Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Review: Exo-Squad Season 1 Episode 3--Hidden Terrors

"He's one of us, but Marsala's a Neo Sapien. He doesn't feel what we do."

Hidden Terrors is the third episode of Exo-Squad, and once again the title has a double meaning. There are the pirates with their well-planned ambush, but there are also Phaeton's machinations. The pirates draw the Exo-Fleet in by letting them pound the hell out of the surface of Enceladus, then unleashing their full might. Meanwhile, a hapless Neo Sapien cabinet (finance minister Geadis) discovers evidence that Phaeton has been diverting industrial materials for years, building an army and a space fleet larger than the Exo-Fleet. Nara is captured, drawing Able Squad into an ambush which she helps save them from. Explosive decompression almost kills her and takes out several pirates, but Marsala gives her his helmet and saves her life. The Exo-Fleet nearly commits to another engagement, with the pirates on their home base on Tethys, but news of a massive Neo Sapien assault on the homeworlds causes J.T. to call off the attack after Marcus freezes up.  


What Works: Many elements pull together to make this the strongest offering yet from Exo Squad. The big battle between the pirates and the Exo-Fleet works well, with clear stakes for both sides and an understandable tactical picture. Watching the Fleet pound the snot out of Enceladus is fun, and you get a sense that Simbacca is shrewd and has balls of steel to wait it out. He's still over-the-top, but gloriously so. 

Phaeton's attempt to justify his deception work well, because they are grounded in legitimate grievances. Neo Sapiens can't own ships, we discover. Can't even own firearms. You continue to get the sense that this is a leader with charisma and vision, albeit a dangerous one. (Though I'll say more on this in a bit.)

I'm also rather taken with the designs from the show, and this episode is a good showcase. The ship designs of the Exo-Fleet work really well, and manage to have a different aesthetic from both the pirate fleet (seen more in the previous two episodes) and in the Neo Fleet (seen a bit here, but much more later on. Certainly, the color schemes help, but even beyond that each faction has their own use of shapes and styles that define a coherent universe. This episode shows us a number of pirate artillery platforms, mobile from the look of them, for our heroes to go up against. We also meet Exo-Fleet ground troopers, called Jump Troopers, who have a very cool deployment system. Think paratroopers but from low orbit. Very neat. Also fun to see that some of them don't make it down to the ground. Realistic and makes you think that these guys have to have steel nerves to get into those little boxes. (Though I'll say more on this in a bit.)

I love J.T.'s casual racism when Nara asks if he's got family like the rest of them. And this is a guy who is basically tolerant of Neo Sapiens and LIKES Marsala. This, more even than Phaeton's words, helps the viewer understand why the conflict was inevitable.

The use of imagery in this episode is strong. There's the lovely shot of Phaeton caressing a hologram of earth. There's Simbacca struggling against the explosive decompression to, successfully, reach for his helmet. (A scene so nice they used it in the opening credits for season 2.) There's Nara looking up at Marsala, who has just given her his helmet and with it her life, and passing out. And there's poor James Burns watching his family farm get destroyed by Neo Sapiens and giving a strangled "Mom's in the house!" (Michael Donovan, who also plays Bronsky, really nails the line.)

Winfield's injury during combat was nice, and helped raise the stakes for this episode and the episodes to come. It was also rather shrewd of the writers to give J.T. an injury to keep him out of combat and let him participate in the politics of command.

What Doesn't: Not much about this episode falls flat. McKenna is basically mister exposition this episode, and Marcus actually seems less off-the-ball. I didn't mind him freezing up in the face of a huge shift to the bedrock of his universe as much as some of his prior evidence of incompetence. 


This is a minor complaint, but we've got four important Jump Trooper characters introduced in S4. This episode would have been a fantastic time to introduce them. I realize that they probably weren't quite far along enough on the development timeline for that to happen, so this isn't a bad, more of a missed opportunity. 

I have a hard time buying that Phaeton could assemble a space fleet AND an army without anyone knowing. Figure he's got to have at least a million guys trained... that's a hard secret to keep. Perhaps if they'd tracked Nazi Germany more closely, started with a large Neo Sapien army that wasn't allowed to have ships, I'd have more readily accepted it. Still, buy the premise, buy the bit I suppose. 

Watch For: In the montage of places attacked on Earth, we see the Sydney Opera House. The premature liberation of Australia will be a major storyline in Season 2. 

Overall: Very strong television, with little of the weakness of the previous two episodes. I get the sense that they've found their voice. The action is strong, the stakes are high, the characters likable but with flaws, and the REAL conflict has just started. By the time you've made it to this point, I think you're solidly on-board with Exo-Squad. And the really good news is, it gets even better!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Review: Exo-Squad Season 1 Episode 2--Seeds of Deception

"Soon the vermin will not dare to make fun of us."

