Thursday, December 27, 2012

Avatar World: Masters and Apprentices, the Students of Piandao and Kyoshi Warrior Outlines, and Armor System Thoughts

Who would have thought that 6-hour drives through the Moroccan scrublands and mountains was great for game design? The only-occasional Wi-fi doesn't help getting feedback, but thankfully James on S-G has been a great help regularly.
The Journey soundtrack makes an excellent accompaniment to the Earth Kingdom. It also makes excellent music to listen to just about whenever.

So, let's talk a little more "Karma." For now, I'm definitely liking Chi as the name of it. Chi Points is an okay thing to say. For the "Karma Keys" James suggested Chakras, since they're already show-tied, but I'm not so sure about that. The exact phrasing of it feels a bit odd. That's another day's thing though.

Now, what I'm really here for today is for a couple of new design bits! First:

When You Train With A Master:
So Apocalypse World, and Monsterhearts, have this thing called sex moves. They're a set of moves, one per playbook unique to that playbook, with a single universal trigger, "When you have sex with another character...". I'm fascinated by the way that that is a single action that permeates the very core of the games and genres in such a way that everyone has something special that happens in that circumstance. Sometimes it's good, or even great (the Hardholder's is pretty fantastic), while some are more detrimental than others (the Driver, the Mortal), and yet others are entirely neutral (the Battlebabe). I was looking through my list of stuff that I want to have implemented in some way, looking for something just as universal, since I of course won't have sex moves.
And what I came across was the previously-discussed Master-Apprentice relationship.
It doesn't matter what kind of character you're playing as. All the benders benefit when they train with a master. The ancient monk on the peak of the tallest mountain, the wizened sage in his grand library, the greatest knight of the land, the diplomat-emperor of a dozen lands, the elite commando troops of the crown, these are all examples of masters that could be sought out as instructors. Think about Avatar itself: Book 1 was all about getting a master for Aang and for Katara. It even had a training episode for Sokka as episode 3 on Kyoshi. Finding the great masters is a common theme in the media, and it's something sought by all sorts of people of all archetypes.
So everyone will have a When You Train With A Master clause of some kind. My general thinking at this point is that this is a hard benefit that you will have from then on, improving you as a whole. I'll note that I don't feel bad about giving this out since I DON'T plan on making advanced versions of the basic moves really. These bonuses are hopefully somewhat flavorful, rather than just a little stat boost, and they DEFINITELY won't be actual attribute boosts. Here's a couple examples.
Once you've trained with a waterbending master, whenever you use Waterbending you may add the (Area) tag to the attack without penalty.
 So you'll see that I've already modified the phrasing. That's because I remembered that I've been writing them in the past tense and don't want to go back to the above stuff and change it. This is the standard I guess.
As far as I can tell, adding the Area tag isn't overpowering, and is definitely something both Katara and Aang learned to do more and more as they trained.
The other thing you might notice is that that doesn't stack at all. You get it once, and after that, further trainings wouldn't actually help. Now, logically that doesn't make too much sense, but making stuff that's also stackable is hard while not making it really generic too. Instead, I have this message for you: If you've played the game long enough for a single character to have trained with multiple masters, either you should have the experience to write a custom move up for them by then or you probably handed out the chance at master-training too fast. And that takes skill - maybe it's just me not getting it for other people, but I find that after any time running a *World game, coming up with special move stuffs is really natural. I know that I hoped one of MY players would've been suckered into getting cyber-parts cuz I know I could have had crazy fun with that.
(for the record, I say "suckered" because an NPC boss named Rex was pushing them and they were likely to cause mind control to him, not because I personally was trying to trick the players or play Gotcha! or anything)

Now, I'm not entirely devoted to it even just being one single move! For the benders, yeah, just one really makes sense as a whole. What am I talking about then? The Scholar. The Scholar, as I've been writing him, has a pretty clear set of two paths you're likely to take him. They aren't mutually exclusive or anything, and you can do both, but I expect various character concepts are going to take one path or another (and this isn't even thinking about his sub-playook The Doctor). Those paths are the path of the Inventor, and the path of the Sage, which is mostly just what I've taken to calling them, not rules jargon. The Inventor is about building things, about utility. The Sage is about knowing, about the mind, about being smart. As such, I'm considering two Master moves, one for training under a master Inventor and one for training under a master Sage. Any single character can still get both, I just couldn't think of a type of person to really learn both sorts from, and mechanically it seems to be working out pretty well too.
Oh yeah, I'm talking about the Scholar. I should mention that I'm already mostly done outlining the Scholar, I just need to flesh out a few more moves and I think he'll be good to post. I'm actually going to sit on his Master moves until then since they don't make sense without his mechanics anyway.

So, what else do I have for you today? A couple of non-Core sub-playbooks for a playbook I haven't written yet! That's always a good idea, right? Let's deconstruct that real quick.
The unwritten playbook is the Samurai. The Samurai is a regular playbook that focuses on being an honorable warrior in tough armor. Both of these sub-playbooks apply to the Samurai.
Oddly enough, one of them also could apply to The Ninja, a much more nimble but lighter armed and armored than the Samurai. I should mention that while the Samurai is actually quite a specific idea that is still prevalent in the media, The Ninja is actually very broad. Sokka is a Samurai (I know, no armor, I'll figure it out), Mai and Ty Lee are Ninjas. You'll see what I mean with the sub-playbook in a second though.
What did I mean when I said "non-Core"? Well, if I were to compile all of this into an actual book in the end, they wouldn't be in it. Why? Because they are hyper-explicitly straight out of the show. I like to have the text not have literal elements of the show beyond Bending and occasional move-name references and inspiration. They would still be free, and readily available, I just wouldn't mix them into the core mix. So who are these two?

They're the Students of Piandao and the Kyoshi Warriors. Two organizations of individuals with their own specific styles that can be modeled even more closely using the sub-playbook mechanism.
Piandao is pretty easy, and I actually have FOUR move ideas for him. He's the one just for Samurai. Here's the basic ideas.
Well-Rounded Warrior: Either a new roll or a modification of Speak Honorably, based around the idea of Piandao's students being instructed and trained in all the arts of high culture, such as painting and poetry, in addition to their combat skills. If this is a new roll, I'll be reading Artful And Gracious to see if I can pull ideas there, as well as the rest of the Skinner and the Maestro D'.
Humility Makes The Master: Based around Piandao's idealization of being humble and modest about one's skills. It would most likely find its modeling in a Chi Phrase.
Use The Environment: A boring name for a core idea of Piandao's strategy. The Samurai is likely focused far more on direct attacks through Commit Open Violence than support (even supporting himself) through Move With Intention. I would bring that idea back in some way.
Forged In Piandao's Furnace: Making a custom blade is the final step of Piandao's training. While the Samurai has a sword of his own already, this is a more powerful blade made by a master swordsmith. This is an opportunity to have a truly unique weapon with a statistical benefit attached to that uniqueness, and I'm considering treating it like a modified version of something like the DW Fighter's Signature Weapon.

Let's talk about Sokka for a moment. Sokka IS a Samurai. He doesn't wear the armor, but watch him take hits - he keeps getting up in a way not unlike having 2-armor, and he sure as hell is the (clumsy) that goes with that. It's a bit flimsy, but whatever. Also important is that early-show Sokka isn't a player character at all - PCs start at a given strength level, and he doesn't have that. He learned 3 of the 4 moves here from Piandao though, skipping over Well-Rounded Warrior, though not for lack of effort. His blade, of course, was the Space Sword. He has the humility when it matters, but probably doesn't actually score Chi on it very often at all.

The other sub-playbook was the Kyoshi Warriors. Like I forecasted before, this is both a Samurai one AND a Ninja one in a lot of ways. The Kyoshi Warriors as a whole kind of blur that line, being heavily armored strong combatants that ALSO have stealth and speed. I have three moves.
War Paint: The Kyoshi war paint has power, both as a morale-booster for the team as well as an obvious intimidation aspect, as well as the symbolic "We look just like Avatar Kyoshi" factor (despite none of 'em being benders...). Probably gonna work this into Speak Dishonorably.
Armored, Yet Nimble: A very strong move, this allows for the wearing of 2-armor without the (clusmy) tag. It makes Samurai faster and Ninjas tougher, and is generally quite desirable. The rather steep entry condition for the Kyoshi Warriors makes this one hard to get though.
Teamwork: This is DEFINITELY a Chi Phrase. In fact, I wrote the phrase.
Add this [Karma Key/Chakra]: "When an ally takes advantage of a tag you imposed, take a point of [Karma/Chi]."
The Kyoshi Warrior helps the other team members, and this just keeps stacking up if you have multiple Kyoshi Warriors together. However, it's only good on setting up others: when you take advantage of others setting things up for YOU, the better situation is its own reward. Help your friends for Chi, actually attack to make progress. This isn't combat-restricted either. As a note, this is a Chi Phrase that refers not to an in-character action, but a mechanical one that still requires a fictional component.

Suki is the best of both worlds of Samurai and Ninja. Fast, strong, quiet, and tough, good in teams and capable of solo operation. However, we have a couple other folks who found their way in! Ty Lee at the end makes it in, and by that point likely has Teamwork. The weird one, especially given the Kyoshi Warriors' normal female-exclusive condition, is Sokka again. He got in, and already had War Paint, and got Teamwork. Still clumsy though. Note that, in these examples, Ty Lee is definitely a Ninja and Sokka is a Samurai. The Kyoshi Warriors blur the line, and as such are multi-playbook available, and that's okay.

What kind of entry conditions? Well, both are basically to be accepted into or at least given training by Piandao or a current Kyoshi Warrior. The Kyoshi Warriors do not normally accept men, but make exceptions in rare cases. In general, sub-playbook Entry Conditions will look like that: Training or mentoring by someone in the know; essentially, a different version of finding a Master. When you work with a Master of the stuff you're already good at, you trigger your Master move. When you work with a master who shows you a new way of doing things entirely, you could be unlocking a sub-playbook!

