Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Transformers RP Session #14

It's here! [read the session]

Told from the Autobot's side; Once again there's no combat, although there are some dice rolls this time and the introduction of a new Autobot!

I apologize for entering a kind of "Dragonball Z" story phase where a lot of nothing happens, but little girls seem to enjoy things that boys would likely skip over until they're at the next battle or conflict.

I am also worried that the Cyber Spawn and other Todd McFarlane mecha character might be a bit much for folks to swallow, but there's a hidden truth to them and a reason they don't transform and appear to have... flesh! All to be revealed in the next episode of...

The Transformers RP Session!

Transformers RP Session #13

It's here! [read the session]

Learn more about Soundwave's plan and what he is going to do with Megatron. The answer may surprise you, but reaffirm Soundwave's character. Plus! What are the Constructicons up to? That's not answered, but alluded to...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Extra Degree

At 33 degrees, water falling from the sky on a Saturday is a rainy day. At 32 degrees, children are building snowmen, riding sleighs and promising their parents that they're warm enough to stay outside five minutes longer. A beautifully uncomplicated metaphor that ideally should feed our every endeavor; you can reach exponential rewards in life by applying one extra degree.

From the book "212 - The Extra Degree" Author S.L. Parker.

I love this because it is so stupid. The extra degree gives exponential rewards in, as the example illustrates, very rare and specific circumstances. There are degrees 34 through, say, the surface of the sun (10000°F/5000°C, and even hotter above and below the surface). None of those lead to frozen water, although a great many of them lead to a molten surface on Mercury.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Transformers RP Session #9

Maria controlled Ratchet, Optimus Prime, Jazz, Brute and Chip; I controlled Mirage, Downshift, Recon & Chaser. Brute, Chip, Recon & Chaser are Knock-Offs we gave names to.
Maria contemplates what she should have Optimus Prime do...
Maria was contemplating what to have Optimus Prime do. She could feel something was wrong in the 9th session (the 8th we had Ratchet, Skyblast & Downshift arrive). Daniel, the son of the human they knew before the Great Cataclysmic War, had given the Autobots a safehouse - an empty warehouse his company owned. In return, the Autobots agreed to help refine his factory and its computer systems so the company could make more money - money which, in turn, Daniel would use to help procure supplies for the Autobots.

The warehouse base the Autobots inhabited and set up with Teletraan 1 was in Denver, Colorado. Daniel's factory was outside of the city.

Optimus Prime had all the jets and spacecraft stay at the base; Starfire (Jetfire / Skyfire), Harrier, Firefox, Skyblast & Rescue. Emergency asked to stay as well. Prime, Ratchet, Jazz, Downshift, Mirage, Chaser, Brute, Recon & Chip formed the convoy for the trip.

The convoy headed to Daniel's factory and noticed an un-marked helicopter following it from a great distance.

I made repeated rolls as the Game Master silently, and Maria tried to see if any of the Autobots saw or noticed anything, but kept rolling low scores. I'd tell her "Ratchet doesn't notice anything, but that's not the same as there being nothing to notice."

Drawing ever closer, when Prime spotted the factory far off with his amazing spot-check, he noticed it was made of reinforced concrete - concrete mixed with steel bars, like a bunker, and had a giant door tall enough for the original body of Starfire (Skyfire / Jetfire) to walk through. She made a intelligence check, and rolled a 6 and a 4. Plus Prime's Intellect score of 10, that was 20.

I asked her "Is your result higher than two?"

"Yes, of course." she answered.

"Twenty is higher than two?" I joked.

"Yes, Papa." she said.

As the Game Master, I said "It's rather obvious that no factories you know of are made of reinforced concrete, it's just too expensive to make."

Then Downshift noticed he couldn't reach Starfire. Maria asked "What can stop our communication?" "Well," I answered, "the curvature of the Earth, even Autobots can't send signals through the Earth's core, and Decepticons. You're not sure if humans can block your signals now or not, it's been 18 years since any of these Transformers have been here."

Still, she couldn't make a decision, so the Autobot rolled inside past the blast doors (which was the entrance). The doors closed behind them.

Once inside, the road went down. Still, she couldn't make a decision as to what to do. Then they met this:

Inside the tunnel, not in an opening but along the narrow four-lane road inside this bunker, they met a giant robot.

"I am a Super Fighter," the robot blurted at them, and marched forward with incredible weight; even the heaviest of Transformers could feel the ground tremor. Optimus Prime knew that the last time he felt that was when Omega Supreme was still alive. He was one of the Autobots whose memories was not backed up, and died in the last stand against the United States Army & Airforce.

"Enemies detected." the behemoth continued.

Over an intercom, a human voice said "Autobots, this is General Brad Langford. As you have come to the United States of America unannounced, and have already begun aggressive actions with your enemies in our cities and on our streets, you have left us no choice but to continue the War of Independence against alien aggressors bringing their wars to our shores. Allow me to introduce to you our solution. Perhaps you recognize it. If you don't, you should..."

General Langford finally shifts from his monotonous voice to one of force, "it's made of the melted-down bodies of your dead comrades."

(Cliffhanger ending)

Game Notes
The Robot: The toy robot really does blurt out "I am a Super Fighter," and then ambles forward a bit before saying "Scanning" and does a scan sound and looks left and right with his torso and then says "Enemies detected... FIRE!" but Esteban cut off his power just before he said that.

The War Reference: What the Transformers (Decepticons and Autobots alike) know as "The Great Cataclysmic Earth War", the humans know as "The War of Independance." Human governments spun it as ousting the alien aggressors from their planet, which, indeed, there was cause for doing.

Betrayal: It should be obvious, but Daniel has lead the Autobots into a deadly trap. One can assume that Starfire and the others are about to have some fun, too.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I found Mr. Drake.

My American History teacher from 8th grade, and, unfortunately, the best history teacher I ever had. I wish I'd had some more years with him; thankfully, between him and my Uncle George, who used to sit me down to watered down stories of "The Great World War II in the Pacific," when I was 4-5, I came out with a love of history.

