Reality Is The Playground Of The Unimaginative

Home Of Swords, Snowy, Sorcery, Superheroes, Sonic Screwdrivers, Supernatural Scares, Star Stuff, Simians, and Silliness

Saturday, 31 December 2011

What Are You Doing New Years Eve?

Gorgeous duet from Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

DVD Of The Week: The Whisperer In Darkness (2011)

It should be written into American law that if ever a Hollywood suit has the cockamamieidea of trying to do a big budget adaptation of an HP Lovecraft horror story he should be forced (possibly at gunpoint) to first watch the HP Lovecraft Historical Society's Call Of Cthulhu and The Whisperer in Darkness to see how it can be done well and with due respect to the source material.

The Whisperer In Darkness is the latest cinematic enterprise from the foremost producers of Lovecraftian replicas and gaming props, The HP Lovecraft Historical Society, and like its predecessor retains its verisimilitude through the use of black and white film - although unlike Call Of Cthulhu this one is a talkie!

Taking Lovecraft's tale as its base, the movie expands the set-up and adds in an entirely original finale to give the story a classic three act structure, rather than ending on the shock revelation of the short story, it attempts to humanise Lovecraft's protagonist more, give him an emotional investment and throw in a more 'traditional' Hollywood style ending - but still managing to neatly stitch in a suitably Lovecraftian twist.

The Whisperer In Darkness tells of Miskatonic University folklore professor Albert Wilmarth (Matt Foyer) and his sceptical investigations into supposed 'monster' sightings in the most remote hills of Vermont after some particularly violent flooding.

His search for the truth begins with footprints around the property of the isolated home of Henry Akeley (Barry Lynch) and quickly spirals into madness as he unearths more than he was bargaining for and discovers the future of mankind is at stake.

Like their inspiration, film-makers Sean Branney and Andrew Leman rely primarily on suggestion and atmosphere and it's only really when the true face of the central creatures are revealed in the final act that the excellence of the tale wobbles slightly.

Saving both time and (more importantly) money, the team went with CGI animation for the alien Mi-go instead of the costlier and more time-consuming stop motion (which I get the impression a lot of fans would have preferred).

By no means a deal breaker, but there is no escaping the truth right in front of your eyes when you watch the movie that the CGI Mi-go, especially in close-up, really stand apart from the rest of the film (and not in a good way).

We've waited a long time for this movie to appear (more than two years I believe since the original announcements and teasers) and I'd have gladly waited longer, but I totally understand the HPLHS's desire to get the film done and for a decent budget (as it is Sandy Petersen, creator of the Call Of Cthulhu RPG had to step in and help with the funding to get the movie finished).

They also, rather cheekily, added in a new, most 'unLovecraftian' character in the form of a little girl, Hannah (Autumn Wendel), whose life is in jeopardy because of the alien creatures in the hills, and Wilmarth takes her under his wing and attempts to protect her from a possible fate worse than death.

Whether he succeeds is for you to find out when you purchase the movie directly from the HPLHS for a very reasonable $24.50 - plus postage.The two-disc DVD set includes a disc chock full of extra features including a bevy of informative behind-the-scenes documentaries, trailers and deleted scenes.

You won't regret the purchase. This ranks as one of the strongest adaptations of Lovecraft's stories of indescribable monsters and things man was not supposed to know.

Outside of HPLHS's own productions, the only live-action Lovecraftiana that has come close to getting under my skin - as Lovecraft's words have the power to do - are John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness and Cigarette Burns (from the TV series Masters Of Horror), even though neither of these are actually Lovecraft stories, and Stuart Gordon's Dagon and Dreams In The Witch-House, also from Masters of Horror.

Thus John Carpenter and Stuart Gordon would be exempt from my proposed law above; everyone else - watch these movies before you dare even contemplate trying to bring Lovecraft to the big, or small, screen yourself.


The Mi-go/Fungi From Yuggoth, and their fiendish devices, have already been well covered in various old school gaming products, including:
  • Carcosa (from Lamentations Of The Flame Princess)
  • Realms Of Crawling Chaos (from Goblinoid Games, for Labyrinth Lord)
  • Deities & Demigods (from TSR, original printing, for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons)
  • Malleus Monstrorum and others (from Chaosium, for Call Of Cthulhu)

Friday, 30 December 2011

Merlin: The Sword In The Stone - Part Two

The season finale of Merlin kicks off with great gusto as Arthur, Merlin and a handful of stragglers flee Ealdor. Matters take an even darker turn when Merlin goes full-on Dragonlord and summons The Great Dragon (Kilgharrah) to rain fire down on their pursuers.

