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

Saturday, 31 May 2014

What Horrors Await You...


Three recent trailers for horror films have whetted my appetite: all having "gaming inspiration" writ large over their concepts.

First up is Eli Roth's The Green Inferno, his homage to the classic cannibal horrors from the age of video nasties.



I've long wanted to run a survival horror adventure where the player-characters are lost in a jungle and menaced by cannibals. Wasn't James Raggi writing such a tale for Lamentations Of The Flame Princess at one stage?

The other two movies were drawn to my attention by my horror partner-in-crime, Paul: As Above, So Below and Rigor Mortis.


Although As Above, So Below looks like yet another (groan) "found footage" flick, it overcomes this creative shortcoming by its setting: the Paris Catacombs. I've wanted to visit these for years, but in the meantime this might serve up some vicarious thrills as well as throwing up some dungeoncrawl-related ideas.

Meanwhile Rigor Mortis looks like an inventive Asian horror with a slew of great imagery and, hopefully, some fascinating mythology.

The Week In TV...

 
After my initial ambivalence to Penny Dreadful (Sky Atlantic), the second episode totally won me over with its creepy seance, the introduction of a wonderfully louche Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney) and the genuinely surprising and dramatic introduction of another new character right at the end.


Several of my favourite shows have also reached an end of their runs recently. Warehouse 13 (SyFy) went out in style with its final ever episode. I must admit I got a bit choked up by the end.

Person Of Interest (Channel 5) and The Blacklist (Sky Living) both finished their seasons in style.

Rather annoyingly, although we are a whole year behind the US with the excellent Person Of Interest, Channel 5 has decided not to show the third season until next year. I suppose I should be pleased they're continuing to show it at all, given the generally cavalier attitude UK channels appear to have with intelligent genre shows.


Next week Da Vinci's Demons (Fox), Bates Motel (Universal) - which I remain on the fence about - and Castle (Alibi) reach the end of their current seasons - Castle going out with a mammoth double-length episode.

Even Game Of Thrones (Sky Atlantic) only has three weeks to run, while Fargo (Channel 4) has four, and both Grimm (Watch) and Nashville (More 4) have five.

It looks as though my crowded viewing calendar on the winter months might be opening up in a bit in coming weeks, allowing me time to catch up on my backlog of Blu-Rays and Netflix movies.

The Punisher: #Dirtylaundry (Fan Film)


NSFW!!!

Friday, 30 May 2014

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Beginning Of The End


Death, madness, carnage, a special guest appearance by Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury (following on from the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier), snappy dialogue, the redemption of Deathlok and Ward getting a righteous beat-down - what more could we have asked for from the season one finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?

The episode opened with souped-up Garrett going totally bonkers, much to Ward's discomfort, Cybertek trying to cut a deal with the US Government to sell them the Deathlok technology, Coulson's crew organising a raid on Cybertek's manufacturing plant and FitzSimmons trapped in an escape pod under 90ft of water.

Showrunners Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon brought their A-game to the script of Beginning Of The End with some brilliant moments of dialogue, such as the banter between Coulson and Fury while facing off against Garrett and Deathlok, or the incredibly moving scene between Fitz and Simmons, where - in the face of imminent death - Fitz finally lets Simmons know he loves her, without actually saying the words.

I was pleasantly surprised that, despite a number of hints, the mystery surrounding Skye's "monstrous" parents wasn't revealed and, given one of the episode's closing scenes, this is clearly going to be a serious sub-plot for season two.

By the end of the season, Coulson's team has changed almost beyond recognition. They've lost Ward (and good riddance, although I wouldn't be adverse to him escaping S.H.I.E.L.D. custody, gaining superpowers and becoming a villain) and possibly another member of the team, but gained Trip in the process. But all the characters have changed through the duration of the show, none are in the same psychological place they were back in the pilot.

Hopefully Mike Peterson (J. August Richards) aka Deathlok will become a regular recurring character next season as Coulson embarks on the major mission he was given by Fury.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. was a solid show from day one, but - after its rather perfunctory tie-in to Thor: The Dark World - it really took off in the second half of the season, with the extended, multi-episode, tie-in to The Winter Soldier, the collapse of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the rise of HYDRA.

Clearly there are elements there still to be dealt with, but hopefully the brains behind the show have realised it works best in this latter, serialised format. Sure, it needs its episodic stories, to sow the seeds of future extended plotlines, but perhaps it needs to minimise these and ramp up the bigger plots.


