SJW! You HAVE to see Suicide Squad this weekend. Here are 9 reason why.

1. Suicide Squad is by far the most diverse super hero movie released to date. Primary cast include 4 women, 3 black people, an Asian, and a Latino. I wrote about comparing diversity in this to other franchises here– (Diversity in Comics Movie Roundup) a few months back. It was the most diverse super hero team at the time and I forgot to count the Mexican American El Diablo.

2. #Feminism!: You insisted that anyone who didn’t shell out for #Ghostbusters was a sexist, racist, misogynist pig. Guess what? Suicide Squad, as noted above has four powerful, diverse women at its core. That’s the same number as in Ghostbusters, ladies! Any think piece supporting the poorly reviewed financial flop that Paul Feige foisted on us also instructs that we MUST support a film that puts Margot Robbie, Viola Davis, Cara Delevingne, and Karen Fukuhara into starring roles! By comparison to get to this many heroic women in the Avengers franchise we have to add two movies together and count one character twice (Maria Hill & Black Window from Avengers and Black Widow & Scarlet Witch from Age of Ultron).

3. Firsts for Super Hero Movies: Remind me who played the black female lead in any Marvel Cinematic Universe film. It’s ok, take your time pouring over IMDB, I know they have 13 films, so this may take a while. Find her yet? No, because there hasn’t been one, nor will there be one until Black Panther, which will be the 18th film in the line.

Viola Davis steps into the role of Amanda Waller (like Sam Jackson’s Nick Cage only instead of the easy route of uniting heroes, she picks out really bad dangerous people and uses them to benefit the US). Waller has been a fixture of the Suicide Squad in comics since always—as integral to the team as Deadshot or Captain Boomerang, only actually more so. You can have the Squad without even its most storied members. Without Waller pulling the strings? Never happened. Davis’s turn as “the Wall” will be the first starring role for a black woman since Halle Berry’s ill-fated Catwoman and it comes in the DCEU’s 3rd release. Not its 18th.

You can repeated the above exercise for the first Latino hero (not even one slated to appear in Marvel), for Asian hero (yes, Guardians of the Galaxy has the aliens Drax and Gamora played Asian and Latina actors, but portrayed as aliens and dressed in makeup approaching infinity. By comparison, El Diablo and Katana are Latino and Asian characters played by Latino and Asian actors.)

4. Intersectionality: This piggy backs on points 2 and 3 above, but remember that #feminist theory about the experiences of doubly marginalized people? The four women in the film are a mentally ill white female, a mentally ill bisexual white female, a black female, and an Asian female. Ladies! You can’t get more victim hierarchical than this! Compared to Ghostbusters with 3 cis white females and one broadly played black female stereotype (which, can we just say Viola Davis’s Waller will definitively NOT be?) it’s pretty clear that Suicide Squad not Ghostbusters is the true #feminist mea culpa of the summer.

5. Race shifting to promote diversity: Suicide Squad sees Will Smith cast as Deadshot, a traditionally white anti-hero. Where are our think pieces praising this brave choice? If Smith is too big a star to merit support for this, what about Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s turn as Killer Croc, another character that could easily have been portrayed by a despised cis white male? Not one, but two characters have been given to actors based on I am only assuming their acting chops without regards to race. Where are our blog posts praising their ingenuity?

6. First Man on Man kiss in a super hero movie: Yep. Jared Leto’s Joker kisses another dude. If you don’t go see this movie it can only be because you’re a #homophobe! Come on, SJWs! You aren’t secretly, homophobes, are you?

7. Non-heteronormative characters: Did I mention above that Harley Quinn is bisexual? Another first to have a non hetero lead in a super hero movie here. Unless you are denying the experiences of bisexual women here!

8. Even Minor Characters feature diversity: Scan the IMDB page. Even in minor roles we have blacks, Asians, and Latinos.

9. Every excuse you could use to not go, applied in equal measure to #Ghostbusters: Bad reviews? Check. Produced by a Major Corporation? Check. Directed by a man? Check! There is no weaseling out of this one, ladies and gender non-specifics! Suicide Squad also had not one, not two, but three GOOD trailers compared to the travesty that was the Ghostbusters trailer.

So, Social Justice Warriors! Are you with me? Are you on your way to see David Ayers and DCEU’s Suicide Squad this weekend? Are you prepared to write reviews where you boldly declare “Women can be super villainous anti-heroes, Suicide Squad is good, get over it?” Are you ready to buy tickets and then not use them to prop up this paragon of Social Justice?

Or are you just hypocrites? Do you just want me to suffer through a #Ghostbusters remake I didn’t ask for, didn’t want, that looked bad, and whose creators went out of their way to insult me while you sit at home and skip diverse movies because they comes from DC/Warner Brothers or aren’t “quippy” like Marvel/Disney movies?

Gun Control’s Root Causes: Why Confiscation is a Meaningless Pursuit

There are reports floating around that Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell is open to listening to “serious suggestions from the experts”. This is good news, everyone, after all, should be open to serious suggestions from the experts in all areas of policy at all times.
We need, however, to make an unequivocal statement on what qualifies as a serious suggestion and what, quite frankly, does not. The most obvious, glaring, and pernicious of these is the call for total or partial confiscation of firearms.

