Monday, August 23, 2010

Yes, Still

Still suffering a slowdown in posts. Blame it on a slow job market. I show up at the labor hall at 5 in the morning, waiting for work, and so far, have gotten nothing. On the other hand, the slight break in the heat has allowed me to sleep once more, so there is that.

Sporadic posts will continue here until full access is restored, but rest assured, regular updates on Hero Go Home will continue as scheduled.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Sorry for the lack of posts. My home internet access is suffering an interruption. Rest assured that updates on Hero Go Home will continue as scheduled, though, for the foreseeable future. I'll be back on a regular schedule as soon as I can.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Big Game Wednesday - Unluck and Luck

Last week concluded with Digger going on his first adventure. That was a fun campaign, though it was hampered by the fact that Gary had us start out with such small power levels. The rules recommended a basic starting point level of 100 + 150 (100 starting points plus 150 pts. in disadvantages). But Gary limited us to 100 + 100. Even after the 15 pts experience I got from the Matrix event, Digger was still very limited.

Still, we had some fun adventures. We had formed a group called the Champions (whether that's appropriate or unimaginative, I can no longer judge) based out of San Francisco. A couple of guys played some recurring NPC's during the first few adventures, sort of test-driving to see if they liked the game enough to go through chargen and play for real. So for instance, Chuck played Wasp (not Janet Van Dyne--she was basically Shrinker from the basic rules, although she was pretty much a power-clone of the Marvel Comics Wasp, so deja vu all over again) a few times, though by the time we answered a distress call from a beautiful princess/sorceress asking us to come to the Savage Lands, he had made his own character named Crystar and Wasp faded out of our group.

The Savage Lands thing was fun. There was an evil sorcerer in a tower who was oppressing the people. We basically had to do a Super Seven Samurai-type deal, where we led an army of natives to battle the evil sorcerer's army using some mass combat rules Gary had kludged up. That was when I realized the utility of area-effect attacks. Crystar had several in his repertoire and owned that battlefield, while Digger was just plunking one enemy at a time here and there.

But after we defeated his army, we had to face the sorcerer in his tower, where Digger emerged as the hero of the day. We were well on the way to a TPK (although not really, since Champions combat is rarely actually lethal), with only Digger left standing. So Digger ran away, just tunnelled straight down about three floors. Then he used his Clinging to run back up the outside wall to the sorcerer's lair at the top of the tower and hit him by surprise. After a few rounds of these types of hit-and-run tactics, the bad guy went down and the day was saved.

For some reason, Digger decided to keep the wizard's spellbook with the vague idea that he might save up some experience to maybe try to develop magical powers or something, though he never really got around to it.

But on their return to San Francisco, some bad things started happening, including the return of Wasp as a vengeful villain, intent on taking revenge on Digger for spurning her love (which was news to him). Other things happened as well, targeted specifically on Digger, until it became apparent something was going on.

For a while, I had thought it was just Gary getting creative with my Unluck disadvantage. Unluck in Champions was basically a roll you would make at the GM's discretion if things seemed to be going your way. A bad result on the roll would result in a bad turn of events (which got worse the worse you rolled). I figured Gary was just using the Unluck disad as an excuse to pile extra complications on my character.

But instead, I eventually learned that Digger was in fact cursed by a demon inhabiting the wizard's spellbook. It was weeks, months, before this came out, but finally I had to bite the bullet and destroy the thing, at which point the curse was lifted and Gary gave me a cool opportunity: I could use XP to buy up to three dice of Luck and/or buy off my Unluck.

And yes, this meant that for a while I had both Unluck and Luck simultaneously. If things were going well, I rolled to make them worse, and if things were going disastrously, I could roll for a lucky break. And yes, I did actually end up making both kinds of rolls in a single combat encounter, a dust-up with Foxbat being the one I remember specifically.

As players, we really enjoyed the campaign. Gary did a bunch of things right. He had a good variety of adventures, where one week we would stop a bank robbery, the next week we would fight international nuclear terrorists, and then battle sorcerous monsters the week after that. And he would have character subplots revolving around Hunteds and things that played out over several weeks. We never got bored with that campaign.

By the time the end of the school year rolled around, Gary decided to have a big season-finale adventure, involving us in a race against time to stop a bad guy from detonating a nuke in San Francisco.

A race that we lost. Oops.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New on Examiner--Road to Bali

New on, I review "Road to Bali," a 1952 comedy from Bing Crosby and Bob Hope with up-to-the-minute political commentary.

And don't miss the new Extra up on

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Out of the Vault - Threat

Yes, it's back!

In the 1980's, at the same time that Watchmen and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns were redefining mainstream comics, there was also an explosion in black-and-white comics put out by smaller independent publishers. These comics ranged from the mainstream-parody Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to rank imitations like Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters to serious (though experimental) titles like Maus and A Life Force, as well as a ton of non-superhero action titles like The Realm and Trollords and Eagle.

