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CELEBRATING TWELVE YEARS OF HEROPRESS!!!

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Wonder Woman Wednesday...

Weird Wednesday...

#RPG Chapter Two: Dangerous Detour To The House Of Death...

Creepy Kids: Rosavalda & Thornbolldt Durst
Picking up from our first experience of Dungeons & Dragons 5e, with Simon as Dungeon Master, back in September, The Tuesday Knights resumed their adventuring in The Forgotten Realms this week...
Having met up with our old drinking buddy, the notorious halfling burglar Rufus Longhole (aka Rogue Juan aka Juan Cornetto), Ragar - our dwarf cleric - reminded us we still needed to be looking for one of our missing employers.

Taking the ox cart, we headed off towards Cragmore, but as night fell we decided to make camp, but the mists rolled in bringing in the howls of a large pack of wolves closing on us.

It was then we noticed a village down the way - a village that shouldn't have been there!

But shelter's shelter, so we rolled into the village, which turned out to be eerily abandoned except for two strange children (pictured above).

The children said the village was called Barovia, but that name meant nothing to any of us, but they
urged us to be a quiet as there was a monster in the basement of their house.

Inexplicably - in retrospect - we agreed to venture into their house and drive out this troublesome beast.

Death House

Rufus scouted ahead at first, but it quickly became clear that the house was seemingly deserted... but really creepy.

For instance, there was a lot of intricately carved wood panelling throughout, but upon closer inspection it included strange - inappropriate - scenes of monsters, death and torture.

A windmill motif was also quite common and we suspect that's the sigil of the family Durst (we discovered that was the name of the family. The father and mother were Gustav and Elisabeth, the two children - waiting outside with our wagon - were Rosavalda & Thornboldt).

What's this???
As well as paintings (of landscapes we didn't recognise) and family portraits, we came across a library, where the history books spoke of lands we'd also never heard of.

There was even a strange item of headwear in one of the cupboards. Something called a "top hat", which certainly wasn't any kind of fashion that I, of the great House Dobbin, had encountered before.

In a hidden room behind the bookshelf, we came across the corpse of what appeared to be a previous adventurer, darted in the back by some kind of trap.

It was around this time, and having found no clues towards the location of the "basement", that we began to suspect that this whole house was some kind of elaborate trap we'd been lured into by the children for some reason.

As well as the parents' will, and deeds to the house and a windmill in somewhere called Vallaki, there was a disturbing letter:
My most pathetic servant,

I am not a messiah sent to you by the Dark Powers of this land. I have not come to lead you on a path to immortality. However many souls you have bled on your hidden altar, however many visitors you have tortured in your dungeon, know that you are not the ones who brought me to this beautiful land. You are but worms writhing in my earth.
You say that you are cursed, your fortunes spent. You abandoned love for madness, took solace in the bosom of another woman, and sired a stillborn son. Cursed by darkness? Of that I have no doubt. Save you from your wretchedness? I think not. I much prefer you as you are.

Your dreadlord and master,

Strahd von Zarovich.
We had no idea what it meant, or who this Strahd was (yes, I know, but my character doesn't!), but it just compounded the unnerving nature of the house we found ourselves in.

Gustav's will

We'd discovered several suits of armour along the way, and Dolly - fancying herself a bit of an expert on armour - had a habit of opening the visors to check inside.

Unfortunately, up on the second floor, this rather came back to bite her... as the empty suit came to life and attacked her.

Kao and I waded in, with your hero, Syr Edvard of House Dobbin, landing the critical blow that eventually destroyed it.

Our impetuous elf ranger, Kao, went off to investigate a spooky nursery, and drawing back the dark shroud around the cot was ambushed by a pair of tiny creatures (which we later called 'gibberlings'), but striking one caused it to explode into a swarm of fist-sized spiders!

Dolly rushed to her aid, while the rest of us were attacked from the shadows by four undead creatures.

Ragar used his divine powers to repel two of the hungry dead, while I dispatched the others.

Then I strode to the wall where the craven pair of zombi were trying to claw their way out of the building.

Two swift blows with Foulbane, my mighty greataxe, and they were sent back to whatever vile hell spawned them.

Meanwhile, Dolly and Kao eventually squashed the spiders, with the assistance of the saucepan-wielding Rufus.

