Reality is the playground of the unimaginative
Home Of Swords, Sorcery, Superheroes, Sci-fi, Star Stuff, Silliness, Scares, and the Supernatural

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

The History Of Marvel's Mutants...


#RPG What's In The Cards For The Tuesday Knights This Month?


The Tuesday Knights gather this evening for our monthly exploration of Ravenloft in Simon's 5e Dungeons & DragonsCurse Of Strahd campaign.

Picking up from the end of last month's session, our heroes have returned to Madam Eva's caravan to discover what her tarokka cards have prophesied for us in our on-going struggles with the vampiric overlord of the realm, Count Strahd Von Zarovich.

The Garage Project...


When you move house, you inevitably stumble upon 'old treasures' that you don't know what to do with.

One such treasure was this toy garage that my dad crafted for me from scratch, when I was a toddler.

It's always been part of my "collection", and when I was young I used to vroom my Hot Wheels in, out, and around it.

However, not so much in recent years!

To be honest, it's quite large and it's seen better days - as you can tell from the pictures - but I couldn't bear the thought of junking it, or even giving it to charity, because of its enormous sentimental value.

Rachel and I talked about gifting it to one of our friends who has children, but we couldn't think of any that were around the right age to be playing with a chunky toy garage.

Then, Rachel hit upon a winning idea.

She said she would create a space in the garden room for it, as long as I was willing to give it a lick of paint. Then I could use it to display some of my larger scale vintage (often Batman-related) cars that we keep coming across in the corners of packing boxes.

While I'm tentative about applying my cack-handed artistic skills to something dad built, I'm excited for the challenge.

Come the summer, when more of the boxes have gone from our house, I'll be able to put some music on and take my time repainting this old toy, sprucing it up as a display piece.

#RPG Is It Strange That I'm Slightly Envious Because I Can't Afford To Get Into Hell?



If I was independently wealthy and our "dream home" was actually a mansion (or a TARDIS), I'd be all over this latest Dwarven Forge Kickstarter.

One of my "holy grail" campaign ideas - inspired by a classic yarn from the David A. Hargrave's Arduin Grimoire - has long been to send PCs down into Hell to rescue the enslaved soul of one of their own.

For me, that's the epitome of heroism - going into the most evil place in your gaming universe, battling the most evil creatures, not for wealth or magical items, but to save the soul of a fellow adventurer.

If/when I finally get to run this scenario for the Tuesday Knights, we'll be using gaming maps and tiles, though.

I suspect if I actually purchased this terrain, Rachel really would give me Hell!!!


But I can still drool over the latest, gorgeous offering from Dwarven Forge (and look with green-eyed envy at those who can afford to dress up their gaming tables with these incredible terrain pieces).

Complete with moving parts and flickering illuminations, for those with a more sci-fi bent, a lot of of these terrain pieces could be used to make a pretty impressive Mustafar board for Star Wars battles.

Comics Without Context...

Monday, 17 June 2019

Musical Monday: On A Roll (Ashley O)


The State Of The Press - June 2019...


We're getting there. I think I can safely say that.

There's certainly growing light at the end of the tunnel.

Stage one of our conversion of our new house in our "forever home" is - hopefully - nearing completion.

We're still living surrounded by boxes, but far fewer than when we started.

Last Saturday was spent taking boxes (and bags) of bits, bobs, and books to sundry charity organisations

Sadly no old book shops were interested in the antique agricultural encyclopedias I'd inherited from my grandfather, but unfortunately they took up too much valuable shelf space to hang on to.

Hopefully, someone will find joy the hefty 12 volumes of 1908's Standard Cyclopedia Of Modern Agriculture when they discover them at the Oxfam bookstore now.

I've also got some vintage 78s being valued at the town's record store, so I'm looking to make a few pence from them.

The dining area - which remains the main storage area, as well as where the Tuesday Knights meet every month - has two distinct collections of boxes remaining.

One is full of old gaming materials I'm hoping to sell to an online trader at some point, while the other is all my remaining (mostly still in their original packaging) action figures (the ones that didn't make the cut to be included in the gamesroom's glass cabinets).

These also I'm looking to sell en masse to a local trader, but I'm still waiting on him to get back to me.

Building-wise, next week, the garden room is being installed (which will be home to the running machine machine, among other things), but then we need to paint it before the electrics can be installed there.

And that will possibly mark the end of "stage one".

But there's no time to rest on our laurels, as the start of July sees the loft conversion company erecting their scaffolding, then beginning work on putting a new floor in our house.

One of the attractions of this property was that it already had planning permission for the loft conversion, to create a new master bedroom with en-suite shower room.

