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Reality Is The Playground Of The Unimaginative
Home Of Superheroes, Swords, Sorcery, Sonic Screwdrivers, Supernatural Scares, Star Stuff, Sci-fi, Smeg, and Silliness
Sunday, 31 May 2009
Saturday, 30 May 2009
The Fouth Doctor (Tom Baker) and Romana (Lalla Ward) arrive on the jungle planet of Chloris and are immediately fascinated by what appears to be a giant broken egg near the TARDIS.
They are then drawn into the machinations of the local ruler Lady Adrasta (Myra Frances) who, when not fending off hairy, barbarian bandits, is throwing those who displease her down a pit to be fed upon by a mysterious "creature".
Not only was this Lalla Ward's first filmed story as Romana, so she hasn't quite got a handle on the character yet, but it's also David Brierley's first outing as the voice of K-9 and, for me, he doesn't nail it like the more familiar John Leeson version. I find Brierley's distinctly different voice and intonation gives K-9 a haughty persona I'm not so fond of.
Naturally, the Doctor ends up in the pit and confronts the Creature which, much of the time, for want of a better description, appears to be an enormous phosphorescent phallus attached to a ginormous glowing green ball sac. And the less said about The Doctor's more intimate moments of attempted communication the better.
David Fisher's script is rife with examples of dry, British humour, which also flag up Douglas Adams involvement as script editor, and I don't think it would be too far a stretch to make comparisons between Organon (Geoffrey Bayldon), the comedy astrologer the Doctor befriends, and Slartibartfast in Adams' own Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy from a year earlier.
While the story features more false endings than Return Of The King, it does lay out a precedent for the TARDIS towing Earth through the skies in Journey's End by attempting a similar stunt with a neutron star.
The revenge attack on Chloris by the Creature's "people" actually doesn't make much sense because it has just been stated that the Creature is so long-lived that the 15 years it spent in the pit was just "a blink of an eye", but by then the real story - which has shades of old school Star Trek about it - has already been neatly wrapped up.
And that's the thing I think a lot of people overlook, the core story of The Creature FromThe Pit (that is, the Creature's true identity and why Adastra is so keen to keep it down there) is very intelligent and engaging.
Unfortunately what would probably have made a terrific three-part story has been padded out to four parts with the pointless schemes of Adastra's number two and the comedy bandits, who are led by a man prone to lapsing into random Fagin impressions.
The Creature From The Pit is by no means a flagship story for the programme, but it's a lot better than many people give it credit for and cleverer even than some of the stories that get through the selection process for the modern Doctor Who. For instance, I'd rather sit through The Creature From The Pit again than repeat showings of Fear Her, Love & Monsters or Voyage Of The Damned.
Our newest Google followers are:
* Piotr Adamiak;
* Angus of Moments Of Clarity...; and
* Tim Brannan of The Other Side.
Friday, 29 May 2009
It's from Princess Lucinda Nightbane, the star of the recently reviewed Princess Lucinda comic and Witch Girls Adventures role-playing game:
"Though I appreciate the article I see someone wants to spend the rest of your life as a flea (and not an acrobatic one.)
"To your questions …insect, witches don’t (normally) kill people. Murder is un-original, mundane and never teaches the target a lesson.
"Also there are rules against openly using magic on lowly mundanes even if they so deserve it (And I have the demerits to show it). For the record, that book nerd found his life simplified and improved by my spell.
"And if I should feel a need to rehydrate him I'm sure he would appreciate my actions.
"Evil? Me…no its just that have no tolerance for annoying creatures (Of which there seem to be over 6 billion of them on this planet that thinks because they can rub two sticks together and make fire their sentient).
"Now that I have that out of my system lets talk rules shall we. The mortals that make the game have informed me (almost to the point of annoying me and thus dooming themselves) [that] 'Witches in the Game can be good or wicked or any where in between. And it seems according to them I’m more wicked.' (Note to self… turn them into goat droppings for saying that.)
"On a personal note, your article lacks a certain amount of reverence towards me. For future reference you should start all articles about me: 'if it should please her august and dark majesty Lucinda, Princess of the Empire and lady of the dark isle of Corbus'
"That is all.
"Obey the princess."
If I appeared on the fence at all about Witch Girls Adventures before, this is the sort of personal touch that will always win me round.
And I might have to get Rachel an "obey the princess" T-shirt!
Obviously, if blog entries on HeroPress dry up I've probably been turned into a flea (not the acrobatic kind) and I hope someone will be kind enough to put in a call to Harry Dresden or Harry Potter and get the matter sorted out...
Thursday, 28 May 2009
Blood: The Last Vampire as anime (above) and Blood: The Last Vampire (below) as live-action, which opens in the United States this Summer.
Blood: The Last Vampire - First Five Minutes by dreadcentral
Looks like it has Buffy-esque potential...
Wednesday, 27 May 2009
(a) I felt slightly bad about criticising the artwork in the character creation primer for the game and wanted to prove that the majority of the artwork appears to be excellent;
and (b) I wanted to highlight the "full-service" approach the company, Channel M, is taking to the game with comics, clothing etc
The five-page "issue zero" - found under the "comic" tab on the site - is a taster for a six-issue mini-series launching in October, written by the game's author Malcolm Harris and nicely illsutrated by J.P. Dupras.
