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Saturday, 30 November 2019

The Lord Of The Rings Movie Of 1940 (Parody by O. Sharp)


An ingenious Lord of the Rings parody by O. Sharp. With Humphrey Bogart as Frodo Baggins, Sydney Greenstreet as Gandalf and Marlene Dietrich as Galadriel.

More info about this spoof is available here.
As you're here, why not check out this trailer for a 1951 version of Raiders Of The Lost Ark:


Or a 1952 imagining of The Avengers:

Friday, 29 November 2019

Thank You For My Childhood...

My Favourite Star Wars Poster

THAT'S MY BOY!!!

Mojo

It's that time of year when I re-up my adoption of Mojo the chimpanzee at Monkey World Ape Rescue Centre in Dorset.

With this year's adoption pack, I received a new portrait of the noble beast (see above), and he even got a rare mention in the latest newsletter.

He is a member of the group known as The Bachelor Boys and their enclosure is undergoing some renovations at present, upgrading their bedroom space.

Of my fur-baby, the newsletter said:
"Mojo always looks out for the lower ranking males and this has become more apparent during the building work as the more dominant males have become a little more irritable."
That's my boy!

The Light Is Green, The House Is Clean...


To paraphrase Ghostbusters.

Compared to what has gone before, these were small developments, but, as of this week, the house is all cleaned - inside and out - and that's tied the bow on the building development stage of our "forever home" project.

Our loft conversion people, Space Invaders, came and did a final site clearance around the property - including all the debris on the flat roof (which was visible from multiple windows in the house!).

Then the roofers turned up yesterday to remove the last of unused tiles and battens that had been sitting on our front lawn.

In between that, Rachel asked our cleaners to do a "deep clean", top to bottom, of the house.

Two of them came in on Wednesday and did three hours of hard graft, sweeping, hoovering, polishing, dusting, bleaching etc

That means, from now on, any further rubbish in and around the house is our own fault... and really we should be cleaning up after ourselves (e.g. the three piles of crushed - and sodden - cardboard I put out for the bin men this morning).

And that really is it.

We may have missed our original target of having the loft conversion done by my birthday, but not by much.

Now comes the fun bit: spreading out our clutter through the entire house, unpacking the last of the boxes, and really stamping our mark on this place.

The Long-Awaited Reunion Of E.T. And Elliot... In A Christmas Commercial!



As a teenager, the thing that truly blew my mind about E.T. was not only does the film show kids of about my age playing Dungeons & Dragons (albeit briefly) but the novelisation, by William Kotzwinkle, included Elliot's partial attempt at creating a character sheet for E.T.

As I recall he described the alien as a first level magic-user, with Charisma and Wisdom of 20,  Intelligence 18, and Strength 14!

I confess I was always a bit disappointed that Elliot didn't provide an "official" Dexterity or Constitution for his extraterrestrial buddy.


My father-in-law has subsequently pointed out that Sky TV is using an abridged version of that advert to promote its wares here in the UK:


Review Round-Up: The Knight Before Christmas; Planet Of The Apes; The Dragon Prince

The Knight Before Christmas (2019): Don't expect any surprises when you snuggle down to watch Netflix's wholesome, Christmas magic, time travel, rom-com.

Kindly 14th Century knight Sir Cole (Josh Whitehouse, best known from his role in Poldark as Demelza's 'fancy man') is whisked away from snow-blanketed Norwich, England, to a snow-blanketed, proto-Utopian, Bedford Falls-like, small town in Ohio in 2019 and told he has one week - until Christmas Eve - to achieve his "quest".

Upon arrival, he bumps into science teacher Brooke (Vanessa Hudgens) and the two form a fast friendship when she agrees to let him stay in her garden guest house, thinking he is an amnesiac cosplayer whose memory loss was caused by his collision with her car.

Maybe it's meant to be an element of the crone's spell that catapulted him to our time, but Sir Cole adjusts to 21st Century remarkably - if not ridiculously - quickly.

