Reality is the playground of the unimaginative
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Sunday, 30 September 2012

One Mockbuster To Rule Them All...


In December, kings of the mockbuster The Asylum are bringing out a direct-to-DVD instant classic called Age Of The Hobbits, starring Stargate's Christopher Judge and B-movie hottie Bai Ling.

The plot, according to The Asylum's website:
"In an age long ago, the last village of clever, peace-loving Hobbits is attacked and enslaved by the Java Men, komodo-worshiping, dragon-riding cannibals. Now the young Hobbit Goben, along with his father and sister, must seek help from the "giants" (human hunters) to find the Javas' lair and rescue the last surviving Hobbits, Goben's mother among them. In their quest to destroy the Javas, the heroic partnership of humans and Hobbits will transform both species forever."
Age Of The Hobbits is due to premiere on VOD/DVD on December 11.

By sheer coincidence, there's some small film called The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opening at cinemas on December 14. What are the chances of that, eh?

I can't help but wonder what the Tolkien estate have to say - if anything - about this? Isn't "hobbit" their IP? I have no grasp whatsoever of the intricacies of copyright law, but isn't that why "hobbit" was quickly excised from early editions of Dungeons & Dragons and replaced with "halfling"?

The Floodgates Are Open...

from Dork Tower
Comments are the life blood of a blog and, in my opinion, the best gauge (ahead of hit counters and Follower numbers) of a blog's true popularity.

Therefore my latest piece of housekeeping on HeroPress has been to turn off the loathsome CAPTCHA widget that was such a barrier to simple commenting. To be honest I didn't even realise HeroPress had such a system - it certainly wasn't something I'd have set up for the site and had clearly been set as a default "in my own best interest".

For the moment I'll also refrain from comment moderation (although any obvious spam will be deleted the moment I see it), as I feel that disrupts the flow of any debate that might possibly spring up between commentators.

So, the floodgates are open... let the commentating begin...


Listen carefully, you can hear the crickets...

[OPINION POLL] What Do You Make Of Recent Doctor Who?


To be frank I'd kinda stopped trawling the interwebz for opinions of the recent Doctor Who when it became clear that the bulk of fandom had surrendered its critical facility and replaced it with the brain of a 12-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert.

I haven't quite decided if it's simply the dreadful standard of writing currently on the show (in my opinion) or the fact that I've been spoilt by grown-up shows like Game Of Thrones, Sherlock, Hell On Wheels, The Newsroom and The Borgias that I've simply grown out of Doctor Who.

When I started to get comments on my review of The Angels Take Manhattan, echoing my dissatisfaction with season 33 (or season seven, depending on your age), I plucked up the courage to do a search of Google+ and discovered quite a number of people actually shared similar views.

Okay, so we're not in the majority, but it still appears to be a sizeable number of fans.

Thus I have opened a new opinion poll on HeroPress (over there on the right, by my Hobbit opinion poll), asking you to simply grade the block of episodes to date - from one (very bad) to five (excellent).

I'd also like to hear what you liked and didn't like about the 2012 episodes, in the comments section below, as well.

'Nuff Said...

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Doctor Who: The Angels Take Manhattan


As predicted there were tears with the Ponds' last hurrah, The Angels Take Manhattan. Tears of laughter. Steven Moffat was clearly taking the piss when he decided to make the Statue of Liberty into a Weeping Angel!

When the Weeping Angels were first introduced by Moffat in Blink, they were generally regarded as the most frightening and innovative aliens in Doctor Who for decades. But subsequent appearances have only managed to dilute their fear factor until now they're pretty much a joke.

Even if we can accept Lady Liberty tip-toeing through the streets of New York so it could sneak up on the Winter Quay hotel, how come it didn't just clock its victims from about a block away with its torch? That would have cut out a lot of silliness.

I'm sorry, but I just couldn't take this episode seriously - especially when Moffat gave away the "big surprise"  about the Statue Of Liberty before the opening credits even rolled, thus totally undermining the tension of The Doctor and co in the hotel hearing the heavy "thumps" and wondering what monstrosity was approaching.

What passed for a story in The Angels Take Manhattan was basically a flimsy retelling of Blink, but with a pulp novel (written by River) replacing the DVD easter eggs, as an excuse to wrench Amy and Rory away from the Doctor.

The problem, as with many of the more powerful monsters in Doctor Who (again I cite the Vashta Nerada), is that the angels as described are simply so all-powerful (and especially if they've taken over The Statue Of Liberty... does that mean anyone who goes up inside the statue gets thrown back in time as well?) that they would have taken over New York, and probably the world, before anyone realised... if they could just squeeze in around The Silent who are also, apparently, everywhere!

Mike McShane popped up as Grayle, a gangster who supposedly collected the angel statues, but really he added nothing to the story except a slight roadbump for The Doctor and his colleagues.

Rory had been sent back in time by a Weeping Angel and meets his daughter, River Song, who is posing as a detective to get in with Grayle, who has been hiring detective to investigate the moving statues.

The Doctor and Amy eventually turn up, but not before Amy has peaked ahead in the pulp novel The Doctor was reading and found out partially what was going to happen - thus setting the moment in stone. This is compounded when The Doctor scans the chapter titles and sees one he's not happy about at all.

Quickly moving on from Grayle, our heroes head to the Winter Quay hotel, where the angels have taken Rory (as they've suddenly developed the power to move people just in space, but not time - something they've never done before), as this is their feeding ground.

There's some potentially powerful, emotional interaction between Amy and Rory on the roof of the hotel - but for the whole time the angelfied Statue Of Liberty is gurning over them in the background (again, I ask why did't it reach out - as all the other angels do - and zap them with its supersized hand?).

The real emotional stuff came later, in the graveyard with the old "ah ha, one got away" chestnut. But even an old cynic such as I has to admit that the final fate of The Ponds had a certain poignancy about it.

That said, there's no escaping the rank lunacy of the fact that The Statue of Liberty is the most useless Weeping Angel in history. I'm sorry, the tears are coming again... and I think my sides might be splitting.

It's a shame that any companions should have to leave through such a weak episode (although it tries hard to be emotionally manipulative), but I think The Ponds had run their course, so it'll be good to have some fresh blood in the TARDIS.

Just need to get some fresh blood on the production side now...

It's hard to believe this Steven Moffat is the same man who created Sherlock. The difference in quality is so astronomical as to be staggering.



This Christmas:

Merlin's Miscellany: Part Ten

(From The Lady Of The Lake)


Floating Lights (Level One, White): Needs to be cast in the presence of an existing fire; this spell causes the flames to float free of whatever they are burning (the mage can create one floating light from a candle, two from a burning torch, four from an average hearth fire etc) and move through the air as the caster sees fit.

He can control two floating lights per level, within a range of 40ft (plus 10ft per level over one). They can last up to two minutes per level of the spell caster or until returned to their original source. If the spell expires or they are moved out of range they simply blink out of existence.

