Reality is the playground of the unimaginative
Home Of Superheroes, the Supernatural, Swords, Sorcery, and Star Stuff

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Hoots, Mon, I'm A Dwarf, Laddie!!!


Having sauntered my way through issue one of the laughable Legend Of Drizzt (this man's an international best-selling author? Really?), I have to ask: who started this stereotype of dwarves as angry Scotsmen?

It seems to have become a go-to staple when people can't be bothered to think of anything original to do with the little buggers. Surely, given their affection for runic writing, they're more 'likely' to be stunted Scandinavians? Mini-Vikings?

Even I made some effort, when launching my initial Tekralh campaign a few years back, to cast dwarves as an Oriental analogue - as I loved the visual possibilities of these stunties performing graceful wuxia-like martial arts moves.

Of course that's not the only groan-worthy part of the Drizzt comic (admittedly I have never read a Drizzt book and this comic is a bridging story between two of them), the central dwarf warrior - who is also a battlerager and a vampire - wears the single most bizarre (and impractical) suit of armour I have seen:


Not only does he look like a cross between DC's Doomsday and Marvel's Rhino, but he has spikes across his arse! How does he even sit down?

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same...


The readers have spoken and the current blog logo stays in place - by an impressive 78 per cent to 22 per cent vote.

However, the new design, by Paul Fleming, won't be going to waste - no, sirrie Bob - we believe in recycling around here and you will see it rolled out for special occasions when extra sauce is called for (e.g. Halloween).


Thank you to everyone who took the time to vote and/or leave comments.

Guilty Pleasures...



Okay, I admit it... horror movie franchises (that others may consider cheesy) are my guilty pleasure - I can't get enough episodes of Underworld, Final Destination, Wrong Turn, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Nightmare on Elm Street etc and welcome each new release like a long-lost child.

Of course, I draw the line at the Hellraiser movies - the first was a classic, but rest suck in every increasing degrees.

Houserules: Falling Down ...


Watching The Ruins the other day (a mediocre horror which was more 'extended Dungeons & Dragons encounter' than plotline; however, all being well, more on that later this week), there were several scenes of people, basically, falling down 'pit traps' and every time they busted themselves up worse than the traditional 1d6/10 foot we all know.

Which got me thinking - that no-one ever breaks a bone when they are suddenly dropped down 30 foot shafts... which in turn made me think (a) a houserule is called for and (b) it needs a table.

So this is what I have come up with - trying to keep it as simple and intuitive as possible:

For the "save versus broken bones" characters may add their Level to their DEX score for their target number. (Also use of a Hero Point - for any depth of fall - negates the chance of broken bones and halves the damage)

To determine which bones are broken roll your handy-dandy hit location die, or if you are lucky enough to own Booty and The Beasts roll on the hit location chart there, or simply roll a d12 and consult below.




Dem Bones, Dem Bones...
NB. With leg/foot breaks running is impossible. With a skull fracture there is a 25 per cent chance of brain damage (-1d3 INT and -1 WIS).

As always, comments and constructive criticisms are welcome - consider this a work-in-progress (especially when it comes to the effects of broken bones as I have no medical background or personal experience with broken bones).

Wonder Woman Wednesday...

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

We Are Legion...

Dylan over at the Digital Orc is compiling an invaluable (public) spreadsheet of all the Old School roleplaying blogs... and has already passed the 200 mark.

Don't forget to make sure your blog is included, so fellow gamers can see you're hanging out with the cool kids!

All Aboard For A Military Odyssey...

One of the bathing beauties on the 'Home Front'
Rounding out this incredible (for me, anyway) Bank Holiday weekend, Rachel and I travelled to North Kent on Monday for the third day of the Military Odyssey 'Living History' show.

Unlike the War & Peace Show (which concentrates on 20thCentury warfare - particularly the Second World War), Military Odyssey covers the whole spectrum of warfare - basically if there are people willing to re-enact it, it'll be here.

So you have a tent of Ancient Greek Hoplites next to a display of Japanese Samurai, as well as Wild West shoot-outs, English and American Civil War re-enactments, Napoleonic troopers, Medieval knights and ladies all rubbing shoulders with the general public.

When they're not giving displays they are more than happy to discuss things with visitors and answer questions.

During the day Rachel and I had fascinating chats with an English bowman from the Wars Of The Roses, a samurai who explained about different arrow heads and footwear, a couple of kind ladies from the Regia Anglorium who were stitching a Bayeaux-style tapestry depicting the history of their group and a Western frontier shopkeeper who explained the economics of the Wild West to us.

All this and we attended a 1940s wedding in the "Home Front Village" - which was Rachel's favourite area (as her particular penchant is for 40s and 50s fashion and music). The wedding had to be hurried along towards the end because of an air raid warning!

This 'village' of tents boasted, as well as a church hall (where the wedding was held), a post office, a theatre, a general stores, a fish monger, a tea room, police and fire stations and a beach... where hardy souls, in authentic period beach wear, were braving the chilly English weather.

