Reality Is The Playground Of The Unimaginative

Home Of Swords, Sorcery, Superheroes, Sonic Screwdrivers, Supernatural Scares, Star Stuff, Sci-fi, Smeg, and Silliness

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The Week In Geek...

A round-up of geeky news you might have otherwise missed...

(1) Get Your Hands On The Devil's Chalice: The 13th scenario in Triple Ace Games' series of pulp action adventures for Savage Worlds, The Devil's Chalice, is now available. The series will run for 16 adventures, with the final episode, Empire Of The Black Pharaoh, due out on September 9.

(2) Savage Who... Maybe Not: Cubicle 7, The Doctor Who RPG people, have signed a publishing partnership with Adamant Entertainment, the company who brought us the Savage Mars setting for Savage Worlds.

(3) Before Star Wars: A rare interview with George Lucas, from 1971, has surfaced.

(4) Kneel Before Blue: Dead Like Me's Callum Blue has been cast as General Zod in the next season of Smallville.

(5) The Gruffalo Is Coming: Popular children's book The Gruffalo is being transformed into an animated film to be shown on the BBC at Christmas.

(6) Prepare For Slammin': Mongoose's adaptation of David Drake's Hammers Slammers books is now available for use with the revamped Traveller RPG system.

(7) Smokin' Guest Star For The Winchesters: Adrianne Palicki has been named as a guest-star for the fifth (and possibly final) season Supernatural.

(8) Uncut Watchmen Gets Theatrical Release: The three hour, 10 minute 'director's cut of Watchmen is getting a limited theatrical release ahead of Comic Con.

(9) When Vampires Outnumber Humans: Interesting looking new all-star vampire flick on the horizon, Daybreakers about a future Earth where vampires are running out of sources of blood.

(10) Hear The Doctor In Stockbridge: Stockbridge, the strange English village that featured in Doctor Who Magazine's comic strip is making an appearance in a trilogy of audio plays from Big Finish later this year.

(11) JMS Talks B5: The Babylon Podcast has secured a rare, hour-long interview with J. Michael Straczynski (JMS), the creator of Babylon 5.

(12) Thor Losers: JMS is leaving the hugely popular Thor comic later this year, ahead of another of Marvel's "Big Event" crossovers. I expect quite a few readers will leave then as well (myself included)!

(13) Wizards Conjure Dungeon Footwear: Wizards of The Coast, publishers of Dungeons & Dragons 4e, have partnered with a footwear company for a "design a D&D shoe" competition! WTF???

(14) Torchwood Trio On Radio 4: A Torchwood threesome kicks off tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon, at 2.15pm, on Radio 4 with the first of three 45-minute, original, full-cast plays. Subsequent plays air on Thursday and Friday and include a visit to Torchwood India.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Top Of The Pile: Detective Comics #854

After their brief, post-Final Crisis hiatus DC's range of Bat-books are back and for the first time in about 60 years Batman isn't the lead character in Detective Comics.

That honour instead goes to Batwoman, aka Kate Kane, the flame-haired socialite and crimefighter, whose story really began in the epic 52, when she became a target for a perverse religious cult who worshiped "crime".

This story arc is clearly to be the central driving force behind the early issues of Batwoman's run in Detective Comics, but as strong as the story is , what elevates this issue above all others this month is JH Williams III's stunning, in-your-face, dynamic artwork.

I've never seen anything like it in a comic book, combining illusions of animation and three-dimensionality with creative use of panel designs and - for Kate's stints in costume - a limited palet consisting primarily of shades of black, white and red.

Batwoman is tracking down the new leader of the gangster religion who turns out to a wonderfully freakish young goth woman called Alice who talks in bizarre Lewis Carroll quotes.

If you weren't hooked on Detective Comics by the first few pages of Williams' amazing art, then Greg Rucka's stylish characterisations and interactions will surely grab you.

Bruce Wayne may be "dead", but at this rate, Detective Comics can only flourish in his absense. As long as the dynamic duo of Rucka and Williams stay on this comic it could well become one of DC's top titles of the year.

Backing up the main story is a secondary feature about The Question, another character who, through the events of 52 became entangled with The Religion Of Crime. She is approached to track down a missing woman and the trail leads to some sordid gangsters and a suggestion of snuff movies.

When Will Dead Mean Dead?

I really thought Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, was dead.

And despite the fact the Reborn mini-series is being written by the ever-excellent Ed Brubaker I have to confess I'm a bit underwhelmed (and disappointed) by the fact that Marvel is bringing him back (and so soon after his headline-grabbing death).

Can't the death of a superhero actually mean something for once? As much as I like the character of the original Captain America, I thought it was a very brave decision for Marvel to kill him off and was impressed by the fact that it looked like he was going to stay dead.

Now I just feel ever so slightly cheated.

All that aside, io9 has some interesting speculation on what's really been going on with Steve Rogers...

Sunday, 28 June 2009

The Doctor Who RPG: What We Know...

While I realise it's still over three months until Cubicle 7’s Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space is due to be published, my fanboy enthusiasm is so high for the game that I thought it would be an idea to refresh people's memories - and my own - about what we know of the game at this stage and what we may well have to look forward to.

One of the most exciting aspects of the game (besides it's very existance) is the fact that, as well as being designed for both the experienced and first time gamer, it's going to come in a deluxe box set.

With a suggested retail price of $59.95 (or around £36.50), the box is believed to contain:
  • a 144-page Gamemaster’s Guide,
  • an 86-page Player’s Guide,
  • a 30-page Adventures Book,
  • Four-page Quick Start Guide,
  • Pre-Generated Character Sheets,
  • Blank Character Sheets,
  • Gadget Sheets,
  • tokens and dice.
The game has been written by David Chapman, a major contributor and leading light on several of Eden Studios’ Unisystem lines including Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Conspiracy X and Terra Primate, which gives it a top pedigree in my estimation and Eden Studios have put out some of the best written and best designed role-playing games.

Last year Cubicle 7’s Angus Abranson was quoted as saying:

“We’re aiming to try and use it to bring new players into the hobby as well, because in the U.K., it’s such a mass-market license. A lot of the bookstores and some of the other chains have expressed interest and we’re hoping to try and get it into areas where RPGs haven’t been before, or certainly for the last 15 years. We’re hoping to try and bring new people into the hobby.”

One thing of which we can be pretty certain is that Cubicle 7's current agreement is for a game based purely on the current iteration of Doctor Who (the era that began with The Ninth Doctor in 2005) and not the Classic Era (although I'm sure fan adaptations of the older material will pop up on the web within minutes of the game hitting the shelves in October).