Coming Soon:

Clark Gregg on Season Two:



Hayley Atwell on Agent Carter:

[HOW] Stabby-Stabby Time...


After a chat with +c.r. brandon - author of Heroes & Other Worlds - about the subject of daggers and the optional damage bonus due to strength (every two points over the minimum required Strength gives you a +1 to damage, to a maximum of +3), I've agreed to test drive a rules adaptation for him with the Tuesday Knights.

Daggers have a required Strength of "1", meaning that even a human with the basic ST 8 will do +3 damage.

Therefore I'm trying out the following:
  • The ST bonus to damage is only applicable for weapons you are skilled in; and
  • Daggers do 1d3 (therefore a skilled knife-fighter with a ST8 will do 1d3+3 on a hit)
By the way, anyone just discovering the brilliance of Heroes & Other Worlds should join the Google+ community. The game's creator is an active participant on those forums and while the game is - of course - ready to play as written, he is always willing to discuss rules clarifications, possible amendments and alterations etc and  HOW is a robust enough system to withstand a bit of tinkering.

[HOW] Opening The Chronicles Of Cidri...


As is my wont, I have started a separate blog for our Heroes & Other Worlds campaign: Chronicles of Cidri.

At the moment it is very much a work in progress.

The only posts are duplicates of the five games we've already played (under Pete's stewardship, using The Fantasy Trip system), while the character pictures (which link to write-ups/stats etc of the characters I have details for) may well change if the player comes up with a better suggestion.

You can also find a larger version of +Simon Forster's brilliant colour map of the region where the campaign is currently set.

I shall continue to post actual play reports to both blogs, but should the campaign have legs (which I'm hoping it will), Chronicles will become a repository of background information.

Star Wars to Jedi: The Making Of A Saga - Parts One To Four (Of Nine)



From Star Wars to Jedi: The Making of a Saga is the classic documentary chronicling the creation of the original Star Wars trilogy.

Narrated by Mark Hamill, it features rare behind-the-scenes footage from Star Wars: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, and is officially available on YouTube for the first time.

HOW Are The Mnoren?

New Genesis

The default setting for The Fantasy Trip: In The Labyrinth RPG is the gigantic world of Cidri. Gamesmasters were only given about a dozen paragraphs of background to the world, but in those few sentences we learn that Cidri was built by an advanced race of humans - the Mnoren - with the ability to travel, unaided, to alternate worlds in other dimensions.

In all they discovered 371 alternate Earths and then used all their accumulated knowledge to build Cidri, a world of 48 continents for their sport and entertainment.

Then over the centuries the immortal Mnoren retreated from view and are now regarded as either bogeymen or distant gods by the many races they transplanted to their "new Earth".

So, who were they? I'm thinking a mixture of the ancient Mesopotamian Anunnaki - so favoured by the 'experts' on Ancient Aliens - and Jack Kirby's Fourth World pantheons of New Genesis and Apokolips (key players in DC Comics until the current iteration of the DC Universe).

Although our campaign has shifted from TFT to Heroes & Other Worlds, we are still using Cidri as our campaign setting.

I can see great potential in exploring the backstory - and fate - of the immortal Mnoren. I just hope our game runs long enough for me to start bringing elements of the world's "creation story" (and Ancient Aliens!) into the game mix

Tonight On Da Vinci's Demons...


Thursday, 29 May 2014

[HOW] Introducing Idgia...

Meredith came round today and created her character for our Heroes & Other Worlds campaign.


NAME: Imogen (known as "Idgia")

ST: 9
IQ: 9
DX: 14
EN: 10
MV: 7

SKILLS:
  • Professional Skill - Potter (3/IQ)
  • Thief (3/DX) - stealing things
  • Dagger  (3/DX)
  • Two-Weapon Combat (3/4/DX) - first attack at 3/DX, second weapon at 4/DX
  • Pick Lock/Trap (3/DX) - picking locks & disarming traps.
POSSESSIONS:
  • 2 x dagger (1d6)   ENC: 1
  • Flint & steel   ENC: 0.5
  • Lock pick set   ENC: 0.5
  • Waterskin   ENC: 0.5
  • Canvas Backpack (can carry +4 ENC)  ENC: 1
  • Caltrops (24)   ENC: 0.5
  • Chalk (12)   ENC: 0.25
  • Rope (50ft, hemp)   ENC: 2
Total Encumbrance: 6.25

Harold The Potter
Born and raised on the "wrong side of the street" in Dranning, Idgia was adopted by itinerant potter, Harold, when she was in her late teens and has travelled with him to Bendwyn, where they have made their home for the last few years.