It tells the rather tongue-in-cheek story of two witches, Lucinda and Monica, attending a book signing by author A.C. Mullens, who is promoting her latest novel about a young wizard called Larry, and his friends Ellowy and Don.
Lucinda - a bitchy magical princess from an alternate dimension - gets very annoyed with the geeky fans in the queue and decides to show them some real magic... and hilarity ensues.
Because I don't know the "rules" of The Witch Girls Adventures universe, it has to be said that Lucinda comes across as rather...er... evil at this first encounter. She appears to casually kill the the book nerd behind her by blowing him up, but perhaps it's only a temporary effect! I guess we'll have to wait and see.
The fact that her sensible friend Monica doesn't seem that bothered would suggest that it isn't really an issue in this world, which is quite possible given that the sadistic punchline of the strip is treated equally light-heartedly.
Unless, of course, the girls really do operate in a consequence-free world, where might is always right - but then again this wouldn't quite gel with the game's purported educational remit now would it?
This Princess Lucinda comic strip is certainly an interesting introduction to the world of Witch Girls Adventures, posing as many questions about the setting as answering, and makes me all the more intrigued about getting my hands on the full, print product (both game and comics) to see where Malcolm Harris plans to take his creations.
It happened with Hollow Earth Expedition (but that's stagnated), it happened when I found out about the Doctor Who RPG from Cubicle 7 (but that's been spinning its wheels for negotiations continue 'behind the scenes') and it's happened again with a strange little game I stumbled across thanks to the ever-informative Dane Of War website: namely Witch Girls Adventures.
Now, I am clearly not this game's target demographic as its primary focus is on getting young girls into this great hobby of ours; a generally underrepresented market. However, the rules seem simple enough and flexible enough - from what has been released to date - to pretty much tailor it for any campaign setting and genre.
The basic game revolves around young, trainee witches at a "witch school" and the hijinks and scrapes they get involved in... and yes, it does sound very much like Harry Potter. But given JK Rowling's oft-stated dislike of role-playing games (because no-one but her is allowed to say what happens in the world of Harry Potter... and that's her prerogative), this could well be closest we're ever going to get to that.
What this game immediately has going for it is the fact that very little has been announced until the publisher has the books at the printers. So many companies - understandably enthused by their product - let the cat out of the bag too early and immediately have to endure months (years?) of fanboys bitching and moaning about how the "book ain't out yet".
Witch Girls Adventures is due out any week now and is already available for pre-order via its website. Cleverly, given the target audience, the game has a presence on several social networking sites (including an "in-character" blog, a Facebook fan page and a Twitter account), as well as an intriguing list of "planned product".
For those looking for a taste of the game ahead of its publication, a character creation primer is availble for download in the site's "game" section.
This consists opens with a 12-page introductory comic strip, which I must confess I couldn't bring myself to read because of the amateurish artwork, but then the remainder of the 32-page booklet is a simple, step-by-step guide to creating your character.
The artwork in this section is much better, generally being very attractive, pseudo-manga that really captures the teen comedy/drama atmosphere the game - as written - is aiming to recreate (think a manga version of Sabrina The Teenage Witch mashed up with the aforementioned Harry Potter; throw in a spinkling of The Craft, Charmed, Practical Magic and Escape To Witch Mountain and you can pretty much see where this is going).
Given that the game is aiming for an audience not usually targetted by role-playing games (and probably their parents as well), it's a pity the website and free pdf are littered with typos and missing words, but hopefully this will have been picked up by the time the print version hits the shelves.
The system itself is very simple: die types for statistics (as per Savage Worlds), with skills providing a small numerical bonus depending on level. You roll the die, add the skill levl and compare to a difficulty number. Bingo! That seems to be it.
The example spells seem to suggest a mixture between freeform (create-on-the-fly) magic and set lists, with nice little gimmicks like a "signature spell" (the one your witch is best at casting) and using computers as a magical focus.
The primer includes some example equipment and a few hints about the world of Witch Girls Adventures; enough to pique my interest, but nowhere near enough clues to how the system works as a whole.
This is certainly on my "must get" list, and Clare's already interested in a possibly running a game (she likes the idea of getting Nick, Pete and I playying teenage girls!).
I have to say if I had found out about this game a couple of weeks ago, the whole "pirates versus cowboys" debate might have been moot, but now I'm kicking around a possible 18th Century "witch school" and even a nautical setting for a Witch Girls Adventures campaign.
Just need to get my hands on the book now to see how viable my latest wild idea is! Who said I waste too much time thinking about role-playing games? Can't you see I'm being creative here...
Tuesday, 26 May 2009
(3) Unidentified Film Object: The great 70s British sci-fi series UFO is to be made into a Hollywood movie.
(4) Captain Britain Goes Down Fighting: Writer Paul Cornell reveals that his excellent Captain Britain comic book has been dropped by Marvel.
(5) Josh Friedman Chilled About Termination: Josh Friedman, showrunner for The Sarah Connor Chronicles, is very philosophical about the show's cancellation.
(6) Thor Subject: Marvel announces offical casting of the role of Loki in the forthcoming Thor movie.
(7) Get Writing, Savages: Triple Ace Games is launching an encounter writing competition for Savage Worlds. The closing date is June 29.
(8) Pinnacle Of Success: Savage Worlds publishers, Pinnacle Entertainment, will be publishing its first full-length Deadlands novel in time for Gen Con.
