Hello everyone. My name is Bob Sacco. I also go by FIS here on the web. This page is a place for me to make available, to you, the writing projects (on a wide variety of subjects) that I've been working on. I hope that you enjoy them. Feel free to e-mail me comments and there is a comment box below. I’ve also published some essays by my friend Joe here. If you would like to contribute a piece, mail it to me in Word format and if I like it, maybe I’ll post it here. The links to the left are to stuff that I have published elsewhere on the web and the links above are all a part of this website. New stuff will appear below.
My favorite computer game is The Sims. If there are any gamers reading this, you are probably more into MMOs or action games of various sorts and I love those games too, but after working all day, The Sims is just a nice way to wind down. Action games are a fine way to vent frustrations and get the ol’ mind chewing on puzzles or stratagems but that sort of stuff gets me geared up and The Sims is a fine way to mellow out. I’ve got all of the add-ons for Sims 1. I’ve only just started acquiring the pieces of Sims 2. I’m very money conscious and given that I was satisfied with Sims 1, I didn’t want to spend a whole lot of money on starting over. Now that Sims 3 is out I’m able to start piecing together Sims 2 at bargain prices.
A lot of what entertains me has to do with creating virtual worlds. Witness my essay on using computer games to help design my Friday night role playing game. When I first discovered cyberspace that was what attracted me to it. I remember once I had a computer that came with an internet home page that looked like an apartment and to access various internet functions or activities you needed to click on analogous items in the apartment. I thought that was a truly cool idea but this particular program was flawed in that it only linked you to internet services provided by whatever company had created the program, ever since I have been looking for a “home” in cyber space. My superhero base in City of Heroes just doesn’t feel homey enough, although I do like spending time there.
I used to enjoy playing in MUSHs (multi user shared hallucinations) because they had lot of functions for building your own lair. There were even some in which this building function was the basis of play. Rather than playing to make play money to build your online home, they just gave the money away and let you build. These were also a cool idea but I didn’t much care for all the time that I spent coding and doing all that coding, I didn’t really have any time to get out and meet my neighbors so it lacked the sense of community that is so important in online games. I’m guessing that I would really like Second Life but I’m just too cheap to shell out real bucks to create an unreal living space. It costs too much to create my real living space.
That’s where the Sims really does it for me. While it doesn’t have the advantage of being an online virtual reality (I know there used to be a Sims Online, maybe there still is, but, my understanding is that it was another deal where you had to work within the game to make the money to build with and, I already have a job and a life), after registering you get the cheat that lets you give yourself all the money that you will ever need. So, I’ve built the perfect Malibu beach house for myself and I love puttering around it with a cast of housemates that completely please me and if I want to do the online thing I can just minimize and jump on Facebook.
The "real life" fantasy role playing can be satisfying as well. While it couldn’t ever be the best in role playing because role playing at its best is very different from real life, it is sometimes nice to become a movie star, leader of the free world or major league capitalist without having to do any real work or have families without frustration or a dozen girl friends to have nights out with that don’t cost real money. (Don’t tell my wife I said that last part.) Add to that the online community of players who spend way too much time creating customizations that let you shape the game pretty much any way you want and, well… what’s not to like.
How I Use My Computer as a Game Master Tool
I’ve been Game Mastering a weekly role playing game since 1976. It started out as a basic D&D campaign with dungeon crawling and lots of hacking and slaying based on the John Carter of Mars novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs. (I’m not really looking forward to the upcoming Disney movie, those books were violent and sexy and I just don’t think Disney’s going to do them justice.) These days it’s mostly centered on superheroes in a modern day environment. Early on I abandoned the rule books, taking them at their word that they were just suggestions rather than some law set in stone, although I have collected almost every major role playing game that found its way to the shelves of my local war games store, before it disappeared and TSR took role playing to the big bookstores. I find every new manual to be creative and a wonderful source of inspiration, so, I’ll probably never stop buying them. These days I think of online role playing games the same way, fun in and of themselves but mostly a source of inspiration for my own campaign. I basically came up with my own set of rules based on percentiles and assigning a percentage chance of succeeding at something with pluses or minuses based on appropriate stats and skills levels. In the early nineties I went digital and started putting my campaign on my first computer. I thought it might be of interest what part the computer has played in my role playing ever since.