Unfortunately this has the side effect of herding Agravaine and a number of Morgana's soldiers into the cave system where Arthur and co are hiding out. Then we see Merlin taking a trip to the Dark Side when he slays the soldiers and keeps Agravaine alive just long enough to taunt him a little bit more before the axe finally falls on the serpent at the heart of Camelot.

However after this, The Sword In The Stone (Part Two) doesn't quite live up to the potential suggested by its first episode, or even the bulk of the season up to this point.

While I've grown to accept the fact that the show takes great liberties with Arthurian mythology (i.e. getting the Gwen/Lancelot romance out the way quick sharpish), my biggest problem with The Sword In The Stone (Part Two) is its fumbled fudging of the core "sword in the stone" myth.

The storytellers seem unable to decide whether it's a complete fabrication of Merlin's (possibly assisted by the Kilgharrah) - in which case he has also convinced the entire population of Camelot about this old legend that no-one had previously heard about - or it's simply a rather key myth from Camelot's past that everyone knows about... except Arthur.

Of course, the sword is also actually Excalibur (adding strength to the idea that Merlin is making it all up and has somehow won round the knights and citizens of Camelot to his bogus tale about the first king), so at least that mighty blade has found its way into the hands of the Once And Future King (even if by rather unorthodox methods).

While I like the idea of a "trickster" Merlin (as seen in  the short-lived Camelot series) and of the sword being set up a test of Arthur's right to remain king, the fact that no-one else was seen trying to pull Excalibur from the stone rather lessens the symbolism of the act when performed by Arthur (with a bit of magical grease from Merlin). As far as the watchers know, any random bod could have pulled the sword out!

Then, there's poor old Gaius, in the dungeons of Camelot, matter-of-factly stating that as a physician he knows he is about to die, whether he eats or not, and then come the end of the tale he's back on his feet as though nothing had ever happened.

Given Isolde's knack for attracting injury in these two episodes it's quite surprising that she survived this long. You have to wonder if, maybe, Tristan could have taken some steps earlier towards either getting her better trained or perhaps steering her towards a less dangerous occupation.

That said, as with the previous episode, there are some magnificent swordfights here - even if director Alice Troughton does rather overdo the "dramatic slo-mo" - and both Gwen and Morgana continue to increase their badass status by proving to be dab hands with a blade.

Katie McGrath is, naturally, smouldering as Morgana but Angel Coulby continues to impress as the role of Gwen becomes more fully-rounded.

Merlin's neat trick with the poppet (a enchanted corn doll to sap Morgana's power that has been used a number of times in the show already) was a stroke of genius and I appreciated the way that, in his aged Emrys persona he even manages to taunt Morgana by swanning in and out of Camelot beneath the noses of her guards.

Clearly this tougher, more manipulative, dare I say 'darker', Merlin is the way forward and major kudos to Colin Morgan for truly capturing the complexities of the character as it evolves.

Bonus points also, of course, for the appearance of the youngling Aithusa at the close of the episode, promising intriguing power dynamics for the fifth season if Morgana is getting her own draconic support as well.

I can't wait for next season, even if the show continues to grow as it has done it would be such a tragedy if Season Five (as rumoured) becomes its final season. At least, the chances are, at this rate, it will go out on a high.

Oh, Oobee Doo, I Wanna Be Like You...

March sees the launch of a new five-issue mini from Zenescope that puts their trademark spin on another classic story - this time Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book.

Grimm Fairy Tales Presents The Jungle Book, written by Mark L Miller, features a female Mowglii raised by wolves and finding herself in the middle of a civil war or what the animals term "The Great Animal Battle".

According to Zenescope's marketing manager Stephen Haberman:
"Mowglii must learn her place in the jungle and fight for survival against many exotic beasts. But she is not the only human in this jungle island. Three other children have been raised by different animal tribes: Bomani grows up in the tiger tribe that is led by the conniving Shere Kahn, Akili learned the ways of the jungle from the mischievous Tavi mongoose tribe, and Dewan comes of age within the unpredictable Monkeys of Bandar Log, which is led by the insane King Bandar Louis. Mowglii and the rest of the human cubs play key roles in the ongoing Great Animal Battle of Kipling Isle as they approach adulthood."