It really puts a different slant on how you look at things, when you study history, or anthropology, as my lovely Latin lady does. Human beings tend to believe their moment is more important than others, yet the famous quotation ... gah, I can't source it, but it went something like "Kids these days have no respect for their elders." It was said by a Roman Senator some 2,000 years ago.

But I digress. Finding Mr. Drake got me thinking about a lot of things at once.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Transformers: RP Session 7

Last night we played the Autobots, although little was accomplished due to:

  1. Jose Francisco.
  2. Dulce deciding it was a great evening to cry.
We did, however, have some fun having the Autobots talk about their take on the action in RP Session #5, which was drastically different than how the Decepticons felt. Essentially it was like an Azumanga Daioh episode: a lot of talking and watching personalities play out, and very little else. For me and my firstborn, that was fun.

Different from usual, I played Optimus Prime last night. Usually Maria plays the Autobots she owns (Jazz and Prime).

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Transformers: RP Session 6

The Decepticons limped home (from Session #5) just in time to watch their transformed star ship's defenses ward off the Autobots.
We had a game last night, this time as the Decepticons. Basically, the RP centered around fending off the Autobots, who did come to attack the base, then licking wounds for five days, and then trying to think of a way to lure Soundwave to Earth. By this point, only my 10yo was still up, so we talked about his personality and I let her try to think of things that might hook him. She couldn't come up with much, so we got to talking about Megatron and why he came...

"Try to think about what Megatron has done, and that may help you answer what his plans are. So far, he has defected from Decepticon High Command's control and gone to a forbidden planet. All right. So whatever he is doing is either worse than these things, or will wash it all away. Think of a bank robber, who steals a car so he can have a getaway vehicle. He really doesn't care about stealing a car, he's going to rob a bank. In other words, he's going to do something worse, so a forbidden planet doesn't bother him. Or, he's going to reverse the situation. What do all Decepticons covet?"

On her third try, because I kept answering "It's more basic than that," she said "Power."

"All right. So if Decepticons desire power, what might make them forget that Megatron disobeyed them?"

Maria answered "If he becomes more powerful."

I said "Ahhh. And lastly, he might have already done something so bad that the Decepticon High Command wants him destroyed, does he care about coming to a forbidden planet?"

Maria said "No. They're already after him."

"So he doesn't care about getting in a little additional trouble. For all we know, he's already wanted for doing something bad before, he's on the run, why not come here?"

"So, there you have it, three possibilities. Now, because I play Megatron and you play Prime, you are going to have to figure out what the truth is. Megatron won't tell the other Decepticons the whole truth. So I'm afraid you're going to have to wait and figure it out."

That concluded our evening.

See my PhotoBlog of this event.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Jose Francisco, the Precocious

Jose Francisco is a special case; my mom studied child psychology and recognized early on that he had a neurological rarity: his cognitive functions woke up immediately, when most children have them creep into awareness between ages 1-2. His mind was firing all this off while he was still flopping about, unable to effectively move his arms and legs.

Such children can have problems because of the lack of stimuli to a brain that craves it: they can become master manipulators because they quickly learn "I can't move, but I can do things to make others do what I want" and they sometimes "turn off," suffering from lack of stimuli, their brains give up and their cognitive functions reawaken around age 2, which is actually late.

Fortunately for Jose Francisco, with my mother's warning, and the fact that he has three sisters and his mother stays home, he had plenty of stimuli. While we've managed to counter his ability to manipulate for ill, his charisma is incredible; he's charmed 4 to 5yo girls he meets in stores several times, exception one that was just resolute on the idea that 2yo boys are babies and not to be paid attention to. Plus, he charms grown folks too when he wants to.

It's as natural as breathing to him; I've observed his behavior and body language and it's like watching an actor who knows just what to do, intuitively, to get the target person to respond. With his sisters, I have seen him summon 5yo Alejandrita because he knows she listens, and then 7yo Dulce follows because she finds herself without a playmate, and then he asks Dulce to get on a stool to get him something.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Transformers: RP Session 5

Decepticon Base
In this session, we played from the Autobots' perspective; we generally switch each session.

When we started out, sessions one, two and three had already taken place, plus a fourth which wasn't written up: essentially Starfire (aka Jetfire) and Jazz came from outer space (ordered online from Hasbro) to reinforce their old friend, Optimus Prime.

The Players: Maria, my 10yo daughter, played her Optimus Prime and Jazz figures, as well as Harrier, a small knock-off.

Dulce played her favorites, Brute and Recon, as well as Rescue, all of whom were small knock-offs.

Dad played his Starfire (Jetfire / Skyfire) and Mirage, as well as Firefox, a small jet knock-off.

Autobot (left) and Decepticon Bases
Here is the setup of the Decepticon and Autobot bases. Note that in the game world, they aren't that close together.

Extra Notes: We used stryofoam to make a better flooring than the carpet. The bases are doll houses bought from thrift stores; we took the 2nd largest and repainted it.

Autobot Base
The Autobots are hiding in factory owned by a human family they knew before the Great Cataclysmic War of 1989, in which the Autobots and Decepticons threw themselves at each other in a great battle, and the United States, USSR, UK, France, and other countries around the world suddenly attacked any Transformers they could find with their militaries. Already weakened, both sides were annihilated within the year.

Maria & Dulce setting up the Autobots
By 1988, the human governments had grown tired of the Transformer war spreading on Earth, had realized the only reason it was here was because the two factions had "set up camp."

After Autobot High Command, in space, ordered that all Transformer technology that the humans had be destroyed, a surprise orbital strike, in conjunction from Autobots that arrived from space (most of those loyal to Optimus Prime refused the order), and digital warfare, accomplished this objective. Military personnel and some civilians were killed, but Autobot High Command felt this action was "for the greater good."

After this, human governments colluded with each other and built a plan, which became the reason behind the Transformers' ultimate destruction on Earth in 1989.