Harold is unaware of Idgia's "criminal" background and the fact that she has kept her skills finely honed.

Spoilertastic Recap Of The Last Episode Of Game Of Thrones...


As there's been a week's gap in the flow of Game Of Thrones, I thought I'd run this to remind us all of where we're at before the next episode airs.

Prop Maps For Heroes & Other Worlds Campaign...


The other week I happened to stumble across a prop maker on eBay - standon123 - who was just testing the waters with her hand-drawn maps on hand-made paper.

Knowing I could always find a use for interesting looking maps I bid on a couple and eventually won them.

Chatting with Lucy about her maps she explained they could be delivered either without any text or with text, and she kindly agreed to include some names from the Tuesday Knights' campaign on the maps I won.

You can spot the familiar "Tekralh" name - that I use in all my campaigns these days - on both the continent map (the gigantic world of Cidri - from The Fantasy Trip - has 48 continents and these are the three I envision using in our campaign) and the country map (see below).

I was a bit vague with where I wanted the names as this is not a gamesmaster's map, but a prop for the players - aping the vagaries of early medieval cartography.

The country map depicts an area of the continent of Tekralh south of Tanander (as shown on +Simon Forster's map yesterday)

The maps arrived from Lucy yesterday (see picture at top), sealed with sealing wax and neatly tied with a ribbon for reusability (I undid the ribbon to photograph the maps then tied them back up - although not as neatly as they were originally - being careful not to damage the wax seals).


Lucy is now selling a variety of maps, as well as some prop potion bottles with "effect" labels, as 'buy it now' items and I can highly recommend them.

All Change For The Tuesday Knights...


Coming home the other night from a wedding anniversary meal with Rachel and her parents, I discovered I had an email waiting for me from Pete - asking if I'd be willing to take over running the campaign for a couple of sessions.

Originally I'd planned to see the year out with our TFT (now Heroes & Other Worlds) campaign as a player before slipping into my new role as "co-gamesmaster", but after my initial shock (our next session is scheduled for Tuesday), I thought: "why the hell not?"

Rather than me faffing around for several months and then getting in a panic as January rolled round, it's probably better to throw me in the deep end and get my GMing stint under way.

Any campaign/world-building I come up with can be backfilled retrospectively once my part of the campaign is up and running.

Of course I'm trying to chase down the members of the Tuesday Knights before the next session so I can get hold of their character sheets and translate them from The Fantasy Trip over to Heroes & Other Worlds (which isn't really that difficult I'd just like to get it done before the game starts, to save time).

Meredith is popping round this afternoon to create a new character, to replace the late lamented Veriel Whisperwind, and then all I need to find is a simple adventure to ease us all in to the slightly different rules system and new table dynamic.

Wish me (and the Tuesday Knights) luck!

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Prepare For The Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes...

[GUEST POST] The First Rule Of WRiTE CLUB Is You Talk About WRiTE CLUB...


By DL Hammons

First off, I’d like to thank Tim for the opportunity to talk to you today about something near and dear to my heart…WRiTE CLUB. My modest writing contest has proven so popular that the DFW Writers Conference is now considering incorporating it into their agenda for 2015.

For the newbies out there, let me explain what WRiTE CLUB is. It’s a modest writing competition whose inspiration was derived from the movie FIGHT CLUB. There are numerous versions of this concept around the Internet, but nothing like we do it. Its essence embodies simple, good-natured competition, with lots and lots of fun sprinkled on top.

Over the course of eight weeks I hold twice-weekly bouts in which the winners advance to the play-offs, which will ultimately lead to a single champion. Bouts between who…or what…you ask? Anonymous 500 word writing samples, submitted under a pen name by anyone who wishes to take part, that’s who. The writing can be any genre, any style (even poetry) with the word count being the only restriction. It’s a way to get your writing in front of a lot of readers, without having to suffer the agony of exposure.

And the winners are determined by WRiTE CLUB readers!

To find out how to become part of the fun just head on over to DLHammons.com and click on the WRiTE CLUB tab.

Submissions are open until Saturday (May 31).

After that date a panel of a dozen judges will read all of the entries we received and pre-select 32 of the best writing samples to climb into the ring.