Thursday, 29 December 2011

John Carter Of Japan And The Russian Avengers...

Take a gander at the Japanese trailer for John Carter (with an introduction from director Andrew Stanton), that really sells the premise for those not au fait with character, then wrap your senses around the new Russian trailer for The Avengers.

2012 ain't looking so bad now, is it? With these, Prometheus, The Hobbit, The Dark Knight Rises and Amazing Spider-Man at the forefront of releases to look forward to, we could be in for a bumper year of blockbusters...

<a href='^ru-ru&src=FLPl:embed::uuids' target='_new' title='Мстители' >Видео: Мстители</a>

Doctor Who: The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe

So, how does The Doctor repay the kindness of the woman who helped him find the TARDIS after he'd survived a plunge to Earth out of the upper atmosphere in 1938? He returns three years later and puts her, and her two children, into mortal peril!

Oh, Doctor, when will you ever learn? Sometimes a "thank you" card will suffice.

It's Christmas Eve, 1941, and Madge Arwell (Outnumbered's Claire Skinner) has learned that her bomber-pilot husband Reg (Alexander Armstrong, the voice of 'Mr Smith' in the Sarah Jane Adventures) has been lost over the English Channel returning from a mission.

Determined to give her children, Lily (Holly Earl) and Cyril (Maurice Cole), the "best Christmas ever" - before breaking the news about their father's death - she relocates the family to their uncle's old house in Dorset.

However, instead of the usual caretaker (who presumably had a sudden win on "the lottery"), there they find a particularly manic Doctor - masquerading as The Caretaker - doing a very impressive Mary Poppins impression with animated furniture, sink taps that produce lemonade, bedrooms full of childish delights etc

His main present though is a gift-wrapped box that contains a dimensional portal to a snow-cloaked, Narnia-esque world of 'living' Christmas trees that spontaneously grow ornaments (the trees' seeds).

Unfortunately, the "safest place in the universe" has been targeted by futuristic strip miners - who just happen to arrive at exactly the same time as The Doctor and the children - looking to melt down the forest (with acid rain) and convert it into precious fuel.

The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe is typical Steven Moffat Christmas fare, a convoluted tale told at break-neck speed that builds to a suitably, seasonally, upbeat ending.

There is, unsurprisingly, much too much going on throughout - with the cameos from Bill Bailey and Arabella Weir as the Douglas Adams-lite 'lumberjacks' from the future being almost pointless - and several of the set-pieces (such as Madge piloting the giant mecha robot) border on the absurd. In fact, the characters from the 1940s are remarkably okay with the whole idea of time and dimension travel and seem pretty much unphased by most of what happens to them.

But as is often Moffat's way, the plot barrels on regardless, steamrollering over any WTF moments or plot holes, to get to its happy ending for Madge and the children, followed by a surprising sweet ending for The Doctor as well.

For me, the story didn't really come into its own until The Doctor and the children were trapped inside the lighthouse made of trees. Up until then, I'd found the velocity of events slightly heavy-handed and the 'manic' Doctor (when he first appeared as The Caretaker) was actually rather irritating and certainly not the charming, bumbling Doctor I usually enjoyed watching.

There was also an inescapable whiff of Moffat going for the soundbites that would make for good trailer material, definitely playing up the similarities to The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe that the title suggested, but really weren't there beyond the visuals of a snowy land reached through a "magical portal" and explored by children in 1940's dressing gowns!

It's quite telling though that the episode didn't end with a "next time..." or "The Doctor will return in..." because, of course, now fans have the long wait until Autumn 2012 for the next season of Doctor Who to begin.

Hot Blog Topic Of The Year...

Based on the number of comments, the rundown of my top 10 Worst Movies Ever was the article on I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters... that generated the most reaction in 2011 (as part of Alex J Cavanaugh's Worst Movies Ever Blogfest!) ... and only one of those actually (belatedly) called me out on my choices, the rest were pretty much in agreement.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Captain America Drawn By Alan Davis!

If you're a comic book reader and not subscribed to Grace Randolph's new online show, Stacktastic, for weekly updates (courtesy of Bleeding Cool) then you're missing out!