We may…do seasonal box sets, so players can go back and play through a particular season,” Angus continued, adding the possibility of books based on various antagonists.

At the time, Cubicle 7 was also hoping to publish an RPG based on Torchwood, using the same rule set, by the end of 2009 (this seems unlikely now, given that the Doctor Who game isn't coming out until October - but would make a brilliant Christmas surprise).

Bear in mind none of this comes from recent Cubicle 7 press statements, so may now have been superseded by behind-the-scenes licensing negotiations with the BBC or simple practical considerations.

The same goes for what little I have been able to glean about the actual rules system, although this sounds about right for the game's target audience.

All I know (from the only online preview of the game I could find) is that the core mechanic is "a simple mechanism of Attribute + Skill + 2d6 versus Difficulty Number", which was enough to convince me.

The Renegade Time Lord's sneak preview also included a mention of characters having Story Points which "allowed you to use useful gadgets (like Sonic Screwdrivers and Vortex Manipulators), roll extra dice, or force a simple success".

It all sounds very solid and will hopefully win a large number of Doctor Who fans over to the wonderful world of roleplaying.

I genuinely hope that Cubicle 7 is sticking to this - or a similar, simple (but traditional) system - and haven't strayed into the "indie games" arena with this product.

Not that there is anything wrong with "indie role-playing" (although I would call most that I have encountered "story telling games" rather than "role-playing"), but if I see phrases like "tagging aspects", "giving player's narrative control" and "framing scenes" I won't be very happy - and will almost certainly be less inclined to actually play this game.

That simply isn't a style of gaming that an old grognard like myself is interested in running (or having to explain to my players either).

Let's not forget that a Time Lord - like The Doctor - can travel to any place or period in history anywhere in the universe and this game is going to be able to let us play that out.

If Cubicle 7 get this right, their Doctor Who RPG mechanism could become the ultimate generic/universal role-playing system!

DVD Of The Week: Punisher - War Zone (2008)

I'll confess I was never a fan of The Punisher in my early comic book reading days because (a) he was a cheap rip-off of Don Pendleton's Executioner (aka Mack Bolan), which I read avidly as a schoolboy, and (b) when it came to "superhero" comics I didn't believe - and I still don't - that heroes should use guns.

That said, Punisher: War Zone is more in tune with the current incarnation of the character in Marvel's "more mature" imprint, Max, which I haven't read but have heard great things about.

It's also the third attempt to launch the character as a viable film franchise - having tanked with both Dolph Lundgren and Thomas Jane in the title role.

However, Ray Stevenson (from Nazi zombie horror Outpost) nails the character of Frank Castle, the ex-special forces soldier who declares a one-man war on the mafia after his family are gunned down for innocently witnessing a mob hit.

But he doesn't carry this film on his own. Stevenson has a stellar supporting cast in the form of: Julie Benz (from Buffy The Vampire Slayer) as the wife of an FBI agent Frank accidentally shoots during his crusade; Dominic West (from The Wire, the best cop show on television) as scar-faced villain Jigsaw; Colin Salmon (of Doctor Who fame) as an FBI agent on a mission; and Wayne Knight (from sci-fi sitcom Third Rock From The Sun) as Microchip, Frank Castle's ordnance supplier.

Frank is on the verge of giving up being The Punisher, after accidentally shooting Julie Benz' husband during one of his assaults on a mob hideout, however the deranged Jigsaw - and his even more psychopathic brother James (Doug Hutchinson) - target Julie Benz and her daughter, believing that her husband, working undercover, had stolen all their cash.

Things escalate, as they do in these films, until Frank has to face a derelict-hotel full of Jigsaw's recently recruited muscle to rescue Benz and her daughter.

With the kind of language you expect from HBO dramas, the levels of over-the-top violence in this movie equals those I'm more used to in Asian splatter pictures rather than mainstream Hollywood "comic book" movies. It more than earns its 18 Certificate.

Without resorting to the torture-porn tactics of such tacky franchises as Saw and Hostel, the gonzo gore of Punisher: War Zone is complemented by a very dark strain of humour underlining much of the movie (if you don't laugh out loud when Frank dispatches the first of the "free-running" gang, then this probably isn't the film for you) in true Grand Guignol style.

Much of the violence is also edited in such a way that it has come and gone so quickly that the shock lasts far longer than the visuals.

This movie certainly isn't set in the same New York that Spider-Man swings around in, but it's also clearly not meant to be the "real" world either, more closely resembling Batman's Gotham. Frank is no superhero, but he's more than a match for the legions of goons he comes up against - even if he emerges battered, bruised and blooded by the end.

Perfectly paced at one hour 38 minutes by director Lexi Alexander, who also gave us the football hooligan film Green Street in 2005, I certainly wouldn't have complained if an excuse had been found to extend the running time with more outrageous and inventive slaughter of bad guys.

I sincerely hope that now the definitive Frank Castle has been cast, Ray Stevenson will return to this role in some equally gratuitous, over-the-top sequels that continue to not take themselves too seriously.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Buffy Season Eight: A Parson's Egg...

To date four paperback collections have been produced from the individual issues of Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season Eight, the official continuation of the TV series overseen and, in part, written by Joss Whedon.

Like the TV show it is a mixed bag of the good and the not-so-good with the good often coming when you least expect it and vice versa.

Volume 1, The Long Way Home is pure Buffy, but writ large, unleashed from the constraints of a televisual budget.

Following on from the empowerment of all potential Slayers at the end of Season Seven, Buffy is now heading up a global army of Slayers for her battle against the forces of evil - but has caught the attention of the US military who fear she and her colleagues are a terrorist organisation.

If you can cope the idea of Buffy heading up a large scale, international demon-fighting force from a castle in Scotland, then you'll probably have no problems with this first story arc.

Oh, and Dawn's been turned into a giant (due to a romantic entanglement with a "thricewise", whatever that may turn out to be)! Something, again, that could never have worked on television.

Volume two, No Future For You, is where things start to go seriously wrong as Joss hands over writing duties to the usually reliable Brian K Vaughan for a Faith-centric story that sees the rogue Slayer dispatched to England to assassinate a fellow rogue Slayer, who turns out to be a tool of the season's Big Bad, the enigmatic Twilight.

Vaughan pulls out every cliche in the book to present a hideously stereotyped view of the British aristocracy and Britain in general.