This is not a serious suggestion. It is contrary to every possible method of looking at the policy—antithetical to freedom, directly contradictory to the Constitution, ineffective where attempted, inconsistent to logic when applied to other issues.
Most dangerous, perhaps, of the many reasons that any policy of confiscation and outlawing lacks seriousness is the policy’s obfuscation of the root causes of both mass shootings specifically and gun violence writ large.
The focus on gun control, through both expanded background checks, and veiled and overt calls for total confiscation hearkening to policies that have appeared to be successful when applied to small, ethnically homogenous populations living on islands obscures the fact that so called “gun violence” is not a single problem.
In scientific, data based improvement processes we learn that the most useful method to solve a problem is to search for the root cause. We do so readily in most areas of life—in medicine, in science, and in business, the process of searching for the root cause is an entrenched and acknowledged goal.
Gun control advocates, however, work to obfuscate the root cause of the spectrum of problems we face by conflating a series of vastly different issues, connected on the surface level by a superficial similarity. That is, they take the separate root causes (domestic violence, gang violence, Islamic terrorism, and suicide) and packages them together into a single issue which they label “gun violence”. This ignores the radically different motivations, situations, and circumstances from which these problems stem.
To conflate these four, radically differing issues as a single problem with a single one size fits all solution would be akin to packaging together seniors with broken hips, deaths of extreme mountain climbers, and broken hearts and suggesting one simple solution can drastically reduce them simultaneously—they are all problems which result from falling.
If you’d like reasoning as to why gun confiscation, a solution which focuses on the tool not the impetus of violence won’t work to prevent any of the four major problems which lead to “gun violence” I shall endeavor to point out the counterfactual for each of the four most common root causes.
In regards to the root cause of domestic violence, a policy of confiscation will not reduce violence. Perpetrators of domestic violence are already barred from possessing firearms. This is true not only of felony domestic violence, but also of misdemeanor offenders. Domestic violence is typically an escalating act—that is, before killing his spouse, the archetypal domestic abuser will have spent months or years abusing her physically. Countries who have instituted total confiscation retain high incidences of domestic violence, including brutal mass killings of entire families.
Think for a minute of the mindset of a person who has decided the best, indeed the only course of action which makes sense in their life is to murder their children, spouse, then commit suicide. Does the access or absence of a firearm make any impact upon the decision to do so or not? We’ve seen this type of slaying carried out with knives, with hammers, through strangulation, and even with cars. If the motive to slaughter one’s own kin and one’s own self exist the tool used to do so is inconsequential.

How many women and children have lost their lives because instead of searching for answers to domestic violence we’ve fought for disarmament?
In regards to the root cause of gang violence, a policy of confiscation will not reduce violence. Gang members have made the choice to commit crimes, to associate with criminals, and to live a way of life with complete disregard for the law. Much of the gang violence committed is committed by career criminals who are already known to the police. Many of them are felons, who like perpetrators of domestic violence are already banned from firearm ownership. They obtain weapons illegally, often through straw purchases which as a matter of policy are not prosecuted. The other major source for firearms for gang violence is the very cartels which supply them with a steady stream of other already illegal substances which they sell.
If we can’t stop cocaine from flowing from Columbia through Mexico into the United States, why do we assume that we can stop these established smuggling lines we’ve proven impotent to disrupt from including a few more firearms to supply their local operatives in Baltimore, Chicago, and LA? What variety of logic suggests that a career criminal, intent on breaking the law repeatedly and blatantly will suddenly respect one more law, and one which he has reason to believe he won’t even be prosecuted for breaking?
How many law abiding inner city people, mostly minorities, have lost their lives because instead of searching for answers to gang violence we’ve fought for disarmament?
In regards to the root cause of terrorism, a policy of confiscation will not reduce violence. Pointing out that the most deadly terrorist attacks are carried out by means other than firearms seems specious at this point due to repetition. It also remains the unequivocal truth. A firearm is but one weapon in the arsenal of the Jihadi terrorist. Fueled by a global network of information and indoctrination that is supported by vast amounts of middle eastern money and the symbolic recruitment tool of an actual, functioning Jihadi nation-state ISIS has expanded to inspire if not coordinate attacks.
Worldwide terrorist attacks are carried out with explosives far more often than with firearms. What logic suggests that, absent available firearms the Jihadi who has spent years declaring allegiance to ISIS and Al-Qaeda, who spent months casing Disney World and other locations to attack, who has traveled twice overseas to receive training to carry out his attack, who has familial ties to the Taliban, who had been implicated in domestic abuse, been reported to his employer for stalking and harassment, and been twice investigated by the FBI would simply blend peacefully into society?
Would we feel better if he had walked to the center of the dance floor, yelled “Allahu Ackbar!” and detonated a suicide vest killing 49? Or would the result have been the same?
Can we truly say that in the chain of events leading up the Orlando attack, there’s not something else we could have done to prevent it? Perhaps some law that could be changed related to the information the FBI had on the individual? Perhaps truly decisive action against the Islamic State to deny them their nation state? Perhaps a coordinated global effort to choke off the millions of dollars fueling Jihadi terrorism worldwide? Perhaps another solution related to the domestic abuse he had perpetrated (which if prosecuted would have prevented his access to legal firearms)? Perhaps taking seriously harassment in the workplace, and not de facto exonerating someone because of their religion?
How many innocent people have died because instead of confronting Jihadi, Islamic terrorism we’ve fought for confiscation?
In regards to the root cause of suicide, a policy of confiscation will not reduce violence. It’s somewhat deceptive to even include gun suicide as a form of violence, after all, excepting murder-suicide which typically comes in either domestic violence or Jihadi terror forms, suicide is neither a crime, nor possesses a victim save the perpetrator. If a person has wholly and irrevocably decided to end their life, or to attempt to do so, what difference does the method make?
Gun control advocates will claim that gun suicide attempts are more successful than other common methods such as pills or wrist slitting. However, if we remove the capability to succeed at a suicide, while leaving the perpetrator/victim in a state of feeling the need for a suicide, how much can we be said to have improved his (and I say his because gun suicides are overwhelmingly committed by men) life?
We stand at a cross roads, culturally speaking, in regards to suicide. We have some small amount of suicide prevention resources available- hot lines, occasional public service campaigns, and theoretically mental health professionals capable of dealing with the issue. However, we have virtually no research into the reasons for suicide, particularly among males. And we are simultaneously trying to push gun control to reduce suicides, while pushing to legalize doctor assisted suicides.
How can we hope to confront the problem of suicides committed by firearms if we cannot decide as a society whether suicide is a problem we need to reduce or a right we need to defend?
There are cultures where suicide is accepted, cherished choice. There are traditions where it is a cardinal sin. We must decide which variety of society we represent. The end effects of a bullet to the brain and a lethal dose of drugs administered under the supervision of a doctor is the same.
There is hypocrisy both blatant and bland in using suicide figures to inflate “gun violence” statistics, while simultaneously praising the “choice” made by a 5 year old to end her life. A five year old who believes she will go to heaven (which we have been told over, and over, and over again does not exist) is apparently informed enough to choose to end her own life, but a grown adult male cannot make the same informed choice?
Or should we seek to push all those who are intending to commit or considering suicide towards treatment, hope, and a better way forward than death?
Is it time to admit that our societal values have destroyed the concept of manhood and that, perhaps, we should spend some time learning what causes so many adult, mostly white, mostly lower class men to decide there is no hope?
Or are they too privileged to care about except for their value in advancing a narrative?
Absent firearms, the situations, feelings, and disorders which lead to male suicide will still remain. Without addressing the causes of those situations, feelings, and disorders we condemn these men to a life of suffering. Taking away something they consider to be a part of their way of life, a pivotal foundation of their identities as hunters and sportsmen will only serve to exacerbate the existential crisis caused by the relentless assault on the modern male.
How many men have made the choice of death because instead of offering them help, we’ve fought for confiscation?
So long as we continue to focus on solving a spectrum of problems with a single sledgehammer solution, we will continue to fail because we are ignoring the root causes. We cannot allow ourselves to continue to focus on the method rather than the motive of murder we will continue to stall on the goal of reducing murder. If the goal is simply to replace gun violence with an increase in knife violence and bombings then we are pursuing a meaningless goal.
I’ve asked a wide array of questions, and given virtually no answers. But when we’ve spent the entirety of the last eight years asking the wrong question, how could he hope to find the right answers? Senator McConnell has an olive branch, a promise to consider serious suggestions. The onus is now on gun control advocates to provide them and to understand that confiscation in whole or part does not meet the definition of a serious suggestion.

