Monthly Archives: March 2014

Yunalesca in Tephra

One of the things I enjoy about learning new systems is to take an existing character and see how it can be shoed-into the new system. I’ve decided that my victims for this article will be the Tephra RPG from Cracked Monocle, and the Final Fantasy X-2 character Yuna. I’ve used Yuna as a steampunk character before, and her basic traits, that of a twin-pistol-wielding guncaster, are fairly easily-modeled in most games. Before I begin to put her into the Tephra system, however, let’s quickly look at what the character of Yuna is really all about.

History: Yuna is a mixed-heritage woman in a world where such relationships are heavily frowned upon.  Her upbringing was strict and religious, giving her both an honorable and noble bearing and belief system, but also forcing her into the role of a would-be martyr. In her first exposure to the world at large, she began the question the need for martyrs at all and eventually rejected much of the trappings of her upbringing, while keeping her own faith and beliefs intact. As she’s gotten a little older, she’s adopted an adventurer’s lifestyle outright, doing what good she can while undergoing a quest for something far more personal, while using the singing skills she acquired in her former life to gain some fame, notoriety, and much-needed income.

Personality: Though she’s largely come out of her shell, Yuna is a quiet, slightly-submissive woman in her behavior and attitudes. She seeks always to do the right thing, even though it can cause her serious internal conflict and emotional stress when the right thing to do isn’t an obvious choice. While it’s common to see Yuna frustrated by others and in bad situations, it’s exceedingly rare to see her outright angry.

Appearance: Yuna is an attractive, mostly demure, young woman of slight frame and short build. She generally possesses cropped brown hair. Yuna is visually unusual in that she each of her eyes is a slightly different color. Both eyes are a color of aqua, with her left eye trending more bright blue and her right eye trending more green.

Equipment: Yuna doesn’t wear any notable armor, and her clothes, while stylish, are a bit to the ‘revealing’ side for polite society (she keeps more formal attire for these purposes). She carries two “Twin Bee” light box-pistols which have been modified for automatic fire and can house unique bullets of unusual properties.

For obvious reasons, I’ve skipped a lot of the specifics of the Final Fantasy X and X-2 setting and well as details on her previous role as a summoner. After all, we’re putting her into the Tephra setting and system, and she had abandoned her earlier powers outright at the end of Final Fantasy X anyway. So what we’re going to focus on is her Gunner form.
All right, so now we crack open the Tephra manual to get started, keeping in mind that we’re modeling a character rather than just rolling one up.

To keep things simple at this point, we’re going to assume that Yuna’s mixed heritage is only an ethnic one, and for game mechanics she’s simply a human with an unusual physical trait, her eyes.

As a human, Yuna gets to choose two racial traits and roll one random one. We’ll give her the “Favored Attribute” of Dexterity, the “Peerless” trait, to let her win ties, and, since we’re modeling a character rather than outright creating one, we’ll give her the “Emotionally Driven” attribute as well.

Though Yuna becomes a free spirit, she begins life as a noblewoman and uses that to her advantage at times. To keep things a little simple, we’ll assign Yuna to the Evanglessians and list her as a noble of that empire. Her mother was Paldoran, causing her father to be a subject of scandal for some time.

Now we start to choose her skills. Yuna, as a starting character, gets one skill at three points (her primary skill). She gets two skills at two points each, and three skills at one point each.  We’ll chose the “Agility” skill as Yuna’s primary, given how she’s known for her grace and dynamic movements. As a gunner, she’ll also get the obvious “Marksmanship” skill, and we’ll give her the “Showmanship” skill to fill in for her singing prowess. These two will be her secondary, or two-point, skills.

Yuna’s background has also given her a bit of the “Faith” and “Grace” skills, gaining one point each in them. Lastly, her adventures thus far have given her a little bit of general “Expertise”, so we’ll wrap up her skill allocation with that.

Tephra determines attributes by adding together each of the skills taken in each attribute category. We’ve taken three points in “Cunning” skills, giving us a “Cunning” of three. So Yuna’s Tephra statistics are Brute:0, Cunning: 3, Science: 0, Dexterity: 5, and Spirit: 2.