This - stage two of our house project - will be a big job. Lots of mess and noise, I expect.

The estimated duration of works is three months, so we're calculating for four, and hoping that everything will be done and dusted by my birthday, in November.

So, what does this mean for HeroPress?

Well, I've got my office, but the room is still quite chaotic, and I haven't quite figured out yet where's best for my printer/scanner (or even got it working properly again).

Also, once the loft conversion work begins that will be both right outside the office door (that's where the new staircase is going) and above it, so I don't know how much actual blogging will get done while that's going on.

I suspect HeroPress will continue much as it has the last few weeks: three to five posts-a-day with the majority of material being interesting fluff and filler (probably with a lot of video clips and cosplay features) but with a steadily increasing amount of gaming material.

My podcast - I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters - has been put on hold, although I was tinkering with it a bit yesterday, until I feel comfortable about relaunching the endeavour and sticking to a semi-regular schedule.

Part of the problem is that I'm still not as comfortable voicing my thoughts out loud as I am carefully composing them here on the page.

Even though I'm begrudgingly getting used to the sound of my own voice coming out of the Anchor app, I find I rush, mumble, stumble, and forget key points of things I'm trying to say.

But it's definitely coming back. Only I want to take my time and prepare because, although I've taken a number of stabs at it, the whole concept is still pretty alien and unnatural to me.

My podcast has a logo - it just lacks a voice!

Musical Monday: Careful With That Axe, Eugene (Pink Floyd)


This is a performance of Careful With That Axe, Eugene from Music Power & European Music Revolution, Festival Actuel, in Amougies Mont de l’Enclus, Belgium on October 25, 1969.

SPOOOOON NO MORE!


A lot of shows are ending this year - some having run their course, while others are being axed - but the one that hits me hardest, as the most mind-boggling and senseless decision, is Amazon pulling the plug on The Tick after only two seasons.

What sort of world do we live in where such a wonderfully witty - and smartly entertaining - show can be dropped, yet soul-destroying fare such as Love Island, Naked Attraction, and everything on ITVbe continues to survive, like cockroaches in a post-apocalyptic cultural wasteland?

Because of technical issues pertaining to the house move, I was a bit behind getting to this season of The Tick, but I hung on every moment of the series once I got to see it.

The world-building that has gone into every detail of The Tick's universe is amazing, and for jam-packed with inspirational material for gamers thinking of running an off-kilter, light-hearted superhero campaign that subverts the genre without ridiculing it.

And, ohhhh, that multi-plot thread cliffhanger that'll now never get resolved!

I know I have often said that we live in a "Golden Age" of genre entertainment - and I still believe that's true - but what a pity that, for all the big shows and blockbuster movies, sometimes the little guys get brushed aside or trampled under foot.

I read this week that Tick creator, Ben Edlund, had tried to interest other networks in picking up the show, but to no avail, which is so sad.

But the big disappointment has to lie with Amazon for killing the show in the first place (after they revived it in 2016).


Conversely, I remain encouraged by Edlund's eternal - Tick-like - optimism...

Musical Monday: Ghostbusters (Ray Parker Jr)



A live, 16-minute, rendition of the Ghostbusters' theme by Ray Parker Jr at the recent at Ghostbusters Fan Fest.

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Super Creepy Clip Conjured Up From Annabelle Comes Home...


Determined to keep Annabelle from wreaking more havoc, demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren bring the possessed doll to the locked artifacts room in their home, placing her “safely” behind sacred glass and enlisting a priest’s holy blessing.

But a year later, an unholy night of horror awaits the Warrens’ ten-year-old daughter, Judy, and her friends after a visit to the room awakens Annabelle...and all the evil spirits residing there.

Annabelle Comes Home is the third instalment of New Line Cinema’s hugely successful Annabelle films starring the infamous sinister doll from the Conjuring universe.

Gary Dauberman, the screenwriter of the Annabelle films, IT and the upcoming IT Chapter Two, and The Nun, makes his directorial debut on the film, which is produced by Peter Safran (Aquaman), who has produced all the films in the Conjuring franchise, and Conjuring universe creator James Wan, who has produced the last five film’s under his Atomic Monster banner.

Are you ready to meet her again? Annabelle Comes Home to cinemas July 10.

Raven Casts A Spell - Week Two...

Happy " I Am Your Father" Day...

Saturday, 15 June 2019

#RPG Yora Aims To Blend Digitial And Tabletop Gaming Into One Experience...



A cold press release email arrived the other day, and almost went straight in the bin because I took it to be for a computer game... but then I played the video (above). And my interest was piqued!