Planesfinder: Session 2

Well of Worlds: Chapter Three Love Letter (Prelude)

Run the It Begins section of this adventure here with the following modifications— the Cornugan is less mysterious about his identity as he knows the players, though he still won’t reveal he is a Baatzu. Instead of an inn he asks them to return to him at Hizshad’s Fluffy Pillow Emporium. Instead of transporting the characters from Sigil, he explains the device will light up when they are within range and only then can they activate it to be teleported to the correct location. (In this case, that is one plane away—and since she lives on the Abyss that would be either Carceri or Pandemonium.

(This should trigger during the short quests that Gilp has the characters doing after Well of Worlds Chapter 1).

The First Door: The Thuldanin Gargoyle

Once the players have cashed in all their previous jobs, they should head to Gray Dragon Lane to meet up with Balthazar Thames. Proceed to “A tour of Gray Dragon Lane”

Again, I was using stats from here:

Doors to the Unknown

A Skeletal Summons

After the characters return from the first door, with Beranda she will inform them where Balthazar Thames is (on Thistlewind Lane at the Healing Hovel. They can begin researching the Four Doors now if they desire—running parts of that adventure up to but short of actually entering the second door.

As they are moving about Sigil they will eventually notice that they are being tailed by several skeletons. These skeletons are unique in that they are wearing Tuxedos, dressed like liveried servants. When they players move towards the skeletons they hold out a note, with a mysterious address written on a card. Once the message has been delivered to the players, the skeletons turn and walk away.

Whether the players follow the skeletons, or travel to the address on the card it will lead them to the same location—a house that’s actually a giant gargantua skull with two massive gems in its eye sockets. As the players approach the skull opens and they can walk into the opening.

Inside is a lush apartment, velvet carpet, a chase lounge and several velvet colored chairs, and a row of hooks with red velvet smoking jackets.

Another skeleton walks in, wearing a smoking jacket with a pipe. “Please, come in, come in—help yourselves to smoking jackets and pipes.”

“My name is Skel Ton, Esquire. I used to be just like these butler skeletons.  That is, until, our master found himself inconveniently barred from entry to Sigil, and sadly, unable either to return to his home plane.”

“So, what he has asked me to impart to you is the need to go to his domicile on the prime and retrieve a particular item.”

The only known portal to the prime in question is located on Arcadia in the realm of Marduk. The players need only journey to Arcadia, get to Marduk, go through the one-way portal to the prime, then find a way back to the planes and return the item to Artex in his current realm on the Gray Wastes.

“Look, I only speak for my master, I can’t really promise you anything—I can send him a message with what you’ve asked for, but really I’m just a skeleton here. I’m sure he will gladly help you out with whatever sum of gold is appropriate here.”

The characters can get from Sigil, to the outlands—Skel Ton, Esquire has a pass to get them through the portal to the outlands, where they can use the gate town to find themselves on Arcadia. Once they are there, proceed forward to the “Scrambled Eggs” adventure from the Arcadia book of the Planes of Law boxed set.

