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MORTAL ENGINES (December 8, 2018)

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Remember: Not Everyone Likes Fireworks!


SIX OF THE BEST: Follow Me, And Die!

Follow Me, And Die! header art by Del Tiegeler

Follow Me, And Die! is the wonderfully named blog of veteran gamer Larry Hamilton who loves sharing his experiences and acquired knowledge of the finer points of our great hobby. The blog is a mine of delightfully distracting rabbit holes that it's easy to lose yourself in for hours... and come away with a gem you can use at your own table.

(1) How long have been blogging, and how’d you get into it in the first place?

I started my blog in July, 2009. Initially, I wrote about memories from back in the day and some things about my campaign world when I finally introduced my sons to D&D. I'm what you'd call old school. I like the games I started with. I also play some newer games, but many of them harken back to the day, like DCC or Swords & Wizardry. I do play 5e at conventions, and hope to start a 5e game either in person or online in 2018.

(2) What do you blog about, and how frequently do you post?

Most recently I focus on reviews. I started reviewing things I purchased, and then products from Kickstarters I backed. I have had several people approach me to do reviews. I'm a bit behind on those at the moment. I also write tables and other ideas that I think would be cool.

For two years I participated in the A to Z Challenge held in April. One year, the A to Z topics were focused on various aspects of cities to help me distil what I wanted to have in some ancient abandoned cities in my campaign world.

One year I posted every day until September/October when I ran out of new topics I felt a need to blog about.

I have started a YouTube channel, and try to do companion articles on my blog. I'm approaching 700 articles on my blog.

At Gary Con 8 in 2016, I ran into Jayson Elliot of the new TSR and he invited me to write for Multiverse.world. As a long time gamer, being able to say that I write for TSR is some awesome geek cred.


(3) How does your blog stand out from all the rest?

I share things from my perspective. I think I see things differently from some people. Some ideas that really seem to generate a lot of interest. Unfortunately, I don't have a formula for generating the ideas that others find as interesting as I do.

(4) What’s the best (and worst) thing about blogging?

The best is when someone comes up at a convention and says, "I read your blog!" That is really cool.

Meeting people at conventions and getting to meet people I follow online and playing at the same table. Much of the back and forth that happens online or at conventions sets up a sequence that leads to more neat ideas and blog posts.

I also met Satine Phoenix at Gary Con 8, with no idea who she was. She is a smart and friendly person with a great love for the game. She did the avatar for my social media and redesigned my blog header. I got to play in the first game she ran at a convention at Gary Con 9 this past spring.

Del Teigeler made an image I use in rotation for my blog headers, and is the header I use on Twitter. He is a lot of fun to game with.

Being more in touch with people around the world who love the game is also more valuable. The internet has allowed us to pool so much knowledge about the way we play and run our games. In spite of the different interpretations on rules, and different games, one can see all the commonalities. I marvel at just how big the pool of players is worldwide. The internet has made is so we can share ideas with people we will never meet, but in near real time. For online play, it is only time differences that prevent us from playing with some people.

The worst thing is not knowing what to write about, or when it feels like drudgery. I do it because I love it. Another bad thing is that it is a money pit. I have made a few dollars over the years as an affiliate on the OBS sites (DriveThruRPG and RPGNow). But that has only bought more stuff for me to use and review. I have no illusions that I will break through the crowd and be able to make a living at it.

(5) Do you have any self-imposed rules (or guidelines) for your blog?

I avoid real world politics and other hot button real world issues that are not related to gaming. I want my game discussion to be about games. That being said, my recent article, Table Manners, points out that respect and basic human decency is not politics.



We should be kind and supportive to all who want to play the game. I felt a need to publish my own Table Manners as my own line in the sand for acceptable behaviour in the world of games, and as a springboard for discussion.

My aim is to be positive and look at the fun and enjoyment in gaming. I avoid getting caught up in the latest rant du jour on social media gaming circles. It is a game and supposed to be fun.

