Category Archives: Uncategorized

Changes to Love’s Thoughts Blog

I have been sporadic, at best, in my posting on this blog for the year of 2016. This was a long, hectic, stressful, and challenging year for me personally, but also a year full of blessings.

This year I changed jobs (twice), spent almost four months unemployed, battled through several bouts of depression, took my first actual vacation since 2009, and watched as the political party I had previously affiliated with self-combusted and abandoned principles to elect a crude reality television star whose policies more closely resemble the opposing party’s disastrous policies than the principles which I value.

This made my writing here especially difficult- whenever I found myself wanting to write a blog post, I found myself wanting to write about politics. Yet when I started this blog, I specifically aimed to write about “Subjects diverse not divisive” and I know that even when writing about policies, politics can be a very divisive subject.

Today, I am happy to announce that going forward into 2017, I will be rededicating myself to blogging more, however I must also announce that rather than maintaining this one blog, I will be splitting my time between three separate outlets.

For all my political posts, I will be writing on my newly registered domain-

Home

Join me there, in exile, as we wander the political wilderness of a movement dispossessed of a party and examine American conservative principles, values, foundational literature of the movement, and work to redefine and rededicate ourselves to what it means to be a Conservative in 2017.

And yes, this means I promise there will be no politics in either of my other platforms

I’m also pleased to announce a domain I registered earlier this year–

Home

Sun Love Games is the launching point for my upcoming Pathfinder Compatible RPG Products, Alternative Avenues, and the fiction that occurs in the same world of Kesperex which the campaign materials detail.

You’ll find product announcements, descriptions, and previews as well as occasional OGL content blog posts, and will be able to keep up on all my current self-publishing RPG efforts!

That leaves this space here for the other writing that I do- the Sun Cycle will still be here (more to come on this story in 2017!), as well as any sports, culture, writing process, and other non-games related, non-politics writing.

So, in summation- happy New Years, and please follow me on the blog (or blogs) which provides the parts of my writing you are interested in reading!

Planesfinder: Session 1

So last night I ran the first session in my epic Planesfinder game! It went very well and we got through 6 of the “Story Segments” that I had slated for us to use.

My group consisted of 8 players– two evil Drow (an anti-Paladin and a phalanx fighter) from Faerun, a LG Aasimar Priest from Mount Celestia, a CG Bugbear Kineticist prime, a LE Kender Bard from Krynn, a LE Dustman Tiefling Necromancer from the cage, a Gnoll Barbarian from an Astral bound demi-plane, and a LN Transcendent Order Monk from Arcadia.

The pace was pretty good– we were started by 2:30 and paused for about 45 minutes at 5:30 for dinner, then wrapped at 9 PM. The experience they ended up earning based on which of the presented encounters they gave, using the book suggested experience bonuses for story elements (but applied one time and to the group pool) put them to just over 2200, so I tacked on 1000 experience each for story completion to bring them to second level– 6 stories per level is in line with the pace of advancement I need, and the 7th story line being second level will help a lot.

So here is the text from my prep document– it references to published material, so you will need access to the Planescape books to run this– I’m not trying to dodge copyright laws here, though I know there is some argument that I’m near the edge, talking about copyrights of both WoTC and Paizo and mixing the elements for a campaign, but that is why this is available free for the community and not published under any license.

Character Construction Notes:

 

15 point standard Pathfinder point buy

1st level

Must be a mortal Planar or Prime (or a Rogue Modron) 0 ECL race

No Knowledge (the Planes) Skill—replaced by Knowledge (specific plane) Knowledge (Outlands) and Knowledge (Sigil) are two separate skills.

Skill Synergies are back for Planar Knowledge skills!

5 ranks in any Plane gives you +2 to each of its related Planes

10 ranks give you a +4 in related Planes

Astral and Ehtereal Planes: Astral and Ethereal planes are related to one another, the Astral plane is related to all demi-planes

Demi-Planes: Demi-planes are related to the Astral Plane

Elemental Planes: Air, Earth, Fire and Water, Positive and Negative planes are related to their attendant Quasi and Para elemental planes (and vice versa)

Outer Planes: Outer planes are related to the planes adjacent to them to the left and right

Outlands: Outlands is related to Sigil and to all Outer Planes (Know the gate towns, know the planes)

Prime: Primes must be taken separately, however any Prime is related to the Astral and Ethereal planes

Sigil: Sigil is related to the Outlands

 

 

 

Perks:

Each character gets to choose one perk. Perks are here to help to compensate for the difficulty of the planes.

+2 Caster Level: Functions on CL checks to overcome SR of Planar creatures, and counts for the initial level of Divine Caster level for the purposes of caster level reductions due to distance from

3 Contacts: 3 separate contacts on planes of the player’s choice. They will provide aid within reason and assist with information, guide services, and purchasing.

+1 Divine Bonus to Hit: *Must cast divine spells to take* Functions on all planes.


Gate Key:
You have specific knowledge of and an appropriate key to a gate linking two planes of your choice. The exact location of the gate and nature of the key is up to the DM.

+5 Damage versus Creatures with DR: Functions on any creature with DR other than DR/-.

Spell Key: A key to a specific plane for one school of magic to circumvent planar rules.

Session 1:

Introduction: The Lost Tooth Pick

(This segment and the NPCs herein are my original creation.)
The players are in Sigil, in whichever various places that they reside or such. They will be alternately approached by one of two different characters. Either way the pitch is approximately the same—Simone, Sword Taker has lost what her and Phineas describe as a “tooth pick”. This is actually an Abyss forged +5 anarchic great sword. The sword was stolen by a giant some time back, who has since gone to fight with Loki in battle in Pandemonium.