Neither he, nor Brooke (who soon realises the knight is actually who he says he is) can figure out what his "quest" actually is until the final moments of this 90-minute tale, despite the audience screaming it at the television screen.

While not a film to be thought about too deeply, I would question writer Cara J Russell's name for the knight as "Sir Cole" too often sounds like "circle", which is really odd and distracting.

Conversely, Cole shares a lot of interesting factoids about his life back in Medieval England, from his youth right through his training, suggesting elements of this movie are subliminally educational.

A formulaic, twee Hallmark Christmas romance, with a script that veers from quirky to cliché, The Knight Before Christmas still manages to be endearingly sweet.

This is thanks largely to its charismatic leads, despite the total absence of any logical sense of "why" or "how" in the ultra-lightweight storytelling.

Planet Of The Apes: I haven't read Pierre Boulle's original 1963 Monkey Planet - the inspiration for the classic Planet Of The Apes movie - since I was a child, but it was a free audiobook on Alexa this month, so I couldn't resist a return visit.

And I was immediately struck by the thought: why doesn't someone make a new film that sticks closer to Boulle's text?

With modern computer technology, the prospect of seeing cinematic simians going about their everyday lives in contemporary clothing, driving cars, flying planes, living in "human" homes etc is thrillingly tantalising.

The story is also way more grim and horrific than any of the films have come close to suggesting.

In the year 2500, journalist Ulysse Mérou accompanies a couple of scientists on an exploratory flight to Betelgeuse.

When they arrive on the planet Soror, they discover a primitive species of humans being hunted by the technologically-dominant  apes.

Mérou is captured and the story unfolds over the months of his captivity, as he tries to convince his captors that he is intelligent and not just "aping" their speech and gestures.

Once accepted as a sentient being, Mérou is welcomed into the ape community as an "oddity" and given the chance to see how his fellow humans are treated as lab animals for ape scientists, leading to a shocking discovery about the origins of life on Soror.

Key moments are shared between the book and the film, but a memorable sequence from the final act of the 1968 movie (no, not the Statue of Liberty) is just the inciting incident for a whole new stage of the novel.

If you're a fan of the movies, but haven't read the source material, I can highly recommend Pierre Boulle's darkly satirical book, to give you a fresh perspective on one of the most seminal sci-fi franchises in cinema.

The Dragon Prince, Season Three: The new season was spectacular.

I was so engrossed in the adventures of Rayla, Callum, and Ezran that I binged the full run of nine episodes in a day.

Beautifully told, effortlessly sliding between humour and horror, served up with oodles of action, exotic locations, magnificent magic, romance, intrigue, and engaging characters.

In many ways it's Game Of Thrones for younger viewers, but with more non-human characters and critters... and more interesting dragons.

This season saw our heroes crossing over into the magical realm of Xadia, in an effort to reunite the titular Dragon Prince with its mother, in the hopes of averting an all-out war between the humans and non-humans.

For gamers looking for bits and bobs to pilfer for use in their own RPG adventures, this season is a treasure trove of recyclable goodies - from  innovative magic to novel critters.

I'm pretty sure I will be revisiting the whole show with a notebook in hand to scribble down all the imaginative ideas that could be woven into my homebrew setting.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

#RPG Latest Update On Efforts To Craft My Own Fantasy Gaming System...


Since I last scribbled an "update" on the progress of my efforts to craft my "dream gaming system" - distilled from 40 years of reading, writing, and thinking about gaming - I've pretty much broken the back of the rules side of this Frankengame.

In my mind, the system is currently called Tekralh, after the name of the central land where the adventurers begin their quest, and, in part, an homage to one of my major inspirations: Dave Hargrave's Arduin.

It is stitched together from a variety of old school rules that "work for me", over the skeleton of Newt Newport's First Edition Crypts & Things, the closest system I have come across that aligns with my aspirations for a "holy grail" of RPGs.

I've nailed down the four core classes (Fighter, Wizard, Thief, and Barbarian) and - this time inspired by my love of the original Villains & Vigilantes - injected as many random elements into character creation as I could.

