The last time I did one of these was four years ago, I really ought to make it a more regular thing because San Diego Comiccon is a prime event to promote new material and media coming up in time for the mass indoor-migration. Here are a few of the highlights I’ve picked up on:
Harley Quinn Animated Series [NSFW]
No seriously, they packed this thing with bad language and violence.
Ok, this has some potential. I like Kaley Cuoco as Harley Quinn although I wish she’d given it the proper southern-drawl* that has been a hallmark of the character for decades, but that’s about my only complaint. In the post-Nolan DC days it can be hard sometimes to remember that there have been fun days in DC, even in Gotham where some of the dumbest villains have challenged the caped crusader, and that includes Quinn. So far we appear to be capturing the essence of what Suicide Squad wanted and failed to achieve, and we’ve kept key elements of the Suicide Squad Quinn in the pink and blue look.
Being broadcast on the new DC subscription network may limit the potential pretty dramatically, I actually think this may prove to be a growing problem because Disney are doing the same thing (more on that later) and the number of subscription services are getting as prolific as the number of television channels, but now you have to pay for all of them individually, and slowly but surely that new business model is going to prove how well it doesn’t work. I think. That’s my opinion at any rate.
Anyway, reserving judgement on Harley Quinn but holding on to a shred of optimism.
The Abrahamsverse Star Trek has put one hell of a stamp on Star Trek since then, we’ve seen it all over STD, and apparently we’re seeing this new theme of industrial style sets and higher colour-contrast lighting schemes in this resurrection of the greatest captain to ever command an Enterprise. The story looks to be another combination of Data and the Borg, and Seven of Nine will be joining the crowd as well to really dig into themes like artificial intelligence versus actual intelligence, life, freedom and independence. Rumours are that Jonathan Frakes will also be reappearing.
Our new crew includes Allison Pill and Harry Treadaway, two very talented young actors who never seem to have broken big which is a genuine tragedy.
Prediction: Turns out the young woman in the trailer with all that mystery around her is the borg queen and somehow time travel is involved… again. I say that because it looks like that borg cube is under construction, and as everyone has a particular loathing of this woman there’ll be some kind of shenanigans with nanomachinery and paradoxes. In short I can’t say as I’m all that excited, but I’m curious.
Marvel Season 4
I was expecting a long slow decline for the MCU that would slowly hurt everyone’s feelings and ruin ten years of amazing cinema by soaking the legacy in bleach until we’re left with a flimsy, pale imitation of what used to be. It looks like they just gave up, no part of the line-up gets me excited, no, not even the new Thor film.
Blade and Fantastic 4 have been confirmed for the future, along with another Spidey-film, and a Black Panther follow up, and sure we’ve got the groundwork for a Secret War or something, and who knows, maybe this is a grand fake-out, but I have some issues, and I’ll keep them short.
The time for Black Widow was about three years ago, some time around Civil War or Winter Soldier when she was at her most popular. A great animated film was made with her and the Punisher working together to take down Crimson Dynamo, and that was about as good as I think we’ll see. You want a good Black Widow? Red Sparrow is probably your best bet.
One quick look into the history of the Eternals tells me that there will need to be some serious conceptual changes to make them work well in the MCU. They’re a bunch of demigods in service to the Celestials, which should bring in a few of the Celestials in time for the likes of Glactus and whatnot, but from what I read they’re far from beloved characters. Shang-Chi is a house built on sand, with Iron Fist flopping harder than Finn Jones’ hair (hah!) and the Mandarin being a fake-out that upset a lot of fans.
“Multiverse of Madness” is a rather uninspiring subtitle, as is “Love and Thunder” which sounds like an episode of Miami Vice.
And here are all of these Disney+ titles, all of which were unsubtly set up during Infinity/Game, Hawkeye will be about training a younger archer, Loki picks up from the Tesseract incident, and buddy cops Falcon and Winter Soldier screams of Lethal Weapon with more vibranium. What If… sounds like it could be mildly interesting, but it’d need to do something more than regurgitate the old What If’s of the comics. What they plan to do with Wanda and Vision is anyone’s guess but for now I’m contenting myself with some early 00’s style sitcom in which most of the comedy is Vision trying to understand people.
A better sounding fan-timeline can be found here, filled with titles that – while clearly fake – has a few more beguiling titles.
So the Witcher looks… fine, I guess? There are a few showpiece scenes that look like they could be cool, but I’m listening to the story and it doesn’t grip me yet. I’m quietly hoping to see a Mad Max style approach to Geralt, approaching as a nearly blank slate who comes to propel someone else’s story.
Far more interesting, we saw a mini making-of for dark Crystal along with a bit of new footage which looks like it’ll be a genuine masterpiece of television. It’ll be something to look forward to binging straight after Insomnia.