Several of the shops were very inspirational for Rachel's 1940's dolls house shop - so lots of reference pictures were taken there.


One display I particularly enjoyed was an introduction to the weapons and armour of the Crusaders and Byzantine brigands of the Holy Lands - followed by a full-on skirmish.


Meanwhile there were large-scale battles going on all day in another part of the show grounds and we managed to catch part of the English Civil War re-enactment, which was both loud and spectacular, with its array of pikemen, muskets, cavalry and cannon - a very literal demonstration of 'fog of war'.


Our last stop of the day was to watch the Wyoming Wild Bunch stage a clash between rowdy cowboys and a peaceful frontier town in the Old West.

The townsfolk were on friendly terms with the native American Indians and more than happy to trade with them, but the local cattle rancher and his hands weren't too pleased that these settlers were on their open range and so were stirring up trouble.


After Saturday's Medieval Festival, Military Odyssey was the perfect bookend to the weekend and I think both of these could well become permanent fixtures in the Knight family calendar.

I actually prefer Military Odyssey to War & Peace as it covers more areas that I'm interested in (e.g. Medieval, Wild West, American Civil War etc), while W&P is all about tanks, vehicles and modern(ish) warfare, which isn't so much my particular bag - although I do love going to the show every year because it is always a grand event.

To see more of my pictures from yesterday, please visit my Facebook album for a mixture of odds and ends, as well as bountiful coverage of the particular events I singled out above.

Monday, 29 August 2011

At The Fleapit: Conan The Barbarian (2011)


Rachel and I went to the cinemas at Bluewater yesterday for our ultimate date night: she went to see some mushy, girly, tragic-romance thing (One Day) while I took in that epitome of machismo: Conan The Barbarian (we then met up for a meal at La Tasca afterwards, which was delightfully filling).

First things first, ignore all the negative reviews and whining of the literary snobs bleating about how it's not "Robert E Howard's Conan" (at least that stopped dribbling on about the colour of his eyes) or those misinformed fools calling this a remake of the Milius/Schwarzenegger movie - this is epic, swords and sorcery material, with visceral violence, dark humour, a rugged anti-hero, cackling villains, the works.

From the moment baby Conan is cut from his warrior-mother's womb on the battlefields of Cimmeria, you have to accept that this is going to be mythologically over-the-top.

Young Conan (Leo Howard) is raised and trained in the ways of the sword by his tough-as-nails dad, Corin (Ron Perlman), and along the way single-handedly slaughters a band of invading Pict savages, before the village is attacked by the wicked warlord Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang), and his multi-national army, seeking the last fragment of The Mask of Acheron, an artifact of great and evil power.

Years later and Conan (Jason Momoa) has become the wandering rogue, pirate and thief that we all know and admire - and the first time you see him in action all thoughts of Arnie in the role are forgotten. Momoa inhabits the physical form of the character from countless Frazetta paintings (and their imitators).

Having liberated a band of slaves, during the post-match celebrations Conan spots an old enemy from the raid on his village all those years ago, a lieutenant of Zym's... and thus begins his quest to find the man who slew his father and razed his home.

The action is near relentless, with gallons of blood and gore splattering the screen (including a particularly squirm-worthy torture sequence involving a nose-hole and a finger) as a way to capture the brutal life of the Hyborian Age.

But Conan is no mindless thug, he's a smart cookie - knowing when he needs to call on a friend for assistance and never rushing blindly head-on into a confrontation.

Rose McGowan is striking in her role as Marique, the witchy daughter of Zym, proving her acting chops by not being afraid to mask her gorgeousness under less-the-flattering make-up and clearly revelling in the evil role, always flexing her Freddy Krueger finger-knives.

Marique and Zym are after the last pureblood descendant of the Acheron who, unknowingly, happens to be kick-ass monk Tamara (Rachel Nichols) - who falls into Conan's lap when he is attempting to take on Zym.

The two then team-up to bring the Big Bad down.

As I've said, the pace is unrelenting and the film only (slightly) gets away from itself during the final confrontation which has a tendency - in part - to look like a video game sequence (although this might have been due to pandering to the 3D crowd - I sensibly watched it in 2D).

I came away from Conan The Barbarian immensely satisfied, having enjoyed a fantastic swords and sorcery movie, complemented by superb costuming, creative weaponry and magnificent scenery (full of glorious little details) that really gave a sense of looking through a window into an ancient, lost world of barbarians and wizards.

It fulfilled my expectations (although there was less casual female nudity than I'd heard), did exactly what it said on the tin and did it very well. This isn't a huggy-kissy, sensitive movie for the snobbish intelligentsia or those going in with preconceptions and in-built prejudices, this is Conan The Barbarian. It's big, brutal and brilliant.

I shall leave the final words (to those who haven't got the message yet) to the Beano's Dennis The Menace:

Sunday, 28 August 2011

To Arms, To Arms...