I'm no fan of point-building characters, min-maxing, and predetermined character development arcs, instead I want player-characters to find their route to fame and glory step-by-step, through adventuring.

While I'm kicking around some ideas for auxiliary character classes (such as the bard and preacher), these aren't really a priority and are actually a bit of a distraction.

As well as polishing up the rules, my task at present is to rough out the world, focusing primarily on the town (or city) where the adventurers begin, and any nearby "honeypots", but with a vague idea of what much of the rest of the known world is like (should it impinge in some way on any of the adventures the players undertake and also to tempt them to leave their home territory).

This is a low-fantasy, pseudo-Medieval world where magic is rare, and hopefully wondrous (which is why there is only one character class with access to magical spells), drawing ideas from campaigns that I have run - or written - over the years.

The central conceit is that it is the world of Hawk Of Slayer, but about 10 years later and with more monsters; Hawk is king and there are rumours that his brother, Voltan, has risen from the grave and is building an army to help him seize the throne.

Once this game is up and running, I want this to be an open-ended, forever campaign.

For me, this is the ultimate expression of roleplaying games.

In the 10-plus years of The Tuesday Knights, we have enjoyed some magnificent one-shots as well as a successful three-year campaign, but my goal is to run a game - in the style of the original grognards who founded our hobby - that can just go on and on... adventures and quests will finish, but there will always be something else the characters can do.

That's the beauty of roleplaying games for me.

I see the Tuesday Knights' characters growing old, having families, establishing dynasties, raising a new generation of adventurers etc

I'm looking to emulate the kind of long-form storytelling generally only found (outside of gaming) in comic books, but the characters won't be players in a story of my devising - they will be creating one through their own actions.

That's the dream anyway.

Here are some screen shots of sundry chapters from my Tekralh project, just to prove it's not vaporware:

Show Your Work: Some screenshots of my work-in-progress

#RPG Be Thankful For What My Talented Friends Have Made For You...


This Thanksgiving, The Lone Bards have served up a special treat for your (gaming) table: The Jive Hand Turkey.

Written by my good friend Justin Isaac, with art from Josh Beckelhimer, this five-page Pay What You Want PDF file comes with stats for using this strange - and slightly horrifying - bird with both 5e Dungeons & Dragons and Bloat Games' Vigilante City flavourings.

Elsewhere on DriveThruRPG, the guru of all things witch-related, Timothy S Brannan, has made his Pumpkin Spice Witch Tradition supplement for Basic era games available in print form for $9.

The PDF was released at Halloween, but now you can get the dead tree version to add some pumpkin spice to your Thanksgiving celebrations.

Let Red Sonja Be Your 2020 Valentine...

Main cover art by Jae Lee
This February, Mark Russell begins his second full year on Dynamite's flagship Red Sonja title, joined by Captain America and Fantastic Four's Bob Q on art detail for issues 13 to 18, and Jae Lee providing covers.
Following 12 issues and two tie-in one-shots, Red Sonja #13 starts with Sonja the Red in a an unfamiliar position.

In the beginning of this epic, she was crowned Queen of Hyrkania, pitting her in battle against Dragan the Magnificent.

As the two leaders pushed and pulled on the map, one must come out victorious.

This glory is short-lived, as now in a time of relative peace and still on the throne of her conquered kingdom, Sonja must deal with the impossible part... ruling.

With no food, infrastructure or plan, she must make some extremely difficult choices, compromises and alliances, lest her reign come to an anticlimactic end.
The second year of this hugely popular run of Red Sonja kicks off when issue 13 arrives in comic book stores on February 5.

Cover art by Joseph Michael Linsner
Cover art by Bob Q
Cover art by Marc Laming
Cosplay variant cover
Valentine's Day variant cover art by Sanya Anwar

We're Entering The Final Act Of Watchmen...




With just three episodes left to go, here's the second episode of the official podcast, featuring show creator Damon Lindelof:


And here's the link to Peteypedia, containing in-universe supplementary material.

Welcome Back, My Friends, To The Show That Never Ends...