And in 1986, Fantagraphics Books published a 10 issue miniseries titled Threat. It was an anthology series, and you can tell by the title that it was meant to be full of the edgy edginess of which Fantagraphics believed itself to be the leading edge. The four titles running concurrently in each issue (and alternating covers) were:

"Enigma," about a cute little cartoon assassin who roams the wastelands like Lil' Mad Max, killing muties with a big wrench. Was it edgy? Let's see. Hip ironic detachment? Check. Graphic violence rendered in a humorous, funny-animal style? Check. Trendy, new-wave graphics in the logo? Oh yeah, check.

"Zone," a drama about a mysterious creature roaming the polluted wastes of New Jersey. Was it edgy? Let's see. An aspiring writer and a goth-punk art school girl who always dresses in black as main characters? Check. Clunky environmentalist message in the main storyline alternating with abstract tone-poem interludes? Check. Trendy, new-wave graphics in the logo? Oh yeah, check.

"Bob Mercenary," a futuristic comedy-action story about a mercenary named Bob (that's him on the front cover of issue 1 above). Was it edgy? Let's see. Stylized, cartoony hero juxtaposed in a more realistic world? Check. Trendy, new-wave graphics in the logo? Oh yeah, check.

"The Holo Bros," a science-fiction comedy about a group of spacefaring thieves who get caught up in royal intrigue. Was it edgy? Let's see. Funny animal aliens who just happen to look sort of like the Three Stooges engaging in lethal violence? Check. Trendy, new-wave graphics in the logo? Oh yeah, check.

Which is not to say that Threat was bad, only that in execution, it was never as good or as cool as it obviously thought it was. Jim Rohn, writer/artist of "The Holo Bros," went to draw Battle to the Death for Imperial Comics. And Jay Geldhof, artist on "Bob Mercenary," went to acclaim as the inker for the Pander Brothers on Matt Wagner's first big story arc on the Grendel series.

But looking at it from almost 25 years on, it's obviously a product of its times and not a second more, cemented in the graphic trends of the early-to-mid-80's. Every issue had a special piece of artwork on the inside front cover, accompanying the Table of Contents, and just about every one looks like this one--attractive, but dated.

The Wave, It Is New!

The thing about the edge, you see, is that it's really thin, and though it may be sharp, it doesn't stay sharp for long. By the time Threat reached its last issue (number 10), it's edge had grown extremely dull.

Friday, August 06, 2010

This Takes Me Back

There was an article on Yahoo's front page today about the best fried chicken in America, and one of the places they mention is a place in Chicago called Crisp that serves Korean-style fried chicken. Which of course immediately set my mind to Pelicana Chicken (warning-the site is not only in Korean, but there's a commercial in the lower-right corner that you can't turn off!!!--bad form).

I've mentioned Pelicana before. It's a Korean fried chicken chain whose specialty was crispy chicken with a spicy-sweet garlic sauce that I just loved. The closest thing I've had to it in the U.S. is General Tso's (they may in fact be the same basic recipe, but it's hard to remember the exact flavor of the chicken I had in Korea 13 years ago beyond OMG!). Not that it was perfect. In fact, half the time, the chicken was likely to be overcooked and a little dry inside, and the sauce was insanely sticky. But I loved the taste of the sauce so much that when I could afford it, Pelicana was a wonderful treat.

The big problem with Pelicana was that it was a twenty-minute walk from our post to the nearest location. So I didn't have it often. But one day as I was driving past a Pelicana on some exercise or other, I noticed that there was a little descriptive phrase on the sign that said (Romanizing here because I'm too lazy to learn how to type it up in Hangul) yangnyeom tongdalk. So it occurred to me that maybe Pelicana's recipe wasn't in fact unique, and that maybe this was a more commonly available dish.

(quick aside--in Wikipedia's listing, they give the spelling as tongdak without the 'l,' because it is mostly silent, but the funny thing to me is, though both romanizations feature the word "tongdak," the Hangul says yangnyeom chikin).

There was a little place in the ville near the post where some folks often went to nosh after a long evening of drinking. One afternoon as I was walking past, I noticed that they had yangnyeom tongdalk listed on the window. So I went in and ordered it.

Here's the thing about Koreans: they know that most Americans have very little knowledge of or appreciation for their culture, and they know that Americans have very narrow palates. When an American comes into a Korean place, they're either going to order (depending on the restaurant) ramyun (ramen), bulgogi (grilled beef), or mandu (potsticker dumplings).

Want to freak out a Korean whose only experience with Americans is serving mandu to drunk G.I.'s every night? Order something Americans don't normally order, like dolsot bibimbab (mixed rice, vegetables and egg served in a sizzling-hot stone bowl) or tteok manduguk (soup made with mandu dumplings and rice cakes--my KATUSA roommate was quite amused when I told him one of my favorite Korean dishes was tteok manduguk--I don't know if he was surprised I knew the name, or if he just thought I was weird for liking it).

Or in my case, yangnyeom tongdalk.

The lady in the shop went to work making the dish, repeating the name over and over to herself, as if she couldn't really believe it. I don't know if she was amazed an American was ordering it, or annoyed at the amount of extra work I was creating for her, because she had plenty of mandu already made and ready to serve--was I sure I didn't want some nice mandu, because it was right there!--and this stuff she was having to make from scratch.

