Reality is the playground of the unimaginative
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Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Pacific Rim - Wondercon Footage...

Rachel's Return...


Rachel hasn't blogged for quite some time because she has been insanely busy at work, but she returned to the fold this week with a magnificent guided tour of her latest project: a miniature pub called, co-incidentally, The Rachel's Return.

Check out her site, Miniatures Make Me Happy, to see the pub in its full glory.

There was much mirth on Facebook last night as one of the pub's customers, Eadie, bears a striking resemblance to the character Tubbs from The League Of Gentlemen - but then, as I pointed out, it is a "local pub for local people".

Rachel's Eadie (left) and Tubbs (right) from The League Of Gentlemen

Next Time On Game Of Thrones...

Monday, 29 April 2013

Our Grand Valued Customers!

Our Valued Customers has reached it's 1,000th posting, with this little gem about a customer's reaction to his friend's rant about the declining quality of Power Rangers episodes...


A sentiment I am increasingly finding applicable to Doctor Who during the reign of Steven Moffat (although the recent run of stories has been a major improvement in my eyes).

[MONSTER MASH] Seedpeople (1992)


Seedpeople is a delightfully cheesy rehash of the classic Invasion Of The Body Snatchers storyline for the direct-to-video generation of the early 90s.
 
A geologist returns to his isolated hometown to give a lecture only to discover alien seed creatures have infiltrated the community.

Good-natured, low-budget hokem with a final "twist" that it is telegraphed from the opening moments.

GAME MATERIAL:

Seedpeople
The life-cycle of a seedperson begins as a large (18" long, at least) seedpod which arrived on a planet from outer space. It will attach itself to a large tree or plant and sprout over-sized, strange-looking flowers.

When a humanoid lifeform passes within five feet of the flower it will spray a gelatinous substance that - unless the target makes a save vs breath weapon - will coat them from head-to-foot causing 6d6 damage (per round).

After the target has died, the gooey mass will birth a seedperson (within 1d6 minutes) who is able to replicate the appearance of its dead host - right down to clothes, armour and anything it was carrying at the time.

The corpse of the host remains where it fell and the seedperson is able to head off and begin its plans for world domination.

#ENC: 1d4+1, Special (see below)
HD: 5
AC: 7 [12]
#Att: 1 (1d8, tentacle) or (1d6+1, bite)
Move: 12 (humanoid), 15 (roller), 18 (flight)
ST: 12
Special:
  • Multi-form - a seedperson has three basic forms and is able to switch between each at will, taking one round to change shape. The forms are (a) humanoid (an exact physical replica of the humanoid it 'cloned', but totally devoid of emotional expression; (b) a bipedal hairy and scaled creature, about three or four foot high, that appears like the upper torso of a human - with the arms acting as legs - with a large mouth; (c) a thin, flying sausage form that extrudes grabby tentacles when it attacks. In its bipedal form it can waddle with a move rate of 8, but can curl up into a hairy ball and roll across any terrain with a speed of 15. The humanoid form will have the surface memories of the person it has replicated, but not the fine-motor skills or ability to use magic, wield weapons etc
  • Telepathy - seedpeople have a weak form of telepathy that only works when they are looking directly at someone and when they actively use it (ie. it's not constant), then they can read surface thoughts within about five feet and can predict a person's next action to a slight degree, giving them +1 on initiative in the first round of combat.
  • Create Drone - In a transitional state between their humanoid form and bipedal form a seedperson may extend plant-like tentacles onto a subject and, if they fail a save vs magic, they will become a drone in service to the seedperson (as per effects of a Charm Person spell). A drone remains in a zombie-like state while under the spell of a seeperson and is only able to perform very basic tasks.
  • Vulnerability To Magic Light - both seedpeople and drones have a vulnerability to magic light (created by the first level Light spell). Seedpeople retreat from its presence and suffer 1d6/damage per round they are within the radius of its effect, while drones are allowed a second saving throw (at +5) to shake off the Charm Person effects for every round they are touched by its aura.
CL/XP:  9/1,100

Musical Monday: A Man's Game Of Thrones World...



James Brown Vs The Game Of Thrones Theme, as put together by YouTuber Rozroz

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Game Of Thrones Season Three: Recap #4

How we got to where we are...



Episodes two and three both had "wobble" moments that had me thinking that maybe the shine was beginning to tarnish on this great work, but this week's episode blew me - and my doubts - away; especially that last sequence with Daenerys and The Unsullied.

Here's an "inside look" at the episode:


Slave Leia Sunday...

What Fiendish Necromancy Is This?


Saturday, 27 April 2013

Doctor Who: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS


The TARDIS crashes after a run-in with a salvage vessel just as The Doctor is trying to help Clara "bond" better with his ship.

In the ensuing mess, The Doctor is left outside the TARDIS with the salvage team while Clara is lost inside the infinitely large ship - harassed by strange "time zombies" as she tried to find her way out.

The Doctor tricks the salvage team into helping him get back into the TARDIS and track down Clara before the ship explodes.

There was a lot to like in Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS but there was no escaping a feeling of great contrivance in Steve Thompson's script.

Thankfully, in large part, this was swept aside by the chance to finally get a good poke around inside The Doctor's spacecraft - after the disappointment of The Doctor's Wife where Steven Moffat's ego and "budgetary reasons" only allowed Neil Gaiman's story to take place in bland corridors.

