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BAFF! Basic Action Final Fantasy

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Those who follow my blog know that I love crossovers and conversions- and have in fact already converted concepts such as Pokemon and the Steven Universe characters to the BASH (Basic Action Super Heroes) role-playing system. And given that Final Fantasy is one of the greatest science fantasy franchises ever -which incidentally is currently celebrating its 30th anniversary- the time seems right to try a BASH conversion of it as well.

Of course, given that nearly every FF game, series or movie takes place on a different world, it is impossible to describe all of them here. But we can discuss the themes that keep recurring; you can go from there. You’ll of course need a copy of BASH Ultimate Edition as well.

The Elements

These are forces or substances that provide powers to certain monsters, characters or items. There’s always at least four- Earth, Wind, Water and Fire– and often Ice, Lightning, Holy and Dark. Sometimes Poison is considered an Element as well. In BASH terms these are considered damage types. Powers or attacks that do not use any of these are referred as Non-Elemental.

Affinities

Creatures and objects often have Elemental Affinities, so that they take less (or more) damage from certain Elements. This is usually based on which elements are “opposed” in the setting. See a typical list of opposites below:

Earth vs Wind

Water vs Lightning

Fire vs Ice

Holy vs Dark

Poison has no opposed element, but its damage may still be resisted or increased by certain abilities.

The affinities, and their corresponding BASH traits, are:

Absorb – Absorption Power

Immunity – Immunity Power

Resistance – Resistance Power

Vulnerable – Damaging Weakness* (double damage)

Weakness – Devastating Weakness (triple damage)

* = not the BASH Vulnerability Weakness

The Summons

Known by many different names -Espers, Eidolons etc.- most Final Fantasies include these- creatures of enormous power from a far realm that can be summoned for help in combat. In some versions, they just appear, deliver a magical effect, and vanish- making them no more than a vision that takes place during an otherwise-normal spell. But in some settings, they actually materialize and take part in the battle. To simulate this, use the Summoning Power with the Limitation: Summons Only. All Summons are creatures with 60 Hits and at least one Power that fits their “theme”. For example, Shiva The Ice Goddess always has Diamond Dust, a Special Attack that does ice-based damage. The basic form of this Power gets you a specific Summon; for 1 extra character point you can call three of them, and for 2 extra points you can summon any of them. Note that Summoning often requires Magic Points to use (that is, it has the Energy Cost Limitation.)

Limit Breaks

Most main FF characters can use these: abilities that can exceed their personal limits, usually in dire circumstances. Typically they are attacks, but they can be any Power, even Healing. A Limit Break must be high in Level -at least 4 or higher- and always has the <Situational> Limitation (Usually, Only when Hits are below 25% maximum).

Spells: As in most classic Fantasy, FF spells always have the Limitations <Casting> and <Energy Cost>.

Spell names: traditionally, level 2 spells have the suffix “a”; 3-level spells have the suffix “ga” and 4th level spells have the suffix “ra”. Example: Fire, Fira, Firaga, Firara. 5th Levels spells have unique names.

Status Effects: These effects are caused by certain abilities, spells and items. There are two types: “negative” statuses that hinder the target, and “positive” status that are beneficial. These are some of the most common:

Negative Statuses

Status – BASH equivalent

Berserk – Boost (Brawn, only while berserk) [Usable on Others] Linked to Mind Control <Only to cause the target to attack using only physical attacks>

Blind– Confusion

Charm– Mind Control

Confuse- Confusion [Friend from Foe]

Fear– Daze [repels enemies]

Transform- Shape Shifting [Usable on Others] <Only into a harmless animal such as a frog>

Petrify- Immobilization [Target Only] Linked to Increased Density 1 [Usable on Others]

Poison– Continual Damage (Poison)

Seal– Nullify

Sleep– Daze

Slow– Slow [Lethargic]

Stop– Immobilization [Target Only]

Stun– Daze <one Page only>

Zombie– Shape Shifting [Usable on Others] <Only into a zombie>

Positive Statuses

Status – BASH equivalent

Auto‐Life– Healing [Usable on Others] <Delay (only when target reaches 0 Hits)>

Flight– Flight [Usable on Others]

Haste– Super Speed [Usable on Others]

Invisible– Invisibility [Usable on Others]

Protect– Armor [Usable on Others] <Physical Attacks Only>

Reflect– Deflect [Double-Maker] <Spells only>

Regen– Healing [Usable on Others, Regenerative]

Shell– Resistance (Spells) [Usable on Others]

EquipmentWeapons, Armor, Shields, Accessories and other Items are considered Standard Equipment unless they have magical or technological properties- in that case they are Special Equipment, possibly boosted with Equipment Enhancements (see Awesome Powers #6.) Particularly powerful items might be Powers with the Gadget Limitation.

