Sunday, May 04, 2008

In Which The Warlock Wishes He Had Some Power Armor...

What a weekend of geekdom. Life is good, aside from the fact that my back has been killing me since about 4 pm today, for unknown reasons. However, the last few days have more than made up for it.

Yesterday, the Witt RP-Guild held their bi-yearly LARP in Bayley Auditorium. Lionel put this one together, much as he put together the "Diplomacy" LARP last year. Running a role-playing event for 15 people is no easy task, but Lionel's results are regularly great. He puts in a ton of time and effort, and the games themselves speak to that effort.

This year's LARP put us on the S.S. Triton Bay, a massive ship that capsized in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle. Stuck in the ship's cargo hold, our characters connived and backstabbed their way through the "Poseidon Adventure"-esque scenario...that is until the Marines arrived...

As Yannosey Cuthbert Allgrave III, my major task was to purchase a recently unearthed sarcophagus from a black marketeer to add to his collection. While I wasn't successful in this regard--the sarcophagus radiated evil like a heat lamp, which somehwat brought down the desire on it--I did get to play a massive misogynist twit, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering personal assistant Ms. Lovegood.

(And, for the record, neither Lionel or I actually realized the Bond-esque awfulness of Ms. Lovegood's name until the day of the LARP. At least it's better than Dr. Holly Goodhead!)

However, that's not what you want to hear about...nor is my new Dark Heresy campaign, but I'm going to tell you about that instead! :D

So, the PlatinumChick is notorious for her dice luck. Or, to be more specific, her lack thereof. In d20 games, it's always Natural 1. In WEGS, or other percentile games, it's always 99 or 00.
In Dark Heresy, she's found a new bane--the Willpower test.

Thusfar, our intrepid Acolytes have come out of cryogenesis aboard the Emperor's ship "Persephone", only to find the ship ransacked and nearly torn apart by daemons, loose through the Warp. Daemons have, associated with them, a Willpower test to avoid a fear aura. The first session centered around the PCs exploring a warehouse and attempting to find their stored gear...while being assaulted by a daemonic horror.

Jules? As soon as she got within the fear aura, her character failed her Willpower test, breaking ranks and screaming off into the dark. Typically, it takes a Willpower test to break out of the fear. She spent no less than 7 rounds--the duration of the combat--failing Willpower tests.

So, this past session, we hoped for something a little more helpful for her. En route to the astropathic navigation chamber, the PCs had to jury rig their way through several elevators, and were again assaulted by daemons. Again, Jules' character failed the Willpower test and flailed about on a greased floor before passing out. Then, when faced with a massive daemonically-inhabited avalanche of bodies, she simply puked on herself and passed out again.

Man...the effectiveness of first-rank characters. Just like Call of Cthulhu!

Yeah, you didn't want to hear about either of those, did you? Okay, I guess I'll give you what you wanted:

Iron Man

The movie absolutely rocks on toast. It's gotten high praise, even from some of the most critical of Hollywood reviewers, which really speaks to its quality. This may well be one of the best comic-book movies of all time. It's that good.

Iron Man begins in medias res, with billionaire industrialist/weapons developer Tony Stark riding in a convoy to an Afghani airbase following a demonstration of his newly-developed Jericho missile system. Pure to the Iron Man continuity, the convoy is blown out of the water by guerilla insurgents, and Stark is injured by one of his own weapons and is captured.

Upon his capture, Stark is given an ultimatum--build a missile for the local warlord (who makes a beautiful reference to perennial IM villain "The Mandarin") or die. Stark, and his fellow captive Yinsen, choose option D--blow the hell out of the insurgents with a powered suit of armor and escape. The experience gives Stark the proverbial kick in the butt that he needs, causing him to simultaneously disband his weapons-development division and begin his own special project--the Iron Man armor.

The plot culminates in two parts industrial-espionage and one part epic mech battle as Stark faces off with business partner-turned-rival Obidiah Stane, wearing a reverse engineered version of Stark's Mark-I armor.

As far as origin stories go Iron Man, the storytelling techniques used by director Jon Favreau really keep viewers interested. We're given the rundown on Stark's past in an awards speech, keeping the exposition brief and the camera on the action. Stark's experimentation with the Mark-II and Mark-III armors, particularly, feel real to viewers. Stark feels like 'one of the guys', tinkering around in his man-cave with hard rock blaring. It's hard not to empathize with someone like that--he feels real, and looks like the billionaire we'd all love to hang out with.

The dialogue, above all else, is what made this movie for me. So often, comic book movie dialogue is stilted and full of bad one-liners (Fantastic Four, I'm looking at you!). In Iron Man, however, the dialogue is quick and snappy--always keeping us interested. Jeff Bridges' lines drip corporate sleaze-man, and the sections between Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr. are simultaneously cute and awkward, as they try to rectify their middling relationship between boss-assistant and romantic-partners.

The special effects, done by titan Industrial Light and Magic, are predictably good, but it's the art designs that make the effects so great. The film's development staff went immediately to recent Iron Man artist Adi Granov to cull some ideas on the Mark-III armor. And their homework has paid off. The armor looks just as if Ol' Shellhead had stepped out of Granov's "Extremis" arc and onto the screen. Brilliant job, on this section.

I'll be honest. When I first heard about Iron Man's casting, I was more than a little worried. Jeff Bridges hasn't really done much of worth in years, and saying that Robert Downey Jr. has had character issues is like saying that geeks like spandex costumes. However, the entire cast delivers a consistently great performance all around. The only real low point in the cast--and I'm nitpicking here--is Terrence Howard's James "Rhodey" Rhodes. That said, he has little to work with, aside from set up for the already-in-the-works sequal. War Machine, anyone?

All told, Iron Man is a class of superhero movie reserved for only the best. To be honest, I'm seriously doubting that any movie this summer can keep up with it. The summer began with a bang, and it's in red and gold.


  1. Agreed probably be the best movie of the summer RD Jr. was absolutely amazing. Dark Heresy rocks but her character needs some new dice. Her will save can't be that much worse then anyone elses truthfully they are all like 30-40%Well I am back off to work Laters

  2. True, on the Dark Heresy point, but by the odds, she should have succeeded at SOME point!