Though Transformers can back up their memories and be rebuilt from scratch, the Autobot starship, the Ark, had left; orders from High Command, which was disinterested in spending resources on Earth. Optimus Prime had kept parts of Teletraan 1, the mother computer.

However, Teletraan 1, in its diminished capacity, was unable to back-up all the Autobots who were destroyed when the humans betrayed them (as, indeed, the Autobots had in 1988). Prime, being deemed valuable by Teletraan 1, was one of the Autobots it backed up.

Now, Optimus Prime has returned in a new body, to a place forbidden by both Autobot and Decepticon High Command, because a few renegade Decepticons have arrived. Their purpose isn't clear, but the Decepticons are lead by a battle-clone of Megatron, a Transformer who turns into a tank. Already ravaged by war (thrift store rescue case), this Megatron is dangerous, if overly combative.

Dulce and Maria man (girl?) the Autobot base
In RP Session 4, Starfire (Jetfire) and Jazz came to earth. Jazz was towed by the, now smaller, transforming spaceship.

The Autobots had struck luck early and learned where the Decepticon base was; in the last RP session, the Autobots learned that the Decepticons were attacking Atlanta, Georgia (at least, some of their jets were). Prime (controlled by Maria) felt this was a ruse, and rather than rescue Atlanta, he planned on leading his forces to the Decepticon Base while it didn't have its full compliment guarding it.

Starfire (as named in our fiction) is known as Jetfire or Skyfire in Transformer lore
Starfire served with Optimus Prime "back in the day," and while he was destroyed in the Great Cataclysmic war, Starfire was wise enough to have an exact replica body made (I bought two Jetfires as a boy and kept one it its box); however, upon returning to Autobot space, he was arrested for treason, and destroyed. (My mom gave both of them away when she promised not to *cries*)

Fortunately, Optimus Prime, his friend, kept another backup of Starfire, and revived him. Prime was stripped of his command for refusing to obey orders in 1988, but remains an Autobot (some Transformers have no allegiance to either side).

Optimus Prime assembles his Autobots
Optimus Prime assembled the Autobots, made up more by newly created mini Transformers than by Autobots made in factories on their homeworlds.

Starfire asked if the Autobots knew whether or not the Decepticons still had a spaceship in orbit (he is the only Transformer we have capable of intersteller space travel, so he knew they had to arrive by ship) or if, like the Autobots, they had dismantled it upon arriving for parts. Optimus Prime wasn't sure, so he called the officers to meet upstairs...

Recon, Starfire, Jazz, Optimus Prime & Mirage; Prime holds a private meeting with the officers; Jose Francisco has Recon join anyway
Starfire, Jazz, Optimus Prime & Mirage discussed the possibility of whether or not the Decepticons had a starship in orbit, which "would affect our strategy," as Starfire put it.

Optimus Prime concluded that he doubted the renegade Decepticons had a starship at their disposal, and probably arrived in reusable space craft as the Autobots had: craft designed for dismantling for parts, a typical strategy both sides employ when coming to new worlds.

Mirage, who is a bit shy for a sports car, spent the meeting behind Prime. He's never been an officer before and fell into the role when he and Prime arrived alone on earth and constructed the younglings to help them.

Extra Note: In my fiction as a child, the only Transformer who matched Starfire's intellect was Soundwave; their processing cores were actually the same; however, one was instilled with an Autobot's will to do good, and the other... what no one knows is I have ordered a reissue of the first generation mold of Soundwave... oooh the fun when he arrives.

Prime relays final orders
Prime relays final orders to the autobots.

Extra Notes: That is Jazz, Prime & Mirage facing left, and Chip, a youngling Autobot who transforms into a police motorcycle. All of the newly created Autobots and Decepticons are knock-offs bought from Big Lots.

Starfire (Jetfire) and the other Autobots listen
Rescue, Starfire, Chaser (background) and Harrier & Firefox (blurred foreground).

Prime tells Starfire to leave his booster pack (his warp engines) behind because they don't have the parts necessary to fix it if it gets damaged in battle (you can barely see it between Starfire and Rescue).

Prime has such a great voice, we just can't get enough of him speaking
A decent shot is made so much better by a shift in angles... (see next)

Heroic pose
I love how this picture turned out. The elevator in this doll-house catches the light well in the background.

That's Emergency up front.

Mirage and Emergency stay at the base and stay in communication through Teletraan 1 (tin foil viewscreen)
Mirage, Emergency (pictured) and Chip stay behnd to monitor the Autobots from Teletraan 1 (tin foil viewscreen).

The other Autobots take to the road and sky.

The Autobots take the Interstate towards the Decepticon base
Optimus Prime, Jazz, Brute (a small tank), Recon (a military jeep) and Chaser (a patrol car) take to the interstate.

Prime decided to avoid having the humans find them, since the Decepticon base was in a remote location, they would drive there rather than fly as robots.

Game Mechanics Note: In this alternate earth, humans use double-lane vehicles, which naturally can't drive on anything less than a four-lane road. Modern human semi trucks are typically this big, now.

It sucks when you need to pass one of these things.

They met some crazy human drivers along the way; and yes, Prime and Jazz take up two lanes of traffic
For a while we role-played the two hour drive (fortunately not in real time).

Dulce makes the game's first dice roll (2d6)
As the participatory game master, I made a few rolls and found that the mercenaries were patrolling routes leading to the Decepticon base.

Scalper, the double-lane red car, came up behind the Autobot convoy. Dulce made the game's first roll to determine whether Brute and Recon (the Autobots she was playing, who happened to be in the rear) noticed. They did.

Prime's stats were so high Maria didn't have to make a die roll for him to notice from the front of the convoy. Damn.

Starfire (Jetfire), Harrier (white), Firefox (red) and Rescue (chopper) follow their ground based comrades in the air
Starfire, Harrier, Firefox and Rescue made official flight-plans with human Air Traffic Control, which took them to an indirect route to fly-over the Decepticon base and arrive when the wheel-bound Autobots would.