Seeds of Deception, the second episode of Exo-Squad is much stronger than the first, though it still suffers a bit from the production team finding their feet. After a brief "previously on Exo-Squad" segment, we launch back into the space battle between the pirates and the Exo-Fleet, which results in a pirate retreat back to the moons of Saturn. There's some jockeying over the tactics between Admiral Winfield, Captain Marcus, and Lieutenant Marsh, which eventually results in the fleet committing itself against Enceladus without prior e-frame reconnaissance, a tactical blunder that Simbacca prepares to exploit.

Meanwhile, we get to see the situation on Earth through the more-interesting b-plot.We're introduced to Sean Napier, a cop who'd rather be in the Exo-Fleet. He gets into a bar fight, foils an assassination attempt on Phaeton, gets injured in the process and then loses his job when he won't shake Phaeton's hand. We also get more foreshadowing that the Neo Sapiens are up to no good.

What worked:The b-plot worked. We meet an interesting new character and get to know him a bit. Part of the trouble with the Able Squad is that we're mostly seeing them as a block. There's the sense that they're all individuals but few of them have had the chance to shine. Napier, on the other hand, immediately stands out as having goals, dreams, and complications.

The assassination attempt has a real-world feeling to it, including having someone (Napier, as it turns out) get shot off-screen right before a commercial break. This gave some nice tension.

We get our first (and, as it turns out, one of our only) glimpse of civilian life on Earth. There are some sci-fi touches in there, like the little triangular coins used as money and the idea that rather than alcohol they're drinking some kind of vitamin supplements. Silly, but fun world building none-the-less. It's apparent that partially shaved heads are very much in vogue, which is probably a practical by-product of the cybernetic interfaces that the military and police (and, for all we know, construction workers and other people who interact with heavy equipment) use.

I love the look of the pirate fortifications. A minor aesthetic detail but a nice one. It feels unearthly, which is of course the point. There's good use of background / foreground as we push in on Simbacca's lair.

Wolf Bronski and Kaz Takagi each get some decent characterization this episode, Kaz for ignoring orders to do some hotdog flying, Wolf when he'd protectively watching over the injured Kaz after the battle. Everyone else in the squad gets at least one scene, surely a conscious effort. Maggie tells off McKenna, Torres kicks Bronski in line, Nara dispatches another video, DeLeon methodically takes out a pirate craft, and Marsh ruminates on the burden of command.

There's a nice bit with some litter getting sucked into the atmospheric filtration system as Able Squad launches. Lovely touch.

Phaeton and his entourage on Earth (Livia and Shiva, both of whom will become important in time) allow for some nice foreshadowing of the conflict to come. Phaeton's glee with the news that the Exo-Fleet is going even deeper into the outer solar system is nice, as is Livia's distaste of humanity. The moment just before Phaeton gives his speech where his mask slips for an instant and he recovers is a thing of beauty. The actual speech he gives about humanity uniting is works both on the text level but also as foreshadowing for his eventual forced unification of the different families of humanity, under his iron fist.

What didn't: The battles with the pirates still fall a bit flat for me. Definitely a step up from last time, but there's something about them that doesn't work. I'm not quite sure what. Part of it is the animation, which is a bit clumsy. Some of it is that it's hard to get an overall sense of the battle through the eyes of Able Squad, reducing the conflict to a small series of squad-level battles with an unclear relationship to the overall big picture.

Napier's boss has an awful, awful accent. Took me right out of the show.

Again, I'd rather that the tension between Marcus and Winfield be more nuanced. In this instance, Winfield yielded to Marcus' tactical judgement. I'd have liked it to be less of a transparently bad decision.

Another carryover from last episode, McKenna's role is unclear and doesn't seem to add much.

Nara doing a second videogram to Venus seems repetitive. Surely there is some new way we can get insight into her psyche.

The voiceover that kicks off the episode is strange and feels redundant, especially with the presence of a "previously" segment. Perhaps this would have been a good spot to use McKenna instead.

Watch for: The kid doing some anti Neo Sapien graffiti will eventually wind up with the resistance.

In response to said graffiti, Phaeton muses: "horns. Horns could be very useful." This line will have serious payoff in mid second season.

The banner showing Homo and Neo Sapien holding hands gets torn asunder during the assassination attempt, which is of course nice visual foreshadowing.

