Tuesday, 31 May 2016
The recent wind and rain has taken its toll on our primary sunflower, our best hope of growing a taller plant than our neighbours.
Went out to check it this afternoon, and - as you can see from the picture above - the sunflower's stem had been snapped and it's lying at 90 degrees!
Hopefully one of the 'secondary' growths will now step up...
Ahead of the upcoming publication of Adversaries, a 176-page sourcebook of supervillains for Icons, the games' creator - and one of the most creative minds in the field of superhero RPGs - Steve Kenson has been sharing, on his blog, a selection of characters to be featured in the collection.
So far, we've met:
Monday, 30 May 2016
As Hive races to release his Inhuman pathogen on the world, S.H.I.E.L.D. races to stop it.
Meanwhile, free from Hive's sway, Daisy is in custody back at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, a gaunt shadow of her former self, broken and guilt-ridden, angry at what Hive made her do and the suffering she caused.
Even once Hive - having been zapped with a weaponised version of the memory machine - is captured, there's still a feeling of unease as his minions remain on the loose with a stolen warhead.
While occasionally hobbled by some very heavy-handed, on-the-nose, foreshadowing, Absolution grabbed your attention from the get-go and managed to keep up the momentum until its wonderful cliffhanger.
The first half of the episode was all gung-ho spy-fi action, while the second half eased more into thriller territory - once Hive had been captured and transported to S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters.
Major kudos to Brett Dalton as Hive. Back when Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. began he came in for a lot of stick for his robotic performance as square-jawed Grant Ward - which in retrospect we realise was intentional - but now, as the Inhuman hive-mind occupying Ward's body, he's become an ultracool, and terrifying, villain.
The other stand-out character here, although in a smaller, supporting, role, was John Hannah as amoral scientist Holden Radcliffe. While it's unlikely that Hive will be hanging around after next week's episode, I hope some way is found to keep Radcliffe on the S.H.I.E.L.D. payroll.
Inspired by the unexpectedly brilliant DC Universe: Rebirth, the DC comics draught on my pull list has come to an end.
I'd already asked Andy at Paradox Comics to add the new Flash title to my list (thought it would make a change to read the story as it unfolds, rather than waiting for the trades) and Action Comics (on the recommendation of Charles Rutledge, who knows his Superman better than most).
But off the back of the Rebirth launch issue, I've also added Titans and Aquaman (both by Dan Abnett, a favourite author of mine) as well as Batman and Teen Titans.
More than anything I want to see how the overarching plot - as dropped on us at the end of DC Universe: Rebirth - plays out.
As is my wont, I'd managed to avoid any spoilers and so reading that issue - which was the first comic I opened when my latest bundle arrived from Paradox this week - I was taken totally by surprise by what Batman dug out of the wall of the Batcave.
I was, honestly, saying out loud to myself, "no, no, no" (in a positive, geekgasm-y, way) and as I reached the epilogue of this bumper special issue I had the broadest fanboy grin on my face imaginable.
This was wonderful stuff, positive and exciting (as well as an obvious apology for the tiresome grimness of the New 52 era... take note, Zack Snyder), without the need for clickbait-y crass marketing.
You could tell that once more the story was king.
Of course, this issue was the work of Geoff Johns, who is now stepping away from comics to focus on the movie side of the DC Universe, so we will have to wait and see whether all the other writers on the relaunched titles will be singing from the same hymn sheet.
If they aren't then these comics can just as easily get cut from my pull list again. Of course, should they turn out to be as good as DC Universe: Rebirth then I might have to look at axing some other, less enticing, titles from my list (which could hit my diminishing Marvel titles).
Looking back at the article I wrote last July about the post-Secret Wars era of Marvel superhero titles, I only found 13 titles (eight from the Spider-verse) to include in my list.
That's now changed to:
- Doctor Strange
- Doctor Strange: Last Days Of Magic
- Power Man & Iron Fist
- A Year Of Marvels
- Amazing Spider-Man
- Web Warriors
- Steve Rogers: Captain America
- Guardians Of Infinity
I'm also not sure what'll happen to Guardians Of Infinity as Dan Abnett has signed an exclusive deal with DC, and it was only the strength of his contributions that kept this title on my list. Annoyingly each issue is split in two with an unconnected Guardians tale, by different authors, taking up the latter half of the title.