Starfire stymied Prime on the question of "Should I file an official flight plan, and risk the Decepticons being smart enough to have hacked local Air Traffic Control centers, and thereby realize our flight plan might be suspicious, or fly beneath human radar at 500 feet, at which point humans on the ground will see and hear our loud jets, but our surprise against the Decepticons, unless they have a starship, is guaranteed?"

Prime told him to file a flight plan, so he did. Once they spotted Scalper, an unidentified Transformer with no Decepticon or Autobot markings, he took his flight group off course and came towards the Autobot convoy.

Attacked! Highway pileup almost ensued, but Prime did some fast footwork (good dice rolls; Prime is slow) and avoided it.
Recon impulsively transformed and attempted to land his feet on Scalper, who was tailing him, and shoot him point blank. It would have been a cool move, but Dulce's dice rolls were against her, so Scalper managed to hit the breaks and Recon's feet hit the pavement while still moving 70MPH; he tumbled to a stop and took some damage.

The rest of the Autobots transformed; human vehicles in front of them were fine, but Prime had to pull off some fancy footwork to avoid the ones directly behind him from smashing into his legs; he's a bit slow, but Maria's dice rolls were good.

Dulce, playing Recon (jeep) and Brute (tank) faces Scalper (the red & black figure with a sword)
Brute, angry for his friend, Recon, attacked Scalper ineffectually.

Scalper, a Decepticon, thought he would pick on the little guys...
Scalper was amused at Brute's bravado; unfortunately he underestimated how long it would take the flying Decepticons to intercept his position.

Optimus Prime and Jazz fed Scalper hot plasma
Jazz and Optimus Prime made short work of Scalper; Starfire's strafing run was the finishing move.

Extra Note: Prime has his shield generator (wind plane in truck mode) transformed into a sniper cannon; he wasn't worried about Scalper's firepower.

...that didn't end well for Scalper after a few turns
Scalper, ultimately, fell victim to Recon's impulsive attack, because there was no one to back him up once the Autobots transformed and had only one thing to shoot at.

Picture Notes: That's Recon on the left and Brute on the right of Scalper, who is on his back.

Jose Francisco with SkyShadow (left) and Megatron (right) before they entered the stage
I made some Game Master dice rolls earlier and determined that Megatron was too impatient to wait at his base (which has its own weaponry) for the Autobots, and instead ordered the Decepticons to fly (in robot mode for the majority who weren't jets) to intercept them.

Jose Francisco poses with the Decepticons before they've entered the game field (the interstate).

Maria as Optimus Prime: "Autobots, get ready, here they come!"
Maria had Prime prep the Autobots for the coming Decepticons. She also had Prime lift Scalper's sword.

Picture Notes: That's Jazz, Optimus Prime, and Chaser.

Both of these are Maria's toy figures; She had Prime lift Scalper's sword after he was downed
Yeah, they look fairly cool.

Optimus Prime wanted a chance to parlay with the Decepticons, which was at first thwarted when Recon jumped Scalper, but I rolled the dice and found Megatron couldn't resist gloating...

Starfire (Jetfire) lands to help his friends face the Decepticons on the ground
Starfire had his band land to assist the other Autobots; his logic being that while doing strafing runs would mean his squad would receive less damage, it would also mean the Autobots on the interstate, who had no cover, would be juicier targets.

BATTLE RULES: As you can see, we use 2d6 for most rolls; you take a Transformer's base stats from the back of their box and roll 2d6 with it. To do a ranged attack, roll 2d6 and add it to your Transformer's Skill. To dodge (once per turn) an incoming shot, roll 2d6 and add it to your Speed. Every shot after that will hit you if the attacker's roll is greater than your speed.

Then you roll 2d6+Fireblast (attacker) versus 2d6+Endurance (victim) to see if the hit is moderate or severe.

Smaller Transformers do no damage to large ones on a moderate hit, and one point on a severe. Equal sized Transformers do either one or two points of damage per hit. A larger Transformer will do two to three points of damage to a smaller one. A Transformer is down once it has taken as many points of damage as it has Endurance, and completely destroyed beyond repair once it has taken twice as much damage as its Endurance. Nanobots in all Transformers continually attempt to repair them.

The Decepticons, of course, wanted to talk before the fight began; Megatron loves to gloat
Megatron couldn't resist giving a monologue.

"Optimus Prime, we meet in person at last." (I never owned Megatron as a child, he was always on Cyberton, and though this is a battle-clone of Megatron, he shares the memories of the real ones)

Prime was smart under Maria's command, she said "Megatron has a big ego so..." then she spoke in her Prime voice "Megatron, why are you here?"

I asked her why she thought he'd answer and she said "He can't resist." I smiled.

"Why Optimus Prime, you mean you don't already know? I'm so surprised." Megatron, sure enough, couldn't resist feeling superior to Prime. "Do you think we came all the way to this infested, treacherous planet just so you would show up? You're not that important!"

Prime pressed "Than why are you here?"

Megatron laughed "That's for you to find out, Prime." and he fired at Optimus Prime. (He dodged.)

Same as above, no flash
The larger Autobots fired at Megatron, and the smaller ones fired at various Constructicons (the yellow guys); Herc, Drilldozer and Crane.

The Decepticons, under Megatron's orders, all shot at Optimus Prime; however, Prime had his shield generator up which, albeit temporarily, made him tougher than Megatron.

That was all the advantage the Autobots needed...
Optimus Prime, as seen through Megatron's legs; "Autobots: Attack!"
While those weren't Maria's words with Prime, that was her meaning. Because she knew the smaller Autobots could score a hit and still do no damage, she wanted them to fight the small Decepticons.

To illustrate Maria's plan, and because it was in keeping with Megatron's character, I had all Decepticons attack Optimus Prime, even the small ones; that didn't work very well.