Of course, there was still a lot of running around in corridors (it wouldn't be Doctor Who without it) and frustrating glimpses down side passages (will the TARDIS swimming pool ever make a real appearance in nuWho?), but we were treated to some very impressive set-pieces - the most striking of which was the library where Clara found the book about The Time War that mentioned The Doctor's "real" name (I'm sure we'll be returning to this nugget later in the season).

The van Baalen salvage team - Gregor (Ashley Walters), Bram (Mark Oliver) and android Tricky (Jahvel Hall) - were the least interesting aspect of the story. Despite scriptwriter Steve Thompson's attempts to make us empathise with them, I really wasn't that interested as I just wanted to get on with story as it concerned The Doctor, Clara and the TARDIS.

Luckily, we did get some cracking character moments with our protagonists - especially in the crucial "Doctor confronts Clara about who she is" scene, which really only deepened the mystery around his feisty travelling companion.

The secret of the "time zombies" was, although reasonably predictable, handled well as was the "timey-wimey" resolution of the fast-paced and action-packed main story.

Next Time:

Early Anniversary Present...


Although it's a month until our wedding anniversary, this morning Rachel got me this fantastic canvas print of the cover of Amazing Fantasy #15 - the first appearance of Spider-Man.

It came from Gorgeous George, an incredible gift shop in Tonbridge that also does a fine line in wines and locally-sourced, flavoured spirits (Rachel and I have become regular visitors there).


Co-incidentally, Rachel's parents were visiting this afternoon and so her dad was able to hang the picture for me (I couldn't have reached!).

There are only really now a couple of empty "slots" on the walls of the stairwell and I already have items lined up to fill them - one needs framing and the other needs to be manufactured.

Only A Week Until Free Comic Book Day...


This mini-documentary recounts the origin story of Free Comic Book Day, the popular global event that takes place on the first Saturday in May every year.

How Tall Is Your Giant?


Kicking around random ideas for  my campaign and, out of nowhere, it struck me that I've never used giants as antagonists in any adventures I've run.

This then sent me off on a tangent of "just how tall do you reckon giants should be". If we're talking human-centric swords & sorcery then they're probably just very tall men (such as Gort in Hawk The Slayer or Gregor Clegane in Game Of Thrones), but the more fantasical the setting - obviously - the bigger the giants tend to get.

Which is why I was rather surprised when I dug out my Pathfinder miniatures of a frost giant and hill giant and they weren't really that much bigger than a normal dude (pictured above for comparison). They look as though they'd only be 10 to 12ft high - which doesn't seem very "giant".

I guess I tend to err towards giants as depicted in the trailers (I haven't seen the movie yet) for Jack The Giant Slayer because I like to draw on the fairy tale origins of certain creatures when I'm seeking to weave them into my world.



That's why I was so pleased the other year when I picked up the giant figure below at a living history show (I think it was one of those statues that come with part-works magazines).

This (below), to me, says GIANT (complete with some ogre skulls on a chain and the skull of a fellow giant under foot). I reckon he'd be over 20ft at least...


How do you use giants in your games?

Simon's Cat - Screen Grab...

Friday, 26 April 2013

The Final Chapter...


Next week sees the season finale of one of the best new shows of the year, The Following. Will serial killer supreme Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) get to write the final chapter of his book? Probably not as the show's been renewed for a second season...

Fleamarket Friday: Your Chance To Be A (Dungeon) Bastard!


You've seen his videos here and elsewhere on the web, but now Bill Cavalier - The Dungeon Bastard - is putting his reputation on the line with a Kickstarter to fund The World's Worst Dungeon Crawl!

To quote Bill on his Kickstarter page:
"Based on decades of RPG experience, I’ve culled together the most odious PCs, plots, and encounters and built a Frankenstein’s MONSTER of BADASSITUDE. It’s called Flaming Deathpits of the Minotaur Mage: Descent into Doomfire! It has a hackneyed “Save the Princess” plot. It has pyromancer named “Steve.” It has ROLE-PLAYING."
Bill will be running this adventure at Gen Con 2013 - to demonstrate that even a "bad" adventure can be "epic" in the hands of a great DM.

On his website though, he stresses:
"... this is a REAL ADVENTURE, not just some lame joke parody thing. Yeah, it’s got halflings with goofy names (Ed. Note: REDUNDANT) and the plot is COMPLETELY predictable, but the intent is to make a dungeon crawl so over-the-top cliched, it blows the hinges off the Secret Door of Suckitude and drops you down a sliding chute to the Treasure Chamber of Awesome. So trust me, you won’t find a Star Trek room or a bunch of Justin Bieber references. I may be the Dungeon Bastard, but even I wouldn’t do that to you."
Check out the Kickstarter page to see what treasure you can net by backing this enterprise (e.g. DVDs of the Gen Con event, arm bands, the adventure itself, PDFs and a whole lot more).


Fleamarket Friday: Stan Still Has Great Power...

For those of you still on the fence about picking up the brilliant documentary With Great Power... The Stan Lee Story here are some more extended interviews about the comic book legend:


And as an added "bonus", here's a short cartoon of Stan teaming up with the crew at How It Should Have Ended to give his take on improvements for some classic films:

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Space 1889 Still On The Agenda!


Speaking to Clare earlier today it appears that, despite being about to give birth to her second child, she's still keen to run a Space 1889 campaign for the Tuesday Knights.