Curse Of The Bastet (Level Five, Black):
A particularly heinous curse, especially when cast upon an innocent. The victim (until she receives a "remove curse" from a wizard of at least 10th Level) will transform at the stroke of midnight, on nights with a full moon, into a bastet (see below).

The curse victim will stay in this form until she has killed at least one person of her race, then - as long as there are no other of her race around - she will transform back until the midnight of the next full moon. She will stalk and attack the first potential victim she sees and can only transform back once she is in an environment where she does not feel threatened... or the sun rises.

Any wounds she suffers in her bastet form are carried over (like for like) into her original form when she changes back, so it's possible for her to sustain damage as the monster that will kill her when she changes back.


Bastet:

A magical creature that resembles a black panther the size of a lion with wings and elongated fangs. Bastet are the creation of a curse (see above) and exist only to kill.

They transform from their human (elf, dwarf, hobbit etc) form at the stroke of midnight on the night of a full moon and will stalk and attack the first person they see that fits the curse criteria.

However, as long as the creature has already taken a life that night (of a person of the same race as the curse victim), they will no longer be compelled to kill and will, thus, be able to spare friends, family etc who happen upon them. If wounded for more than half hit points will not be strong enough to fly.

#ENC: One
HD: 5
AC: 15
#Att: two claws (1d4+1/1d4+1) or one bite (1d8)
Move: 12 (Fly: 24)
ST: 12
CL: 6/400

(from Sweet Dreams)


Legerdemain (Level One, White): This spell allows the magic-user to perform (for 10 minutes times his level) feats of minor conjuring, stage magic etc to entertain or distract a crowd. He can pull rabbits out of hats, make (worthless) coins or clouds of butterflies appear, exhale (harmless) jets of flame from his mouth etc

If this act is performed in, say, a tavern with the idea of generating an income, the magician must make a STAT check against his CHA + LVL on 4d6. If he makes the roll, he will earn 3d6gp from an average tavern audience (a lower-class establishment the payment will be 3d6sp instead, while from an upper class one it will be 3d6x10gp).

If he fails the roll, the DM decides his penalty - depending on how badly he failed - from being boo-ed off stage to be being physically ejected from the tavern.



Droplets Of Love (Level Three, Black): A tricky, but powerful, love spell. The wizard needs a lock of hair from the intended object of desire, which is then used in the preparation of a potion (this takes half-an-hour) that must be dripped into the eye of the sleeping subject of the spell, as the lock of hair is slipped under their pillow. Upon awaking the subject's first, and overwhelming, thoughts will be of their new-found "beloved".

They will then do everything within their power to be with the one they love, although they will not force themselves upon the object of their desire. If the subject is are rebuffed they will sink into a dejected funk, during which time all die rolls are made at -4. However, the first sign of hope will see the subject of the spell return to their bubbly, positive, nauseatingly happy "in love" persona.

If needs be the besotted subject will fight to obtain, or impress,  the object of the spell: however every combat round - as well as rolling his to hit dice - he rolls a d6 and if this comes up even numbers he hits at +2 because he is inspired by his love, but if it comes up odds he hits at -2 because he is distracted.

The magic of the droplets of love can only be broken by the subject receiving a kiss from his true love.

If the object of the spell is killed while it is still in operation,  the subject is penalised under the rules for Love & Loss (Appendix L) on page 144 of Crypts & Things.

Teaser For The Angels Take Manhattan...



A sneak peak ahead of this evening's crucial, mid-season finale for Doctor Who, which promises to be the last appearance of Amy and Rory.

The next episode of Doctor Who will be the Christmas special.

Ladies & Gentlemen, 750,000!


On Wednesday, a day when there was just a single post (Wonder Woman Wednesday) on HeroPress, the site limped over the 750,000 hits mark.

Average hits per day are now down to just over 600, which is about half what they were last month (when we were averaging well over 1,100 for the entire month), but we've now reached an impressive three-quarter of a million hits - eight months after we passed the half-million mark.

However, I'm still clinging to the hope that this is all to do with a change in reading methods, as there are now plenty of ways to view this blog that probably don't register as "hits" - ie through a reader.

What would be nice, of course, is to get more comments. But I guess to do that I have to write something that is comment-worthy... and, barring my reviews, such material has been thin on the ground of late.

Anyway, the cherry on top of the 750,000 hits cake is that we've gained a new Follower this week, so please join in welcoming him to the fold:

Friday, 28 September 2012

Review Round-Up: How I Spent My Summer Vacation; Count Brass; Crank

How I Spent My Summer Vacation (2012): It would be fair to say that Mel Gibson has been going through a rough patch for quite some time, but How I Spent My Summer Vacation is, at least, a step in the right direction.

Mel is an anonymous, professional criminal who ends up in a corrupt, overcrowded Mexican prison, while trying to evade US border police after his latest job.

In attempting to retrieve the stolen money stolen off of him by the officers who arrested him, he comes up against the top dog in the prison, Javi (Daniel Giménez Cacho) and his goons, who have taken a special interest in a 10-year-old boy (Kevin Hernandez), who has befriended Mel.

This isn't exactly epic material, but there's shades of Payback and the slightest hints of Lethal Weapon and Mad Max here, so it's a welcome addition to Mel's CV.

The script, by Mel himself, Adrian Grunberg and Stacy Perskie, with its knowing voice-over, isn't quite as clever as it'd like to be and there's just not quite enough action to put it on a par with his earlier cops and robbers' movies, but there are far worse ways to spend an hour-and-a-half.

I just wish Mel would make more movies like this...

Count Brass: Although The Chronicles of Castle Brass, of which Count Brass is first book, are a sequel to The History Of Runestaff - which I haven't read - in a 'mere' 150 pages Moorcock tells me everything I need to know about the earlier books and the characters' backgrounds and still manages to spin an entrancing, cross-dimensional tale.

Dorian Hawkmoon is a retired adventurer, settled in Castle Brass, who hears rumours of the ghost of his father-in-law, Count Brass, haunting the nearby marshes.

Investigating these claims, Hawkmoon becomes entangled in a plot to rewrite history that involves alternate dimensions and time travel.

Hawkmoon, another facet of the Eternal Champion, may not have the striking personality of Elric, but is still an engaging character - the adventurer who fought all his wars and just wants to settle down with his family, but gets drawn back in to events he thought long resolved by old friends he thought long dead.

As fascinating as it is poetic, Count Brass is a classic example of the magic of Moorcock, spinning a fully-rounded story, complete with a heart-wrenching twist, in a perfectly-digestible word count. Proof, if it was needed, when you look at the bulk of giant fantasy tomes groaning on the shelves of bookshops, that you don't always need thousands of pages to tell a great story.

Crank (2006): Who doesn't love a good Jason Statham action flick? He's this generation's Jean-Claude Van Damme cranking out (pun intended) a succession of all-action, minimum-brain, ultraviolent thrillers that invariably involve Statham kicking seven shades of snot out of hordes of bad guys.