So that could be leaving the list soon as well, I suppose.
There are some strong titles in this part of my pull list (e.g. Doctor Strange, Amazing Spider-Man, Spidey, and Daredevil) but really things aren't looking good for Marvel's superheroes at present... and that's coming from a dyed-in-the-wool Marvel zombie!
Sunday, 29 May 2016
What a great week ahead of us for the Berlantiverse/DC superheroes TV shows on Sky One (in the UK).
Friday sees the long-awaited arrival of the Flash/Supergirl team-up in the Supergirl episode Worlds Finest.
Before that we have the season two finale of The Flash on Tuesday (I've studiously avoided spoilers, but have a good idea of who the "man in the iron mask" is, supported by a passing comment from Henry Allen a few episodes ago) and then the potentially-apocalyptic season four finale of Arrow on Wednesday.
We've got about another month's worth of Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow and that'll be it for this particular TV universe until the shows return to the UK.
When will be at the whim of the scheduling gods, who might hold off debuting the new seasons simultaneously with North America again, to avoid the gaps in season runs that seem to be de rigueur in the States.
Meanwhile, tonight sees the penultimate episode of season three of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. airing on E4 (the two-part finale has been split over two weeks).
Mark Craddock, author of the Cross Planes blog, is a veritable machine when it comes to turning out roleplaying game material, either free on his blog or through Dungeon Masters Guild. Among the many games system he supports are the latest iteration of Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Labyrinth Lord, Cypher System (as used in Numenera and The Strange), Savage Worlds, Fate, 13th Age, and Icons.
(1) How long have you been blogging, and how’d you get into it in the first place?
I've been blogging for five years. I was big into the OSR [old school renaissance] and decided to add my voice to the chorus. At the same time I had just returned to role playing after a three year sabbatical and D&D Next had just been releases for playtest and I was part of Wizard Of The Coast's internal group.
(2) What do you blog about, and how frequently do you post?
My posts are RPG related and at this point are generally game mechanics, monsters, or magic items. I post at least once a day.
(3) How does your blog stand out from all the rest?
One, I think the post frequency and, two, that I offer content for my favourite games.
|Mark's Character Crucible: The Celestial (a Warlock's Otherworldly patron for use with 5e D&D)|
(4) What’s the best (and worst) thing about blogging?
The best is coming up with an idea and sharing it, of seeing yourself evolve and to realize that you write something every day. It's also cool to get to know people from all over the world, and in my case, to become friends with them, especially people whose blogs inspired me to start mine. The worst is knowing that you need content and having to ignore "writer's block".
(5) Do you have any self-imposed rules (or guidelines) for your blog?
I avoid personal opinions and getting involved in any drama going through the gaming blogosphere. My blog is here to entertain people (hopefully) and to try to give them new content to use in their games.
(6) Name one blog everyone should be reading (other than your own).
Limiting it to one is really tough, but I'll go with From the Sorcerer's Skull by Trey Causey.
|Mark's Deities And Domains: Speciality Priests Of The Forgotten Realms |
(containing 39 feats for the 37 Forgotten Realms deities
listed in the D&D Fifth Edition Player’s Handbook)
Saturday, 28 May 2016
As a long-time Teen Titans fan, the latest addition to the ever-growing animated DC Universe made me a very happy customer.
Justice League vs Teen Titans may only be 79 minutes long, but its frenetic pacing and ultra-tight script means there's a lot of story and character development squeezed into that running time.
There's even a brief mid-credits scene, presumably setting up a planned sequel, that gave me goosebumps, as it foreshadows a storyline from the comics that meant a lot to me when I read it for the first time.
Having disobeyed Batman during a Justice League tussle with the Legion Of Doom, Damian Wayne aka Robin (Stuart Allan) is 'exiled' to the Teen Titans to learn about teamwork.
Meanwhile, Trigon (Jon Bernthal aka The Punisher) - the demonic father of Teen Titan's member, Raven (American Horror Story's Taissa Farmiga) - is looking to conquer Earth by forcing his daughter to open a portal from his hell dimension to our world.