This weekend is the 19th annual Medieval Festival at Hermonceux Castle in Sussex, the largest such event in the country, spanning over the three days of the Bank Holiday weekend.

It was second visit for Rachel and I - we first came three or four years ago and it was, of course, highly entertaining and educational.

Things of note that I discovered:
  • How noisy someone walking around in plate mail is (especially if they have chain mail attachments)

  • How quickly a trained knight - dressed in plate mail - can get back to his feet if knocked onto his back

  • The benefits and accuracy of the half-sword fighting style against a foe with superior protection.

The grounds were full of living history tents and Medieval merchants peddling their wares - everything from interestingly-shaped bottles of mead, hand-made Books of Shadows (for budding witches), authentic period food (and the not-so-authentic) through to every style of weapon and armour you could imagine from the Middle Ages (I picked up a nice, round, shield to complement by pig-nosed nosed helmet and longsword... just need to save up for the armour now!)




There were falconry displays, musical performances (again authentic and not-so ie Spamalot) and horsemanship challenges (although sadly no jousting that I saw), with the main event of the day being a re-enactment of the 15th Century battle of Herstmonceux - which had a wonderfully Games Of Thrones-style backstory.
A favoured commander of the Duke Of Suffolk (the King's brother-in-law) had been killed in a drunken brawl with the knave Sir Robert Hexham, who fled France to what he thought was the safety of his old friend Williams Fiennes, the youngest son of the owner of Herstmonceux Castle.

King Edward ordered that Hexham be brought back to France to face a trial and so troops from both the King's army and the Duke's own household were dispatched to fetch him back from Herstmonceux.

William Fiennes is hosting a hunting party for local gentry and their retainers when Hexham turns up.

Both sides call on friends to bolster their forces and Fiennes is determined to get the battle over before his father returns and tells him off for messing up the castle lawns!




A sampling of the armour on sale



Just one of many living history tents.
To see the rest of my pictures from the day hop on over to my Facebook gallery (all welcome).

Face Facts...

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Doctor Who: Let's Kill Hitler


In a season of two halves, Let's Kill Hitler began a lot like the opener of this season (The Impossible Astronaut), kicking off with a total mess of scenes and leaps of logic and credibility (how did Rory and Amy get back to Leadworth from Demons Run? Are they so dense that they didn't realise their 'best mate' Mels - who we've never heard of before - was actually an earlier regeneration of River Song? And writing the word 'Doctor' in a cornfield! Really that was the best they could come up with?).

It also appears that Steven Moffat plans to the use the Time Lord gift of regeneration as the ultimate story short-cut and deux ex machina (which, when combined with the sonic screwdriver and psychic paper, pretty much guarantees every adventure is a success before it even starts).

Thankfully, just as I was starting to get really worried, the TARDIS comes crashing through the window of Hitler's offices in Berlin - saving Herr Fuhrer was 'assassination' by a time-travelling, shapechanging robot full of tiny people who hunt down war criminals!

Queue a very entertaining sequence that sees Rory not only punching out Hitler, but telling him to shut up. We also get to see the 'birth/first appearance' of the River Song we all know (Alex Kingston) - even though she has been brainwashed all this time, by The Silents (who we learn are a religious order that believe 'silence will fall' when the Ultimate Question Is Asked), to kill The Doctor.

There's a fantastic stand-off between The Doctor and River as they both out-think each other, but ultimately The Doctor's fate is sealed with a kiss. But how did River manage to regenerate with her poisoned lipstick in place? Or did I miss a moment of her applying it?

The rest of the episode, which saw Amy and Rory shrunk inside the robot - which had changed into a replica of Amy - and River going on a violent shopping spree in Berlin while The Doctor slowly died of regeneration-blocking poison (yeah, I know, how handy is that?). Some nice cameos (well, holographic images) by previous companions here - but none earlier than Rose Tyler, which was a bit of a shame.

There was a lot of info dumping in this act, as there had been throughout the episode, to tie it into the season's main story - about The Doctor's "actual" death in The Impossible Astronaut, the history of Melody Pond/River Song, The Silents etc - that eventually it all became a bit overwhelming with the final 'get out of jail free' card played by River to save The Doctor (from the poison she had given him) coming as a bit of a cheap trick.

Between the moments of chaos and cheese, Let's Kill Hitler also had moments of great comedy and action and while it answered (in a way) some of the questions posed in earlier episodes, while asking more, the whole affair felt rather hurried and overstuffed.

Hopefully the pace will slow down for the next few weeks and allow the characters a chance to have some more traditional adventures.

Next Week:

Monster Mash: The Burrowers (2008)


Two families of settlers are snatched in the Dakota Territories, the badlands beyond civilization in the 1879 wild west - including the sweetheart of ranch hand Fergus Coffey (Karl Geary).

The blame is immediately put upon hostile Indians and a posse sets out, led by veteran Indian fighters Will Parcher (Lost's William Mapother) and John Clay (Carnivàle's Clancy Brown). For a while they team up with a group of cavalrymen, but eventually strike out of their own when they hear that a tribe called "The Burrowers" are to blame.