It takes more to write Buffyesque dialogue than throwing in random "hip" references to band names or topical personalities (not that Princess Diana is that topical anyway... and the reference to her is the most tortuous and contrived I have possibly ever read).

But then the killing blow to verisimilitude is delivered by none other than Joss Whedon in the final issue of the collection when Buffy is revealed to be funding her organisation by moonlighting as an international jewel thief!

When I was reading the individual floppies, it was this curve ball that drove the final nail (stake?) in the coffin and made me drop the title from my regular pull list.

It just seemed so out of character and her justification that it's "a victimless crime" is so weak.

However the strangeness didn't end there.

Volume Three, Wolves At The Gate is a slight improvement, being more on target, but the main story of this collection, written by Drew Goddard, is filled with several massive WTF moments.

Not only are Xander and Dracula revealed to be pen pals but when the Slayers teleport in giant Dawn to Tokyo to aid in their fight versus the evil Japanese vampires (which was a brilliant stroke of kaiju-inspired genius) the vampires suddenly have not just a giant robot on their side, but a giant robot Dawn!

If this was supposed to have been conjured by magic, then it wasn't very clear.

We also see a bit more of the season's Big Bad, Twilight - who appears to be a mainstream comic book supervillain! A bit odd, but again, it's early days and Big Bads rarely reveal their full hand until the last act.

Of course, this story arc gained enormous online publicity because of Buffy's flexuality experiment with lesbian Slayer Satsu.

To be honest, I'm in two minds about this sudden, dramatic shift in the character of formerly man-hungry Buffy Summers. If it was a cheap, attention-seeking gimmick by Goddard (which I doubt) then shame on him, but if it's a serious, possibly life-changing, piece of character development then I'm intrigued to see where they go with it.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer has always been about reflecting the issues and troubles of "growing up" and, of course, it has already tackled the issue of uncertain sexuality through Willow, so I can't see the need for a second main character to go through the same arc.

To be honest, the way it was written, I was half-expecting Xander's bromance with Dracula to suddenly turn physical as well!

Then in Volume Four, Time Of Your Life, you realise that your patience has paid off and the best has been saved for last (so far...)

Buffy is magically transported several centuries in to the future where there is only one Slayer again, Melaka Fray (introduced in Joss' earlier comic book series Fray), and they team up to take on a mysterious mad woman from the past.

Illustrated by Karl Moline, who drew the original Fray comics, the big, full-page reveal of this Big Bad's identity was slightly undone by the fact that I couldn't immediately tell who it was supposed to be. Perhaps I had just got too used to main series artist Georges Jeanty's semi-manga style.

This collection rounds out with a one-off story penned by Jeph Loeb (which got me slightly worried), which turns out to be a very clever dream story.

Buffy dreams herself back at Sunnydale High, but as it would have been in the sadly aborted Buffy animated series that was planned to recount school-era adventures in a world where Dawn had existed all along.

It is very funny and touching to see "real world" Buffy interacting with the dream version of her life (illustrated in the style of the animation).

Time Of Your Life has fueled my expectations for the next volume, Predators And Prey, which is due out in early September, according to Amazon.

I just hope there are less out-of-character and WTF? moments and more "pure Buffy". Just because the writers are unfettered by the limitations of budget and effects doesn't mean to say everything has to be whistles and bells, the joy of Buffy has always been - aside from the kick-ass fights - the small character moments and the humour.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season Eight certainly isn't the runaway success that some corners of the Internet have proclaimed it, but neither is the train-wreck I feared it was heading towards when I stopped reading the individual issues.

I still have big problems with Buffy being a jewel thief and hope there is some karmic pay-off to this unconvincing quirk in her character. This isn't Medieval England and she certainly isn't Robin Hood!

But all the time Joss Whedon is involved in the comic book series it's canon as far as I'm concerned, so I'm back onboard and in for the long haul. I just hope my reestablished trust in Joss pays off.

Friday, 26 June 2009

A Love Letter To The Cinematic Unisystem...

Isn't it about time there was an "old school renaissance" for Eden Studio's sublime Cinematic Unisystem?

With all the - well-deserved - Internet love being poured into retro-clones of early Dungeons & Dragons isn't it about time some other cherished systems got a share as well? And my vote goes towards the Cinematic Unisystem.

Come on, what's not to celebrate? It's central mechanic involves a single d10 roll to determine both success and damage in combat and, as monsters/non-player characters hit and defend on a fixed score, only player-characters need to roll to defend themselves or strike a blow in a combat.

Things couldn't be more streamlined, could they?

The Cinematic Unisystem - which drives such licensed roleplaying games as Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Army Of Darkness and Ghosts of Albion - is a reduced crunch iteration of the full Unisystem, which, in turn, is the engine behind systems like All Flesh Must Be Eaten and CJ Carella's Witchcraft.

Sadly, Eden Studio's seems to have taken a massive hit when Fox withdrew the license for both the Buffy and Angel franchises, yet the core books and supplements that were released remain some of the best looking and written game products on the market.

However, as a breed, gamers always need the "next new thing" and are drawn to the shiny; a system that isn't pumping out new material is often deemed "dead" and cast aside.

However, before we discard the worlds of Buffy and Angel as potential roleplaying nirvana, I draw your attention to the latest issue of Eden Studios Presents (ESP), the sporadic support magazine for Eden Studios' various Unisystem products.

Almost 80 per cent of the material in issue three is geared towards the Cinematic version of the rules - or Buffy and Angel games specifically. So there is clearly a core of writers out there willing to keep the system alive.

Okay, so Eden Studios no longer has the license to publish official tie-in material to those well-loved franchises, but there is still plenty of scope for oeuvre-free material, surely? You can't do a piece about The Initiative, well, how about an article about another military unit that targets "creatures of the night"? Or the police force? Or a pair of brothers who hunt demons?

Cinematic Unisystem has already proved itself perfect for Joss Whedonesque action drama and issue one of ESP even ran a serial-numbers-filed-off article on a "Firefly"-style science-fiction setting, that, in a few pages, presented a less crunchy and more freeflowing game than the Margaret Weis Cortex-fueled official roleplaying game.

While Cinematic Unisystem was "still alive" in the eyes of the vast majority of the gaming community, its fans created some of the best websites I've seen to promote their campaigns - many with their own YouTubed title sequences.

Drawn to the system, by the franchises, Buffy and Angel roleplaying game fans showed themselves to be incredibly creative and I can't believe that spark has faded now and simply moved on to something else.

