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Plant Control: What good is it for?

Plant Growth

OK, I admit that this is an unusual topic: the use of a specific superpower in the role-playing game Tri-Stat DX. The reason for it is that I haven’t written anything in a long while and I realized it’s because I tend to obsesses on finding something meaningful to talk about, instead of just writing what I like at the moment. Sure, the results might not always be of high quality, but as someone famous once pointed out, “the only way to improve your writing skills is to write constantly”.

With that said: this is a topic I just happened to see on a role-playing forum the other day. Tri-Stat is a free, multigenre game so of course people would discuss if it is worth using. And it’s easy to see why more than one person would be disappointed with this power: in fiction, plant-controllers usually summon plant monsters out of the ground to attack, typically with crushing tendrils. This power does not allow you to do that; it explicitly says that to emulate such attacks you must buy the Special Attack attribute instead.

So what good is TSDX Plant Control for? Let’s look at the description:

*It has no required or optional PMVs (Power Modifier Values, that is, Range, Area, Targets or Duration.) So it cannot be easily customized.

*It uses the Fast Progression Chart, starting at 10 cm. So it does have an area of effect, just one determined by level instead of being bought separately. 10 cm is like, a potted plant, though. Not sure if its necessary, but just in case I’d buy a level whose area is large enough for existing trees to fit in- 10 meters should do.

*When a power has no Range, the area is normally assumed to be centered around the character- you’d expect him or her to be caught in the expanding flora as well, but since as described, “this Attribute can control the growth and movement of all plants in the surrounding area” I assume the user can choose which plants within this area are affected.

“But wait- plants can’t move! Does this power animate them?” you might ask. I do not believe so, or it would state it more explicitly. Besides, plants do move- when they grow. So I assume the Power allows you to control in which direction the plants grow- not just up but also sideways or even down. And anyone who has seen a sidewalk broken by tree roots can appreciate the force plants exert while growing. For game purposes, I would treat an enlarged plant as a creature of the same size (except that it doesn’t move, of course.) Use the table under the Grow attribute to find out how much damage it does while growing (which presumably it does in one round, regardless of final size). Similarly, the plants could be used as improvised log walls for defense.

* After the Duration PMV Rank has expired (oh, so you can buy Duration after all- that must have been an error) the plants will return to their normal state and size before the control.” Well that’s convenient. 🙂 So how long should the plants remain changed? If you only plan to use them for combat, Duration 2 (5 rounds) should be enough. But to make use of the full range of tricks listed below, take Duration 5 (1 hour) That way, if for example, you use a tree as a makeshift ladder, it will still be there when you need to get down. Besides, you can always determine a shorter duration with each use.

*I would advice against taking the option of rising your power level in exchange of specializing in certain types of plants. Unless your character lives in the wild, it’s hard enough already to find useful ones. Fortunately, there’s a very easy solution to that: seeds.

Controlled plants can grow to a maximum size of 5 times their normal mature state.” That means you don’t need fully-grown plants- just bring your own seeds, toss them anywhere within your area and turn them into their fully-mature forms in one round! Even better, since the plants return to normal after Duration ends, you can simply pick up the seeds up again!

Examples of plants whose seeds you could carry include:

-cacti

-poison ivy

-kudzu

-trees (for REALLY big ones, try sequoias)

-any edible plant

-medicinal plants

-poisonous plants like belladonna

If the Game Master feels that some of these seeds are too rare or powerful, he might require the player to buy them as Gadgets (treat each seed as a Minor Gadget in this case.)

*I also would not make use of the “larger than five times” growth option; that’s sufficient for most plants- grass becomes bushes, saplings become trees etc. This option also provides smaller areas of effect in exchange for the larger plant sizes.

In conclusion, while Plant control is not a flashy power, it’s still and interesting and useful ability if you know how to use it right. And it helps round out a plant-themed Super- one with Telekinesis: Wood, for example.


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BAFF! Basic Action Final Fantasy

david-adhinarya-lojaya-combs

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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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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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.