Developed by Triclap, a small startup indie game studio of five young guys based in Germany, Yora appears to be a clever innovation in the ever-evolving world of roleplaying games, seemingly blending the ubiquitous digital presence with the old school tabletop experience.

You still have a gamesmaster and a group of friends sitting around a table, but now all the mechanics are handled by the Yora Adventures app.

The publicity material boasts:
"It’s a standalone app which contains all materials needed to start playing.

No need to carry around books, maps, sheets, dice or pens - with Yora they’re already in our pockets.

Wherever you and your friends go, just grab your mobile devices to get started right there.
"
The Gamesmaster's Screen
"Yora uses a specially developed rule system, adapted for intuitive, digital use.

This ensures that all functions work best with the capabilities of our powerful digital devices.

Game Masters use integrated maps, clean adventure text sections, simple NPC handling, and more.

Players will be able to create their own hero on the go, level them up and improve their attributes, skills and attacks.

They can even collect weapons, armour, items and send them to their fellow players.
Dice checks are performed in an instant. No more calculation needed when it comes to cinematic showdowns on the battlefield."
Yora Adventures will be released in August, with the first adventure scenario included for free.

Further adventures will be available in the shop section of the app, and later on different setting genres will be revealed, such as sci-fi, apocalypse, mystery, western, historical, crime, etc.

A campaign generator for home-brew adventures is also already in the works.

I'll definitely be keeping an eye on this; not sure I could cope without my precious dice clattering across the table - but there's definitely enormous potential here.

Even In A Galaxy Far, Far Away, They Understand The Necessity...

1977 Public Service Announcement, courtesy of Vintage Advertising Archive

Alien: Ore...


Friday, 14 June 2019

D&DVD Of The Week: The Head Hunter (2018)


When your flaming torch-carrying protagonist is wading through a claustrophobic, waterlogged, subterranean labyrinth in pursuit of a reanimated monster he has killed once already, you've pretty much reached peak Dungeons & Dragons.

Gorgeously shot in Portugal with a budget of around $30,000, The Head Hunter is a mix of character study and horror flick, with so little dialogue it's almost a silent movie.

Carrying the entirety of the action on his shoulders, Christopher Rygh is phenomenal as the main character, the titular "head hunter", Dagg, a grizzled, veteran, monster-slaying bounty hunter.

A film of two halves, the first part of the 73-minute movie examines the head hunter's day-to-day life in his isolated cabin on the edge of the kingdom,

Rather than focusing on the monster slaying (which always occurs off-screen), it instead establishes his routines and then deals with the immediate aftermath of each combat, coping with injuries, recycling parts of slain monsters as potions and salves etc.

As Dagg's wall of trophy heads grow, there is always one missing: the head of the creature that killed his daughter (Cora Kaufman) years earlier.

But then a trumpet summons comes from the nearby castle, the monster has been seen, and the head hunter sets out to wreak his vengeance.

The film is peppered with beautiful world-building details, such as the way the largely unseen inhabitants of the castle communicate with the head hunter - suggesting they are probably as scared of him as they are of the monsters they send him after.

The second half of the film deals with Dagg's confrontation with this final beast. He kills it and brings its head back to his home to mount it on his wall, but things don't go according to plan/

The Head Hunter
(aka Viking Vengeance) demands a lot from its audience, but investment and observation are richly rewarded.

The set-up may seem slow, but writer-director Jordan Downey's script (co-written with Kevin Stewart) is incredibly tight, with measured pacing that sets-up and foreshadows every twist, right to the marvellously nihilistic ending.

Superficially, The Head Hunter may present itself as just another small Viking/sword-and-sorcery film, but it's really unlike anything else.

With its primary emphasis on the more mundane aspects of Dagg's brutal career, lack of expositional dialogue, and reliance on horror movie tropes when dealing with the final monster, The Head Hunter is quite unique.

From the costuming to the set-dressing, for such a low-budget flick, the mise en scène is incredible, creating a wholly believable world for Dagg to exist in, while the beautiful, unpopulated vistas that he travels through are pure fantasy RPG territory.

With its vivid dream-like nature, The Head Hunter is compelling, intriguing, exciting, and heart-breaking.

If you're willing to open yourself up to it, it's not a film you're going to quickly forget.

Game Material

Although the creature that follows, the Kopfklaue, is simply inspired by this movie, some aspects of it will be spoilers.

So if you haven't seen the film yet DON'T READ ON!


YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!

Art by by Erick Weir (aka @Dubweir on Instagram).