Those 32 participants will then be randomly matched to compete over the next eight weeks, each of them hoping to make it into the play-off rounds and moving towards the ultimate goal – WRiTE CLUB Champion. No one (other than my wife)…not even the judges being used to pre-select the 32 contestants, will see the true identity of any sample. Unless you win, of course.

Again this year, the most exciting part is the winner of the final round will be chosen by a panel of publishing industry professionals!
Judges include New York Times best-selling and multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning horror and thriller author Jonathan Maberry, agents Katie Grim of Don Congdon Associates, Margaret Bail of the Andrea Hurst Agency, Sarah Negovetich of the Corvisiero Literary Agency, Brittany Booker of The Booker Albert Literary Agency. Also included is Candace Havens, Editorial Director of Entangled Publishing Covet line, authors Les Edgerton and Lydia Kang, and previous WRiTE CLUB winners Tiana Smith (2011), Mark Hough (2012) and Tex Thompson (2013).

Are you willing to WRiTE for what you want? Then crack those knuckles and get ready to flex that imagination. And whatever you do, tell your friends!

WRiTE CLUB – The contest where the audience gets clobbered!

Simon Forster Map For The Heroes & Other Worlds Campaign...


As Pete and I are moving his Fantasy Trip campaign into the 21st Century by updating it to the Heroes & Other Worlds rules system, I felt - as newly appointed co-GM - that we should also do something about the old setting map.

So I approached mapping guru +Simon Forster (whose maps I have raved about before) about commissioning him to transform the black and white hex map from The Fantasy Trip's In The Labyrinth, from 1980,  which we have been using as the setting for our campaign, into a modern, colourful map - but still retaining that old school feel.

And as you can see the result is incredible. Note, we even added in the village of Dundraville from the Tuesday Knights' recent run of sessions.

Bringing Fluffy Noir To Kickstarter...


 "In the fluffy noir world of Torsobear, not all toys play nice!

Welcome to the city of Toyburg, where the streets are teeming with crime, passion, and murders most foul. They are walked (for the most part) by grim detectives, burned-out has-beens, femme fatales and tragic heroes.

The dismembered bodies of teddy bears are being found in back alleys of Mindy Mile district, and it’s up to our hero, rookie detective Ruxby Bear and his partner officer Hazbrow to solve this string of murders, no matter how high and far the clues take them.

Between cases, we take a look into the lives of Toyburg’s citizens, police and criminals. No matter where you turn, this city has something sinister hidden just behind the storybook surface.


Remember, it’s always fun until someone gets hurt.
..
"
Torsobear is a story about the inevitable loss of innocence in a brutal world, first created by Brett Uren (who was also responsible for the eye-catching Kuzimu covered on HeroPress back in 2012) for the digital anthology, Outré.

Expanding on the original short story, Yarns From Toyburg pulls a host of new and established creators into exploring the twisted world of Fluffy Noir.

Torsobear introduced the character of Ruxby and Hazbrow, childrens’ toys who are thrown into a chilling noir cycle of murder, deceit and intrigue, where the horror of events stands in stark contrast to the bright and cheerful world in which they take place.

The toys of Toyburg blissfully enjoy their waking lives. Most will never encounter anything nasty. But when they sleep, all will experience the strange and sometimes disturbing violation of The Playtime. Sometimes, they remember.

The book will be offered via a Kickstarter campaign and first week pledges will get a special extra reward of a sketch from the creator on the inside front cover of the book, in addition to any other rewards for their pledge level.

The basic pledge packages for the book alone will be:
  • Digital price - $10
  • Hardcopy price  - $25

Stories in the 104-page book include:
  • Clean heart, dirty paws – Brett Uren
  • Dress to impress - Frank Martin/Joel Cotejar
  • Rich toy, poor toy - Grainne McEntee, Matt Rooke
  • Some assembly required - Cy Dethan/Peter Mason/Nic Wilkinson
  • She sang for buttons, she unstitched my heart – Brett Uren/Harold Saxon/Mick Schubert
  • The collector - Glenn Møane/Carlos Nicolas Zamudio/Jon Scrivens
  • A new hopelessness - Kieran Squires and Faye Harmon
  • The big wind up - Janos Honkonen/Saoirse Louise Towler/Mick Schubert
  • Home invasion – Brett Uren/Brockton McKinney/Harold Saxon
  • Sour in the sweet - Jake Young/Randy Haldeman/Brett Uren
  • We all fall down, playing it the hard way – Brett Uren

You can find out more and keep up to date with the fundraising campaign check out:


Ruxby Bear

Wonder Woman Wednesday...


Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Random Stats For Heroes & Other Worlds...


Heroes & Other Worlds uses a simple 'point distribution' across four statistics for the generation of player-characters, but it struck me how easy it would be to mix things up a bit with a random generation method, and yet still stay within the power level the game aims for.

The method requires the use of "average dice" - old school six-sided wargaming dice numbered 2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 5 - which are readily available from online dice stores, eBay etc.

You then roll three "average" dice for each stat (Strength, Intelligence, Dexterity, Endurance), generating a score between six and 15, but leaning towards the nine to 12 range, and modify by race.

Racial modifications:
  • Elf: -2ST, +2 DX, +1 IQ, -1 EN
  • Dwarf: +1ST, -2DX, +1EN
  • Halfling: -2ST, +1DX, +1EN

Gathering Of Gruesome Grimoires...


There's an article over on Oddee today, listing "the nine most eerie books and grimoires of all time", which is pure RPG fodder.

From Call of Cthulhu through to Dungeons & Dragons, this list has something to inspire every gamesmaster with its mix of modern and historic tomes. Although the Oddee piece doesn't have much detail on each book, every listing has a link to a larger article elsewhere on the Internet.

For Those Who've Been Missing Spellfury...

While not a new episode of the fantasy web serial, Spellfury, here's a couple of behind-the-scenes/test sequences from creator Travis Gordon - teasing an upcoming episode:



The most recent second season episode, from August last year, can be found here.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Deadlands Won't Stay Dead...


The latest fundraising Bundle Of Holding collection of RPG PDFs is packed full o' Weird West action - Deadlands style.

This is the original (pre-Savage Worlds, pre-d20, pre-GURPS) flavour of Deadlands with its colourful mechanical mix of dice, poker chips and playing cards.

Available for another week, for just US$10.95, you get four core titles (retail value $30) as DRM-free, non-watermarked PDF ebooks:
  • Weird West Player's Guide (retail price $7.50): The core book for players, with the 2004 update to the original 1996 rules and setting that started it all.
  • Marshal's Handbook (retail $7.50): The Game Master's guide to the Weird West of 1876.
  • Rascals, Varmints, & Critters (retail $7.50): Scores of desperadoes, abominations, and freaks.
  • Smith & Robards Catalog (retail $7.50): A full range of weapons and equipment, plus weird mad-scientist gizmos and rules for fantastic devices and the madm- um, geniuses who create them.
However, if you pay more than the threshold price (starting at $18.95), you'll also get five bonus titles:
  • The Agency: Men in Black Dusters (retail $7.50): One of the highest-rated Deadlands supplements, this training manual documents secrets the Agency (a secret service of the Weird West) doesn't want you to know, and presents special equipment that give their operatives an edge.
  • Book o' the Dead (retail $7.50): The secrets of those who have passed beyond the veil - and back. New rules for generating undead heroes, as well as over 50 new mystical Harrowed powers.
  • Canyon o' Doom (retail $7.50): The native peoples call it the House of Stone and Light. The western pioneers call it the Grand Canyon. In its shadowed depths, unnatural things wait. An epic 128-page adventure.
  • The Collegium (retail $7.50): The intrigue-filled association of mad scientists in the Great Maze boomtown, Gomorra, and their newest, least stable steamtech inventions.
  • Fire & Brimstone (retail $7.50): The blessed folks of the Weird West - Baptist Bible-thumpers, frontier rabbis, soapbox evangelists, and wandering Buddhist monks. New miracles, divine interventions, and Edges for your six-gun-totin', hickory-stick-swingin' holy avenger.

Ten per cent of payments is split evenly between two charities selected by Pinnacle Entertainment owner and Deadlands designer Shane Lacy Hensley: the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS).

Documentary Of The Week: Comics In Focus - Chris Claremont's X-Men (2014)


Comics In Focus: Chris Claremont's X-Men is a fascinating 40-minute documentary about how Claremont's epic 17 year run on the X-Men became a victim of its own success.

From the Sequart Organization, who were also resposnible for the Grant Morrison documentary Talking With Gods, this short feature (with 45 minutes of deleted scenes, as well as two 20-minute collations of supplementary interviews) primarily focuses on talking to Claremont himself about his experience.

