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Good evening, afternoon, or whatever time it happens to be there, ladies and gents! I happen to be Andy, who happens to be a freelance web designer, musician, writer, and whatnot.

Roman Catholic, student of tabletop gaming, and someday soon I'll have my own designs in the field!

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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Assembling Action

We interrupt this normal broadcast of The Player's Side of the Screen to bring you a review of awesomeness...and perhaps an observation to help your gaming. I just saw The Avengers last night, one of the most-anticipated movies of the summer. And it was smashingly fantastic. I'm gonna embark on a spoiler-free review, along with some thoughts on action in gaming.

Avengers, Assemble!: the Short Review
I don't exaggerate when I say that The Avengers is everything we've been looking for in a blockbuster comic-book epic. It flies the Marvel flag proudly and effectively, and you can tell that Whedon has a great handle on his source material. The plot and writing slip effortlessly along, never feeling force or out of place, always entertaining and bringing us to new places. The characters are also quickly and deftly fleshed out, and they butt heads in a way that seems perfectly natural, and not the formula "the heroes must conflict, just because".

The classic Whedon panache shines through, as well, and the entire movie is practically a string of clever one-liners and heartfelt moments. He gives us a reason to care about practically every character, and thus a reason to care when they get thrust into turmoil and peril. There's times where, in five minutes, he crystallizes a character or a relationship. It's simply brilliant. All told, this is truly a movie worthy of Marvel's five-movie buildup.

There's actually two cool things about the climactic action sequence in Avengers. First, you have the paradigm of the varying roles of an RPG party, and associated tactics. Each team member fights with a particular approach, which gives them advantages and disadvantages in certain situations. Mind you, the advantages for the non-powered members of the team (Hawkeye and Black Widow) seem to be a lot fewer, but they're still present. You have leadership buffs, sheer damage, playing with the environment, status effects, area attacks...yeah, a lot of different stuff.

The second bit, though, is what I find to be truly interesting: how that action sequence is dynamic. It's not just a setpiece battle where some characters line up against others and grind to the death. It's a flowing fight, where a character hops in, faces one particular threat for a while, then jumps into the next one. The heroes are constantly evaluating the situation, hopping out of a mostly-beaten threat in order to help an ally who needs it.

That brings me to an interesting point. The scene seems as though it's a bunch of different fights, all strung together. A hero jumps out of one fight, and into another, right? Actually, no. The whole thing is a massive fight, but it's just on a larger scale than we're used to. Instead of each square on the proverbial battlegrid being 5' by 5', it's more like...one city block by one city block. Taken under that, it actually plays out a lot like, say, a 4th Edition combat scene, just with a larger scale. (Or Old School Hack's arenas.) It's a great indicator of how shifting your scope and emphasis a little bit can simplify things hugely.

In Summary
Avengers rocked. And you should spice up your action scenes by changing the way you look at them. I think that covers it.

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