My first idea for using the computer in my weekly role playing game was to use it to save myself space. I had a lot of role playing rule books and modules and while I didn’t bind myself to those rules and scenarios, I liked to have the various monster manuals and what not on hand so that I could find monsters, treasures, equipment and ideas for any scenario that my players managed to find themselves in. When I was in high school and college this became increasingly problematic as the game had a tendency to float. Some weeks we’d play at my house, some weeks at someone else’s, or perhaps in someone’s dorm room, or, what have you. As the amount of books that I was collecting mounted up, it became harder and harder to transport the game to where ever we happened to be playing. I could have left some behind and only brought the ones that I knew for sure I would need, but I prided myself on a certain flexibility that meant that I could rapidly change gears and force my players to face any sort or scenario. Sure it was fun to have players skulking through a woodland tracking a party of orcs and stumbling into a dragon, but, how much more fun if their magic user screwed up a dimension door spell in some horrible way that transported them all to Manhattan in the year 2020 which was being invaded by robot, Nazi, zombies from Mars, in which case I would need additional lists of equipment etc. (Some of this was inspired by an article in either the first year of Dragon magazine or perhaps it was the Strategic Review which was TSR’s predecessor to Dragon, in which a group of gamers were arguing about whether to play D&D or Axis and Allies. They creatively decided to do both.)
Before I had too much stuff for the strongest of my players to carry, I grew up and bought a house of my own, so the game stopped floating, but the only room in the house that I could completely dedicate to the game was the attic which was too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter, although, we were young so we toughed it out. However, my first computer was portable and I thought to myself, if I could just put the information I was taking out of the books into computer databases, not only could we play down stairs in comfort, but, we could even be mobile again if we had to. We never did get mobile again but I’m glad to say that playing in the dining room is more comfortable than in the attic, although we do sometimes get wistful and miss the attic. The data that I put into the computer was pretty much just lists and descriptions of monsters, non-player characters, my player’s character sheets from over the years, lists of treasure and equipment and encounter tables for any of the scenarios suggested by my various gaming manuals. Over time that evolved to include things like lists of alien planets from books, movies and comic books as well as planets I made up myself and lists of movies and TV shows that I have on video. Someday I hope to have lists of my books and comic books and I sorely need to put together a data base of skills, spells and superpowers. Basically these data bases give me the ability to randomly role on appropriate charts for encounters in any situation and give me access to any number of plots and stories to use if for some reason the scenarios of my own invention should run dry before the nights gaming is over. Plus, sometimes I honestly don’t have a workable idea to spin into a game, but a random roll through these data bases always brings up some useful plot idea. I used a program called Lotus Symphony which had a simple data base set up but if I were doing it today I could conceivably have done it with something as simple as Word or Excel. I think that anything with a search function would do.
I also used to keep a library of .wav files for appropriate sound effects, which was pretty cool but took up too much hard drive space (hard drives were much smaller back then) and was hard to manage, although, I've been thinking of putting together a new sound effects data base, heck, I'm managing my CDs as MP3's, and that's a lot easier than it used to be.
I also found that simple graphics programs that usually come with a computer’s operating system were more than adequate for making maps. So, I could also have all of my dungeons and wildernesses on the computer. However, my mapmaking needed to become more sophisticated. I tend to think of my campaign as a multi-verse filled with as many worlds, cultures, magics and technologies as any of those in popular forms of entertainment, and I needed an easy way to map all of that, sometimes on the fly, because, I just hate sitting down and drawing maps.
My favorite computer games at that time fell into the category of “the god games” so called because as you play you have a god’s eye view of the playing world. The most popular of these seem to have been The Sims and Sid Meyer’s Civilization. Sid Meyer’s Civilization offered control over cultures from small tribal villages to huge empires over enormous periods of time and included cheats that could allow you to design them as you chose. A lot of people did a lot of customizing and put their Civ Scenarios’ out on the web for others to enjoy. One of my favorite fan creations for Civilization was a recreation of Middle Earth where you could play Gondor, Mordor or several others; although Gondor and Mordor had the best chance to win.