Monday, 25 May 2009
Fanboys is the simple tale of four die-hard Star Wars fanatics and childhood friends who reunite in 1998 with the mad idea of driving across America to break into George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch and steal a print of The Phantom Menace, so they can be the first people to see it - six months before it is due to open in the cinema.
Yet while this is primarily a light-hearted comedy, Fanboys is also a poignant examination of the bonds of friendship - centring around the revelation that one of the characters actually has cancer and probably won't last the six months until the film comes out.
Outside the central roles, which also include the lovely Kristen Bell as their female geeky friend Zoe who ends up being drawn into their mad scheme, the film - a long-time labour of love for its director Kyle Newman, himself a major league Star Wars fanboy - boasts an incredible list of celebrity cameos from Carrie Fisher and Billy Dee Williams to Ray Park, Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes and the one-and-only William Shatner.
Even the ubiquitous Seth Rogen pops up in not one but two roles - as a zealous Star Trek fan and an angry pimp.
Every now and again the humour misfires or seems slightly off target (such as the pointless drug-related detour and the gang's encounters at the gay biker bar, which all felt slightly like unoriginal padding lifted from other road movies), but when it scores a direct hit - such as the extended sequence of the gang actually inside Skywalker Ranch - it is fantastic, laugh-out-loud, hilarious.
The Star Wars analogies and in-jokes come thick and fast, as you'd expect, but Lucas' other work, such as Indiana Jones and THX 1138, also gets a look in.
A working knowledge of Lucas' portfolio is probably necessary to get full enjoyment out of every aspect of the movie, but the discourse on the importance of friendship is fairly universal and should translate regardless of whatever gets your geek on.
If all that wasn't enough, the final scenes of Kristen Bell in her "slave Leia outfit" make the whole film worthwhile anyway! And the final line of the movie, after all their hard work and sacrifices for the sake of The Phantom Menace, is a winner as well, loaded with portentous irony as it is.
Sunday, 24 May 2009
Saturday, 23 May 2009
* Kal of Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness.
Somehow I left the following two long-time followers off the my original list of loyal members of the HeroPress 'superteam' (sorry, guys)
* Allison Brown of WRITERS BLOG;
Friday, 22 May 2009
A copy now hangs in my gamesroom (honestly, it's research) and Tiger says the 2010 calendar will be available for pre-order around September 1.
Thursday, 21 May 2009
Wednesday, 20 May 2009
After the last session - barely two rooms into the underworld beneath White Rabbit Castle - they were heavily wounded, stuck in a room with the families of the kobolds they had just massacred, with a a shaman shouting threats through the door and one of their number suddenly stricken with a mystery illness (Steve, for personal reasons, is no longer able to attend our games regularly, but I didn't want to just remove his character from the adventure or, worse, kill him off unfairly).
Against my expectations, Nick, Pete and Clare decided to venture deeper into the dungeon, rather than slipping out the side door and heading back to their base camp in the nearby village to recuperate.
Unfortunately the route they had chosen led them from the frying pan of the kobold collective to the fire of the local neighbourhood orc clan.
Stumbling into the orc warriors' rest area incited the group to "run away"... and thus began a Benny Hill-inspired chase out of the dungeon and into the inner courtyard of White Rabbit Castle, where their luck went from bad to worse.
They lost their halfling hireling when he fell off a broken ladder and broke his neck, then Pete's druid was gnawed to death by an angry giant weasel and Clare's chaotic warrior Clodius launched himself into a suicidal charge against the oncoming orcs. It did not end well!
In the space of less than five minutes - less than an hour into the evening's game - only Nick's dwarf, Wu Bao, remained and he, finally, saw sense and headed back to the safety of the village.
Pete and Clare then rolled up new characters, with Nick helping Clare. Clare is now playing a female cleric, Sister FitzRovia, who wears a fur & chainmail bikini and follows a love goddess, while Pete is playing Bernard The Archer, who speaks with an "outrageous French accent" (think Monty Python And The Holy Grail).
Through a simple contrivance (see the "in-character" write-up), the three teamed-up in the village of Larm and headed back to White Rabbit Castle, where they now found three of the orcs manning the inner gatehouse.
Unfortunately while the love goddess may be with Sister FitzRovia, the dice gods weren't and in her first engagement - where she was only supposed to be distracting the orcs, so Bernard and Wu Bao could 'ambush' them - she took a crossbow bolt in the leg and effectively wrote herself out the rest of the game.
Eventually, Nick and Pete killed the orcs, but they then decided to head back to the village, regroup and possibly beef their numbers up with some hirelings!
It's a great pity that Steve won't be able to game with us regularly - the party sorely missed his ranger's fighting prowess and probably won't have lost two-thirds of their number in such a quick fashion.
On the other hand, had Nick followed Clare into the final attack on the orcs during the first assault on the castle it would have been a Total Party Kill (TPK) without a doubt, but being on two hit points he sensibly hung back and managed to escape.
As for the fate of Steve's character - Red - I have yet to think of anything beyond being held hostage by the kobolds and orcs. He certainly won't be killed out of hand, just vanished from the scene until Steve is in a position to decide what his role will be in the future of The Tuesday Knights.
The great thing was no-one was terribly upset that they their characters had died, they accepted it as part of the game and got on with generating replacements.