Crank has Statham as hitman-for-hire Chev Chelios, ambushed by some particular bad people and dosed with a Chinese narcotic that gradually slows down his heart rate. The only way he can stay alive and track down the people who did this to him is to keep moving, keep his body pumped on Red Bull and drugs.

It's basically Speed, but with a human body instead of a bus - and a lot more swearing.

Co-directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, Crank is a high-octane videogame brought to life, with quite a few scenes mirroring popular games (particularly Grand Theft Auto), which pretty much tells you the level it's shooting for.

Stylistically brash and unrelentingly brutal, Crank is a breathless showcase of Statham's physical style (he did all his own fight and car stunts), interspliced with black humour and disorientating imagery.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Gen Con Ultimate Beatdown!

Supernatural: The Slice Girls


Sam and Dean are investigating a string of brutal murders where the male victims are left with their hands and feet cut off and a strange sigil carved in their chests.

It turns out that this is the work of a bloodthirsty tribe of inhuman Amazons, but unfortunately by the time the brothers have discovered this Dean has already had a one-night stand with one of the tribe (Sara Canning) and the demonic females have him in their sights.

The Slice Girls is a solid, straight-forward Supernatural story, with the requisite legwork before the kill, but complicated by the fact that one of the tribe is actually Dean's daughter (Alexia Fast) and when she comes to kill her father the scenario is a dark reflection of the issues Sam had with Amy back in The Girl Next Door.

It's not exactly a subtle parallel, but Eugenie Ross-Leming  and Brad Buckner's script has enough going on that you can overlook this rather heavy-handed development.

The episode also features a great supporting performance from Harry Groener (aka The Mayor from Buffy The Vampire Slayer) as a college professor the Winchesters' enlist to help them in their research - a role previously filled by the late Bobby Singer.

Where several episodes this season have tried to recapture the magic of the early years of Supernatural with 'simple' monster hunt plots, The Slice Girls actually succeeds, yet still feels part of the current season by bringing to bear the emotional baggage the Winchesters' have accumulated on their seven-year journey.

Hopefully, this episode marks an upswing in quality in what has been a very patchy season to date.

Next Time:

The Guild - Season Six Trailer...



Previous seasons of Felicia Day's The Guild can be found via this page on HeroPress.

Supernatural: Time After Time


Tipped off my Bobby's old friend Sheriff Jody Mills (Kim Rhodes), the Winchester brothers find themselves chasing a creature that is draining life energy from its victims.

However, when Dean tackles it in an alleyway, he and the creature are transported back to 1944. Dean is promptly arrested by the police, but then sprung by a hunter from that period... Elliot Ness (Nicholas Lea).

Meanwhile back in the present Sam and Sheriff Mills discover that the creature is actually the god Chronos (Jason Dohring), God of Time, but then have to figure a way to get Dean back from the 1940s.

I've always been slightly uncomfortable with time travel stories in Supernatural, as they don't really seem to gel with the show's verisimilitude, but so far the writers have always found a way to put a special Supernatural spin on them.

Time After Time has the clever angle of Sam and Dean working the same case in two different time periods, but does little to get over the pointless silliness of making Elliot Ness a hunter. That's only a small step away from saying that Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is part of the Supernatural universe as well.

For me one of the strengths of Supernatural has always been that its heroes - the hunters - were just anonymous, working class stiffs. To suddenly reveal a famous, historical personage was really a hunter of monsters and demons strains the Truth of the show just a bit too far for my liking.

And, except for giving Dean a reason to keep quoting The Untouchables, having Lea's character be Elliot Ness made no difference to the story at all. In fact, it was a distraction because you couldn't help but keep mentally trying to make this gel with the known facts of the prohibition agent's life.

Lea, well-known as Alex Krycek from The X-Files, could easily have been any federal agent of that period and Dean could still have tried to emulate Sean Connery from The Untouchables.

I just can't understand what possessed Robbie Thompson, who also wrote the excellent Slash Fiction, to use Ness or why the production team allowed it to go ahead... except possibly for cheap laughs. In reality all it does is pull the rug out from under an already quite mediocre episode.

And since when does an experienced hunter tackle an unknown monster by running at it and jumping on it?

One of the saving graces though of Time After Time is the addition of Sheriff Mills to the growing Winchester family, now that she's fully au fait with what they do and can use her police contacts to help them out. I know she doesn't return this season, but I hope a place is found for her character is season eight.

Next Time:

DVD Of The Week: The Cabin In The Woods (2011)


The thing about many clever films is once you grok what is going on you can't help but wonder how come no-one has had this idea before.

Such is the feeling with Joss Whedon's The Cabin In The Woods, co-written by Joss and director Drew Goddard.

They have taken the classic Evil Dead, spam-in-a-cabin, horror movie set-up and not only established it as a honeytrap but layered it with deeper purpose than the mere slaughter of the helpless college students who have chosen to spend a naughty weekend there.

As well as featuring many familiar faces from Joss's oeuvre, the film - in a very real sense - is an extension of the mythology he has already established with Buffy The Vampire Slayer, even if it probably isn't operating in the same world.

It plays with, and undermines, horror stereotypes, much like the original Scream did (but in a very different way), gives friendly nods to many great horror movies, has some clever moments of Whedonesque humour (the speakerphone scene was one of my favourites) and a healthy splattering of gore as befits the genre.

I have often said on this blog that the best way to appreciate a film is to have little or no prior knowledge of it before sitting down to watch it and that goes double for this. Having seen trailers for it some time ago I thought I'd guessed what was going on and while I'd pieced some of the clues together, The Cabin The Woods works best when you're not trying to second guess it.

A brilliantly self-contained masterpiece, you don't need to be horror-savvy to enjoy it (although you will appreciate the little homages here and there) or worry that plot threads are going to be left dangling for a sequel.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

An Imp Of The Perverse...

Even though it's only a week until the next gathering of the Tuesday Knights - when they will be generating characters for my Tekralh fantasy campaign - there's an impish part of me tempted to pull a "bait-and-switch" and run the Prince Valiant Story Telling Game instead.

I suspect though that that's just me getting pre-match jitters, as the Tuesday Knights already have their booklets of character creation houserules and at least two, Pete and Meredith, have decided on a character type already (a magician and an elven thief, respectively).

Merlin Returns...


Merlin makes a welcome return to Saturday nights as it replaces Doctor Who in the evening line-up on BBC1 from October 6.

The first episode, Arthur's Bane, airs at 7.45pm.
"Camelot faces a new golden age, but even as the city flowers, the dark seeds of destruction are being sown. In the frozen wastelands of the north, men are disappearing without a trace. King Arthur and his knights undertake a dangerous mission into the unknown in search of answers – but once there, Merlin finds himself locked in a battle unlike any he has fought before."

This Quite Made My Day...

Which Star Trek character are you...