Leveling Up– If you are planning on running a FF campaign rather than just a few sessions, you should use the Optional Experience Points rules (UE, page 130) to allow the PCs to level up. Preferably, use Method 2 to simulate the games more closely.

Credits: My thanks to the Final Fantasy Wiki and the fan-made Final Fantasy D6 role-playing game for providing inspiration and ideas for this article!

Art by david-adhinarya-lojaya-combs.


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Comic Books in the Internet Era

superhero-internetIt’s my blog’s 2nd anniversary, and appropriately enough, my topic today is Comic Books, which used to be my favorite. For most of my life, I was a comic book collector- until I quit a few years ago, driven out by the cynicism I felt was included in most modern superhero stories. What happened?

That is something I have long pondered- especially when, in other media, more positive takes are still thriving: movies, TV Shows, cartoons, toys- with some exceptions, most seem to recall that superheroes are meant to entertain and inspire. Not be “realistic”.

But today I came to a realization. What had changed in our society that could have such influence?

And then it came to me:

The Internet.

It used to be that creating comics was an insular process, done by an editors and his staff. The only feedback they got was from letters fans wrote. And those were usually written by those who really cared about the comics.

But in the Information Age, anyone can leave a spur-of-the-moment, often meaningless reaction- yet the companies, bombarded by such messages, tend to be eager to respond to them, on the mistaken belief that they represent their true audience. This may be the reason why in recent years, Marvel has replaced nearly every major hero with a substitute of a different color or gender, completely missing the point- that’s not diversity, that’s tokenism, as I discussed in another article.

It’s a little known fact for example, that back in the early 2000’s Warner Brothers pretty much rearranged DC’s editors in order to have them “update” their heroes for the times. This is why for example, Superman no longer wears red shorts. Like the rest of his suit isn’t silly.

At least, some of the success of the non-comics material seems to be filtering back. DC is currently in the middle of bringing back a more “traditional” approach to their comics (supposedly) with their Rebirth event. Similarly there are rumors Marvel will be restoring their original characters sometime this summer.

I sure hope so.


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The Best of 2016

rs_600x600-161202140354-600-best-of-2016-mhTo many people -including myself- 2016 was a bad year. But nothing is absolute; there were good things as well. And since this is a science fiction/fantasy blog (and I don’t care to remember the bad things) I present you now my favorite series of 2016:

This was a surprisingly good year in animation. In addition to expected hits like Zootopia and Moana, we had films like Kubo and the Two Strings (stop-motion, but it counts) and even Storks and Sing were much better than I expected! On television, Steven Universe continues to reign with shocking revelations both personal and cosmic; and the return of DC’s heroes in Justice League Action was long awaited. And as a Latino, I appreciated Disney finally giving us our own Princess with Elena of Avalor.

As for Japanese animation, my favorite of the year was My Hero Academia– best American-style superhero show ever done in Japan ever (I also liked One Punch Man, which was also about superheroes, but was more of a deconstruction.) Funniest Anime of the year goes to Konosuba (God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World) which deconstructed fantasy role-playing games. On the other hand, I had a love/hate relationship with Re:Zero. For one thing, it was a show for sadists, as the main characters were killed or made to suffer over and over again- but at the same time, it had an intriguing premise that begged you to keep watching to see if the heroes would ever win. (I guess I understand why people watch The Walking Dead now.) Funny how deconstruction seems to be a theme these days eh?

In live action, I didn’t see that many movies. Deadpool was another surprise in that I hate the character but I enjoyed most the film well enough. Captain America: Civil War was thankfully excellent despite being based on a terribly comics storyline. Doctor Strange was OK but I wasn’t too happy with the changes they made (I  refer more to the SFX than the ethnicity of some characters). Arrival was probably the smartest film of the year (probably too smart for its own good.) Before you ask, no I didn’t see Rogue One yet (I’m not that big of a Star Wars fan, especially when I knew the ending ahead.) I’ll catch it in DVD and tell you my opinion then.

I don’t watch much television these days -most comedies and dramas don’t do much for me- but I was hooked by two in particular: The Good Place and Designated Survivor. Both have surprisingly clever writing. And I’m quite amazed in how Good Place is effectively mocking the conventions of religion yet hasn’t gotten called in for it. As for survivor, you might wonder why its listed here. Well, since it obviously takes place in a different version of the present, I count it as Science Fiction. In any case, its a clever use of the designated survivor protocol as well as a great drama with lots of intrigue. And do I really need to say that Stranger Things is also on my list?

