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) …


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 …

Mystery Men – Out of the Shadows

Two years ago to this day, I announced that Fat Goblin Games was going to produce a revised version of Mystery Men!, with new art, new layout, etc. To that end, I pulled the existing version off the digital shelves.

Well, 730 days later, the revised Mystery Men! did not materialize. I took a stab at a collaboration, and in this case it didn’t work out. Chalk it up to earned experience (without a 10% XP bonus because of my low Wisdom score).

Fortunately, my contract with those folks is over, and Mystery Men! is back. I have re-instated the original MM!, digital and print, to my spotlight on As before, the PDF is free, the print version costs $7.99.

You might want to hold off on buying the print version, though, because the next step is the official, long-awaited revision of the game, which will be released in early 2016. I need to get GRIT & VIGOR on sale first, partially because I just need to get it done, and partially because I want to make sure MM! and G&V are generally compatible. Once it is out, I will tweak the revised text I wrote two years ago, work on the layout, and get that sucker up for sale. I’m hoping for January release.

2016 is going to be my year of revisions. Mystery Men! will probably be first. Blood & Treasure will follow, with new covers I commissioned, as well as Pars Fortuna (I was going to make it Blood & Treasure-compatible, but I might make it Bloody Basic compatible, since those games have a similar vibe) and Space Princess (aiming at G&V compatibility for that one as well). In the meantime, I’ll keep publishing NOD and Quick & Easy games, and I’ll begin working on combining old issues of NOD into full-blown hex crawl adventures in their own right, and pulling those old mags off the market to let them become collectors items. I’m also in talks with a friend to design a nice, new Land of Nod website. Should be fun.

So keep your eyes peeled, folks, the mystery men are on their way!

First Look at Shore City for Mystery Men!

Just finished my first draft of Shore City, the sample setting I’m writing for Mystery Men!

I still have some labels to apply (the river, for example, is the Salamander), and then I need to add some of the highlights. Essentially, I’m going to write up a description of the city sections (Downtown, Old Town, etc) with random crime tables for each for patrols. Then, I’ll add specific buildings and sites of interest, many of which will have adventure hooks of their own.

Of course, the street names are (almost) all comic book references, and a No-Prize will be awarded to anyone who can tell me which great American city the map is based on and why.

Happy Birthday Mr. Eisner

Hopefully I’m not too late for this one, since I only just found out that today (I’ll keep that term vague so as not to incriminate myself) is Will Eisner’s birthday. Eisner certainly elevated the comic book medium and he produced some truly wonderful art. His most famous creation is probably The Spirit. The Spirit is a noir detective in a domino mask (Eisner’s boss wanted a costume, and Eisner was sick of costumes, so he gave him a mask). Put in suspended animation by Dr Cobra, he was buried but managed to escape his internment. He decides to abandon his old identity and, with the blessings of Police Commissioner Dolan, an old friend, becomes a vigilante.

The Spirit holes up in a secret hideout underneath his own grave. Over the course of his adventures he tangles with femme fatales, a mad scientist or two and The Octopus, his arch-enemy and a master of disguise. His primary sidekick is one Ebony White, an unfortunate racist caricature in appearance and speech, who otherwise proves to be well loved by his allies and a true friend and helper to the Spirit.

As a Mystery Men! character, the Spirit is a good example of a non-powered adventurer, thus the low starting XP. Despite not technically having any powers, he certainly manages to survive some rough scrapes and shows some keen detective skills, thus the heroic attributes.

The Ripper …

Just finished watching my first episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker (note, the presence of a colon in the title does not necessarily mean its a White Wolf product). I love it – which means thanks to Netflix I’ve had the chance to become a fan of two great old TV series, Doctor Who being the other.

So, the first episode concerned an immortal or ghostly Jack the Ripper. For fun, here’s some stats for the ripper for both Swords and Wizardry and Mystery Men!


Hit Dice: 8 (60 hp)
Armor Class: 2 [17]
Attack: 1 weapon (1d8+2)
Save: 3
Special: +1 or better weapon to hit, immunity to cold, fire and poison, double damage from electricity, magic resistance (40%), spells
Move: 15
CL/XP: 12/2000

The Ripper may once have been a man, but long ago he slipped into legend as an immortal spirit of murder. He appears every few years in a different city, murders five women and announces his murders with rhyming letters sent to the authorities and then disappears. The Ripper can use the spells at etherealness, haste, jump and levitate at will. The Ripper consumes the souls of the women he kills (and only women). With each soul consumed, he gains one additional Hit Dice, six additional hit points and improves his Armor Class by one. Once five souls have been consumed, he is able to teleport to another city to continue his murder spree, his statistics being set back to those presented above.