THIRD! After writing the above, I left and came back and I think I want to talk about armor too here since I mentioned and was conflicted about things.
I'm thinking of splitting playbooks up into three armor categories.
No Armor: 0-armor, this character is completely unarmored. Alternatively, the character is armored but is frail or weak as a whole, thus counteracting the armor. There are no innate penalties or bonuses for No Armor.
This is the armor type that will be typically held by Airbenders, Waterbenders, Scholars, and Ninjas. They aren't the sort to burden themselves with armor, and the benders there would be significantly impaired by wearing armor usually.
Examples: Most characters in the show are unarmored - Katara and Aang have No Armor, and and most Ninjas in media where very little armor to maintain maximum mobility. Scholars in the show (such as in the Library, or the inventors) have No Armor, and are rarely armored in other media.
Lightly Armored: 1-armor, this character has some form of protection. It may be literal armor, or the character may just be tough enough to shrug off a hit or two. You reduce all damage you take by 1 from any non-Armor Piercing source, and have no penalties.
This is the armor type you'll see on Earthbenders (who are just plain tough) and Firebenders, who often will wear some literal form of protection. Monks are also Lightly-Armored, just ignoring worldly things like pain and injury. The Aristocrat is sometimes Lightly-Armored.
Examples: Most firebenders in the show wear some kind of armor, but it's light and easy to move in. Toph is powerful enough to take hits without being bothered by them. Bumi would arguably be Heavily Armored, but by the rules I would classify him as Lightly Armored, with other techniques helping him take so many hits.
Heavily Armored: 2-armor, this character is usually wearing an actual set of armor, though occasionally they are simply very tough. A Heavily Armored character reduces all damage from non-Armor Piercing sources by 2, but a Heavily Armored character is also penalized with a perpetual negative tag. What this tag is is up to the player, though should be related to the highly-armored status (such as encumbered or clumsy).
This is full-on armor usually. The Samurai is Heavily Armored, and on the rare occasion an Aristocrat will choose to be heavily armored as well. The tag is loose and open to interpretation, and should of course be fictionally true. If you're wearing actual armor, for example, it would make sense to go away when you're not wearing the armor.
Examples: Sokka with the clumsy tag can take quite a beating, and any full suit of Samurai armor.

Essentially, the Armored Yet Nimble move on the Kyoshi Warriors negates that tag. The exact mechanisms of this are in flux, this is just what I'm thinking right now, but I'm mostly okay with this idea right now.

So, that's it for tonight! We had the universal trigger move Training With A Master, the non-Core sub-playbook outlines for the Students of Piandao and the Kyoshi Warriors, and a small discussion of my current thoughts regarding armor. Hope you like it! Pretty soon should come The Scholar, and I don't know what next. Maybe The Monk, or I'll get some ideas regarding an Hx/Bonds/Strings/Trust variant.

Actually, I have a small question. What do folks think of the way I'm presenting the material? I write it in a conversational and explanatory way, kinda making it up as I go, but if people would prefer a more structured presentation of things, I could totally try to do that. This style of writing just comes naturally to me, so I want to make sure people actually enjoy reading it.

End Recording,

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Avatar World: "Karma" and Tag-Triggering
Merry Christmas! I've been enjoying this song, both in and out of the Christmas season, for years now. I just don't get tired of it!

So, I've had a bit of a brainstorm while reading another game by a guy named Alex from Story Games. He shared the game, previously not publicly released (which is why I won't directly link it, but search Story Games for an [Avatar World] thread and it should be in there), in my Avatar World thread, and while it's technically an Apocalypse World hack, it's pretty radically different. For one, it uses a draw system of stones instead of dice. Aside from being gloriously tactile (I would back a kickstarter for that if it got me a pretty stone set, that's for sure), it has one bit that is really beautiful: refreshes. While I can't find where he explicitly calls out what exactly Refreshing a stone does, what matters is what triggers it and that it's a good thing. First, know that the stones you can draw are each based on the four elements. So check this out:
"When you aid someone in need, you may refresh an Air stone."
"When you avoid trouble and pursue luxury and pleasure, you may refresh an Earth stone."
"When you put your friends or family first, you may refresh a Water stone."
"When you leap into danger without hedging your bets, you may refresh a Fire stone."
+ More!
Yeah. That's rad. It locks the narrative hooks that exemplify the personality trends of the elements in the show directly into the game mechanics in a way that requires very little MC interpretation (which I think indicates positive things about an AW hack - AW itself requires an MC for sure, but the fact that things have very clear triggers that prescribe specific things is a good quality).
So, why do I bring this up? Well, aside from showcasing someone's awesome mechanic, I intend to steal a modified form of it!

I titled this "Karma." The quotes aren't optional - Karma won't be a final name for sure, because honestly it doesn't actually indicate anything near the right thing for what I'm using it to represent. Think back to the list at the end of the Playbook Moves post, about triggering Tags. Let's paraphrase the relevant part for today:
"When you fail a roll, you get a point of 'Karma'. Spend a point of 'Karma' to trigger a Tag."
Essentially, I've been looking for a way to actually use all of these Tags that are getting tossed onto things by Move With Intention and the Waterbender and the like. The obvious option was one I actually didn't want to use:
"When it makes narrative sense to trigger the Tag, it is triggered."
I'm not looking down on that one, but I think it doesn't do all it could for me. For the record, what happens when a Tag is actually triggered is ALSO in flux (likely a +1 Forward, but maybe something else instead, idk). What this does is puts everything into the group's hands. It provides the most flexibility, but I'm thinking I can get something a little more helpful to my ends out of it.
The above creation of mine from before helped you when you failed a roll (which I guess looks more like Pity than "Karma"), and that was actually inspired by Dungeon World's XP I guess. However, that still didn't jive with me completely. Some issues included, first and foremost, that I don't think it actually provides enough "Karma" to use. No, I wanted more, something that clicked with me. Thanks Alex - you found it for me.
"Each playbook has a number [!] of "Karma Keys" [!!]. During character creation, you select a smaller number [!!!] of these. Whenever you fulfil the condition of one of them, you gain 1 "Karma.""
[!] I'm thinking 4-5 usually.
[!!] Keys is, of course, a reference to Shadow of Yesterday and Lady Blackbird's Keys, since that's pretty close to how these work. That's just for now though - it's in those quotes too, I likely won't call 'em Keys in the end.
[!!!] I'm thinking 2 usually.
While I don't have them specifically written, each of the "Karma Keys" is gonna be damn close to the sort of thing Alex uses for Refreshes, but specifically written to the playbooks. This is, from where I'm standing, a good way to encourage the characters to act in the sort of way that falls in line with the general expected behavior of the playbook.
But what if they intentionally don't want to be like that?
Well, that's why you pick a few from a list. You have some flexibility in how exactly you play in that regard. Additionally, I have two provisions set up in my mind. First, continued from above:
"...When you fulfil the condition on one of them, you gain 1 "Karma." Additionally, you gain 1 "Karma" whenever you fail a roll."
So, even if you don't play that way, you still will get Karma, just less, and I don't think that makes you unusable, it just alters the dynamic, especially if you have a Waterbender or other tag-focused character. Now, let's look at that other:
"From the Improvement List: __ Select an additional "Karma Key" from the list, or write your own."
That's the other piece I've got. This'll be present on everyone's list of improvement options. I'm taking a pretty big chance by letting you potentially write your own, but I'm hoping that either the ones I have there are compelling enough or people won't just write ones that follow the exact same path they already do. I know I wrote a lot before on Keys and incentivising narrative action with game mechanic points like XP, but I think that "Karma" is desirable, but not on the same level as XP, and you'll have more than just the one you write to trigger. Now, let's write something that I haven't thought through very hard.
"When you have at least 5[!] 'Karma', you may trade 5[!] 'Karma' for 1 XP."
[!] I'm also considering making it easier to 3, but I'll have to actually write some "Karma Keys" to know.

So, that's some fun stuff! It covers two of my trouble spots at once, the process of triggering tags and a way to urge players to play their characters in ways that are true to tones and tendencies of the show (while allowing escape paths if you'd really rather play a little different). Inspiring action like the show was a tough point for me, and I think this is a nice clean fix.
Enjoy it, and like usual, I'd love any feedback you have about it.
End Recording,

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Avatar World: Sub-Playbooks

(I'm here, writing a post, and NOT updating Songaday? Look, it's hard from Morocco, the days will get back on track when I get home at New Year's. I'm having quite a bit of fun though, thanks for asking)
Summoning of Spirits is totally the best album. I knew this song before I ever knew it was a part of the album, and it's still freakin' incredible. DJPretzel outdid himself I think.

Hey there! Thanks to both the folks at S-G and Google+ for the feedback on the moves, I got more than I expected and it's rightfully led to a few changes.
To get the easy one out of the way:
Lightningbender: When you channel lightning, roll+Fluid. On a 10+, you succeed at projecting or redirecting the lightning strike.
NOTE: Lightning, when it strikes directly, deals 4 harm.
On a 7-9, choose 1:
     * Some power rebounds, reducing the power to 2 harm and dealing 1 harm to the bender.         * The blast fizzles out, leaving the bender surprised and open to attack.
So, you can see the big change in bold. I completely axed the condition one and modified the fizzling one to be "leaves you vulnerable," which does the same narrative effect as I was trying to model from the show, but is more interesting than a null result. The Null before had to be chosen instead of taken a penalty since there was no benefit either. It was an escape route, and you know what? There's no escaping consequence when you fuck up lightningbending. This is a high stakes move.
It's important to mention that being "surprised and open to attack" is both a narrative condition and a mechanical one. What it is narratively is obvious, but mechanically it is up to the MC how they want to deal with it. Smack the PC with an enemy attack? Fair game. Call it a tag? Also fair. Make that move as hard as you like (which ain't the same as "as hard as you can").