Finally, we had some great video games as well. Pokemon celebrated its 20th anniversary successfully with Pokemon Sun and Moon, which not only had a neat Polynesian setting (which in turn had great synergy with Moana’s) but also modernized the franchise in many ways. Final Fantasy also had a great year with both the fun World of Final Fantasy and the more traditional Final Fantasy XV. Note I don’t play shooters, so I can’t talk about Overwatch.

That’s all I can think of now, but there were plenty of other things both I (and I’m sure, you) enjoyed as well last year.


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Why Superheroes and pessimism don’t mix

Wow, I haven’t posted here since July? superman_vs-_the_elite_2012My apologies, I was really really busy both with other projects and personal matters. I hope to do so more often from now on.

Anyway: today’s subject is one that has bothered me since the late 80’s, when the whole “Grim and Gritty” comic book era began. But lately its become more obvious than ever, especially with the clash in styles between the Marvel and DC comics movies. So I want to give my two cents on the matter.

First, let’s define exactly what a super hero *is*.  Most people assume that any character with powers and/or a costume is a superhero. This is not correct.

Originally, a Hero was anyone who achieved feats beyond the usual. Morality was not a important factor; most of the good they did was incidental- for example they happened to slay a monster that preyed on the locals, but not necessarily because they cared about them. Hercules has had his image cleaned up in modern versions but in the original tales he wasn’t so nice, he even killed his own family during one of his berserk rages.

However it cannot be denied that has changed over the years; civilization has progressed and despite what many cynics will claim most people today respect life and other human rights, and revere those who step up to defend them. Policemen, firefighters and medics are very much real-life heroes, most of the time.

In order to be a super hero, then, the character must be capable of feats beyond even those of modern human heroes. That’s where superpowers, of any kind, come in. And yes I’m aware that I’m implying that characters without powers, such as Batman, aren’t true super heroes. And they’re not- they are crimefighters at best. Now I’m not saying they cannot be just as noble or effective, but at the end of the day, the superhumans have the advantage. Sure, Batman might be able to beat most foes, but he’s also very smart and resourceful, something that doesn’t apply to every hero (even those with powers.)

Note that having a costume or a code name, while they are traditional tropes, are not strictly necessary. Most characters in the TV show Heroes did not wear anything unusual, for example (ironically, despite the title most characters there weren’t sufficiently heroic to count either.)

So we can conclude that a superhero must both be *truly* heroic AND have superpowers. This leaves out characters like The Punisher or Deadpool. Not that they call themselves heroes, but their fans do (and the companies behind them market them as such.)

Now I’m not saying this type of characters cannot have their fans. They exist to fulfill certain type of audience’s fantasies, and that is OK. Unfortunately their popularity has stained the public image of heroes, at least in the mind of some writers (who feel that superheroes MUST be deconstructed, as if everyone had a skeleton in their closet that has to be brought out) and even worse, on those of company executives who think “grim” is the “in” thing now so the characters much change to fit.

This is where I take umbrage; you can have your “dark” heroes if you want, but don’t mess with mine. I don’t care to see Superman, for example, who is supposed to be the greatest of heroes, reduced to a mopey bully because its more “realistic.” Sadly, the only way we can protest is by announcing our opposition (like I do here in my blog) and with our wallets (don’t spend money on their comics, movies or merchandise.) Now I know these things are cyclical and will someday change again; I hope its sooner rather than later.


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Iron Man: Rise of Technovore

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A few years ago, Marvel produced several Anime-style movies probably in hopes of helping sell their characters in Japan. Iron Man: Rise of Technovore was done in 2013 by Sony’s Madhouse studio, and could be described as “Iron Man vs Akira” -the latter being a reference to the movie that helped introduce Anime to the Western world. (Note: I saw the film in Japanese with subtitles, I don’t know if other versions are available.)

In IM:RoT, a new character named Ezekiel, who can manipulate “technovores” -a kind of artificial microbes- attempts to hijack a satellite created by Tony Stark for anti-terrorist purposes, and use it for his own, mysterious agenda.