Cinematic Unisystem isn't dead (or even undead), the publication of ESP issue 3 and the recent pdf release of Ghosts of Albion proves this (although I'm holding out for a print copy).

I'm sure there are many deserving gaming systems that merit the treatment that the talented and knowledgeable minds behind the revival of "old school" Dungeons & Dragons have gifted that lean, mean system with, but my vote remains squarely behind Cinematic Unisystem.

Of course, I already have enough material - both in the published rulebooks, supplements and incredible, fan-written netbooks - to run a roleplaying game in the Buffyverse, but like any gamer I'm always hungry for more...

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Breaking News: Doctor Who RPG Coming In October....

Cubicle 7 has finally "gone public" on The Doctor Who RPG.

To quote their website: "We're delighted to announce that Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space will be released in October 2009."

More details as they are released. See also Once Upon A Geek.

This has made my day :-)

The Passing Of An Angel...

Part of my childhood died today with the passing of Farrah Fawcett. She was only 62, but had been battling cancer for three years.

The star of Charlie's Angels adorned my bedroom wall in this famous poster when I was a wee nipper of 10 and 11, along with her fellow Angels - Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith.

I believe I still have those posters rolled up and stored somewhere in our new home, along with the full-page pictures of the Angels I saved from Look-In magazine in the mid-'70s, preserved in plastic sleeves to keep the Blu Tack from staining the paper.

The world is a slightly darker place without Farrah Fawcett and her death adds another tinge of sorrow to memories of my childhood.

Book Of The Month: Michael Moorcock's Multiverse

Hear that sound? That was my mind boggling!

I've read other Michael Moorcock tales involving his "multiverse", I've read Grant Morrison and I've read William Burroughs and it's fair to say that not only did I enjoy their reality-warping tales but, generally, I had at least a vague idea of what was going on.

Michael Moorcock's Multiverse - a trade paperback collection of a 12-issue series published by a DC imprint in 1997 - tells three separate, but linked stories, that become increasingly more entangled with each other as the overall story progresses.

All involve characters, connected to Moorcock's grand creation The Eternal Champion (of which Elric is just one facet), on the hunt for an elusive person known as 'The Silverskin'.

The first story thread, Moonbeams And Roses (illustrated by Walt Simonson), is the most metaphysical, being densely populated with bizarre, hyper-intelligent sounding concepts - dealing as it does with the very nature and structure of the Multiverse and the factions of Law and Chaos that fight over it.

The second thread, The Metatemporal Detective (illustrated by by Mark Reeve), introduces us to time-travelling detective Sir Seaton Begg whose investigations take him from pre-war Nazi Germany (and a sub-plot involving Adolf Hitler) through a very Dickensian London underworld and finally to the lair of The Silverskin.

The final thread, Duke Elric (illustrated by John Ridgeway), is the most straight-forward. It centres around 'our' Elric, now living in Europe of the year 1000, reclaiming his soul-sucking sword Stormbringer and embarking on a cross-continent quest to find the enigmatic Silverskin.

He meets some familiar faces along the way and ultimately he is the manifestation of The Eternal Champion that faces off against The Silverskin, while a thousand years "in the future" the fate of the Multiverse is being decided in a game of chance.

Or something like that...

This is not your typical comic book collection. Michael Moorcock's Multiverse is not an easy read, but perseverance pays off. The plot is one of those that was either made up as the author went along and means nothing or was intricately planned out so that EVERYTHING means something. I suspect the latter with this story, although most of it went way over my head.

A prior knowledge of Moorcock's many characters is not essential, but would help in grasping the numerous subtleties and cameos of the multi-dimensional action (I think I recognised a fair number of characters, but certainly not all).

If nothing else Michael Moorcock's Multiverse fired a few neurons in my brain and got to me to thinking that rather than wasting too many hours every day on the Internet I really should get back to my own creative writing.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Doctor Who: Delta And The Bannermen (1987)

The Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Mel (Bonnie Langford) think they're heading to Disneyland in the 1950s, but end up in South Wales, at a grim holiday camp, with a bunch of alien tourists and a fleeing princess.

The Chimeron princess, Delta (Belinda Mayne) is on the run from the infamously wicked Bannermen, headed up by Gavrok (Don Henderson).

A couple of bumbling CIA agents are thrown into the mix for no good reason, but beyond that Delta And The Bannermen is an insubstantial, chase story; heavy with an overpowering musical score and feeble attempts at silly humour.

Rather prophetically, the story also features several elements that still grate with me in the new Who, such as alien races obsession with Earth and its history, stunt casting (in this case, a small - and harmless - cameo from Ken Dodd) and soap opera sub-plots about character's personal lives.

On the other hand, there's an interesting throwaway line or two about bees that I wonder might have laid the groundwork for one of the through lines in the most recent year of new Doctor Who stories.

Even at three episodes, the plot of Delta And The Bannermen is seriously stretched to breaking point, and probably could have been dispensed with in two.

It's a fairly decent story with a strong central performance from McCoy, as his Doctor's sinister side starts to show through, and even Langford - when not screaming - is bearable.

However, the performances of some of the supporting cast (e.g. the totally wooden Belinda Mayne) leaves a lot to be desired and the plot doesn't so much have holes as by-passes.

For instance, the cavalier interaction between the Earthlings and aliens is very far fetched; everyone just accepts Delta, The Doctor and The Bannermen are aliens, with alien technology, and accepts it as an everyday occurrence.

The sub-plot about Ray (Sara Griffiths), who could have been the "Ace" character that The Doctor needed in his life, and her sweetheart Billy (David Kinder) descends into farce when she doesn't seem that bothered that he has transformed himself into a Chimeron and run-off with Delta. At least Ray got his vintage bike!

But the most annoying thing about Delta And The Bannermen is the music. I love 50s rock'n'roll as much as the next man, but the score for these three episodes is simply too prominent, and often in totally the wrong place or wrong tone. I certainly could have done without the repeated "comedy"/Benny Hill-style ditty for the numerous motorbiking scenes.

And just who are The Bannermen anyway? Every alien - and Mel - is afraid of their name, but no one actually explains who they are...

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

The Week In Geek...

A round-up of geeky news you might have otherwise missed...

(1) The Martians Are Coming! From the people who brought us the highly addictive Zombies! game comes more of the same, but with Martians! And it looks just as brilliant!

(2) Torchwood Transmission Confirmed... Maybe: An air date has finally been revealed by the BBC for the next series of Torchwood (the week beginning July 4), but exact times have still to be confirmed.