And the news about Alan Davis could see me adding Captain America back onto my pull-list, just as I thought I'd whittled 99 per cent of the cape titles off it...

Behind-The-Scenes Featurette For Spartacus: Vengeance

A gruesome 12-minute behind-the-scenes feature on the forthcoming Spartacus: Vengeance, sequel to Blood And Sand, including interviews with cast and crew.

Moments Of The Year...

Personal Moment Of 2011: Being named godfather of Nick and Clare's handsome baby boy, Alec. I can't begin to express the pleasure this has given - and will continue to give - me.

I mention this today because today is Alec's first birthday and Rachel has teased me that I'm spoiling Alec, but she also knows that my affection for the little chap goes way beyond the fact that his parents are one of my oldest friends and a former housemate of mine who met at our wedding!

Geek Moment Of 2011
: Not a single moment per se, but a series of events made possible with the advent of modern technology. Through the power of the Internet, this year I have chatted online with Cody Deal (star of The Asylum's Mighty Thor movie) and Albert Pyun (director of The Sword And The Sorcerer), while getting my aged Hawk The Slayer novelisation signed by the film's writer/director!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Comic Book Of The Year...

Morning Glories

Followed by:

Demon Knights

Book Of The Year...


A Game Of Thrones
: I realise I came to the party rather late in this case, but I had always stayed away from this style of multi-part, encyclopaedia-sized sagas because of my Moorcock Rule. However, A Game Of Thrones simply blew me away with Martin's addictive writing style and now I wish I'd been picking these books up when they were first published.

I've subsequently set myself a target of at least one more volume of the Song Of Fire And Ice saga per year and I can only hope that neither Martin nor I go into the long night before he actually finishes this mammoth undertaking.

Followed by:

Scrivener's Moon: the latest masterpiece from my favourite author, Philip Reeve - continuing the story of young Fever Crumb.

Cinematic Experience Of 2011...

Film Of The Year Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes.

DVD of The Year: Ironclad

The TV Event Of 2011...

Season One of the epic Game Of Thrones condensed into six minutes. Season Two (as well as Winter) is coming in April!

Other highlights of 2011: Fringe, Warehouse 13, American Horror Story, Misfits, Merlin, How I Met Your Mother, Glee and Teen Wolf.

American Horror Story - the ultimate haunted house tale
Misfits - cast of season three

Monday, 26 December 2011

JourneyQuest - Season One...

If there's nothing to watch on TV, kick back and enjoy the first seven-part season of the great Dungeons & Dragons-y webseries, JourneyQuest.

Join duff mage Perf (Christian Doyle), elfish bow-maiden Nara (Anne Kennedy), priest Carrow (Brian Lewis) and enthusiastic fighter Glorion (Kevin Pitman) as dysfunctional adventurers on a quest to destroy the mythical Sword of Fighting.

JourneyQuest, from the creators of The Gamers and The Gamers: Dorkness Rising is a comedic adventure through the fantasy world of Fartherall, where intellectual orcs, incompetent wizards, and holy zombies form the living (and not-so-living) backdrop to an epic story of unrequited love, burning passions, and severely reluctant heroism. And running away. Lots of running away…

Season One of JourneyQuest is also available on DVD from Amazon.

Musical Monday: Monster Manual by Mixel Pixel

Mixel Pixel, with animation by Dan Meth, take you on a wild ride through the D&D Monster Manual.

Sunday, 25 December 2011


Christmas wishes from Brucie, the Doctor Who crew and a Sontaran!

Have A Super Christmas!!!

Written and sung by Michelle Osorio.


Here's the story of a dear father we know
and his sacrifice made such a long time ago

Jor-el Jor-el Jor-el Jor-el
Gone is the father of Kal-el

In a Krypton town was a boy child's birth
But impending doom made him a Saviour to Earth

Jor-el knew Krypton's end was drawing near,
Which brings up the question. How did Supes end up here?

Jor-el looked it up on Google Sky
and he said Earth has nice folks, even though they can't fly.

Jor-el Jor-el Jor-el Jor-el
Gone is the father of Kal-el

He put his son in comfy big rock
Then he stood with his wife and they told him good luck

He gave his life that his one son might live
who saves us quite often, what a nice gift to give

Jor-el Jor-el Jor-el Jor-el
Gone is the father of Kal-el

Better Luck Next Year...