Both sides focused their firepower, but Megatron got the short end of the stick
Optimus Prime's shield generator held up, while Megatron took real damage. Despite not having his booster pack weaponry, Starfire was able to lay into Megatron as well as Jazz and Mirage.

Maria had Prime stand his ground and didn't seem peturbed by the amount of fire directed at him; she saw where the damage was going (to his shields).

Megatron cries "Retreat! Decepticons! Retreat!"
Once Megatron had taken 6 damage points (his Endurance is 10), and three small Decepticons were already down, he signaled the retreat.

Angered, Maria had Prime order to concentrate fire on Megatron, which everyone did. The larger Autobots got him down to 1 hitpoint (which starts out equal to the Transformer's Endurance), and then four smaller Autobots hit him, but did no damage (moderate, not severe hits).

As Game Master, I decided four ineffectual hits did, indeed, stack up, and Megatron went down. Much to Maria's chagrin, however, SkyShadow picked up his fallen leader and continued flying off.

All cheer
The Autobots had won the day.

Of course, they're still standing on an interstate, but I assume Maria and Dulce will either have them disperse and transform into vehicles and head back home in disguise, or press onwards towards the Decepticon base in the next session.

Dulce gushes over the game
I love her expressions in these next few shots, in which she was answering my questions "How did you like the game?" and "What did you like about it?" and "Why?"

Maria loved the game to, but not the camera.

She really liked it
"What did you like about it?" *snap*

I always ask why; here she is answering my favorite question, which took her a good four minutes
"Why?" *snap*

I doubt I will take the incredible amount of time it took to write up another session like this one; however, I still wanted to do this because I like to finish what I start and I realized that, if it's the only one I do in this detail, it's a great example of our play.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Skyfire / Jetfire and Jazz Return!

Skyfire aka Jetfire and Jazz have arrived from Hasbro Toy Shop .com. Maria bought the "Movie Deluxe" edition of Autobot Jazz, and I bought the "Classics Voyager" class Skyfire / Jetfire.

Jazz Sucks:
Maria still likes him, but the 2007 movie edition of Jazz sucks: the arms are too hard to transform and are hinged with three individual pieces of double-hinged plastic, all of which are small parts, all of which are easy to break (which makes transforming him not fun), and to boot the final step to merging the hood back together (which is what splits apart into four pieces to rotate, move and become his arms) is nightmarish.

Jazz does look good in car mode. Robot mode is decent, but he has tiny claws for hands, and his arms get caught in his chest and don't feature the full range of motion Jetfire / Skyfire does (pictured).

Despite all of this, however, Maria likes Jazz, so bear that in mind as I gripe and grumble.

Dulce with Skyfire:
I call Skyfire "Starfire" as I did when I was a kid. The G1 Skyfire (called Jetfire only in the cartoon) was a Macross VF-1 Yamato.

We role-played their return last night.

Skyfire Rocks:
This figure is better than Classics Voyager class Optimus Prime in overall ease of transformation & coolness factor (plus he doesn't lack a trailer), but not as robust.

Prime has fewer parts to wedge together and is, overall, easier to manhandle in robot or semi-truck form without some part shifting out of its socket that latches it to another part.

Weapons: Skyfire has a crazy amount of weaponry: two cannons hidden in his boosters, a double-barreled gun that splits into two single-barreled guns to hold under his undercarriage (in his hands) in jet mode, two photon torpedoes (the clear blue things), and his tiny antenna (two on each side of his head).

Not Suck: Cool bonus, Skyfire has a "helmet" that makes him look like his G1 counterpart, rather than the cartoon version; however, if you dig the cartoon look, you can remove the helmet. I have refused to remove it because, well, "Starfire" in my fiction never had an ugly mug, just a robotic head.

Poseable: Skyfire is nearly as pose able as "Classics Voyager" class Optimus Prime; exception being he has wings and a booster pack (removable) that can get in his way.

Teh Suk: The only bad things are that the figure is just smaller than the G1 original and, when the hidden booster cannons are extended, the interior of the boosters can be seen and it's hallow.

Summary: That said, the figure is sturdy, cool, and fun. I'm glad we picked him up before he was no longer available in retail.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Transformers: RP Session 3

The Cast:
Last night, 2.5yo Jose Francisco was cooperative and, shortly after, not present.

7yo Dulce Maria tried her hand at playing Megatron. She/Megatron sent the Knock-Off Constructicons out to look for supplies, but gave no specific orders about not alerting humans to their return to Earth.

10yo Maria de Guadalupe took control of Crane and Drilldozer, while Dulce played Bulldozer and Herc. 5yo Alejandrita (Alay-hon-dri-ta) played Hawk, since Jose took Streak to bed with him. Pictures: [Herc, Drilldozer] [Crane, Bulldozer] [Streak and Firefox (not used, but they are shaped like Hawk, who is gray)]

The Adventure:
The girls set about sacking a construction yard next to a parking lot (complete with about 20 Matchbox cars all set up in parked positions). To show girls how the game worked, and to have a little fun, I had Optimus Prime and Mirage [Prime, Mirage & Laserbeak pictured] roll into the parking lot.

I told the girls "In this alternate human world, since their world was changed starting with the Transformers' arrival in 1984, now it is rather common to have double-lane vehicles; like real semi-trucks today, they can't go down residential streets." What I haven't told them is what kind of huge weaponry humans have developed; not all Transformer technology was wiped out by the Autobots.

Maria said "I can understand a big truck, but why would people need a giant race car?"

I answered "This (pointing at Mirage), assuming it was a human-built race car, could go way faster than that (Matchbox) Ford Mustang over there.

We made some dice rolls, and Prime and Mirage, while pulling into the parking lot, spotted the Decepticons first, despite their numbers. Optimus Prime was about to double-park, but pulled out and rolled into the construction site as if nothing was amiss. I had my girls roll again and a few Decepticons noticed there was encrypted communications going on between the giant semi-truck and the giant race car.