You are 
James T. Kirk (Captain)
James T. Kirk (Captain)
65%
Deanna Troi
50%
Geordi LaForge
50%
Will Riker
45%
Chekov
45%
An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
40%
Jean-Luc Picard
40%
Mr. Sulu
30%
Mr. Scott
30%
Worf
30%
Leonard McCoy (Bones)
30%
Spock
27%
Data
17%
Beverly Crusher
10%
Uhura
10%
You are often exaggerated and over-the-top in your speech and expressions.
You are a romantic at heart and a natural leader.


Click here to take the Star Trek Personality Quiz


Yeah, I know it's bunkum, but hey if the computer says I'm James T Kirk, then I'm James T Kirk, suckers!

I was sure I was heading for "Wesley" - who's not on the list (shame on you!) - or a redshirt.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Meet The Guardians Of The Galaxy...



They're making a film about The Guardians Of The Galaxy, you know?

Busy, Busy, Busy...


Not sure how much time I'll have for blogging this week as I've got a fair amount on my plate (including preparing for next week's character creation workshop for the Tuesday Knights - better to actually do something for the campaign than just keep talking about it).

Admittedly often when I think I've got a crowded schedule it turns out it's all stuff that can be done in a day, so hopefully I'll be able to (at least) squeeze in some reviews later in the week.

In the meantime don't forget to vote in the HeroPress Hobbit trailer poll and enter your contribution to our communal "Deck Of Many Things".

Musical Monday: Call Me, Maybe (Star Wars)...

Sunday, 23 September 2012

[OPINION POLL] A Tale Of Two Hobbits...


Okay, you've had time to watch (probably several times) the new trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and fully digest its contents. But is it working for you? How does the general light-hearted tone of the new trailer stand-up against the more sombre original trailer. Which do you prefer?

Option 1 (original trailer):



Option 2 (new trailer):



Option 3: Both are brilliant, is it December already?

Option 4: They're not doing anything for me...

Vote in the ballot booth on the right-hand side of the blog and in a couple of weeks we'll come back and see what the readership of HeroPress reckons.

And don't forget to air your opinions in the comments section below!

Ring Of Confidence...

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Doctor Who: The Power Of Three


As this evening drew closer I was frankly far more excited about seeing the finale of season two of The Borgias on Sky Atlantic than The Power Of Three.

From the trailers it looked as though this was going be an episode heavy with The Ponds' home-life and the last thing I really needed was more of their turgid soap operatics - and certainly not a repeat of the flimsy, unconvincing "divorce" sub-plot shoehorned pointlessly in Asylum Of The Daleks.

Such a big issue in the Ponds' life that it's resolved in minutes, and banging on about "not being able to have children" when they already have a daughter (the circumstances of her birth are irrelevant, River Song is their child and there are plenty of couples out there who would be delighted to be able to say that).

Sorry, Moff, not buying it!

This half-season of "self-contained blockbuster movies" has been a dismal failure. Even last week's episode, which I enjoyed at the time (although many others on the Interwebz apparently didn't), was forgotten within about a day.

There's simply this feeling of spinning wheels until Amy and Rory leave and The Doctor can team up with his new companion - although I understand the "standalone mini-movies" approach is continuing through the latter half of the season as well.

As I've said before I'll be sad to see Rory go, as he's an interesting character with the potential for more stories in him, but moody Amy has far out-stayed her welcome - except as eye candy, of course.

The Power Of Three itself was a lot of fuss over nothing. In the near future millions of black cubes appear overnight on Earth. People - including The Doctor and The Ponds - are fascinated by them. But they do nothing. They do nothing for almost a year. Then suddenly they activate for a short while, go dormant and then start a countdown (from seven).

Beware spoilers ahead...

The Doctor finds there are seven transmitters around the globe connected to the cubes and one just happens to be in the hospital where Rory works. There's a portal in a goods elevator that links to an alien spaceship in orbit.

The aliens, the Shakri, are also kidnapping random people up to their spacecraft for no readily apparent reason given their ultimate goal.

The cubes open and cause fatal heart attacks in the people nearest them. But The Doctor goes up to the spaceship - talks with the hologram of a Shakri for a bit - then zaps the machinery with his sonic and uses the cubes to restart the dead people's hearts.

And that's it.

There's a lot of padding, as expected, about The Ponds' life during the year, a series of "comedy" vignettes where The Doctor takes The Ponds away on their wedding anniversary (these unfunny scenes are a signature of the Moffat years that will hopefully be phased out once he leaves), and then everything gets wrapped up very simply in the final 10 minutes.

A bafflingly nonsensical alien scheme that The Doctor could have easily solved within minutes if he'd just acted when the cubes first arrived (as he would have any other time, except here Chris Chibnall decided to change the Doctor's character to fit his rubbish story).

As well as a welcome return appearance by Rory's dad, Brian (Mark Williams), the only noteworthy element of this story was the introduction of UNIT's new boss Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave), the daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. I really hope Kate returns as she worked well with Matt Smith's Doctor and was more than just a nice nod to one of the stalwarts of the show's Classic era.

Another crashingly dull and pointless episode from the "winning" combination of writer Chris Chibnall and producer Steven Moffat.

Next week (the Ponds' swan song):

There's A New Dwarf In Town (Same As The Old Dwarf)...

The new White Dwarf (left) and a recent old White Dwarf
Games Workshop launched its new-look White Dwarf magazine today and, let's be honest, it's still a glorified sales catalogue - albeit a shiny one full of wargamer porn.

The page size is slightly smaller, but the page count has increased from 120 in issue 392 (August 2012) to 152 in this new, October cover-dated, issue (numbering appears to have been abandoned).

However, the cover price has also jumped from £4.50 to £5.50 - pretty much in line with Games Workshop's ludicrous across-the-board pricing structure (but more on that later).

The first 50 pages of this month's issue are devoted to advertising new releases (including licensed games and novels), with each release mainly getting a page or two to itself.

The most noticeable change to the interior of the magazine is its layout, which is going a bit "National Geographic meets fashion brochure" - with even more, and even larger, pictures than in previous issues but less text and more white space.

Otherwise, it's pretty much same old, same old - as you might have expected. No shocking new developments, no role-playing coverage.

As we were coming in to Tunbridge Wells anyway to visit my mum, I managed to persuade Rachel to let me indulge my geeky nature by making a side-trip to the town's Games Workshop store to pick up this new issue and look for some figures.

This was the first time I'd been in a GW shop for over a year and while little had changed by way of clientèle (including the requisite befuddled mother looking for Magic The Gathering cards) or lay-out, I was shocked by the prices of their miniatures.

Now, I've always known GW wasn't cheap and I'd seen adverts for their Finecast line in recent WD issues I'd flicked through in WH Smiths', but just assumed they were a prestige line for special figures. Hells no, GW has replaced all its metal figures with this insanely expensive resin ones - average price is around £8 or £9 a figure!

Did everyone else know this? Did I miss a memo?

I'd been looking for some metal Lord Of The Rings goblin characters and when I expressed my dismay at the lack of metal (and the cost of the resin figures) to the counter-monkey he spouted some corporate spiel about how the Finecast were actually the same price as the metal if you took into account recent tax increases... or some nonsense.