Scrambled Eggs

Begin the adventure as the characters are traveling down the road to Marduk. Remember that they will need to think good thoughts, and have a good character lead the way for them to make progress towards their destination.

They should definitely not fight the dragon, who is named Elgrezier the Grand. The Formian Queen is Hvix’mnac and the city is Klictrik. At some point have the PCs make a perception check to notice a very small patch of the Iron Shadow—a single formian worker infected.

 

 

ADULT BRONZE DRAGONCR 13

XP 25,600

LG Huge dragon (water)

Init +0; Senses dragon sensesPerception +28

Aura frightful presence (180 ft., DC 23)

DEFENSE

AC 28, touch 8, flat-footed 28 (+20 natural, –2 size)

hp 184 (16d12+80)

Fort +15, Ref +10, Will +15

DR 5/magic; Immune electricity, paralysis, sleep; SR 24

OFFENSE

Speed 40 ft., fly 200 ft. (poor), swim 60 ft.

Melee bite +22 (2d8+12), 2 claws +22 (2d6+8), 2 wings +20 (1d8+4), tail slap +20 (2d6+12)

Space 15 ft.; Reach 10 ft. (15 ft. with bite)

Special Attacks breath weapon (100-ft. line, DC 23, 12d6 electricity), crush, repulsion breath

Spells Known (CL 7th)

3rd (5/day)—dispel magicslow (DC 18)

2nd (7/day)—blurgust of windmirror image

1st (8/day)—alarmmage armorobscuring mistshieldtrue strike

0 (at will)—detect magiclightmessageresistance, 2 more

STATISTICS

Str 27, Dex 10, Con 21, Int 20, Wis 21, Cha 20

Base Atk +16; CMB +26; CMD 36 (40 vs. trip)

Feats AlertnessCleaveFlyby AttackHoverImproved Vital StrikeMultiattackPower AttackVital Strike

Skills Diplomacy +24, Fly +11, Handle Animals +21, Intimidate +24, Knowledge (arcana, geography) +24, Perception +28, Sense Motive +28, Spellcraft +24, Stealth +11, Swim +35

Languages Aquan, Common, Draconic, Elven, Gnome, 2 more

SQ change shape, water breathing, wave mastery

 

For Formians, use mostly workers with a few warriors, and 1 taskmaster if the players directly conflict with them/try to steal the egg. Obviously the CR 17 Formian Queen would eat the players at this level, so that should be an obvious no.

FORMIAN WORKER                                                                         CR 1/2

XP 200

LN Small monstrous humanoid

Init +0 (+4 with hive mind); Senses blindsense 30 ft., darkvision 60 ft., hive mind; Perception +4 (+8 with hive mind)

DEFENSE

AC 12, touch 11, flat-footed 12 (+1 natural, +1 size)

hp 6 (1d10+1)

Fort +1, Ref +2, Will +2

Resist sonic 10

OFFENSE

Speed 40 ft., burrow 10 ft.

Melee bite +3 (1d6+1)

STATISTICS

Str 13, Dex 10, Con 13, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 9

Base Atk +1; CMB +1; CMD 11 (15 vs. trip)

Feats Skill Focus (Profession [miner])

Skills Climb +5, Knowledge (engineering) +4, Perception +4 (+8 with hive mind), Profession (miner) +7

Languages Common, telepathy 60 ft.

SQ able assistant, formian traits, peerless bearer

 

 

FORMIAN WARRIOR                                                                           CR 3

XP 800

LN Medium monstrous humanoid

Init +3 (+7 with hive mind); Senses blindsense 30 ft., darkvision 60 ft., hive mind; Perception +7 (+11 with hive mind)

DEFENSE

AC 17, touch 13, flat-footed 14 (+3 Dex, +4 natural)

hp 30 (4d10+8)

Fort +3, Ref +7, Will +4

Resist sonic 10

OFFENSE

Speed 40 ft.

Melee sting +6 (1d4+2 plus poison), 2 claws +6 (1d4+2 plus grab)

Ranged javelin +7 (1d6+2 plus poison)

Special Attacks deadly grasp, poison

STATISTICS

Str 14, Dex 17, Con 15, Int 11, Wis 10, Cha 12

Base Atk +4; CMB +6 (+10 grapple); CMD 19 (23 vs. trip)

Feats Skill Focus (Acrobatics), Step Up

Skills Acrobatics +10 (+14 when jumping), Climb +8, Intimidate +8, Perception +7 (+11 with hive mind), Stealth +7

Languages Common; telepathy 60 ft.

SQ coordinate, formian traits

 

 

FORMIAN TASKMASTERCR 7

XP 3,200

LN Medium monstrous humanoid

Init +2 (+6 with hive mind); Senses blindsight 30 ft., darkvision 60 ft., hive mind; Perception +16 (+20 with hive mind)

DEFENSE

AC 20, touch 12, flat-footed 18 (+2 Dex, +8 natural)

hp 85 (10d10+30)

Fort +6, Ref +9, Will +10

Resist sonic 10

OFFENSE

Speed 40 ft.

Melee sting +13 (1d4+3 plus poison), 2 claws +13 (1d4+3)

Ranged dart +12/+7 (1d4+3)

Special Attacks poison

Spell-Like Abilities (CL 10th; concentration +14)

3/day—detect thoughts (DC 16), sending (to the hive queen only)

Bard Spells Known (caster level 7th; concentration +11)

3rd (2)—confusion (DC 18), good hope

2nd (4)—heroisminvisibilitysound burst (DC 16), suggestion (DC 17)

1st (5)—charm person (DC 16), comprehend languagescure light woundshideous laughter (DC 16), silent image (DC 15)

0 (at will)—dancing lightsdaze (DC 15), detect magicmendingmessageprestidigitation

 

 

The Missing Item of Significance

Once the characters reach Marduk, this should be a relatively simple matter—they present the letter from Skel Ton, Esquire to the guards, who usher them into the city and to a pub known as the “Wyrmslayer’s Rest”.