Deviant Friday – Enymy Edition

Enymy does some nice stuff with a wild, somewhat weird, abstract style – not Erol Otus weird, in fact not very old school at all, but definitely high on the fun factor. Enjoy the images – and since they’re super hero centric, I’m throwing in some stats as well …

[alas, the image is gone, but I wanted the Spidey stats to remain]

I kinda like the more alien feel of this Cthulhu
Yeah, Cthulhu’s probably better to stat out as a monster, but what the hey …
I don’t really know who these people are, but I do agree with punching Hitler.
You know, I’ve never read any of the Hellboy universe of comics, even though it pushes many of my geek buttons. One of these days I’ll have to delve in.
And be sure to check out his Marvel A to Z bit …

All Strong!! All Brave!! All Heroes!!

They are the Herculoids!!

After statting out the Arabian Knights, the venemous pao requested the Herculoids. My love of the Herculoids and their bizarre world of Amzot is second to nobody’s, so here they are, built with 30,000 XP each …

One of the best things about the Herculoids is that they don’t seem to have ever explained them – at least not in the old days. Here’s my take – Zandor was a brilliant scientist who wanted to get “back to nature”, doing so on the primitive planet of Amzot. He took along his wife and son and a few creatures (part of Project Herculoid) created in his laboratory. The Herculoids are equal parts nature and science. This is the best explanation I can come up with for a guy who lives in a tree yet clearly understand high technology, and who fights using a sling shot and exploding rocks – rocks which also seem to be produced by Tundro. Moreover, if the Herculoids are just alien animals from Amzot, why don’t we ever see any other of their kind roaming about?

Adventurer* Lvl 12
Str 4 | Dex 16 | Con 4 | Int 5 | Wil 4 | Cha 2
HP 64 | AC 16 | Spd 0 | XP 23,400

Powers: Heroism I-L, Super Dexterity (+6)-P
Gear: Shield, sling, 10 stones (treat as grenade)

* Okay, I just got through saying that I think Zandor is a scientist, and then I go and make him an “adventurer” instead of “scientist” – why? The scientist class in MM! is good for modeling characters that use lots of scientific gadgets, and often different gadgets in different adventures. Zandor doesn’t, so I’m making him a member of the adventurer class with scientist as his background/occupation.

DORNO (Sidekick of Zandor)

Adventurer Lvl 4
Str 4 | Dex 6 | Con 4 | Int 1 | Wil 2 | Cha 1
HP 32 | AC 11 | Spd 2 | XP 3,000

Powers: None
Gear: Sling, stones (treat as grenade)

IGOO, Rock Ape

Adventurer Lvl 9
Str 11 | Dex 4 | Con 11 | Int 1 | Wil 3 | Cha 3
HP 87 | AC 15 | Spd 2 | XP 12,400

Powers: Armor-P, Enlarge Person-L*, Stoneskin-P, Super Constitution (+6)-P, Super Strength (+6)-P
Gear: None

* Based on the fact that Igoo manages to be about twice the height of Zandor in some scenes and then about two or three times bigger in others. When presented with sloppy editing – make it a power!


Adventurer Lvl 10
Str 12 | Dex 2 | Con 12 | Int 2 | Wil 5 | Cha 2
HP 92 | AC 14 | Spd 2 | XP 17,400

Powers: Armor-P, Elasticity (Legs)-L, Force Missile-P, Shield-P, Super Constitution (+6)-P, Super Strength (+6)-P
Gear: None

ZOK, Space Dragon

Adventurer Lvl 8
Str 9 | Dex 11 | Con 10 | Int 2 | Wil 2 | Cha 1
HP 66 | AC 17 | Spd 3 | XP 10,000

Powers: Armor-P, Energy Ray (4d6)-P, Fly-P, Super Constitution (+6)-P, Super Dexterity (+6)-P, Super Speed (+1)-P, Super Strength (+6)-P
Gear: None


Adventurer Lvl 5
Str 2 | Dex 17 | Con 4 | Int 2 | Wil 4 | Cha 3
HP 49 | AC 15 | Spd 2 | XP 5,400

Powers: Elasticity-P, Jump-L, Resist Energy (Electricity & Fire)-P, Super Dexterity (+6)-P
Gear: None


Adventurer Lvl 5
Str 1 | Dex 12 | Con 6 | Int 1 | Wil 5 | Cha 2
HP 43 | AC 14 | Spd 2 | XP 5,400

Powers: Elasticity-P, Jump-L, Resist Energy (Electricity & Fire)-P, Super Dexterity (+6)-P
Gear: None

Image by Nelson Daniel

The Arabian Knights for Mystery Men!