What you can't argue with is that £9 for a half-inch high figure of a dwarf is a preposterous amount of money.

Even within a GW store you can see how bonkers this is - with a boxed set of really nice scenery (The Ruins Of Osgiliath) at £18 being the same price as a blister pack containing two dwarven leaders.

Are young gamers that brainwashed that they don't realise there are plenty of other figure manufacturers out there making figures just as good for a fraction of the price?

I had such high hopes of filling out my small hobbit army (and RPG figures in general) with new releases from GW's forthcoming line of miniatures for The Hobbit, but if they're going to be £9 a halfling then I shall have to look elsewhere.

Welcome To The New Economy...


At the tail end of this week, postie arrived with two big reminders of my previous, carefree shopaholic days: the Primeval RPG (the last non-Amazon pre-order) and the unnecessarily huge box containing Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers Of Hyperborea (my last big Kickstarter).

Both were welcome sights, but also reminders that - for the moment - I really can't afford any more big purchases like these.

While I have managed to temporarily get my benefits reinstated while my appeal is considered I am under no illusion that success is guaranteed. So my new frugal budgeting continues.

However, as well as now keeping track of every penny I spend, my drive to eBay a lot of stuff that I really no longer need has been bearing fruit.

And I've found a way to still get myself new gaming material: I only spend the money (generated by eBay sales) that is in my PayPal account. Basically, old games go out, virtual cash comes in, and  then virtual cash goes out and new games come in, but my bank account doesn't get touched.

So far that's working very well and I've even gone so far as cutting out the PayPal part completely on occasion by starting to barter - exchanging old bits and bobs I have no use for directly for things that I would like.

Given that, also as of this week, we need a new boiler (estimates in the region of £2,500) to keep our house warm and supplied with hot water, any money I can make/save is more welcome than usual.

The unreliable, old boiler packed up yesterday and we were told that the replacement piece (the fan) we required was no longer manufactured (the boiler is ancient and we were thinking of replacing it anyway - now the decision has been made for us!)

Star Wars Anime...



A "work-in-progress" from animator Otaking77077, set to music by fan JPL4185.

Ladies & Gentlemen, We. Are. HeroPress!


If you think things have been looking a  bit Spartan around here of late it's because, with the arrival of our latest Follower, HeroPress has hit the magical 300!

Yes, tonight we dine in Hell, so make your selection from the buffet menu and find a table. Your waitress will be round soon to take your drinks order...

Things have been busy on the HeroPress front this week, with some more game stuff going up and some reviews, so I generally think we're heading in the right direction. I've also continued to "tart up" the main page with more pictures and links, so please stop by and have a poke around.

I'm pleased that although my daily hit count continues to plummet, for whatever reason, I'm still managing to draw new Followers to the blog (four this week, for instance).

Hopefully I'm actually converting a proportion of the crowd who pop in just for the pictures of pretty girls into an actual quality readership interested in the words that occasionally appear between the pictures.

Of course, what it probably means is that even those who were just dropping by to oggle the talent aren't even bothering to show up anymore.

So, if there's anyone still out there, please join me and Gerard Butler in welcoming the latest recruits to our humble little gathering:

Friday, 21 September 2012

Fleamarket Friday: A Boy, The Moon And A Little Myth Called Earth...


Sea Breeze Lane is a sci-fi graphic novel being promoted through Kickstarter by 11th grade English teacher Trevor Charles, from New York.

Written by Trevor, this cool-looking graphic novel features art by Salomon Farias and colours by David Aravena (Transformers, IDW).

It will also be the first publication from Trevor's new company Lakefront Comics.

I'll let Trevor fill you in on the details...


Sea Breeze Lane is set several hundred years into the future and man is living on the moon.

On the Homeworld, as it is known by its inhabitants, cities are protected from the moon’s harsh atmosphere by large domes. Outside of these domes, live an isolated group known as the Dusters. To the people of the Homeworld, Earth is a remote, fantastical place - a fairy tale.

David Bell is one of the elite, a recent academy graduate, chosen to be the Homeworld’s next leader. But David questions the secretive nature of his society and doubts the dogma pushed by past leaders. He is willing to risk it all to know the truth.

Along with his best friend TK and the Duster siren Luna, he sets out on a journey to discover the origins of his people and how they ended up on the moon.

Fleamarket Friday: The Sweet Scent Of Nostalgia...

Stone Death cover by Richard Benson
Barney Stinson may claim that "new is always better", but I do loves me a bit of nostalgia, especially when it comes to my favourite hobby: roleplaying games.

The Habitition of the Stone Giant Lord & Other Adventures is a Kickstarter project, being run by Tim Hutchings of The Play Generated Map And Document Archive, that aims to produce "a print book compiling fantasy RPG adventures written by folks like us back in the day. A mix of nostalgia and old-school playability."

On the Kickstarter page, Tim explains: "In 1981, 13-year-old Gaius Stern wrote and illustrated The Habitition of the Stone Giant Lord in imitation of TSR’s Dungeons and Dragons adventure modules. The Habitition is a true labour of love, typed and drawn as a DIY addition to the Against the Giants series of modules, part time capsule and part outsider art.

"As art, its text and image show how a creative teen made his own contribution to the genre of roleplaying adventures, but where most such books were the work of a writer, a crew of play-testers, editors, and a stable of artists, Stern went it alone. As a time capsule, it provides a window on a particular way Dungeons & Dragons was played at a particular time.

"PlaGMaDA and The Hutchingsonian Presents is putting together a collection of adventures written by young people in the 1980s. The focus is on game modules written by players, including their carefully made maps and painstaking illustrations, framing the sort of adventures we played back when we were kids."


PlaGMaDA'smission statement is:
"to preserve, present, and interpret play generated cultural artifacts, namely manuscripts and drawings created to communicate a shared imaginative space. The Archive will solicit, collect, describe, and publicly display these documents so as to demonstrate their relevance, presenting them as both a historical record of a revolutionary period of experimental play and as aesthetic objects in their own right. By fostering discussion and educating the public, it is hoped that the folkways which generate these documents can be encouraged and preserved for future generations."

Second Breakfast!


Today, with pocket-sized copy of The Hobbit at the ready and imported DVD of the Rankin/Bass cartoon to watch, I cooked myself this fry-up as "second breakfast" to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit.

For those interested, my second breakfast ultimately included bacon, baked beans, sausages, toast, black pudding and hash browns.

And don't forget tomorrow (Bilbo and Frodo's birthday) is World Hobbit Day!

Fleamarket Friday: Holding Out For a Hero...


After several decades, Heroes, a lost classic of the golden age of roleplaying has been revised and reprinted by its author.

David Millward has released Heroes 1.2 through ECW Role Play Games for £28.45 (inc. p&p) in the UK.