While I try to be positive, when I do a review, I try to be honest. Most things I have reviewed have been things that are within my interests. However, if there are spelling, grammar, and formatting issues, I really go to task on a published product. If it is a pre-release copy, I am much more forgiving.

(6) Name one blog everyone should be reading (other than your own).

There are a lot of good ones out there. Alex Schroeder has a lot of cool posts, he also hosts the Campaignwiki site, and the OSR Links to Wisdom. He also has some online tools, like Gridmapper that are fun to play with.

Blog of Holding has an interesting mix of articles, including some for 5e.

Who Remembers Writing Cheques?


Sunday Specials...

Saturday, 30 December 2017

You Have Spoken: Middle-Earth Is Your Vacation Location Of Choice...


Readers of HeroPress have spoken: Middle-Earth has been chosen as your preferred fantasy getaway location (by a quarter of our readers).

Throughout December, readers were invited to participate in an opinion poll of possible fantasy holiday locations (that you would visit as you, not as a fictional character).

My choice, Narnia (I liked the snow and talking animals), led for the first week, then Middle-Earth roared ahead and didn't look back for the rest of the month.

This will please +Anthony Hargis, a vocal cheerleader for this setting throughout the duration of the poll.

While it's understandable that only a mere 1.59% would want to visit Panem (and run the risk of being chosen to participate in a Hunger Games), I was shocked that anyone - let alone 3.17% of our readers - would really want to stay in Gotham, which must have the highest dangerous crime rate of any of the possible destinations (even the wretched hives of scum and villainy found on Tatooine).

Middle-Earth

Brentwood Strangler (Horror Short Film Starring Jordan Ladd)



It's the Christmas season and a lonely woman goes on a blind date unbeknownst to her that her date is an active and notorious serial killer, The Brentwood Strangler. Is this love at first sight? Or the worst (and last) date of her life?

It's a blind date. Keep an open mind.
  • Written and Directed by John Fitzpatrick (Skypemare, Scary Endings)
  • Cinematography by Nicholas Kaat
  • Executive Producers: Far From Everything Films: Nina Friis and Jennifer Van Gessel
  • Producers: Ryan Dillon, John Fitzpatrick, Sarah Fitzpatrick and Adam J. Yeend
Starring:
  • Jordan Ladd (Cabin Fever, Death Proof, Grace)
  • Adam J. Yeend (Skypemare, The Grinning Man, Liz & Dick)
  • Maximilian Osinski (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Last Ship)
With
  • Annika Marks (Skypemare, The Fosters)
  • Ryan Dillon (Skypemare, Littlerock)
  • Cameron Daddo (F/X: The Series)
  • Original Music by Aaron J. Goldstein
  • Silent Night Performed by Chris Salvatore
  • Edited by Martin Skibosh
  • Make-up effects by Rachel Kooynan
  • Production Deisgn Joseph P. Zubor
  • Costume Design Tania Pacheco

Friday, 29 December 2017

Book Of The Month: Black Light Express


Picking up from the dramatic finale of Railhead, Philip Reeve's Black Light Express, the second novel in his latest trilogy, continues the action-packed science-fiction adventures of young thief Zen Starling and his robotic girlfriend, Nova.

They've left the human-centric Network Empire for the mysterious Web Of Worlds, another network of star-spanning trainlines, but this one populated entirely by wholly alien entities.

Much of my commentary from my review of Railhead is still applicable to Black Light Express, so I won't repeat myself, but Reeve's ability to weave complex characters and exotic alien worlds remains second-to-none.

Along with his trademark wit, he also has a knack for sowing his stories with non-traditional romantic sub-plots as well as challenging ideas about what it is to be human, without being preachy or too on-the-nose.

When Zen and Nova find themselves trapped in the Web Of Worlds, they realise they will need to explore a feared zone at the web's heart where trains fear to travel but which may contain a way home.