(3) Triumph For Swords & Wizardry: Old school, retro-clone role-playing game Swords & Wizardry could soon be distributed through bricks and mortar games stores.

(4) Universal To Remake Bride: Universal Studios is said to be in talks to remake the classic 1935 Bride of Frankenstein.

(5) Lick A Dragon Today: Royal Mail has launched a series of "mythical creatures" stamps, using artwork by top comic book illustrator Dave McKean.

(6) Space 1889 Delayed: Pinnacle is now saying that it's Savage World's version of Space 1889 will not be ready for Gen Con, but will be out by the end of the year.

(7) Indiana Jones IV: Shia LeBeouf, aka Mutt, confirms that Steven Spielberg has a plotline worked out for the next Indiana Jones movie.

(8) Is It A Bird? Is It A Plane? A new collection of Superfigs miniatures have been announced by Four-Color Figures for release in August.

(9) George Lucas Honoured: The guru of all-thing Star Wars, George Lucas was lauded with a gala event by the Gene Siskel Film Center.

(10) I'll Be... Metallo: Brian Austin Green, fresh from the sadly missed Sarah Connor Chronicles, is lined up to play Metallo in the next season of Smallville.

(11) The Future Starts Here: Construction was due to begin last Friday on the world's first spaceport!

(12) It's The End Of The World...: A full trailer for Roland Emmerich's apocalyptic 2012 has been released.

(13) Doctor Who On Radio 4: Mark Gatiss presents a documentary of Radio 4 today (Tuesday) about the Target novelisations of Classic Doctor Who stories.

(14) A TARDIS In San Diego: David Tennant and Russell T Davies headline the Doctor Who panel at next month's San Diego Comic Con.

(15) Doctor Who Up For Another Award: Doctor Who has been nominated in the new "best television" category of the long-running British Fantasy Awards. Winners will be announced in September.

Monday, 22 June 2009

WARNING - HeroPress May Be About To Go Offline!

Greetings, gentle reader. This is a warning to regular visitors to the site that daily postings may stop (hopefully for just a short while) in the near future.

My computer has started to behave rather erratically, with yellow triangles and exclamation marks popping up repeatedly in the tool bar and random messages (like the one above) about "corrupt files" spooking me whenever I fire up the PC.

If this continues - which I suspect it will - I might have to "call in an expert" and get this machine MOT-ed!

Of course, it might be nothing; just a passing hic-cup, but I'm bracing myself for the worse... just in case.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

DVD Of The Week: The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008)

A self-styled "Oriental Western", The Good, The Bad, The Weird has to be required viewing for anyone interested in high adventure pulp action in the "Back Of Beyond".

A Korean movie set in 1930's Manchuria with three larger-than-life characters and one massive MacGuffin - a treasure map - leading to an epic chase across the desert, with some spectacular set-pieces and grand scale shoot-outs.

Lucky thief Tae-goo (Song Kang-ho) stumbles across the map while robbing a train, but psychopathic sadist Chang-yi (Lee Byung-hun), and his posse, is already after the map and ice cool bounty hunter Do-Won (Jung Woo-sung) is after Chang-yi - who he believes is a famous killer known as The Finger Chopper.

The rest of the film is pretty much one long chase, peppered with gunfights, martial arts, vehicle stunts etc

Two set-pieces stand out in particular, the fight around the "ghost market" (a town's black market area, which is patrolled by its own gang of thugs), which marks the half-way point of the film, and then the monumental "everybody chases Tae-goo" sequence which leads into the third act. This latter segment throws in a large detachment of the Japanese army and a gang of marauding bandits - each faction keen to get ahold of the map and find the treasure.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of these set-pieces, unlike many Hollywood blockbusters (e.g. the later Indiana Jones film, the Star Wars Prequels and The Pirates of The Caribbean sequels) is they don't like video game levels, but genuine, old school, thrilling action with real actors, real props, real horses etc - not CGI!

As you may have guessed from the title, the film lifts a lot of ideas - and visuals - from classic Spaghetti Westerns - with the final three-way confrontation between our protagonists being the most obvious - but serves them up in a distinctly Oriental style.

Two hours is perhaps a bit too long for a movie with such a simple plot, but the constant action and subtle wit of the script make it thoroughly engrossing, so you don't notice the time.

The DVD comes with an alternate (Korean), extended ending which opens the doors to a possible sequel, although I actually found the ending as shown to be just as satisfying.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Australian Torchwood Trailer...

Normally I don't post Torchwood or Doctor Who trailers unless they are from an official BBC site, but this one - made for the Australian broadcast of Children Of Earth (the the third season of Torchwood, screening here next month) - is simply brilliant; so atmospheric, that I couldn't resist.

Top Of The Pile: Captain Blood #1

The first issue of Captain Blood, from SLG Publishing (a company I was unaware of until now) caught me by surprise.

While I knew the comic was an adaptation of Rafael Sabatini's famous 1922 novel, I hadn't realised that the comic was in sepia.

With Michael Shoyket's art delivered in this seemingly "unfinished", almost sketch, style - with strong echoes of the famous A-Ha video for Take On Me - it took a moment for my four-colour brain to adjust to the subtle appeal of this art style.

However, you only need to see the final panel of this issue, the reveal of Blood in his full pirate costume, to appreciate the depth of detail Shoyket can get in his illustrations.

Meanwhile, Matthew Shepherd's script, by necessity an abridgment of the original material, sweeps you up in the life story of Peter Blood, from small-town English doctor to slave and then pirate, populated with vile villains cut from the same cloth as many of the bad guys I am familiar with from Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe books.

Issue one stands as a fine introduction to the character of the debonair pirate captain and now I'm looking forward to following his further adventures.

Ladies & Gentleman, It's An Honour To Introduce...

We're heading towards 50 members of the HeroPress superteam, with our latest recruit coming in the shape of:

* The Irredeemable Shag of Once Upon A Geek

Friday, 19 June 2009

Top Of The Pile: Escape #2 (Final Crisis Aftermath)

The Prisoner-style insanity continues in Escape #2 with Tom Tresser - and us - none the wiser to what's going on, where he's being held and what his jailers' want from him.

Through all the hallucinations and general strangeness there's a feeling that a story is unfolding - we just can't see what it is yet.

The danger with style of protracted mystery plotline is that the author enters into an unspoken contract with the reader to deliver a knock-out resolution.