The proprietor is a Centaur name Poal, a prime originally from Kesperex. He has agreed to help Skel Ton, Esquire in exchange for a property back on that plane.  Unfortunately, the pathway to Kesperex is a one-way gate. (Because how else could there be plot?)

The characters exit from the portal into the city of Riverport, a massive metropolis split into 12 sectors that are controlled by 12 very different oligarchs. One of the regions is controlled by a super neutral evil, super powerful lich.

The players won’t have any trouble locating his stronghold—it towers above most of the buildings in the area in the form of a gigantic garngantua skeleton. How to get in is another problem.

Once the characters manage to get in, they should be able to find the item in a crate stacked in a closet labelled, “Artex’s Junk”.

Once the players have the item, they can sneak on out and then they will just need to find their way back to the planes. Proceed to the Well of Worlds: Chapter 1

Well of Worlds Chapter 1: to Baator and Back

During their looking for a portal back to the planes they are told about a wizard in the wilderness who had done a great deal of research into this area of study.

 

 

It Begins:

OWLBEAR                                                                                          n  CR 4

XP 1,200

N Large magical beast

Init +5; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, scentPerception +12

DEFENSE

AC 15, touch 10, flat-footed 14 (+1 Dex, +5 natural, –1 size)

hp 47 (5d10+20)

Fort +10, Ref +5, Will +2

OFFENSE

Speed 30 ft.

Melee 2 claws +8 (1d6+4 plus grab), bite +8 (1d6+4)

Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft.

STATISTICS

Str 19, Dex 12, Con 18, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 10

Base Atk +5; CMB +10 (+14 grapple); CMD 21 (25 vs. trip)

Feats Improved InitiativeGreat FortitudeSkill Focus (Perception)

Skills Perception +12

 

Green Slime (CR 4): This dungeon peril is a dangerous variety of normal slime. Green slime devours flesh and organic materials on contact and is even capable of dissolving metal. Bright green, wet, and sticky, it clings to walls, floors, and ceilings in patches, reproducing as it consumes organic matter. It drops from walls and ceilings when it detects movement (and possible food) below.

A single 5-foot square of green slime deals 1d6 points of Constitution damage per round while it devours flesh. On the first round of contact, the slime can be scraped off a creature (destroying the scraping device), but after that it must be frozen, burned, or cut away (dealing damage to the victim as well). Anything that deals cold or fire damage, sunlight, or a remove disease spell destroys a patch of green slime. Against wood or metal, green slime deals 2d6 points of damage per round, ignoring metal’s hardness but not that of wood. It does not harm stone.

 

LEMURE                                                                                             CR 1

XP 400

LE Medium outsider (devilevilextraplanarlawful)

Init +0; Senses darkvision 60 ft., see in darkness; Perception +0

DEFENSE

AC 14, touch 10, flat-footed 14 (+4 natural)

hp 13 (2d10+2)

Fort +4, Ref +3, Will +0

DR 5/good or silver; Immune fire, mind-affecting effects, poison; Resist acid 10, cold 10

OFFENSE

Speed 20 ft.

Melee 2 claws +2 (1d4)

STATISTICS

Str 11, Dex 10, Con 12, Int —, Wis 11, Cha 5

Base Atk +2; CMB +2; CMD 12

 

Spellbook—

1stdisguise self, erase, grease, shield, ventriloquism

2ndalter self, flaming sphere, scorching ray, whispering wind

 

Welcoming Party

Halitsu (Spinagon)
Conversion from:

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

Gateway to Freedom

The gate is to Darkspine, not directly to sigil in this case. Once the characters go through, they will immediately be dropped into the next scenario.

Hot Time in Darkspine

The players arrive in Darkspine now, and find that the town is over run by the abishai.

The leader of the Darkspine offers the players a folding boat, for use on the Styx in exchange for simply taking a message to a contact on the Outlands in Ribcage (the gate town to Baator).

The gate out on this side is heavily guarded, and no one is being allowed through, so this sets up the travel on the river for the start of the third session.

As always, comments are appreciated.

 

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!

Planesfinder: An Experiment in Progressive Nostalgia

For gamers of my age, thirty-three for another month or two, there is a definite nostalgia for some of the settings, if not the rules, of second edition Dungeons and Dragons.

The settings, while in a historical context part of the downfall of TSR, were where it was at. Forgotten Realms was immensely popular, overshadowing Grayhawk and being one of the few settings to transition to later editions proper. There was Dragonlance, with its gully dwarves and kender halflings, and oh yeah- dragons.

One of my personal favorites was Darksun, where you could encounter such creatures as psionic grass that melts your brain, psionic moles that melt your brain, and squid-sharks that got nine attacks while melting your brain.

Ravenloft featured lots of vampires, werewolves, horror, gypsies, and strangely mists. People got real scared of mists in second edition– you just never knew when a Ravenloft game was going to suddenly suck everyone into the Mists and their inevitable doom.

And there was Red Steel.

But among all of the settings, the one that holds a special place for me, personally is Planescape. Looking at the books now, they definitively ooze 90s. The post-modern belief paradigms set up by the Factions seemed so edgy and interesting.