The Kopfklaue

An insidious beast, in its natural state the Kopfklaue resembles nothing more than the severed head of an eyeless creature with a gaping, fan-filled maw.

Where the neck should be are three or four tentacles (each with a diameter of about an inch or so) that it uses to scuttle around.

However, it is is rarely encountered in this state, as it prefers to attach itself to the spines of skeletons or corpses, that it then reanimates and uses to travel.

The tentacles entwine themselves around the host's spine, and tiny tendrils create a nervous system for the corpse or skeleton, giving the Kopfklaue better mobility, limbs to use etc

It can communicate in a very basic approximation of the Common tongue, but speaks in a very guttural, grunting manner.

#ENC: 1
HD: 4
AC: 5 [14] (as head)
Atk: 1 (bite) or 2 (see below)
Dam: 1d8
Save: 13
MV: 4 (as head)/ 6 to 12 (full body, depending on armour)

Special:
  • REGENERATION: The Kopfklaue regenerates (1d4+3) hit points of damage every round, except for damage caused by fire, lightning, and acid.
  • SENSES: Although it has no eyes, the Kopfklaue is psychically aware of everything going on around him, and thus cannot be surprised, backstabbed, snuck up upon invisibly etc
  • BODY POWERS: It takes the Kopfklaue only three rounds to take control of a body once it has found a suitable (deceased) host. After that it will have full use of the body's limbs for basic functions, such as movement and combat (for example, it can swing a sword, but not fire a bow), attacking as per its HD and causing normal weapon damage - as w ell as its bite attack! When the body is killed, and falls to the ground, the Kopfklaue will attempt to flee... preferably somewhere secluded near to more corpses or skeletons!
  • DAMAGE RESISTANCE: When a Kopfklaue is 'riding' a body or skeleton, the body will have its own Hit Points and AC though (roughly 2d8 HP for a corpse, AC dependent on armour worn,  or 1d8 HP for a skeleton, but this would be immune to damage from non-crushing weapons, and AC 8 [11]). Any attacks against the creature will be considered to be against the body unless the attacker states otherwise. If he is specifically aiming at the head, his attack rolls are at a Disadvantage (ie roll 2d20 and use the lowest as the attack roll).
CL/EXP: 7/600

Restoration Of The Cybernauts...



Even today, when I hear the phrase "Avengers" my mind often goes to John Steed and Mrs Peel rather than Iron Man, Cap et al

Now, fans of the classic, stylish TV show that was a fixture of the 60s and 70s cultural landscape in Britain, can enjoy a restored - Blu-Ray - presentation of the three Cybernaut episodes that spanned both The Avengers and The New Avengers.

Due out in early August, The Cybernaut Trilogy is available to pre-order here from Network, for £16.

The collection includes:
The Cybernauts, their 1965 robotic debut featuring Diana Rigg; the 1967 follow-up Return of the Cybernauts, again with Diana Rigg and Peter Cushing guesting in one of his most sinister roles; and, making its world High Definition debut, The New Avengers 1976 finale The Last of the Cybernauts…??.
An option on the discs will allow viewers to see the episodes in their original transmission context, complete with actual commercials!

The package also includes a 32-page booklet by television historian Andrew Pixley explaining the history of the episodes.

My Steed & Mrs Peel have already found their place on the shelves in my gamesroom

This Is The Apocalypse Calvin Has Been Warning Us Of For Years...


A boy named Harley and his family (brother Austin, mother Beth, and father Mitch) attend a taping of The Banana Splits TV show, which is supposed to be a fun-filled birthday for young Harley and business as usual for Rebecca, the producer of the series.

But things take an unexpected turn — and the body count quickly rises. Can Harley, his mom and their new pals safely escape?

The beloved children's show is back... with a vengeance, a horrible, bloody vengeance. Starring Dani Kind, Finlay Wojtak-Hissong, and Romeo Carere. Coming to Blu-Ray/DVD this Summer and premiering on SYFY later this year.
For years and years - when not drawing our attention to the invasive threat of cephalopods - Calvin (from the Cave of Cool) has been delivering fire and brimstone sermons on the evil nature of The Banana Splits.

Some may have dismissed him as a crazed Canuck, but it seems others took him at his word and SyFy has now created a terrifyingly deranged grindhouse reimagining of The Banana Splits as a source of true horror in this blood-soaked, R-rated gorefest!

Personally, I used to enjoy The Banana Splits as a 70's kid... but mainly because I didn't pay much attention to the antics of the freaky furry-costumed characters, instead being more interested in its cartoon interludes, such as the brilliant Arabian Knights.