Only, in time, they discover to their cost, that "The Burrowers" are not a tribe of Native Americans; they're not even human.

The Burrowers, written and directed by JT Petty, is a tense and engrossing Western horror, making use of the varied terrain and the circumstances - and prejudices - of the late 19th Century to sow the seeds of confusion and mistrust within the various groups.

The critters themselves are simply part of the natural food chain, driven to hunt fresh prey after the white men killed off their traditional source of food: the buffalo.

Slick cinematography, naturalistic performances and creepy monster effects (no CGI here - all puppets, model work and rubbery costumes, but the verisimilitude is never broken), help make this a top class creature feature with the added bonus of a period setting.

GAME MATERIAL:

The Burrowers

Burrower designs by Jerad Marantz


Burrowers are human-sized, pale, almost canine-creatures that move about on all fours. They usually feed on wild animals, however if none are around (in the quantity and size they require) they will attack humans etc

Their name comes from the fact that they can 'burrow' through soil as quickly as a man can walk above ground - but this does mean they are wilderness creatures and almost never encountered in dungeons, caves etc

Characters trained in outdoor survival (e.g. rangers, woodsmen, trackers etc) might spot strange, six inch, to a foot, deep indentations in the countryside - indicating a collapsed hole from where a Burrower has emerged the night before. There is also a small chance that someone might accidentally stumble over one of their food stores (see blow).

They communicate through a growling clicking noise, are attracted to bright lights (as they have learned that fires mean food!), but are intelligent enough to not easily be led into a trap. Their preferred tactic is to surround an encampment and strike from all sides.

When attacking, it is first with one of the main claws on their forelegs - which are coated with a fine, naturally secreted poison that gets into a person's blood stream and eventually causes his internal organs to turn to mulch (save vs poison to avoid effects).

A side-effect of this poison is that the blood around the wound clots quickly and therefore there is very little blood lost. After (1d6x10) minutes this poison causes small, white pustules to form in the wound, that cannot be healed (without magic). These pustules emit a faint scent that only the Burrowers can smell, but allows them to track a wounded victim over a distance of a couple of miles.

The poison takes a further 2d12 hours to putrefy all of its victims internal organs - progressively weakening him and reducing his hit points by a further 1d4/hour and his CON by 1 per hour. He is allowed a saving roll (versus poison) every hour to fight off the effects for that hour, but the next hour the poison will carry on melting his organs!

A Burrower's second attack on a victim is to vomit a paralysing goo from their mouths. (Save versus paralysis or collapse into a waking coma, able to see what is going on but only to twitch fingers and toes occasionally and spasmodically. This paralysis lasts for 1d4 weeks). However, the Burrowers haven't finished with their victim - as soon as they are able they drag their paralysed prey to a clear patch of land, dig a "shallow grave" and bury their victim.

The person will remain - buried alive, sometimes even with their nose and mouth still above ground - until the poison has worked its putrefying trick and the body is nice and soft, ready for the Burrowers to eat.

Burrowers are not at all interested in beings that are already dead, or die before their putrefying poison can take effect.

They also can only operate above ground between the hours of twilight and dawn, as full, direct sunlight burns them for 1d6 damage per round.

#ENC: 1d6+1
HD: 2
Armour Class: 8 [11]
Attacks: Claw (1d4+1) + Poison; Paralysing spit; bite (1d4) - only against a paralysed or prone foe
Saving Throw: 16
Special: Poison, Paralysis
Move: 12/12 (burrowing)
Alignment: Neutral
Challenge Level/XP: 5/240

Always In Motion...

Part of the fun of writing up new treasures, beasties and house rules for Dungeons & Dragons style gaming is you invariably have a "midnight flash of inspiration" at some point later on and come up with some fiendish way to tweak your idea.

This week, I have updated the entries for:
  • Lost souls (adjusted the alignment change and added in additional drawbacks)

  • The Sword Of Unicorn (I realised I hadn't actually included anything about the unicorn horn itself - so have corrected that).

Comments, criticisms and further suggestions are always welcome.

Can I Haz Cheezburger?


Hambuster from Hambuster Team on Vimeo.

The burgers bite back! Bloody, nasty and funny, Hambuster is an animated nod to the genre classic Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes... but with a lot more gore!

Ladies & Gentlemen, I'm Only Happy When It Rains...


It's been a rough week here at Monster Slayers' HQ, I've been very busy with boring (and occasionally rather frustrating) jobs and have felt very under the weather (the usual sleep-related issues, mainly) - although my doctor did tacitly approve my choice of daily medication: Jack Daniels!

On the plus side I did get to spend some time with my incredible godson, Alec, yesterday - which always puts a smile on my miserable, old face.

On another happy note, the rebranding of the blog is certainly paying off dividends. My recent survey about long-term role-playing campaign genres attracted a record-breaking 85 voters and a lot of interesting chatter, while my current poll on preferred blog header netted 21 votes in its first day! If you haven't had your say, you've got until the end of the month to vote and comment.