The art of Planescape deserves special mention. DiTerlizzi created a unique and distinct style which remains striking and memorable today. The art was definitely a huge part of the magic of Planescape that fascinated our play group. The art and of course, Modrons.

So, fast forward to 2015. My group plays Pathfinder now, having played 3.5 for years and having skipped fourth edition. Since the end of second edition, virtually everything for the planes released by both Hasbro/Wizards and Paizo has been typically a single book, and not nearly as good as Planescape. Or at least it has lacked the kind of magic that captivated us as edgy teens in the 90s.

In my group, I’ve been running a very successful, long running Kingdom Builder game. Its been run more than a dozen sessions, spanning two years, and taking the characters from 1st level nobles sent to colonize the new world in my own Kesperex setting, to 12th level nobles running a booming Empire with a few dozen squares of land (and water) after merging with (and one of the PCs marrying) a sahuagin Empress and her territoru. They have several settlements, large populations of sahuagins, orcs, ratkin, and humans; armies including human griffin riders, orc witches, and sahuagin warpriests.

I love this game, and its continuing on still. However, I’ve been itching at the same time for a new challenge to run, a new game to excite people who’ve drifted into the game and missed out on the early run of the kingdom builder game. I had three distinct ideas for games I was interested in running– a dark, early, post-Apocalypse military game set in the not too distant future using my own Core8 dice rolling system, a pre-run for my as to yet undeveloped/unwritten Adventure Path “Reign in Hell” wherein the players take on the role of devils trying to climb the hierarchy of hell, or Planesfinder– which at the time I pitched it was nothing more than the desire to run Planescape updated for the Pathfinder and compatible rules set.

So, thus begins the epic journey to run a Pathfinder/Planescape game. Where will this journey lead?

Its hard to know, but certainly all over the planes.

Exodus: Overseer’s Guide

Guys, I am please to announce that some of my freelance work is now available from Glutton Creeper Games (with 4 Hour Games) in the Exodus Overseer’s Guide!

For those of you not familiar, Exodus is a d20/OGL based post-apocalypse game. Don’t worry if that isn’t your speed, this book is chocked full of goodies for any gaming group– traps and NPCs suitable for any modern era OGL game including IEDs, EFPs, and the other devices which have played such a major factor in our most recent conflicts, plus a section on building societies that is useful for any game in any system/setting.

I hope some of you will check it out, and support the small games tabletop industry!

Overseer’s Guide

December DCU Stack

As always, this is a review post– I review all the DCU books from the current month that I received in my week four shipment; there will be spoilers for these books.

The “Robin War” story line definitively took over this month, adding books to the stack and pushing some titles up the list (partially artificially). That said, it was really good cross over which I definitely enjoyed.

From first to worst for my current stack, this month– and now to the books!

Grayson #15: This is the second part of Robin War. It features a “Robin School” where Dick, Jason, Tim, and Damian training the massive number of other Robins, and picking out their best few (spoiler, our friends from “We Are Robin” are all the top recruits). We also get each of the former/current Robins take on what Batman says being Robin is all about– Investigation (Tim), confidence (Jason), suffering (Damian), family (Dick). Really great issue; of course it underscores that having Dick in a random gray spy suit still makes no sense and why can’t he just be in Gotham and be Nightwing again, but it took the top spot this month for the first time in its solid run.

Robin War #1: The kickoff to the Robin War event, we get the set up of a (very) young Robin accidentally killing a robber and a cop. Then we get Duke Thomas arrested and being a real Robin by breaking out of the back of the police cruiser. We get some more exposition about the “Robin laws”, and then our friends from “We Are Robin” who– apparently– are the “Middletown Robin Cell” (who knew!) speaking to a large gathering of Robins. Then Damian kicks all their asses. then mecha-Batman shows up and Damian has to fight him too. Then we get the rest of the former Robins in town and the dual set ups of the Batman sanctioned Robins training the new kids, and the Talons being behind the whole thing. Also, the (really) young Robin from the beginning gets killed by a Talon. As event books go this one set up a lot and worked really well.

JLA #6: We get back toe Bryan Hitch’s epic tale of Rao after the Martian Manhunter focused fill in issue. I have to say that I am glad they decided to drop a fill in issue instead of using more artists to get this story done faster– these big panels are just great and I like that Hitch is being allowed to tell his story, even though it caused some delay.

Aquaman is fighting some of Rao’s followers in Atlantis, and Superman is fighting Rao himself (and getting his butt handed to him in the Fortress of Solitude). Then we see Flash in the past where he is working with an “Infinity Corporation”– I think these are the same scientists who had the dozens of dead Supermen in the first issue?

The Rao’s dudes push Aquaman to the trashed Olympus where Wonderwoman is, and shocker– they blow it up more. We see a massive explosion of red that covers a two page spread, then cut to GL in the ancient past of Krypton where the big reveal is the Infinity Corporation building Flash was in in 1961 here 250,000 years ago on Krypton.

This is unfolding pretty slowly (especially with the delay), but its nice to have a Justice League story that isn’t on an infinite loop of crossover/event machine.

Batman #47: Jim Gordan shows down against Mr. Bloom, having to take out his own mech-suit, but manages to fritz Mr. Bloom’s seeds. Then, with Bloom in tow his Bat-Train-Mobile gets ambushed by more Mr. Blooms and oh, by the way Bruce Wayne remembers that he is Batman. Then the Joker shows up. Who knows where this is going next, but it feels finally like it’s finally building toward something and the story felt much more cohesive than the last few issues where the Bruce Wayne stuff was so very out of place.