In fact, the whole "cowboys versus pirates" debate had been rumbling through the evening and they even wondered if we would now be moving onto the proposed pirate game.
But I explained that that was a project for next year as I'd invested quite a bit of time into White Rabbit Castle and wanted to get some usage out of it before we change genres and systems... again.
They've barely scratched the surface of the underworld levels of the dungeon and it would be a great shame to move onto something else just now. There's lots more strangeness, carnage and treasure awaiting The Tuesday Knights in the dark rooms and corridors under White Rabbit Castle.
Tuesday, 19 May 2009
(1) Knock, Knock: The second issue of 'old school' gaming magazine, Knockspell is now on sale.
(2) Clone Wars Street Date: Season One of Star Wars: The Clone Wars will be released on DVD (and Blu-Ray) in November. So why did I waste my money on buying "volume one" of the season on DVD a month or so ago?
(3) 'Most Important Movie Of The Year': So says Esquire of The Road, the big screen adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic funfest, which comes out on October 16. The first trailer can be seen here.
(4) Lost On The Way To The Dark Tower: Damon Lindelof talks about adapting Stephen King's epic Dark Tower after Lost finishes.
(5) Let Us Pray: Director Sam Mendes hopes comic book adaption Preacher will become a cinematic reality next year.
(6) New Torchwood Story: Details of the new, original Torchwood audio story, The Sin Eaters, have been released by the BBC.
(7) Dollhouse Opens In UK: Joss Whedon's Dollhouse debuts on the Sci-Fi Channel in the UK tonight at 9pm.
(8) Target On The Move: DC Comics' Human Target is to be developed into a TV series for Fox. Don't get too attached then...
(9) Torchwood To Air In July: The third season of Torchwood will air in July, according to BBC America.
(10) From Out Of The Shadows: Without any warning, the Supernatural RPG appears to be available all of a sudden, but just in pdf format at the moment.
(11) Life-Size Xenomorph: For a mere £6,000 you can have your own life-sized Giger xenomorph (from Alien) in your home or office. How cool is that? Rachel's already said: "No!"
(12) To Middle-Earth: Fantasy Flight Games unveils its latest Lord Of The Rings-themed board game, Middle Earth Quest.
(13) More Castle Chaos: The Tuesday Knights are due to continue their exploration of the vaults beneath White Rabbit Castle this evening in our monthly Labyrinth Lord game.
Monday, 18 May 2009
Shatnerquake, by Jeff Burk, is one such gem.
A tongue-in-cheek homage to one of the great characters of our age, the novella pits William Shatner (as the star - and only - guest at the world's first ShatnerCon) against blood-thirsty, ghoulish incarnations of his various television and cinematic personnas after a reality-warping bomb is set off by zealous, one-handed followers of Bruce Campbell (who, in a Monty Pythonesque twist, are all called Bruce).
Shatner, aided by his number one fan, Bob (who has been surgically altered to look and sound like his idol), has to fight his way through the crowded convention centre and survive a confrontation with a blood-crazed Captain Kirk armed with a working lightsaber.
Burk exhibits a deft brevity in his writing of this mind-bendingly surreal comedy, which occasionally descends into gloriously graphic Grand Guignol, and a very visual style that suggests Shatnerquake would make one hell of a mental movie (probably requiring, sadly, a prohibitive amount of expensive CGI to realise the multiversal incarnations of Shatner who would have to share screen time).
There are few other actors (except maybe Bruce Campbell, of course) worthy of this kind of treatment, but Burk has gone for the Big Kahuna and nailed his target perfectly, while simultaneously establishing a slightly skewed sci-fi metaverse for his characters to exist in.
He also manages to squash in a tidal wave of in-jokes and references to Shatner's broad portfolio of work, the insanity of convention life, fandom and science-fiction in general. All in about 70 pages.
Although the story of Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans only runs for a mere 80-minutes, with 99 per cent of the action taking place in gloomy shadow or various degrees of darkness, this unsubtle reworking of Romeo And Juliet can seem almost a chore to sit through at times.
Which is a pity because this type of B-movie monster flick needs all the good will it can foster and that's a pretty large tick in the negative column before we even begin to think about the plot and performances.
I like dark movies as much as the next guy, but I mean in tone rather than visual appearance - a black and white, film noir reimagining of The Dark Knight would be easier to follow than Rise Of The Lycans.
In this prequel to the previous two Underworld movies, Rhona Mitra steps in as the leather-clad lead, Sonja, as the plot revolves around her illict affair with Lucian (Michael Sheen), the young werewolf slave of her father, Viktor (Bill Nighy).
It's only when, towards the end, you begin appreciate that Sonja's relationship with Viktor foreshadows his connection with Kate Beckinsale's Selene (who has a brief cameo in Rise Of The Lycans) that you can really see the justification for this film.
There are several solid fight sequences - the vampires' castle being overrun by werewolves is a stand-out moment, although it's no "siege of Minas Tirith" or "storming of Gondor" - with plenty wire work and dramatic slow-mo to heighten the superpowers of the combatants.
I also found Michael Sheen's uncanny similarity to Simon Pegg - both in appearance and voice - slightly off-putting and had to wonder if director Patrick Tatopoulos had actually somehow cloned the Shaun Of The Dead star.
Like the other Underworld movies, Rise Of The Lycans is ultimately mindless entertainment, but it is so entangled in its own jumbled mythology that I can't see it really appealing to the casual viewer.