The people who bring us The Sims created a lot of God games back in the day, Sim City, Sim Tower, Sim Earth, Sim Life, Sim Farm, even Sim Ant. A lot of these just reminded me of toys for little kids made into viable toys for teens and adults. Civilization was like having a box of toy soldiers but you didn’t need to have someone else to play with and you didn’t have to argue over the rules. In fact, Sim Earth didn’t bill itself as a game but as a toy and was one of my favorites in that you got to run an entire planet on a geologic time scale. It actually taught a great deal about how ecosystems work and how our civilization is dependent on them without being heavy handed in getting across its message.
The problem with the God games (or at least the ones that were really games rather than toys), is that, as with most early computer games, once you figured out the patterns, it was too easy to win and it got kind of dull. On the other hand, for me at least, they served as an outlet for creativity as my brain just automatically made up stories to go along with the game play. At this point I turned them into tools for my role playing game. I tend to want to create whole worlds with deep and rich mythologies and cultures for game play and some of these God games allowed me to fill in some of the detail that I wasn’t particularly interested in. For example, I could use Sim Earth to create an entire gaming world, getting the environments and levels of civilization, plant and animal life the way I wanted them, but letting the continents be shaped by game play so I didn’t have to figure out where every coast line, dessert, forest, plain and mountain range was, and, by virtue of where and how things evolved, it would give me ideas about the cultures of the civilizations that formed. Then I could create that same map in Civilization and shape the nations, tribes, kingdoms and city states to my liking. Sometimes, in evolving them to where I wanted them to be, I would get ideas for my campaign. I could then build maps of the actual cities using Sim City.
One of the neatest consequences of this was that it gave me living maps. Between gaming sessions I could “run the maps” to see what happened. Sim Earth produced the occasional natural disasters, earthquakes, tidal waves, hurricanes, forest fires, volcanoes, even asteroid strikes. Civilization had a few disasters too, plagues, food shortages and barbarian invasions from the wilderness, but it was mostly useful for unexpected political events, coups, civil wars, wars, border disputes, diplomatic actions, alliances and the collapse there of, revolutions, terrorist attacks etc. Now just because any of these events happened on my maps doesn’t mean that I felt like I had to use them, and, they were easy enough to fix if I didn’t like them, but, sometimes they added a level of detail and flavor to the campaign that I wouldn’t get otherwise.
Yes, I would come up with some pretty convoluted plots for my players to experience, but I discovered early on that if I want my players to have a good time, I can’t force my plots down their throats. They have to be co-creators with me and I have to be flexible in my responses to them. If a story doesn’t work out the way I planned because of their actions, that has to be alright because it has to be their story too, but, if my living maps throw all of us the occasional monkey wrench, well, most of the time, that only made the story more interesting. Sure, no one wants their favorite campaign city to be destroyed by a tidal wave, but, you can get several interesting possibilities out of that tidal wave. The two that come immediately to mind are refugees trying to make their way to some other city and the reaction of the citizens of that city when they get there, or, adventures in which your players have to find artifacts, technologies or mystical entities that can stop the tidal wave. Okay, I may have a long term campaign goal of the good empire defeating the evil empire, and, that goal can be trashed if, in Civ, as I’m approaching a critical battle, barbarians suddenly come out of the dessert, sack the good empire’s capital, setting off a civil war which splits the good empire into two smaller countries, one of which allies with the enemy, but the story ideas that this sort of event generates are limitless.