Just think of the number of television series we've stuck with because of similar tacit agreements, that have ultimately led to disappointment.

I cite Battlestar Galactica as a particular example because I, like so many, was swept along by the show's brilliance right up to the end that I was blinded to the finale's faults for a long while.

It took a time for it to sink in and realise that the writer's had clearly written themselves into a corner, with too many hanging plot-threads, and so opted for the laziest cop-out of all - which can be used to explain away anything - that it was "all the work of God".

Let's hope Ivan Brandon doesn't go for a similar cheesy deus ex machina, because - obviously - he only has six issues of this comic to win our support by wowing us with his verbal jiggery-pokery and Marco Rudy's surreal imagery.

I'm loving what I've seen so far (a third of the way into the story), but I've been burned so many times before with these brain-challenging mysteries that my disappointment would probably be disproportionately large if Escape just fizzles out.

Witch Girls Adventures - An Opinion From The Other Side!

HeroPress commentator and fellow blogger Tim Brannan has written a superb, detailed critique of the Witch Girls Adventures role-playing game, which you need to check out if you are interested in this game.

Tim's review at The Other Side pretty much duplicates my initial feelings about the game having, like him, purchased both the pdf and print copy.

I doubt this is a system I will ever run, but I'd certainly like to play it and Clare is quite keen to run a game for Pete, Nick and I as the idea of three 40-something males playing pre-teen witches kind of tickled our funny bones (although I'm not Nick is so keen!)

While the dice mechanics appear very straight forward and probably lend themselves to "averaging" (as in Hollow Earth Expedition and Unisystem) to reduce the amount of rolls the Gamesmaster needs to make during a game, my concerns would be - should I be running it - memorising all the possible spells that characters (both player-characters and non-player characters) could have access to at any one time.

This, of course, is more a reflection on my faulty memory and my advancing years, rather than the game.

For the target audience of Witch Girls Adventures, this sort of information retention would probably be no problem at all.

When my little gang of gaming buddies were that age, we could devour and quote volumes of games text (e.g. Champions character construction, Villains & Vigilantes random power tables, Dungeons & Dragons spell lists etc) that I wouldn't dream of tackling now.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

What Kind Of Witch Are You?

You can't fault Channel M Publishing for their enthusiasm in promoting the Witch Girls Adventures brand. There aren't many role-playing games - or comics - that have their own theme songs!

This three and a half-minute tune, accompanied by a slideshow of artwork from the game, once again reinforces the fact that their target audience is not middle-aged grognards, but pre-teen girls who watch Sabrina The Teenage Witch because it was funny and they can relate to her boyfriend issues and not because they thought her aunts were hot.

Top Of The Pile: Batman & Robin #1

Don't you wish the Batman titles had those little numbers in triangles on the cover like the Superman titles - so you'd know what order to read them in?

Naturally I read Grant Morrison's Batman And Robin first when my new shipment of comics arrived this week as it was the hottest title in my stack, but then when I read Batman #687 I realised that was a prequel to Morrison's title - setting up Dick Grayson's final acceptance that it is his job to inherit the cowl from the 'late' Bruce Wayne.

On one level Batman and Robin is very much a return to an 'old school' style, with the dynamic duo as straight crimefighters, but Morrison has established a very interesting dynamic with Grayson as a more "approachable" Batman and Damian Wayne (son of Bruce Wayne and Taila al Ghul) as a very bratty Robin.

The villains for this first story arc - Batman: Reborn - appear to a bunch of creepy circus freaks who could have walked off the set of Saw or Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but have an air of restrained Doom Patrol madness about them that you'd hope for from Morrison.

Frank Quitely's art is, of course, gorgeous and the one-two punch of Morrison and Quitely promises a strong run on this title. Hopefully, though, it won't peter out as I felt their All-Star Superman title did towards the end.

I'm also keeping my fingers crossed that Bruce Wayne will stay 'dead' long enough for Dick to get settled into his role as Batman and not just be seen as someone "playing the part", as he says in Batman #687 (okay, we all know he's not really dead, but at least DC is admitting that the iconic character isn't really dead, unlike Marvel's seemingly lame revival of Steve Rogers/Captain America after only a couple of years).

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Top Of The Pile: Witch Girls Tales #1

Coinciding with the release of The Witch Girls Adventures roleplaying game is the publication of the first issue of Witch Girls Tales comic, an anthology title of short stories.

All three stories in issue one are penned by the mastermind of the Witch Girls universe, Malcolm Harris, with the first two being illustrated in a semi-manga style by Puoung Hong Au Nguyen and the third is beautifully illustrated by Teddy Riawen.

Both artists have a style that seems to suit the subject matter perfectly - female pre-teens with magical powers - without making it juvenile.

The first story, Witch Hunt, is reprinted in The Witch Girls Adventures game, and serves as an introduction to the world of the Witch Girls by sending four students out from Willow-Misst Magic School to recruit a young girl who is unaware of her supernatural heritage.

This new witch, Rosa Montoya, then becomes the reader's point-of-view character for the series, allowing other characters to explain to her - and us - what's going on and who people are.

The second story, ...The New Girl, deals with Rosa's first day at Willow-Misst and the rather unorthodox teaching methods of its staff. Her guide to school life is everyone's favourite, cigarette-smoking, 12-year-old 'wicked' witch, Princess Lucinda Nightbane, with her very unique take on the concept of "getting along" with her fellow pupils.

This comes to the fore in the final tale, a Princess Lucinda solo story, where she helps out her one mortal friend Ian, who is being bullied for being a geek. Her methods are - how can I put this? - rather extreme (even if the bullies did deserve to be taught a lesson), but then Lucinda is the first to point out that she is not the "helping type".

Unfortunately, all three stories are riddled with typos and grammatical errors (there's a lot of confusion between "your" and "you're" and "to" and "too", for instance) and several word balloons have lost their last lines; however, these minor production errors are more than made up for by the book's "Witch Girls Tales Adventure Appendix" which is, effectively, a director's commentary on the three stories.

The appendix bullet-points out new skills and spells from the stories for use in the game and provides statistic blocks for characters and monsters. A simple, yet brilliant, addition to a comic so clearly tied into a game.

I wish more comics - and even books - would do this on occasion; it would make "borrowing" ideas and concepts from other mediums so much easier (yes, I realise this is just a pipe dream - but surely the entire world should revolve around my roleplaying hobbies?).

Half Way To Perfection - Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)

There is a reason the hallway to my gamesroom is dominated by a cinema quad poster for Kill Bill Vol.1 - I gorram love this movie!