Didn't someone in the vampire hierarchy think, early on, that they were asking for trouble by putting their daylight security into the hands of a force-bred army of angry, superpowered, bestial slaves?
Sunday, 17 May 2009
In my humble opinion, his steampunk-flavoured fantasies are far more readable and accessible than any of the flagship works of either of those two popular writers.
Reeve's latest book is a prequel to his highly lauded Mortal Engines quartet of novels centred around the concept of a post-apocalyptic world where cities are mobile entities and thrive by stripping smaller communities of their resources.
Set centuries before the events in Mortal Engines, when London was still a static city, Fever Crumb is the story of an orphan teenager, raised by The Order of Engineers (who only deal in the rational and suppress emotions), and her crucial - if reluctant - role in the future of the city.
The mystery of her strange appearance and disorientating dreams is gradually unravelled, along with her connection to the earlier 'mutant' rulers of London, a race known as The Scriven. As the city explodes into rioting, barbarians are at the gates in the form of The Movement, a tribe of nomads from the north, heading for London for a particular purpose beyond simple conquest.
The book is a fantastic examination of the backstory of the later Mortal Engines books, not only explaining the origins of the traction cities but also introducing us to one of the key characters from those novels, the immortal, and slightly flawed, Stalker known as Shrike, a robot built around the remains of a dead man.
Fever, herself, is an odd character, because of her upbringing, she is constantly fighting against emotional responses and this creates a fascinating dynamic once she leaves the confines of The Order Of Engineers to work with the excitable archaeologist Kit Solent and explore the grim streets of her home city.
While the Mortal Engines books had a feeling of Victoriana about them, for me Fever Crumb felt more Georgian. It was definitely a different, earlier world, but you could see how one would eventually evolve into the other.
The book is written with the same smoothess of touch as Reeve's earlier gritty works, mixing small in-jokes and poetic allusions with darker elements to create a fully rounded, organic world that I can't wait to visit again.
Fever Crumb, and all the Mortal Engines books, has a harder edge to it than his lighter, more comedic Victorian science-fiction trilogy but, for me, this only serves to differentiate the two universes and doesn't make one automatically better than the other.
The Mortal Engines books - or Hungry Cities Chronicles as they are known in the United States - are not only amazing works of literature but are an incredible example of multi-layered world-building that deserve to be continually mined for hidden treasures.
Saturday, 16 May 2009
I already had the pdf (and the gorgeous full-colour map by Keith Curtis), but I like to think that trees have been felled for my gaming pleasure and whenever possible will always seek out a printed edition of a product in preference to a pdf.
The first thing that strikes you about the book is the classy layout, the page detailing is superb - especially with the effect it gives the 70-page book when closed.
The introduction presents us with Jeff's operating parameters; his stance on the definition of "swords and sorcery" - what it means and what's included/excluded in such a setting.
And this segues into the player's section of the book (stressing straight away that the players are required to simply play Conan clones, citing Sindbad, Grey Mouser and Jirel as alternate role-models) and encourages players to consider their character's motivations (with a comprehensive list of examples) to enhance role-playing and generate story hooks.
This section then continues with the usual look at new skills (or rather a variation on Knowledge) and edges, before getting into more guidance on roleplaying in the swords and sorcery oeuvre (complete with a section on taverns and carousing; while a cliche in Dungeons & Dragons, the tavern sojourn - and subsequent brawl - is an essential element of many swords and sorcery tales).
The bulk of the book is then given over to Jeff's example game world - Erisa - with interesting write-ups on all the major countries (detailed in a standard Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats format, which I've never encountered in a game gazetteer before and works perfectly for seeding story ideas in the reader's brain) and paragraphs on other areas of mystery and intrigue.
Before we get to the sample adventure (which is actually systemless and, like much of the information past the character creation section, could serve as a resource for any low-magic, high adventure fantasy system), there is a short section on the major gods of Erisa.
The book rounds out with a number of sample characters, should players want to get into the action as soon as possible.
Legends Of Steel is an impressive first book, easily digestible but infinitely revisitable. It is neither too short (so you feel ripped-off) or too long (so you are put off by volumes of text to plough through to find any single, particular point) and, as well as many great ideas and suggestions, it is punctuated by a selection of stylish black and white art from a number of different artists - a mix of pictures of people or monsters, while others are atmospheric land or citiscapes.
At £15.84 on Lulu.com, Legends Of Steel is a sound investment for any Savage Worlds' gamesmaster looking to run this style of pulptastic, larger-than-life swords and sorcery.
For an alternate review, which goes more into the mechanics of Legends of Steel (and brings up the "page numbering issue" - left hand pages are numbered odd, right hand even) listen to the Savage Worlds-friendly podcast The Games The Thing, episode 55.
Make your opinions known in the two polls on the right-hand side of the blog.
Your votes decide who goes into the head-to-head Battle Royale to be declared Most Annoying Science-Fiction Sidekick of All Time!
This week, please give me a big "HeroPress hulloo" to:
* Jamie Jeffords of Eye of Polyphemus.
Friday, 15 May 2009
The Psycho Legacy - Trailer by dreadcentral
As a fan of this kind of "under-the-skin" reportage about old films, I'm psyched about The Psycho Legacy, a 90-minute examination of the creation and impact of the Psycho movie franchise.