I have a feeling this is going to read really well in the trade, but some of these individual issues have just not held up as a single piece of work. Similar to the kind of problem that Alan Seppinwall has been pointing out in Television– TV being made for the binge without regard to episodes as coherent pieces of entertainment/art by themselves.

Detective Comics #47: A Robin War only entry to the stack; part three features most of the Robins (all of them except Dick in fact) in prison, while Dick goes after/convinces to help Jim Gordon/mecha-Bat. There’s also some good talking between Robins in the jail. Then Gordon/Grayson charge off and oh yeah, Talons are here. A slower issue but the Grayson/Gordan relationship is too good to pass up– since these two have known each other as Commissioner/Robin and then Commissioner/Batman, and now as Batman/spy it has a lot of play there.

We Are Robin #7: Robin War part four here; we get more Grayson/Gordon, and then we get a “fight” between Red Hood and Red Robin– not a real fight as they illicitly work together to free the captured Robins, but it was pretty satisfying to get Jason vs. Tim. Biggest problem dragging this issue itself down a bit– we barely get any of the usual “Middletown” Robin Cell– a little Duke Thomas, and them in the backgrounds. Still a good issue, but barely connected to the characters that are usually in it. Of course, since “We Are Robin” as a concept could touch on any Robins, and if it has a long run will inevitably feature other characters than the few we have been getting in the first arc (since the movement as depicted in Robin War is MUCH larger than I realized in this book to date) it still kind of qualifies as fitting.

Robin Son of Batman #7: This issue (part five of Robin War) finally features the Robins fighting the Talons. Robins vs. Owls if you will. I’d have liked a little more of that through this entire crossover, though what we get is solid. It also has Dick bursting in on the Court themselves, and shocker– its Lincoln March (again). Then the big reveal– the Court no longer wants Dick as their “Gray Son” because they now have Damian (the more killing Robin) to fill the role. This is the cliff hanger that leads into Robin War #2– which isn’t in my stack till January, so I have to wait a month for the conclusion. Overall I rate “Robin War” a success for sure though.

DK III The Master Race Book Two/ Dark Knight Universe Presents Wonder Woman #1: So we have Carrie Kelly being questioned by the comissioner which seems pointless– why she let herself get caught only to later escape, ect, ect is all just a blur. Why she wants people to believe Bruce Wayne is dead when he isn’t is completely obtuse here. Then we get Ray Palmer and Lara Kent/Supergirl and they are de-shrinking Kandor. Palmers succeeds and poof– a bunch of Kryptionians now full size! Then, one of them– their evil leader we will assume, shrinks Palmer and steps on him. So now we know what “The Master Race” refers to, as a city full of Kryptonians seem poised to conquer the earth. Then there is the reveal that Bruce Wayne is (predictably) alive. Decent book, but having half of it seem completely pointless capture/escape really knocks this prestige project down a rank.

The mini was again, more fun than the big book. It features Lara training against Wonder Woman. The end line “I’m not like you. . . I’m Kryptonian” seems to tease that Lara is going to join the evil Krypton guys in their plan to take over the world, which is pretty disappointing. I’m tired of people wearing the S not being the good guys, but whatever. This is a mini, so of course if you have bought the first two you are going to finish it out, and it has a big prestige push– but I don’t think this is living up to even Dark Knight Strikes Back, much less Dark Knight Returns.

Secret Six #9: This feels a bit better than the last few issues of the series. We open on some Justice League Dark types talking about how awful Black Alive is; then we get the end of the Catman/Aquaman battle which of course finishes when Porcelain smashes the pillar they were here to smash and they teleport out. Then its off to Perdition, so everyone dresses in old time-y clothes, except Strix who wears a purple prom dress. The Stryx humor was really solid this issue. Then they kill another pillar, but also squash the cthulu thing that the pillar was keeping locked away. Then the last page cliff hanger has Black Alice asking Scandal Savage to kill her (for the good of the universe of course). A good issue to get this book back on track after a few muddled runs recently.

Cyborg #6: The end of the techno-sapiens story line. Vic uses his new “regeneration” protocols to cure the computer virus that is making them so nasty. Problem solved, they fade away/deactivate and only a few escape to another part of the multi-verse. Then the big reveal that Vic can now regenerate and be basically human (or human appearing), but that he is not comfortable looking this way and revealing this to anyone yet. Seems like a good character direction to head in here, and this has been a good run for a character who has been long overdue for a long running solo book. I can only hope that sales, or the cross marketing desire to push Cyborg for the upcoming movies keep this one in the publication schedule for a good long time.

Midnighter #7: The first 2/3rds of this book is a pretty brutal fight with Prometheus. Hard to really describe, but its the kind of bloody, brutal, vicious violence we have come to expect from this book. Then we get some “putting life stuff together” pages, and Deadshot which I assume sets up the next story line. Sidebar on that– Deadshot is EVERYWHERE right now. Or Deadshot and Harley Quinn. The Suicide Squad hype machine is in full effect. I’m not complaining– we are getting some new Deadshot collected editions for which I am greatful, but maybe we don’t need him in every single title over the next few months?

Second side note– Midnighter is hovering down under 10K in sales, towards 7K– hoping this book keeps going because it is a definitive success artistically and deserves to flourish despite low sales– so if you haven’t checked it out– do! Its really, really good, and is still currently the only solo title from either DC or Marvel headlined by a gay male hero.