We have also seen a continued interest in following I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters... with more henchmen and hirelings signing up every week for the big adventure.

Please join me in an inappropriately racy music hall number to welcome:

* Jason of Swords, Dragons, and Nerds (yaay, more gaming!), Nerd Lyfe, God, Not Another Politics Blog and  robot posse (bit NSFW - there's swears and hawtness there!)

* Aaron Mason

* Geezerbutler2


I can't tell you all how happy watching our ever-growing family makes me feel. Oh, I just did!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Heil Doktor!



As much as I try to resist, I can't help grinning like a loon at this. The Doctor, Amy and Rory return in Let's Kill Hitler tomorrow.

Review Round-Up: Diamondback; Scream 4; Winnie The Pooh

Diamondback #1: A casual glance at Leila Del Duca's cover for Diamondback issue one might suggest that it is a Western comic, but then you notice the sci-fi high rises in the background and your thoughts turn to Firefly.

But Diamondback #1, written by Jeremy Lee with Nick Bove on the internal art chores and , is a whole different kettle of fish - with more than a hint of Judge Dredd and Marshal Law about it.

Published by Anasazi Comics and set in a futuristic, over-developed and over-commercialised Denver City - after the collapse of the bankrupt US government - this is the tale of Jack 'Diamondback' Cody.

His wife was caught in the crossfire of a gangwar, but because the gang had insurance - agents in the form of licensed powered-up thugs in flashy 'superhero' costumes - it was Jack who ended up sentenced to 20 years of hard labour (ie. subterranean sweatshop slavery).

Eventually, he is offered an early release by a man known as Cowboy, if he will come and work with him as a "legal insurance agent" at a firm called Carroll-Dodgson (check the company website for more insights into the world).

Now I loves me a good Alice reference (Lewis Carroll = Charles Dodgson, lots of playing card symbols around the city), so I'm hoping that this is a key ingredient in the story, rather than just fluff.

Pacy, with easy to follow artwork, the brisk and brutal first issue throws us headfirst into Jack's screwed-up world, where law enforcement comes at a cost, seeding a host of potential plot hooks and characters (the taking of Jack's infant son, his chance encounter with the beautiful Lily Hernandez, other people with 'superpower suits', the villain with the lion's head cane etc) to keep us reading for a long time to come.

To find out more about Diamondback, or to order your own copy (issue two has also just been published), visit www.diamondbackcomics.com

Scream 4 (2011): Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is back in Woodsboro, to promote her new self-help book, on the anniversary of the original Woodsboro murders... and surprise, surprise it all starts up again.

Our other old favourites are back as well Deputy - now Sheriff - Dewey (David Arquette) and wife Gale (Courtney Cox), who is feeling at loose end as she struggles with the life of a sedentary fiction writer.

The new 'Ghostface' killer in town is trying to 'remake' the original Scream (or in the context of the movie, Stab) and while it does have some interesting - some heavy-handed - things to say about the changing face of horror movies, celebrity culture etc there's no escaping the feeling that maybe all concerned should stop flogging this horse. I think it's long dead.

At the start of the movie there are suggestions of marital strife between Dewey and Gale, but this never really develops and while, in a roundabout way, this might be a motive for his new deputy Judy Hicks (Marley Shelton) - who has an obvious crush on him and was a student with Sidney - to be Ghostface, this emotional sub-plot kinda trails off.

There's the usual shocks and twists, celebrity cameos and hot young things for the chopping block (particularly pleasant to see Heroes' Hayden Panettiere as sexy horror fan Kirby, even with an unflattering hairdo) and at least fifty percent of the game is trying to guess the identity of the killer.

It may claim "new decade, new rules" but series creator Kevin Williamson and director Wes Craven still won't take that final step and create their own rules - possibly, once and for all, killing off the indestructible Sidney.

Scream 4 is (perhaps overly) self-aware and post-modern, but also a solid, fun slasher movie in its own right, with a clever ending that doesn't quite capture the genius and originality of the first film in the franchise.

Winnie The Pooh (2011): This latest 'big-screen' outing for the Bear Of Little Brain and his 100 Acre Wood peers is a reversion to the original Disney animation style and storytelling (which, sadly, means no Lumpy The Heffalump).

Drawn from five AA Milne stories the story of Winnie The Pooh plays like a 'greatest hits' - but in a good, nostalgic way - with some ingenious post-modern touches, such as the Narrator (John Cleese) waking Pooh in the morning by turning the 'book' that Pooh is in upside down or the characters' frequent interaction with the words and letters on the page.

This is delightfully entertaining family fare that is also very, very funny and interspersed with the usual catchy ditties - many sung by the multi-talented Zooey Deschanel.

The main story has Pooh - as always - looking for some 'hunny', but then he discovers Eeyore has lost his tail and, with Christopher Robin's aid, organises a contest to find a replacement.

Christopher Robin then disappears and the friends believe he has been taken by a mysterious creature known as a Backson - who they attempt to capture in an effort to rescue Christopher Robin.