Phineas bel Thineas:

Phineas is a Dust Mephit mage of high level. He is very conceited, but charismatic. He is trailed as he walks by four other mephitis. He has business interests in Sigil, on the Plane of Dust, and on at least one prime plane. Exactly what it is that Phineas does, or where he makes his money; however he seems to always have access to nearly anything legal or otherwise that could be asked of him. If not directly, surely Phineas knows a guy.

Simone, Sword Taker

Simone, Sword Taker is an Alu-Fiend. She is Chaotic Neutral and fiercely loyal to Phineas, with whom she has a romantic/sexual relationship. She is a powerful warrior and an expert in the use of swords.

Once the characters have been summoned to Phineas’ shop in the Market Ward, he explains that Simone’s prized tooth pick has been stolen by a wicked and mean spirited man named Gilbert Trom Bone (Gilbert is actually an Ettin).

“It doesn’t matter what he looks like, he took the tooth pick and isn’t even using it!”

He explains that he has sent one of his mephit familiars as a spy and has confirmed its location—in a hall on Pandemonium, in the kitchen, on the counter.

Phineas has arranged to send the party through the gate to Pandemonium located in the Gate House (the Bleakers headquarters.) He will send one of his Mephit familiars along to lead the way and make the payment to the Bleakers.)

“Once you get to Pandemonium, Zippy will point you in the general direction you need to head—you won’t be able to miss the lodge that Gilbert has the tooth pick in.”

“You’ll be on your own getting back to me—though I expect you should be able to find your way in a relatively efficient manner, no?”

“And don’t think for a second of crossing me! My lovely Simone wants her tooth pick back, and believe me—if you try to keep it for yourself you shall face the wrath of Phineas bel Thineas, greatest of all dust mephits!”

Interlude: Doors to Unknown: Prologue

As the players are travelling from Phineas’ office on the edges of the Lady’s ward to the Hive Ward, they travel past the shattered temple

Stat conversions for the NPCs in this segment have been done here (again, by Guile):

http://guilesworld.com/role-playing-games-stuff/planescape/adventures/doors-unknown/

A Mouse Eyed View (Chaos Pandemonium)

 

This adventure is a two page spread from the Chaos Adventures book section on Pandemonium; book from the Planes of Chaos boxed set. The obvious changes here are that the players were sent by Phineas (in the “Lost Tooth Pick” story segment) to Pandemonium specifically to steal a sword which rests in the silverware drawer of Loki’s kitchen.

The player characters exit the Bleakers’ stronghold they are pointed in a direction by the Mephit who is with them—“Go there!” He says, and then flits away.

The player characters will travel for one day’s time through the tunnels of Pandesmos. They will periodically make Will saves to avoid the Pandemonium madness from the wind. If they have ear plugs, they gain a +2 bonus against these saves.

Save After Time Period DC
1st 6 hours 12
2nd 3 hours 14
3rd 1 hour 16
4th Upon waking 14
5th 1 hour later (after spells!) 16
6th Thirty minutes 18

 

Details on the effects of the madness are in the Book of Chaos from the Planes of Chaos boxed set.

After the 6th roll, proceed to send the characters into Loki’s realm as described in the “A Mouse-Eye View” adventure.

Use 1 Dire Wolf, plus 1 Wolf per PC past 2 (3 PCs= 1 Wolf, 4 PCs= 2 wolves, ect)

Wolf can be found from the PRD here:

http://paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/bestiary/wolf.html#wolf

The head chef will point them towards the kitchen. For the dogs use the following chart to determine which kind of dog wakes up:

01-49: dog

50-79 wolf

80-89 worg

90-94 dire wolf

95-99 yeth hound

00 winter wolf

(All can be found in the Bestiary)

The Petitioners

The following 8 possible petitioners can be found and convinced to help if the players can avoid waking up more than a few dogs. Jysson must be found here in order to instill the characters with the quest for Great Modron March.

Jysson—run the “It Begins” section from the Great Modron March “Chapter 1: the March Begins, however have Jysson present here in Loki’s realm.
“It was then that this nasty two-headed giant snatch me up along with the book and brought us here.”

Bjorn Jorlsen— CG; Ysgard; brewer: Bjorn runs an inn and brewery on Ysgard, the Crowing Cock. Here he has been forced to brew viscous ale and beer for the giants and Loki. If the players free him, they can stay at his Inn free of charge on Ysgard going forward.

Jorge Pickerson— NG; Elysium; winemaker: like Bjorn, Jorge now mostly makes foul wine brews from honey and mixed berries brought back from faraway raids. On Elysium, he makes excellent wines from the grapes growing in abundance there.

Joe Figus— LG; Bytopia; cobbler: Figus will fix or outfit the party with new winter boots. He is a beaten down, though industrious petitioner. If the players come to find him on Bytopia later, he will assist them joyously.

Harley Mechaschnauzz—LN; Mechanus; clockmaker. Harley is a skilled clockmaker and mechanist. Here she has been reduced to tuning and repairing crossbow springs. If the players later find Harley on Mechanus, he will help them with any mechanics they need and even offer them a small device of some variety. Here she can quickly tune any crossbows they have along. This gives the effects of the Point Blank shot (+1 attack and damage) when they are fired until knocked out of alignment. Additionally, the first time the crossbow scores a critical threat it automatically confirms. The crossbow will be out of alignment when they players either critically hit or critically miss.