It also doesn’t hurt to have a lot of maps set up in case the local of the game shifts suddenly without much time to prepare. I remember one time when we were playing a James Bond style adventure and the mission took them to Tokyo. I didn’t have a map of Tokyo on hand but the version of Sim City that I was playing at the time came with a pre-created map of Tokyo so I loaded it up. The guys where in a car chase with some ne’re-do-wells and as I described the road in front of them based on what I was seeing in Sim City, they decided to try and loose the bad guys by making a left turn onto some train tracks, a valid move which I have seen in James Bond movies, these train tracks might not have been there if I’d have drawn the map or was just making it up as I went along. As I was rolling the results for the gun fight and how well the player and non player characters were driving I noticed the player sitting next to me’s eyes getting wider, I looked up at the screen to see that a train was coming. Perfect! Now, any GM worth his salt in a situation where people are driving on railroad tracks would assign a percentage chance of a train coming and factor that in as he’s making his rolls, but between the gunfight and the car chase, I had more than enough to keep track of, why not let Sim City keep track of the trains for me? I think I even used Sim Ant once to dig out some random dungeons when I needed an underground in a hurry, I just let the game dig the tunnels and place the ants and their food, and used the food to mean treasure and the ants to mean monsters.
I’m not as in tune with the games that are out there now-a-days but resources abound just on the internet. Sometimes I think that Wikipedia is one huge random encounter chart. It certainly can make one an expert on any subject quickly and at the very least it offers pictures of just about anything my players may encounter. I recently had some characters break out of a prison for super-humans in Colorado and though I don’t know much about Colorado, picking a spot there in Google maps and looking at the satellite photos quickly gave me descriptions to give my players so they could decide whether to travel across the countryside, make for the road, nearby towns or mountains.
Many of the old God Games have found homes on abandonware sites along with emulators that can run them on modern computers. If you’re a GM, they may be worth a look. Good hunting!
City of Heroes
While we're waiting for Joe’s next Darkfall review I thought that I would write a bit about the MMO that I play, which is City of Heroes/Villains/Going Rogue. In the spirit of full disclosure I should point out that it’s the only one that I’ve ever played (although, back in the day I did my fair share of playing on various MUDs and MUSHs.) It isn’t that I don’t want to play more; I think that a lot of the MMOs out there look really cool and I wish that I could play in a lot of them. It’s just that I have a lot of things competing for my time. Also, I tend to prefer to play solo. I like to come and go from the games as I choose and when you’re a part of a team, particularly a regularly occurring team, you suddenly have to schedule your game life around the availability of people that you want to play with and, my wife insists that my schedule should revolve around her.
I’m sort of jealous that so many cool games, including City of Heroes, are so centered on group play. I’d love it if so many cool worlds were solo player friendly. I know that COH has some adventures that are only open to teams and I regret that, unless my life changes, I won’t be able to play those, but, that said, I do have a really good time in COH even playing on my own. In fact, when you first learn to play you are often told that you can only play solo successfully if you play a Tank/Brute or Scrapper/Stalker but I’ve been very successful playing every type of character (except the Defender which is mostly a healer) solo. The main reason that I’ve chosen COH to be the MMO that I make time for is because I love comic books and COH is the game that I always used to fantasize about because it lets you be an original superhero of your own creation. I also like the fact that it isn’t filled with characters owned by the big comic companies. I want to be the big superhero. Somehow, it doesn’t feel to me like I’m the big superhero if I’m suddenly in a team up with Superman or Iron Man or worse, they’re the ones telling me what to do.
City of Heroes is set in a world that is very like the DC Comics universe in that it reveres its Superheroes to the point that it builds colossal statues to the most beloved ones. In the recent past the world was successfully invaded by an alien race named the Rikti. Of course the superheroes didn’t stop fighting the Rikti after they had conquered the planet, and even some supervillains fought to free the Earth (although more than a few seemed to revel in the chaos and caused almost as much destruction as the invaders.) Eventually the Rikti were driven away. (Although they still return from time to time bombing and then attacking various zones with ground troops giving armies of player characters the opportunity to fight in mass battles against them or in lonely battles on rooftops and back alleys. There are also occasional zombie apocalypses and during Halloween and the two winter events other mass attacks sweeping from zone to zone which can give a player the sense of being in one of Marvel or DC’s annual crossovers.) The governments of Earth are in the process of rebuilding and trying to bring order to zones that are still in chaos due to the amount of destruction that they suffered and the presence of supervillains.