A work in progress, a 12-minute preview of The Psycho Legacy can found here, this looks like it could be the definitive documentary on one of my favourite horror films - and almost certainly one of the first that stuck in my head and hooked me into the genre.
With input from the residents of the Savage Worlds forums as well as readers of HeroPress, arguments were presented for both sides - along with many suggestions for mashing-up the two genres (which is a very Savage Worlds thing to do), but the overwhelming flavour of the comments was for some form of pirate action to take precedence.
Clare, the resident wordsmith of The Tuesday Knights, said: "We've debated long and hard about the relative coolness of pirates and cowboys, and couldn't come to a conclusion; except the idea of pirate cowboys who drive herds of whales across the trackless wastes of the ocean, hunting for plankton bearing currents and fighting off marine varmints and warlike dolphin tribes with harpoon six-shooters."
However, Nick added: "I'm thinking pirates, because it's a lot easier doing the accent, and, once you've got the accent you're halfway to the character."
So that's decided then: my next gaming project, both in the field of role-playing games and wargames, will be 'The Golden Age of Piracy'.
Not historical pirates, mind you, but swashbucklers with a large dash of Pirates Of The Caribbean. The research has already begun (i.e. I watched Curse Of The Black Pearl, Dead Man's Chest and At World's End on DVD again this week and have dug out all my old Osprey books about pirate ships).
It's a genre that Nick has been trying to tempt me into for ages - as we'd both like to see massive pirate galleons "sailing" across my games table; and I'm pretty sure that Savage Worlds is the system for the job as it can seemlessly handle small and large scale encounters and I look forward to discovering how it fares with ship-to-ship combat.
I'd like to thank everyone for their input on my genre dilemma and I look forward to keeping you all abreast of developments in the future.
PS. I know cowboys have their own form of "wenches" in the ever present "soiled doves", but the original "motivational poster" said "ninjas" and that opens a whole other kettle of fish!!!
Thursday, 14 May 2009
Having left Sarah Jane Smith on Earth at the end of The Hand Of Fear, the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) is 'summoned' home to Gallifrey by a prophetic vision of the assination of the President Of The Time Lords.
In quick time, The Deadly Assassin draws The Doctor into a murder mystery and a web of political intrigue that gives us more information in a single story about the background and mythology of the Time Lords than we had yet been exposed to.
For the first story set on Gallifrey, Robert Holmes' script is bursting with fan-friendly continuity minutiae - the type classification of The Doctor's TARDIS, the Celestial Intervention Agency, the Seal of Rassilon, Cardinal Borusa and the number of regenerations a Time Lord has, as well as the return of The Doctor's nemesis, The Master (Peter Pratt).
It's just a shame then that a large portion of this excellent story - from the end of the second episode through the entirety of the third and into the start of the fourth - is padded out with cut-price surreal imagery as The Doctor enters The Matrix/APC net to fight The Master's protégé (whose identity isn't at all difficult to guess from the moment he enters the story, virtually cackling and twirling a pantomime moustache).
Even if we take it that the iconography of the Matrix is constructed by The Master from his intimate knowledge of The Doctor's psyche - gained from stolen data files - it is still too Earth-centric (clown, samurai, bi-plane, big game hunter, World War I soldier, trains etc) in its imagery and goes on for way too long.
Which is a shame because the three episodes that are not dominated by The Matrix sequences are superb examples of Doctor Who at its best (as long as we ignore The Master's rather sudden and ridiculous escape at the end of the story as well).
A pivotal story in the development of The Doctor's background, in some ways it's a shame that Russell T Davies has wiped Gallifrey from the galactic map in the regenerated Who mythos and we won't be revisiting this potential source of fascinating stories again (except, maybe, in flashbacks).
With modern effects technology, and writing sensibilities, just imagine what a trip in The Matrix would now look like now...
Wednesday, 13 May 2009
(1) TELEVISION (up one place): However much I try to find other means to entertain me and stimulate my mind, everything usually comes back to 'television'.
(2) DVD (down one place): Of course, a mainstay of HeroPress is my obsessive need to pass comment on things I have watched and how better to do that than weekly DVD reviews?
(3) DOCTOR WHO (non-mover): No solid news about the Doctor Who RPG (see below) and no regular Who on the TV, but that hasn't dampened my enthusiasm for the show, with old episodes still coming out on DVD and the fan community heading towards fangasm meltdown as speculation builds over the departure of David Tennant at the end of this year and the arrival of Matt Smith.
(4) COMICS (up two places): I still haven't managed to slim my monthly pull-list down to a respectable level, but the movement of its emphasis from Marvel to DC has seen a rise in the qulaity of superhero yarns I'm following. I'd like to trim it further (for financial reasons), but there are just so many good stories being told at present that I'm finding it hard to contemplate dropping any more titles.
(5) FILM (non-mover): Solid, mid-table respectability for the medium that, more than any other, has shaped my geek life (don't forget at age 28 I gave everything up to go to university and study Scriptwriting For Film & Television). I might not get to see as many films at the cinema as I did when I was fully healthy, but that doesn't mean my enthusiasm is any less.
(6) RPG (down two): With my own, monthly, RPG campaign rumbling along nicely and my recent embracing of the whole "old school renaissance" movement, I think I have become more 'careful' about what I write about gaming as I know now that it will be seen by the readers of the RPG Bloggers Network and I have no great desire to come across as some sort of ill-informed, backwoods hick.
