Sunday, August 30, 2015

So, I watched this Korean pirate movie last night...

...and it was suprisingly very good.  Let me backtrack a bit first and mention that I generally find pirate-themed stuff to be kind of hokey or campy.  All the clothing looks like Halloween costumes.  There always has to be some guy with an eyepatch, some guy with a pegleg or hook, etcetera.  If it's done well, like in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, it's entertaining and I'm quite happy to watch.  But I generally prefer to sail clear of them.

So last light I jumped on Netflix to find something to watch.  For weeks (maybe months) now this Korean pirate movie called, um, "The Pirates" (duh) has been lurking in my suggestions and daring me to do something about it.  So I figured okay, let's just get this over with.  What's the worst that could happen?   Well, THIS is what happened: [Warning: contains cool images from random internet sites!]

And it was really good!  Take three parts classic Korean historical/war/court drama/martial arts stuff, carefully blend in one part western pirate tropes, and serve immediately.  Lots of sailing around, cannons, duels, guy with eye patch, wacky sidekicks, dude with mohawk and scar, gunpowder blowing up, romance, awesome pirate warrior princess, a missing imperial seal from Ming-dynasty China, and even a baby whale are in there.

Okay, we got our characters all rolled up!

I think if I ever run a pirate type game I'll have to sandblast the traditional campiness off the genre and do up a properly re-skinned version like this movie.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Movie: The Admiral: Roaring Currents

Okay, so I had some time to movie watch tonight and spotted this Korean film called "The Admiral: Roaring Currents".  It is based on the actual battle of Myeongnyang in 1597. 

Now, in the past I've found Korean films to be hit or miss.  Either they're kind of awful or really good.  Luckily this one turned out to be one of the really good ones.  As a historical war movie you've got tons of scenes of serious-looking dudes in cool-looking armor all over the place.

  The ships were very cool and actually looked like something you might want to fight in, as opposed to some of the silly designs you see in fantasy films.

And the battle scenes were great, particularly the desperate boarding melees.

[All images from random internet sites]

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Some thought on using Hero Lab at the table...

Okay, so last night we had another of our rare but much anticipated sessions of our buddy Steve's campaign.  As with most of our group's fantasy genre games we're using Pathfinder.  Our group generally likes and is comfortable with very crunchy systems like Pathfinder and Mutants & Masterminds.  Crunchiness means a lot of record-keeping and fact-checking when building and leveling characters and so Lone Wolf Development created Hero Lab is a great tool for PF.  For Steve's game, and mine to a lesser extent, we're almost all using Hero Lab for our characters.

Hero Lab is almost as massive and crunchy as Pathfinder.  It supports other games as well but I've only really used it for Pathfinder (and indirectly for Mutants & Masterminds).  So it is a great tool for managing the crunch overload of Pathfinder.  It can be used not only by players to build and level their characters but for GMs to make NPCs.  GMs can also load in the players' .por character files, sent via email or Dropbox, for reference and thus make notes real time during play, such as during combat.

But this is where Hero Lab fails to keep up.  During combat there are situational modifiers, spell modifiers, spells and arrows expended, hit points lost, hit points healed, etc.  Unfortunately all of that has to be laboriously entered by hand for each and every PC and NPC each round, round after round.  The program hold and tracks all of that very well but it's just too damn slow to operate.

Combat can be a wearying grind in may systems and Pathfinder is on the edge here.  You can fudge stuff and push things along to keep up a pace (like I usually do), or you can go by the book and make sure every T is crossed and every +1 accounted for.  Using Hero Lab naturally moves you in the direction of the T-crossing approach.  That's not a wrong thing, because the rules are actually written that way, but by actually slowing combat down Hero Lab becomes sort of an anti-aid.

I suppose the obvious cure is to go full 21st century and have every player equipped with a computing device connected to the GM's.  That way the data entry work is distributed  and all data shows on everyone's copy with only one person entering any one bit of data.  This character casts a buff, notes it as cast in Hero Lab, checks the boxes for all other characters affected, and clicks "send" or something about like that.  Almost everyone in our group has a device or could borrow one so that will work for us if the folks at Lone Wolf Development decide to add networking in the future.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Review: Ronden Marr Campaign Setting Player's Guide by Jesse Morgan

(Okay, so I need to start this review off with the disclosure that I was one of the people on Google+ providing feedback and suggestions to Jesse as he crafted this nice bit of work.  He kindly included me in the credits with the other helpers.  Although I got a pdf of the final product free from the author I bought a publication copy anyway to express my support for the project.)

Ronden Marr is a campaign setting for a fantasy RPG.  It is a generic setting not tied to any specific game system.  This first publication is the Player's Guide, a 77-page pdf available at  Even though it is a player's guide it provides a complete enough description of the central setting (the underground city of Ronden Marr) that a GM could base a game on it.  Additional core documents are planned, as well as adventures and some D&D 5th Edition specific rules; there is a Patreon available if you want to help the project along.

The setting is the underground city of Ronden Marr.  Originally it was a dwarf city but a devastating calamity rendered the surface of the world too hot to inhabit.  Refugees of many other races were allowed in.  As far as its current inhabitants know this overcrowded city is the only remaining inhabited place left in the world.  The city has had a bloody history since then, with uprisings, genocide, enslavements, and now a brutally enforced peace.  Below the city is The Undercavern, a deep, dark place filled with dangerous creatures but much potential.  (I think Ronden Marr can be run as-is out of the box just fine or you could plop it into an isolated corner of your existing world with some adaptation.)

The player's guide posits that the characters will either be "consultants" who serve as oath-sworn troubleshooters for the dwarf overlords or be "freelancers" who make a living doing odd jobs which often require not asking too many questions.  There are plenty of adventure hooks to keep the players busy no matter which path they take.

It's an interesting campaign world in one compact, well-written pdf.  At just $1.99 you can't go too wrong getting yourself a copy.