Play in City of Heroes is centered in Paragon City, Rhode Island, U.S.A. Paragon is divided into zones by giant force fields left over from the Rikti days. The government has left them in place to control traffic between zones, primarily to keep gangs of supervillains from roaming about the city freely. (This is of course just an excuse to justify game logistics as those gangs of supervillains do seem to move around quite freely and hang out on street corners in broad daylight, though I suppose that they move around via the cities underground sewer systems which sometimes seem vaster and more inhabited than the city itself. In any event, the city zones divide the city up into areas where players of different levels can patrol the streets and encounter level appropriate mobs. Actual missions may take place in any part of the city, but street mobs are worth more experience points than mission mobs, so, it’s nice when missions take you to a tough neighborhood.) More importantly, the force fields keep the general public out of hazard zones.
Hazard zones are areas that are still mostly reduced to rubble by the aliens or supervillains and where enemy mobs spawn in much greater numbers.
There are a few zones outside of Paragon city. I haven’t been to all of them yet but my favorite so far is Ouroboros which is a group of islands floating in the sky over an Earth that is completely covered by ocean. Set in the far future, the Ouroboros zone is a launching pad for time travel adventures. Like most of the non-city zones I’ve run across, it is particularly useful for traveling between zones in Paragon City proper in a much quicker time than it would take one to run (fly, super leap) from zone to zone to zone to zone (although, this has become unneccsary as in a recent update, the city's two triain lines were hooked together so that now you can get from any zone with a train station to any other zone with a train station, without having to do a lot of trasitioning.) Other zones that I’ve been to include pocket D, a pocket dimension with bars and a never ending dance party, The Midnighter’s Club which is a hangout for good and evil magic users and an Ancient Roman zone.
City of Villains is set in the Rogue Islands. The Rogue Islands are a group of islands in the Caribbean that have been conquered by the supervillain group, Arachnos. Arachnos is a lot like Marvel’s Hydra with a little bit of The Hand mixed in for good measure. I know City of X is probably not the most graphically beautiful MMO around, although I really like the graphics a lot myself, but The Rogue Islands bug me. Not so much because Arachnos has let most of it go to hell, you’ve got to expect that from supervillains. I dislike the graphics in the rogue islands because they are supposed to be in the Caribbean and I have yet to see a single palm tree or anything else at all that makes the place look tropical.
The idea behind the Rogue Islands is that they are a safe haven for supervillains. The opening tutorial involves escaping from prison in Paragon and being transported to the Rogue Islands by Arachnos, whose leader, Lord Recluse, is always on the lookout for destined ones who are supposed to eventually turn out to be some of the most powerful super beings on Earth. He figures if he lets them stomp around in the Rogue Islands causing mayhem; he’ll be able to identify them and bring them into his service. He also doesn’t particularly care if they beat up his own goons as different factions of Arachnos are always beating the crap out of each other to gain power within the organization anyway. There are members of Arachnos who have gained the rank of Arbiter who cannot be attacked under any circumstance without attracting the wrath of Lord Recluse and all of Arachnos. This actually is the basis for some pretty fun adventures. As of the Going Rogue expansion, there is an alignment system in place that allows heroes to become vigilantes, vigilantes to become villains, villains to become rogues and rogues to become heroes. Vigilantes and Rogues can travel freely between Paragon and the Rogue Islands but heroes and Rogues are stuck with Paragon or the Islands.
My biggest problem with City of Villains is that you spend most of your time fighting other villains or groups of impoverished down trodden people who are rebelling against Arachnos (who can blame them) and not against heroes or pulling heists. You do actually do both from time to time but most of the heists are against other villains. Plus, you never seem to get a chance to work out a plan to conquer the world. What good is being a villain if you don't get to try and conquer the world from time to time.
One last thing that I should mention about zones is that there are player versus player zones. Most of the game does not include a pvp function but the zones are there for those who are into it, and, it probably is the best way for villains to fight heroes or for heroes to acquire a recurring or arch nemesis.
One of the coolest things about City of Heroes and City of Villains is the architect feature which allows you to create your own missions, either using non player characters from Paragon City or the Rogue Islands, or creating your own. It gives you the ability to write and then live your own comic books and your own comic book universes. This is where my villains get their shot at conquering the world. Since others can play in your adventures you can even create your own MMO within COX.