Batman Beyond #7: In the first post-Brother Eye issue we get Barbara Gordon (now in her late forties or fifties or something) working with Tim Drake to fix the Batman Beyond suit. Why Tim, who fought crime without a super high tech suit thinks that Batman is dead without it, but go with it. He gets the suit up and running, punks some Jokers, and then Terry McGinnis’s little brother (reminder, Terry went to the past [but still in the future from current timeline books] and died there trying to stop Brother Eye [but failing] which is why five years from now Tim is in 35 years from now with old Barbara Gordon.)  For the record, explaining the complex set up for this book does never get old! Glad to have a Brother Eye-less issue. Seems like the book is finally, 7 issues in, heading towards what we wanted when it launched.

Catwoman #47: New creative team here (Frank Tieri writing and Inaki Miranda on art, plus Eva De La Cruz on colors) and while I am sorry to see Genevieve Valentive/David Messina/Gaetano Carlucci go (whose last series on this book was basically a masterpiece), the new direction/set up here is interesting. Seems that the book is taking a turn toward burglar Catwoman, leaving the mob politics behind. Though the setup also includes an old fence of Selena’s being murdered and her set up. I’m looking forward to some heist action, and I’ll stick on the book for now at least.

Aquaman #47: Overall forgettable issue; some Justice Leaguers and Arthur are fighting both Thule guys and current Atlantis, then Mera escapes. I had this issue rated fairly high before the Robin War books all stole the top third of the ratings, but this arc has been troubled at best, and nothing here really stood out after the fact.

Deathstroke #13: We get the finish of the prison break in story here– Catwoman Harley Quinn (see above about Suicide Squad being everywhere), and our boy Slade versus prisoners, prison guards, and a bad guy I’m not familiar with named “Snakebite”. Rose isn’t in Blackgate, and Snakebite escapes, so the quest to find his daughter will continue next issue. Decent start to this arc, but I like it less than the last one that pulled me into this book. Hard to say if Deathstroke will remain a fixture in my stack— especially after realizing how thick my stack has grown as of this month. Its possible that as Robin War falls out of the lineup it will thin down a bit (I’m not adding any of the books I didn’t already have that I picked up this month for Robin War going forward, but I did recently add both Action Comics and Superman to the pull list.) Also, I know a few of the books in my stack are minis/maxis (Titans Hunt and DK III) so they will naturally fall out as well, at a minimum I am still in on Deathstroke for now.

Teen Titans #15: Against a back drop of the Robin War, the Titans square off with Professor Pyg who the end teases is now working for Brother Blood, so a new school Batman villain plus a classic Titans villain that works as a really good pairing. This issue suffered badly from being a tie in. If we had just a bit more of the core story and ditched the tie-in panels it would have been more clean (which for a book that borders on hard to follow recently would have helped). The tie in stuff didn’t add anything to this issue, and didn’t add anything to the Robin War event. I’d say anyone who is not a Titans reader regularly and dropped in because it said Robin War on the cover were probably pretty frustrated.

Red Hood Arsenal #7: A Robin War tie in that I picked up solely because of the tie in. And again, its split and barely touches on the crossover storyline. Here we get some good Tim/Jason stuff about following Dick and then Jason as Robin, but it was just a few pages and then an absolutely unconnected story where Arsenal and Joker’s Daughter (I guess she’s in this book now) fight some circus freaks. Decent book, but another miss on the tie in, and not enough to bring me onto this book, despite my general like of both the title characters.

New Suicide Squad #15: Here we get Waller and crew busting into a corporate facility that is all tied up in the Vic Sage attempted Squad takeover. A lot of this issue is talking heads of Waller squaring off with some white lady we’ve never seen before, but whose part of Leviathan I guess? Yeah, too much talking heads here. Also the last few issues have tried to humanize Parasite, but yeah not really buying him as anything but muscle– especially when his story line is being powerless and passed out and not talking.

Titans Hunt #3: We start with Gar Aqualad fighting against Donna Trois and also trying to strangle Dick Grayson to death. They eventualy find a Teen Titans clubhouse, and all have memory problems. Then Roy Harper drunk in jail gets shot at by Caveboy, and catches the arrow– because apparently he forgot that he is Speedy and didn’t know he could catch the arrow despite all the running around with Red Hood he’s done in the new 52? So confused on everything here still. Hopefully issue four starts to make some sense.

Justice League #46: Wonder Woman and some of her side are fighting against Apokolips guys (after a reminder that everyone is gods now), and then Aquaman and Wonder Woman almost kiss out of seemingly nowhere, but oh hey, Superman is an angry evil god now and that leads into Grail (the spooky half Amazon half-Darkseid chick) getting the anti-life equation and becoming the “Goddess of Anti-Life”. So many problems with this confusing, muddled story line, but toss into the mix handing out the mcguffin that Darkseid has searched for unsuccessfully for 100 years randomly to his even eviler daughter after he’s dead.

Gotham Academy #13: So there’s a random really lame looking Robin at the Academy (since this is a Robin War tie in) who finds Zombies in the Greenhouse. Then Riko from We Are Robin is here, and gets caught by the Academy Girls, and then there’s a green Zombie and Maps is trying to save Riko when she gets arrested but Damian shows up and talks her out of it. Pretty meh, all around, like all the tie-ins have been this event. I guess bad tie-ins, good main book or something like that. Needless to say, although I liked the first trade when I checked it out from the library, I’m not jumping onto Gotham Academy anytime soon past this tie-in issue.

Martian Manhunter #7: This book is troubled. Super confusing issue; we have Martian Manhunter fighting the now Martian looking Pearl, and other parts of him are still here, but we are on Mars, and the little girl who was with Mr. Biscuits is grown up now, and there are Martian tanks? Definitively the bottom running book in my stack and its holding on for continued purchase by a string. I think the sales numbers agree, and I don’t expect this one to continue (and unlike Dr. Fate and Midnighter, I don’t really hope it gets a reprieve.)