Overall: A much stronger outing than last time. Incidentally, this was the first episode I managed to catch way back in 94, and probably a better introduction to the series than The Pirate Scourge. We're actually getting a sense of impending menace and momentum on the Neo Sapien arc. Seeing Earth gives us higher stakes when the larger war inevitably comes, and we waste less time futzing around with plot elements that don't pay off in the episode in which they were introduced.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Review: Exo-Squad Season 1 Episode 1--The Pirate Scourge

It's been a few years since I've done a regular review feature, and I've been itching to get back into the swing of things. A series of fortuitous events has occured that made Exo-Squad a natural candidate. First off, I read the James S.A. Corey book Leviathan Wakes, an excellent space opera that takes place entirely inside the solar system. I love the space opera genre, but it's rare that you get a good one that makes the solar system feel so large and interesting. This aspect in particular reminded me of Exo-Squad. I also have finally found a decent copy of the second season. Prior to this, I've been running off digitized versions of old VHS copies I taped during my freshman year of college.

(Flashback to 1994: me, laboriously carrying my VCR from my dorm room to the common area, because that was the only cable jack on our floor. Hooking up the machine to the wall, and then to the TV, plopping in a tape and hitting record and editing out commercials on the fly. At 6:00 AM. Every weekday morning for the better part of two semesters. Impressively, I missed only one episode of the entire second season the first time it aired, though the one I missed was a critical one.)

For those of you who don't know, Exo-Squad represented an attempt by Universal Cartoon Studio to break into animation syndication in the early 90s. It's one of the last of the Sunbow-style American/Japanese hybrid styles of attempting to have it all, tons of motion and tons of detail. Consequently, it suffers from the same kind of quality control issues that similar cartoons saw. Nonetheless, it's ambitious scope made for some great mecha and spaceship designs, nuanced characters and sympathetic antagonists. Some of the "good guys" aren't all that nice, and plenty of the villains have understandable motivations. They also didn't shy away from death, giving a sense that even main characters could buy-it. For the most part they don't, but killing off some of their rich second-stringers gave that illusion. I'm a huge fan of the show, and I thought an episode-by-episode examination would let me see it in a new light. On to Episode one!

"That's just a sneak preview folks. Next time, we're coming back for real."


The Pirate Scourge is our first introduction to the universe of Exo-Squad, and it starts off not with a bang but a whimper. We get some brief exposition in the form of a documentary, touching on the Neo Sapien rebellion of fifty years prior, before witnessing a freighter ship on its way to the inner solar system get ambushed by pirates. Our heroes, stationed in orbit around Mars on the Exo-Carrier Resolute, are dispatched to investigate and trigger an ambush, costing a shuttle of engineers their lives. In response, the Homeworlds' Senate, instigated by the Neo Sapien delegate from Mars, Phaeton, authorizes a vast armada to hunt down the pirate scourge. We end on another pirate ambush, this time on the Exo-Fleet itself.

What Works: There are some very nice bits and pieces in here. Phaeton's speech to the Senate is rather nicely delivered, though probably a bit too transparently motivated by something sinister for any venue other than a kids cartoon. In this context, it works well.

Perhaps my favorite line in the episode is delivered unassumingly, Nara Burns talking about how the videogram she's sending will take over an hour to get to Venus because of the distances involved. That kind of attention to physics grounds things and feels very real and lets the audience know what the rules are without being too ham-fisted about it.

I love that the freighter crew has a hologram of a dancing, scantily-clad woman. Anime influence showing for sure. I also love that it bounces around the derelict ship as Able-squad investigates.

Overall the introduction to the various members of Able Squad is solid. Not amazing, but gets the job done. You get names, functions, a sense of personality. Obviously we get more, much more, over time, but this is foundational material and works as such.

Bronski getting an injury and trying to shrug it off was a nice character moment.

What doesn't: Sadly, the whole is less than the sum of its parts in this episode. It's hard to put my finger on why, but it's just kind of boring. There is a big space battle, but they reserve it for the last few minutes of the episode. Things that could have been played for action (mostly the pirate machinations) are instead played for tension. I think finding some way to open on a battle would have helped a lot. This isn't a persistent problem, more a symptom of deciding to open with a slow burn, but I think it could have been avoided.

I don't like how incompetent Marcus is. Even for a force that's been at peace for a couple of generations, it seems unlikely that the flagship would go to an officer who is less than able. If there's some reason for it (politics, let's say), it'd have been nice to see it. But moreover, for a show that goes out of its way to make the villains have legitimate grievances (pirates and Neo Sapiens both), I think you could have had Marcus as a capable officer and still be a foil for JT and Winfield.

A shot of the fleet flying past the camera is used twice. Clumsy. And another shot of the fleet entering an asteroid field seems to show a density of rocks so close to the ship as to be ludicrous. I can accept a bit of poetic license, but this seems like

Charles McKenna isn't as interesting as the writers think he is. The opening info-dump wasn't really necessary to understand anything in the episode, and his haranguing of JT and Takagi didn't add much. Nice visuals though. Much of it winds up in the opening credits (which I'll get to after the episode review.)