It wasn't quite the same as Pelicana, but it was pretty good. But given the reaction from the lady, I never went back.

God, now I'm dying for some good Korean food, and I can't afford it.

Chapter 2 Is Live

Chapter 2 of Hero Go Home is live at

(ETA: Link was broken, sorry. It's fixed now).

Thursday, August 05, 2010

New on Examiner--My Man Godfrey

Got tired of reviewing bad classic films, so decided to feature one of my favorite screwball comedies from the 30's, My Man Godfrey.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Big Game Wednesday - Digging Deep

When we left off, Gary had proposed killing off Matrix and letting me use her experience points to build a new character. So now I had to come up with a new concept.

I had been getting back into Spider-Man at this time and found the idea of his core suite of powers--agility, speed, clinging--very appealing. But I didn't want to make a straight Spider-Man clone, and I wanted a bit more offensive punch. And for some reason, my mind kept coming around to an obscure DC hero named the Human Bomb. He was an old Quality hero who had been ported over to DC and appeared in a Justice League crossover in the 70's. His hands had been coated in some sort of liquid explosive formula, so he would punch stuff and it would blow up.

Well, the liquid explosive thing was pretty silly, but just the visual image of a punch resulting in an explosion sounded really cool, and it was easy to model in Champions (Energy Blast, 0 Range). So, why would things blow up when he punched them? I got the idea of some kind of device attached to his hand that would release a blast of explosive force. But why would anyone ever have something like that?

I don't know if I got the inspiration from seeing Tunneling on the list of powers or not, but the idea of railroads using dynamite to "dig" through mountains came to mind. And as I toyed with the idea of my Spider-Bomb character a bit more, I tossed in pieces of Wonder Woman (using his incredible reflexes and the metallic blasters on his arms to deflect bullets) and Karnak from the Inhumans (sensing the weaknesses in a structure, an ability he would use infrequently to demolish buildings in one blow).

I named the character Digger and rounded him out with a few skills and some weaknesses based on his origin story, the standard stuff about being an innocent dude who learned too much and was used as the subject of horrible experiments by an evil corporation. That's his original costume on the left there, as part of a team concept I was playing with for a potential comic book (note on the picture--that's Matrix floating above Digger's head, and there on the left is a preview of a mysterious character soon to appear in Hero Go Home ). One thing I did to save points was to buy his blasters as a Focus.

Focus is a Champions term for a power that derives from a device, like Green Lantern's Power Ring. Now, the key element for determining whether you could get points for a Focus was whether the character could lose the item, and therefore lose the powers temporarily. If they could not (such as Thor's hammer, which always returned to his hand and was too heavy for anyone else to wield, with one exception which I don't even want to think about right now), then the item was a Special Effect and not a Focus.

Digger's blasters were permanently attached to his arms, which would normally eliminate them from consideration as a Focus. But I needed the points, so I came up with the idea that the blasters contained a special type of battery that would recharge from the electricity produced by Digger's nervous system. These batteries would need to be removable for frequent maintenance--cleaning the contacts and such. So Gary let me buy them as an Inaccessible Focus, removable after I'd been knocked out for a round or so. Oh hell, was that a bad idea.

All in all, though, with Digger, I had finally gotten the hang of building characters for Champions (and yes, I guess it does say something for the complexity of a system that takes you three tries to come up with a decent character build). He was not a haphazard collection of powers tied into a blank slate of a character (like Blaze) nor was he a blatant rip-off of a particular character or a particular comics publisher's universe (like Matrix). He was a character with strengths, weaknesses and a unique history who made use of the flexibility inherent in the Champions system.

So the next week, when the heroes returned from the mission which had resulted in Matrix's heroic sacrifice, they found a new hero waiting at their headquarters, drinking a beer and wishing to apply for membership. And he immediately proved his worth when Eurostar took over a nuclear missile base and set up hordes of agents to guard it from attack. Digger simply tunneled the team under the base and bypassed the agents, taking the heroes directly to their big fight with Eurostar. The day was saved, and a new hero was born.

Next Week: Luck and Unluck

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

New on Examiner--One-Eyed Jacks

New review up on Marlon Brando starring in a Western directed by... Marlon Brando. What could go wrong? Click here to find out.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Barney Miller - Leaky Roof

I remember liking Barney Miller as a series, although it took me a while to really appreciate the show. However, unlike other favorite series from which I remember several classic scenes and storylines, the only bit of Barney Miller that has stuck with me over the years was this.


Any Google Analytics gurus out there? I need to know why I'm not registering all my hits. I have some hits being regiestered. I know (because of outgoing links from here) that I got at least two hits on Hero Go Home yesterday. But Google Analytics lists zero. Should I just ditch GA and go with Statcounter? It doesn't give me as many ways to drill down the data, but it gives me real time reports (GA won't let you see same-day data) and I'm pretty sure it would list things that GA apparently doesn't.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

It's Alive!