Recently a new area was added to the world under the name Going Rogue. Going Rogue is set in an alternate universe called Praetoria which is similar to the regular world but, it is run by a superhuman emperor and his imperial guard. Rather than playing a hero or a villain you have to decide whether you are with the government or with rebels against the government. The lines of good and evil have completely blurred as not everyone who works for the government is evil and not everyone who works for the rebels is good. I actually haven’t played more than the tutorial in the alternate reality yet but it looks pretty cool. It does look like the two worlds are headed for war.
Game play in COX is mission based. While it is possible to go up levels and do well for yourself just roaming the world and fighting spawned mobs, and while exploring and patrolling is encouraged (the game awards “badges” for certain achievements including just wandering past unadvertised locations of note), this would, in practice, become pretty boring. The missions, however, integrate you into what is going on in the world and make you a part of typical comic book story lines. You get missions from contacts. Contacts are gained as you go through the game, mostly from other contacts. Contacts can be anyone from the local beat cop, to other superheroes, to people who work for super scientific companies, to government agents, community activists etc etc etc if you’ve seen it in a comic book, it’s here. Morality missions (which are how you change from villain to rogue to hero etc) can be discovered by overhearing something on the street, finding a clue, being contacted by someone etc.
The system works pretty well but there are a few things that annoy me. The first is, for heroes, there isn’t anything like a reoccurring villain or arch nemesis. Certain gangs do actually reoccur quite a bit as do certain story lines, but there is nothing like a Doctor Doom or Lex Luthor who is always going to be around and out to get you. I have just created in my own in Architect to fulfill that need.
The second thing that annoys me is related, there aren’t a lot of individual supervillains of note for superheroes to fight. Certain villain groups like, The Clockwork for example, have a major supervillain behind them, in this instance The Clockwork King, but, I don’t think that you get to meet them unless you are taking part in taskforces which are for teams only. Even then, you’d only meet them once. Almost everyone that you fight is basically a thug or a gang member. There are a few notable exceptions and those exceptions are so good that I can’t help but think that more unique supervillains and less themed groups would be better. I know they can do it because you do face the rare unique supervillain. I can even think of one story line where you fight the same supervillain a couple of times and once actually have to fight side by side with him but again, it’s very rare.
The last thing that really annoys me, this time for villains, is the fact that getting contacts and therefore missions, is tougher for villains. Sometimes as a hero I have so many contacts that there’s really no way to get to all the missions but as a villain I’ve gone extended periods of time when it is hard to get a mission because there just aren’t enough contacts. (Okay, heroes have a police radio that they can pick up missions from and Villains have a newspaper that they can get missions from and these missions are important because when you do enough of them they spawn bank missions. Heroes have to protect the bank and villains have to rob it. But, radio and newspaper missions, while cool, are limited and reoccur, so, if you find yourself without contacts, you can find yourself doing the same paper missions over and over again.)
I have heard some complaints that COX is just too easy. The powers are made use of by a basic push button system where you just line your power icons up and press buttons till you win the fight. The economic system seems to allow everyone to become rich just by playing the game. These days there aren’t even any real substantial penalties for loosing fights. As a result of all this, people get to the highest levels quickly and then have nothing else to do.
The last of those is the only one that really concerns me and, it seems to me that the creators are looking to deal with that one by creating a lot of new content and whole new systems for gaining powers for characters over fiftieth level. I can’t talk about that first hand though in that I haven’t reached the highest levels yet. I could have, but, I’m playing several dozen characters at a time. I’m less interested in reaching the top than I am in trying out all of the powers and character types, plus, part of what I love about the game is the ability to earn, buy and change costumes, which, the more characters you’ve got, the more you can play around with.