Wick—CN; Limbo; chef. Wick will lead the players through the rest of hall and introduce them to the other petitioners. He will also point out where the “tooth pick” is in the kitchen, and

Nerus Nixus—LE; Ba’ator; blacksmith: the smith is a weasel-y and untrustworthy fellow from the Iron City on the second layer of Hell on Dis. He will owe the player characters a single favor, if they release him, and he is a man of his word on this—though they can expect little else from him.  Additionally, the players can take a single weapon from the armory while there.

Boris Trill—NE; Gray Wastes; furrier: Boris will grudgingly give the players warm, if not stylish fur coats. On the Gray Wastes Boris traps larvae, and he can repay the players with a few of the creatures, or a mean larvae soup if they ever find themselves near his home on the first gloom.

Whether the players collect everything, or get only the tooth pick, if they make it out of the hall without waking too many giants, they will be able to find their way out of the cold and snow and wolves of Loki’s realm. If they allow them, the petitioners will scatter—willing to take longer in Pandemonium to find portals to their own planes (or closer to it).

The portal the players end up with, which is both the closest and easiest to open leads across the way to Acheron, where the next adventure picks up.

Little Lost Gear Spirit (Acheron)

This adventure is found in the “Acheron” book from the Planes of Law boxed set. Like several of the previous, its a two page spread so it does rely on DM skill to unpack and improvise.

The players find themselves on Acheron, atop one of the cubes on the first layer. There is a war camp nearby, a fairly long standing one as it has some imported wooden buildings alongside the many tents. When they get into the town they find the Modrons are there organizing their search. Alternately, if the players need a night’s rest you can have them stay in the inn and then

Bladelings:

Bladeling information used from this site:

http://guilesworld.com/role-playing-games-stuff/planescape/bladeling/

I have adjusted the bladelings by making their stat adjustments +2 Dex, +2 Con, -2 Cha to match most Pathfinder racial adjustments.

The party will be made up of Forgrazor (Pl/male bladeling/Wizard [Metal Elemental] 5/LE) and one 1st level Bladeling rogue per player character past the first.

The rogues will endeavor to set up flanks to use their sneak attack ability on the players.

Fogrozar will start with his highest level damaging spells first, working down, ending with gravity bow then using his bow until the fight ends one way or another.

 

 

 

Bladeling Rogue                                                                        CR 1/2

XP 200

LE Medium Outsider (Native)

Init +1; Senses dark vision (60 feet); Perception +4

DEFENSE

AC 18, touch 11, flat-footed 17 (+1 Dex, +4 natural, +3 studded leather)

hp 8 (1d6+2)

Fort +1, Ref +3, Will +0

Special Qualities DR 5/bludgeoning, Immune (Acid, rust), Resist (cold & fire) 5

OFFENSE

Speed 30 ft.

Melee long sword +1 (1d8+0)

Special Attacks: Sneak Attack +1d6, razor storm (15-foot cone, 2d6, 1/day)

Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.

STATISTICS

Str 11, Dex 13, Con 13, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 8

Base Atk +0; CMB +0; CMD 11

Feats weapon focus (long sword)

Skills bluff +3, disable device +5, escape artist +5, intimidate +3, perception +4, sleight of hand +5, stealth +5, use magic device +3

 

 

Forgrazor (Planar/male bladeling/ Wizard [Metal Elementalist] 5/ LE)

Bladeling Wizard                                                                          CR 4

XP 1200

LE Medium Outsider (Native)

Init +4; Senses dark vision (60 feet); Perception +5

DEFENSE

AC 18, touch 11, flat-footed 17 (+1 Dex, +4 natural, +3 Iron Skin)

hp 25 (5d6+5)

Fort +1, Ref +1, Will +4

Special Qualities DR 5/bludgeoning, Immune (Acid, rust), resist (cold & fire) 5

Iron Skin (Su): +3 Armor class 5/ day

OFFENSE

Speed 30 ft.

Melee long sword +2 (1d8+0)

Ranged medium crossbow +3 (1d8+1 [2d6 with gravity bow, +3 with arcane strike])

Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.

Wizard spells prepared—

3rdlightning bolt, haste; 2ndshatter, shatter, acid arrow, cat’s grace; 1stgravity bow, shocking grasp, magic missile, magic missile, sleep

Special Attacksrazor storm (15-foot cone, 2d6, 1/day), arcane bond (object),

Metal Rending (Su): Whenever you cast a spell that deals hit point damage, you deal extra damage to creatures made of metal or wearing medium or heavy metal armor. Affected creatures take additional damage equal to 1/2 your wizard level. This bonus only applies once to a spell, not once per missile or ray, and cannot be split between multiple missiles or rays. The damage is of the same type as the spell.

STATISTICS

Str 9, Dex 11, Con 11, Int 14, Wis 10, Cha 10

Base Atk +2; CMB +2; CMD 13

Feats arcane strike, point blank shot, improved initiative, craft magic arms & armor, scribe scroll

Skills knowledge (acheron) +10, perception +5, spellcraft +10, use magic device +5

 

Whether the PCs are trying to keep the gear spirit or return it to the Modrons, it can get them off Acheron. If they abscond with the spirit, it leads them to a portal. If they give it to the Modrons, they can follow them through the portal.

Ghost in the Machine

This section is found in the “Mechanus” book in the Planes of Law boxed set. Its the third

Either way this sets up the crime they are arrested for—sneaking onto Mechanus, or detaining a gear spirit. (My party gave back the spirit and sneaked through).