The Combaticons all transformed and started to flee. Transformers get a free action right after Transforming, but none of them shot; they all took off. Prime transformed and, instead of using his wind plane as a shield generator, transformed it into a large sniper cannon, and opened fire.

Now the girls got to learn what those stats mean on the back of the boxes: Roll 2d6, add that to the applicable stat. Most of Prime's are 10's, including "Skill." On his lowest possible roll, Prime would make a 12. On their best possible roll (4 base state +6+6 die rolls) the Combaticons could make a 16; it rarely worked out in their favor, however.

Prime hit two Combaticons. Alejandrita was brave and refused to leave Maria and Dulce's characters behind, so Hawk stayed and fired, hitting Optimus Prime; the shot bounced off without leaving a mark (Firepower versus Endurance check). Prime ignored Hawk and refused to shoot Bulldozer, who was trying to get up, and instead leveled his guns at two seperate targets (for a -4 difficulty check) and made glancing blows on each (Herc and Drilldozer). Meanwhile, Mirage had been shooting at Crane.

In the end, Bulldozer got up but was shot while attempting to fly away, and was incapacitated. Hawk stayed there, shooting at Mirage and Optimus, until both Autobots leveled their weapons at him (two of Prime's and one of Mirage's) and all scored hits: since he had been hit three times by that point, Hawk was obliterated. Unable to carry off two fallen Decepticons (Bulldozer and Herc), they nabbed one, put him on the back of Prime in Truck mode, and sped off.

Crane and Drilldozer made it back to report, but they hadn't seen the whole battle. Megatron was not pleased.

I told the girls "Now you know something about tactics."

"Yes!" Maria said, emphatically.

I continued "Now, if Megatron, SkyShadow and the mercenaries (Slipstream, Scalper & Driller [pictured]) had been there, that would have been a world of bad news for Prime and Mirage."

At any rate, I'm looking forward to the day the humans get a chance to respond with mecha of their own - Jose Francisco has a few toys that dwarf the Transformers and would serve well as the United States' solution to the Transformer problem. After all, I'm sure the U.S. government expected their return.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Transformers: RP Session 2

We barely got started with the Decepticons; Maria played Megatron. I gave her some pointers on things he would and wouldn't do:

  • Never admit fault of his own.
  • Never admit a weakness. "Optimus Prime has a new weapon; but my main battle cannon is superior."
  • If someone goes wrong, it's because one of his Decepticons did it.
  • If something goes right, it's because of his leadership.
Jose Francisco kept interrupting play this time, rather than cooperating as with the first session, and after a few suggestions, we weren't going to press him to do what we wanted. With Jose Francisco, you can explain your case and make sure he understands; if he does not respond to this, and it is not an issue of obedience (in which case, there would be no explanation anyway, just "ZE ORDAH!" [the order]), then we let him be. It is more than enough that he responds to orders and he knows the difference between something we'd like him to do, and his duty as a son and a brother, which are things he must do.

DVD 20th Anniversary Optimus Prime reviews on YouTube
After 4 or 5 resets Maria and I gave up and watched YouTube reviews of "Classics" Optimus Prime ($20) and Mirage ($5 on clearance), and of the "DVD 20th Anniversary" Optimus Prime ($70-100) which I don't have.

Watching those reviews pretty much cured me of wanting the toy for a couple of reasons:
  1. The toy is so heavy its joints have trouble staying in place, which means if they start out bad, playing with them (which I would) would destroy them.
  2. The side and back of the semi-truck look awful. There are no side windows and you can see part of Optimus Prime's bicep untransformed between a very wide seam, let's just call it an open seam.
  3. While the hands are articulate, along with every finger, it seemed to be difficult for people to make them hold something.
  4. I realized it's a big display piece for collectors, not something fun to use. For $60, I could get 3 to 6 other Transformers, plus tax.
That's news.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Transformers: RP Session 1

This big, bad long text is me and my daughter's setting for our Transformers and Knock-Offs, as well as our first RP session with them, which is different than the random "transform, shoot at each other" play we've had up until now. After this session, my daughters were hooked, though they'd enjoyed them already. As my 10yo daughter said "It's so cool that we can just talk and do what they do." Put one storyteller and two little girls together and that'd be the response I'd expect. My 2.5yo son and 5yo daughter enjoyed this too.

Before we can explain setting, we must first explain scale. Scale is an ongoing issue since the Diaclone and Microman toylines were repurposed as Transformers, and has never let up. (See the Transformers Wiki on: Scale).

That aside, fans probably have varying ways of accounting for it.

As a child playing with the G1 toys, I simply assumed that, while I knew the scales were off, in my fiction, that's just the way they were. There were super big trucks and super small tanks. Since my toys couldn't magically change size, I didn't do that, exceptions being Soundwave & crew, etc. (I always wanted him to come with a small piece of plastic that was "him", transformed.)

Playing with my children today, we came up with a more inventive solution: Matchbox cars are the actual car size, making (Classics) Optimus Prime & Mirage overly big and humans, tiny; Humans mix vehicle sizes since their world has changed since 1984.

We had to settle on Matchbox cars or die-cast cars roughly the size of Mirage; either the mini Transformers were tiny cars, planes and tanks, or they were slightly big, and everyone else was huge. Matchbox won out because my son has 30+ of them, and only 8 die-cast cars. Props matter.

Inclusion of Other Toys:

Since humans are hostile to all Transformers after the alternate end to my childhood stories, my son's toy tanks and mecha are great "Human Solutions" to the "Autobot and Decepticon Problem."

Our Fiction:
Before the Great Cataclysmic War of 1989, which Optimus Prime only alluded to the newly awakened Autobots, in which basically all the toys I had and lost were destroyed in a horrific war (fictionally speaking), the Autobots destroyed all data humans had on their technology they could find, both by physical and digital means, ordered by Autobot High Command in space. This created a strong animosity between Humans and all Transformers.

Optimus Prime, in my stories, was simply the leader of the Autobots on Earth.