Things to watch for: I love the fractional sneer Marcus gives when Winfield orders him to launch e-frames.

Nara addresses her video to mom, dad, and James. All will be important as the series progresses.

Overall: A weak start, though with some interesting elements mixed in. It only gets better from here.

videoAside: I mentioned the credits. The version I'm watching this time out uses the S2 opening credits for the whole series. This isn't horrible, though it does have you wondering who Butler and O'Reilly are for a good 20 episodes. Certainly they're exciting, and probably not wasting time on exposition is the right choice.

However, the original airing did something rather clever. Given the slow burn nature of the reveal of the Neo Sapien threat, the main S1 credits didn't work for the first three episodes. They created an alternate set, just for those three. Sadly, I don't think this has shown up on any high-quality source; neither Hulu, the DVDs, VHS tapes, or even LDs used the aired credits. I've included a copy here of the S1 early opening. I apologize for the quality, I was pulling off a 20 year old VHS tape. It's nice that they don't give away the game in the opening.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Buildwave!

I was watching a little Five Faces of Darkness the other day (I know, I know, I'm a masochist) and was struck by how odd some of the characters were. Specifically the off-colored Shockwaves that show up. While Shockwave proper never shows up past the movie, leading many fans to conclude that he perished during the movie or in its aftermath, his lineart was oddly the basis for several generic guys that show up. I have a very nice scan of the Action Master Shockwave art so I thought I'd try my hands at a digibash. Presenting... BUILDWAVE!

Decepticon
Function: Combat Engineer
"The universe is but grist for me to plunder."

Believes that anyone and anything can be categorized in one of two ways: allies or raw materials. Is obsessive about whatever his latest engineering project is to the point that he has difficulty comprehending anything that isn't directly related. Has the ability to analyze visualize incredibly complicated plans and see them to fruition. Carries a double-barreled dis-assembler blaster that causes anything mechanical to revert to its component elements, and has an integrated laser torch for cutting or welding.

STRENGTH: 7
INTELLIGENCE: 8
SPEED: 5
ENDURANCE: 8
RANK: 3
COURAGE: 6
FIREPOWER: 8
SKILL: 9

Monday, November 3, 2014

Droids! Droids! Droids!

I recently started collecting Astromech droids. I've never been a giant Star Wars fan. Sure, I loved it growing up, but I never really got into the fandom aspect if that made sense. Most of the EU stuff didn't grab me, and, while I didn't hate the prequels like some, they failed to recapture the magic of the original trilogy for me.

Clone Wars droids
So what changed? I started watching The Clone Wars. Excellent, excellent show. It does a great job of conveying that the Clone Wars was really a protracted series of nuanced conflicts. And me, being a toy guy, started looking at Star Wars toys for the first time in a long time. But what to get? There are just too many Star Wars toys out there to have any hope of getting them all. Do I do just main characters? Do I get vehicles? Maybe just one scene, like a giant Hoth diorama?

Droid accessories
And then I remembered my favorite character, R2-D2, and saw all of the neat versions of his brothers and sisters out there. And there were a lot of them. I did my homework, found groups like The Astromech Collection, and neat checklists like Astromech Arithmetic. This made me realize that even here I needed some rules. Rule 1: one of each character. Since some droids don't have any official designation, to me a character is a unique dome and a unique body. The unique body could just be a simple shading variation, but I tried to avoid having two identical guys. This has resulted in a very small number of named droids I've skipped, like R5-D8 (functionally identical to R5-D4) and CB-3D (very similar to several other red on white R2 type droids.)

Disney Droid Factory domes
I seeded the collection with the complete Disney Droid Factory set. There are multiple ways one could do this, but I got a complete set of all 25 unique domes and appropriate bodies to go with them. Given that I wanted all unique bodies, this necessitated some limb swapping. But some of the colors just weren't working. There were 3 purple domes but only one purple body and one pair of purple legs. Red and green had two bodies and two legs each, so I could swap around to keep things looking different. Blue had three bodies and two pairs of legs, so even more flexibility there. So, where could I turn? Build-A-Droid, that's where.

Build-A-Droid swaps
I quickly decided to make an exception to my Only-One-Of-Each-Character rule. I fell in love with the concept of the modular droids that are the Build-A-Droid (BAD) toys. So, if there was a BAD and a non-BAD version of a character, I got each. The non-BAD became my canon version. The BAD got mixed and matched with my other BAD guys. Fortunately every dome was at least a little different, sometimes very different. This helped me solve my problem of awkward colors (orange legs on purple bodies... ugh!) to my aesthetic standards. I also cobbled together a body for Yoda's droid this way. (Yoda's starfighter came with a dome but no body. I used white with black highlight legs from the Disney Droid Factory and the torso from the BAD version of R3-A2.)