I used the stats for Chaos Imps from Guile’s excellent Great Modron March conversion, found here:
http://guilesworld.com/role-playing-games-stuff/planescape/adventures/great-modron-march/

Since the Imps are incorporeal the players will have a hard time with them, I used one imp per player, but each round had an Imp take over an object. With 8 players it took almost half of the fight before they put it together and started throwing random items (a boot, a coin, a bedroll) to entice the imps.

The Great Modron March Chapter 1: The March Begins

After resolving their issues with Modron justice, the players head towards the gate to the Outlands and Automata—conveniently just in time to witness the start of the March. From this adventure collection.

The “It Begins” section earlier during the section in Loki’s realm– the player’s should have both the book, and the cat Jysson with them now. Skip ahead with the “Arrival” section from that chapter.

Climax:

Stats for the NPCs, guardsmen, and thugs can be found here (courtesy of Guile’s work yet again):

 

http://guilesworld.com/role-playing-games-stuff/planescape/adventures/great-modron-march/

Interlude: Back to Sigil

At this point, Jysson leads the player characters through a portal he has the key to and back to Sigil (where he leaves them to return to the Beastlands having given them the deed and address of his own small building.)

They can return to collect their payment from Phineas bel Thineas now and hand over the Tooth Pick. If they don’t, needless to say Phineas will find them and total party kill will result unless the players can talk their way out of it.

This is also a good time for them to check out and collect their gold from Jysson’s shop. They can also now stay there, at least a few of them—it’s about 10×10 on each of two stories and the bottom story is a shop.

That’s the spot we called it for the night! So far, a rousing success– I’ll report more of the story as it progresses, though due to schedules this game is going to run about once per month.

Comments and ideas are always appreciated!

David Bowie: RIP

Bowie

Disney Princesses Re-imagined As Stick Figures

Disney

November DCU Stack

I’m hyper late with my stack review this month. I was distracted with my civilian job and with finishing the first draft of my first novel!

That said, I decided that its better late than never, so I am going to publish it now (just a week before my December stack ships.)

 

SPOILER ALERT– I’m going to review all the DC universe comics from my November pull list. I get my comics off DCBS so I receive them in the final week of each month.

As always, from first to worst in order!

Midnighter #6: Steve Orlando’s run on the only gay male DC hero with a solo title comes in at the top spot this month. This makes it the first repeat choice in my stack (Midnighter #3 also took top honors).

This issue sees M sharing thanksgiving with his new boyfriend, battling multiplex, then eventually going to the hometown where Midnighter’s boyfriend’s father has been targeted, apparently by homophobic thugs.

Of course, in the end, its a super villain. The fight scenes are visceral and bloody, the relationships are touching, and the betrayal is brutal and affecting.

This is still a cape book at heart, so we know intellectually that Midnighter isn’t going to die and that there will be issue #7, however, this was an excellent cliffhanger and a perfect continuation of a great series.

 

Catwoman #46: As good as Midnighter was this month, VIctoria Velentine, David Messina, and Gaetano Carlucci’s Catwoman nearly took the top spot a second month in a row.

This issue ends the story line that has been running since Issue #41. We have a series of falling outs– Antonia Calabrese and Eiko, Eiko and Stephanie Brown, Stephanie and Selena, then finally Selena and Eiko.

Eiko, no longer a Catwoman and now head of the Hasigawa family executes a bloody sweep of all the smaller Gotham families. The clearing of the board leaves three major players with a tenuous peace– Hasigawa with Eiko at the head, the Calabrese with Antonia at the lead, and Forster Lane (Penguin’s crew).

Selena discovers that Antonia is safe, having been tipped off by Eiko to seek refuge with Penguin. There is a tender moment between Antonia and Selena as they both reaffirm the value of family, then a heart breaking momet with Eiko and Selena seeing each across the roof tops, then finally Selena rolls out of town on her motorcycle, heading off to, presumably, a new story arc.

We Are Robin #6: The Robins square off with a Talon in what is I am sure the first shots of the “Robin War”. Duke gets shot, and the Robins eventually get saved by Alfred who reminds them that they need to start wearing masks. All around good issue. Good interplay between the Robins, and a good fight with the Talon.

Robin Son of Batman #6: This might be the highest I’ve ever rated this title. The meat of this issue is Damian talking to Talia, but the best stuff centers around Damian’s relationship with Goliath (his bat-dragon pet). We see Damian slaughtering Goliath’s family, then crying over the tiny runt of a bat-dragon, then in the present Damian releasing Goliath and leaving him on Al-Ghul island to be free. Finally, Robin is heading back to Gotham, and he leaves his mother a very threatening note on the way out.

Grayson #14:  This issue features Grayon, Tiger, and Ladytron sneaking into a German Spyral facility. We find out that Otto Netz created both Spyral and Leviathan to constantly face off against each other, and that both his daughter are in charge of the organizations respectively but also probably creepy clones/mind transplants as well. Its good to start to get some of this stuff explained, but this Spyrol stuff is starting to wear long in the tooth a year and a couple of months in.

DK III The Master Race #1/ Dark Knight Universe Presents the Atom #1: Look, DK III has no hope of holding up to the original, but its still a decent outing. We get mysterious text message scroll about the Bat being back in an abhorrent dialect of texteese, then a glimpse at Wonder Woman defending some people in I guess, the Amazon? Then we get Lara who is Wonder Woman & Superman’s daughter at the Fortress of Solitude, where, oh by the way Superman is just sitting there frozen solid. Alive? Dead? No clue, but Kandor wants some help from Lara. Oh, then the person in the Batman suit is the female Robin and she says Bruce Wayne is dead. So, who knows where this will go?