The exact stats used and actually Waterbending as a whole is under some flux. I'm considering this change.
Waterbending: When you psychically manipulate water [to attack?], roll+Fluid. On a hit, choose from the list. On a 10+, choose 3 and keep your water. On a 7-9, choose 1, and you lose the water afterward. You may pick a single option multiple times.
     * Deal 1 harm.
     * Impose a tag on a foe.
     * Impose an environmental tag.
If you take the harm option multiple times, it is considered one large attack for purposes of ignoring armor (even if it narratively considered multiple strikes).
This is to go with an idea I've been tossing around about having one of the Waterbender's gear options be some sort of water container that can hold n uses of water. You pull out 1 use to do general waterbending, but you can totally lose it. You still have n-1 uses though. You can fill it up whenever it makes sense to with no cost or anything. This is more of a model of the show's big limitation on waterbenders, justifies keeping the pretty strong power level (if you concentrate it, you can do as much harm as a fire blast), differentiate from Airbending and MWI again, and isn't too hampered because Waterbenders have a ton of sub-bendings to take advantage of.

Sub-bendings brings me to the big point today! I'm going to be taking on something rather ambitious I've decided, with encouragement from S-G: sub-playbooks. What is a Sub-Playbook? In essence, a sub-playbook is a playbook in that it's a character concept attached to some moves. However, it's not a whole playbook in that you can not ONLY play a sub-playbook. Regular playbooks come with arrays of stats, look options, gear, and represent the broad character archetypes of the game's story. Sub-playbooks have none of that, instead choosing to represent a smaller, more specific archetype WITHIN the broader regular playbooks, with a smaller number of moves and, often, an "entry condition."
I'm not inventing the concept - while I haven't seen it in a full hack and don't know who did the first, the name I think of when I think of supplemental playbooks (I use those names interchangeably btw) is Jonathan Walton, who did a whole 7 of them for Apocalypse World. Some examples include The Valkyrie, a Battlebabe who can call upon the souls of the dead, and The Fallen, a Quarantine that instead of waking up from cryo-stasis came back from space.
Another example is The Gunslinger, who I wrote myself for the Battlebabe/Gunlugger and have yet to put into full playbook form, though I totally should get back to that when I return from Morocco. If you want to check him out now, LINK
So here's the basic structure of a Sub-Playbook.
Entry Condition: A narrative or mechanical (but usually narrative) condition that must be filled to gain access to the sub-playbook. Without fulfilling the condition, you cannot take moves from the sub-playbook. Not every sub-playbook needs to have an entry condition - some are available to all.
 Concept: Simple enough. What is this sub-playbook? Typically, the concept is more specific than a regular playbook's, and either requires more elaboration than a single move to fill the concept or is simply too niche to fall into the regular playbook's move list (which represent the core things that the playbook could be good at).
 Moves: A sub-playbook's core, like any playbook's, is its moves. These are exactly like a regular playbooks, but of course all revolve around the sub-playbook's concept. There are usually fewer than in a regular playbooks; for my own purposes, a sub-playbook will have between two and four moves, with three as a standard metric.
 So, by now you might have gathered what I intend to break out into sub-playbooks: weird bendings. There are a lot of strange alternative bendings that I would be stupid to exclude entirely, but don't consider important enough to be in the core playbook's move list. Here's my list of ones that will tentatively become sub-playbooks.
* The Lightbender
* The Soundbender
* The Sandbender
* The Plantbender
* The Bloodbender
So, that leaves these in the core:
* The Lightningbender
* The Metalbender
* Phase Mastery (The Icebender and The Vaporbender)
As well as Heatbending (covered alternatively under Conductive) and Healing. I'm considering also pulling out the Vaporbender and returning Phase Mastery to just Icebending, but I need to think a little further on them.
I could also, in theory, use the same concept for various other playbooks. One in particular that I'm definitely considering is an Artistocrat sub-playbook called The Geisha, since that's a significant archetype that shares a lot in common with the Aristocrat, but is less broad. In theory, it's not unfathomable for my Samurai playbook to convert to a broader name of a heavy warrior and the Samurai in particular would become a sub-playbook - however, there are NOT plans to do that, it's more an example of what I could do with the sub-playbooks.
edit: I had to take a break from typing this, and by the time I got back to it I've designed a pretty good set of moves for The Scholar, and it puts The Doctor as a sub-playbook as well! I'll share that stuff soon enough.

So here, let's try this out a bit.
The Plantbender
Entry Condition: When a waterbender (anyone who has the Waterbending move) has spent a night in a great living forest, they are eligible to take the following moves when you advance (as either a playbook move or a move from another playbook).
Plantbending: When you plantbend [!], roll+Solid [!!]. On a 10+, the plants do your bidding. On a 7-9, choose 2:
     * The plants don't your bidding.
     * You are overtaxed or vulnerable (take a relevant tag).
     * The plants are broken or destroyed. [!!!]
There is so much wrong with that list. I haven't nailed down those choices in any way, but that's the idea I'm going with.
[!] This is not the real trigger. It will likely be something along the lines of "When you manipulate living plants through the water inside them..."
[!!] This is based upon the Foggy Swamp style's tendency toward rigidity and such. It's also indicative of the idea that plants are a much more stable medium than water - no one is going to accuse plants of being Fluid. However, I have niggling doubts that I should instead be using Natural, but I cover that up in a bit.
[!!!] Unlike with water, which you now have to worry about losing quantity of, as long as you take other negative effects your plants will stick around. Again, more stable than standard water.
Extraction: When you're surrounded by plants, you may draw all the water out of them (killing all of them in the process) to obtain 1 Water (as the gear option).
 Hey look, it's my favorite Waterbender Hama's move! Crazy witch lady was a very creative bender. Anyway, this is the move to drag water out of plants, but it kills them in the process. Maybe as MC you can add a plantless or dead plants environment tag or something, but that's all up to you.
This actually wasn't on my design sheet that I did today. Instead, there was a really lame stat-based thing about Standing Fast with Fluid or something. Yeah, pretty lame.
Also, this is the first time I'm referring to Water as the gear thing. I'm doing a lot with what is effectively specifically named Hold systems - starting to think I should make some tactile tokens or something. That could be fun. And more work, but hey, tokens!
Now let's see the third and final move. It's a little more involved and specific.
Plant Monster [!]: When you gather all the area's plants[!!] around yourself into a hulking monstrosity [!], roll+Natural [!!!]. On a hit, you have 1-armor, but cannot bend until the plants are released [!!!!]. Additionally, on a 10+, you have 5 Plant [!!!!!]. On a 7-9, 3 Plant. Spend 1 Plant at any time to:
     * Deal +1 Harm
     * Suffer -1 Harm
You also lose 1 Plant for each 7-9 or 6- you roll while holding the plants [!!!!!!]. When you have 0 Plant, or if you voluntarily release the plants, the plants fall away the the environment is tagged plantless.
This is, unmistakably, Huu's signature move in both The Swamp and The Day of Black Sun. It was a strong, large, flashy move. It was also freaking awesome and I want it represented.
[!] Both phrases I use here are sub-par, but seeing as the best even the Wikia can get for it is "Swamp Monster" I'm doing my best. I DO think this needs to be a big thing, and this will likely be the image for The Plantbender, so there'll at least be a bit of a visual cue.
[!!] Yes, ALL of the area's plants. This is a balance factor - no, you can't just drop the plants and grab a new batch. Doing this expends the area, as is made quite clear in the last little bit as well. I AM considering a clause that would essentially require a certain level of vegetation to use it - "I gather up those six or seven flowers" isn't what I want to hear.
[!!!] Natural! Huu was able to do this because of his understanding of the world's interconnectedness and this is very much about the plants themselves. Plus, his own style when doing this wasn't all that Solid. Lastly, this is a balance factor - if you're doing this, you're either going to be just average (if you didn't focus on Natural) or are going to be just average at something else (if you neglected something more key to Waterbenders or Plantbenders than Natural).
[!!!!] Nope, no bending. Not even additional plantbending. It's taking all of your effort to hold the beast together around you. You've essentially become something else for a time. However, all the basic moves are still usable, as are other moves that aren't about bending.
[!!!!!] I'm not calling out the number (though, like most numbers, that will be a playtest point), but the name. Plant is awful generic and I'm saying it a lot in this playbook. I considered Vines to match Huu's monster, but it's certainly not universal, as Huu himself showed off on the Day of Black Sun. I'm also considering Leaves, and if I do tokens for these special Holds, I will likely shape them like Leaves and call it that.
I actually somewhat like the options. They're low-key, and only augment what you're already doing instead of providing new weird actions. As far as I can tell, they're also not incredibly strong either. Something I AM iffy on is the phrasing of "at any time," since I think it might work better if you can't stack them.
[!!!!!!] Losing Leaves over time too! You don't just have them until you use 'em, they fade out over the battle. Whether I lose them on 7-9's might change, depending on how fast that really exhausts them. This basically helps to balance out that I'm giving either 5 or 3 of them. I want to make you capable of lasting a good battle with 'em, but not being super loaded up with power.