Yuna gains three specialties at first level. Since we’re really going to focus on her relative speed and gracefulness rather than her firepower, we’ll start off with the “Free Movement” specialty. This lets her act more quickly (and slightly more often) in combat. She gains a +2 priority, a +5 speed, and a +6 HP bonus for this.
We’ll also give her “Instant Draw”, so that she can pull her two box-pistols out as needed. This gives her a +1 Accuracy, another +3 on her priority, and a +7 HP.
Lastly, just to keep with her ‘healer’ background, we’ll give her “Patch the Bleeding” which will allow her to treat wounds in the field. This also gives her a +2 DEF, +2 PRI, and a much-needed +11 to her HP.

Final Attributes
All right, we’re nearly done now. Yuna gets 18 HP and 12 wound points as a starting character. She also starts with three action points, a 7 total priority, a 2 defense, and a 30 base speed.

Twin Bees
Remember how I said we would get back to these? The Twin Bees are weapons that I tend to call “Guncasters”. In essence, they’re guns that shoot magic rather than bullets. This might be the trickiest part to convert to Tephra, so let’s get started.

Yuna’s guns are light, accurate, and automatic. They also can deliver magical effects such as fire, ice, and so on. This means, in Tephra terms, they’re accurate, crank-free weapons with the delivery attribute. Despite being ‘light’ pistols, they’re not derringers, so they fall under the “Medium Firearm” category.

So, computing the prices for each Twin Bee is just taking the market price for the gun, 5p, then adding the costs of its crafting modifiers. These come out to a substantial 175p. So, we’re at 180p for each Twin Bee, making Yuna packing seriously-expensive heat at a cost of 360p on the outset!

Finishing Up
This pretty much wraps it up for our modeling experiment. Yuna isn’t known for armor (or much in the way of clothes, for that matter), so at best we’ll just give her ‘light’ armor for the time being. Other gear will be left up to the player’s imagination.

So Tephra can effectively handle making Yuna in her Gunner form, though it’s understandably not a perfect fit. Her Twin Bee guns are fairly expensive toys, which isn’t too surprising, and have to be somewhat kludged into the game. But it’s still a passable representation.

So how does Tephra stand up for character creation? It’s fairly simple to get together a character but it does involve a great deal of flipping around in the book to find everything. An ‘as you go’ character-building example would have gone a long way to help, if only to show where to find all your options. Mechanically it’s simple and elegant, if not innovative. The numbers and powers given give a good indication of what your character can do without being mired in gaming arcana.

Overall a fairly solid effort, and one worth revisiting, which I plan to do soon enough.

Takara Does Not Rule

Again, an old post, brought back from the abyss of 11 July 2001 – for the third time, I guess. This time it’s about Takara, and again it’s come up thanks to ToyFare. So I’m re-posting it here as a loose response to the inevitable round of discussion…

When Transformers suffered it’s first official death with the cancellation of the Action Masters, a lot of long-time fans were saddened. A few, however, had learned that the Japanese company Takara had actually continued on with Transformers, creating several new series, such as Headmasters, Masterforce, and Victory. When American audiences were getting puppet master Optimus Prime and Tommy Kennedy, Japanese audiences were watching Star Saber going up against Dezsarus.

And so the jealousy began.

Several American Transformers fans look to Takara as a sort of ‘holy grail’ for Transformers. Any toy that Takara releases is instantly lauded. Any show that Takara releases simply must be translated and brought over here. Takara can do no wrong. Takara is many times greater an entity than Hasbro. To be sure, on the surface, Takara seems to take better steps, though. The packaging for Robots in Disguise isn’t as good as it was for Car Robots.

Some reviews mention that the plastic quality is better on the Japanese toy version than the American one. Takara is putting out several ‘Generation One ‘ re-releases specifically to cater to fans. So, yes, on the surface, all seems fine in Japan to be a Transformers fan.