Saturday, 24 December 2011

'Twas The Night Before Christmas...

'Twas The Night Before Christmas (retold by Wener Herzog) - delivered by Ryan Iverson.

Have A Very Calvin & Hobbes Christmas...

Fairy Tale Police...

In a year that saw the arrival on American TV of Grimm and Once Upon A Time, this short from director Adam Green, Fairy Tale Police is a COPS-inspired reality show where two human police officers keep order in a land full of storybook villains, magical monsters, and other cartoonish characters; starring Rachael Leigh Cook.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Busy 19th Century Street Scenes...

Fascinating footage of traffic scenes back in the late 1890s/early 1900s, which show London was just as busy back then as it is now!

Fleamarket Friday: Lucky Number 13...

Amidst the gathering darkness, Fight On! returns to give battle once more!

Packed tighter than a Bag of Holding on the way out of Acererak’s tomb, this issue has everything you need to make your next saving roll vs. lame gaming!

Dedicated to Ken St. Andre, Fight On! #13 features new rules, new settings, ten new adventures, and the slew of tables, classes, races, NPCs, magic items, humor, and so much more you’ve come to look out for in every issue.

Pick up lucky issue 13 in PDF or print from Lulu.

Table of contents:
  • The Swashbuckler (Calithena) 3
  • Elves as Green Men (Walt Jillson) 4
  • Variant Kindreds (Age of Fable) 5
  • Grognard's Grimoire (Erin "Taichara" Bisson) 6
  • Cantrips Gone Wild! (John Laviolette) 7
  • Battle School (Ken St. Andre) 10
  • Mysterious Laboratory of Xoth-Ragar (Alex Fotinakes) 15
  • Knights & Knaves (Andrew "Venomous Pao" Trent) 22
  • Creepies & Crawlies (garrisonjames) 25
  • Artifacts, Adjuncts, & Oddments (Hudson Bell & Cal) 27
  • Slaughter in the Salt Pits (Gabor Lux) 28
  • The Library of Karvu Naudra (Jason Vasché) 33
  • An Unfamiliar Encounter (John Larrey) 36
  • The Goblin Market (Richard Rittenhouse) 40
  • Bonus Tables (Jeff Rients) 45
  • What is this Monster Scared Of? (Dustin Brandt) 46
  • Fruiting Towers (Patrick Wetmore) 47
  • Tricks & Treats (Andreas Davour & Wayne Cayea) 58
  • Mythal (Calithena) 61
  • The Tale of an Egg (Baz Blatt) 69
  • The Darkness Beneath (Makofan) 78
  • Champions of ZED (Daniel Boggs) 98
  • In the Shadow of the Catskills (Michael Curtis) 111
  • Scramp! (Richard Rittenhouse) 116
  • Education of a Magic User (Douglas Cox) 120
  • Top Tips for Tunnels & Trolls (Big Jack Brass) 121
  • Doxy, Urgent Care Cleric (J. Linneman & K. Green) 122

A Crypts & Things Spell...

Intuit Weather

Level 1, Magician, White Magic

When cast, the magician will gain an insight into the weather for the general region he is in for a coming number of days dependent on his level (first to third: one day, fourth to sixth: two days; seventh to ninth: three days; 10th to 12th: four days; 13th to 15th: five days; 16th to 19th: six days; 20th plus: seven days).

Therefore he will know that if his prediction is false, then there is probably foul sorcery at work.

This spell is a good excuse for the DM to work out a calendar and weather patterns for his campaign setting.

Nearly Christmas, Must Be Time For Elf Sabers...

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Capturing The Look Of Westeros...

The latest behind-the-scenes featurette from Game Of Thrones, season two.

Christmas Comes In All Shapes And Sizes...

Like her mum, Rachel really gets into the Christmas spirit with an infectious joie de vivre that has transformed areas of our house with plentiful seasonal decorations.

Our traditional tree is shown above, while the intricate, annual festooning of two rooms in Rachel's impressive dolls house is shown below.

We even took the time the other evening to make a quick visit to the temporary ice rink in Calverley Grounds, Tunbridge Wells - which turned out to be a lot more attractive (and busy) than I expected (in my normal, cynical way).