However, both Rachel and I were pleased that we didn't pay eight or nine pounds to see this at the local grottiplex because the main feature is only about 50 minutes long - followed by a very entertaining credit sequence that starts with 'live-action' shots of key scenes being re-enacted by the 'real' stuffed toys and then segues into a traditional animated credit roll that the movies' stars interact with.

As is de rigueur these days, there is also a short, post-credits scene that raises a chuckle.

Fleamarket Friday: Many Dead Things...


Talented assemblage artist Alex CF, who has created his own world-that-never-was of Lovecraftian Victoriana, is publishing a new, expanded edition of his book Many Dead Things, The Specimens Of Lord Merrylin.

I have the original and it is a glorious object, but this new version boats over 50 extra pages and lots of new full colour photographs - that's 140 pages of awesome cryptozoology for the cover price of £35 (inc. p&p in the UK).

All copies will be signed and numbered and Alex is willing to ship internationally, but postage costs will be extra.

For more information, and to make your pre-order, visit The Specimens Of Alex CF. This page also lists other objects and memorabilia that Alec has for sale.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Supernatural: Like A Virgin


There's so much going on in Like A Virgin that the sundry plots and sub-plots threaten to overwhelm the entire narrative, leaving us with an experience that is both immensely satisfying (as it takes the season's overarching plot to the next level) and frustrating (because it feels slightly incomplete).

Sam's got his soul back, but doesn't remember anything from the last 18 months - and Dean is all for keeping it that way, despite Bobby's unease around the newly re-soulled Sam (what with the whole "trying to kill him" thing last week).

Meanwhile, around Portland, Oregon, virgins are being snatched by a "giant bat-like" creature and the Winchester brothers are off to investigate.

The "monster-of-the-week" sub-plot is very reminiscent of early season hunting stories, with the brothers doing the legwork and research - and, in quite a sombre episode, there are some great moments of comedy when Dean is off tracking down the necessary weapon to slay the beast.

The real weakness of the episode though comes in the final act when the monsters are unmasked, yet only appear in their human form. It's almost underwhelmingly Charmed-like and, despite some interesting, low-key special effects, it still would have been nice (and potentially spectacular, if budget taxing) to have had at least one shot of a monster in its true form.

Of course, by the end we also discover that everything has been building up to the revelation of the season's Big Bad (also very underwhelming, for the reasons given above, as she looks no different from any of the previous Big Bads).

But given that this episode's central monsters - who we have never encountered before - have been grabbing all these virgins for their ceremony, the fact that (apparently) they need only one seems rather odd. Unless the rest of 'welcome snacks' (perhaps this will be made clear in a future episode).

Next Week:

Racial Profiling Can Be A Good Thing In D&D...



Possibly NSFW, but still very entertaining, infomercials from Bill Cavalier: Adventure Coach (and Dungeon Bastard).

Visit his site for more useful tips on gaming - but in the wake of the recent popularity of GM Merit Badges and the Building A Better GM challenge - I find this video the most appropriate for I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters..:

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Great RPG Genre Debate Revisited...




Calm Before The Storm by JohnMalcolm1970
The votes are in and have been counted for the great 'Which RPG Genre Do You Find Best Works For Long-Term Campaign Play' poll.

The scores are below - with the results from the original poll in August 2008 in brackets, for comparison.

1. Swords & Sorcery 50% (56%)
2. High Fantasy 43% (45%)
3. Hard Sci-Fi 17% (20%)
4. Post-Apocalyptic 16% (-)
5= Space Opera 15% (42%)
5= Superheroes 15% (32%)
7. Supernatural Investigation 8% (21%)
8. Other (see below) 5% (-)
9. Western 3% (10%)
10.Wuxia 2% (9%)

As before, the two primary flavours of fantasy (gritty swords & sorcery and epic high fantasy) dominated the charts and for a long time were neck and neck until swords and sorcery edged ahead in the final few days of voting.

With the introduction of the 'other' category, we had some good suggestions including historical, cyberpunk, multi-genre (e.g. Dream Park), but the most popular suggestion was "horror/urban fantasy". Now in my mind I'd conflated that in with "supernatural investigation" but I can see that different play styles for that genre wouldn't necessarily encompass an investigation angle per se.

Next time I run the poll (and I'm thinking next August now, to gauge changing tastes) I shall add a "horror" category.

Naturally there would be some fluctuation in the figures - since 2008 - because we had two extra categories and a heck of a lot more people taking part in the voting and commenting.

The big surprise comes, though, in the drastic popularity drops for space opera, superheroes and supernatural investigation (although the latter may be from a confusion over what exactly that embraced).

Those drops can't be attributed purely to the addition of a couple of new categories (one of which was 'other' anyway) and must indicate a move away from long-term campaigns in these areas. I'd rather expected the huge success of The Dresden Files RPG to actually lead to a boost in that area but, perhaps, like Call Of Cthulhu it's not a game that really lends itself to long-term play.