If I understood correctly, the adventure will be based upon a steampunk radio play she pitched to the BBC, with our group being given pregen characters based on the protagonists from her script (I get to play a military man, possibly with steampunky secret).

Her development of the campaign has hit a slight bump though as she and Nick realised they no longer actually owned the Space 1889 rules... because Nick had gven them to me a couple of years ago when he was clearing out to make room for the birth of their first child, my godson Alec.

As long as Clare can make the next Tuesday Knights meeting (in about 12 days time) I can give her back all the rulebooks then, otherwise I'll drop them over to her sometime.

If Clare's able to take over the gamesmastery reins when Meredith wants to take a break from her Warcraft game, then that gives me even longer to get my own game in order.

It's certainly looking as though the Tuesday Knights have a rosy gaming future ahead of them...

Victor Crowley Just Won't Stay Dead!


I'm quietly confident that Hatchet 3 will deliver some glorious, gonzo Grand Guignol, although I hope it's more on a par with the first movie than the weaker sequel.

It's So Funny Because It's So True...


Our Valued Customers hits on the secret ingredient in the HeroPress film review recipe.

Remember, as Gandhi said, if you're not reading Our Valued Customers every day then your life is incomplete. Either click through the links here or pop over to my lower blogroll in the left-hand column of this blog.

Spoilerific Featurette About Iron Man 3...


If you don't want to know too much about the plot of Iron Man 3, don't watch this!

What D&D Character Am I?

A new meme, courtesy of Tim Brannan, at The Other Side:

I Am A: True Neutral Human Wizard/Sorcerer (3rd/3rd Level)

Ability Scores:

Strength-8

Dexterity-9

Constitution-10

Intelligence-11

Wisdom-12

Charisma-11

Alignment:
True Neutral A true neutral character does what seems to be a good idea. He doesn't feel strongly one way or the other when it comes to good vs. evil or law vs. chaos. Most true neutral characters exhibit a lack of conviction or bias rather than a commitment to neutrality. Such a character thinks of good as better than evil after all, he would rather have good neighbors and rulers than evil ones. Still, he's not personally committed to upholding good in any abstract or universal way. Some true neutral characters, on the other hand, commit themselves philosophically to neutrality. They see good, evil, law, and chaos as prejudices and dangerous extremes. They advocate the middle way of neutrality as the best, most balanced road in the long run. True neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you act naturally, without prejudice or compulsion. However, true neutral can be a dangerous alignment when it represents apathy, indifference, and a lack of conviction.

Race:
Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Primary Class:
Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard's strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.

Secondary Class:
Sorcerers are arcane spellcasters who manipulate magic energy with imagination and talent rather than studious discipline. They have no books, no mentors, no theories just raw power that they direct at will. Sorcerers know fewer spells than wizards do and acquire them more slowly, but they can cast individual spells more often and have no need to prepare their incantations ahead of time. Also unlike wizards, sorcerers cannot specialize in a school of magic. Since sorcerers gain their powers without undergoing the years of rigorous study that wizards go through, they have more time to learn fighting skills and are proficient with simple weapons. Charisma is very important for sorcerers; the higher their value in this ability, the higher the spell level they can cast.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

  • Sadly, I'd say the stats are quite accurate, as is the alignment, although I'm not sure about the character class - wizard seems too much like hard work to me!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

DVD Of The Week: The Lords Of Salem (2012)


Late-night radio DJ and ex-drug addict Heidi Hawthorne (Sheri Moon Zombie) receives a strange wooden box at the radio station containing a vinyl record from a mysterious band called "The Lords".

Playing the record causes her to start having flashbacks to the Salem witch trials and her hallucinations become increasingly bizarro as her week progresses towards a one-off gig by the band at the weekend.

As Heidi's life spirals out of control, local historian Francis Matthias (Bruce Davison) is intrigued by the strange music and starts to investigate its connections to Salem's storied past.

If you've seen a lot of horror flicks then you probably won't find anything particularly new in Rob Zombie's The Lords Of Salem, but that doesn't stop it from being entertaining.

Sure, setting a film about witches in Salem is a massive cliché, as is the presence of a trio of modern day suburban witches (the anti-Halliwells) - glorious, camp turns from Judy Geeson, Patricia Quinn and Dee Wallace - who take Heidi under their wing.

The paper-thin plot - that draws heavily from Rosemary's Baby - primarily relies on atmosphere trumping story and the final act devolves into a music video rather than solid narrative as the freakish hallucinations take over in a mad rush of psychedelic imagery, all to the tune of the Velvet Underground's trippy Venus In Furs.

Yet, ultimately, this is a fun, Hammer-ish horror that takes a stereotypical view of witches - conflating them with Satanists - and runs with it... while carrying scissors.

For me, Rob Zombie is a very hit-and-miss auteur: I really enjoyed The Devil's Rejects, thought House Of 1,000 Corpses started promisingly but fell apart at the end and had no interest in his Halloween remakes. However, I really liked The Lords Of Salem despite its flaws.

Rob's regular star - and wife - the lovely Sheri Moon Zombie has an interesting look in this film, sporting dreadlocks and Hattie Watson-esque tattoos, and while her character's decline is well-documented in the movie, the film really belongs to the creepy trio of middle-aged "sisters" that appear once Heidi has taken her first step on the road to darkness.