Not that either of us were up to braving the ice, although we did enjoy a cupcake and a chocolate brownie as we watched people skating!

Had we not already been feeling it anyway, that certainly would have put us in the festive mood.

I hope you all have great holidays, however you celebrate them. I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters... will soon be switching to 'automatic' for a few days, during which time I've programmed a number of amusing and/or appropriate items to pop up at regular intervals.

Reviews of Christmas geek television (i.e. the Doctor Who Christmas Special and the Merlin season finale) will appear, retroactively, in their correct slots in the timeline... once I have the willpower to drag myself away from plates of turkey, stuffing and roasties.

Night Of The Living Dead... In Wales?

Night Of The Living Dead: Resurrection is a British remake of Romero's genre-establishing classic... but now set in a 2012 Welsh farmhouse.

As ever we have Quiet Earth to thank for drawing this to my attention.

World Of Mortal Engines' Christmas Story...

Fans of Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines world, rejoice!

He has written a new short story (featuring a young Hester Shaw and the Stalker robot Shrike) set in that magnificent environment and illustrated by Sarah McIntyre.

In The Bleak Midwinter is available to read now (for free!) on his blog.

Now this is a brilliant Christmas present!

The Dragon Takes Flight...

The Crown And The Dragon movie Kickstarter reached its target yesterday with days to spare and so the production team at Arrowstorm Entertainment are now aiming for $12,500 by next Tuesday.

They've added new reward incentives as well - limited edition artwork (like the piece above) - which can be seen on their Kickstarter web page.

To choose one of the three pieces of art, you'll need to pledge at least $50 (if you are in the US) for The Ultimate Fan Package, which includes an exclusive Kickstarter Supporters Edition DVD signed by director Anne Black; a CD of the soundtrack; a limited edition "I've got the horn - The Crown and the Dragon" t-shirt; a personalized, signed copy of the screenplay; and a signed 11x17 inch poster. (International buyers need to add $10 shipping).

Full details of the art availability are explained on the project's web site.

For more details about this highly promising film, check out my earlier coverage - starting here.

Blood-Splattered New Trailer For Spartacus...

Not for the faint-hearted...

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

D&DVD Of The Week: Thor The Conqueror (1983)

Did you know that snake venom on moss can restore the sight of someone who has had their eyes burned out with torches? That's just one of the many nuggets of wisdom I picked up from the totally bat-shit crazy Thor The Conqueror (aka Thor il Conquistatore).

This is Italian '80s, swords-and-sorcery at its finest with a picaresque plot that makes no sense whatsoever, where things happen without rhyme nor reason and the titular hero of the piece is a rapist and a simpleton with delusions of grandeur.

After a bizarre opening with stirring music and nothing happening for a couple of minutes, baby Thor is born to a barbarian with a stubby sword just before the proud parents are slain by bandits led by Gnut The Archer (Raf Baldassarre) - for no explicable reason. Thor is spirited away by his father's pet sorcerer, Etna (Christopher Holm), whose main power appears to be to transform into an owl.

Misogynist Etna (who may - or may not - be a ghost) raises Thor as his own son, teaching him such gems as "women are stupid and are only good as playthings and to bear children" (both men make Deathstalker look like a feminist), and often forgetting he has access to potentially useful magic at key moments when Thor might have benefited from a helping hand.

Etna acts as a combination narrator and Greek chorus, several times addressing the audience directly even when Thor is right there. He also has a habit of hanging around whenever Thor is getting it on with one of his lady friends!

At one point Thor is tormented by static visions of papier-mâché monster faces and fun fair ride skeletons, but this - like much else that happens along his journey - has nothing to do with anything.

For some reason Thor has to attack the Queen Of The Virgin Warriors, but instead defeats a couple of her hand-maidens (who wear wicker baskets as helmets) and then forces himself on a third, Ina (Maria Romano).

He then ties her up and drags her half-way across the country. When she finally has a decent chance to escape - as Thor has wandered off and gotten himself ambushed by a tribe of nature-worshipping primitives - she instead decides that she's actually rather fond of  the man who raped her and so goes to rescue him.

The primitives were guarding the "Golden Seed" - which look like a stash of corn - and I think the movie is possibly supposed to be some prehistoric allegory about how Thor brought agricultural to humanity (or something). At one point, later on, a passing mention is made of Thor being descended from the god Thor - but this is totally out of the blue and not backed up by any evidence on the screen.