It's also odd that space opera dropped - quite spectacularly - below hard sci-fi, when I would have thought a space opera campaign would have been easier to keep going as it's more open to deus ex machina saves (such as The Force or bands of ewoks).

Western and wuxia remain the two niche genres of this collection (which is rather bad news for The Far West, the new multi-media mash-up of stylised Westerns, wuxia and steampunk - although Deadlands, a personal favourite of mine that covers pretty much the same thing, has always done well).

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments on the latest poll results.

A Raven Has Just Arrived From Comic-Con...

Better late than never...



Join The Buzz in San Diego at the Game Of Thrones panel at Comic-Con 2011.


Season two can't come soon enough...

A Change Is As Good As A Rest...

As I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters... is fast approaching its first month of active duty - with its new branding, layout and focus - I'd like to invite you, loyal readers, to choose which header I shall use for the blog's second month of game-centric action.

Do I stick with the current version - as put together by Siskoid and myself.




Option A
Or change things up a bit and go with the more gruesome header (below) designed by the talented Paul V Fleming, who helped me with the graphics for Knight City?




Option B

Please vote in the poll in the right-hand column of the blog - and don't forget to leave comments below as well!

The poll will remain open until Wednesday, August 31, with the 'new' header being in place on September 1.

It's Like Painting The Severn Bridge...


Like painting the Severn Bridge, organising my fluctuating comic book collection seems to be a neverending process. As soon as you think you have finished it's time to start again!

Admittedly this current build-up of back issues goes back almost 12 months (possibly even longer), so I have no-one to blame but myself. However, it was getting so that some corners of the gamesroom were no-go areas and the actual wargames table hadn't seen a decent display of terrain for longer than I could remember.

It's time to get my ass in gear, sort out what's staying and what isn't on the comics front (and then where to file all the stuff that's staying), which will then open up room to do some cleaning up of the random action figure collections and anything else I think could benefit from a bit of pruning.

One day (the sooner the better) I want my 'man cave' to be a place that I can show visitors with pride, rather than constantly apologising for the mess of an on-going "work in progress".

Wonder Woman Wednesday...

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Monster Mash: The Descent (2005)


Inspired by the Brit caving-horror flick The Descent, I give you:

TROGLODYTES aka CRAWLERS

Perhaps once, many generations ago, the wiry, albino troglodytes were human, but they have interbred so much over the centuries that they can only be mistaken for humans at a distance in the dark caverns in which they hunt and thrive.

Troglodytes, or crawlers, live in the honeycombs of unexplored cave networks although sometimes (when hunger drives them) they can be found hunting on the surface, before bringing their prey back underground. On the surface they will only be found at night and not too far from the entrance back to their underground network of caves.

Evolution has given them the ability to climb over all surfaces with equal grace and silent speed and hunt by sonar, but in the process has stripped them of eyesight - leaving them with milky, useless eyes in their heads which appear to serve no real purpose.

Exclusively carniverous, these patient and expert hunters will stalk a party of explorers through a cave system until they detect a weakness - then pounce!

The crawlers' lair is basically a bone pit where all their discarded prey, over the years, are dumped and a generous Dungeon Master might allow adventurers to find something useful there. The crawlers have no use for gold, silver, trinkets etc



#ENC
: 2d4 (on surface); 1d10 (underground); or 3d6 (near lair)
Size: Man-size
HD
: 2+1
AC: 7 [12]
Attacks: Claw (1d4+1), Claw (1d4+1). If both claws hit, then can also attempt a bite (1d4+1)
Saving Throw: 16
Move: 13 (across any solid surface including ceilings and walls)
Alignment: Chaotic and Evil
Special: Crawlers hunt by sonar and suffer no penalties for darkness. In total darkness they will surprise adventurers five times in six (four in six if party includes a ranger, monk or similarly trained/aware person) . Characters fighting crawlers in darkness - without some form of darkvision - will also suffer a -4 penalty in hand-to-hand combat (doubled for missile combat).
CL/XP: 3/60


NB. I originally statted up Troglodytes for Hollow Earth Expeditions. Those details can be found here.

A Game Of Hobbes...

What you get when you blend two of the finest things in life: Calvin & Hobbes and A Game Of Thrones.

From Hijinks Ensue, the geeky webcomic of artist Joel Watson.

Monday, 22 August 2011

[POLL] The End Is Nigh...

The final bell is about to ring on the hugely popular What RPG Genre Do You Find Best Suited To Long-Term Campaign Play poll.

You have less than a couple of days left to make your mark - or marks (multiple votes are acceptable) - in the poll on the right hand side of the blog.

And don't be afraid to leave comments either here or below the original post, as it's always great to hear of people who have made their campaigns run for a spectacular number of years.

Due to the large number of voters being drawn to take part in this survey, I'm considering making it an annual or, maybe, biennial, as a way to judge changing tastes. Thoughts are welcome.

The Real Deal...