Here they discover universe-shaking secrets, and lay the tracks leading to the final part of the trilogy: Station Zero, which is due to arrive in May.

But there's no mid-trilogy sag here, no feeling that the story is just spinning its wheels.

Black Light Express
is Douglas Adams meets Michael Moorcock, a brilliant continuation, and expansion, of Philip Reeve's new sci-fi 'verse, packed to the gills with high-intensity action, complex characters, alien societies, and fascinating locales.

Without a doubt this is my favourite book of the year, even though I put off reading it for as long as I could because I didn't want to be in the position I am now of having no new Philip Reeve book to read!

I cannot recommend Railhead and Black Light Express enough to readers of all ages who enjoy 'young adult' science-fiction that has the breadth and excitement of the original Star Wars Trilogy, but with very modern protagonists and antagonists.

Top Of The Pile: Marvel 2 In One #1


For all intents and purposes Marvel's new "Two In One" title is the start of the return of the Fantastic Four to the Marvel mainstream - and we should be celebrating that fact from the rooftops!

But first I have to declare that I almost didn't bother with this comic.

It has a lot of things going against it: previous Chip Zdarsky titles have done nothing for me (e.g. Jughead, Howard The Duck, Peter Parker) and I've found his humour too intrusive and on-the-nose.

Then there's the fact that I haven't picked up a new Marvel book - at all - for months, having pretty much written them off.

So I wasn't looking for a new Marvel title.

But then I saw several reviews from friends online who used phrases suggesting that Marvel 2 In One was a backdoor Fantastic Four title and I knew that - regardless of my feelings for Zdarksky's previous writing - I had to, at least, give this first issue a try.

And I'm so glad I did.

From start to finish this feels like a Fantastic Four book, with Zdarsky's writing accentuatd by the incredible pencils of Jim Cheung and colours of Frank Martin.

Facing up to, and embracing, what has gone before, the story follows the two members of the FF still on Earth - Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm - as they pick up the legacy bequeathed them by Reed Richards (former team leader), who has "disappeared" into the Multiverse with wife, Sue, and their kids.

Little do Ben and Johnny realise, though, they are being manipulated in their adventures by Doctor Doom.

This is pure Fantastic Four and I loved it.

I can't remember the last time I finished a Marvel title and came away grinning like a young fanboy.

Here's hoping this path leads to the return of the Fantastic Four, not only as a team but as an ongoing title.

Chip - and crew - I doff my hat to you. This is the Marvel comic I needed to restore (a degree of) faith in the House Of Ideas.

The lack of a Fantastic Four title in Marvel's stable has been a gaping void for the last few years, emblematic of the publisher's recent narrative struggles and WTF editorial decisions that have seen long-term fans leaving in droves.

Is this a sign that things are changing for the better?

Fleamarket Friday: And Still They Come...


When I learned that Big Finish was doing a run of HG Wells adaptations this year I knew I had to be "all-in".

Kicking off with The Invisible Man and running through his most popular titles, the celebration of Wells' oeuvre climaxes with his best-known work, The Martian Invasion Of Earth (aka The War Of The Worlds), in February.

Highlights, for me, of this series have been the horrors of The Invisible Man (featuring one of the last performances of the late John Hurt); one of all-time favourite novels, The Time Machine (they even included my favourite sequence - which has never appeared in the movies - when the Traveller goes forward into the far future; it's so beautiful and melancholic); and the pulpy excitement of The First Men In The Moon.

The Martian Invasion Of Earth stars Richard Armitage - who is playing Wolverine in the upcoming Marvel dramatic podcast - and Lucy Briggs-Owen in the lead roles of Herbert and Amy:
"No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s…

A curiosity falls to Earth on Horsell Common, and a nightmare begins. England is laid waste by huge fighting machines, armed with devastating heat rays. Humanity brings its own weapons to bear upon the invaders, but can they be any match?