And we got a moment of respite in this haunted house of death.

Until someone sat back against a secret door!

To be continued...

Players:
  • Rufus Longhole - Pete
  • Kao - Erica
  • Dolly Spartan - Clare
  • Ragar - Kevin
  • Syr Edvard of House Dobbin - Me

TWELVE YEARS OF HEROPRESS!!!


Who'd have ever thought I could stick with something for a dozen years? Certainly no one who ever hired me to do paid employment!

Honestly, if you'd said to me 12 years ago, when I dashed off that first post, that I'd still be producing material for HeroPress in 2019, I'd almost certainly have not believed you, convinced I would have found some better way to spend my time.

But it turns out, give or take, that my output has actually steadily increased over the years (as the graph below shows), so, maybe it's about time I admitted that geek culture blogging is actually a pretty decent way to pass my time.

Just wish I was getting paid to do it!

To Infinity & Beyond: The Sort Of Steady Rise Of The Annual HeroPress Post Count

Do I have any great plans for HeroPress this year? Not really. A lot hinges on whether we get to move house or not, and, if we do, how disruptive that will be as the house we're currently looking at has planning permission for a loft conversion that we're keen to proceed with.

I have high hopes for my rejuvenation of PROJECT Z - my nebulous, zombie-themed, wargaming project based primarily on Mantic's superb The Walking Dead: All Out War skirmish game.

I'd like to see myself scratch-building scenery etc and remembering to catalogue my progress for HeroPress purposes.

Another project I have my mind set on is a continuation of my faltering podcast. There were issues around my delivery in my early episodes, but now I've acknowledged those that's something I can work on.

I would then use that - and HeroPress - to cross-promote each other, but ultimately I'd want the podcast to be its own thing and not just me reading drivel off of the blog in my dull monotone.

Below is a breakdown of the top ten subjects that HeroPress currently covers, which should give you some idea of what the future holds for both the blog and the podcast.

Current Breakdown Of The Ten Most Popular Topics For Me To Waffle About

As ever, I'd like to thank my incredibly patient wife, Rachel, for continuing to encourage me to keep on blogging, supporting my endeavours, and turning a blind eye to the frequent cosplay picture posts that appear on the site.

I'd also like to thank the incredibly talented graphic designer/artist Jeremy Hawkins, of Being Retro, for his Game Of Thrones-themed poster (above) celebrating this 12th anniversary landmark.

I know its awards season, and while HeroPress won't be winning any awards (again) this year, I'd still like to give a shout out to my online peers who help keep me sane and who've looked kindly on this blog in last year or so.

These are people I know I can turn to for inspiration or assistance, people who've never even met me and only know me from my seemingly incoherent and ill-informed ramblings.

Great souls such as:

And thank you all, readers old and new, for ploughing through my nonsense and hopefully popping back on a semi-regular basis.

If you were tuning in for Wonder Woman Wednesday (traditionally a fixture of this slot), sorry, it'll be along later.

But in the meantime I'd like to encourage you to check out my informal 'campaign' for 2019, urging you all to Support Your Local Blogger.

I'm not talking about financially (although I'm sure that won't be unwelcome), I mean just letting them know you read what they're putting out.

Your words might just encourage them to keep on blogging for 12 years... or longer...

Hump Day Dreams...

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Titans Is So Much Better Than That First $%@&ing Trailer Suggested...


Titans, the flagship show of the new DC Universe streaming service - and now Netflix's baby - is full of surprises.

The biggest being just how darn good it is.

After the notorious first grimdark trailer, my expectations were low.

But it turns out that potentially damaging piece of marketing grossly misrepresented the show.

Not only isn't the show all about the Zack Snyder-style bleakness as portrayed in the trailer (which isn't to say its all unicorns and flowers) but even Robin's potty-mouth comment about Batman is taken out of context.

Titans mixes the gritty violence of the Marvel Netflix shows with the superpowers of The CW's Arrowverse shows and serves it up with the f-bomb quota of an HBO stand-up special.

And, to be honest, the show's weakness is in the dialogue. I have no problem with harsh language myself - being a frequent practitioner - but here there is the unavoidable undercurrent of it sounding like it was penned by sniggering schoolkids who've just found the keys to their parents' liquor cabinet.