But there's also a reason why I find it difficult to include it in any of my Top Movie polls... because it's not a complete film and Volume 2 (from 2004) was just so lame in comparison.

If the second part had been even close to as awesome as the first then Kill Bill would, unequivocally, reign supreme in my cineaste heart.

Nearly everything about Volume 1, in my opinion, is perfect - from the characters to the dialogue to the cinematography, music, sound effects and graphic fight scenes (okay, I could have done without Buck and his redneck truck driver mate, but without Buck we wouldn't have the Pussy Wagon, so it's a small price to pay).

Kill Bill Vol.1 just ticks so many boxes for me. While it might not feature giant monsters, space ships or supernatural shenanigans I can still watch it repeatedly with the the same fixed grin on my face.

From the moment Tomoyasu Hotei's Battle Without Honor Or Humanity kicks in as O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) and her Crazy 88 yakuza gang, with their Kato masks, prowl into The House Of Blue Leaves we are treated to the sublime, sword-fighting answer to the hotel shoot-out in The Matrix; writer/director Quentin Tarantino's magnum opus of chanbara-driven action excellence.

This particular DVD iteration of the film - being a Japanese import - shows the final battle in all its blood-splattering gory glory, rather than the black-and-white version (for sensitive Western eyes) that we normally see. To be honest I'm not really sure who the tinted version was really protecting as the action blows much easier without the sudden change of picture colouration; but in both formats it remains a magnificent cinematic swordfight.

Uma Thurman's turn as The Bride (who we learn in Vol 2 is called Beatrix Kiddo), especially in her Bruce Lee yellow catsuit and trainers, is iconic and everything in this film - barring the aforementioned Buck and co. - just oozes cool; right down to the trendy J-rock music of The House Of Blue Leaves' house band The's

Gunned down at her wedding by her former colleagues in The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, The Bride - once out of her four-year coma - goes on a globe-trotting journey of revenge; hunting down those who took part in her "killing" one-by-one until she faces her ex-boss, the enigamtic Bill (the late, great David Carradine), at the climax of Vol. 2.

Kill Bill Vol. 1 was also the film that introduced me, and probably many people, to the ice cool Chiaki Kuriyama as psychopathic, schoolgirl bodyguard Gogo Yubari. I get the impression that Chiaki has the market cornered in portraying hot, evil, young women (check out her performances in Battle Royale and Azumi 2) and to this day Gogo Yubari still makes me shiver in odd sorts of ways.

It's doubtful that anyone who likes this kind of violent revenge movie hasn't already been swept away by the magnificence of Kill Bill Vol. 1 (and then left feeling underwhelmed and rather disappointed by Vol. 2), but if you haven't then you owe it to yourself to seek this film out... as long as you can accept the fact that you're not seeing the full picture.

Perhaps Vol. 1 just set the bar too high and Vol. 2 could never live up to our expectations, I just wish it would have tried harder and thus established Kill Bill as the greatest film ever made. As it stands, it's only half-way there.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The Week In Geek...

A round-up of geeky news you might have otherwise missed...

(1) Giant Robot In Japan... Really: A life-size Gundam robot (about 60ft tall) has been erected in Tokyo to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Mobile Suit Gundam anime.

(2) Cthulhu Britannia: Cubicle 7, the Doctor Who RPG people, are to publish a Call Of Cthulhu supplement of adventures set in Britain.

(3) Torchwood To Get Who Treatment In Cardiff: The designers of The Doctor Who Up Close exhibition in Cardiff want to build a Torchwood-themed display in the same region.

(4) Choose Wisely, Young Padawan: A series of "choose your own adventure" books are being published for Star Wars: The Clone Wars, featuring an online element of play as an added bonus.

(5) Free RPG Day: Don't forget Saturday, June 20 is free RPG Day (at participating stores).

(6) Carpe DM: Published under license by Alephtar Game, Chaosium has just released a 220-page sourcebook for its Basic Roleplaying System detailing Ancient Rome as a game setting, during during its Monarchy and Republic periods.

(7) Dunst Back For Spidey 4 Says Producer: Producer Todd Black says Kirsten Dunst will return in Spider-Man 4, which is due for release in May, 2011.

(8) Yoggie Takes The Prize: Lovecraftian Tales From The Table, the 10th anniversary DVD, won the "Best Roleplaying Game Product" category at the recent UK Games Expo awards.

(9) Judge This: Mongoose releases its first preview of the forthcoming Judge Dredd rules for Traveller. Looks very pretty, but still not sure it's worth £30.

(10) Vamping It Up: The first Vampire Con will be held in Hollywood, California, this August.

(11) Pirates 4 On The Horizon: Jerry Bruckheimer says Pirates Of The Caribbean 4 is a priority for Disney and a script is in the works.

(12) Movement On Mars: A live-action version of John Carter Of Mars draws ever closer, with production said to begin in November.

(13) King Of The Remakes To Tackle Conan: Marcus Nispel, who directed the remakes of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday The 13th, has signed on to helm the remake of Conan The Barbarian.

(14) Whedon Not On The New Buffy: Joss Whedon doesn't want anything to do with the planned remake of Buffy The Vampire Slayer - despite the producers approaching his agent "after the news broke".

(15) ITV Axes Primeval: Money issues lead to the end of one of ITV's few decent shows, Primeval, leaving the storyline hanging in the air...

Monday, 15 June 2009

DVD Of The Week: Azumi 2 - Death Or Love (2005)

Picking up from where the original left off, Azumi 2: Death Or Love sees the cute, young assassin and her one surviving colleague, Nagara (Yuma Ishigaki), heading off to slay the final warlord, the last of troublesome triumvirate, whose death they believe will bring peace to Japan.

Soon, Azumi (Aya Ueto) and Nagara fall in with a Robin Hood-style bandit, Ginkaku (Shun Oguri), who happens to be the spitting image of Nachi, the beloved friend that Azumi was ordered to kill as the final part of her training (this is because Nachi and Ginkaku are played by the same actor).

Also joining their little gang is a zealous neophyte ninja, Kozue, played by the instantly recognisable Chiaki Kuriyama (from the awesome double bill of Kill Bill Volume 1 and Battle Royale).

Azumi's final mission proves to be her toughest as the last warlord, Masayuki Sanada (Toshiya Nagasawa) has gotten into bed - literally - with the head of a ruthless, and warmongering, ninja clan, a superhumanly fast harridan called Kunyo (Reiko Takahashi).