As to the system of play and the economy being too simple, well, I can understand why some people would feel that way. Not me though. The fact is, I think simple is good. I love to strategize and work out how I’m going to accomplish what I want or how I’m going to foil a bad guy or deal with a situation but, I have to do enough of that in real life. I want to put effort into my gaming but not anywhere near as much effort as I have to put into real life. While COX’s system is easy, it does require strategies and experience at playing the game does make you better at playing the game. I find it challenging and satisfying and think that it’s balanced just fine, for me. The same is even truer of the money system. Making money in real life is pretty much the center of my life. I don’t need to put the same effort into making play money for my fantasy life.
In fact, that last sentence pretty much points directly to why I like the game the way it is. The game, to me, is the opportunity to live the fantasy of being a comic book superhero. While, Peter Parker may agonize over never having enough money, in the end, that’s a story detail and doesn’t, for the most part, effect his life as Spider-Man (the game does provide day jobs for your heroes but you don't actually have to spend time doing them, you can just log off at your job site). Batman may have to figure out what is going on in any given situation before he can win the day, and he may agonize over it, but, in the end, he wins and makes it look fairly easy. I, as a player, want to be able to figure things out and push up against limitations and risk losing but, I don’t want that effort to take me any longer or cause me any more frustration or stress, than, say, reading a comic book. Further, I want to be Superman and smash in and know I’m going to win the day no matter what. Okay, so occasionally there’s going to be a lump of Kryptonite there, but, you know he’s going to figure a way around it in about thirty seconds (or at least it’s only going to take you thirty seconds to read about the plan). I don’t want to have to start as a nobody and spend a year working my way into being Superman, I want to start out feeling like Superman and, I think COH, COV and GR have the balance just right. I started playing the game because I wanted to be able to star in my own comic books, and, the game succesfully accomplishes that for me.
The First Doctor
I wrote a post on my Heroic Fiction blog (My Blog: Heroic Fiction) awhile back about why I love the science fiction TV show Doctor Who. For those of you who don't know anything about it, it chronicles the adventures of an alien from a race calling themselves "The Time Lords" who travels fairly aimlessly through time and space with human companions seemingly just as a tourist. However, he usually ends up having to fight some monster or villain and often has to thwart alien invasions of Earth. For some reason he seems to really like us humans. He is often depicted as a fugitive from his own people, sometimes because he doesn't like Time Lord Culture and politics, sometimes because he is a wanted criminal (it is against Time Lord Law to intervene in time and space but The Doctor does this all the time when fighting monsters, villains and aliens). In more recent years he has been portrayed as the last surviving member of his race.
Possibly the most unique thing about The Doctor is that when he is near death, he has the ability to regenerate which causes a return to good health (for the most part, there are often complications) as well as completely changing his appearance and to some extent his personality. The show has been running on and off since 1963 and in nearly fifty years has been played by eleven actors (Well, twelve if you include two Doctor Who movies from Hammer Studios featuring the legendary Peter Cushing as The Doctor, although, those movies don't follow the continuity of the TV show. Or, thirteen if you include the fact that a second actor portrayed The First Doctor for part of a BBC Special called The Five Doctors. Actually fourteen if you consider a serial called the trial of a Time Lord in which the villain was an evil version of The Doctor from the future). This post is a profile of the first Doctor.
The First Doctor was portrayed by actor William Hartnell. His first appearance is of course in the first episode of Doctor Who back in 1963. The first episode was titled "An Unearthly Child". We first meet the Doctor when two school teachers, Ian Chesterton (played by William Russell) and Barbara Wright (played by Jacqueline Hill), are concerned about one of their students, Susan Foreman (played by Carole Ann Ford). Ian, who is a science teacher, and Barbara, a history teacher, think that Susan is brilliant, maybe a genius who knows more about science and history than they do. Her homework, however, is getting bad and she is having a hard time in class because she's too intelligent. Barbara has suggested to her that she ought to start specializing and has offered help in that, including tutoring at home but Susan has refused based on the fact that her Grandfather, a Doctor, doesn't want people around. Barbara has gotten Susan's address from the school secretary and tried to just "drop by" but all she found at that address was a junk yard.