18 years later (from 1989), Cyberton having forbidden Transformers from traveling to Earth, two renegade Autobots have returned: Optimus Prime and Mirage. Unearthing Teletraan 1, which was left behind along with Grimlock and the Omnibots, they built new mini Autobots (the Knock-Offs of different combining Transformers). They have been unable to locate Grimlock or the Omnibots.

Old Conflict, Renewed:

The reason Optimus Prime came is that he knows a clone of Megatron (Armada Megatron, a tank), has defected from Decepticon command and arrived here, along with his Lieutenant, SkyShadow, and three mercenaries, Slipstream, Scalper and Driller, who gestalt into "Krieg." They have already set up a base and created small Decepticons of their own (again, Knock-Offs of different combining Transformers).

How Death Works:
Although Prime died on Earth in the Great Cataclysmic War, like all Transformers in my fictions, they are difficult to kill; so long as their memories remain, and a processing core compatible with their coding (either equally or more powerful than the original), they can be rebuilt. This, too, explains the clones of many Transformers, such as the renegade Megatron, and why Megatron has "existed" for hundreds of millions of years.

In my childhood, Transformers would be destroyed and rebuilt several times, only losing the memories of the time between their last "back-up". As machines, they just view life differently than people, and the Autobots understanding of natural life versus those of machines is one of their humanistic qualities; Decepticons care little for these things.

Different Pre-History:
The Ark crashed several hundred million years prior to 1984. The Dinobots were the first to emerge, molding themselves after the life found on the planet at that time. For eons, they rebuilt themselves and continued their trek across the planet, always guarding the Ark and waiting for word from Autobot High Command, which never came. Eventually a meteorite fell and buried them; as Grimlock later said "We just didn't spend enough time looking to the stars."

The Dinobots weren't dumb, just different. Unearthed millions of years later by the Autobots lead by Optimus Prime, their memories were partly restored by Teletraan 1 on the Ark, which had been running continual repair on itself over the millenia to keep itself in top shape. Grimlock being the leader the Ark chose long ago, but Optimus Prime being the new one, the two settled on Grimlock heading up the role of battlefield commander, and Prime being the overall strategic commander. Sometimes they disagreed, which would get Prime's muffler if it was in front of other Autobots.

The Earth War: 1984-1989
During my stories, Soundwave lead the Decepticons on Earth, while Megatron continued the war from Cyberton.

Hundreds of Millions of years ago, Cyberton itself had nearly been destroyed, and every Transformer was along with it; only a few straggling survivors buried on other planets (like the Earth-bound Autobots) re-emerged after the ages past; for a long time any who returned to Cybertron were destroyed by the nano-virus spread there. Once that was overcome, however, Cybertron was reclaimed circa 1462 A.D. (Easy date for a kid to remember, same as Columbus; my stories were always detailed and still are.)

A clone of Shockwave came to Earth and became the new leader; Soundwave only lead because he had to. Later, Galvatron, a "New Edition" of Megatron, one of numerous clones, arrived; he brought with him the coming of the Great Cataclysmic War on Earth.

You see, Grimlock had lead a number of Autobots onto a Decepticon-held planet and made a successful push there that was countered. All hope lost, Grimlock let lose the "World Bomb", essentially a device capable of creating an Extinction-Level Event on any Earth-sized globe. He made it back by way of teleportation with a few Autobots, and wanted little more of war afterwards. The Decepticon High Command, however, wanted revenge.

Optimus Prime, by this time, was old. He refused to leave his body and lay in the Ark giving orders from there, and sometimes remotely controlled Ultra Magnus, who became his 2nd in command.

Having spent so much time around humans, Optimus Prime had begun to feel that he was more than memories: he was the robot. For this reason, he refused to leave his aging body.

The Great Cataclysmic War:
I never got a chance to "play out" the Great Cataclysmic War because I didn't know it was going to happen; nor would I have wanted it to. My parents lost our horse ranch and me just about every toy with it. Grimlock, the Omnibots and my two Jetfires/Skyfires survived (one mint in box). My mother later gave away my Jetfires without me knowing; that left only four survivors. I thought I still had Topspin, my first Transformer ever (and one of my least favorites) but I didn't find him with my NES things, which I also still have.

2007: Present Day
So today, the Classics Optimus Prime (which belongs to my 10yo daughter) is Optimus Prime, finally in a new body. As with everyone else on Earth, he died in the Great Cataclysmic War; The Ark, before this war, had left Earth, and the parts of Teletraan 1 left behind were incomplete, and unable to back up all of the Autobots. Permanent death ensued for a great many Transformers; Optimus Prime has not said how many. He does know that Teletraan 1 saved his memories because it deemed him more valuable, something that weighs upon him.

Grimlock and the Omnibots survived the War, in which the humans participated in slaughtering all Transformers after the Autobots and Decepticons nearly ended each other; Grim, Overdrive, Camshaft and Downshift went into hiding.

(This is especially disconcerting for my 10yo daughter, because she knows I have both my G1 Grimlock and my "Robots in Disguise" Classic Grimlock still in its box. She wants Grimlock to return, but I am unwilling to open his box, nor use my G1 figure.)

The Autobots feature only:

The First Role-Play Session:
My 10yo daughter made me role-play Prime to help her get ready to fill his shoes. She took control of various knock-offs, as did my 7yo daughter, Dulce. Jose Francisco, my 2yo son, spoke Cybertonese, and we'd act like we understood him and answer in such a way as to make it obvious what he said; he loved this, discovering that you could do more with Transformers than shoot each other, and kept talking and listening. He started practice fighting with laser-beams later.

I had to get into the moment to take up Prime; it had been a long time, but having seen the G1 Cartoon episodes 1-7, the feeling had come back. Still, last night was the first time since, probably, 1989 that I played him. Took me a few moments to get ready, take everything in that had happened, and figure out what he'd say first.