As might be expected in a stereotypical "witch" movie there's a fair bit of flesh on display - but be warned, before you get your hopes up, the majority of this is wrinkly pensioner witches! While your mileage may vary, the amount of titillation you get from this can probably be gauged by your reaction to the end of the famous bath sequence in The Shining (another film that The Lords Of Salem draws on for atmospheric inspiration).

While The Lords Of Salem falls short of the "best horror film of the year" accolade that Scream Magazine supposedly bestowed on it (I'm still expecting that honour to go to Evil Dead, if I can get to see it any time soon), as light-weight, bonkers, pulp horror goes it's great fun and certainly not to be taken too seriously.

A New York Times Best-Seller? Really?

"Oh, well ye got to be pullin' harder than that!" Tred McKnuckles yelled to his team of two horses and three dwarves.
- the first sentence of The Thousand Orcs, by R A Salvatore.

I've already vented my spleen over the horrible cliché of faux Scottish dwarves, so I guess I should have known what to expect when I picked up a cheap copy of the "New York Time Best-Seller" The Thousand Orcs, by R A Salvatore.

In my defence the plot synopsis sounded quite intriguing: "an invasion of orcs sweeps across the Spine of the World, separating [Drizzt Do'Urden] from the friends on whom he has long relied and forcing him to draw on his own inner resources."

It's sat on my "to be read" shelf for quite a while, so late last night I picked it up and flicked to the first page. I read the first sentence (above). And was gobsmacked. I had to stifle my laughter for fear of waking Rachel.
McKnuckles? McKnuckles? McKnuckles? WTF???

I had mistakenly thought this was a "serious" action-adventure novel, not a Knights Of The Dinner Table satire.

While you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, you can usually tell quite a bit by its opening line.

I'd also be the first to admit that I have great problems coming up with convincing names for my characters, but even I'd be embarrassed to admit out loud that I'd named my dwarf character "McKnuckles".

But then again, I'm not a New York Time Best-Selling author...

Narrowed It Down To Three...

After yesterday's pontifications and some useful comments, I've narrowed my choice of rules system down to three, in descending order:


Of course, there is no great urgency as the Tuesday Knights are currently having a ball in Meredith's Warcraft campaign - so I'm just kicking around ideas for when the time, possibly, comes that she wants to step away from DMing.

Wonder Woman Wednesday...

Submitted by Al Bruno III
This is Margie Vizcarra Cox as Wonder Woman from the fan film-in-progress Kingdom Come, based on the epic graphic novel of the same name.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

We Have Achieved Ouroboros!


Although I've been primarily restricting my eBay purchases of late to supplements, adventures and miniatures that I think I could use in a fantasy RPG setting, I occasionally allow myself to stray when an item catches my eye.

This happened when I saw the box set of Streets Tell Stories, a supplement for the brilliant Underground RPG. Back when I had a job and was flush with cash I had everything produced for this idiosyncratic superhero RPG (it has more in common with Marshal Law than Marvel).

However, this was during my extended gaming drought and while I purchased (a lot of) games to read, eventually I'd run out of room and have to purge - so that I had both the space and pocket money for new purchases.

In the very late 90s/early 2000s, I lived and worked in Sevenoaks where I was very chummy with the owner of a store called Military & Myths (later Black Knight Games) - which was primarily a wargames and model kit store, but did a good sideline in roleplaying materials. This was many years before eBay and so I would often 'trade' my old games and miniatures for 'store credit'.

The shop closed about eight years ago, but I still saw John, the owner, at a few North Kent wargames shows for a couple of years after that. He probably still has a stall at them, I just haven't been to a show for a long time.

When my copy of Streets Tell Stories arrived today, with the seller's business card, I realised that not only was the seller John from Military & Myths - but I'm 99.99999% sure the game supplement was the one I sold to him about a decade ago.

Nick always said I would one day end up buying my own games back... and that has finally come to pass!

First Trailer For Thor: The Dark World...


But before that awesomeness, don't forget this:


And this:


Another great year for superhero movies, then?

The Time Has Come To Draw The Line...


If I am ever going to get anywhere in creating a a new campaign to keep the Tuesday Knights entertained on a regular basis I've got to stop pissing around, throwing together ideas piecemeal and instead try to design a cohesive setting from the ground up.

I'm not talking about an intricately detailed setting where every NPC has a name and backstory and there are sub-tables for determining when a character sneezes, but a simple, cohesive backdrop that feels "real" against which the player-characters can have wild, heroic adventures.

The first design that needs to made is: low fantasy or high fantasy?

I'm torn between human-centric swords and sorcery or epic old school Dungeons & Dragons adventuring.

Swords and sorcery, for me, encapsulates many of my current inspirations: Game Of Thrones, Merlin, Prince Valiant and Hawk The Slayer (the elf was the only real 'high fantasy' element there and he was the last of his race, the 'giant' was just a tall bloke and the 'dwarf' a short bloke).

However, high fantasy represents the legendary Dungeons & Dragons campaigns of old that have inspired me for as long as comics, films and TV have: Blackmoor, Arduin and Greyhawk (and, more recently, Garweeze Wurld from Knights Of The Dinner Table).

A low fantasy game would let me get down and dirty with all the gritty houserules I like to throw around and - with Crypts & Things - would allow me to represent the magical elements of the game in what I would a "realistic" way.

But on the other hand, epic fantasy (that is throwing in all the various playable races, clerics etc) would allow myself, and the players, free reign to go full gonzo if we so wish and truly shake the heavens.