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My Fifty Years as a Fan

50

As I post this, I’m now 50 years old. Mine has been mainly an uneventful life; yet I feel very grateful for my existence. I have friends, I have family, I have my health- and I have Fiction. As far as I can remember, Fiction in one form or another has formed part of my life, helping me escape the dullness of my reality. So today I want to take the chance to celebrate it. (Warning: this is going to be long. 😛 )

It all began for me in the 60’s as for most people: with TV cartoons. In particular, there was one about a little turtle (sorry, can’t remember the title) who wanted to fly. After many attempts, it succeeded in the end… because it got KILLED and became an angel! O_O What?? I know, it was a joke, I get that now but boy was I PISSED as a Kid! And I actually did something about it, too: I took a book that (conveniently) had printing only on one side of the pages, and used it to draw my own version of the story in which the turtle fulfills its wish without dying. Yep, that was my first fanfic! Oh, and I was in the story, too- making it a self-insert as well! How appropriate. XD

Next came comic books. In Spanish, at first. There were two types: translations of American companies such as DC or Gold Key (no Marvels- probably due to some copyright or distribution issues) as well as original ones made in Mexico featuring characters such as Kaliman or Fantomas. Comics in English started being sold here in the late 70’s; I was floored by my discovery of the Marvel Universe (I already knew Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four and The Avengers from the cartoons, but had no idea there were so many more!) From then on I actually would spend my lunch money once a week on comics. 😛 I ended up becoming known as the local “comic book kid” and my collection, by the time I stopped, had soared to about 700. I still have it btw.

In the 70’s I also discovered Anime. Well actually I had seen “cartoons” such as Speed Racer before, I just didn’t realize they were from Japan- much less the potential in them! That changed with the Giant Robot show Mazinger Z in 1972. While barely known in the US, in Hispanic America it became very popular, to the point people still remember it today. It became my favorite anime then and while I have seen better ones since, I still have a lot of appreciation for it.

I met some fellow geeks in high school- wow, I wasn’t the only one?- who introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons and therefore to the concept of role-playing. We didn’t get to play much, but I found the whole idea that you could mathematically describe even magic mind-blowing; I began collecting rpg books for its own sake.

In the 80’s, something unexpected occurred: one of my hobbies led me to a profound revelation. I used to read Fantasy novels- not many, but I was a fan of Piers Anthony, especially his Incarnations of Immortality series. In them, concepts such as Death or Nature were physically embodied by humans as if they were jobs that had to be passed on. The bad guy was The Devil, who was supposed to not be an Incarnation at first. But in the last two novels, it was revealed that not only was the Devil a human too, but so was God, and the Devil had been trying to undo the injustices caused by the current, uncaring Divine Officeholder all along! I was raised Catholic and I got very nervous as I realized where the novels were heading; I even considered dropping them. But after some thinking, I realized that was silly. What kind of faith you have if you allow something made for entertainment challenge it? Even more: I realized that I had never actually thought about religion. Like most people, I just accepted what those who raised me taught me to believe. But people are free willed, and we should decide by ourselves what we believe in.

In 1996, I played my first RPG video game- Super Mario: Legend of the Seven Stars. OK I mostly bought it because it was a Mario game, but I so greatly enjoyed the experience that buying the guide/then the RPG/then playing for hours till I found everything became a habit for years. Too bad they don’t make game guides anymore (online walkthroughs aren’t quite the same.)

The coming of the new millennium… was not a nice time to me. Because of the recession, I lost many of my resources- Blockbuster Video, my local movie theater, local bookstores- all gone. Worst of all were the comics. The things DC and Marvel did to characters I had followed for years left me aghast. DC started it with the “Secret Identity” event where the rape AND murder of Elongated Man’s wife was a major plot point; and Marvel’s lowest point came with the “One More Day” story where Spider-Man makes a deal with Mephisto (aka as Satan) to save his aunt’s life, erasing his marriage from history in exchange! By the time DC decided to revise its history *yet again* with 2005’s “Flashpoint” event, I threw up my hands and gave up on comics altogether. Not on the characters- I still follow Marvel and DC in movies, cartoons etc; just not in the comics. I keep hoping some day things will improve… but from I’ve heard, that’s not the case, yet. Oh sure, there are exceptions, I hear good things about comics like Batgirl or Miss Marvel. But not enough.