So yeah, lots of notes for the Plantbender, but it does an excellent job of demonstrating what I mean to do with sub-playbooks. What do you think?
End Recording,

Monday, December 17, 2012

Historical Songaday: Day 17 (Blue Man Group - Time to Start)

Blue Man Group is... genre-smashing. That they can be called a band at all is a little questionable. They do music, and they're also a performance act. As a band, it's primarily rock with a lot of percussion, but less so the genre-standard drum kit but instead more tribal drums and the sound of drumsticks on PVC pipes. PVC pipes is actually a continual theme in their music.
The performance part is real interesting though. The music is almost a pretense for the comedic aspect of the shows, and the shows really are side-splitting. I've only seen a few bands live, and this is one of them. If you have the opportunity to see them, do it.
Some aspects of their shows end up in the music, like this song.
They have three albums, Audio, How To Be A Megastar, and The Complex. I like The Complex best, but it's a bit of a toss-up.
They've covered a few songs. They covered I Feel Love with Venus Hum, covered Baba O'Riley, and did a fantastic cover of White rabbit.
EDIT: Video fixed.
Their site:
I Feel Love:
Baba O'Riley:
White Rabbit:

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Historical Songaday: Day 16 (The Naked & Famous - Punching In A Dream)

This song came on the radio last night, I hunted it down and have been really enjoying it. Yeah, I know nothing about the band at all, and I can't be damned tor research some guys I know one song from.
Not even any links today.
End Recording,

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Avatar World: Bender Playbook Moves, Topics of Future Thought

Well, hey there! Been a little bit, like 3 weeks or something. I've been busy with stuff and, uh, designer's block I suppose. More like combined designer's block and designer's procrastination - I wasn't sure where to start and thus kept putting it off. By some fluke, I guess that paid off, because over the past week I've actually generated content - like almost all the Bender playbook moves! Let me take a look at my notes...

Okay, I have 5 sections of things broken apart. One section is the Airbender playbook moves, another is the Waterbender, third and fourth Earth and Firebenders, and the last section was actually a big list of topics that I need to address or consider.

For the writing process, I started with the Airbending move. I knew I had a basic framework of a Momentum system in my head, and just started putting idea to paper. After Airbending, I made a couple really basic other playbook moves, and moved on to do the entire Firebender. He's actually my favorite.

But what should I show off today? I have more than enough for several posts, but let's combine some of it. Let's start with just the basic bending moves.

Airbending: When you direct the air around you, roll+Natural. On a 10+, you gain 2 Momentum. On a 7-9, you only get 1 Momentum. Spend Momentum 1-for-1 for effects when you use your continuous motion to your advantage:
     * Deal 1 Harm.
     * Gain +1 Forward.
     * Distance the enemy from yourself or draw them up close.
     * Prevent 1 harm.
You keep your Momentum until you stop moving for any reason, at which point you lose all Momentum. Repeated uses of Airbending add additional Momentum on top of any you already have. If you spend multiple Momentum at once to deal Harm, they count as one strong attack for purposes of overcoming armor (even if narratively they are illustrated as multiple strikes).
This is the basis of the Airbender. The idea is that he always wants to be in motion, holding at least some Momentum. When he has a lot of Momentum, he's free to spend it on various options there, but he must be careful, because many of the other playbook moves for him operate only when he has at least 1 Momentum - a still airbender is a vulnerable airbender, and I think that's very fitting with the concept from the show. Also, I expect the bender to lose his momentum pretty often - look at Aang's fights. Any of them that actually provides a challenge to him typically knock him on his back of have him skidding to slow being blasted back. Now, the flexibility of "how stopped is stopped" is up to the GM on the spot - it should be pretty obvious when an Airbender has lost momentum. Note that Aang can keep up his momentum with his hands alone - you needn't only be moving your feet.
My notes for this move tell me that I should write about the contrast between this and Move With Intention, because the two are not all that different on the surface. It's meant to, sorta. Airbending IS moving with intention - that movement is integral to the form. However, there are a couple key differences - two that I can think of. First, immediacy. Move With Intention requires you to pick your benefits instantly - you can't wait and see how the situation pans out, but with Momentum you can keep it held until you know what would be more useful. This sounds like it makes it simply more powerful than MWI, and I'd say yes, but remember that MWI will trigger in more varied instances than Airbending, and there's the other key difference: How it affects enemies. Airbending is different in that it allows for direct damaging of foes - you can deal harm, albeit not much at once. On the other hand, Airbending cannot be used in the same support capacity that Move With Intention can because you cannot place tags on foes. I haven't discussed what exactly Tags do, but know that I'm drawing my inspiration from FATE games and how support characters can place Aspects on targets that allow the attackers to have an advantage.
So those are the big differences. One can hold and deal damage, the other is triggered more variably and can impose tags.
I would be remiss not to mention a mostly-incomplete hack of Apocalypse World by John Harper and Daniel Solis called Dead Weight. Dead Weight is a freerunning game, and uses a thing called Flow in a similar way I've used Momentum. While I didn't directly reference the text while writing this move, I'm pretty sure it was a guiding influence.
All in all, I'm happy with the concepts here. I'd need to see how the exact choices of numbers and options of what you can do with Momentum actually work out in play, but I like the ideas. Next, Firebending.

Firebending: When you create or manipulate open flame, roll+Hot. On a 10+, it does what you want. On a 7-9, you lose control of it in some manner; choose 1:
     * The flames are larger and more taxing than intended. They deal +1 harm, but you    take -1 ongoing until you have a chance to recuperate.
     * The flames explode into being, dealing 1 harm to all nearby, including the Firebender.
     * The effort leaves you momentarily expended. Take -1 forward and the tag winded.
     * You set fire to the area. Add a relevant environment tag (eg burning, slagged, etc).
I think this also models the concept well - Fire is powerful, but has a life of its own. Firebenders need excellent self-control to keep a hold on their powers, and this shows that using Fire can be dangerous to you, but have excellent rewards. You should notice that I do not specify how much harm Fire deals. This is because you should determine the harm based upon the usual scale of what would mean what. I assume that a full body scorch is 3 harm, but this is pretty variable. It is NOT up to 4 harm unless it's consistent or they are particularly susceptible.
You may have also caught the new concept in the last option: environment tags. Environment tags can be exploited by both sides of a fight, but are not target-specific, so they are quite effective in mook fights. Again, this is using Tags kinda like Aspects from FATE, which can also be applied to the scenery.

Waterbending: When you psychically manipulate water [to attack?], roll+Fluid. On a hit, choose from the list. On a 10+, choose 3. On a 7-9, choose 1. You may pick a single option multiple times.
     * Deal 1 harm.
     * Impose a tag on a foe.
     * Impose an environmental tag.
If you take the harm option multiple times, it is considered one large attack for purposes of ignoring armor (even if it narratively considered multiple strikes).
The Waterbender does their trick multiple times is the idea. If they're good at what they do and particularly dedicated, they can deal as much damage as a full flame blast, or they can play a very wide supportive role. Like with Airbending, this is pretty close to Move With Intention. In fact, it uses the same stat and isn't holdable like MWI. However, Waterbending lets you do more to directly inhibit a foe, while MWI is more about positioning and gaining a better chance for future moves. Waterbenders will need it to avoid taking too much harm, or to gain bonuses on moves without triggering tags.
You can see the bracketed "to attack?" up there in the trigger. It makes sense that you would waterbend at other times too, but I'm thinking that those other times it just isn't a challenge or something? Non-combat bending in general probably isn't too tough unless you're trying to do something exceptional, and in that case I would say that it's time for a custom move or the like. I'm still hesitant about adding the To Attack though. I think I want to try it in a game without the phrase, see how it goes, and then decide.
I MIGHT, however, specify that this move DOES need to be liquid water. This does NOT incorporate Icebending. I have plans there.

Earthbending: When you manipulate rock or stone with your mind, roll+Solid. On a 10+, you succeed. On a 7-9, pick one:
     * You succeed but are left vulnerable.
     * The technique is weaker or diminished in some way.
     * Your manipulation caused unforeseen consequences in the environment.
This was the last one written, and I think it's the weakest of them - it's just not very special. Fire is all about risk v. reward, Air has a whole subsystem, Water has its little niche in being a tag specialist, but Earth isn't. I'll keep thinking, because I want all the Bending moves to FEEL special - despite the other playbooks, personally I find the benders to be the ones that interest me most. But, if we take this just as is, it allows for a very broad use of Earthbending, capable of just about any standard Earth technique.
A couple of notes. On being left vulnerable, that's not vulnerable. Put more clearly, it's a narrative state, not a tag. You've left yourself open to the enemy, and they don't need to use a tag-triggering mechanism to take advantage of that.
Being weaker in some way is very subjective. Just how weak would really depend upon the circumstance.
Unforeseen consequences are things like if you lifted a rock and drew the attention of a nearby creature, or if you threw a stone and it ended up smashing something important, or if you shook the earth and collapsed a support pillar, or stuff like that.

So those are the core moves for the four benders. I think I'll keep going and just explain what I have here! It's a lot, but, oh well.
Who to start with...well, let's go in the same order. Airbenders first.
Acceleration: As long as you have at least 1 Momentum, take an additional +1 to Airbending rolls.
 Simple. The idea being that this move allows you to ramp up your Momentum pretty quick if you keep Airbending, giving you spare to spend on the move itself. That's strong - remember that that spare Momentum is likely going to be the Airbender's main method of dealing damage. Also remember though that, should the Airbender be stopped, they lose ALL Momentum, regardless of how much they have. I'll also mention that it's totally worth having some buffer points - stuff usually triggers when you have any Momentum, but you want to have more than just 1 so if you need to use it shield yourself from harm you can.
I'm consider upping this to "as long as you have at least 2 Momentum" to offset some of the power. Also looking for something to make the move a little more than just that mechanical bonus.

Oh, now's a good time to mention: all move names are extremely tentative. Move names should be descriptive of the character, not of the technique the move is describing - Acceleration would be more along the lines of Super-Fast, because the latter describes the character trait that leads to the move. There are other ways to do it, but in general I'm going to be shooting for that, I just didn't put too much thought into all of these names yet. I'll call out when I particularly like using a certain name.
________________: You have +1 Natural (max +3).