Originally published in 1979, Heroes is a gritty, down 'n' dirty, historical RPG set in the Dark Ages in a pseudo-European setting, the Ouesterlands, without magic or fantasy races, but with a lot of carousing, whoring, fighting, rabid dogs, floods, blizzards, venereal disease and mutilation. Fun times!

Written over a two year period from 1978 to 1979, this is pure old school - even if the price tag is now rather new school.

In the preface to Heroes 1.2, David explains:
"It was never my intention to produce a new edition of Heroes, when I set out to reprint it. The problem was that I needed to reproduce a copy of the original in a format that could be edited; so that I could correct the many mistakes and add to the explanations of rules that are hard to interpret. It proved impossible to reproduce the rules’ tables in this format, so I began work on what has turned out to be a partially new Edition, hence 1.1, which soon became 1.2.

"I have made as few changes as I could in all conscience. All the tables have been redesigned, in some cases quite radically. Some rule sections have been completely rewritten, sometimes because I didn’t think the originals were clear enough or easy to understand; in other cases because I felt that they were historically insupportable. Because it is not a full rewrite, I have labelled it Edition 1.2, rather than a full Second Edition. If this edition is popular, then I will both publish expansion volumes and begin work on a complete rewrite.
"I have made as few changes as I could in all conscience. All the tables have been redesigned, in some cases quite radically. Some rule sections have been completely rewritten, sometimes because I didn’t think the originals were clear enough or easy to understand; in other cases because I felt that they were historically insupportable. Because it is not a full rewrite, I have labelled it Edition 1.2, rather than a full Second Edition. If this edition is popular, then I will both publish expansion volumes and begin work on a complete rewrite."
For me the best aspect of Heroes was always the inspirational "dedication" page listing, in short form, the fates of various player-characters in the author's campaign - and, thankfully, that remains in this new(ish) edition.

You do get four map sheets - with the 114-page rule book - that fit together to create the world of Heroes,  the Ouesterlands, which only really serves to highlight the feel that this is more a supplement to a wargame than a full roleplaying game.

Even though slightly rewritten and updated, the game primarily remains the lovely mess I remember from the '70s that serves better as a source of inspiration than an actual game.

In truth, I can't imagine anyone not involved in the production of Heroes ever actually playing it when there are so many other simpler and better-written games already on the market.

Now produced in A4 the majority of the pages are "laid out" in ugly single column, except where broken up by black and white art work (some seemingly photocopied from the original rules complete with partial text) or tables. And there are a lot of tables and a lot of abbreviations - again making the reader think more of a wargame than a roleplaying game.

Heroes doesn't include a "proper" combat resolution system, instead (in an Appendix) it offers an abridged skirmish combat system lifted from the forthcoming wargames rule set, Swordes Ecgum - due out in November.

What it does do well, and what it is best for, is its representation of the Dark Age milieu, with its sundry sub-systems for the dirty, little things in life. These could easily be adapted to most pseudo-Medieval RPGs and save you doing the research into these subjects yourself.

I got my copy of Heroes 1.2 primarily for nostalgia, having (foolishly) got shot of my original copy during one of my many game purges during my 30s. I can certainly see myself dipping in to Heroes for ideas, but it's never going to replace Crypts & Things (or any other Dungeons & Dragons rules sets, variants or clones) at my table.

Bill Schools Parents On Game Skills For Kids!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

D&DVD Of The Week: Dungeons & Dragons 3 - The Book Of Vile Darkness (2012)


I hate to admit it - because I'm as shocked as the next man - but Dungeons & Dragons 3: The Book Of Vile Darkness is actually pretty bloody good.

Sure, it's not going to win any awards, but I was expecting something as craptacular as Camp Blood, when in fact it's a fairly decent swords and sorcery B-movie.

For those who worry that these movies might be harming the public perception of the Dungeons & Dragons game or Wizards Of The Coast's IP, this movie does a convincing job of portraying the exploits of a party of "murder-hobos" in a typical D&D campaign.

The plot sees neophyte Knight of Pelor, Grayson (Jack Derges) infiltrating a group of evil adventurers in the hope that they will lead him to his kidnapped father.

The group, led by Shadar-kai witch Akordia (Eleanor Gecks), is looking for the fragments of an evil ancient artifact, The Book Of Vile Darkness, on behalf of the villainous Shatrax, who seeks to return the world to state of chaos and darkness from his base within the Shadowfell.

Yes, the film is packed to bursting with Third and Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons name-dropping, most well used to create the impression of a fully-rounded world, but some - such as Grayson's visit to The Adventurer's Vault shop to stock up on magical items - are quite groan-worthy as they highlight weaker aspects of more recent iterations of Dungeons & Dragons.

Bezz  (Barry Aird) - the rot-mage
But even so, thanks to some surprisingly impressive special effects, we're treated to variety of visually stunning uses of magic spells - both by Akordia and the party's wonderfully anarchic (chaotic evil?) rot-mage Bezz (Barry Aird), enchanted items (Grayson may purchase his "bag of holding" from a shop, but it's still pretty cool to see it in action) and a fantastic array of monsters: the armoured energy man is nice and the dragon is good, but the stand-out creature is the undead child that feasts on negativity. This twisted little horror show could have walked straight out the pages of a James Raggi Lamentations Of The Flame Princess adventure module.

Then, for the final act, we - and the party - are transported to the alternate dimension of the Shadowfell and even on the limited budget of a direct-to-DVD fantasy flick, this is incredibly striking.

This is where we also finally get to meet Shatrax, a superbly realised villain with a stapled-shut mouth who "speaks" through a pair of female servants chained to him.

Like many of the monsters here, because I'm not up on Third or Fourth Edition D&D, I don't know if Shatrax is an original creation of the filmmakers or an antagonist lifted from a game book, but nonetheless he's head and shoulders above the pasty-faced villain of the first two D&D flicks (Damodar).

Dungeons & Dragons 3, of course, has plentiful weaknesses: there's some groanworthy dialogue, some sorry acting and I can't guarantee that the plot makes 100 per cent sense but this is, by far, the best of the Dungeons & Dragons' movies to date (not that that's saying much) and I'd argue a very accurate live-action portrayal of what goes on in the heads of most people who regularly gather around a gaming table to indulge in a slice of 'theatre of the mind'.

Akordia (Eleanor Gecks) the Shadar-kai
It certainly captures the dungeonpunk aesthetic of Third Edition and up, with its design palette of black leather, tattoos, piercings and spikes.

As well as the requisite violence there's a decent amount of sex here as well. This caught me slightly off guard as the previous D&D movies have been very prudish in that regard, but I guess scriptwriter Brian Rudnick was truly channelling Monte Cook and Robert Schwalb's controversial Third Edition supplement when he sat down to compose this piece.

I have no idea what non-gamers will make of the Book Of Vile Darkness, as so much is heavily rooted in a hodge-podge of game lore (for instance, the Shadar-kai are from the Forgotten Realms, while Pelor is a Greyhawk god), but gamers looking for a visual representation of a Dungeons & Dragons game world won't be too disappointed if they approach this with an open mind (and probably a few cans of beer).