To distract the Titans while he does this and to generally aid his cause, Trigon sends his demons to possess members of the Justice League.
Justice League vs Teen Titans is simply fantastic, delivering everything from epic, straight-off-the-comic-book-page superhero-versus-supervillain fisticuffs to a beautifully evocative visit to Trigon's home dimension in the final act.
There was intriguing revelation in this latter sequence that possibly tied Damian's heritage - through Ra's Al Ghul - in to Trigon, but this was left delightfully ambiguous. Was it Raven's demonic father playing tricks with Batman's son or was he really facing the 'ghost' of his grandfather (Terrence 'T.C.' Carson)?
However, some of the most interesting character insights came from the small moments that saw the heroes in their civilian guises, such as Superman (Jerry O'Connell) doing his laundry or Starfire (Kari Wahlgren) taking the Titans to a funfair.
Character-wise, Damian has the best arc, growing organically from a total ass into genuine hero, while Raven's backstory - which drives the plot - is really well sketched out.
The humorous elements of the film primarily come from my old time spirit animal Garfield Logan aka Beast Boy (From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series's Brandon Soo Hoo).
His wisecracking, irreverent comic book persona, from the Marv Wolfman/George Perez era of the New Teen Titans, helped shape the DNA of my own Acrobatic Flea character - in our Villains & Vigilantes games - probably even more than Spider-Man (the Flea's other great influence) at that time.
Stylistically, Justice League vs Teen Titans sticks to the visuals of the recent Justice League animated movies, and while they're not my favourite character designs (particularly Superman and Wonder Woman in their New 52 outfits), I welcome the continuity.
If I had to find fault with the film, though, it would be the odd decision to over-sexualise Starfire in weirdly inappropriate ways - such as her 'transformation' sequence that 'required' her to be naked and then saw elements of her costume erupting from her lady parts, and Starfire's earlier Skype conversation with Nightwing (Firefly's Sean Maher) when the laptop camera repeatedly zoomed in on her breasts!
This aside, the film is totally engrossing and has me very excited for the possible Teen Titans film that's hinted at in the final scene, although I wonder how the whole Rebirth event in the comics will impact the animated DC Universe (for example, the Superman seen here - who can be a bit of a dick, it must be said - is no longer the Superman of the comic book universe, having just been killed off, and his dumb Nehru collar costume, thankfully, retired).
The Blu-Ray also includes, as well as several other features and bonus cartoons, a great documentary about the comic book history of the Teen Titans.
This is the sort of extra you used to see all the time supporting superhero/comic book films and shows, but are sadly few and far between these days. So this was particularly welcome, especially as we got to hear Marv Wolfman - among others - talking about my favourite DC superteam, the Teen Titans.
Friday, 27 May 2016
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Stephen Fender delivers incredible Kickstarters.
Last year it was his Star Trek: The Four Years War campaign, and this week another box arrived from Starfleet Command - via Mr Fender in the States - full of goodies from his most recent fundraiser: The Romulan War And Tech Manual Kickstarter (see the picture above).
To reiterate what I wrote last August: Kickstarters can be such a crapshoot. You pays ya money, you takes ya chance!
While the majority, in my experience, deliver on their promises (although, sometimes, a tad belatedly), there are a few where the finished product is less than impressive (but it's kinda too late by then) and there are a minority that turn out to be nightmares of missed deadlines, lies and obfuscation (you just need to follow Erik Tenkar's blog to watch these trainwrecks unfold).
I was in The Romulan War And Tech Manual Kickstarter at the Junior Officer level (for the full-colour, paperback copy of the Four Years War technical manual and the three books of the Romulan War series in 6"x9" paperback), and just look at all the treasures that arrived the other day, including posters, an extra hardback book, and multiple patches.
Another thing that makes Stephen such a reliable,and trustworthy, Kickstarter creator is his eagerness to keep backers in the loop, during every step of the project, and his willingness to communicate with investors.
Towards the end of the fulfilment process, Stephen and I exchanged several messages concerning the unexpected hike in trans-Atlantic shipping costs that cropped up between the end of the Kickstarter and when the time came to send out the backer rewards.