From previous chats with the Tuesday Knights I know they'd want me to keep "houserules" to a minimum and I think I'd prefer to play a game as straight "by the book" as possible (be it Swords & Wizardry, Labyrinth Lord, Castles & Crusades... or even Advanced Dungeons & Dragons).

So, thoughts?

Next Time On Game Of Thrones...

Monday, 22 April 2013

The Magic Of Hawk The Slayer...

Hawk The Slayer is, of course, the greatest Dungeons & Dragons movie ever, but until someone publishes an official Hawk The Slayer roleplaying game then I shall continue to sporadically mine this masterpiece for gaming elements.

I have already quantified the legendary Mindsword, for use in my Crypts & Things campaign (which is set is set in a version of the world detailed in the Hawk movie and novelisation), so today I'm looking to 'stat up' some of the magic spells from the film.

FOG OF CONFUSION
Third Level
Grey Magic

Once cast a number of glowing spheres appear in the mages' hands, which he then crumbles releasing a cloud of thick fog that moves at his command. The cloud can be as large as a 100ft cube and rolls across the ground with the speed of a normal man walking (move rate: 12). All people and monsters, not allied with the mage, caught up in the fog suffer a -2 penalty to all die rolls (to hit, saves, damage etc). The mage's friends, however, can see normally within this magical cloud - which lasts for one combat round per level of the spellcaster.

WHIRLPOOL OF FLYING FIREBOLTS
Fourth Level
Black Magic

The mage creates a pillar of swirling lights that then erupt into a cone of firebolts - with a range of 60ft - follows rapidly by a violent blizzard of wind and snow. The bolts will only target those the mage wishes to strike within its area of damage (a 60ft sphere from the point where the pillar erupts - up to 60ft away from the mage).

All targeted by the spell suffer 2d6 damage from the firebolts, but then the next round (and for a number of rounds after equal to half the mage's level), the entire area is enveloped in a violent snowstorm that causes all within the area to make all die rolls (to hit, saves, damage etc) at -2 and if anyone rolls a "1" on a to hit roll, they must immediately make a DEX save or fall over.

RITUAL OF SEEKING
Sixth Level
Black Magic Ritual

This is a ritual for mages who wish to "teleport" another (willing) person to a location, but want to avoid the dangers inherent in piercing The Shroud (see Crypts & Things, page 62).

The mage and his subject must agreed a short-term purpose for the journey the subject is to be sent on and one or other of them must know the location where the subject is to be sent (guidelines as per Teleportation spell, on page 59 of Crypts & Things).

The mage sits beside an unlit fire, which the subject the spell is sitting in. The mage casts specially-prepared powder into the fireplace, which springs to life (without harming the subject of the spell) and creates a pair of glowing rings of light around the subject.

A moment later he is then transported to the agreed destination and has 10 combat rounds to complete the object of his 'mission'. Once completed - or when the when the time is up - the subject (and one other willing person within 10ft of him) will be instantly transported back to the location of the mage, who may not move from beside the fire for the duration of the ritual.

If the subject was successful in his objective (ie the time limit didn't expire) and returns unhurt, he (and he alone) may, if he wishes, be dispatched on a second journey - as long as the objective is similar to the first trip. This all counts as a single ritual no matter how many jaunts the subject ends up taking.

MAGIC ITEM

Staff Of Entanglement
A plain-looking staff with a small carved hoop at one end.

When found it has 100+(1d10 x 10) left in it. Each time a charge is expended and the staff pointed at a subject a mass of sticky, green ichor will project from the end of the staff and encase its target in a paralysing mess of stringy paste.

If the target fails his saving throw then he is totally covered and unable to move for 1d6 turns (ie 10 to 60 minutes), at which time the goop evaporates.

If he makes his saving throw then he was just hit with a glancing blow and suffers a -2 penalty on all die rolls (to hit, damage, saves etc) do to the inconvenience caused by partial entanglement.

When the magical substance has hardened around its target it is impossible to remove by hand - anyone touching it will become stuck and must make a standard STR check to remove their hand. Attempts to cut it with sharp objects require a normal roll to hit against AC4 [15] with 'misses' inflicting half damage on the person encased. To cut a person free requires 20 points of damage to be done to the hardened goo.

Musical Monday: Through Time...


Through Time is a excellent Doctor Who homage by Not Literally Productions, featuring Matt Smith lookalike Matt Elliott.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Game Of Thrones - Season Three: Recap #3


What has brought us to this point in Westeros (major spoilers if you're not up to date with this season of Game Of Thrones)...

Plus an insight into last week's episode:

Teenage Kicks...


It may be just a few weeks until his first birthday, but we've decided that Barney has already entered his difficult teenage years in rabbit terms.

For the last three weeks whenever we've got to move him into his run so we clean out his hutch he has, instead, opted to race around the hutch and hide in the least accessible corner (usually under the stairs).

The previous two weeks this has resulted in just the upper level of the hutch being cleaned, but this week - having cleaned the top layer and refreshed the straw in his bedroom - I "noisily" took the lower frontage off the hutch making him scamper back upstairs and thus allowing me to tentatively clean out the bottom layer of the hutch.

I was slightly concerned he might come to "investigate" and even escape out the front of the hutch while its wire mesh was removed, but Rachel quite correctly pointed out that it was very unlikely he'd want to go downstairs while I was cleaning it.