This is intercut with input from comic book academics and other major figures from the Marvel bullpen of the 1980s, namely Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter and Claremont collaborators' Ann Nocenti and Louise Simonson.

It addresses issues ranging from the rehabilitation of Magneto, the popularity of Wolverine, the background to Days Of Future Past to the Dark Phoenix saga, the death of Jean Grey and management's decision to bring her back.

Claremont also discusses the organic nature of comic book storytelling and (in the cut scenes) shares his views on the X-Men movies, particularly First Class.

Sadly changes in Marvel's ownership meant eventually the X-Men became seen as simply a cash cow to be milked for every dollar that could be squeezed out of the commodity and changes in editorial direction meant Claremont was removed from the comic he had turned into one of the best-selling titles of all time without so much as a "thank you".

I only wish the main feature had been longer. Claremont, Nocenti and Simonson are all charismatic speakers who clearly care passionately about these characters and have a great rapport when they are together; the geek in me would have loved for them to have gotten more into the thinking behind some of the less well-publicised storylines.

Seventeen years on a title is surely worth more than 40 minutes?

Barney Watches Telly...


On Saturday, we took Barney to the Wolfit pet store in Tonbridge High Street, where the lovely lady clips his nails for us (a bunny mani pedi, as we called it).

She commented how chilled he was, so when we got home we decided to let him stay indoors with us - on my lap (on an old towel) - while we watched telly (the penultimate episode of season two of Person Of Interest).

This is a big breakthrough for us, as the only time he's stayed indoors with us before (during the storm season the other year) he was in his large "indoor cage".

His heart was racing a bit at the start, as this was all very new for him, but eventually he settled down and got himself comfortable on my lap.

Hopefully, this will now become a regular event and, maybe, it'll make Barney a bit more sociable. But one step at a time...

Musical Monday: A Million Ways To Die...



Alan Jackson performs A Million Ways To Die from western comedy A Million Ways to Die in the West which opens this week.

Seth MacFarlane directs, produces, co-writes and plays the role of the cowardly sheep farmer Albert in the film.

And here's a rather NSFW (as you'd expect from Seth MacFarlane) behind-the-scenes feature:

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Well Done, Us!


Seven years ago today Rachel and I got married. And what an adventure it has been since then.

We celebrated our anniversary today with a gorgeous lunch at The Kentish Hare, a new pub/restaurant in Bidborough (just outside Tonbridge).

Rachel had organised the PR for the restaurant's opening and I was very proud of her when the general manager came over for a chat while we were eating. As we left, we stopped for a chat with a freelance photographer (and his wife, also celebrating their wedding anniversary) that Rachel worked with and then said 'hello' to another of her clients who was dining there with his family.

We'd exchanged gifts in the morning. I'd got Rachel a bracelet she wanted and the DVD box set of 2012 (the excellent Britcom about organising the Olympics).

Rachel gave me Masters In Miniature, the beautiful, full-colour, hardback photographic book by the Perry brothers, showcasing the amazing range of historical miniatures they produce.


She'd even got me a signed copy.


I also discovered I had a second present that is "coming soon", but is currently still being assembled.

We've got another celebratory meal planned later in the week, with Rachel's parents, back at Salomons in Southborough, where we got married.

[OPINION POLL] Which Upcoming Comic Book TV Show Are You Most Excited About?



Countries across Europe took to the ballot box this week to decide the make-up of the European Parliament (I understand they went with Revlon). But let's be honest the only vote that really matters is the HeroPress opinion poll on the most eagerly-anticipated comic book/superhero television show.

The voting form is at the top of this blog or can be found here.

There are eight candidates: Agent Carter; Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.; Arrow; Constantine; Gotham; Heroes: Reborn; The Defenders (Daredevil/Iron Fist/Luke Cage/Jessica Jones); and The Flash.

Simply select the show you are most looking forward to, click the relevant button and engage in the democratic process.

The poll will remain open for one more week, and I'll publish the results in the first week of June.

I Only Come Out Of My Protective Shell For The Olympics And The World Cup...

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Don't Have Nightmares: David Lynch's Return Of The Jedi...



As much as I love Return Of The Jedi, I think I'd love David Lynch's version just that bit more.

Put together by YouTuber C-SPIT and brought to my attention by Al Bruno III.

"My First Character..."


My First Character is an amazing comic strip that really sells the fun and excitement of Dungeons & Dragons (and by extension all fantasy RPGs).