The included Atom book definitely drug the rating of this package up a few spots. We see Ray Palmer, who by the way I miss seeing as the Atom since he’s been absent for what seems like a decade in the DCU proper fighting what looks like a Dinosaur, but of course its just a lizard in a cage in his lab. Then a little guy comes in and says something unintelligible to him. This is a guy from Kandor and Lara has brought it along and they want Ray to un-shrink them. This seems 100% more interesting that the Batman stuff in the main book.

JLA #5: We get a fill in issue for the 5th issue, so instead of the story of the first four issues we get Martian Manhunter fighting a Martian bad guy of some sort. For a one shot issue, its pretty good. J’onn stalks his opponent in Japan then fights with the shape changing creature. This really makes me wish that we could just get a normal Martian Manhunter book. If this had been issue five of the Martian Manhunter on-going, I can’t help suspecting that book would be in a better place.

Deathstroke #12:  Finally firmly lodged in my stack, this issue features Harley Quinn and the Suicide Squad en tow. Deathsroke is breaking into Belle Reve to look for his daughter (Rose Wilson, sometimes known as Ravager). Pretty good fight between Slade and Black Manta here, and this feels like a good Suicide Squad issue, which seems odd to run into in a Deathstroke solo book, but I’m still along for the ride.

Doomed #6: The final issue of Doomed is here, and we finally get to see Reiser in action. He and Superman and Alpha Centurion take on some Doomsday monsters, and a massive Doomsday monster. The Alpha Centurion threatens to kill him, and Superman knocks AC out, and lets Reiser go. We get the hint that Doomed will show up in Teen Titans, which is nice, I liked the character for all the no where his solo book went.

Titans Hunt #2: Still not sure where this is going; we have Arsenal drunk driving cross country, we get Cave Boy (whoever that is) living in a grocery store, and then Grayson (in his spy clothes no less) researching in the Bat Cave. Oh and by the way, I don’t think any of these characters have ever met in the New 52. We also has Mal Duncan and his pregnant wife or girlfriend in the mix, then at the end Aqualad and Donna Trois show up to fight Grayson. So, total confusion still! But it was interesting, and I like these old Titans.

Teen Titans #13: This issue features the Titans and the Elite squaring off in a prison with some inmates mixed in. I think they were here to get Superboy originally? Or some of them to get Superboy and others to stop them? I don’t know, Dr. Psycho is here too. Then Power Girl gets huge, beats up Manchester Black. Then Alpha Centurion shows up with the obvious insinuation that they are going to fight him next issue. I still don’t really know who is on and who is off this team, and its pretty confusing all around.

New Suicide Squad #14: Waller and crew’s out and about on their current mission. This focus of this issue is whether or not the neck bombs are connected. They are, but Waller took control of them away from the control center (good thing since they were blown at the end of last issue). She for some reason lets herself get roughed up a bit before telling Harley, Deadshot, and Boomerang that if she dies they go off. The bait and switch was pretty obvious and doesn’t seem to add that much to this story, which is why this book probably slipped so low this month.

Doctor Fate #6: The flood continues into its sixth issue; this issue Khalid goes to face off against Anubis. The fight is confusingly drawn; good art overall but the story telling breaks down here and bit and the super slow pace is starting to drag. Hopefully next issue brings this to a conclusion because its really time that we should see Dr. Fate facing some different challenges.

Secret Six #8: This issue is a little down; Black Alice is still beset with magic crazy illness and there are some white gates that are holding out Cthulu monsters that the Six are going to knock down, but oh yeah every magic and remotely magical character in the entire DCU is out to stop them. One of the gates is underwater, so Aquaman is there to fight him. The best part of when the ladies on the squad sit down to watch as Catman and Aquaman fight. Then, there are some bizarre Cthulu people stapping out of their skin who I guess we will fight next month. This book really shines when it features the team interacting with each other, but sometimes there just isn’t enough of that stuff there, still feel like we barely know a few of the newer characters, and we are left leaning on the previous iteration of the book for Catman’s personality in a lot of ways. I think that Deadshot is really the missing ingredient that made that book work so well for so long. Mr. Big Shot is the obvious non fitting piece here. Stryx is great, but as a silent character can’t be the heart of the team, and with Alice sidelined that leaves Catman, Big Shot, Porcelain, and Ventriloquist to carry the team– but Porcelain is still very much a blank slate. We know nothing about her except that she’s a trans woman. I know this is a lot of words about a book on its 8th issue that’s been pretty good so far, however the allure of this book on solely nostalgia for the previous run will only last so long if we don’t get some more attachments to the characters that are actually in this series.

Batman Beyond #6: Tim finally takes down Brother Eye. Hopefully now this book can go into the kinds of places that I wanted to see it go when it was first solicited.

Aquaman #46: Wonder Woman and Aquaman fight with King Shark and the rest of the fake Atlantis squad sent to hint for Aquaman. Some good stuff here, but really a pretty in between feeling issue. The art has corrected itself to DCU standard, so that’s a positive but this is another story line that is starting to wear a bit think with very little movement going on.

Batman #46: Gordan Batman is fighting Mr. Bloom this issue, but there are also some pages with Bruce Wayne frolicking in the shower with his girlfriend and Duke Thomas (one of our Robins from We Are Robin, but with an awful helmet which I hope to god is not the design they go with for his costume) sneaking into Penguin’s iceberg hideout. Which one, why does Penguin have an iceberg hangout, and two why is Duke Thomas sneaking in there, and three why is that happening in Batman when the current Batman has no relationship with any Robin, much less Duke Thomas. Also, as we know from Catwoman Penguin’s hideout is Forster Lane and features tunnels under Gotham which is way cooler than this iceberg thing. Probably the worst issue of Snyder’s Batman I’ve read; really, really weak month here.