And it all snowballed from there. Here are some shots of my various droids, for your viewing pleasure and mine.

R2 Units!

Lots o' R2 Units in there. There are a few where there are two droids of the same name, but in each case the color scheme is different enough to make them completely separate in my mind (and, of course, require a new designation.) There are a green and a black R2-X2 (green one becomes R2-X3 for me) and the completely silver R2-D2 (now R2-S5).

R3 transparent domes.
R3 are probably my least favorite of the canon droids. I like the idea of the clear dome, but the toy execution generally leaves a bit to be desired. I generally like the BAD versions better than the non-BAD versions. Much of that is the sculpt, but some comes down to the color schemes. 

R4 units - the coneheads!
R4 Units are pretty nifty. Gotta love the coneheads. I really like the execution on these guys. R4-J1, R4-A22, and the green (as opposed to teal) R4-M9 are probably my favoities. (R4-M9 is another droid where there are two with the same name but completely different color schemes.) I think my Disney Factory blue R4 unit (R4-K2 in my personal canon) came out rather nicely. If I were to ever attempt to build a full-sized Astromech, I suspect I'd wind up going with a droid of this type.

R5 units! Many of them have bad motivators. That actually gets to a stylistic choice I've noticed about the Star Wars Expanded Universe that kind of bugs me. There will be one aspect of a character or planet that we see in the films, and then in the EU we find out that this is basically all they're known for. While I was researching my astromechs, I found that R5 units are known for being shoddy and unreliable. Because the only one we saw really do anything was R5-D4, which blew a motivator after Uncle Owen tried to buy him. But that doesn't quite work for me, because we see them all over the place. Imperials use them, rebels use them... if they were so bad, why wouldn't folks use something else?

And now the expanded universe.  Here are the R6s in front, R8s in the middle, and R9s in the back. All came from the Disney Droid Factory, though I did swap in a few legs for variety here and there. The R6 units are my favorite. I can easily see them roaming around an Imperial ship (especially the black one), or aiding a rebel pilot in his duties. 

The R7 droids are probably my least favorite. I don't care for the triangle lenses, and the redesigned body is not my favorite. The two with rockets were BAD versions packaged with other toys. (This body style was used for the R8 bodies as well, though by R9s they've returned to the more traditional body.) 

And, a few more, sorted by color for your chromatic pleasure. Observe how, though some guys are fairly similar, no two are identical.

It ain't easy being green
Seeing red

I see a new droid and I want to paint him black!

Hope you enjoy my 87 Astromech droids!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

LEGACY!

Well, we ran into a few delays on the backend and didn't make out initial target of late May / early June. But, Legacy is out, and it's beautiful! It wound up clocking in at just under 300 pages. Also, at the last minute we had to pull out much of the material we'd gathered on the artists. Still, overall the production value on this is just amazing.

But don't take my word for it! TFormers did an excellent review, thorough and hit all the important beats:
http://tformers.com/reviews.php?op=showcontent&id=1543
Highlight: " I spent an hour on my first browsing of Legacy, and was surprised again and again by the amazing things I found contained within. Whatever expectations I had for this were completely surpassed by the final product."

Here's what Ruel of the Philipeans had to say: http://officialtransformersph.blogspot.com/2014/10/the-total-package-transformers-legacy.html
Highlight:  "I waited all year for this book—and it did not disappoint. Go get it."

Here's a video review that goes through each and every page!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e06hAVthwR4


Some folks are already using this book to pick up autographs. I think that's a great idea!



Needless Essentials did a great review too: http://needlessessentialsonline.com/transformers-legacy-art-book-review/
Highlight: "Transformers Legacy claims to be an art book that collects hundreds of airbrushed paintings from the first decade of the Transformers line. If it wasn’t coming from IDW, Jim Sorenson & Bill Forster, I believe I’d be a little skeptical as I’ve heard similar claims from other authors/companies and got burned before. But this book comes from the same guys who made the GI Joe Field Manuals so I preordered this behemoth way back in February……I’ll cut to the chase right now, it was totally worth it!"

Yet another video review, much more concise. I love the enthusiasm here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BioNyOArx8

Paul Hitchens of The Spacebridge uploaded a shot of the book next to some of the original art from the book! Nifty. 

Battlegrip.com wrote up a cool review: http://www.battlegrip.com/?p=63536
Highlight: "This is likely to be the best Transformers artbook I ever find."

A third video review: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfOX8ULBHK0

Auto Assembly's Billy Edwards posted this on their official site: http://autoassembly.tumblr.com/post/100768008850/longtime-auto-assembly-friends-jim-sorenson-and 
Highlight: "Easily one of my favourite purchases of the last 5 years."