Ian and Barbara decide that they have to learn more about this girl so they go to the address the school has listed for her and wait to see where she goes when she arrives home. What they find is Susan and her grandfather, The Doctor, living in what appears to be an old London Police Department call box. The police box is of course the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimensions In Space), which is The Doctor's time and space ship. Susan tries to explain to them that she and The Doctor are aliens who are wanderers, lost in time and space and what the TARDIS is, but, even though the TARDIS is much bigger on the inside than on the outside, they refuse to believe her. Afraid that Ian and Barbara know too much, and will make their presence on Earth in the 20th century known, the Doctor sets the TARDIS in motion, in effect kidnapping Barbara and Ian (and to some extent Susan who is ready to abandon him and the Tardis in order to stay in the 20th century) and the rest of course is history.
The First Doctor is the oldest looking of the Doctors, which is ironic because technically this is when we see the Doctor at his youngest. We can only assume that he has lived a very long time in this particular incarnation. Fanboys put The First Doctors age at about 450 years old which for Time Lords is apparently still an adolescent, although, at this point he must already have children as Susan is his Granddaughter.
His interactions with Barbara and Ian show him to be slightly paranoid, which isn't unusual as he and Susan are alone and lost, not sure who they can trust. He is also very arrogant. He is a genius, he wants everyone to know it, and he wants to be obeyed without question. Of course, Barbara, Ian and Susan, while recognizing that he knows more than they do, do not follow him unquestioningly. Also, appearing as a frail old man, no one Immediately sees him as a threat or seems to give him the respect that he deserves. The Doctor seems to doubt Susan, Ian, Barbara and just about everyone else that they meets capabilities as much as he is sure of his own. The companions of course feel fairly competent in their abilities and there is often friction with The Doctor. The Doctor is arrogant enough that he basically kidnaps Ian and Barbara to secure his and Susan's safety, with absolutely no regard to how that may impact Ian and Barbara's lives. At this point in his history, The Doctor can't really fly the TARDIS. It's destination is always random and he has little or no say in when and where they will land, meaning, even after Ian and Barbara have earned his trust, he has no way of taking them home.
On the plus side, the Doctor is loyal. Once Ian and Barbara have proven to the Doctor that they are good, loyal, capable and brave, he is completely committed to their safety and well being.
This incarnation of the Doctor also seems to be brave; he has no problems rushing in where perhaps he shouldn't regardless of the fact that this incarnation is not physically powerful. However, some of this is just a curiosity that he can't control. In the second Doctor Who serial The Doctor encounters the villains that will be his arch nemesis, The Daleks. Upon landing on their planet, Skaro, it is apparent that it is an unhealthy, highly radioactive place. Ian, Barbara and Susan are all for just leaving but The Doctor's curiosity requires that they explore. He ends up agreeing that they should leave but secretly sabotages the TARDIS so that he can claim that they have to find a necessary chemical before they will be able to take off. In the course of their adventure the part that he has pulled from the TARDIS is really damaged, thus putting them all at risk. None of this seemed to matter to the Doctor, he needed to explore and he needed to have his own way. This however shows us some more traits of this Doctor, he is capable of being sneaky and deceptive.
While this Doctor is heroic, he is perhaps the least heroic of the, to date, eleven doctors. Not out of cowardice, but, more than any Doctor until perhaps the tenth, he seems determined to try his best not to interfere in history. This makes for some interesting drama when The Doctor and his companions land amidst the Aztecs and Barbara is mistaken for a goddess. She is determined to try and use her new found status to bring an end to the Aztec practice of human sacrifice but finds the Doctor warning her at every step that she can't change history.
In Doctor Who and the Aztecs we also learn that the Doctor can be romantic. He seduces an elderly Aztec herbalist into becoming he and his companions ally in the political mechanizations that Barbara inadvertently creates.
Lastly, The First Doctor has a interesting dichotomy in his personality. On the one hand, he is often grouchy and curmudgeonly, an angry little old man who is annoyed at everyone for not appreciating him and his genius. On the other hand, he has a good sense of humor. He is always laughing or amused by his companions and by what is going on around him. Much of that amusement seems to come from understanding more than anyone else, so, it is to some extent a part of his arrogance, but it does seem to make him that much more benevolent a character. I'll put a link here when I write something on The Second Doctor.