On one level Azumi 2 is more of the same as Azumi, although the blood-letting is considerably more restrained in this second film, but it still delivers a smart plot looking at honour, friendship, blind obedience, betrayal and the lengths some people will go to to see their mission fulfilled.

As before there are numerous glorious set-pieces, beautifully choreographed and shot, with the "poison spider web" in the bamboo forest being the most inventive.

While Chiaki's performance is, as usual, both memorable and menacing, the film - as with the first one - belongs to Aya Ueto, whose Azumi is one tough cookie who could give Buffy a run for her money any day. 

However, the two volumes of Azumi films share certain characteristics with the structure of Quentin Tarantino's two Kill Bill films; both have their largest and most gruesome fights at the climax of the first volume and their heroines have to carve their way through a number of sub-bosses before facing off against the final Big Bad at the end of volume two.

This final confrontation stands out not so much for the actual conflict but for the position Azumi is put in by her own side, when Sanada suggests he would be willing to withdraw his troops from the impending war if Azumi is left to face him in single combat.

Azumi 2: Death Or Love doesn't quite touch the giddy heights of the first movie, but is still a more satisfying conclusion to the tale than Kill Bill Volume 2 was to Kill Bill Volume 1.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Train Time...

This weekend is the Chatham Show, the largest model railway exhibition in the South East, which has become an (almost) annual pilgrimage for Rachel and I (we've been four years out five).

Held in a warehouse at the Historic Dockyards, it's large enough to not feel overly crowded or claustrophobic, but doesn't need hideous florescent lighting to illuminate it; so when the weather is as good as it has been recently it's a perfect venue for shows.

While there didn't seem to be as many layouts on display, the majority of those that were there were the usual high standard we've come to expect.

There were old favourites like Foss Landing (the American harbour scene with its waterfront strip club - see above) and a whole host of spectacular new displays.

Common themes this time round were water (lots of boats on show, and one layout depicted the busy freight harbour of New York) and wartime (several layouts had troops heading off for the Second World War and Rowlands Castle had enough troops on it for a medium-sized wargame, which obviously tickled my fancy).

For once we didn't spend a small fortune, Rachel bought a box of miniature N Gauge naturists (she's planning a camp site on the edge of Midale, but we couldn't find any scale tents) and I got an O Gauge workmen's skip from Skytrex, who specialise in O Gauge (which is a reasonable fit for wargames - especially the more 'heroic' 28mm figures such as the GAFDOZ range I so admire).

The skip, once painted, will be perfect for those urban games I keep dreaming about... possibly involving zombies!

Rachel and I met a very pleasant gentleman who ran York Modelmaking Ltd - a fellow wargamer, although his preferred periods were American Civil War and Second World War - who offers, as well as an extensive range of pre-cast and kit buildings (Rachel picked up a garden shed for Midale), a bespoke service which, if I was still in gainful employment, I'd certainly consider investigating, as the buildings he had on display on his stand were very eye-catching.

For a selection of pictures from the day click here.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

My Life And Roleplaying: The Saga Of Staghind Starlight Aramioc-Blacksword The First (part two)

I had always had a very definite idea of what Staghind looked like, but it wasn't until issue 24 of White Dwarf came out that I actually had a visual representation of my vision.

This is Staghind!

The final page of her "retirement" character sheet, below, details her castle (the former Halls Of The Elf King; a dungeon she took over), her fleet of ships, her magic horse and her small orc army.
Ahh, those were the days!

There was no set game world when we played, Staghind moved from campaign to campaign, Dungeon Master to Dungeon Master and no one questioned her ever-increasing wealth or powers. This does go a long way towards explaining the bizarre diversity of her travels and treasures - from obvious Tolkienesque material to
Howard The Duck-inspired martial arts skills.

I'd like to point out that at some stage I deducted the "bonus experience points" she was gifted to start at 3rd level, so the experience points you see on her sheet were all earned by her own sweat and blood.

I certainly wouldn't be adverse, one day, to bringing her out of retirement (next month being, of course, her 30th anniversary), but - on the other hand - I'm quite content to leave her, safe and sound, on her throne, surrounded by all her wonderful acquisitions and memories.

Most likely though is I'll use either the map of her castle or of
The Crypte Of The Courageous as a dungeon in my current Labyrinth Lord campaign, with Staghind's numerous magic items and plentiful finances as the treasure. Afterall, who could resist the chance to own a "vorpal sword of everlasting flame of disintegration"?

My Life And Roleplaying: The Saga Of Staghind Starlight Aramioc-Blacksword The First! (part one)

By mid-1979, the club side of The Dark Tower had outgrown the rooms above the shop and relocated to a community hall a short distance away in a more suburban area of Tunbridge Wells.

As well as all the normal campaigns being run, one Dungeon Master (
I don't recall his name) was running a "competition" dungeon, known as The Crypte Of The Courageous. He told me to create a third level character, so I turned for advice to the best source of reliable information I knew... the counter monkey at The Dark Tower.

His immediate suggestion was a half-elf magic-user/fighter/cleric (
I had moved on to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons by this time)... and so was born Staghind.

Not only did she (
and her fellow adventurer whose name has faded into obscurity) become the first team to conquer The Crypte Of The Courageous in July 1979, but she would eventually become my longest surviving and, beyond a shadow of a doubt, favourite Dungeons & Dragons character.

Among her other achievements in her illustrious career - before settling down as Queen Of Norll, Jalla and Elfland - she rescued a fellow party member from boiling mud in White Plume Mountain (admittedly she'd knocked him in there first); liberated the Simarils from Morgoth; gained storm giant strength for 10 years from a raid on a giant's lair; and - most impressively - was taught martial arts by a duck master of Quack Fu!

Oh yes, she also met the legendary White Dwarf and her own god, Niffle. Apparently his mission is to seek out those who are worthy enough to worship him (he doesn't actively court worshippers). As it says on her character sheet below she has only ever actually met one other Nifflite - the high-priset of the faith, a gentleman by the name of Thor.

She was married twice; first to Gublin's main character Egghead Aramioc and then to Guy Huckle's Glorfindel Blacksword. She had seven children and adopted one (
a duck by the name of Quincy).

Her eldest daughter, Elean, made an appearance in the first few sessions of our current campaign as a pirate leader and where Staghind herself was masquerading as queen of the Amazonian island of Zenn.

End of Part One...

Thor: Love & Thunder (2022) + Dr Who (2022)


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