There I was the other month crowing smugly about completing the run of Hachette Partworks Marvel Graphic Novels... when another parcel arrived this week!

Having been assured earlier this year that the collection consisted of 200 volumes, I was shocked to receive volume 201 (New Avengers: Illuminati).

Eventually the other day I got through to Hachette customer services (they'd ignored all my emails and it took several attempts to actually get someone to answer the phone) and I was told there were actually 220 volumes in this set.

Being the obsessive completist I am, I can't now drop my subscription this close to the finishing line!

I just wish the finishing line didn't keep moving...

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

The "Books I Love" Facebook Challenge...


Last week, I accepted a challenge to post the covers of seven books that I love, one book per day.

No explanation, no reviews, just the cover.

Then each day, I asked a friend to accept the challenge to promote literacy and share our favourite books.

Here's the covers I posted over on Facebook, for those who don't indulge in such things.

I mucked up doing a daily post as I got distracted by other issues over the weekend, but then caught up this week.

Please feel free to pick up the baton yourself, or not, and help share something a bit positive on social media for a change.

#RPG Doctor Who: 50% Black Friday Sale!


Cubicle 7 is offering all the Doctor Who RPG books currently in print at a 50 per cent discount from today in their Black Friday sale.

You can find the books here.

Hot on the heels of the announcement of their parting of the ways with the Lord Of The Rings IP, Cubicle 7 pledged that they would still be supporting Doctor Who in 2020, along with Lone Wolf and the various Warhammer licenses.

Weird Wednesday...

All Teen Angst And Bad Skin: Growing Up In The Zombie Apocalypse...


Coming to Amazon Prime Video next year, a third strand to The Walking Dead universe.

Joining the main show and Fear The Walking Dead, The Walking Dead: World Beyond focuses on the first generation to grow up during the zombie apocalypse.

Julia Ormond stars in The Walking Dead: World Beyond

Wonder Woman Wednesday...

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

#RPG Special Delivery: One Golden Dragon!

The Emperor Of All Dragons

Included in the Reaper Bones 4 Kickstarter parcel I received back in May was a massive, multi-part, dragon.

I sent this of to Neil for him to paint a couple of months ago. I agonised over choice of colour before settling on gold, as it felt appropriate for such a large and powerful creature, and I'd been reading about Chinese dragons at the time.

However, Neil was worried about trusting the fully painted and assembled beast to the British postal system and so offered to drop it in, in person, when he was next down in my part of the country.

On their way back home to Norwich, Neil and his mum popped in this morning to hand over the mind-boggling enormous golden dragon (see above), along with some other recent figures I'd sent for painting.

Although I don't have a name for it yet,  I'm toying with the idea of making it the Emperor of all the dragons in my homebrewed game world.


This latest bundle of painted miniatures (which was part-funded by a birthday "painting voucher" from Nick and Clare) also included: some Crooked Dice swamp creatures; a tree beast from Alternative Armies; some pig faced orcs operating a ballista and a tentacled "thing" from Antediluvian Miniatures; yet more Pathfinder goblins; and the truly amazing Albert The Giant Forest Troll (with Boar Hound) from this year's Old School Miniatures Kickstarter.

A Quick - And Emotional - Look At The Impact Of Star Wars On The World...



I was grinning from ear to ear watching this short celebration of the power of Star Wars - ahead of the release of the final part of the Saga - until we heard Carrie Fisher's voice, then I lost it.

I'm not afraid to admit I blubbed.

With the arrival of Rise Of Skywalker, I suspect we're going to get more of these retrospectives on the most influential movie franchise in history.

Which, I guess, means I'll need to stock up on more tissues. It's going to be emotional.

The good ol' BBC, for instance, is hosting a two-hour Star Wars Night on December 16, squirrelled away on BBC4 and focusing on Britain's involvement in the success of Star Wars:

  • 9pm Toy Empire: The British Force Behind Star Wars Toys
  • 9.30pm The Galaxy Britain Built: The British Force Behind Star Wars.

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