 Well that was...uninteresting. As you'll see, most of the +1 Stat moves have a special clause that makes them feel a bit more like their bending, but the Airbender always has theirs. That's okay - it helps less in the Basic Moves department anyway, seeing as Speak Honorably is likely a less-used move as a whole in the game when compared to Speak Dishonorably or Stand Fast or Move With Intention, so I don't feel so bad about given it a little easier of a bonus.
Air Shield: As long as you have at least 1 Momentum, the swirling air grants 1-armor as it deflects attacks.
 My most expendable move, um, overall. This is a trouble move. It feels valuable to have something like this around, especially because hell no are airbenders getting any armor by default, it reinforces the value of Momentum (helping justify Acceleration), and I wish I could do a bit more with this type of thing, but at the same time, I'm worried that this is really just a variation of actually using Airbending and using Momentum to Prevent 1 Harm. Other worries include a flavorlessness (this doesn't say something about the character really, it's just a thing you do) and I could really use the extra space to have another move - can't clog up the playbook move list! We'll see how this evolves.
Nomad: You Meditate with Natural instead of Keen. If you connect with a spirit, when you awake Hold 2, and spend your hold, 1-for-1, to [DO SOMETHING]
 Best part here is the name. I wanted to be able to tie the Airbender and the Monk together to form the Air Nomad, and that meant spirituality. I'm unhappy with most of the mechanisms here but everything is in the right direction of where I want to go. I don't have a clue what the hold would be, I don't know if that's a nice trigger (or even very Air Nomad-y), I don't know if I want to give away Meditate necessarily - making them roll things that aren't their main stat is cool, but the Nomads connecting their meditation to be fueled by Natural, a stat about oneness and understanding and interacting with others (and for them, the world), well, Meditate with Natural just seems RIGHT for an Air Nomad.
____________: [Something about adding the *Gain 1 Momentum to Move With Intention, maybe something about MWI with Natural or something]
 Let's pretend that move isn't even less developed than anything else. I have move text, but on typing it up I realized I didn't just like it in its existing state. It has no fictional basis. I like the basic mechanism concept, but I need more than a mechanic to put it in the playbook. Thankfully, I also have a concept for something else that is currently without a mechanism but has a solid concept that I can replace this with if really necessary.

I only have concepts for the remaining two moves and have no mechanism at this point. These are Lightbending and Soundbending, the "advanced" bending forms of Airbending. Something you'll see with the other benders is that at least one of each of their alternate bendings utilize a non-core stat for the playbooks. I'm not sure which of the stats I would give to an Airbender's moves.

So, in summary of the Airbender, I love the Momentum mechanic and am struggling with how to use it beyond its own move.

Let's move along to the Firebender, shall we?
Conductive: You can create or remove raw heat energy in addition to open flame when you have sustained physical contact with the target.
Remember, you can cool things down with this as well (although once cooled, even if frozen, you can't manipulate that still, but it could make for some interesting Waterbender/Firebender interaction)! This is a whole other dimension of the Fire Magic User not particularly dwelled upon in Avatar. This is also called Heatbending, but with Lightningbending I wanted to keep the number of *bending moves down. I'm not so sure if this move is enough on its own - I may need to give it a mechanic as well, even if it's just a static bonus to something.
Words I'm contentious about: "raw", "sustained", "target" (that last one I'm iffy on because I want to be clear that anything goes that you're touching, objects are cool, not just people). 
Lightningbender: When you channel lightning, roll+Fluid. On a 10+, you succeed at projecting or redirecting the lightning strike.
NOTE: Lightning, when it strikes directly, deals 4 harm.
On a 7-9, choose 1:
     * Some power rebounds, reducing the power to 2 harm and dealing 1 harm to the bender. [!]
     * The bender and all who see the attempt gain the tag dazed
     * The power doesn't manifest at all, fizzling out.
[!] Numbers, wording undergoing fiddling.
In general, I really like this. My brother brought up that perhaps you just want to do the redirection move, but that's just the same as taking Lightningbender and not shooting the lightning yourself - it's the same roll.
I'm not so sure about a couple things regarding the tag one. I'm not sure if you would ever NOT pick that one - it doesn't actually weaken the blast, and just a tag makes it pretty much better than the top option by default, and weighing a condition versus the ability to deal 4 harm is a pretty big gap. I'm also not sure about the utility of a tag dazed, and I'm not so sure about naming the tag concretely at all. Most of them have all been about Imposing tags, but don't specify the tag. Of course, Monsterhearts does this too with Conditions - usually it's vague, but drained is special. However, it's concretely in a special place with everyone because of the Darkest Self and self-rescuing, not just a funny little playbook move.
But the basic structuring does what I want. Also, you can see I declared the harm. It can be modified for amazing strikes or stuff but 4 is a general direct hit - enough to severely wound a fresh character, enough to kill a battle-weary character, more than you would expect a single fire blast to ever do.
Hot-Headed: When you are treated disrespectfully and respond by Speaking Dishonorably, take +1 on that roll. If you respond by Committing Open Violence, mark XP instead.
It does exactly what I want it to. The changing sections are the exact wording of the trigger, and whether I actually want to incentivize COV that much, but for a move like this I'm totally down with it, it makes sense.
Sunsoul: When the sun is in the sky, you have +1 Hot (max+3).
 This is hat I meant when I said that the other +1 Stat moves would have caveats. From this one, I'm guessing you can figure out the Waterbender's. Note that the sun needn't be visible, it just has to be daytime. Even indoors is okay. I think this is a pretty elegant way to handle the Firebender's sun affiliation and deal with the issue of narratively boring +1 Stat moves. I also think the name is totally stupid, but whatever.
Stance Focus: Decide and inform the MC of what emotion fuels you Firebending if you haven't already done so. If the emotion is destructive or negative (such as anger, fear, or arrogance/pride), you may Stand Fast with Hot instead of Solid. If the emotion is a positive or constructive one (such as harmony, discipline, or hope), you may Move With Intention with Hot instead of Fluid.
 The evolution of Rooted gave me the chance to address a couple things. Most Firebending in Avatar is fueled by the former, and is a lot about holding oneself in place and staying rooted and strong. Early Zuko was fueled by sheer arrogant zeal, and Azula is without a doubt all about arrogance, and then fear at the very end in my opinion (though what exactly is fueling her at the end is basically speculation, her paranoia of betrayal was dominating just about everything, including reason and pride in her accomplishments). Their jerkiness of style and utter stubbornness (Stubborn was another name for the move before I tied in the latter half) allows them to shrug off trouble and withstand danger.
On the other side we have the positively-fueled Firebending, mostly practiced by the Sun Warriors and learned from the dragons. Their firebending does NOT come from rage or hatred, instead coming from calm discipline and a sense of harmony of power - though hope is my own addition to imply that these aren't limited to the emotions we see powering bending in Avatar, but any emotion. Late Zuko, Aang, and Iroh are significant practitioners of this. While Aang's style must be discounted on account of him being the Avatar and already a skilled Water, Earth, and Air Bender, Zuko's late style is much more smooth, relying less on the jerky motions that form the basis of general Firebending. Iroh's style seems to appear quite similar to normal Firebending, but I'd still say that he's more fluid in his motion than your average firebender, and his power is definitely drawn from discipline. Lastly, the Dragon's Dance technique that seemed to be central to the Sun Warrior style looked a lot more like a Waterbending form than a normal Firebending one. All of this combined makes me say that Harmonic Firebenders are less about recklessly exposing themselves to danger but being able to withstand it and are instead about calmly using the power in a way to put them in a position of power over their enemy, hence MWI.
This also solves a funny little issue I had with having too many moves about using Basic Moves with the main stat - in this, you only get one or the other. Plus, taking this causes narrative exposition of something you might not have thought about and allows me to model one of the fundamental elements of Firebending discovered in The Last Airbender.
Can you tell I like this move?