Except for, right now, there is no Transformers line currently in press in Japan from Takara. There are a few ‘fan-items’, but, this year, Transformers have been moved to the side to make way for ‘Webdivers’. In Japan, the Transformers license just was not doing all that well. The ultimate truth is that Takara makes mistakes just like Hasbro. They’re a toy company, just like Hasbro – only a considerable bit smaller. Beast Wars Neo and Beast Wars Metals didn’t do that well in Japan. Car Robots, the show, was pulled in many Japanese markets. While Beast Wars Metals was airing, Takara was even picketed by long-time Transformers fans for the destructive ‘dumbing down’ of the series! This is not the sort of company that doesn’t make mistakes.

Now, this isn’t an attempt to bash Takara. I’m just saying they make mistakes, like everyone else. After all, they’re a company staffed with people. They’re not going to get things right every time – even if they’re Japanese.

Note: Since this was first written, a handful of people came to the ridiculous conclusion that I was being racist! (Seems to be a rather knee-jerk response common to that lot, mind you). Again, for the reading impaired, this was a slap against the American Otaku who automatically assume all things Japanese are inherently superior, and not against Takara and certainly not against the Japanese.

The Old Blog Rant

This is a repost, really, of my first blog on ‘MySpace’, a service I’m given up largely due to the sheer clutter the site over there has. Still, the post was oddly fitting again, so it seemed natural to repost it here.

Blogs are kind of a weird thing for me. I was raised with the ultimate alpha-male archetypes as role-models to a very destructive level. When you’re raised with that kind of mindset it’s very hard to open up in any way to yourself, much less the rest of the world. In that sense, a blog is a bit of an antithesis of that upbringing. For me, just saying “Oh yeah, I would like to talk to my friends,” is extremely difficult. So that’s probably why I ignored this site for so long, leaving it largely blank.

To this point I’ve become hooked on the show Scrubs, at least in DVD form. Now, while most people I know associate with JD or Ellie, I find myself associating heavily with Dr. Cox. I’m not quite where he is, but that character is the one that makes the most sense to me, and I realize how many mannerisms I’ve had for years that that character embodies.

Fortunately, my life is a lot more stable, I’m not quite as jaded, and I do have much better hair, even if it is gray. So, you know, that’s something.

Anger and Loss

This was a post from late last year, when I had to rush to Indiana for my father-in-law’s funeral. I wanted to make sure I still had this entry, so I copied it over here. It’s still powerful for me.

It has been difficult to put my feelings from last week into words. In the early hours of 8 November, 2013, my father-in-law, Terry Bailey, was killed by a drunk driver near Vincennes, Indiana. The last several days have hit me with a great deal of powerful emotions. Yet as saddened as I am for his loss, and my concerns for my wife, her sister, and the many people left behind, I have to admit that my primary feeling, even now, is that of anger.

I’ve never been particularly forgiving of drunk driving, and I’ve seen the results of it first-hand on several occasions. To be a drunk driver, someone actively has to make a choice to not give a damn about anyone else but themselves, drink up to ‘feel good’, and then get behind the wheel without a thought or care about others around them. And then, despite all their decisions, if the worst happens, suddenly (according to them) it’s not their fault, but the fault of the drink and merely ‘just an accident’.

The basic truth is that the woman who murdered (and, yes, I’ll use that term) Terry knowingly made a series of choices which culminated in her driving on a highway in the early morning at four times the legal limit (which is not the first time she had done this). There was no accident here. There was just a criminal level of stupidity and self-entitlement that resulted in the death of a beloved man and severe injury of his wife.

So I’m angry. I’m angry at the stupidity of the loss, the stupidity of the woman, and even the legal system that let her continue driving despite a history of DUIs and public intoxication. This time I hope the prosecution doesn’t try to ‘settle’ and give this murderess what she legally deserves. I’m angry that such a good man was taken from us out of this sheer stupidity. I’m also angry is that there is nothing, nothing at all, that I can do to fix any of this, or to make any of this right.