The good people at Hanna Barbera created many, many superheroes back in the day, besides the old Super Friends cartoons. Lots of folks know Space Ghost these days, from his popular talk show if not his fight for cosmic justice, but there was also the caveman superhero Mighty Mightor (awesome beyond belief), Birdman (greatest war cry of any superhero ever) and the Galaxy Trio. As a way to show that Mystery Men! can be used for just about any era of heroics, this post is going to focus on the Arabian Knights.

The Arabian Knights was a cartoon produced for the Banana Splits show. It concerns an deposed prince, Turhan, and a band of super powered allies trying to re-install him on the throne of Baghdad. The cartoons are actually pretty fun and imaginative for the cut-rate production values practiced by HB during that period (though, to be honest, they would get much, much worse). The upside of all these cartoons was that, even though the production values were usually not up to par, the initial design work was done by the great Alex Toth.

The Arabian Knights work well as a super team because each of the members has a small number of abilities. For this reason, we’ll build each with 15,000 XP. Without further ado, the Arabian Knights …

TURHAN, Ex-Prince of Baghdad
Adventurer Lvl 8 (11,400 XP)
Str 4; Int 2; Wis 1; Dex 12; Con 5; Cha 5
HP 50; DC 14; SPD 2Powers: P – Super Dexterity (+6) (3,600 XP)
Gear: Sword

NIDA, Daughter of the Caliph
Adventurer Lvl 10 (15,000 XP)
Str 4; Int 3; Wis 2; Dex 4; Con 2; Cha 3
HP 45; DC 11; SPD 2
Powers: None
Gear: Sword

Adventurer Lvl 4 (3,900 XP)
Str 6; Int 2; Wis 2; Dex 5; Con 6; Cha 2
HP 35; DC 11; SPD 2
Powers: P – Super Strength (+6) (3,600 XP)
Sidekick: Zazuum, donkey with the Whirlwind (Single-Use; 7,500 XP) power

Sorcerer Lvl 5 (5,000 XP)
Str 2; Int 6; Wis 4; Dex 2; Con 6; Cha 4
HP 25; DC 10; SPD 2
Powers: Sorcery (10,000 XP)

Adventurer Lvl 5 (5,000 XP)
Str 4; Int 2; Wis 5; Dex 5; Con 4; Cha 5
HP 35; DC 11; SPD 2
Powers: P – Polymorph (10,000 XP)

Thinking about some Mystery Men! Changes …

I’m still playing with some of the details of Mystery Men!

– I’m thinking of having all ability scores rolled with 1d6 and then boosted purely by buying powers. This is based on a suggestion I got early on, and I think it makes sense to use the spending of XP to make super heroes as opposed to spending both dice and XP. Besides, some heroes have several (or all) heavily boosted ability scores (I’m looking at the big blue boyscout here), which is tougher to duplicate using the current system.

– I think I’m going to divide ability scores and levels into five bands: Normal (1-6), Heroic (7-12), Superhuman (13-18), Epic (19-24) and Cosmic (25-30). Ability bonuses will be +1 per three points of ability (i.e. +0 for a score of 1 or 2, +1 for a score of 3 to 5 etc to +10 at 30) and will only be used for attack and damage bonuses.

– Feats will require you to roll 1d20 and meet or beat a score of 10. You modify this roll by the difference between your ability score or level (depending on what you’re doing) and your opponent’s. Using this scheme you’ll always fail on a natural “1” and always succeed on a natural “20”. I think I was worried too much about normal humans getting away with facing down Galactus when nobody is going to play a normal human – oh, maybe a non-powered hero, but still a hero capable of amazing things. For feats that aren’t against an opponent, you compare your ability/level against the following scores based on the five bands: Normal 3, Heroic 9, Superhuman 15, Epic 21 and Cosmic 27. I think this might be simpler than the current scheme, although they aren’t terribly different from one another.

– For monsters, I think I’m going to refer to Hit Dice as Level for monsters and characters – keeps me from having to explain that they’re essentially the same thing. I’m going to include a Physique and Mentality score for them as well for use in feats. The monster stats should thus be: Level, Physique, Mentality, Defense Class, Speed, XP Value and Attacks and Powers.

I think that’s it for now. Still trying to find time to play the game with some friends – when I do I’ll have some play reports. In the meantime I’m working away at NOD 7 and my Frog God projects. Posts might be a bit more sporadic in February, since most of what I’m writing isn’t stuff I can preview on the blog. This week I’m going to try to write up some demon lords – something I want to make a regular feature in NOD, stat out some Hanna Barbera heroes and who knows what else. In the meantime, have fun out there!