Martian Manhunter #6: The split personalities story line continues here. We finally see one of them emerge as a Martian, then there’s something that’s supposed to bring back Mars (by destroying Earth of course) and then they all go into it and it happens and J’onn is whole again, but he has the other personalities in his mind and has to put Earth back together again now. This is a stark contrast to JLA #5 which is how you tell a good Martian Manhunter story, which this is not. 6 issues in and I am not sure how long I want to stay with this book; now that Doomed is cancelled and Robin Son of Batman has righted itself, this is the weakest book in my stack pretty consistantly.

2012: The Year in Disappointing Follow-ups

The Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Twelve saw a great number of disappointing follow ups.  The New York Football Giants followed up a 2011 (well, February 2012) Super Bowl by failing to qualify for the playoffs.  The Republican Party followed up John McCain with the somehow less inspiring, less exciting Mitt Romney to the somehow less surprising effect of another failed presidential bid.  Showtime followed up a very successful season one for some show called Homeland which was critically acclaimed but watched by less than 2 million Americans because, lets be honest, no one gets Showtime with a second season of a show called Homeland which was widely panned as being no longer critically acclaimed and was viewed by the same 2 million or so people because, lets be honest– NO ONE get Showtime.

Music, in the year 2012, made no exception to the general rule of rather uninspired, if not downright insipid follow ups.  I noticed this, most specifically, via personal experience, as anticipated album after anticipated album which I purchased or otherwise listened to failed to meet the expectations which the previous efforts of the artists I follow had built.

Lets take a look at the disappointments that permeated music listening in 2012 in the following format:
The Band
Who it is that disappointed.  What do we know about them, and what do we wish we knew.
The Build Up
Here we will examine the bands previous effort or efforts which have built the expectations which are then torn asunder by. . .
The Disappointment
The album which shattered all our hopes and dreams for the bands which we love or loved by being less awesome than we expected.

So, without ado I present to you, the disappointments of 2012:

The Band: Say Anything
Fronted by troubled lyricist Max Bemis, Say Anything started building indie cred and following somewhere around the turn of the millenium.  The band is build on Bemis’ witty, somewhat homo-erotic, scathingly “punk” but deeply sweat lyrics backed by your typical pop/emo guitar and drums music.
The Build Up: Say Anything Self Titled
In 2009, Say Anything perfected the formula which brought them to notoriety with their self titled album.  The album was a masterpiece track by track.  Opening with accoustic backing before the electric guitars and synthesizers kick in “Fed to Death” hits the pseudo-religious/sacriligious irony which has been a trademark of the band in a perfect minute 36– just enough time to not need to repeat anything.  The second track, the single for the release, “Hate Everyone” maintains its wit, while calling back The Clash in tone yet being uniquely Say Anything.
From here the album gets better.  “Do Better” features pizzacotto strings over hand clapping beats which Bemis uses to weave a self-effacating psalm to failure and unrealized potential.  “Less Cute” tells a story of love-lost regret and loathing about ex-lovers new lovers with jazzy horns weaving seemlessly into the guitars driving need, settling in for the settling.  “Eloise” is a ballad only the sardonic hipster could write.  “Crush’d” is the best song the bad has ever written– sweat and endearing opening the world of love and expectation and desire and laying it all bare to the world in the admittance of a crush.
“She Won’t Follow You” follows on the band’s 2005 song “Admit It” in its sing-spoken verses and scathing, angry verses and catchy half shouted-half whispered chorus.  “Cemetary” softens the tone with another accoustic intro, organ sounding keys, and female backing vocals on the inane/unforgetable/repetitively perfect refrain (your in my body, your your in my body, your in my body that’s where I think about you).  “Death for my Birthday” takes a new spin on the story-fable song about wanting to die and aging and wanting to live.  “Young and Dumb and Stung” rumbles with bass and synth sinister and spiteful in all the right ways.  The album closes with the perfect kind of outro-track in “Ahhh. . . Men””.
While there are a few less than perfect tracks (“Mara and Me”, “Property”) the awesomeness of this album can be easily illustrated by the fact that no less than 5 tracks (“Hate Everyone”, “Do Better”, “Less Cute”, “Crush’d”, and “Cemetary”) were chosen for the bands 14 track Greatest Hits leaving only 9 tracks to distribute between the first 9 years of the bands existence.
The Disappointement: Anarchy, My Dear
Anarchy, My Dear is a decent album.  The opening track “Burn a Miracle” is a really good song, and a great opener.  It was pre-released before the album by a month in early 2012 on youtube with a clever lyrics bouncing around animated video which works great for this band which is built on the strength of the clever lyrics.  The thought that this might be a lesser track on the album only increased hopes that it was a second masterpiece.
From there the album goes downhill.  While we’ve come to expect, accept, and cherish even some of the off things Bemis sings about, “Say Anything” a song named after the band simply goes too far to too little effect “I’d condemn my race to genocide. . .anything for you you (oh oh oh) do anything for you”.  “Night Song” is decent, but seems to drag one four bars too long in each and every phase of the song, and its highlight is the first 15 seconds of a 25 second guitar break two minutes into the song, while the last 45 seconds are thrown away on an extended and incredibly uninteresting outtro.
“Admit It Again” by contrast is simply awful.  It is derivitive in its name, its content, and attempts very hard to recall the sucess that the bands earlier song accomplished. . . “Don’t wanna hear about how the latest Rihanna single is a post-modern masterpiece– stop punishing me”, “well my momma didn’t raise no fool– god my blood boils at the thought of you, poseur die!” “And the crap rains down. . .x6”.  Its a symbol of a band trying so hard to still be indie and off beat and anti-establishment when the music and ideaology they represent has become so on-beat and establishment it smacks of the worst excesses of the hipsterism it pretends to rail against.  Everyone knows only poseurs have to say “poseur die!”
The rest of the album comes through as mostly forgettable.  Only the title track resembles anything of a stand out.  Critical reviews bear out that this was a lesser effort, coming in at 66/100 on Metacritic a full 10 points lower than the Self-titled 76/100 average.  Certainly not a bad album, worth listening to if you are a fan of the band, but ultimately, in comparison disappointing.