Geekcastradio did a (text) review as well:
http://www.geekcastradio.com/misc/books/review-transformers-legacy-art-transformers-packaging
Highlight: "I have as of this moment become a kid again. "

I'm sure there are more that I've missed, but basically I'm over the moon at the reception this book is getting. Sorry to be away so long, but I've got a one-year-old at home and I'm the primary caregiver so that's going to be the reality for the foreseeable future. 

If you don't have Legacy yet, pick yourself up a copy.

Next up from me: The Complete AllSpark Almanac! When I know what's in it, you'll know what's in it!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The 2014 Con season!

News has just broken that I'll be attending Auto Assembly 2014! I figured now is as good a time as any to clue in readers as to my 2014 dance card.

I just got back from Trans 4 Market, a Japanese convention dedicated to IDW comics and Dōjinshi, Japanese fan-made comics. We had a terrific crowd, and it was very gratifying and humbling to me to encounter the kindness and enthusiasm of so many Japanese fans for the first time. Livio Ramondelli and Andrew Griffith were there as well, and we all had an amazing time. I posted literally hundreds of photos from this trip on my facebook account, so if you're not already following me there, I recommend that you do. (Plus you'll get inundated with pictures of James Magnus, currently a 6.5 month old cutie.)



Next up, we've got a store signing at Emerald Knights. Wednesday, June 18th, at 7:00 PM in Burbank. We'll be signing whatever you bring us, naturally, but the focus for me is going to be Legacy (assuming it's out) and The Art of Prime.  My intrepid partner (see what I did there? Because he used to... nevermind.) Bill Forster will be there, as will the senior artists on the Prime show.


Christophe Vacher - VFX Director
David Hartman - Supervising Director/Art Director
Vince Toyama - Production Design
Jose Lopez - Art Director/Characters&Props

Also joining us will be artists Livio Ramondeli and Ken Christiansen, and voice actors Josh Keaton & Kevin Michael Richardson. Our last few signings there were great, lots of folks showed up but we still had time for lots of one-on-one time with the fans.



And just a couple of days later I'll be at BotCon. Bill and I may be sharing a table, or I may just be walking around. Either way, not TOO many folks will be sporting a cowboy hat, so if you're in town and want to say hi or get some books signed just keep an eye out. I'll be in most panel rooms for at least part of the time grabbing some photos for my annual BotCon Retrospective for the Collectors' Club. It'll be in Pasadena, June 19-22, and it's shaping up to be a fantastic year. DevCon alone is proabably worth the price of admission. The guests will be far too numerous to list, so instead I'll say that if you're on the fence about going, just take the plunge. You won't regret it.



Which brings us, at long last, back to Auto Assembly! I've attended, what, three of these cons in the past and I always have a blast. The show is good, but the after-hours scene just can't be beat. It's so relaxed, casual, fun, good energy, good beverages, just an overall great time. Everyone is welcome, everyone is friendly, and you WILL walk away from this show with new friends. I'm thrilled that I'm able to attend again this year and hope to see all my friends and fans in the United Kingdom.

That's it for the foreseeable future. It's hard to get away with wee baby James, but I hope to see many of you in the next few months.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Cortex Battlestar Galactica Stats--Pegasus edition!

Here I am, 5 months and change into parenthood and it certainly is exhausting. My blogging has certainly taken a hit, though I'm going to try to keep a full convention season dance card this year. I'm also attempting to keep up with my tabletop RPGs as a way to hold onto my sanity.

In our BSG RPG, we're playing in an alternate universe take on the events in the series. We've got a PC ship commander and CAG unique to the game, along with some PC pilots, marines, police, and politicians. We're towards the end of season one in the show and have just been found by Pegasus. To facilitate things, I whipped up stats for the Pegasus command crew. I figured that, if anyone else out there is running a BSG campaign, they might find the work useful as well. I'm also sharing our GM's stats for the ship itself.



Admiral Helena Cain, Pegasus CO
Concept: tough-as-nails Admiral forced by circumstances to make incredibly hard choices. 


Attributes:
Agility: d6                 Strength: d6              Vitality: d8
Alertness: d12          Intelligence: d10     Willpower: d12

Life Points: 20      Initiative: d12+d6          Endurance: d8+d12          Resistance: 2d8

Height: 5'9            Weight: 142 lbs          Hair: Black          Eyes: Brown          Age: 46 

Assets:
Cool Under Fire: d6
Formidable Presence: d4
So Say We Alld6
Political Pulld6
Talented (Tactics, Bureaucracy): d4

Complications:
Toes the Line: d4
Sadistic: d4
Out for Blood: d4
Duty (Military Oath): d10

Skills:
Athletics: d6
Covert: d4
Discipline: d6
    Leadership: d10
    Intimidation: d8
Guns: d4
Influence: d6
    Administration: d8
    Bureaucracy: d10
    Politics: d8
Knowledge: d6
    Culture: d8
Perception: d6
    Tactics: d10
Pilot: d6
     Viper: d8
Survival: d4
Unarmed Combat: d4





Colonel Jack Fisk, Pegasus XO

Concept: an officer in an untenable position, trying to find the strength to carry on.


