Escaping reality

Post-apocalyptic Lego at BrickFair 2011

Although I’ve had difficulty posting to this blog regularly lately, being busy with work and travel is nothing in comparison with what some friends have been dealing with lately: David I.S. getting mugged in Rochester, N.Y.; Corbin A.Y. and Ron J.K.‘s ailing family members; and riots in the Middle East and London, as well as economic and political struggles worldwide.

On a lighter note, after considering controversies, cartoons, and live-action promotions around this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, it’s time to look at toys and games. I’m typically more interested in role-playing games (RPGs) and action figures than in video games. Fortunately, there was something for everyone, with some Web sites providing galleries to rival the numerous ones for costumed fans.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that toys based on the animated Justice League Unlimited continue to be made, even if they’re hard to come by. We’ll see how the latest costume variations from DC Comics’ September renumbering look in plastic, but I suspect that the classic superheroes will remain popular.

I was also pleased to learn that Lego has won the rights to characters from both the Marvel and DC universes (it previously sold only Batman sets). As a longtime collector of minifigures and comic books, I think this is a match made in heaven!

On a related note, while visiting my family in Virginia this past weekend, Janice and I went with my brother Peter and our nieces to the fan-run Lego BrickFair in Chantilly, Virginia. We saw many impressive models and dioramas created by fans of the Danish building blocks, including train sets, replicas of world landmarks, towering cranes, and multimedia tie-ins.

Unfortunately, the festival was crowded, so I didn’t get to see college chum Ben P.S. and his son Finley, who were among the exhibitors. I haven’t had time to check out the Lego Universe massively multiplayer online game (MMO), and it would be cool if Lego came out with a Justice League vs. Avengers game!

I’m still digesting the news from Gen Con, but I plan to blog soon about various RPGs, my travels, and food and drink!

28 August 2009: Game updates

Fantasy RPG wallpaper

On Sunday, 23 August 2009, the “Holy Steel” teleconferencing team resumed, now using the Pathfinder core book, which revises the Dungeons & Dragons Edition 3.5/D20 System Reference Document. So far, despite this rule set’s complexity and the tome’s heft, I like Paizo’s iteration of the world’s most popular fantasy role-playing game more than Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition (D&D4e)/Game System License.

Although Dexter V.H. has been too busy with family commitments to rejoin our virtual sessions as Drow Ranger “Faelonia,” Byron V.O., Beruk A., and Paul J. have
continued their exploration of the
pyramid of Unas as Paladin “Ibrahim,” Rogue “Milos,” and Wizard “Derek,” respectively. Their adventuring party has fought monsters and is searching for the Book of Thoth, which it believes cultists of Set are also after.

I’ve had to cancel two weeks’ worth of D&D4e “Vanished Lands: the Faith-Based Initiative” face-to-face (F2F) games because of work. We’ll probably meet again around Labor Day. After about 50 consecutive sessions, I don’t think missing a few Monday nights will hurt the momentum of that party, which is investigating smugglers in the
Hifalendorin human capital of Hesolin. Overall, “Holy Steel” has had more interesting investigations by Player Characters (P.C.s), and the “F.B.I.” has had more action scenes. A good group has a balance of the two.

I’m still looking forward to taking a break after the “F.B.I.” winds down, although that has taken longer than I expected. On the one hand, several people prefer Pathfinder or other systems to D&D4e, and the Player Characters (P.C.s) are approaching Tenth Level, which used to be “name level” — the midrange in power that usually marks the end of my campaigns.

On the other hand, the current Boston-area P.C.s have been gaining in experience and knowledge, and some gamers are understandably interested in maximizing their abilities. I still hope to give other Game Masters a shot and to run shorter-term steampunk, superhero, and/or space opera scenarios, most likely using a D20 variant, although I’ve seen mostly favorable reviews for the rules-light and pulp-flavored Savage Worlds.

I don’t expect my F2F game to return to the “Vanished Lands” setting, probably using Pathfinder, until spring of 2010. Since I’ve been building that fictional world since 1982, I’d like to take some time to tweak it to properly challenge and entertain
another party, which won’t be easy because most of the current group is now
familiar with it.

I ended my subscription for Lord of the Rings Online because college chums David I.S. and Dexter haven’t had the time to play regularly. The “Dimensional Corps Online” supergroup for the City of Heroes multiplayer online game is still going strong, and Dex invited me to try Champions Online (now separated from the Hero System 6th Ed. license). I have, however, enjoyed Wii Sports Resort. Batman: Arkham Asylum also looks cool, but it isn’t available for the Wii.

Coming soon: Superheroes and work!