If anyone who reads this knows anyone who even thinks about getting behind the wheel while drunk or stoned, stop them. I don’t care how you have to stop them, just do it. No one should ever have to lose their lives because of someone else’s stupidity and callous disregard for the safety of others.

Gundam: War in the Pocket Thoughts

This is an older post, copied over from the old database.

Bandai was gracious enough to put back out both War in the Pocket and Stardust Memories recently, but I was a little low on entertainment funds this week so I just went with the cheaper of the two sets. This would be the six-episode “War in the Pocket” OVA. The story centers around Al, who is a young kid who thinks war is very cool and loves seeing the mobile suits and battles involved. And this is the first problem with the show, within a few minutes you know what the basic theme is going to be (if not the outright plot) and you can’t help but cringe. We’ll get back to this…

The story also stars Bernie, a Zeon pilot who is supposed to find and destroy a Gundam Prototype (the Alex) being tested within Al’s colony. Unfortunately, his Zaku is hit and downed. Al, following the ‘cool’ battle meets up with Bernie and the two have an immediate ‘quasi-sibling’ friendship. Finishing up the main cast is Chris, a very pretty redhead who both Al and Bernie develop crushes on, but also just happens to be the test pilot (or, Data Collector) for the Gundam Alex.

What we basically have here is a single movie dragged out into six episodes. The first two episodes spend most of their time setting up Al’s obvious fall from innocence. Sadly, ‘innocence’ here translates directly into utterly and mind-boglingly stupid. Sure, his colony has been neutral, but it seems like everyone (aside from Bernie’s unit) suffers from psychotic denial. When the battles occur, there’s no siren within the colony to tell the civvies to ‘get the hell out of the way’, despite a war going on outside for nearly a year now.

The ultimate in stupid, though, has to be that Bernie’s Zaku isn’t even looked for, though it’s not even really hidden, being only a few dozen feet off a main road – no one but Al thinks to even notice. Worse, even AFTER the second battle within the colony, there’s absolutely no indication that either the colony’s defenders or Federation forces give a damn (which is needed to make the mid-story work, sadly). Truly bizzare.

If I sound overly harsh on the series, it’s because so much of it is designed to set up a blindingly-obvious confrontation, and there’s an awful lot of stupid to go to get there. There are some genuinely good scenes through the show, particularly with Chris, and some of the less-forced ‘bonding’ bits between Al and Bernie, but it’s all wrapped up in a series of huge wallbangers. Even the ‘end of the world’ plot at the end is so forced and nonsensical you want to reach out and slap the writer around.

As for suits, we do get to see some upgraded Zakus, the Kampfer gets some good screen time, and new versions of the Guncannon , GM II, and GM Police types.. though they’re more popcorn fodder even than usual. The Gundam Alex is an odd test unit, meant for Newtypes (hinted that it’s going to be Amuro’s replacement), except that – in another moment of stupid – the person testing it out is NOT a Newtype! The Alex itself isn’t a bad design, though the ‘Full Armor’ form seems fairly pointless. The regular body looks like a cross between First Gundam and Zeta… which makes sense.

Tough call, and could be an interesting chapter in some respects, particularly when back-story to the whole war is discussed, but the whole thing is overshadowed by the sheer stupidity of the writing at many, many points. You have to swallow an awful lot for any of this to work, which is the overall problem. The story is simply the hammered-home message ‘war sucks, kids, it’s not cool’! That, in and of itself, isn’t a problem, but that message was handled badly here, and everything else was shoved into the mixer for the sole-point of driving that home.

Fortunately, as I said, this one’s on the cheap, so it’s not a waste of money, but it’s fairly easy to see why War in the Pocket is one of the more obscure Gundam animations out there.