And I have to go on record and say that Stephen is an officer and a gentleman, a true representation of the positive, optimistic, benevolent universe that Gene Roddenberry dreamed of when he first created Star Trek.
Although the ridiculous postage costs now mean it's unlikely I'll personally be backing many more Kickstarters based in the United States in the future (those that involve mailing out heavy items, anyway), I must say that if you're a fan of Star Trek then you need to keep an eye on Stephen's fan projects.
Live long and prosper, Stephen Fender!
When a young solicitor, Jonathan Harker, visits the heart of Transylvania - ostensibly to meet reclusive nobleman Count Dracula - he cannot begin to imagine what horrors might lie in store for him there… or the chain of events he will set in motion at Castle Dracula.Released yesterday (119 years to the day since Bram Stoker's world-famous novel was first published), Dracula is Big Finish's latest audio adaptation of a literary classic.
Soon, Dracula’s bloodlust spreads to England’s shores, and Harker’s fiancée, Mina Murray, becomes embroiled in his affairs. Her best friend, Lucy Westenra, falls victim to the vampire’s thirst, and it is only with the help of an unlikely bunch of allies that the Count might be defeated… but can the undead ever truly perish?
Featuring Sherlock star Mark Gatiss in the titular role, this three-hour production was dramatised for audio by Jonathan Barnes and directed by Scott Handcock.
The play can be ordered direct from Big Finish as both a digital download and a CD here, while an hour-long extract can be heard via The Big Finish podcast here.
The Kickstarter campaign for the fifth - and final - Mythica movie, from Arrowstorm Entertainment, is now live.
The concluding part of "the most ambitious indie fantasy project ever undertaken" sees man-of-the-moment Kristian 'Hodor' Nairn from Game of Thrones joining the cast as Tek, the God of the Forge!
|Hold The Door, It's Tek, The God Of The Forge|
In the fifth movie, The Godslayer:
As the Lich King's zombie legions ravage the world, a cursed young sorceress (Marek) embarks on a quest to obtain a weapon from the gods, with her friend Dagen, a self-serving half-elf rogue. But when she joins her sworn enemy in a desperate attempt to save the world, she must recover the good in herself before her friends are all dead, and defeat the Lich King before the gods are destroyed and the world forever enslaved.Arrowstorm is looking to raise $85,000 by June 25, to finance post-production work on the project, with the intention that:
"We want to go out in style, and give everyone the best Mythica film yet. The film is shot and edited - and it was our most massive and spectacular production to date - and now we are adding the finishing touches - the sound, the music, the visual effects. We want these elements to be bigger and badder than ever before, and so we come to you one last time on this series to enlist your support."Check out the film's Kickstarter page for more information on the movie's backstory, the cast and crew, the fan community that has grown around this series, investor incentives etc.
Another Monkey House offering for Villains & Vigilantes has returned. Ancient Evil, by Stephen Dedman, is now available in print (from Lulu) and PDF (via RPGnow).
Welcome to Kingstown, a sleepy hamlet cut off from the outside world. It’s a place where traditional values are held sacred, there’s little tolerance for strangers, and folks just want to live undisturbed. But now something unimaginable dwells nearby Kingstown, something that wants to eradicate free thought, and subject humanity to enslavement and genocide. It is a pure malevolence older than Mankind’s darkest primal nightmares. It is Ancient Evil.
The 68-page module features an adventure for a team of four to six superheroes of intermediate experience level, as well as maps, encounter tables, a timeline of events, and character stats, and optional rules covering combat underwater and in zero-g.
Thursday, 26 May 2016
The primary sunflower is still growing at a noticeable rate, but it's leaves are starting to look a bit ragged. Suddenly this week I became very paranoid about our garden's historic slug problems and am keeping my fingers crossed that they won't get to your sunflowers!
If that happens, there does appear to be a new sunflower sprouting next to it, only about a centimetre tall at present, that might be able to pick up where the first was felled.
But at the moment I'm cheering on our main plant as our best chance of giving the neighbours' a run-for-their-money in The Great Sunflower Challenge.
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