Attributes:
Agility: d6               Strength: d8                Vitality: d10
Alertness: d8          Intelligence: d8          Willpower: d8

Life Points: 18          Initiative: d6+d8          Endurance: d8+d10          Resistance: 2d10

Height: 6'1            Weight: 210          Hair: Blonde          Eyes: Blue          Age: 49 

Assets:
Good Natured: d4
Pack Rat: d4

Complications:
Lustful: d4

Skills:
Athletics: d4
Covert: d4
Discipline: d6
    Morale: d8
    Intimidation: d8
Guns: d4
Influence: d6
    Leadership: d8
    Administration: d8
Knowledge: d6
Mechanical Engineering: d2
Perception: d6
Pilot: d6
Planetary Vehicles: d2
Survival: d2
Technical Engineering: d4
Unarmed Combatd2




Major Barry Garner, Pegasus Chief Engineer

Concept: a man more comfortable with machines than with people.

Attributes:
Agility: d6               Strength: d8                  Vitality: d8
Alertness: d8          Intelligence: d10          Willpower: d8

Life Points: 16          Initiative: d6+d8          Endurance: 2d8          Resistance: 2d8

Height: 5'9            Weight: 180          Hair: Sandy            Eyes: Brown          Age: 56 
  
Assets:
Mechanically Inclined: d10


Complications:
People are Complicated!: d4
Slow Mover: d2
               
Skills:
Artistry: d4
Athletics: d2
Craft: d4
Discipline: d6
    Leadership: d8
Guns: d2
Influence:  d4
Knowledge: d6
Mechanical Engineering: d6
    mechanical repairs: d10
    plumbing: d8 
Perception: d4
Planetary Vehicles: d4
Scientific Expertise: d4
Technical Engineering: d6
    Electronics: d8
    Repair Electrical: d10
Unarmed Combat: d2





Captain Cole "Stinger" Taylor, Pegasus CAG

Concept: a newly promoted CAG from the ranks of the survivors of the attack on the relay station, more brains than brawn, overcompensating for being a little out of his depth.


Attributes:
Agility: d8               Strength: d6                    Vitality: d6
Alertness: d10          Intelligence: d10          Willpower: d8

Life Points: 14          Initiative: d10+d8          Endurance: d8 + d6          Resistance: 2d6

Height: 5'11          Weight: 175          Hair: Brown           Eyes: Brown          Age: 31 
  
Assets:
Talented ECO: d4
Photographic Memory: d2

Complications:
Humorless: d2
  
Skills:
Athleticsd4
Disciplined6
    Leadershipd8
Gunsd4
Influenced4
Knowledged6
Mechanical Engineeringd4
Perceptiond6
Pilotd6
    Raptorsd8
Survivald4
Technical Engineeringd6
    DRADISd10
    Astrogation: d8
    ECMd10
Unarmed Combatd4




Captain Kendra Shaw, Pegasus Tactical Officer and Cain's Strong Right Arm

Concept: well connected young officer who rises to the occasion to become a Razor.

Attributes:
Agilityd6               Strengthd6               Vitalityd6
Alertnessd8          Intelligenced8          Willpowerd8

Life Points: 14          Initiative: d6+d8          Endurance: d6+d8          Resistance: 2d8

Height: 5'5            Weight: 128          Hair: Black             Eyes: Black          Age: 26

Assets:
Political Pulld6
Cool Under Fired4

Complications:
Addiction (stims)d4
Duty (Colonial Fleet)d6

Skills:
Athletics d4
Covertd4
Disciplined6
Gunsd4
Influenced6
Knowledged6
    Classicsd8
Mechanical Engineeringd4
Perceptiond6
Scientific Expertised4
Survivald4
Technical Engineeringd6
    Computer Programmingd8
    Communicationsd8
Unarmed Combatd2





Lieutenant Alistair Thorne, Commander of Pegasus Marines

Concept: enlistedman turned officer, tough as nails and willing to do whatever it takes to keep his crewmates safe.