Having wandered into a random valley and declared it his kingdom, the irredeemable Thor heads off to the Land Of The Unknown, which is basically a beach, where he and, now pregnant, Ina set up home. They are soon approached by a local village that has decided to make Thor their "Chief Of Chiefs" (no, I don't know why) and they promptly hand the village's oldest virgin over to him as a mate... which, Ina, is disturbingly in favour of.

There's then a battle with Gnut The Archer and his boys again, while Ina is giving birth to Thor's child. Thor defends the village with the world's first horse, magically summoned by Etna ("Centuries from now it will be called a horse," the demented wizard helpfully explains), which scares the jeepers out of Gnut's crew and sends them all packing. So, yes, he does get revenge on the man who slew his father - and shot an arrow into him as a baby - but it's more by luck than judgement.

A true spectacle of ineptitude across the board, oddly Thor The Conqueror (despite its uncomfortable gender politics and generally bleak, ugly presentation) is a pinnacle of the "so bad, it's good" genre of low-budget movie making.

It isn't particularly gory, there's very brief nudity and pretty much all the sex occurs off camera, but it's the head-scratching story that will hold your attention as you try to puzzle out why things are happening... and asking where the giant snakes and pterosaurs from the DVD cover are? (spoiler: neither of these monsters appear in the movie. In fact, there are no monsters at all. Just lots of grunting cavemen and a handful of women).

My Precious, My Precious...

Carcosa, possibly one of the more attractive gaming products produced by the OSR to date, has arrived.

Borne from Finland in the talons of a byakhee, this dread, blasphemous tome arrived a matter of days after ordering and I can't wait to settle down and drain my sanity by learning more of things man was not supposed to know.

Congratulations to Geoffrey McKinney and James Raggi for birthing such a beautiful book that every gamer should be proud to have of their shelves.

Special mention must also go to artist Richard Longmore for his excellent black and white illustrations throughout the book that really capture the weird sci-fi/fantasy/messed-up Cthulhoid feel of Carcosa with their dark, gritty style reminiscent of Russ Nicholson's work in the old British Fighting Fantasy books.

A typical day on Carcosa

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Trailer

We have to wait a YEAR for this... oh, God, I'm going to be wishing the months away.

Help Bring This Dragon To Life...

With less than a final week to go on their Kickstarter drive for The Crown and the Dragon, feature film, Arrowstorm Entertainment is having a final push for backers

If they reach their $10,000 goal by December 27 (next Tuesday) all backers will receive an digital copy of the novelization of the story - which is due out in time for the film's US launch.

Arrowstorm has also updated us on the filming progress, explaining that every special effects shot has been planned out with the VFX team, who will be modelling the dragon and Rav'n over the Christmas break and then compositing and animation will begin January.

Some initial dragon renderings from December 6
The underwater nymph sequences will be shot in the second week of January in Provo, Utah, and lead actress Amy De Bhrun is making the long flight from Dublin, Ireland to take her place alongside the nymphs. That will then wrap all photography on the film.

You can see a couple of trailers for the movie on here on I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters... and read here to discover how you can download a free copy of the film's script.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Merlin: The Sword in the Stone - Part Two (Preview)

This is it - the grand finale to a brilliant season of Merlin.

"Morgana and Helios have successfully captured Camelot, and Merlin and Arthur are outlaws on the run. Trapped in Ealdor with a ruthless army closing in, their situation becomes desperate. Arthur must take control before Camelot is lost forever, but faced with Agravaine's betrayal and the strength of Morgana's force, the young King has lost his conviction.
"Only Merlin can restore his faith, and only an extraordinary act can prove to the King that he was born to rule. Will the young warlock convince Arthur before his dreams of Albion fall to pieces?"

Merlin's Miscellany: Part Six...

The Questing Beast
(from Le Morte D'Arthur)

Rarely seen and generally considered to be a myth or an old wives' tale, the arrival of The Questing Beast in an area is said to portend great catastrophe and times of hardship.

What is certain is that it is a creature of magic, an instrument of higher powers, with a fatal bite that causes an incurable, terminal fever.