The swearing is largely hollow and unnecessary, trying to big and clever, when really it's just using oxygen. Ninety percent of the f-bombs could be excised from the script and it wouldn't make a jot of difference.

Which is a shame, because there's some snappy dialogue in Titans as well and the rest of the show is surprisingly magnificent.

From stately Wayne Manor to spaceships, from alternate realities to demonic entities, from the Doom Patrol to Donna Troy, Titans doesn't just lean into its comic book roots, but dives in headfirst.

You can't take too many steps in this world without stepping on another Easter Egg, but, conversely, they aren't gratuitous fan-service, but integral parts of the show's DNA.

Titans has it all: sci-fi, horror, and street-level vigilante action, all serving the greater mystery of why a strange cult wants to get hold of a young girl called Rachel Roth and how this is connected to amnesiac Amazon Kory Anders.

Beyond the show's main four characters - Dick Grayson aka Robin (Brenton Thwaites), Rachel aka Raven (Teagan Croft), Kory aka Starfire (Anna Diop), and Gar Logan aka Beast Boy (Ryan Potter) -  we get to meet a whole bevvy of other comic book heroes and villains.

Titans truly feels like it takes place in the actual universe of DC Comics - not a constrained parallel world - where we get glimpses of Batman, The Joker, Two-Face, and Ventriloquist; Superman, Wonder Woman, and The Justice League are name-checked; and if you hang around after the credits of the final episode there's a squeetastic introduction to a couple of fan-favourite characters for next season.

It does a long-time fan of the comic book medium proud that Titans isn't ashamed to present costumed characters on the screen that are actually recognisable from the source material, both in their dress and physicality.

Major kudos to the main quartet  of Titans, who all capture the spirits of their characters and deliver convincing performances.

The only one who fell short - and this is in no way the fault of Ryan Potter - was Gar, who the showrunners decided (a) wouldn't be green (except when changing shape) and (b) would only be able to change into a tiger.

Now I realise the latter point was almost certainly a budgetary restraint, but it was also a disappointing cop-out, and a bit of an insult to his original incarnation.
Brief sidebar: The comic book adventures of the Teen Titans, under the guidance of creators Marv Wolfman and George Perez, were the team that converted me from someone who bought the odd comic into a rabid collector. And of the characters in that team, my favourite was the puckish Garfield Logan. End sidebar.
That said, the special effects, overall, are very engaging. Raven's supernatural powers are particularly well-handled, with a definite horror movie vibe to them.

The fights are gorgeously choreographed, although there is a high body count in their wake. But then that's a problem I've found with most live-action superhero outings since the dawn of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so I'm not going to pull up Titans on that point.

This first season - sensibly limited to 11 episodes, meaning it's tight, well-paced, and devoid of filler - is all about getting the gang together (a team origin story), building up to a shocking cliff-hanger that lays the groundwork for the already commissioned second season.

I would argue that - overlooking my gripes mentioned above - this could actually be the best serialised live-action comic book superhero show to date.

After this, I can't wait to see what they do with the upcoming Doom Patrol show (the episode they appeared in Titans was wonderfully weird and engrossing, and the costumes looked so much better in context than in stills or even the recent quirky trailer).

I'd also be willing to campaign for a Donna Troy/Wonder Girl (Conor Leslie) series, as we didn't get to see much of her this season, but what we did was very impressive... and Wonder Woman-ly.

No one is more surprised than me that not only did I really enjoy this first season of Titans (way more than I was expecting), but I'm superpumped for the next season... and whatever else the DC Universe streaming service has to give us in the way of live-action shows!

But, please try and curb the juvenile foul language. When superheroes say it, it's neither big nor clever.

#RPG Returning To The Forgotten Realms To Brave The Death House...


Following our Stan Lee tribute game of Marvel Super Heroes (in November) and Clare's magnificent Whispering Road one-shot (in December), the Tuesday Knights return to The Forgotten Realms tonight.

Simon is back as Dungeon Master to continue our introduction to Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons.

This week's adventure - originally slated to be a Halloween special back in November - is a side quest from the campaign's main arc, which, I believe, sees our heroes sent off to explore a haunted house!
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