The story is actually quite secondary to the enjoyment of the film for its presentation of a game world. If you simply refuse to accept that Grayson can convincingly infiltrate this party of high-level (presumably) evil sorcerers, fighters and assassins, then just enjoy the magic and monsters. That worked for me.

However, the most bizarre aspect of this movie is the blurb on the back of the DVD box:

Click to embiggen
This was clearly written by someone who hadn't seen the film, or even read the script, because except for the appearance of a dragon it bears no real resemblance to the plot of The Book Of Vile Darkness, which is only connected with the earlier movies by its name.

The protagonists are not a "band of heroes" - the whole point is they're band of villains - they're not "defying an empire" (there is no empire ever mentioned), they are not fighting "against evil", they are evil. Yes, there is a single dragaon, but, again, no evil emperor.

This blurb is basically a string of generic fantasy words strung together by a work experience person to fill space on the back cover of the DVD. Ignore it and just watch the film.

Supernatural: Adventures in Babysitting


Given Supernatural's usual comic book, revolving door policy on the death of its leads, the resolution of the last episode was a genuine surprise and while the loss of Bobby's strong character will be noticed the impact on Sam and Dean is already fuelling some powerful dramatic content.

The brothers have spent weeks after Bobby's death trying to crack the numbers he gave them and they've teamed up with paranoid whackjob Frank Devereaux (Kevin R. McNally) - who helped get them "off the grid" in Slash Fiction.

While this is going on, a call comes in on Bobby's phone from 14-year-old Krissy Chambers (Madison McLaughlin) whose father, Lee (Ian Tracey) has disappeared. Sam goes off to help her while Dean checks on Frank, who they haven't heard from in a while.

Lee is an old hunter friend of Bobby's who was tracking down a murderous vetala preying on men at a truck stop diner. Sam follows up his leads and then Dean gets a call from Krissy to say that Sam has disappeared as well!

Adventures In Babysitting continues the themes that have been developing throughout this season of reflecting back on old adventures (Dean tracked vetala while Sam was in college) and the pessimistic outlook for those whose lives revolve around hunting monsters.

This was a solid episode, from scriptwriter Adam Glass, that presented the relationship of Krissy and her dad as an obvious reflection of Sam and Dean's relationship with both their own dad and, of course, Bobby. It gave Dean the chance to do some good above and beyond his usual "monster-killing" exploits by possibly saving Krissy from life as a hunter.

It would have been nice to have had some more time to learn a bit more about the vetala as, for all intents and purposes they might as well have been vampires for all the difference it made to the story, but there was a lot going on here with the main story and the sub-plot of Frank discovering what Bobby's numbers meant.

Next Time:

[HOUSERULES] Secondary Skills...


Inspired, in part, by the Dungeon Crawl Classics' "funnel", I'm revisiting my secondary skills table and updating this particular houserule in line with the general Crypts & Things minimalist skills rules.

The player rolls 1d100 to determine what skill he has picked up from his pre-adventuring career or his family, then totals the rolls of three 'average' dice to determine a score between 6 and 15.

This is his Saving Throw when he wishes to call upon this background knowledge - he rolls a D20 and must score equal or higher to succeed (the DM is the final arbiter of the nature of the success, but the general guideline is the bigger the gap between the target number and the dice score, the better the degree of success).

Unlike a character's class-related Saving Throw, his secondary skill save NEVER changes (except under extreme role-playing conditions - ie. he takes six months off adventuring to pursue a career in the family business).

01 Armourer
02 Bowyer/Fletcher
03 Crop Farmer
04 Fishing
05 Forester
06 Gambler
07 Groom
08 Hunter
09 Jeweler
10 Leather worker
11 Painter
12 Mason
13 Navigator
14 Cartographer (a)
15 Fine Art (b)
16 Mathematics
17 Racing Lore (b)
18 Scribe (a)
19 Astronomer
20 Weaver
21 Tailor
22 Embroidery
23 Animal Husbandry
24 Trader
25 Trapper
26 Furrier
27 Carpenter
28 Weaponsmith
29 Blacksmith
30 Gardener
31 Cooking
32 Shipwright
33 Cobbler
34 Song-writer
35 Brewer
36 Poet
37 Dancer
38 Etiquette
39 Heraldry
40 Singer
41 Gladiator Lore (b)
42 Engineer
43 Ancient History
44 Local History
45 Religion (b)
46 Charioteer
47 Play Musical Instrument (c)
48 Survival
49 Mountaineer
50 Prostitute
51 Barman
52 Philiosophy
53 Drug lore (b)
54 Slaver
55 Lawyer (a)
56 Alcohol lore (b)
57 Architect
58 Tax Collector
59 Boardgames (e.g. chess)
60 Food lore (b)
61 Monster lore (b)
62 Card games
63 Seamanship
64 Story-telling
65 Herb lore (b)
66 Teacher
67 Baker
68 Barber
69 Vet
70 Bird trainer
71 Weapon lore (b)
72 Butcher
73 Toymaker
74 Carpet-maker
75 Dyer
76 Glassblower
77 Grocer
78 Perfumer
79 Paper/Ink maker
80 Potter
81 Wine maker
82 Rope/Net maker
83 Accountant
84 Sail maker
85 Wheelwright
86 Uroscopist (divining health through study of urine)
87 Astrologer
88 Prospector
89 Cattle Farmer
90 Animal lore (b)
91 - 98 No skill of any worth
99 choose any one (and minus 2 to skill roll)
100 roll twice more (and minus 2 to first skill roll)

a) These skills grant automatic literacy (unless barbarian character class).
b) These skills are educational, rather than creative, and only help the character with identifying objects in their field - not using or making them.
c) Choose one instrument.

LIFE SKILLS:

Every character also has a RIDING and SWIMMING skill randomly generated on 3d6 (no rerolls or take-backs). As with his secondary skill above, this is a Saving Throw and so a lower score is better.

Upper class characters get an automatic -3 bonus on this dice rolls, while lower class get a +2 penalty. Barbarians and fighters get an additional -1 modifier on the RIDING roll. These skills can never be modified below two or above 19.

A score over 15 indicates that that character is not competent in that particular skill (i.e. cannot ride or swim), although he may learn - see below.

Whenever the Dungeon Master feels that a skill check is called for (e.g. swimming across a strong current or a horse chase) the player must score equal or over his skill with a d20 roll; the Dungeon Master may throw in any environment-specific modifiers he sees fit.

Unlike his secondary skill, a player-character can improve these skills. Ever even number level, he may decrease one of these two skills by one point (never below a score of two).

Supernatural: Death's Door


At the tail end of the previous episode, Bobby obtained a key piece piece of information about the Leviathans' plans from Dick Roman's office, but took a bullet in the brain pan before he could impart it to the Winchesters.