And that's all I have for the Firebender! I really like what I have in general for the Firebender. It's in need of some wording workshopping, and Conductive might need a mechanical aspect, but I'm fond of everything I have conceptually.
On to the Waterbender!
Phase Mastery: Select one of the following:
* Icebending: When you Waterbend, you may also bend ice in addition to liquid water. Harm dealt with ice also inflicts the freezing tag, or a similarly appropriate one. If the target already has the freezing tag, deal an additional Harm. Additionally, you may convert water to ice, and vice-versa.
* Vaporbending: You can draw water out of seemingly thin air. Steam, heated vapor, when used to attack is always (AP). Remember that you cannot heat vapor to steam with this move.
So, I should warn you now. From what I have, just about every one of the Waterbenders moves can be named as *bending. I'm aware of the issue with that, but I kinda like them as the versatile folk sometimes, especially with their focus on support.
Back to this move itself. These were initially two separate moves. I...was not super happy with that, because as I have them, these two moves are actually obscenely strong if you manage to have both of them. The main drawback to being a waterbender compared to the others is that your element is not always readily accessible. Sometimes you fight on a lake shore, but really the number of times you fight AWAY from a body of water is much higher. Taking Vaporbending essentially nullifies that problem, and that's big. Now imagine that you grab the vapor around the enemy and immediately convert down to ice, freezing them in a block before they can even challenge you, and I don't think that's actually even a roll.
Now, as a whole, Icebending is the way to go if you want to be a damage-dealing Waterbender, but Vaporbending can be more situationally useful if your game takes place away from water. Vaporbending also has the second benefit. Now, this is a bit of a weird circumstance - you can't actually heat the water. You need to manually heat it, and that requires you to have set up beforehand. ALTERNATIVELY, this actually makes having a Firebender on the team with a Waterbender a huge asset. I don't have a ton of stuff here that makes various playbooks synergize well with others, but I think it's a neat idea. If you are able to synergize that way or have planned ahead, Vaporbending could be on average about as tough as Icebending, but that's running numbers I haven't done.
Now, about the fictional scenario. Put bluntly, I don't think I saw enough Vaporbending. Aside from Katara, who is an exceptional prodigy of Waterbending (HOW fast did she pick up Bloodbending again?), I've only seen Hama do it. And while I don't remember perfectly, I don't recall Hama ever actually Icebending. Now, she could do it, without a doubt - she grew up in the Southern Water Tribe after all. But we never see it. So no one but Katara can do both, and that's an exclusivity I'm okay with. If you REALLY want it, talk it over with the MC, because unless I can find stuff that's either just as compelling as this or find a way to break their incredible power when combined, they're staying mutually-exclusive.
Healer: When you take time to cover a wound with water [!] and lay hands upon it, roll+Natural [!!]. On a 10+, the wound is visibly cured and 3 harm is healed. On a 7-9, 1 harm is healed but the wound is visibly unchanged.
AKA Chibending #EverythingIs*bending
I have a couple of, uh, special notes here.
[!] This is with regard to covering the wound with WATER. Now, that seems entirely natural, right? I mean, this is a waterbender after all. That's just the thing though - by making bending exclusive to these 4 playbooks, I've made it clear that I want cross-playbooking to still be a thing. While Waterbenders were the only Healers in Avatar, I'm not so sure I want to lock that into truth here. I'm HIGHLY considering making this move about covering a wound with YOUR ELEMENT instead, allowing this to be anyone's game. That's a big deal though.
[!!] I have this as +Natural because it makes some sense and also because I want to encourage the Waterbender to use more than Fluid. However, if Waterbenders AREN'T the only healers, I have a couple of options. The first would be to use Fluid. It would make Waterbenders better at it - fair enough, the body is mostly water and their about flow of power anyway, they fit. However, this is again having the Waterbender roll+Fluid all the time. I'm potentially mitigating this with a heavily WIP move right now that, so perhaps it'd be okay. Another option though would be to use Keen! With Keen, NO bender actually specializes in it. It's tough for everyone, which makes sense since Healing is actually going to also be on another guy in a more prominent way (I'll spoil it - you can play a Doctor when you're the Scholar!). Additionally, Keen makes sense since your making use of knowledge of anatomy and chi paths and must be tightly attuned to watching symptoms. IT's a fine art, less about the skill it takes to bend the water and more about the ability to understand HOW to fix something.
The numbers are a little temporary. I like the general placement, but that's Playtest material to see how it pans out. As for the changed/unchanged wound, I kinda like that.
Lastly, a small break from Avatar: time. Katara and the other healers can heal almost instantly; did you see the first time Katara did it? It was done within seconds of putting her hands in the water, and she didn't even know she was doing it. That said, this move could become exceptionally powerful if I don't limit it. It takes time to do any real healing that isn't just cosmetic, and you can't simply keep saying "I take my hands off. I put my hands on. I take my hands off. I put my hands on." to do it since that's all one big healing session, all part of the same "time." Of course, the necessity of this is questionable - Apocalypse World's system of punishing failed rolls is enough reason to scare away frivolous uses of the move. We'll see how necessary it is, but I feel safer keeping it there. 
Bloodbending: When you take control of an [!] NPC's body, roll+Fluid [!!]. On a 10+, you succeed [!!!]. On a 7-9, pick one of the following complications:
     * You can't do anything but hold them still.
     * You can't defend yourself while you control them.
     * You can only have them perform a single action before they break free of your control. [!!!!]
Oh man, this is a big deal too. See, bloodbending is powerful as hell in the show, and I know ahead of time that it was pretty much immediately outlawed in Republic City in Korra. As such, I need to tone it down a bit for a PC to use it. A couple of troubles.
[!] The first trouble is if you try to use it on what is essentially a boss bender. I know, look through crosshairs, but this is a way to EASILY trivialize any 1-on-1 fights. I want to add the words "weak-willed" before NPC, but at the same time, I want you to be able to TRY it on bosses, it's just harder due to their willpower. I imagine there are a few routes to attaining this.
[!!] Easy route is to add a penalty if the target is not Weak-Willed. That's kinda bland though. I was thinking a different path could be to make it roll +Hot. I don't have another place I want the Waterbender specializing in +Hot, and it ties into the whole thing where it's an evil thing and it gets done out of either malice or anger, with anger being more likely for a PC, and anger is Hot. Since the Waterbender isn't going to have a super-awesome Hot, they're going to be less good at it, and that'll make it reasonable on bosses but not really for mooks - maybe a bonus if the target IS Weak-Willed instead.
[!!!] Another trouble is that "success" is really undefined. What can you do with a bloodbent person? I don't really know. I saw Hama and Katara use it on each other to puppet each other around, and I saw Katara bloodbend a captain into being still. Not all that helpful. I'll point out that as MC you're going to need to watch out for total bullshit from players - when stuff like this comes around, I find players get all excited about breaking the game with it. No, they CAN'T combine their bloodbending and icebending to freeze a person's blood vessels. I will likely need to further define a success, but that could REALLY clog up the move text. Perhaps just an advice section in the text.
[!!!!]  A "single action" is also pretty undefined. This will likely be cleared up with examples.
As a whole, these options feel awfully successful for partial success.
I had a couple of notes on the side of my page about this one that I was supposed to discuss. First: Hama. Hama is an extremely powerful waterbender obviously, having full access to Steambending, a variant Plantbending (used to suck water out of plants), Bloodbending, presumably Icebending, and the ability to lock down even some of the stronger benders with her bending. I'm using Hama as a source for what cool waterbend-y things are possible in the game, not as a model for a typical "strong" Waterbender, because aside from Katara, the Avatar, and MAYBE Pakku, Hama is the strongest Waterbender on the planet, and is easily more creative than any of those, inventing whole categories of waterbending to suit her needs. Know that for all I mention her, playing a character of her power level is going to be, for the most part, out of reach.
Next: I've already talked about the overwhelming power of the move in the show. I've had to scale it back just to make it usable.
LAst note is something I haven't talked about at all yet  - the full moon. I don't know about what Korra may have changed, but at least in Last Airbender bloodbending is only permissable during the Full Moon. Do you see the problem with that in a game sense? If I make it full-moon only, I can either give a mediocre power on the full moon only (in which case no one takes this move), or I can give an immensely strong power on the full moon only, which means once a month you just win everything. However, being moon-specific is itself an issue: the game does not track time like that. Nor should it. It's not like you're gonna be keeping a moon chart and ticking off every time an in-game day passes. No, when it's the full moon and how close that is at any given point is really up to the MC, and that's a pretty nasty it of fiat. So I'm divorcing the use of bloodbending from the full moon. Maybe this is why, in general, it's not as tough as what Hama and Katara do with it. Perhaps on occasion if a player is really loving bloodbending and making it a big part of their character you can give them a full moon once in a while and let them rule.
Last thing is to always warn the player who picks this about the moral ramifications of the move. It may seem innocent at first, but controlling actions of another against their will is a bad thing. There's a reason it's against the Laws of Magic in The Dresden Files, that bloodbending was outlawed in Korra, that only Hama ever did it seriously and why Katara was repulsed by herself when she used it in anger. This is a strong technique that is generally morally poor to use. It may not be that way in your world, but if it is, the move text doesn't mention it so be sure to make sure they understand that.
That's quite a doozy of a commentary, but Bloodbending is a strange issue.
Plantbending: [I don't know]
Wait a second, that's not a good answer at all! Plantbending is an odd one as far as move structure is concerned for a few reasons. For one, in some systems I wouldn't have been at all baffled by this being a whole class on its own - it's highly versatile in theory depending on the wording. More troubling though is what exactly you DO with it - I can't think of anything mechanically dissimilar from plain old Waterbending. It's just a new material upon which you can bend. Either I interpret what it can do mechanically as incredibly broad or incredibly the-same as Waterbending already is. This is an ongoing concern shared with that of the two missing moves on the Airbender, Lightbending and Soundbending.
I DO have one lead though - it will Roll+Natural, for a variety of reasons, most of which sould be pretty obvious (using different stat than usual, Natural is aligned with Wood, etc)
Moon-Chosen: When the moon has risen, you have +1 Fluid (max+3).
 I'm guessing that when you read the Firebender's +1 Stat move you already knew this would be it. This does a all the beautiful wonderful things having a tied together narrative and mechanical benefit on what is usually just being a mechanism.  However, now we have two functions also happening here. First, Firebenders and Waterbenders are now polar opposites - only on the rare occasion will they have their increased powers at the same time. If you have one and make a habit of fighting the other, dusk and dawn make excellent set pieces because it makes either a fast victory or a slow stalling one preferable, adding an extra layer of pressure onto a fight. Also remember that Firebenders likely won't start an assault at dusk, and a waterbender likely wouldn't at dawn, assuming they had a choice.
Now, this does a funny little thing with Vaporbending. See, like I was talking about before, that move makes a great synergy between Water and Fire benders. Suddenly though, only one of them is going to be at full power at a given point. I hope this is an added dimension on top rather than a factor that would take away from the appeal.