I found several parallels to Akira (though that might just be me, or coincidences). Akira is about some teenagers from a dystopic future who are experimented on by the military and turned into monsters with great powers who then tear the city apart. Ezekiel is also (apparently) the result of experiments who gained powers and had an apocalyptic agenda. Unlike Akira though, he’s not motivated by anger but by cold, detached logic. In fact it’s Iron Man who has the Akira role as he seeks revenge for the apparent death of a friend. Ironically Stark calls Ezekiel “a brat” but Pepper Potts points out to Tony he has been acting like a child himself.

Another Akira parallel is that, while set in the present, it had some dark moments. Ezekiel’s first attack killed 300 people; War Machine (apparently) dies; SHIELD spends most of the movie trying to arrest Iron Man (admittedly he went off to deal with the problem on his own); we see terrorist activity involving The Punisher; Ezekiel compares the human race to ants; Ezekiel monsters out; and the world almost ends. There are also moments of curious contrast to those, like Ezekiel’s all-white sanctuary and Pepper resting in Tony’s Mansion.

Overall, I find the movie very uneven. Many characters are just “off” especially Tony who goes as far as working with The Punisher -a known killer- to reach his goals, or Nick Fury who should have known better than to send his agents after Iron Man; there are several plot holes, like the fact that Tony *just happens to have* what is needed to defeat the Technovores without even knowing it; and questions are left unanswered (like, who or what was Sasha?)

On the positive side, the movie looks good; there’s a great attention to detail, especially in the scenes involving Ezekiel. And the action scenes, all of them, do not disappoint.

If you are a fan of Iron Man (and Anime) you will probably enjoy this movie. Just don’t expect it to make much sense.


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Re: Zero- Deconstructing Rpgs. HARD.

re zeroDeconstructing role-playing game cliches seems to be in fashion on Japan. For example there was the recent Konosuba Anime series that I reviewed earlier in my blog. But Re: Zero adds a twist to the idea that is both intriguing- and terrifying.

Basically, the series takes the concept of “save-scumming” -the practice of starting over a video game from a progress saving point until you win- and shows us what it would be like if something like that happened in real life. The results range from humorous- to gruesome.

Subaru is your typical Japanese teenager who finds himself mysteriously transported to a magical medieval world. He assumes things would be just like in a game: that he would have great powers and a destiny to fulfill. Nope. But at least he does meet Emilia, a beautiful half-elf girl he falls for. While trying to help her recover a stolen item, both of them get killed!

And then he finds himself right back at the beginning, just as he if had “started the game over”. He does remember everything -including his dying agony- but no one else does.

There is no explanation -at least, not in the early episodes- for why this happens. And Subaru dies A LOT. In ways varying from peacefully in his bed to TORN TO BLOODY PIECES. Honestly, if the rest of the stuff in the series weren’t so good, I would have given up on it by now.

But it is good. The characters are interesting, if quirky -even the sadistic assassin introduced early on-; some are annoying yet have their tender sides. And the animation is top-notch. But above all, the thrill of “HOW is Subaru going to avoid dying again the next time?” just keeps pulling you in.

I’m convinced this show was at least partially written for sadists (and/or masochists who fantasize being in such plights) not just because of the carnage but also the emotional suffering of the characters. I suspect many fans must scream NOOO NOT HIM/HER!! while watching this show.

I’ve decided to continue watching the series, for now anyway. But I’m on the fence; it it never rises above being a “death-of-the-week” gimmick, I may quit before its run ends. And even if I watch it to the end, I’ll definitely evaluate if it was worth the stress.

I leave it to you to decide for yourself if you want to give it a chance.


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Men & Monsters of the Aegean: my review

 

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As the title indicates, Men & Monsters of the Aegean is a bestiary for the Sword of Kos setting in the BASH Fantasy game (a spin-off of Basic Action Super Heroes) . The fact that it describes creatures from Greek mythology makes it a great reference source for other games or even when writing fiction as well.

The book is divided in sections: it begins by describing those semi-human races that could be played as characters, then it handles the rest. In most cases, it does not reprint creatures already featured in the main books unless they are variants.

My favorite feature is the fact that the book makes it clear that most of these creatures are not necessarily malicious or unintelligent, and that violence is not the only answer when dealing with them. In fact every “monster” comes with an ‘Adventure Hook’ that shows how it can be used. Some of the hooks can be even be tied together for a longer adventure.

If I had a nit to pick, it would have to be the art. It ranges from crude drawings to full paintings. While I feel this is hardly important, some people might wonder at the inconsistency.

The final section of the book is a summary of all the new stuff (weapons, powers etc.) introduced, plus tables for random encounters.

Overall, I find M&MOTA to be a very well put-together sourcebook, much more than just a simple bestiary. Recommended for fans of Mythology and Fantasy.