Attributes:
Agility: d6                   Strengthd8                Vitalityd8
Alertnessd10          Intelligenced8          Willpowerd8

Life Points: 16          Initiative: d6+d10          Endurance: 2d8          Resistance: 2d8

Height: 5'9            Weight: 195          Hair: balding         Eyes: Blue          Age: 41

Assets:
Brawlerd4  
Cool Under Fired6
Renowned (Pegasus Crew): d2

Complications:
Toes the Lined4
Sadistd4

Skills:
Athleticsd6
Covertd4
Disciplined6
    Interrogationd10
    Intimidation: d8
    Leadershipd8
Gunsd6
    Riflesd8
Heavy Weaponsd4
Influenced4
Knowledged4
Melee Weapons: d4
Perceptiond6
Planetary Vehiclesd4
Survivald4
Unarmed Combatd6




Lieutenant Noel "Narcho" Allison, Pegasus Top Gun

Concept: talented and good natured glory hound.


Attributes:
Agility     d10             Strength     d6               Vitality     d6
Alertness     d8          Intelligence     d6          Willpower     d6

Life Points: 12          Initiative: d10+d8          Endurance: 2d6          Resistance: 2d6

Height: 5'10          Weight: 167          Hair: Brown           Eyes: Blue          Age: 26
  
Assets:
Sixth Sensed6
Dogfighterd4

Complications:
Glory Houndd4
Phobia (spiders)d4
Anger Issuesd2          
  
Skills:
Athleticsd4
Disciplined4
Gunsd4
Influenced6
    Leadershipd8
    Seductiond8
Knowledged4
Mechanical Engineeringd2
Perceptiond6
Pilotd6
    Viperd10
    Raptord8
Planetary Vehiclesd2
Survivald2
Technical Engineeringd6
    DRADISd8
Unarmed Combatd4





Lieutenant Louis Hoshi, Pegasus Communications Officer

Concept: idealistic young officer doing his best under tough circumstances


Attributes:
Agilityd6               Strengthd6                  Vitalityd6
Alertnessd8          Intelligenced10          Willpowerd6

Life Points: 12          Initiative: d6+d8          Endurance: 2d6          Resistance: 2d6

Height: 5'10          Weight: 155          Hair: Brown           Eyes: Brown          Age: 26

Assets:
Sharp Senses (Hearing)d2
Advanced Educationd2

Complications:
Idealistd2
Trustingd2
               
Skills:
Athleticsd4
Disciplined6
Gunsd4
Influenced4
Knowledged6
    Sportsd8
Mechanical Engineeringd2
Medical Expertised4
Perceptiond6
    Gamblingd8
    Tacticsd8
Planetary Vehiclesd2
Scientific Expertised4
Survivald2
Technical Engineeringd6
      Communicationsd10
Unarmed Combatd2





Chief Petty Officer Peter Laird, Pegasus Deck Chief

Concept: civilian aeronautical engineer impressed into military service

Attributes:
Agilityd8               Strengthd6                  Vitalityd6
Alertnessd8          Intelligenced10          Willpowerd10

Life Points: 16          Initiative: 2d8          Endurance: d10+d6          Resistance: 2d6

Height: 5'8            Weight: 145          Hair: Blonde          Eyes: Blue          Age: 48

Assets:
Mathematiciand4
Advanced Educationd4
Mechanically Inclined:  d4

Complications:
Out of Luckd4
Fish out of Waterd2
Contrariand2
   
Skills:
Artistryd6
     Draftingd8
Craft: d6
Disciplined2
Influenced6
     Leadershipd8
Knowledge: d6
Mechanical Engineeringd6
     Ship Designd12
     Mechanical Repairsd8 
Perceptiond4
Planetary Vehiclesd4
Scientific Expertised6
Technical Engineeringd6
      Create Devices: d8
      Repair Electricald8



      
BSG-62 Pegasus
Concept: top-of-the-line Mercury-class Battlestar


HULL DATA: 
Ship Type: Battlestar Scale: Spacecraft 
Length: 5872’ Beam: 2187’ Draught: 1131’ Decks: 35 
Crew: 2500 Passengers: 10,000 max 

ATTRIBUTES: 
Agility: d4 Strength: d12+d4 Vitality: d8 
Alertness: d10 Intelligence: d10 Willpower: d10 

Initiative: d4+d10 Speed: 0 [SL] 
Life Points: 28 Armor: 6W, 4S !

TRAITS: 
Construction Facilities d4, Formidable Presence d6, Tough d4 

SKILLS: 
Heavy Weapons d6, Mechanical Engineering d4, Perception d6, Pilot d6 

ARMAMENT: 
Heavy Point Defense System [d12W, Planetary-scale, skirmish-range] 
34 Heavy Railgun Batteries [d12+d2W, Spacecraft-scale, capital range] 
24 Heavy Missile Launchers  [d12+d4W, Spacecraft-Scale, short DRADIS range] 
12 Nuclear Missiles  [d12+d8W Spacecraft-scale, short DRADIS range] !

AUXILIARY VEHICLES: 
124 Mk VII Vipers, 26 Raptors, 12 Marine Landing Shuttles, 6 standard shuttles, assorted work vehicles