(7) REAL LIFE (up one place): I guess it's inevitable that 'real life' would continue its steady, methodical rise up this chart, despite my best efforts to remove myself from it completely. Must try harder to disassociate myself from reality!
(8) RACHEL (down one place): As I say every time I do one of these overviews, she's the centre of my world and without her I wouldn't be here to share my geekery. She may not be "in to" all the strange nerdy stuff I love, but that makes her support of my hobbies all the more impressive.
(9) STAR WARS (non-mover): The appearance of The Clone Wars on television has certainly helped keep this topic in the Top Ten.
(10) HORROR (non-mover): This reminds me that I haven't reviewed Supernatural Season Three on DVD yet (with Season Four already half-way through on TV) and must really find time to do that. My zombie project may have come to little more than a collection of lovely, painted miniatures and a single game to date, but that doesn't mean zombies won't be returning in whatever future gaming projects I cook up out of thin air.
And speaking of role-playing games, what's become of my Six Most Wanted for 2009?
Doctor Who: Easter came and went. Cubicle 7's site was down for a very long "spring clean" and returned on April 14 with a list of forthcoming product from which The Doctor Who RPG was conspicuous by its absence. Word is, behind the scenes, they are still beavering away on the game but while there is, now, no set date for release an announcement is due in the next week or so (presumably this is to do with contracts with the Beeb or somesuch legal jiggery-pokery).
Pulp Cthulhu: No more news.
Traveller - Judge Dredd: On the cards for a July release - with a £30 price tag.
Supernatural: Margret Weis Productions has seemingly vanished from the web, although it has a blank Wordpress blog and recently produced a supplement for its Serenity RPG and its Cortex rules book. Of Supernatural, the only clue is a publication date of December 31, 2009, listed at Amazon. com.
The Dresden Files: Work is progressing on this project, with Evil Hat offering almost total transparency on their development process though their very informative game blog.
Ghosts Of Albion: No further news.
Tuesday, 12 May 2009
(1) Anniversary DVD Nominated: Yog-Sothoth.com's 10th anniversary DVD, which features lengthy live recordings of two epic Call of Cthulhu campaigns, as well as a whole host of other goodies, been nominated for a UK Games Expo Award in the 'Best RPG' category. The winners will be announced at UK Games Expo in early June.
(2) Old School Sale: Otherworld Miniatures, home of the pig-faced orcs and other wonderful "old school" Dungeons & Dragons style miniatures, has a 20% off Summer Sale running until June 4 - with free global shipping on orders over £75.
(3) Daring To Entertain: Games publisher Daring Entertainment reacts to the success of its Savage Worlds superhero setting Dawn Of Legends and reveals plans, including the state of its the zombie-apocalyptic War of the Dead campaign setting.
(4) Kirk Still Number One: Captain James T Kirk triumphed in the recent online poll to find the best Captain in Star Trek, over at the Total Sci-Fi website.
(5) Punisher's Rap Sheet: The Punisher teams up rapper with Eminem in a violent digital comic from Marvel - read it online. No, really!
(6) Gaming Soundtrack: Daring Entertainment is producing an original soundtrack to accompany its Dawn Of Legends superhero game for Savage Worlds.
(7) Visual Meeples: The fine British wargaming podcast, Meeples & Miniatures, has spawned a weekly video spin-off looking at historical miniatures releases.
(8) Wolverine Honours His Heritage: The next Wolverine film will see Logan (Hugh Jackman) heading to Japan in a story inspired by his samurai-themed antics in the original comic books.
(9) Deadpool Goes Solo: Fox is moving ahead with plans for a Deadpool solo movie following the initial box office success of X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
(10) Beware My Power: Casting news for the live-action Green Lantern movie.
(11) Demons: "Harmless Entertainment", Says Vatican: The new Dan Brown movie, Angels And Demons, has been described as "harmless entertainment" by the Vatican's official newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano.
(12) Torchwood Nappies: Torchwood's Eve Myles, aka Gwen Cooper, has announced she is three-and-a-half months pregnant.
(13) Blade Runner Gun Sells For $270,000: Harrison Ford's prop gun from Blade Runner sold for $270,000 at a recent auction of Hollywood memorabilia.
Monday, 11 May 2009
This is the story arc that Geoff Johns has been building up to since he took over writting the Green Lantern four years ago.
The first half of the free comic is a scene-setting dialogue between Hal 'Green Lantern' Jordan and Barry 'The Flash' Allen, standing over the grave of Bruce Wayne. This scene ties in to both Final Crisis (where we witnessed the fall of Batman) and Flash - Rebirth, as well as on-going stories in Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps.
It gives Hal a chance to update Barry - who has been 'out of the loop' for quite some time - on certain changes in the DC Universe and the increasing lethality of a life as a superhero.
"Everything changed when you disappeared, Barry. The world got more dangerous. Our jobs more deadly. The Justice League wasn't untouchable anymore."
Following this introductory story, Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis, with a variety of inkers and colourists, presents an overview of the different corps factions who will be involved in the upcoming conflict - from the Green Lantern Corps and Red Lantern Corps, through the mysterious Indigo Tribe (I think this is probably our first glimpse of this particular group) through to the zombies of The Black Lantern Corps.
