility, 1/day for 5 minutes)
Electric guitar (power bolt-electricity)

* Falconhawk can summon The Dude, an invisible eagle. The eagle hangs around long enough to perform one task, and he probably can’t do it more than once per game.

Side Note 1: If you have the chance to go to an Aquabats show, do it. Fun shows, chill music, crazy audiences, a fight with a man in a rubber suit on stage … you cannot miss with these guys.

Side Note 2: How many other superhero games are there that have published stats for the Aquabats, Action League Now AND Fonzi? Go buy the game, for crying out loud!

Found HERE

 

Grit and Vigor – Sample Characters

I’m finishing up on the final editing of Grit & Vigor this week (and maybe next), and thought folks might be interested in seeing a few randomly rolled up characters for the game.

The four characters below were created using the normal character generation rules – nothing special, no cheating – and should give you an idea of what 1st level characters might look like in the game.

For the first character, I’ll include a few notes in italics. Keep in mind I’m still editing and testing a bit, so there could be some changes between these fellows and the final product.

Emerson McLeod

Strength: 12
Dexterity: 13 (+1 bonus)
Constitution: 12
Intelligence: 12
Wisdom: 17 (+2 bonus)
Charisma: 16 (+2 bonus)

Ability scores are rolled in the “traditional way” (whichever traditional way you like). The bonuses and penalties are as in Blood & Treasure. In this case, I rolled 3d6 in order for the first two characters, and then 4d6 drop the lowest in order for the second two. Honestly – roll the dice however you want!

Alignment: Chaotic Good
Class: Rogue (Private Eye)
Level: 1
Hit Points: 5
Attack Bonus: +0
Saves: F15 R13 W14

Again, nothing too foreign here. Alignment has much less meaning in this game, since it isn’t bound up on lots of spells and special abilities. The game has four main classes – fighter, scholar, rogue and daredevil, and multiple sub-classes. Private eye is a sub-class of rogue.

Background: Won the big game at school, got chemistry set as kid, talked way out of many scrapes
Knacks: Athletics (Str), Chemistry (Int)
Skills: Cant (Cha), Crack Code (Int), Gather Intelligence (Cha), Hide in Shadows (Dex), Listen at Doors (Wis), Move Silently (Dex), Search (Wis), Sleight of Hand (Dex), Track (humans only) (Wis)
Feats: Dodge, Improvise
Weapons: Brass Knuckles, Switchblade, Pistol, Revolver
Abilities: Backstab (x2 damage), notice concealed items (1 in 6), notice clues (2 in 6), note deception (4 in 6), get a hint (Will save, mod by Int)
Drive/Hunger: Tobacco

Backgrounds are rolled randomly, usually three rolls, and replace the concept of “racial abilities”, giving starting characters bonus knacks, feats and ability score adjustments. The game uses the same task system as B&T, and feats in this one are not optional. Drives and hungers help flesh out a character – this guy has a tobacco addiction, so he’s probably a heavy smoker.

Starting Money: $80
Spent: $73.85
Gear: Revolver, 20 bullets, lock pick set, switchblade, brass knuckles, business clothes, overcoat, concealed carry holster, standard flashlight, binoculars, fake identification, camera, camera film

The money system uses dollars as a catch-all. I’m still playing with the values, but this gives an idea of a starting character’s equipment. Characters start with $5 to spend per point of Charisma (to keep it from being a dump stat).

Alvin “Doc” Bailey

Strength: 12
Dexterity: 6 (-1 penalty)
Constitution: 12
Intelligence: 14 (+1 bonus)
Wisdom: 7 (-1 penalty)
Charisma: 10

Alignment: Neutral
Class: Scholar
Level: 1
Hit Points: 5
Attack Bonus: +0
Saves: F15 R14 W13

Background: Sneaked out for beer and girls, raised in poverty, worked on a farm
Knacks: Move Silently (Dex)
Skills: Chemistry (Int), Communicate (Cha), Crack Codes (Int), Display Knowledge (Int), Electronics (Int), Mechanics (Int) and Search (Wis)
Feats: Improvise, Toughness
Weapons: Dagger, Revolver
Abilities: Special focus (engineering), jury-rig devices, maximize performance
Drives/Hungers: Danger, Superstition

Starting Money: $50.00
Spent: $41.16
Gear: Dagger, revolver, 12 bullets, smoke grenade, tear gas grenade, gelatine, acid vial, electronics kit, chemistry set, travel bag, casual clothes, hip holster

John Harrow

Strength: 12
Dexterity: 14 (+1 bonus)
Constitution: 9
Intelligence: 12
Wisdom: 10
Charisma: 14 (+1 bonus)