Even when we can get him into his run, he'll hop about for a bit but seems to spend the majority of the time sitting in a corner (like a surly teenager). The most active he ever gets is when we're trying to catch him to put him back into the hutch - then he turns into the rabbit equivalent of Usain Bolt and tears around the run like a bunny Olympian.

Perhaps now the weather is changing for the better he might come round to the idea of spending some time in his run again...

Now There's A Question...


Saturday, 20 April 2013

Doctor Who: Hide


A few minutes into Hide it struck me why this run of episodes has been so good - compared to the earlier part of the Eleventh Doctor's stint - Doctor Who has rediscovered its sense of fun.

There may be some minor overarching elements - such as The Doctor trying to solve the mystery of Clara and the wonderful friction between Clara and the TARDIS - but ultimately, Hide was a fantastic, self-contained episode.

If The Rings Of Akhaten (with its stage-set-as-alien-planet vibe) was an homage to the First Doctor era of the show and last week's Cold War was an obvious tribute to the Second Doctor era, then Hide was clearly a Third Doctor story - even beyond its 1970s setting.

The Doctor and Clara arrive at an isolated, rain-lashed Caliburn House where a ghost-hunting couple - reticent war hero Alec Palmer (Dougray Scott) and psychic Emma Grayling (Jessica Raine) - are trying to crack the case of the spectral woman seemingly haunting the mansion.

Starting off as an atmospheric riff on the techno-ghost-hunting of The Haunting and The Stone Tape, Hide very quickly becomes its own entity with a dose of pocket dimensions, bogeyman monsters and a trip from the beginning of the Earth to its end.

Another stellar cast - fronted by Scott and Raine - as well as a solid script from Neil Cross only go to prove that currently the less direct-involvement from Stephen Moffat the better all round it is for the show.

If this was the show's Third Doctor tribute (complete with blue crystals from Metebelis 3), in this anniversary year, that makes next week's its Fourth Doctor (which seems about right):



(The Invasion Of Time, anyone, with an entire episode devoted to a chase through the corridors of the TARDIS?)

Defending Our World - One Soul At A Time..


Ghostbusters + Men In Black = R.I.P.D.

Target: Salute 2014...


Rachel has already said there's no point going back to Disneyland Paris until I'm fit enough to enjoy it. And I can see her point as, particularly in the last year to 18 months, my stamina has hit rock bottom and my various aches, pains and other nerve-system related issues have really peaked.

Hence my current gym regime.

This moratorium also applies to my attendance of Salute, the UK's biggest wargames convention, which is happening at this very moment at ExCel in London. My attendance over the last few years has been patchy... and therefore costly as I usually like to buy my tickets in advance.

Therefore this year I decided not to buy tickets and have set myself a goal of making sure I'm fit and able enough to attend next year.

Let's hope the incentive of Salute 2014 and a holiday in Disneyland Paris is enough to keep my gym attendance regular.

Already, after just two weeks, Rachel said she's noticed I'm less tired when I return from the gym and I've found myself doing more reps on the weight machine - so maybe it's working!

Bad Days - Star Trek...



The crew of the USS Enterprise seem to be having a rough go of it on an exploratory mission. It's a new installment of Bad Days (from Stan Lee's World Of Heroes) for our Star Trek heroes...and just any other day for the Red Shirts!

And as an added treat for my loyal readers...

Ladies & Gentlemen, 900,000!


Some time on Wednesday, HeroPress crawled battered and bruised over the 900,000 hits mark - just shy of seven months since we limped over the 750,000 threshold.

I'd like to say it was my participation in Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day that pushed HeroPress over the edge, but to be honest a mere fraction of visitors that day came via other gaming sites.

We're still averaging less than 300 hits a day. Some wiser heads than me have suggested this drop-off is across the board because of changes in Google, but I still believe that if I could post regular, quality content on a single subject (such as gaming) then people would be more inclined to visit more often.

Anyway, we still managed to attract a new recruit to our big adventure this week - and as I always say Followers are far more important than hits.

Please join me in a few verses of a rousing hobbit drinking song to welcome:

Friday, 19 April 2013

Inspiration Behind Episode 10 Of Spartacus: War Of The Damned...


Spoilers aplenty if you haven't yet seen the truly awesome finale to Spartacus: War Of The Damned.

Fleamarket Friday: Iron Man - Rise Of Technovore (2013)


Attending the launch of his own super-dooper spy satellite, billionaire industrialist Tony Stark aka Iron Man (voiced by Matthew Mercer) is attacked by a squad of armoured mercenaries and their enigmatic boss, a strange youth in a suit of technorganic armour the like of which Tony has never seen before.

The carnage results in 300 deaths - including, apparently, Tony's best friend James Rhodes aka War Machine (voiced by James C Mathis).

Tony wants to get on the case straight away, but Nick Fury (voiced by John Eric Bentley) tries to rein him in, resulting in Stark going off on his own - pursued by legions of SHIELD Mandroid robots and, eventually, Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (voiced by the lovely Clare Grant) and Clint Barton aka Hawkeye (voiced by Troy Baker).

Tony's investigations lead him to Pakistan where he takes down an Advanced Ideas Mechanics agent with the help of Frank Castle aka The Punisher (voiced by ubercool Norman Reedus).