The star of Almighty Thor, Cody Deal, is chronicling his struggles to carve out a career in Hollywood in his online, fly-on-the-wall, reality show Cody Deal: The Real Hollywood Story.

The first, half-hour episode is now available to watch via YouTube, which gives the viewer an insight into his life as he endures the grind of auditions while living between the back of his car, a storage unit and Starbucks.

At times inspiring and at other times heart-breaking, this episode covers topics as diverse as his Native American Indian heritage (as part of the Osage Nation), his difficult living conditions, his passion to succeed, conflicts with his acting studio, his supportive family and the aftermath of an argument with his ex-girlfriend.

The 25-year-old was born in Norman, Oklahoma and raised in Sedan, Kansas, a town of 1,200. He graduated Valedictorian of his class, as well as Senior Class President, and 1st-Team All-State shooting forward averaging 20.4 points per game for the Blue Devils' basketball team.

His aspirations of being a pro sports player were cut short by injuries and so his dreams turned to acting. He headed to Las Vegas for a brief stint, working with acting coach Gerald Gordon (who also coached Oscar-winner Adrien Brody), before heading to Los Angeles.

His first audition was for the lead in Marvel's Thor and, ironically, 18 months later he was starring in The Asylum's retelling of the same tale, The Almighty Thor.

However, even with a lead role in a movie on his resumé, Cody hasn't found things plain-sailing in Hollywood - as The Real Hollywood Story demonstrates.

So what makes him such a hero to readers of I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters... (as well as the fact that he was considered for such geek-tastic roles as Conan in Conan The Barbarian and Spartacus in the second season of Spartacus: Blood & Sand)?

The guy has a solid gaming background.

When we were chatting on Twitter the other day, he told me that while he played in two or three Dungeons & Dragons campaigns in High School, he "LIVED Magic: The Gathering!"

Now, I might not be a card gamer, but I can respect a man who is and, know this, there's always a spare seat at The Tuesday Knights' table for The Almighty Thor if he's ever in this neck of the woods!

More information about Cody can be found on his blog while his web series can be found here. It's a subscription service - after the first episode - at a cost of $9.99 a month which gets you:

  • 30-minute weekly webisodes of The Real Hollywood Story.

  • Access to raw unedited footage.

  • Access to a private message board where Cody will post his latest news first.

  • Exclusive Cody Deal photos, vidoes, and more.

  • Special prices on Cody merchandise including autographs, etc.

  • Access to member only journal of Cody's daily headspace.

  • Early access to everything that Cody puts out, before any social media site, fansite, etc.

  • Immediate access to the test footage/unaired pilot for the series, in which you get to see where Cody lived (until recently).

If I had a full-time job I'd subscribe, but as it is all I can do is be an advocate for this coolest of dudes who is pursuing his dream.

And just to reinforce why Cody is already a part of our brotherhood/sisterhood of adventurers, here he is at Comic-Con this year interviewing the sumptuous Katie McGrath from Merlin...



and for the ladies, here's Cody with Merlin's very own Prince Arthur: Bradley James.






Promo poster for Merlin, Season Four

Musical Monday: Ring Capacity



Ring Capacity - the Green Lantern song by nerd rock band Kirby Krackle. Animation by Betsy Lee.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

400,000!


Today, I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters... (aka the blog formerly known as HeroPress) is enjoying a double celebration - not only has the blog received its 400,000th visitor (exactly three months after it recorded 350,000 hits) but yesterday, for the first time in the blog's four year history, we had over 1,000 hits in a day (1,146 to be precise).

And the stats suggest that that wasn't from the usual flock of visitors coming to check out pictures of the latest attractive fantasy female, but actually people coming to view the Conquest Of Nerath video!

Hits are clearly accelerating (despite my apparently sudden change of theme and cross-platform ranting), which is wonderful news and I believe my decision to shift the focus round to swords & sorcery and roleplaying games is paying dividends.

Blogger Followers have risen from 165 to 185 in this period, while Facebook Followers are up to 101 and the I'd Rather Be Killling Monsters... Tumblr has risen to 87 Followers (despite continued erratic updating).

However, even with my excitement riding high on the recent wave of stellar hit counts, you just need to look at the actual page hits to see that it's the ladies with their milkshake that are still bringing all the boys to my yard:


Our Top Secret Campaign Has Been Made Into A Movie!



One of the more accurate cinematic representations of our attempts to be "real secret agents" in Pete's Top Secret SI campaign.

The Restricted Section...


While I'm proud of all my books, it is these four, black tomes of mighty mythos (pictured above) that are my pride and joy: two volumes of HP Lovecraft and two of Robert E Howard.

Guarding the short entrance corridor to the stairway to my gamesroom, these Victor Gollancz editions feature some wonderful black and white artwork and would double as weapons in case of a sudden zombie uprising.

I've got many of the stories already in paperback collections (of various ages and state of repair), but these books are visually stunning - as well as containing some of the greatest genre stories ever written.

How could a Kindle ever replace that?
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