And that's all I have for the Waterbender! One more. My god this is the fifth day I've been working on this bloody post.
Defender: You can shield yourself against attacks. If you have warning that an attack is coming and are capable of Earthbending, you count as having an additional [!] 2-armor.
[!] I'm debating the balance of ADDING 2 armor and replacing it with 2-armor.
The Earthbenders of the show do a lot of springing up walls and stuff right in front of them to deflect or absorb attacks, but doing it as a reaction through the Earthbending move is both less-specific (as Earthbending is already broad in its trigger) and has a chance of failure. If you really are trying to be all defensive, which is what this move would indicate, and because I don't offer plain old armor-enhancing moves, this is probably the best route for the Earthbender to not die from attacks. I don't really intend to give ANY of the benders armor by default - it might even impair their bending. Not sure. Heck, maybe I just assign playbooks an "Armor Type" of the appropriate level, and that's what they can wear up to without penalty. Hmm...liking that idea.
And hopefully because Earthbenders don't usually get armor, the "additional" isn't particularly overpowering. I may remove it for cross-Playbooking purposes - imagine a Samurai (who I intend to immediately give 2-armor) taking Earthbending then this - he'll shake off dead-on LIGHTNING STRIKES. 
Vibration Sense: You can see and feel anything in contact with the ground (within reasonable distance). When you Observe Carefully, you can choose to ask any of these questions as well:
     * Are they telling the truth?
     * What is unseen but in contact with the ground?
     * What does their body language betray about their plans?
This does pretty much exactly what I want, very precise wordings of the questions aside (which just might get a touch of rejiggering, but I'm not sure how). It does exactly what I want with the lie detection aspect of the blindsense (just like Toph) and the body language bit is my own extrapolation of the power as far as I can tell. In theory there's even more you can do without a roll with this move - the big thing that keeps popping into my mind is "seeing" around corners.
Counteroffense: When you attempt to avoid or weather a melee attack, roll+Solid. On a 10+, you do not take harm and deal 1 harm in return. On a 7-9 you suffer the attack, but still deal 1 harm in return.
 Essentially, this is the payoff of the post about the martial arts of bending and offensive v counteroffensive styles. This move is strong as a defensive technique and allows you to defend while still retaining a bit of offensive power, though not much. It's not a free pass though. I'm fond of the concepts here, but am not sure about the numbers - complete avoidance of harm, complete acceptance of harm on a partial, 1 harm BOTH times.
Rooted: When you are in solid contact with earth, you have +1 Solid (max +3).
 I am only just now realizing that Rooted is a repeat name of a Firebender move, though that move has since become Stance Focus. Anyway, this is pretty straightforward. Now, in contact with earth could be interpreted extremely liberally by some people and essentially nullify it, but that is NOT the way this works. Non-earthy substances, like ice, wood, or, in absence of a particular other move, metal does not convey the bonus. It has to be something earthy like rock or soil to work.
If you can extrapolate out the reverse, you can probably figure out why the Airbender's boost doesn't have any additional conditions: you're ALWAYS in contact with the air. I mean, I could specify "not in space" but that's stupid.
Metalbending: You can control metal that you are in contact with. When you do, it's the same as Earthbending, but you roll with Keen instead.
Hey look, Metalbenders! Okay, a few things.
First, the complete lack of mechanic. I WANT to put one, believe me, but everything I could think to do with it is already done by Earthbending. However, the flexibility of numbers of the Earthbending move means that stuff you do with metal will likely be more efficient - at protection, at offense, at movement, etc. It's just a more effective stone. It's got a limit that 'll keep you from always using it instead though - contact. Earthbending is just fine with psychic connection, but you need contact with the contiguous metal to bend it. Using Keen is an elemental choice, but it's also a bit conceptual when you consider how Toph came up with the move - she detected the small interspersed traces of rock in the metal, and started by manipulating that. Metalbending is about changing how you think about and detect "earth".
But seriously, if you have a better mechanic, please share. I really want something that isn't a static bonus-y thing.
A fun note is what this does to the Earthbender's OTHER moves! Defender can now operate when you're on metal. Vibration Sense works when you're on metal. Rooted now works when you're on metal. With metal as a prominent material in building, Metalbending widely expands the areas in which you're super-capable.
Also note that having this says some specific things about the timeline if you're playing in the Avatar universe.

And that's that! All the playbook moves I've already written. Now, if you'll forgive a long list now, I essentially have a list of general topics that I'm keeping a note on, plan to talk about, or just think are otherwise necessary for me to get around to. So maybe you see something you can help on, see something you think sounds like an interesting discussion (if so I'll expand more there - knowing what people find interesting helps me a lot in my design, plus in sharing my process!), or just gives you a sneak peek of what's to come. They're in no particular order.
* Broadness of "Ninja", specificity of "Samurai" playbooks
* Environment Tags
* Regular Tags
* Harm, Amount of health, healing, The Scholar as Doctor:
     * Materials, a Daily System, gotta read the Angel, Savvyhead, and Ranger for ideas, but here's the root:
At the beginning of the session or whenever the Scholar takes significant downtime, roll 1d6+Keen. This is your new total number of Materials, replacing your previous total. These will be spent on various things, such as healing.
 Healing: When you heal, spend x Materials. The target heals x harm. You may instead spend x Materials to roll+Keen. On a 10+, heal 2x harm. On a 7-9, heal 1/2 x harm. Regardless, x Materials were spent.
So there, a sneak peek of some Scholar work. Presumably the Materials mechanic as a whole will probably become his gimmick.
* Honor, Debt, or other replacement for Hx
* When you train with a master...
* Do we need barter at all?
     * Wealth is an aspect in the source materials, but rarely the point. Instead, wealth is used as a plot motivator - Avatar, Samurai Champloo, and more were full of "We're broke again..." episodes.
* Triggering Conditions
     * MAYBE a "Karma" system? (Karma is the wrong word for what I am about to describe, but w/e for now)
When you fail a roll, take a point of Karma. Spend Karma 1-for-1 to trigger conditions on a target to take +1 Forward against them. It can also be used against PC conditions to reduce their next roll by 1.
Should it be more common? Less? Do more? Major flux here, this is super-preliminary.
* Plantbending? Soundbending? Lightbending? Metalbending or Heatbending mechanics?
* Playbook move names should describe the CHARACTER, not the technique - this is a guideline, not a rule though.
* Evil, Unnaturalness, Twisted Benders
* Spirits, Creatures
* Energybending and the Lion Turtle.
* Bending Animals, Companions (Sky Bison, Lemur, Dragon, that Mole-Dog thing, etc)
* The undead, traditional folklore monsters
* I need a REAL hook for the Monk and Aristocrat classes mechanically.
* Northern vs Southern Water Tribes - do they need representation in any way?
* The Avatar State
* Multi-Playbooking
* Changing the word "playbook". Maybe "Disciplines"?
* Look options
* Choose stats: List 'em, Pick 'em, Alter this array, make my own type?
* Playing in Avatarland, or not, time periods and options
* Violence for Violence's sake
* Multi-playbooking and healing
* Potential underuse of speak honorably?

In theory, you could play a full playbook'd game now. It'd be pretty bare-bones though still - I have a lot of work to do still. Regardless, I think this is a lot of progress. I REALLY should be splitting this up into multiple posts, but whatever to that.

End Recording,

Historical Songaday: Day 15 (Cage the Elephant - Ain't No Rest For The Wicked)

From this point on until the New Year I am somewhere in between "hard to reach" and "completely unavailable." If days start being missed, it means I didn't prepare enough by the time I'm gone. Hopefully I'll have reviews written and given out on time, but they might be late. I'm going to try as best I can, sorry.

This group is on the map thanks to Borderlands. It's a great song, and a pretty good first album(hits and misses galore, but more on the hits side). The second album is NOT is good in my eyes.
So, uh, yeah. It's late, this post is just a little too late, and I can't be damned to think up more stuff. Maybe I'll edit more stuff in later. 
Their site

Friday, December 14, 2012

Historical Songaday: Day 14 (Niyaz - Ghazal)

Niyaz is an Iranian music trio that blend Sufi mysticism with trance electronica. I love it. I like the sound of a lot of the Middle-Eastern instruments, so I really enjoy the sounds these guys use. It's faced by Azam Ali, the female vocalist, and she has a thriving solo career as well that has been met with a lot of success. I found these fellas through Pandora(this song in fact) and have been closely following them ever since.
That feels really short, so I'm going to go a bit more into Azam. Before Niyaz, alongside her solo career, she was member of a group called Vas. It was fundamentally very similar, but instead of being a DJ, Azam, and her husband(which is Niyaz's composition), it was her and Greg Ellis. If you think you've heard his name before, it might be from his involvement with scene superpower Juno Reactor, or from his extensive array of films that he's worked with, which include the Matrix movies(all three I believe), Fight Club, Tomb Raider, and The Chronicles of Narnia. If you add Tyler Bates(another film-music name, with work in many of Zach Snyder's works) to the Vas mix, you get Roseland, who did one album. Oddly, in Roseland, Azam sings fully in English, which she doesn't really do at all in Niyaz. Azam's husband, who now works with her in Niyaz, previously worked in a Persian/western crossover group called Axiom of Choice(which I've been meaning to give a listen to). Azam's solo work features both her vocals and her playing the hammered dulcimer, which she has trained in.
Oh, and some songs from Niyaz's second album, Nine Heavens, got used on True Blood. Maybe you heard some there.
Azam still gets featured all over the place when a middle-eastern female vocalist is needed. She sang for a couple of original compositions for Greg Edmonson's soundtrack for Uncharted 3!

Niyaz(watch out, autoplay for their music. Disable in the bottom right)
Beni Beni
Axiom of Choice
Ida(Axiom of Choice)
Azam Ali
Lass Pour Quoi(Azam Ali)
Greg Ellis
Juno Reactor
Navaras(Juno Reactor)
Bardo (Vas)
Tyler Bates

End Recording,

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Historical Songaday: Day 13 (Jesper Kyd - Venice Rooftops)

Jesper Kyd is the composer for the Assassin's Creed games and the Hitman games, among others. His work on the first AC was nice, but go listen to the second game, it's brilliant. If you didn't know, Assassin's Creed is a Ubisoft game that features a lot of climbing on stuff. Very pretty stuff. Very pretty stuff of which many are real important locations from the time period and area. The history in the games is fascinating if you know where to look.
I'm probably going to regret the utter lack of links that I can come up with for game music.
I wrote FAR more extensively on my opinions on Assassin's Creed music, especially III's, in the first Sunday Songs. ACII is still my favorite of the AC soundtracks btw.
Look just read the Sunday Songs installment on Assassin's Creed. It has more than enough links.