The Band: Motion City Soundtrack
Another pop-punk rock band that started just before the year 2000 (with a 7 inch release coming in 1999), Motion City Soundtrack found prominance in 2005 with their album Commit this to Memory with its incessant single “Everything is Alright”, and the perfect drinking yourself into oblivian anthem “L.G.F.U.A.D” (Lets get fucked up and die).
The Build Up: My Dinosaur Life
In 2010 MCS release My Dinosaur Life which charted at number 15 on the billboard top 100, one place ahead of 2007’s Even if It Kills Me.  “Its been a good year, a good new beginning. . . I’ve been a good little worker bee, I deserve a Goooold star” the album kicks off, with the track “Worker Bee”  then barrels forward into a swift tempo reminder of why we loved this band in 2005, complete with a sound that could remind you of a bee singing along in the background if you let it.  The album too, barrels ahead with a great line up of catchy hooks “I thik I can can figure it out but I’m gun  na need a little help to get throguh it” on “Life Less Ordinary (Need a Little Help), and memorable riffs and intro (the drum stick clacking of “Delirium”.
“Her Words Destroyed my Planet” is paced slower than almost any other song in MCS’s catelog, but it has you hooked from when lead vocalist Justin Pierre intones “I fell asleep watching Veronica Mars again” on.  The verses are clever, and the chorus is powerful “If we’d only stayed together, I might not have fallen apart.  But the Words you Said Destroyed my planet, I stal before I start . . . anything at all.”
“Disappear” somehow, by contrast feels faster, harder, roguher than what you expect from this band, stretching them out tonally in a way that holds attention and brings you further in.  “History Lesson” revels in defiance “Its not my goddamn history” Pierre huffs over splashing cymbols.  “Stand Too Close” echoes the best of “L.G.F.U.A.D.” musically, while driving forward with cleverly sacharine lyrics.  “Pulp Fiction” is the best trail-led lyrically connecting song since Third Eye Blind’s “Tatoo of the Sun”.
While the album trails off from there, the remaining tracks are all solid, driven and catchy if not as memorable as “Pulp Fiction” or “Stand Too Close”.
The Disappointment: Go
I won’t go into this album track by track.  In fact, I can’t.  There’s not a single bad track on the album.  Some of them could be catchy if you really subjected yourself to them often enough.  What the album lacks, however, is the song that is so catchy the first time you hear it that you have to listen again.  In the first weeks of June after its release listening to this album.  I wanted so bad to love it.  I wanted so bad for this album to displace My Dinosaur Life and Commit This to Memory from my playlists and my heart.  One day I listened to Go five times in a row.  Sadly, today when I started working on this article (this may of course be yesterday by the time I finish this article) I could not remember one single track off Go.  I truely believe in this band, and I can only imagine that in 2014 when they release another album as good as we know they can I will love it again, but Go  was mearly disappointing.
The Metacritic review data doesn’t bear this out as pointedly as with Say Anything’s efforts, rating Go only 2 points on average lower than My Dinosaur Life, however the opinion of the Alternative Press seems pertinant in this case– Alternative Press rated Go 80 points (June 12th, 2012) while they gave My Dinosaur Life a full 100 points saying, “Motion City Soundtrack have made the best album of their career and easily one of the best albums of 2010 or any other year. [Feb 2010, p.91]”

The Band: Miike Snow
Many of you may not have heard of Miike Snow.  But you have heard Miike Snow.  The synth-pop duo are the pair responsible for Britney Spears’ “Toxic”.  One of the best pop songs of the decades, this alone set a high standard for the music the pair chooses to make for themselves.
The Build Up: Miike Snow
In 2009, Miike Snow’s debut album Miike Snow echoed with synth pop perfection, featuring the catchy memorable hooks and lyrics that “Toxic” suggested they could write.  (No, each time I write Miike I am NOT typing it wrong.  There are in fact, two “ï”s back to back.  It looks wierd, but go with it.)  “Animal” kick starts the self titled with an infusion of Reggae/ska rhythm and sets the tone for what is to come, exploring lyrical hooks and synth soundcraft in equal measure.  “Burial” keeps the ska-tone driving, but mixes in synth swirls akin to the best of the 1980s New Wave.  “Silvia” drips with the want and drive of the after hours, like a lyracized extention of the Underworld circa Beaucoup Fish, replete with mono-synths gliding across the thumb of the drums and bass.  “Song for No One” introduces an almost, western/cowboy riff-as-hook beside the earnest spoken verses and the budding, throbbing bridge.  “Black and Blue” drives with a doowop meats disco sensibility that makes you want to dance till the end of days.  “Sans Soleil” drops the dance beat in favor of a conga and woodblock beat, swirling across with monosynth, plucking piano notes, and earnest, heart felt lyrics even if you don’t quit get why they are saying what they are saying (“How can we expect to build a boat– with Seagulls ruining everything?”  “It’s all the opposite I think, the ladder runs side to side.”)  “A Horse is Not a Home” builds a catchy, dance anthm around a ridiculous concept.  “Plastic Jungle” drips like the best of the 1980s Eurythmics, buzzing along while the Jazz lyrics roll across, “Now I see just what you mean; it hurts to much to breathe; all alone in this plastic jungle”.  The album closes with “Faker”, a swirl of soulful instrumental flourishes built on a running bass line.  Overall, the album was satisfying beyond belief, leading me to believe the band would make imense leaps forward in future releases.
The Disappointment: Happy to You
Things go wrong for Happy to You almost from the start, the first track feeling like a four minute intro, with an annoying intro, and ruthlessly arpegiating background that sounds like the bad end of a Chemical Brothers acid trip, never coalescing into the beauty that the self titled hit so perfectly, and what’s worse, repeating the somewhat annoying back ground pieces to the point that you simply do not wish to listen to the track anymore.  “The Wave” is a fine song, but dwells too long on the snare drum/piano intro, and goes too often to too bare of an aural landscape for track with as minimal vocal content, leaving it more as something you were interested in than something you liked.