Now there's a show I want someone to bring back...

Music For Dungeon Crawlers: Bards Of Greyhawk Release Sophmore Album...



Featuring cover art by the one and only Jeff Dee, BG2 - A Musical Adventure for Character Levels 8-15 is a 20-track Dungeons & Dragons rock opera, from the world's first D&D tribute band, Bards Of Greyhawk.

Click here to hear samples from all the tracks, and discover links to the various ways you can purchase the full album.

Doctor Sleep Looks Like A Film That Should Keep You Awake...


Doctor Sleep continues the story of Danny Torrance, 40 years after his terrifying stay at the Overlook Hotel in The Shining.

Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson and newcomer Kyliegh Curran star in the supernatural thriller, directed by Mike Flanagan, from his own screenplay based upon the novel by Stephen King.

Still irrevocably scarred by the trauma he endured as a child at the Overlook, Dan Torrance has fought to find some semblance of peace.

But that peace is shattered when he encounters Abra, a courageous teenager with her own powerful extrasensory gift, known as the “shine.”

Instinctively recognising that Dan shares her power, Abra has sought him out, desperate for his help against the merciless Rose the Hat and her followers, The True Knot, who feed off the shine of innocents in their quest for immortality.

Forming an unlikely alliance, Dan and Abra engage in a brutal life-or-death battle with Rose.

Abra’s innocence and fearless embrace of her shine compel Dan to call upon his own powers as never before—at once facing his fears and reawakening the ghosts of the past.
The Shining isn't one of the few Stephen King books I've actually read, so I was pleasantly surprised by the number of visual throwbacks in this Doctor Sleep trailer to Kubrick's The Shining  (which I believe King wasn't a fan of), a film I admire for its visuals and iconic imagery more than anything else.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

MONSTER MASH: Blemmyae & Skiapodes

The party is met by a trio of headless Blemmyae  

Both Blemmyae (headless men with their faces in their chests) and Skiapodes (men with a single, large leg) were fixtures of Medieval bestiaries and illuminated manuscripts.

Sadly, to date, no miniatures manufacturer has crafted these in 28mm so they can join the ranks of our traditional tabletop adventurers, but I present them here for use in Crypts & Things (or any other old school Dungeons & Dragons style system).

A lone Blemmyae

Blemmyae: Standing anything up to 6ft tall, these golden-skinned humanoid creatures are headless - their facial features being located, instead, in their chest with their eyes where nipples should be.

The males sometimes sport beards, which can reach down to their knees, while some females have their eyes on their shoulders - instead of on their chests.

Living in the jungles of the southern lands, Blemmyae are a peaceful race. They are great trackers, and try - whenever possible - to avoid contact with other intelligent people.

#ENC: 2d6
HD: 1
AC: 9 [10] (naked)
#Atk: 1
Damage: By Weapon
Move: 11
Save: 17
Special:
  • Tracking - gifted trackers they get +5 on all Saving Throws to track a creature.
  • Surprise - unfortunately their physiognomy - and limited field of vision - means they are particularly vulnerable to attacks from behind, granting anyone attacking them from that direction automatic Advantage (ie roll two attack dice and choose the highest).
CL/EXP: 1/15

A Skiapode shades himself as only a Skiapode can

Skiapodes: Although born with only the single leg, a Skiapodes' powerful limb is a utilitarian instrument with uses ranging from sun-shade (the creatures lie on their backs and use their one giant foot to keep the sun's rays off them) to weapon (they attack with a mighty kick).

So adept are they in using their giant foot and single rigid leg that even after a leaping attack they automatically land standing up, ready to attack again if needs be.

Like the Blemmyae, Skiapodes superficially resemble humans and are probably related in ways only a sage or powerful wizard might understand.

Both species wander the same dense jungle forest areas, but while the generally passive Blemmyae tend to keep to themselves, the Skiapodes are more confrontational and exuberant. Their behaviour ranging from playful to brutish.

A typical Skiapode is the size of a normal human being, but over 50 per cent of his body is the single, muscular leg, which he uses to propel himself around in bounding leaps.

#ENC: 1d8
HD: 2+2
AC: 7 [12] (naked, but agile)
#Atk: 1 (kick)
Damage: 1d6+ 2 (standing kick)
Move: 18 (surprisingly quick)
Save: 16
Special:
  • Charge: If able to move 30ft in a straight line to attack a victim, thus getting up speed, a Skiapode can launch a 'power kick' at its target which, if it connects, causes double damage (ie. 2d6+4)
CL/EXP: 2/30

All of which, of course, brings us to this classic of British comedy:

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