This joyous strip, which celebrates everything that is great about my favourite hobby, is from Dungeons & Donuts on Tumblr, with part two coming soon.

The Week In TV...


This week has been all about endings. The most impressive was the Arrow (Sky One) second season finale which had Oliver and his crew facing off against Slade Wilson and his army of indestructible goons, fighting for the future of Starling City.

Cracking stuff as we've come to expect with some interesting set-ups for the third season.

I can't believe I struggled to get into this show when it first started. I now can't imagine my viewing landscape without it and hope it gets a 10 year run like the inferior Smallville managed.

We've already got The Flash spin-off to look forward to, but the finale reminded me that what we really needed to see was a Suicide Squad spin-off. A rotating cast of supervillains and anti-heroes tackling dangerous, off-the-book missions for the American government sounds great - and it could draw from both the Arrow and The Flash gallery of rogues.


And talking of anti-heroes: From Dusk Till Dawn wrapped up its 10-episode first season on Netflix this week. While paying lip-service to the original movie, the show had built up its own mythology, expanding and extrapolating what we knew from the film.

For the most part the additional backstory worked, but the last couple of episodes felt weak in comparison to the show's strong middle run. Once the Gecko brothers - and their hostages and assorted hangers-on - got into the maze under the Titty Twister things went a bit sideways. What started as an interesting Dungeons & Dragons-style diversion quickly fell into a cheesy "supernatural challenges cooked up from your own memories" routine.

This was a disappointing turn of events and the stronger elements remained with the goings-on in the "real world", rather than the illusory robbery the Gecko's were tasked with pulling off.

There was also the strange tonal change towards the end of the season in that suddenly everyone was dropping F-bombs, where the language up to about episode seven or eight was very mainstream. As if by magic, someone suddenly remembered that the source material was peppered with profanity so it was probably a good idea to inject some into the show... along with gonzo amounts of gore.


Like the film, the show also suffered from inconsistencies in what the vampires (which weren't really vampires, of course) could actually do, what their weaknesses were etc

That said, From Dusk Till Dawn held my interest enough to make me interested in where it goes next as it will now be heading into completely uncharted waters.

Next week, we bid an emotional farewell to one of my favourite shows: Warehouse 13. It still beggars belief that SyFy continues crap like Lost Girl and Continuum, but has decided to call it a day on this unique show.

Here's a trailer for the last ever episode, followed by a three-minute (musical) preview clip:



Then we finish things off with some final interviews with the cast:

The Punisher: No Mercy (Fan Film)


NSFW!!!

Friday, 23 May 2014

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Ragtag


In this penultimate episode of season one, we learned the story of Ward's unorthodox recruitment into S.H.I.E.L.D (and HYDRA) by John Garrett through a series of flashbacks that broke up the main story of Coulson's crew infiltrating Cybertek to unearth their connection to HYDRA's schemes.

Without the resources of S.H.I.E.L.D. to call upon, the team turned to Trip who dug up his grandfather's Howling Commandos' spy kit of wonderful retro toys for the team to use.

This helped interject some great comedy in the episode before things got really dark towards the end.

We learned some secrets about Garrett and got another (major) clue about the truth of Skye's "secret origin" - which I'm strongly suspecting has some alien connotation (please let her be a skrull, please, please... my geeky grin would be visible from the moon if that turns out to be the case).


And I think we got the final proof - if it was needed - that Ward is beyond saving; although I felt very sorry for Fitz who refused to believe that his friend was really a bad guy.

The episode's ending left us with some major cliffhangers going into next week's season closer as well as an insight into HYDRA's plans for the future, and Ian Quinn's role in them.

Ragtag was a solid pre-finale episode, gearing all the major players up for the epic final confrontation... and I can't wait.

After it's initial hic-cup with The Magical Place (and a lot of that came from the interminable wait and the overhyping, during that wait, of what to expect), the second half of this season has really shown what Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is capable of when it breaks away from a "freak-of-week" format, and draws upon the mythology it has created as well as the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

It took its time to find its feet, and shake off a lot of people's misconceptions about what form the show was going to take, but those of us who have loyally stuck with it have been rewarded with a magnificent slice of live-action comic book adventure.

Next Time:

Nefertiti Rises From The Grave...


Although it failed to fund at Kickstarter, Nefertiti Overdrive will rise from the dead, thanks to the perseverance of writer Fraser Ronald.