Please Quit Selling to Him

This is probably one of my more infamous rants around gaming circles. It’s an oldie, but one that still seems relevant given the game lineups consoles are offering… Fortunately things have improved a little since this was posted, but it still feels like both Sony and Microsoft, in particular, have given up on making games in order to chase this elusive ‘market’ which really doesn’t seem to exist…

I saw ‘him’ the other day. I was in one of our local game stores, looking for an RPG that I haven’t yet played, that most rarest of creatures. ‘He’ walked in. He was large, early 20s, underage girlfriend in tow. She was probably sixteen, and wore and outfit that said she was more open than the typical 7-11. For his part, he walked with a permanent smug, and enjoyed showing off his girl. He went to the X-Box section, being sure to smirk at everyone else in the store, cracking jokes at their expense.

By now, he had the entire store’s attention, so it would have been an intense effort to ignore him. I wanted to, but it’s a lot like ignoring someone that had eaten way too much Taco Bell for the last few days. Some things you can’t ignore, no matter how much you want to. Anyway, he made his way to the X-Box section, where he and his girlfriend started to look for a ‘cool’ game. Hearing just a smidge of their conversation, I begun to realize what they considered ‘cool’, more because they were pointing out other games as something ‘nerds’ and ‘geeks’ would play and smirking in that ‘I’m so cool and you’re not way’. They didn’t want a cool game that was one, they wanted a ‘cool’ game that made them look cool for having it.

To explain this, it’s kind of like going to see a really bad action flick with your buddies because it’s supposed to be cool, and then avoiding the good comedy of the year because it’s ‘kid-friendly’, or at least didn’t earn that NC-17 rating that only the ‘cool’ people demand.

This guy was the walking stereotype of a frat-boy, a smug son-of-a-bitch who reached his life’s peak sometime in high-school, which is why he’s dating a girl from that age group. He thinks he’s cool. He wants others to think he’s cool. So, he wants games that make others think he’s cool. Right now, there are a handful of games that are ‘cool’ in that way, and about a bazillion clones of those games that are neither good, fun, or cool at all.

And, because of those few games that hit the ‘cool’ button, game producers (but not developers) think they’ve finally cashed in, and are now demanding that this ‘new’ audience be aggressively sought after while simultaneously leaving the ‘nerds’ and ‘geeks’ behind. Hell, the X-Box, in particular, caters almost exclusively to this crowd, ignoring entire genres of games just to get that ‘next hot Mature-rated shooter’ out the door. Hell, another Madden update and the deal on the ‘frat jock’ is locked. With X-360, this trend isn’t just going to continue, it’s going to skyrocket—right before it explodes into nothingness.

You see, what Microsoft and its ilk fail to take into account is that these guys just ain’t gamers. They’re interested in ‘cool’, not in games. And, as soon as something else ‘cool’ comes along, they’re going to stop buying games—completely. I expect that to happen about last year sometime, judging from sales numbers, anyway. By and large, these guys have moved on, with some straggling to the ‘cool’ games still, but in dwindling numbers, and others moving on to the next ‘cool’ thing to do, based on whatever Hollywood says is ‘different and good for your image’.

Meanwhile, at the same time, Microsoft has been giving both older gamers as well as our younger ‘nerd’ brethren the middle-finger, and quite happily doing so. After all, they’ve ‘cashed in’ on the LAN college jock crowd! Why do they need the established consumer base that made the PS2 the juggernaut of all consoles, made Nintendo a tidy few million dollars, or turned Pac-Man into a phenomenon back in the day. Now, they can cash out to guys who are going to use them like their underage girlfriends, and probably more quickly! Such a brilliant marketing strategy is one of the many ways we can think Hollywood for its influence in gaming.

Sure, there’s money to be made from these guys, but they’re not gamers. They’re not going to stick around and buy 20 games, ’cause there just aren’t going to be 20 ‘cool’ games for any console. The typical X-Box customer had a total of five games over its lifespan, and Microsoft has lost a fortune on the console, despite their ‘units sold’ numbers.

Meanwhile, the die-hard gamers are wondering when we’re going to get games again, rather than a bunch of shallow, former high-school poser/jock fantasies? Come on, Microsoft, start making them, and I’m sure you won’t have to spin about how ‘losing a few million here and there is good for the company’ nearly as much.