The Band: Grizzly Bear
Grizzly Bear have been around since 2002, releasing two albums in their first six years.  The band blends modern instruments like synthesizers with accoustic guitar and folk song writing.
The Build Up: Veckatimest
In 2008, when the group released Veckatimest the album was featured in Time Magazine.  Everything you need to know about the album, which was a solid effort, is contained in two tracks: “Two Weeks” and “Fine For Now”.  “Two Weeks” starts with a staccotto piano line, then builds with a swirl of harmonic vocals, forming together into a perfect sing along doo wop song.   “Fine for Now” slides across the ear in a slinky, soft jazz swirl.  Both songs are nearly perfect, while the rest of the album is somewhat forgettable.
The Disappointment: Shields
I should have seen this one coming: even at their best, Grizzly Bear are inaccessible and artsy.  What set Veckatimest apart was the indelible, indescribably memorable hook of its two best tracks.  Shields is a fine album.  Listening to it deeply is quite satisfying.  But there’s no track on this album that grabs hold of the soul and demands to be loved the way “Two Weeks” did.  Shields is probably even a more complete, artistically more sound album that the earlier one, but its failure to repeat the success of a singular memorable song left me, sadly, disappointed.

The Band: Rihanna
Rihanna is a pop star.  I can only assume that each and everyone of you has heard of Rihanna, unless you are living under some variety of rock.
The Build Up: Loud
 Loud was a monster smash.  It was also a listenable album– which is not garaunteed for an album in the world of R&B/Pop/hip hop.  “S&M” kick starts the album.  It was a US #1 hit and features unforgettable imagery in its lyrics “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but whips and chains excite me” and great plays on words that build on Rihanna status as a sex symbol “I may be bad, but I’m perfectly good at it.” The second track, “What’s My Name?” features a collaboration with Drake.  It was a US #1 hit.  Rihanna’s accent can be heard, and the video for the track is inspired for as simple as it was at heart, with Rihanna in the striped jacket, the seduction in the milk aisle, the city shots spliced in, and Rihanna’s two step dance in the streets, Rihanna’s red hair, Rihanna’s powder blue nails, Rihanna’s orange nails, the central park drum circle– this video is pure sex.   The third track, “Drink to That'” is an anthem in exultation, hitting the high feeling notes like the best of U2’s apex.  Rihanna’s island accent is even more noticable and endearing here when she croons, “Don’t let the bastards get you down” you just want to join in on the party at the bar she is describing.  This track, also a single, only hit #7 in the US.  “Only Girl in the World”, the fifth track on the album was also a single.  It was the lead single in fact.  It hit #1 in the US.  Its a great track, a dance song, and it was unavoidable when it came out.  “California King Bed” never reach the top 25, peaking on the charts at 59 in the US– but the song is a nice ballad, a neccessary break from the sex and club and drum&bass of the other tracks.  “Man Down” is a story song about a woman who kills her abusive boyfriend or spouse.  The islands permeate it more than any other track Rihanna has done, as she reggae style raps out the verses a constant police siren weaves into the background as calypso xolophone rolls across the beat.
This time period also featured Rihanna on Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie”, which hit #1 in the US and was nominated for nearly every song award it was eligible for.  Rihanna was also featurred on David Guetta’s “Whose that Chick?” which powered out the dance rythms and featured an insane pyschodelic video.  It only reached 51 in the US, but was #1 on the Dance charts.  Rihanna also contributed to “All of the Lights” for Kanye West’s masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in 2010.
The Disappointment: Unapologetic
 It may be a bit of a cop-out to ignore Rihanna’s 2011 Talk that Talk which probably was equally as disappointing as Unapologetic, but Rihanna’s 2010 was so strong featuring a half dozen #1 songs, many of which were instantly classic that what she has done since has been ultimately very disappointing.  It may also be too early to judge this album which was released in November, and so far has had only one single “Diamonds” which did reach #1.  It impossible to shake, however, the feeling that Rihanna has moved on from her apex.  Its hard not to wonder whether whatever Mojo she had in 2010 can be regained at some point.  Also, this: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/rihanna-chris-brown-back-together  Sad that such a strong, beautiful, talented woman would return to a man who very publicly abused her.

2012 cerainly disappointed.  The Mayans in particular must have been crushed to find the world still existing in 2013 and beyond.  These are, of course, only a few choices of albums that disappointed– I’m sure many other bands put out sub-optimal releases which left their fans somewhat dry at the mouth, but these few were the ones which left me the most disappointed after having been the most excited to hear them.