Trapped in a war of two worlds, one couple battles to survive. Herbert and Amy will witness… The Martian Invasion of Earth
.
"
The full-cast audio drama is available to pre-order from Big Finish for £14.99 on CD or £12.99 on download, or you can save money by bundle ordering the whole series.

Fleamarket Friday: Local Miniatures For Local People...


The latest additions to Crooked Dice's 7TV range really need no introduction...

These four suitably horrific characters, from the village of Winterly, are part of the forthcoming 'Children Of The Fields' Programme Guide, and include: "the mysterious Crow King, the sinister Hurdy Gurdy Man and the downright murderous Miller and his wife".

The 28mm, unpainted, miniatures area available from Crooked Dice here.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Find Your Festive Fate In A Galaxy Far, Far Away...


Me? I was trapped in an ice cave by Chewbacca; Rachel ends up married to The Emperor; and Pete is killed in a lightsaber duel with Darth Vader.

What's your destiny?

Dungeons & Dragons In Gary's Own Words...



Premier Dungeons & Dragons archaeologist Jon Peterson has unearthed this largely unheard radio interview from 1979 of Gary Gygax talking about the creation of the game and what it entails.

You can also read a full transcript of the interview on Jon's blog, Playing At The World.

What's Your Spinal Tap Guitarist Name?


The Poke pointed out:
"A little known fact is that the name Nigel Tufnell is a play on Eric Clapton. i.e. boring bloke name plus London location. Tube and train stations work well."
So, if you were a guitaist with Spinal Tap, what would your name be? I'm Martin Kilburn.

December's Picture Parade...

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

The Punisher: Act Three (Episodes Seven, Eight, And Nine)


Act Two (episodes four, five, six) here. 

Drawn into the intricacies of off-the-book conspiracies, The Punisher feels more fellowship with shows like 24, Spooks, Jason Bourne, the more recent James Bond outings etc than the other Marvel/Netflix comic book collaborations.

The first season of Daredevil, for instance, was building up to Matt Murdock finally adopting the mantle, and costume, of Daredevil, whereas this season of The Punisher saw Frank Castle burning his 'costume' early in the premier episode, and he has since operated under the radar, in secret as much as he can.

The tension is ratcheted up, the knife is beginning to turn, people we like are being killed or injured, and the noose is starting to close around Frank while it looks like the people he is after could escape justice.

Madini - and her partner, Sam Stein (Michael Nathanson) realise her office is bugged, and concoct a false operation to draw out whoever is listening. Things do not end well.

Meanwhile, Lewis is going increasingly Travis Bickle (he's a cab driver as well, I'm sure this is no coincidence), and launches a bombing campaign against government offices in New York, claiming to have been inspired by his interpretation of Frank's perceived ideals.

Unfortunately, Frank gets drawn into this when Lewis threatens Karen Page, and ends up being exposed to the general public, and put in the frame for the terrorist attacks.

While I've said before that I'm okay with the various shows compartmentalising their events and not acknowledging other events that we've seen going on, it is quite incongruous to have Karen Page sitting in her office, in front of a framed Battle Of New York issue of her paper, but the only crimes the media references after the bombings are Frank Castle's previous killings (in Daredevil, season two).

In between all this, we have Frank getting closer to Micro's wife, Sarah (A Town Called Eureka's Jaime Ray Newman) and a heart-breaking, albeit short, scene when Frank confront's Sarah and Micro's tearaway son, Zach (Kobi Frumer).

Again, it is obvious that far from glorifying violence - as much of the source material for The Punisher can be seen to do (both the comics and the original Mack Bolan novels) - this show, even as it dips its toe into America's murky gun control conversation, is about the horrors of violence and its lasting psychological impact, beyond the physical wounds.

Some Things To Chew Over For 2018...

Weird Wednesday...

Wonder Woman Wednesday...

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MORTAL ENGINES (December 8)

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