End Recording,

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Historical Songaday: Day 12 (Oh Possum - Terror Bull (Play Dead))

Sorry bout that little wait! I've been up for about 36 hours now with only a 1-hour break thanks to today's finals (one of which I did JUST good enough to not have my grade plummet into C territory and hold at a B-) and an essay. I am just ready to fucking sleep.

The only good Oh Possum recording on Youtube. Oh Possum is, um, something band out of the Des Moines area. I honestly don't have a word to define what it is they do. They have one album, The Eerie Beat Visual, and it is HARD to track down. I found these guys because a podcast I listen to uses them as intro and outro music. I LOVE their song Under Porches, Beds, & Stairs. That's the song I want to use, but alas, no Youtube video. I have a site where you can listen to the whole album though! Look in the links. Terror Bull(Play Dead) is good too though, so give it a shot!
Pretty much that. I talked about them more and better on October Songaday Day 31, which can easily be accessed through the Music tab up top like usual.

The site to hear them at
That's actually the only link I can think of. He has other stuff on that site too including another album, by the way(if it wasn't clear, the site is the band creator's).

Freakin' obscure bands who are really good and don't have Youtube uploads...
Seeya tomorrow, hopefully with a bit more rest in my body...
End Recording,

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Video Game Review: Halo 4
So Halo 4 happened! Only a few days after Assassin's Creed III crossed my Xbox, I had Halo 4 in front of me. Now, if you read last week's review, you know that I found ACIII disappointing unfortunately. At this point, I'd hyped myself up and really needed a good game, something to fill the hole that ACIII failed to fill. I put my faith in Halo 4. And you know what? It did exactly what I wanted it to. Halo 4 is great.

Background: What's my Halo history? Halo 3 was our first Xbox game when we (being my bro and I) got a 360 a few years ago. We charged through it and loved it. We got a hold of the original and played that, and then my bro also played Halo 2, which I didn't like as much (the New Mombasa segment was great, as was Delta Halo, but anything with the Flood or the Arbiter was kinda lame). We got ODST when it came out, and Reach as well. I got Anniversary and really liked it, though bro didn't as much - I agree that it wasn't up to the standards Reach had already set. Reach was my favorite overall, though I eventually have found some true coolness in ODST, it just takes a different playstyle. I still long for some Halo 3 scenes though - The Citadel, and the first mission on the desert-y sequence on The Ark and stuff really stick with me.

So, I wanted to just give my first impressions of the game. I'd gone at midnight to pick it up, and had just come home. Here's the thoughts.
* Okay, let's see how this really is. I really hope it's good.
* Nice, the title screen is very pretty. And I like the music too.
I'll note that by this point I'd already listened to the soundtrack.
* Okay, options, cool, customization is back, wait, all this stuff is locked? Dammit. I don't do multiplayer, I hope I can get the stuff.
* Campaign start. Here we go.
* Oh hey, Dr. Hadley survived the whole war! I knew she got off Reach, but here she is! This is an interesting direction to take things, replacing MC...
* Man, I know these are cinematic graphics, but seeing as ACIII could've really used a top-notch set of graphics like this I'm still really impressed. These are incredibly lifelike faces.
* Okay, we have in-engine graphics and the Forward Unto Dawn. Everything still looks gorgeous - good sign.
* Oh hey Cortana! Your mo-cap actress changed, but your voice didn't! And thankfully the Chief's voice actor is the same. I got weirded out when it was all strange in Anniversary. I don't quite like this Cortana version as much as the old one.
* Still marveling at all the pretty.
* Alright, alright, matching to controls. Hey, they're pretty close to how I remember!
* Guns...*krakrakrakrak* OH MY GOD that should not have felt really good. I'm only shooting a wall *krakrakrakrak* HOLY CRAP the gun just sounds great and it makes it FEEL right. Is...*blam.blam.blam* yup, pistol's feeling good too.
* Covenant! I was hoping to fight them. Why though? Oh, I guess "a lot can change in 4 years" makes sense.
* Yeah, these guns just feel right.
* Oh my goodness, how did I DIE? This is easy mode! I hope this doesn't become a trend...

So yeah, straight from the get-go, the game got me on-board with almost no effort. Everything just FELT right. Aftr 343 had trouble making everything just feel right in Anniversary, this is a huge sigh of relief. The graphics are right there at the top of the 360's arsenal as far as quality goes, and the art direction sure ain't bad. I noticed the Covenant Grunt has a makeover, and had, like, scales on its bulgy arms and stuff and looked more like a creature and less like a generic enemy thing.

Let's hit the basic topics:

PLOT: Mostly, I liked it. You can tell they were leaving things blank for the next games, but the stuff they give us is generally pretty cool. I really like the inclusion and canonization of Rampancy (linking in Marathon). In general, the story got a little less strong as the game progressed, especially two particular scenes. First, the scene with the Librarian was silly as all hell. For the remainder of the game (which I was co-oping with my bro by that point), my reaction to absolutely everything was to tease the game about the word "Genesong." Really, what the fuck is that? I was really trying to take it serious, but that kinda snapped it a bit. The other bit is the final scene. The, uh, "final boss." That was pretty pathetic. We eliminate the villain and prevent his escape, and the whole thing with Cortana really makes no sense. The ending is really a pile of gibberish. I'm not sure how the plot from this one can be strongly exapnded into a trilogy the way the Flood from H1 could, but I'm interested to see them try and pull it off. Everything else about the game has given me faith in 343's ability to continue this series.
I do admit, it was saddening to have the game go by without the other heroes of Master Chief's story. Sergeant Johnson and Miranda Keyes are dead, and I miss Johnson very much. Additionally, I was pretty sad not to hear Reynolds' (Fillion's) voice in the game - I mean, Buck survived Reach and New Mombasa and the Ark, right? Still, I suppose it gave it a much more close feel to be just Master Chief and Cortana. Master Chief showed a lot of emotion for being what he is, and he's growing on me not only as an icon, but as a sympathetic hero too.

GAMEPLAY: It was rock-solid. As soon as I got into the swing of things, I was really into it. It was fun, it felt right, and the enemies were varied with good AI. I'll mention that those flying shield-things that the Promethean Knights let out are a bitch to hit and their presence immediately makes them the priority target and amps up the difficulty. Three of them is just nasty. But with a partner, I was okay with it.
My big sticking point was the guns. There were a LOT and a very varied selection. Even when guns filled similar roles, such as the Shotgun and the Scattershot, they behaved somewhat differently. I loved the Promethean guns, and liked some of the Covenant guns. I was sad to see no Plasma Rifle at all, but there was a lot of good still. One thing that DID kinda piss me off was the utter lack of Gravity Hammer save for a single one in an unexplained "Here's one of every gun, the final boss is coming soon" room, and you don't get to use it very long. See, I just really love the Grav Hammer. Swords are cool and all, but those hammers are boss.
Difficulty isn't always stable through the game, but other than that the gameplay is rock solid, as I said.
Of course, there's not a ton of divergance from the norm - it's ALMOST a little too the-same to be fresh, but the new coat of paint and everything, plus a carefully refined and recalibrated system make it worth it. Also, the new batch of armor abilities and always-having sprint is great. Hard-Light Shield? Fuck yeah. Also it's great that one of the control schemes is almost word-for-word Borderlands 2 (which my bro had been playing, so it worked out perfect for him actually).

GRAPHICS: I am blown away. THIS stretches what the 360 is capable of and looks better than just about any game I've seen, even on the PS3 or PC. Everything is just utterly well-designed, well-made, stylish enough to avoid the uncanny valley of photorealism, and the animations are smooth, natural, and interesting. I'm blown away.
They filled the world with monumental, wondrous things. However, as some have said, it doesn't wield that power in quite the right way to get us to feel like we did when we first witnessed the Halo ring on our screens. Not for lack of trying though - the stuff is awe-inspiring, but not impactful in that same never-forget-it way.

SOUND: The soundtrack is great. Neil Davidge did a good job. There's a major flaw in that the game lacks a single truly iconic theme that will be pervasive through the trilogy the way Marty's Halo theme was. That said, some of the songs, like Arrival, which is on the Music page, 117, in October Songaday, or Green and Blue, up top, are stellar pieces. I miss the Halo theme by the way, but understand the purpose of the split.
I'll shout out again about the sound effects. Combined with the specific jerking of the recoil, they make the game feel incredible to play. It's visceral and raw in a way that I haven't felt shooting in any other game to be.

* I haven't a clue what the multiplayer is like, which is a guiding criterium for many who play Halo. Sorry, but I don't do online multiplayer really. It is not a judging criteria here.
* That said, aside from potentially the multiplayer, the game lacks replay value. No individual level is so fun that I want to play it over and over like I love The Ark level from 3 or New Mombasa in 2. It lacks the medals and scoring system that made me play Reach obsessively, trying to unlock components for my Spartan and trying to do runs in different styles. Frankly, there's not a lot to hold interest beyond a single playthrough unless you're a multiplayer person.
* The game doesn't do a great job with making the characters you interact with, like the Spartan IVs, very deep people at all.

CONCLUSION: The game filled the gap I was facing from ACIII perfectly. It was exactly what I needed at the time. It's a strong game, and among the most gorgeous looking things to come out this year.  But chances are you're gonna play it once and either go to the multiplayer or be done. Also, the game isn't going to be bringing you into the fold if you already disliked the way Halo games work. Still, it's a bearer of good tidings that the new developer doesn't indicate a drop in overall quality.
Score: 8.5/10.

End Recording,