Things improved with one thing, tough: the Internet. It put me both in contact with old friends (such as Liz, a lady from the States I had befriended via an animation newsletter in the 80’s) and an the RPGClassics Agora, a website where I posted my first online stories and spent a lot of time chatting with people of similar interests. However problems both personal and with my computer led me to reduce my activities for a while.

Finally, last year, something happened. After being paid to do a video on my computer, I found the experience so enjoyable I started my own Youtube channel. That felt so fulfilling I started this Blog as well- another experience that’s been greatly rewarding. 🙂 And recently, I started my own webcomic- that one has been harder to pull off, but I still enjoy it. (You can see it here, if you want: http://raitokomikku.thecomicseries.com/comics/1/ ) Oh btw, I also made a special video to celebrate some of the events mentioned above. You can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1L9a0FV8OoA&feature=youtu.be

So what’s next? Well, who knows? That’s half the fun- taking things in as they come, enjoying what you can, learning from what you can’t. I guess that’s the lesson I learned after 50 years of life, and now share with you all.

Before I finish, I want to send a message to some very special groups of people: To TV Tropes.com, especially to my fellow players in the Justice Avengers Forum Game; and also to the Basic Action Super Heroes RPG Facebook group, where I hang out and post ideas often. Thanks to all of you for your support in recent times. May we have fun together for many years more! 🙂

 


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Magical Girls in Basic Action Super Heroes!

“Magical Girls” have long been a staple in Japanese Animation. However they have also become popular around the world, and have influenced shows such as Star vs The Forces of Evil, Steven Universe and Winx. They are certainly worthy of being included in a BASH campaign, either as a NPC or even the focus of an Anime themed game.

MAGICAL GIRL

magicalgirl by Sonia Leong18 Pts (8 Stats, 10 Powers)

The typical Magical Girl is a teenage girl who has been granted superhuman powers by someone or something to fight a specific evil, usually a group of magical villains and their minion monsters. Often a whole team of Magical Girls fight together.

Brawn 1 Agility 2 Mind 1

Powers:

Special Attack (+3 with Mind Damage) [Close Range] <Casting> 3 pts

Martial Arts 1 (Defensive and Reckless styles) 1 pt

Weapon Technique (+1 to Hit with one weapon) 1 pt

Super Jump 1 (1 pt)

Restore 4 (4 pts)

Variations on a Theme:

-The Cute Witch is not a superhero; rather, she’s a student of magic, possibly in a school of magic or a Fantasy World. Substitute all Powers for X Mastery (Magic) with the Casting Limitation (and possibly a Gadget such as a Magic Wand) and Flight with the Limitation: Gadget (Broom, Easily Taken).

-The Magical Idol is either a Pop Idol who is secretly a Magical Girl, or a Magical Girl who uses her Powers to perform. Add Illusion 2 (Sight & Sound, for her shows.)

-Some Magical Girls are actually Princesses of a  magical realm. She could be a Cute Witch as well.

-The Dark Magical Girl is any of the above types, except she’s a Villain, often the Arch Enemy of the other types.

Recommended Advantages & Disadvantages:

Instant Change is required. Very common are Appeal and Sidekick/Pet (usually a talking animal). Mentor and Grimoire for the Witch. Celebrity for the Idol. Royalty for the Princess. Devoted Henchmen for the Dark Magical Girl.

Typical Disadvantages include Age (Youth), Normal and Rogue’s Gallery. If The Witch or The Princess are foreign to modern Earth, they should have Outsider. The Princess might also have to deal with rivals or usurpers (a Revolting Development) and the Dark Magical Girl might actually be the Alter Ego of an otherwise innocent girl.

Recommended Skills: Athletics/Acrobatics for the Magical Girl. Cute Witches get Occultism. Magical Idols get Perform (Singing and Dance, usually). Magic Princesses usually study Social Sciences/Law or History (of their Kingdoms). Dark Magical Girls get Deception/Any.