We’ve had new trailers for a bunch of extra films that we’ve known about for a while, a glimpse of what Rick and Morty’s fourth season will have to hold which… basically is more of the same but that’s cool, that’s what we like. A, hopefully better, television adaption of His Dark materials is on the way and now we can see a bit of it, it looks like it won’t be shying away from the anti-religious themes that were omitted in the Golden Compass film, but also features a cast of some of the best actors of the decade. IT, Watchmen, Westworld, but perhaps the thing that worries me the most is the Snowpiercer series that I simply cannot envision accomplishing what the film did.
Hate to end this on such a downer, so I’ll let it fizzle on a bad line instead.
*New Jersey accent! Turns out I’ve been getting it wrong for years.
Geralt, one of the most popular characters in RPG history, is a Witcher. A mutant of sorts, whom possesses powers far greater than that of most humans; a deciding factor in wars, able to use runes and two different types of swords for fighting. The Witcher is a franchise wrought with gratuitous violence, sex scenes and long, epic quests. Naturally then, it was a fitting game for me to try, as I do love a good RPG! But, as this was the first Witcher game I tried, what did I make of my introduction to the franchise as a whole?
So, rather than starting with my spell like I did in my Re-Skinning Spells part 1 last week, I’ll be starting with the spellcaster. To give your unique character a unique feel rather than just a colour-by-numbers hack-n-slash dungeon crawler, plant a little of their personality onto their spell list. For each character I’ll be throwing in more details like magical implements or Individual Magical Effect to give you some ideas on how to really change up your wizards, warlocks, sorcerers, and spellslingers.
Let me start with a character I’ve wanted to build for some time.
A wizard heavily invested in the nature of time, it’s mechanisms, how it shapes and is shaped by space and matter. There’s a few spells that are no-brainers for a master of time, Slow, Haste, Scrying, at later levels Time Stop and it’s not a huge stretch to throw in spells like Mending as a way to reverse time on a broken object, or Disintegration to accelerate time to the point of crumbling. But not every level comes with a complete collection of spells perfect for the Chronomancer.
It would not take an overly permissive DM to alter Conjure Minor Elementals to summon Modrons instead, those mechanical life-forms from the plane of rigid order and law. The collection from the Monster Manual sits within the Combat Rating requirements. Scrying and locating spells might help pinpoint the eddies and currents a creature leaves in the currents of time, Move Earth and Control Water might toy with history so ancient that the world was different.
Each time the Chronomancer casts a spell it is accompanied by the sound of a ticking clock, a whirling of spectral gears about his/her arms, and at later levels the very stars wheel in the heavens as he/she exerts power on the universe. A stopwatch might be the focus for the Chronomancer, or a sundial with a shadow that always points to the correct time, no matter the light in the room.
The magic of an Alchemist is all chemical, no otherworldly powers required. The correct admixtures can turn acid into a projectile capable of flying great distances, contain fire in a case of metal to be called upon later, or spawn lightning in a jar. The Artificer class for Eberron has dabbled a little in this, although I have to say I preferred the sub-type of wizard from an earlier issue of Unearthed Arcana. That works up to a point, but there are plenty of spells that you might not be able to pull out of a bottle.
Consider a spell like Wall of Stone, rather than a movement of earth the spell could be a growing mountain of foam that solidifies into a barrier. Illusions could be the result of a potent hallucinogen; it’s hard to summon an Insect Plague with chemicals unless you keep a box of larvae or a vial of potent pheromones in your pack.
Alchemists can fit into a low-magic setting, but have to plan accordingly. Your alchemist may have to carry a hefty medicine bag filled with bases, reagents, admixtures and solvents, along with enough glassware to refit a cathedral. You might be walking around in lab gear, goggles and gloves, collapsible work bench, the works.
Ok, let me draw some examples from elsewhere. I’ll grab some characters with signature spells or spell-like powers and give you something that’ll do the same job:
Maya’s Phaselock – Shamelessly going back to Borderlands, the Siren Maya has the power to imprison an enemy in a hovering bubble of raw energy from whatever plane of existence the Sirens draw power from. Hold Person would work fine as the basic version, but lacks the upgrades, they’re much harder to replicate without your DM allowing you to add powers and expending higher spell slots, or even several slots. Dominate Person, Bless, or Resistance can give you ideas for effects to pile onto a single spell.
Witcher Signs – Igni screams Burning Hands, nice and easy. Aard, maybe use Thunderwave. At early levels you might use Crown of Madness for the hypnotic sign Axii, rather than the more appropriate Dominate Monster. The shielding sign Quen has loads of possible options, from Shield to Magic Circle. And Yrden… is difficult, planting rune-circles that trigger when you pass over them is something you’ll have to wait for when you get level 3 spells and Glyph of Warding, but that’s such a versatile spell you should pick it up anyway, no matter who you are.
Waterbending – It’s easy to replicate earth, air, and firebending from the Avatar Series, plenty of fire-based spells, mobility and defensive spells for air, and things you can change into stone, especially if you build a druid. Water might be trickier, but there are things that could be made more… watery. Magic Missile and Cloud of Daggers, streaks of water hurled at opponents, Slow and Evard’s Black Tentacles could be used as patches of water that grip and bind.