Alignment: Neutral Evil
Class: Fighter (Duelist)
Level: 1
Hit Points: 8
Attack Bonus: +1
Saves: F13 R14 W15

Background: Worked as prize fighter, worked summers on a boat, took fencing lessons from an old master
Knacks: Seafaring
Skills: Bend Bars & Lift Gates (Str), Break Down Doors (Str), Gymnastics (Dex), Jump (Str)
Feats: Dodge, Exploit Weakness, Two-Weapon Fighting
Weapons: Cavalry Saber, Foil, Dagger, Pistol, Rapier
Abilities: Dominate foes, specialist weapon (x2 damage with rapier)
Drive/Hunger: Superstition, Vanity, Women

Starting Money: $70
Spent: $60.65
Gear: Pistol, 50 bullets, 2 daggers, business clothes

Sally Rae Stewart

Strength: 11
Dexterity: 14 (+1 bonus)
Constitution: 9
Intelligence: 10
Wisdom: 14 (+1 bonus)
Charisma: 14 (+1 bonus)

Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Class: Daredevil (Grease Monkey)
Level: 1
Hit Points: 7
Attack Bonus: +0
Saves: F13 R13 W14

Background: Studied physics, raised in poverty, helped out in the garage
Knacks: Mechanics
Skills: Appraise Value (Motor Vehicles) (Int), Drive Car (Dex), Mechanics (Int), Ride Bike (Dex), Search (Wis)
Feats: Improvise, Modern Archimedes, Stuntman
Weapons: Club, Dagger, Revolver
Abilities: Treat wrenches as maces, maximize performance (motorcycles, cars), increase top speed by 10%, can apply combat feats to vehicles, +1 to hit vehicles, + level in damage to vehicles
Drive/Hunger: Money, Tobacco

Starting Money: $70.00
Spent: $38.50
Equipment: Monkey wrench, revolver, 10 bullets, casual clothes, tool belt, CB radio, mechanical tool kit, duct tape (2 rolls), car opening kit, road flares (3), rope (150’)

Twelve Kingly Archetypes

If a campaign goes on long enough, with PC’s gaining more and more power, wealth and ability, there’s a good chance they’ll eventually deal with a king (or queen). But what kind of king? Oh, it could just be a very basic monarch type who hands out a quest in exchange for money or some other royal favor. If the focus is the dungeon, the king doesn’t need to be particularly interesting.

On the other hand, you could leverage the amazing potential kings offer for role playing and campaign play. A monarch can become a very important NPC in a game, hindering and helping the PC’s in a wide variety of ways. A helpful king might have a much less helpful rival in the wings, making him a resource to be protected and making his protectors targets for that rival and his faction. On the other hand, a cruel king might have a more worthy successor somewhere around whom the referee can build a campaign of regime change and revolution. So many possibilities, but only if you put a little time and effort into creating a king worthy of a campaign.

So – today we look at twelve archetypes that you can use in your campaign. Later, I’ll try to do the same for queens later, though clearly these archetypes are as applicable to females and males.

God be praised!

1) THE HERO-KING

The heroic king is a fixture of mythology and folklore. King Arthur is a good example, a storied monarch that founds a nation, protects it, and, after death, is expected to return to usher in a new golden age. In a campaign, you might use the Hero-King when he is a young man, still founding his kingdom, or when he is an old man, largely inactive as an adventurer but commanding a renowned band of knights. Of course, a young adventuring king does present one problem – why is he sending the adventurers on a quest when he might do it himself. Well, even hero-kings have paperwork.

A hero-king is almost certainly going to have levels (at least 9) in a PC class, with fighter, paladin and barbarian being likely candidates.

Warrior kings at play

2) THE WARRIOR-KING

Warrior kings aren’t uncommon in history. After all, it takes a fair bit of war to establish and maintain a kingdom in a medieval or ancient milieu. Famous warrior-kings include Richard I of England (the Lionheart), his rival Saladin (or Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb to be more precise), Agamemnon, Henry V of England, Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, Napoleon of France, Genghis Khan and William the Conquerer. All of these men were known for personally leading their followers into battle, and that’s the key to a warrior-king – they actually fight. They may be great strategists and tacticians, or they may just be brave men who like to wade into melee. In either case, they will tend to be resolute and decisive when dealing with adventurers, and they will always be very goal-oriented. Their own past success in battle will tend to make them less accepting of failure on the part of others.

Warrior-kings might be simple aristocrats in armor, but they are more likely to have levels (at least 5 to 6) in fighter or another warrior class.

Bring on the girls!