Since the days of Crisis On Infinite Earths, DC has always managed to produce better and more enduring 'event' titles as its characters operate on a more cosmic scale and are therefore believable in this kind of reality altering situation.
In his introduction, Geoff Johns expresses reservations about labeling Blackest Night as an event because the promises such a label implies often end in disappointment, but I have every faith in Johns that this (with its limited number of tie-in titles) will be the event of the summer in comic books, however it is pigeon-holed.
Nakai Kiichi plays Lai Xi, a Japanese samurai sent to the Tang court at the age of 13 who now serves the Chinese Emporer as a special agent, even though - after 25 years - he craves to see Japan and his family again.
He has been dispatched to the west of the country to hunt down criminals, on the understanding that when they are all rounded up he may go home.
Ten years later he is assigned the task of tracking and killing Lieutenant "Butcher" Li (Jiang Wen), as well as escourting the gorgeous Wen Zhu (Wei Zhao) back to the capitol.
Li, however, isn't the great villain he has been made out to be and is actually wanted because he stirred up a mutiny when he defied orders to butcher captured women and children. He now makes a living protecting caravans through the desert.
Xi and Li come to an understanding that they will work together to guard a caravan transporting a young Buddhist monk and some holy scriptures to the capitol before Xi can try and claim Li's head.
The monk's treasure - which is secretly something more valuable than simple scriptures - is being saught by a bang of Turkish bandits led by the sinister Master An (Xueqi Wang), who is in league with warlord who has his eye on the secret treasure as well.
Xi, Li and Li's small cadre of old army colleagues fight a running battle across the desert against An's bandits in a variety of locations before the final stand comes in a rundown fort on the far side of the Gobi desert.
Warriors Of Heaven And Earth is an odd fish, but is not poorer for its strange identity crisis. For the most part it is a straight-forward, sword and sand adventure yarn, with the usual acrobatic and inventive fight scenes we except from Eastern action movies (although resisting excessive wirework to keep it in the historical rather than fantastical camp).
But then at the movie's mid-point there is a scene of stunning magical effects, when the "secret treasure" the caravan has been transporting is revealed, that is not visited again until the bloody, Wild Bunch-like finale (which, I'll be the first to admit did not go the way I was expecting).
I would have been perfectly happy if Warriors Of Heaven And Earth had turned out to be a straight-forward actioner, but the couple of leftfield twists writer/director Ping He throws in spin the film into the realm of unexpected, cryptic, wackiness that make wuxia films so enjoyable.
Outside of the craziness, the character work is fantastic as well, with the interactions between the various tough, rugged soldiers protecting the caravan - all with different wants and loyalties - is an object lesson in smart writing.
Warriors Of Heaven And Earth took me by surprise. I had seen the name listed for years but ignored it out of ignorance because I thought it sounded like some tacky video game.
In the end it turned out to far exceed my limited expectations of a simple exhibition of slick swordplay and masterful martial arts, by slipping in a well-penned script full of strong characters and a couple of totally off-the-wall twists.
Sunday, 10 May 2009
Writer supreme Geoff Johns has woven an intricate tapestry of events through the length and breadth of the DC Universe and George Perez's breath-taking art is the perfect complement to the era (and dimension)-spanning story.
The majority of this issue is taken up with the tussle between the evil Superboy-Prime and the Legions from three dimensions.
Meanwhile, various pieces are being manipulated into position in the background (and in different time periods) for Brainiac 5's master plan for victory over Prime, the Legion of Super-Villains and The Time Trapper.
The closing revelation of long-time DC villain Time Trapper's "secret" identity is a masterstroke, which will inspire me to revisit my beloved old Legion Of Super-Heroes issues and read their Time Trapper clashes in a whole new light.
It also means the finale of Legion of 3 Worlds (whenever it finally arrives) is pretty much guaranteed to be the most exciting comic book of the year (at least until we get the shocks and twists in that other highly anticipated Geoff Johns' event: Blackest Night).
This involves starting a second poll, with the "winner" of this "fighting off" against the winner of the first poll for the dubious honour of being named "The Most Annoying Sci-Fi Sidekick of All-Time".
The three contestants I have picked for this round, culled from the comments inspired by the original poll, are:
Fergie (Judge Dredd)
Melanie Bush (Doctor Who)
Wesley Crusher (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
I will say that I have included Wesley against my better judgement because, as I said in the comments section last week, I never found him that annoying when I was watching TNG for first time and I have a lot of respect for actor Wil Wheaton and his subsequent contributions to geekdom.
But the vote is in your hands, gentle reader... the poll is open in the right hand column of this blog, above the poll for "round one" of the challenge. Use your vote wisely.
Saturday, 9 May 2009
The greatest show, according to the latest issue of Wizard (#212), is our very own Doctor Who!
I just suspect that Wizard's publishers felt a hot cover picture of Evangeline Lilly would shift more units in the United States.
Not that Doctor Who isn't without its quota of babes, but they are probably not as well known to the general magazine-buying public in America, I guess.
What I don't get though is the inclusion of shows such as Smallville and Highlander: The Series, albeit at number 24 and 19 respectively, but the exclusion of such works of genius as Pushing Daisies and Farscape (although the latter gets a nod in the "shows that didn't make the cut" sidebar).
But then article writer Jake Rossen calls the list "indisputably disputable".
Expect next issue's letter column to be full of opinionated comments on why Wizard's list was wrong...