This week he told backers of his kick ass, unhistorical Ancient Egyptian RPG that he was currently working on a "quickstart" set of rules that would be released for free, to generate some traction for the game and positive word-of-mouth.

Then a couple of months after that he would take to Kickstarter again, with Nefertiti Overdrive: High Octane Action in Ancient Egypt (a change to the game's subtitle, which was previously "Ancient Egyptian Wuxia"), with a reconsidered budget, new promotional video and more evocative text.

From The Set Of Maleficent...

Fleamarket Friday: Bringing Beacon Point Out Of The Shadows And Into The Light...


Some of you may remember the trailer I posted back in January for a neat-looking "hikers get lost and stumble across terrifying secret" movie called Beacon Point.

Now writer/director Eric Blue is looking to raise $20,000 on Kickstarter, by June 5, to put the finishing touches to the movie.

He explains on the film's Kickstarter page:
"We are eighty per cent completed with Beacon Point. It has already been shot and edited, and the movie looks amazing. The hard part is over. We just need a bit more money to really take our movie to the next level. We plan to use the money from this campaign to get world class visual FX, sound and colour correction, and then share our movie with the world."
Check out the campaign site to survey the various levels of investment and the incentives to back the movie, which range from soundtracks, DVDs, downloads and Blu-Rays up to props, theatre tickets, première tickets etc

As you will see in the promotional clip below, the campaign is being supported by Eric's friend Melissa McBride - aka Carol from The Walking Dead - and she's contributed some signed items that are available to investors as well.

Tonight On Da Vinci's Demons...

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Dark Dungeons: A Very BAD Idea!


A live-action adaptation of the infamous "Chick Tract" Dark Dungeons - about how Dungeons & Dragons is a gateway to the occult - is debuting at Gen Con this year and will then be available on DVD.

The film was funded through Kickstarter and made by the team that made The Gamers and other geeky comedies. I know a lot of people are looking forward to seeing this parody and having a great laugh.

Comparisons have been made to the old 1930's Reefer Madness movie that evolved from a genuine PSA into a cult classic, but the problem with that comparison is that Reefer Madness (originally called Tell Your Children) was meant to be taken seriously and happened, through the passage of time and education, to be eventually seen as "so bad it was good".


But Dark Dungeons (while obviously a send-up to anyone with their wits about them) is being played straight, as an earnest translation of Jack Chick's 22-panel comic to film.

Now, I realise I'm almost certainly in the minority here, but I think this is a very bad idea. It appears to be simultaneously poking fundamentalists with a burning torch to get a rise out of them and handing it to them so they can re-ignite the nonsensical Satanic Panic of the 1980s.

I honestly believe there is a chance this could bite our hobby in the arse. I understand the filmmakers had to tell Chick they were taking the subject matter seriously to get the rights to make the film - and that's how it will be perceived by certain, vocal parties. As a true representation of gaming.

I've thought this was a bad idea from the start and now it's actually seeing the light of day I think it's an even worse idea. I think the filmmakers - with their deliberately po-faced website about the film - are potentially being too clever for their own good.


I hope I'm wrong, but I just can't see anything positive coming from the release of this film - no matter how many times "gamers in the know" say: "Yeah, but it's a parody of the Chick Tracts". Because it's not. And it could potentially bring these erroneous ideas to a wider audience previously unaware of Chick's 1984 attack on gaming.

It's akin to handing a pyromaniac a box of matches and assuming he's going to understand you only want him to light the barbecue.

Once your creation has been released into the wild, no matter what your intentions, you have no control on how it will be perceived.

Reefer Madness was meant to be taken seriously and ended up being a laughing stock, Dark Dungeons is clearly meant to be a comedy, but could so easily end up being taken seriously.

Bringing The Planet Of The Apes To Life...



Characters come to life in this before and after split-screen first look, featuring Andy Serkis, Toby Kebbell and the cast of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Meet The Night Blogger...

art by Mike Leonard

Author and friend of HeroPress Al Bruno III has collated a page of links to all the chapters of his Night Blogger stories (some of which have appeared here as well), about supernatural investigator Brian Foster aka The Night Blogger.

Included on the page are also YouTube films of dramatic readings of The Graveyard Game as well as podcast episodes of the same story.

If you haven't already discovered the Night Blogger, then saunter on over to Al's occasionally rather racy blog, The Wit And Weirdness Of Al Bruno III, and say "hi".
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