Iron Man and The Punisher tussle with The Black Widow and Hawkeye before Iron Man is able to track the true villain of the piece, who turns out to be Ezekiel Stane (voiced by Eric Bauza) the unbalanced son of Tony's old mentor Obadiah Stane.

Young Stane believes himself 'above' the rest of humanity and plans to use his Technovore organic nanotechnology to wipe the world clean of human infestation and reshape it in his own image.

To put it bluntly, Rise Of Technovore just isn't very good. The pacing lurches from flash-bang action scenes to glacially slow, navel-gazing monologues by the tedious villain that make you wonder if the film wasn't scripted by Brian Michael Bendis (it wasn't - the story is by Brandon Auman and the script by Kengo Kaji).

I have no problem with reflective villains prone to monologuing as long as what they have to say is interesting - but this is a total snoozefest.

The plotting also isn't helped by its reliance on that awful superhero cliché of having heroes fighting other heroes before they all team up to take down the bad guy.

Not only do the outbursts of verbose waffling screw up the flow of the story, but the action itself is very choppy and even when it looks as though things are taking an Akira-turn towards the end it's really too little too late.

Norman Reedus gets top billing in the voice cast, but his 'appearance' as The Punisher is, honestly, little more than an extended cameo in the central segment of the movie. Once the action moves away from Pakistan we never see - or hear - from him again.

Rise Of The Technovore echoes the style of the recent Marvel Universe movies and a lot of the themes, but is apparently part of the Marvel anime universe - just to confuse those of us that care.

This is a shame because not only would it have thus brought Frank Castle properly into the cinematic universe but the fleeting mention of the Savage Land would have opened up some interesting possibilities for future film settings.

Not, of course, that there is anything stopping the cinematic universe from going down either of these avenues, but at least this would have signposted that they were thinking of them.

Ultimately this is one for die-hard fans of the Iron Man anime only as others will likely only be bored by the rambling, random story and or confused by  how it fits in with any sort of continuity.

Wonder Women! The Untold Story Of American Superheroines...

Wonder Women is a feature documentary exploring the concept of heroic women from the birth of the superhero in the 1940s to the TV and big screen action blockbusters of today. Heroic role models are important in childhood development, yet there are a dearth of these for girls. Wonder Woman provides a rare example of a female heroine who doesn't require rescue, determines her own missions, and possesses uniquely feminine values. Featuring Gloria Steinem, actors Lynda Carter and Lindsey Wagner, and a colorful cast of scholars, writers, and fans, the film challenges pop culture's gender biases by looking at how Wonder Woman's storyline changed over time while considering how women are rarely depicted as heroic, powerful, or world-changing.

Fleamarket Friday: The Roots Of Evil, By Philip Reeve (A Review)

Next Tuesday (April 23), the latest Doctor Who ebook - The Roots Of Evil by Philip Reeve - will be available for download.

The Fourth Doctor brings Leela to the Heligan Structure, a beautifully realised organic spacestation built in, and around, the branches of a single enormous tree.

Unfortunately for The Doctor he soon discovers the entire 900-year-old culture of the inhabitants is geared towards vengeance against him - for a "crime" he has no recollection of.

Fans of Philip's work will recognise The Roots Of Evil as classic Reeve - from his clever humour to his smooth turn of phrase - while Doctor Who fans will hear the voices of Leela and The Fourth Doctor in a story fit for television.

As a short work - approximately 10,000 words - the plot moves forward with a pace befitting the current era of Doctor Who, but the main twist (and there are a couple) in the tale could only truly work in this "past Doctor" format.

Primarily aimed at younger Doctor Who fans, The Roots Of Evil is a brilliant, breathless, slice of Fourth Doctor nostalgia that will, hopefully, encourage those who've come to this through their passion for the current iteration of Who to search out some classic Doctor Who stories - as well as other works by Philip Reeve.

However, if, like me, you're not really a fan of eBooks, then the complete collection of monthly past Doctor eBooks from Puffin are being collected into a single print publication due out in November - the month Doctor Who celebrates its 50th Anniversary.

Game Of Thrones - Season Three: Extended Trailer...

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Up Above The Streets And Houses, Rainbow Climbing High...


A sudden downpour this afternoon resulted in this spectacular rainbow (with a faint second rainbow) over Tonbridge. I could see both ends of from my gamesroom.

Presumably the occupants of the houses at either end, where it 'landed', got the pot of gold...

There Aren't Enough Westerns Being Made These Days...


The Lone Ranger rides into UK cinemas on August 9.

Thank You, Erik!


A massive "thank you" to Erik from Tenkar's Tavern for shepherding yesterday's hugely successful Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day.

In the end the event featured over 130 blogs (including HeroPress) writing about the same old school gaming system on the same day, as well as offers, sales and other promotions to get people talking about this fantastic roleplaying game.

If you want to find anything out about the Swords & Wizardry system click on the Swords & Wizardry SRD (System Reference Document) button on the right hand side of this blog - which takes you to a very useful site with all the information you need to play, run or write for the system.

For more about Crypts & Things - the version of S&W I favour at present - visit its publisher's site here.

The Continuing Adventures Of The Night Blogger...


Al Bruno III's on-going audio chiller.

Gym'll Fix It!


So, I'm into my second consecutive week of attending the gym - which is something of a record for me.

I go twice-a-week through a programme aimed at encouraging the less able-bodied to get fit.

I've kept reasonably quiet about it to date because I didn't want to jinx it, but I had a bit of a break-through the other day with the simple discovery that it's not so tedious if I'm listening to a podcast.