Before Prime, in the largest doll-house, which was their new base, were all the mini Knock-Offs and Mirage, transformed into vehicles. That wouldn't do for a meeting, my first words with Prime were fittingly:

"Autobots: Transform."

My daughters sighed and giggled. We transformed everyone into robot mode.

Prime explained that it had been a long time since the Autobots last came to Earth, and that all of the mini Knock-Offs were newly created Autobots (which explained their lack of stickers, which the little guys complained about later). He explained their roles and the buddy system he expected them to use; the Decepticon threat and their superiority, and that he had put out a call for Starfire, but that his old friend could be many parsecs away (7-10 days shipping).

Prime explained that all Autobots have mini-hologram generators which will blend their seams, so humans won't be able to tell they are Transformers. Decepticons, of course, can see right through this, so the disguise won't work against them. Here too, when asked about the Doll House decorations they were surrounded by, Prime said "Those, too, are holograms; however, by our eyes they look flat and unrealistic, but to human eyes, they will look real."

My daughters smiled at that.

Note on Starfire/Jetfire/Skyfire:
Optimus Prime has sent a message calling Starfire (what I called Jetfire/Skyfire), but does not know how long it will take his old friend to arrive, but that, given Starfire's intellect and distaste for war and the Autobot High Command, he is sure to come. (Classics Jetfire is on order from Hasbro, as is Jazz, which Prime is not aware of: Starfire is bringing along an old buddy who defected with him; not that Starfire had to defect, he was never a soldier under Autobot High Command's control).

Back to Role-Play:
Brute, Recon and Chaser went out on the road; (Brute played by Maria, Chaser by myself and Recon by Dulce) we set up a freeway and put a lot of Matchbox cars on it. Brute hadn't bothered computer speed-reading the laws on traffic, which was problematic because he is a miniature tank. Chaser, a patrol car, quickly became the group's watchdog. Recon, while certainly a follower, provided his own quips.

Firefox and Harrier, two Autobot mini-jets played by myself and Maria, took to the air, and ran into Hawk, a Decepticon mini-jet Knock-Off played by Dulce. She attacked us, and the two Autobots quickly out-gunned Hawk. Foolishly, Dulce had Hawk fly back to the Decepticon Base, whereupon (Armada) Megatron blasted Hawk with his main battle cannon, destroying him for his idiocy, undoubtedly to be rebuilt later, perhaps the wiser. Megatron sent Laserbeak ("Real Gear" Booster X10) to follow the Autobots; Laserbeak's new power was turning invisible like Mirage, but Prime doesn't know that so the data he gave the brand-new Autobots omitted this ability.

Firefox and Harrier, however, were overly wary about being followed, and flew to Japan before heading back home. By that time, Laserbeak had grown tired of following them and returned home; two dice rolls failed to let the Autobots see him, nor get the Autobots to feel less paranoid. They returned and told Prime the good news: they now knew where the Decepticons were.

That ended our role-play and fun and games, as everyone but my oldest had to go to bed.

Current Situation:
As it stands, the Autobots are hopelessly outgunned if a full battle happened, so Prime ordered that, at all costs, their new base must be kept secret; even human governments might seek to destroy them.

On order, "Movie Deluxe" Jazz, my 10yo daughter bought with her own money (she paid me, I bought him online); "Classics" Starfire/Jetfire is mine.

That's all we know, for now. We haven't played the Decepticons yet.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Transformers: The Fortress

Here is the fort! It's finished!

I made a stop-animation of my 10yo daughter's Optimus Prime transforming. She enjoys him so much she ordered the movie edition of Jazz online for $10. I ordered Jetfire / Skyfire from the Classics line for $20.

More on Playing:
Well playing with my brother is interesting; the men in my wife's family do not like to lose, even when playing Transformers. I don't think I ever saw Megatron shoot so many devastating rounds so quickly, or so accurately. Flying jets, racing cars, Optimus Prime, you name it, it was shot repeatedly.

Fortunately this only eggs on my oldest daughter, so she put up Prime's shields (the spoiler on his roof becomes a great shield looking generator once transformed; we figured that's what it was in both modes), ducked for cover and converted his shields to a really big gun:
See that monster in his left hand? That folds out into a shield in truck mode, and can be a shield generator on his back that you can put above his head or behind him in robot mode, or take off, convert into a super-powerful sniper cannon, and go blast some Decepticons.

That would work in a fair game; unfortunately we didn't have one of those, so the Autobots retreated for the day.

The Fortress:
Jose Francisco loves the new fort. Esteban did the paint job and it came out great (see previous picture). Usually the Decepticons inhabit The Fortress.

When Jose Francisco first saw it he gave a confused look; I think he recognized that it was one of his sisters' doll houses, recolored, but when he realized that we did it so he could have a fort (by taking a Transformer and putting it on the Fort), he smiled and ran straight for it and started setting up Transformers.

The Princess:
Dulce Maria has decided she likes Brute and Recon best, because she can transform them and they "look cool." Here they are on the right:
Knock-Offs Group 1, Vehicle Mode | Knock-Offs Group 1, Robot Mode
The Tank and the Jeep are Brute and Recon.

Alejandrita loves to play with her baby brother and prefers any of the small white ones, especially the two white jets.

Always Ask "Why?"
I have asked my lovely lady why our daughters enjoy Transformers when they don't enjoy toy soldiers, and she wasn't sure.

Behaviorally, they all seem to "click" with Transformers. Good guys, bad guys, who are cars, planes and other vehicles. Robots who shoot, fly and talk. They seem to appreciate the feeling of "doing it" when they learn a transformation, and enjoy repeating the process, once learned, many times during play.

However, I can't enumerate why the girls enjoy Transformers and not toy soldiers. Is it the slight abstraction of giant robots? If the human brain feels pleasure in having power, in doing something, accomplishing something (even if it's tipping something over, for babies), then some part of these toys certainly speaks to them in this aspect.

I'll think on it a bit more, but mostly I'm glad everyone is having fun.