3) THE LUSTY KING

No man better represents this archetype than Henry VIII of England. The young Henry, for sure, but especially the older, fatter Henry. Lusty kings are all about indulging their passions. They are headstrong, stubborn and do not deal well with being told “no”. Lusty kings are selfish and egotistical, and quests for them may very well be about settling scores and seizing prizes on their behalf. Fail a lusty king and … well, just ask Henry’s wives how that works out (if you have access to a speak with dead spell).

Lusty kings may very well be simple aristocrats with massive egos. If you were to give then class levels, consider barbarian – an enraged lusty king throwing a temper tantrum would be all the more dangerous and entertaining if they have a few levels of barbarian to draw on.

Squeeze every last drop out of those insolent … musical … peasants.

4) THE POLITICIAN KING

Prince, and later King, John, the brother of the Lionheart, has come down to us through the pen of Shakespeare, as a weakling intent on tyranny. Ustinov made him a sniveling moron in Disney’s version of the Robin Hood tale. The real story is a bit different, though to be fair, he did attempt a coup d’etat while Richard was on the 3rd crusade. Still, he proved an able administrator, if not a brilliant leader during war. John represents the politician king – not powerful or popular enough to have his way, he must bargain and triangulate. He is a master of political, if not military, strategy.

Politician kings can rarely be trusted. They are out for number one, and they are willing to get where they want to be though almost any means (or any means, if they are evil) necessary. They are also patient, and understand that to get what they want, they must make a bargain. Adventurers will be fairly paid for their service, but when they become a liability, they’re dropped like a hot potato.

Politician kings are probably just aristocrats with no, or few, class levels. They probably have higher than normal intelligence, wisdom and charisma scores, for without them they would be poor politicians indeed.

Yeah, he’s every bit as big a d-bag as he looks

5) THE TYRANT-KING

When Europe’s monarchs found themselves in control of nation states, the old relationship between the royal court and the royal subjects changed. With large, standing armies at their disposal, the old parliaments of Europe fell by the wayside, leaving the power of the king virtually unchecked.

Tyrant-kings, like King Louis XIV, believe they are and must be supreme over all their subjects. There is no possibility of power-sharing, in political terms, and more importantly, there can be no intimation that they are not perfect human specimens. They are, after all, placed on their throne by the will of God, and God would not put an inferior man upon the throne.

Tyrant-kings are no picnic, and adventurers, who represent not only an independent streak but also a potentially competing power center, must almost certainly run afoul of them. Even tyrant-kings who are not egomaniacs must behave that way in their dealings with others to preserve the edifice of the absolute monarchy and stave off rebellion. Tyrant-kings will go to any length to maintain their hold on power, so assume they are at least mildly evil in alignment. Their lack of respect for man-made laws would tend to rule out the lawful alignment – neutral, chaotic neutral, neutral evil and chaotic evil are probably the most likely alignments for tyrant-kings.

Caligula – not the most “safe-for-work” Google search you can do

6) THE MAD KING

While Ludwig of Bavaria (Mad King Ludqig) might be the most famous of the mad kings (which is unfortunate, because later evidence suggests he was not insane and that this was merely an accusation made by his ministers to reign in his spending), there have been many over the centuries. Caligula, Charles VI of France (Charles the Mad), Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah (the Mad Caliph), and Tsar Ivan IV of Russia (Ivan the Terrible) – all lacking in the whole sanity thing.

Mad kings are unpredictable, which means they can be the adventurers’ best friends one moment, and their worst enemies the next. This makes them tricky patrons, but terribly useful to game masters, as they can generate all sorts of fodder for the campaign. Maybe the best way to model a mad monarch is to randomly determine their alignment whenever the adventurers meet them, or maybe begin with a good alignment of some sort, and then begin making some sort of insanity check for the monarch each month. Maybe their alignment changes a bit, maybe it stays the same. If it does change, only change it one step. As time progresses, make those checks once a week, and allow more severe alignment changes. Eventually, the king will be checking each day, with alignments being almost random – though never Lawful.

The Wisdom of Solomon

7) THE MAGICAL KING

Solomon is a by-word for Wisdom – just ask Billy Batson. He is the perfect model not only for a wise king, but for the magical king, for Solomon was by all accounts a magician. He could control devils and genies and the like, and raise palaces in a day and even convince that super-fine Queen of Sheba to drop by for a visit.

A magical king is probably a magic-user rather than a cleric. Solomon was interesting in the stories because his great magical power eventually turned him against his patron, God, and led to his downfall. Fantasy game campaigns are better served by a story arc of this sort than by just sticking a 20th level magic-user on a throne and having him send the adventurers on quests he could probably better perform himself.