Two parallel narratives ran through Death's Door - on one track we had Sam and Dean's race to get Bobby into hospital care and then their frustrating wait as the doctors' took care of him, while inside Bobby's head we followed his cat-and-mouse escapades as he tried to evade the Reaper (Henry Lubatti) come to claim his soul as he looked for a "way out" back to consciousness to let the brothers know what he discovered.

A theme of this season has been revisiting the backstories of the show's protagonists and even going back to plots raised in much earlier seasons - which gives a nice feeling of verisimilitude to the show.

Bobby's Picaresque odyssey saw him bouncing around his memories, confronting increasing unpleasant aspects of his life such as the final argument with his wife Karen (Carrie Fleming) before she was possessed and Bobby had to kill her and his turbulent childhood with his abusive, alcoholic father (Edward Foy).

To a certain degree this was powerful material, but it also felt slightly predictable with the only unexpected moments coming right at the end of the episode - and even then it was left hanging.

The scenes in the "real world" also didn't quite ring true, even though we had no problem believing the grief of the Winchesters at the strong possibility of losing this crucial father-figure from their lives - but given that these two scruffy looking individuals had just rolled up at the hospital with their "uncle" sporting a gunshot to his head, how come nobody called the police.

We've been told countless times on cop shows and ER that all gunshot wounds get reported to the police, in fact I'm pretty certain wounded Winchesters have previously avoided hospitals on occasion for this very reason.

Then there was Dean's verbal skirmish with Dick Roman in the hospital car park - people were filming it on their cellphones and wasn't only a few weeks ago that Sam and Dean (well, their dopplegangers) were the most wanted felons in the country?

Sure, the death of the dopplegangers lifted the heat from them somewhat - but surely someone would see this cellphone footage and say: "Waitaminute, isn't that that murderous dead guy?"

Perhaps all this is still to be addressed, as this episode began in media res and ended without a neat wrap-up.

But whereas How To Win Friends And Influence Monsters felt incredibly fast, Death's Door - while telling an important story in the lives of the central characters - felt quite padded and predictable.

Next Time:

[TEKRALH] Buying A Stairway To Ündain...

Ündain - Mythra's Palace Of Infinite Rooms

"Your Horse Will Die,
Your Cattle Will Die,
Your Crops Will Die,
You Will Die,
But Your Name Will Live On"
- inscription found in all temples of the Mythraic religion

Reputation, and standing, is the currency of the Mythraic religion - as encapsulated in its central tenet (above).

These words, usually in the form of an engraving, form a key part of the decoration of every Mythraic temple throughout the continent.

The religion of Tekralh demands that its followers be the best they can be as that is the only way they will win their place in Ündain - Mythra's "Palace Of Infinite Rooms" (their equivalent of Heaven).

This is also why family plays such a large role in the religion as well, as your family carries on your name and, therefore, your reputation.

In game terms a character's reputation is largely reflected in his experience level, but his actions also contribute when considering if a character is "worthy" of a room in Ündain, alongside the religions's many deities 

A warrior is more worthy if he dies in a heroic battle - or has participated in many great battles - while a wizard is worthy if he creats great spells or accumulates incredible magical items in the name of Mythra The All-Father. A farmer must raise the best crops or breed the best cattle he can, a priest must be as devout as he can and follow the edicts of the Mythra as closely as possible and so on.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

[RULES QUERY] Give 'Em Enough Rope...


The dungeon I'm working on for the Tuesday Knights has a lot of climbing involved and I was wondering what houserules people commonly used for:
  1. rope breakages?
  2. ropes that have been tied together coming untied?

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Trailer #2



  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens on December 14.
  • The Desolation Of Smaug opens on December 13, 2013.
  • There And Back Again is scheduled to debut in July 2014.

Shiver Me Timbers...


... it's the tenth annual Talk Like A Pirate Day!

Wonder Woman Wednesday...

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The River Starts Flowing On October 9...



My interest has been piqued by the trailers on SyFy and I'm looking forward to The River... but then again I felt the same about Lost, InvasionAlacatraz, Terra Nova and countless other 'mystery' shows that have either written themselves into nonsensical corners or finished without satisfactory answers or explanations.

And, of course, like so many of these shows that get our hopes up here in the UK it's already been axed in the States - after a single, eight-episode season - before, presumably, the "big reveal" of what's actually going on.

So is it even worth the effort of watching these episodes?

Twenty Questions About Tekralh...


With the character generation workshop for my new campaign only a few weeks away, this seems like a good time to address Brendan's Twenty Quick Rules Questions (as highlighted on his Untimately blog):

  • Ability scores generation method? For humans 4d6, drop lowest, six times and arrange to suit. For non-humans different dice arrangements, but rolled in order.
  • How are death and dying handled? As I'm using Crypts & Things as my core rules, player-characters have Hit Points (as normal), but once those are gone they start taking damage from their Constitution - and it's only when that is exhausted that they are dead. 
  • What about raising the dead? It's possible, but very, very rare. The players would need to find a high level wizard, with knowledge of the correct rituals, and even then there's no guarantee that the deceased would come back "right".
  • How are replacement PCs handled? It's possible for a dead player-character's retainer or henchman to be "promoted" to full player-character status, otherwise it's roll up a new character and start from scratch.
  • Initiative: individual, group, or something else? I'd like to do individual initiatives as that gives certain characters a mechanical edge; however in larger-scale combats where there are designated "leaders" or "commanders" then we're looking at group initiative.
  • Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work? Maximum damage for criticals, but no fumbles unless it's appropriate through role-playing (ie. the PC rolls a string of "1"s, then he'll probably have some kind of accident).
  • Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet? It's already accounted for in your armour class, but it'll certainly help if you have something dropped on your head.
  • Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly? Of course - silliness is the best way to kill (or injure) your fellow party members. So, please, go ahead...
  • Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything? There is no such thing as a balanced encounter. Some creatures will be (almost) unbeatable for low-level characters, while others will fall over with a single sword tap. It's up to the player-characters to find out which are which are.
  • Level-draining monsters: yes or no? Not initially.
  • Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death? No. "Save Vs Death" traps cause crippling injuries etc
  • How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked? Very superficially. Some of my players are accountants and don't want to be reminded of their jobs when they're supposed to be playing a game.
  • What's required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time? It happens between adventures and players are considered to be "training" while they are adventuring.
  • What do I get experience for? Killing or avoiding monsters, exploration, good roleplaying etc Everything except finding treasure - that's its own reward.
  • How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination? A combination. A clever or lucky description by a player will gain them a bonus on their skill check.
  • Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work? They most certainly are, but if they're not treated well (and rewarded for their efforts) there's every possibility they'll desert when the going gets tough.
  • How do I identify magic items? Either by a sorcerer or a sage... or trial and error.
  • Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions? No. The only potions that might be available for sale will be non-magical, minor healing ones.
  • Can I create magic items? When and how? Yes, if you are high enough level and it requires a lot of research and hard graft.
  • What about splitting the party? Of course, see my answer above about party silliness!
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