My regime isn't exactly Charle Atlas material at present, but the coach I have been assigned through the Lifestyles programme told me that once I've done six weeks on my present routine he'll introduce me to some new equipment - I'm really looking forward to getting back on a treadmill as that is my favourite form of exercise (which may surprise a lot of people who know me!).

If nothing else regular work-outs are certainly helping me knock my sleeping issues on the head.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Eliminate The Weak!

Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys?


This latest Marvel featurette gives us a closer look at Tony Stark's newest tech and latest armours in a behind-the-scenes featurette from the upcoming Iron Man 3

"Are You Coming With Me Or Not?"


The latest trailers for Star Trek Into Darkness.

With this, Evil Dead and Iron Man 3 in the next few weeks I might actually drag myself out to the cinema for the first time in almost a year as all of these could merit the big screen experience - and expense.

Then there's always Man Of Steel:

Merlin's Miscellany: Part Twelve...

Today is Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day and I can think of no better time to resume my on-going conversions of elements from the BBC's brilliant Merlin serial to Crypts & Things (my Swords & Wizardry iteration of choice).

(From The Tears Of Uther Pendragon, Part One and Part Two)


Mandrake Root Poppet

The poppet is prepared by an evil sorcerer using a fifth level black magic ritual that involves obtaining some bodily fluid from the enchantment's target (e.g. blood, urine, tears etc), which is mixed into a boiling magical potion into which a mandrake root is soaked.

The root is then secreted within six feet of its target and once an hour has passed its magical effects will start to take place. The magic will only affect the person whose bodily fluids were used in the ritual.

The magical coating on the root must be renewed every 24 hours or else the enchantment is broken. However, if the coating is refreshed continued exposure to its target will have a cumulative effect.

The first night the target spends adjacent to the mandrake root poppet he must make a Sanity check by rolling 4d6 against his Wisdom + Level. If any three dice come up as 6s, then a permanent point of Wisdom is lost. Even a successful check will see him lose 1d3 Sanity points, while a failed check will result in 1d6 Sanity loss.

The second night of exposure requires a 5d6 STAT save, the third a 6d6 Save and so on.

For the effects of lost Sanity see Crypts & Things, page 26.

During all this, the target will be subject to horrendous nightmares and fitful sleep, meaning he will be unable to heal any damage (either physical or mental) and, during his waking hours, will suffer vivid hallucinations drawn from his own subconscious guilt and fears. These will be adjudicated by the Dungeon Master as he sees fit, but will almost certainly make the character a major liability.

However, the spell can be broken by destroying the poppet (if it can be found) with fire. The magical nature of mandrake root means that when it is burnt it emits a piercing scream that can only be heard by those gifted with magical abilities.

The victim will then recover with 24 hours of total rest and will no longer be subject to hallucinations.

Rowan Staff

Carved from the rowan tree at the heart of the Isle Of The Blessed, this powerful, single-use magical item needs to be taken to a place of the dead where its wielder then drives it into the floor or ground - its magic is such that it will splinter rock regardless of how physically weak the user is.

This act will also be felt by any magic-users within a one mile radius, a feeling akin to "someone walking over your grave".

The staff then remains erect and projects beams of light from its head piece to the resting places of all the dead within 100 yards (to a maximum of 6d6).

A round later the skeletons of all those touched by the light will erupt from their tombs - tearing through dirt, smashing out of coffins etc, armed with any weapons they were buried with, and will obey a single, simple order given by the person who activated the staff (such as "attack my enemies").

The skeletons (see below) must remain within one mile of the staff, but will remain active as long as it isn't removed from the ground or destroyed (it takes only 10 hit points of damage from an edged weapon to break the staff). Should either of these things happen the skeletons will collapse back into a pile of bones where they stand.

Skeletons Of The Staff



#ENC: 6d6
HD: 1
AC: 8 [11]
#Atk: 1 (weapon or claw strike for 1d6)
Move: 12
ST: 17
Special:

  • Undead - immune to sleep, charm, mind control etc
  • Damage Resistance - edged/piercing weapons do only 1HP of damage per strike (plus any magical bonus). All other attacks do normal damage.
  • Indestructible - As long as the Rowan Staff which raised them is still intact whenever a skeleton loses all its hit points it will collapse into a pile of bones only to rise again a round later with its full hit points. Only if a skeleton is somehow pulverised (e.g. rock fall, giant attack etc) can it be eliminated  while the staff remains unbroken.

CL/XP: 3/60


NEW SPELL

Disarm 
Grey Magic
First Level

A refined version of the "Move" spell with a more specific purpose. With a range equal to the Wizard's Intelligence times 10ft, this spell can cause its victim to drop whatever they are holding in their hands (be it a weapon, shield, torch etc) if they fail a Saving Throw versus magic. However, if the victim is unaware that he is the target of a spell he makes two saves and can only use the lower score.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
And as an added "bonus" here is a link to a PDF download of my current character creation houserules for Crypts & Things. Some of these will be changing as I move forward with my new ideas for a campaign, but I thought people might be interested to see them as they stand.

This packet includes creation rules for the traditional fantasy races (ie. elf, dwarf, halfling), which will almost certainly not be staying in my next - and final - iteration of houserules as I'm seeking to take my interpretation of Crypts & Things back to its original human-centric swords and sorcery roots.
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