The Queen’s okay, but the king … not so much

8) THE WIMP-KING

Not every king is strong and resolute. Many weak kings – either weak physically, mentally (but not to the point of madness – see above) or morally – have sat on thrones, at least for a while. Boy kings, kings henpecked by their more willful queens, and kings controlled by their advisers are included in this category, as are kings who would be better off if they were being controlled. The depiction of Phillip III of Spain in The Adventures of Don Juan is a great model for this sort of king.

When there is no leadership on the throne, a kingdom soon falls into chaos. What a wonderful place for adventurers to play. The value of a weak king on a throne is probably that his kingdom is embroiled in revolution, rivalry and brigandry – the perfect spot for a brave band of plunderers to work. Those adventurers might also be cast into the role of protecting the kingdom as it disintegrates, hoping to keep it in one piece until a new king can take the throne.

Marcus doing his impression of a Jack Kirby character – Image found HERE

9) THE PHILOSOPHER-KING

Marcus Aurelius has come down in history as a philosopher king, the real-life embodiment of Plato’s philosopher kings that ruled over his perfect society. Setting aside how well academics do when put into positions of power, the ideal philosopher is wise, logical and calm – an able administrator and a preserver of justice.

Boring!

Well, not necessarily. A philosopher-king might rule over a civilized, peaceful land, but in a fantasy world, that peaceful land may have chaos lapping at its shores. Where there is chaos, there is something for adventurers to do – and in the case of a kingdom ruled by a philosopher-king, a safe place to return to when they are done.

As a patron, a philosopher-king is going to be trustworthy and even-handed. Adventurers will have to watch what mischief they get into, as he might not be inclined to tolerate trouble in his kingdom, even by useful allies. Philosopher-kings are probably lawful good or lawful neutral, since they rule within the law rather than above it, and since they generally show an interest in the well-being of their subjects.

Not the nicest fellow in town

10) THE VILLAIN-KING

While the tyrant-king is willing to do evil to maintain his power, and the mad king might well do evil because he has little control over himself, the villain-king is just out and out evil. Villain-kings are needlessly cruel – they hurt people because they enjoy it. They are treacherous and murderous and in all ways not fit company for paladins. Attila the Hun got the reputation for being a villain-king, and Claudius, slayer of Hamlet’s dad, could also fit the bill.

If a villain-king is the patron of a band of adventurers, they can at least take solace in the knowledge that there is nothing they can do that will offend him morally or ethically. On the other hand, the man is not to be trusted, especially if the adventurers seem to challenge his authority in any way shape or form. Because villain-kings are so cruel and despicable, their lives are constantly being threatened. In a fantasy game, it’s likely they’ll need class levels (and extra hit points) just to keep them alive.

Not only saintly, but apparently huge – looks like he’s winking in this shot – “Say no more, nudge nudge, wink wink”

11) THE SAINT-KING

In the real world, a sainted king often received his sainthood for primarily political purposes. Everyone knows that two of Saint Louis’ miracles were card tricks, after all (yeah, I ripped off Father Guido Sarducci). Sainted kings include St Louis of France, St Edward the Confessor, St Alfred the Great, St Stephen I of Hungary and St Charlemagne of France.

In a fantasy world, of course, a sainted king can really be a saint, or at least a trusted ally of the higher (or lower) powers. The saint-king might be a cleric or druid, but they might also simply possess great spiritual powers, a la a demigod in Deities and Demigods or a saint in “Setting Saintly Standards” (Dragon Magazine, Nov 1983).

Assuming the saint-king is lawful good in alignment, he can be a powerful ally and a powerful enemy of a band of adventurers. He’s good, so when they’re serving him they have access to his powers. But when adventurers start acting like, well, adventurers, they may find themselves in a sticky situation.

I bid you … welcome

12) THE MONSTER-KING

Vlad Tepes. Enough said. Okay – he was only a count, and in reality he was just a homicidal maniac (at least, from what I gather), but in a fantasy milieu we know that he became a vampire.

A monster-king is literally that – some creature taken from the pages of a monster book and sat upon a throne. In NOD, I have a gynosphinx ruling the pseudo-Egyptian city-state of Ibis, and in the Ende hexcrawls I’m finishing up, four rival city-states are ruled by nagas.

The monster king probably exhibits some aspects of the other archetypes provided here, and those should be referenced based on the monster’s alignment and inclinations. They make obvious foes for a band of adventurers, of course – turning the royal palace into an above-ground dungeon for a group powerful enough to challenge the legal ruler of a kingdom.

Hopefully these archetypes will aid you in creating some memorable monarchs to help and hinder the adventurers in your game.