When the Questing Beast appears in an area it will set up home in a nearby cave and then start bothering the peasant folk. It is very single-minded and driven by whatever purpose has brought it to the area - usually to slay an important noble who is about to make a world-changing decision - and aims to draw its 'target' out by these systematic assaults on innocent parties (although it will never slay an innocent, only batter them about, harass their livestock, destroy property etc)

Once its 'mission' is complete - or he has been killed - the beast will move on.

#ENC: 1 (unique?)
Size: Large
HD: 10
AC: 0 [19]
#ATT: claw  (2d6), claw (2d6), bite (2d10 + poison)
Move: 24
ST: 5
  • Damage Immunity: It cannot be harmed by non-magical weapons, or magical ones with less than a +2 damage bonus. It also has a 25 per cent magic resistance.
  • Immortal: If killed, its corpse will disappear 1d6 hours after its death and a 'new' Questing Beast will appear somewhere else in the world.
  • Poison: Anyone bitten by the Questing Beast must make a save vs poison (at a Disadvantage)  or collapse in an unconscious, feverish coma. If the check is made, then none of the poison has gotten into his system, otherwise the victim will not waken while in the grip of the fever and will lose one CON point per day as his condition worsens. The only cure is wish-level magic or a powerful artifact. Should a method of curing him be found, he will recover at a rate of one CON point per day, back to full health
CL/XP: 15/2,900

Join me next year,
when I start covering
the beasts and magic
of Merlin, Season Two.

Tell Me About Your Character...

One of the most powerful influences in my formative gaming years - and one that still inspires me to this day - is the "dedication" sections found in old role-playing games, where the author records (usually in just a simple phrase) the fates or notable deeds of play-tester's characters.

Not only did this prove to me that the system had been thoroughly play-tested (something a lot of games, I fear, these days - especially from some of the 'bigger' companies - don't get) but also that the players were clearly putting some thought into their characters and helping craft a grand story, the bigger picture.

The list of characters above is from the 1979 Heroes game, a Dark Ages RPG that has long since left my collection - the only memento I retained from it being a photocopy of the dedications page.

But as great as the Heroes dedication was, the ones that have driven my role-playing ambitions the most were the dedications by Dave Hargrave in the first two volumes of his seminal Arduin Grimoire:

I know I've talked about the "Elric in Hell" scenario before (at length), but this is the kind of myth-making that is a cornerstone of my love of role-playing games, especially those with an 'old school' flavour, over any other form of gaming.

I don't want to know about your "feat-combos" or "power-ups" - I want to hear the stories you've had a hand in creating, the actual adventures your characters have undertaken... and I want to help my players create those moments and memories as well.

This, for me, is the essence of role-playing games and why they are the greatest hobby in the world.

John Carter TV Spots...

A pair of TV spots for John Carter; not much new footage, but still looking mighty fine!

Liam McIntyre As Spartacus...

Liam McIntyre shares his thoughts on taking on the title role in Spartacus: Vengeance, which premiers on January 27 in the States on STARZ.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Wrath Of The Titans - Trailer

Hopefully this (unexpected?) sequel to the underwhelming Clash Of The Titans remake might benefit from not being a mangling of a Harryhausen classic.

[TEKRALH] All The Small Things...

The average, middle-class inhabitant of Tekralh earns about 10gp a week.

The lower classes - serfs - end up "paying back" almost all that amount to their liege lords for the privilege of working their land, "free" food, clothes on their back, basic supplies etc

The balance of anything they have left over is usually in the form of grain or livestock, rather than coinage.

This is then used for barter and may, then, be turned to coin.

So, what do they spend this money on...?

Basic Services:

Simple medical attention (from surgeon-barber): 1gp
Haircut or shave: 8sp
Prostitute: 1gp to 5gp
Stable horse for night: 8sp to 1gp & 12sp (1/12)
Stablehand: 5sp/day
Have letter written: 16sp
Carpenter/Bricklayer: 8gp/day
Blacksmith: 10gp/day
Armourer: 12gp/day
Reliable servant: 6gp/week
Send message across town/city: 2sp
Messenger on call: 1gp/day
Cook (one meal): 1sp
Cook (duration): 6sp/day
Squire: 1gp/day
(if any of these retainers are taken into dangerous situations, on adventures, to war etc, their basic daily pay doubles. Much of their daily wage goes on the upkeep and replacement of their own equipment, meals, hiring their own assistants where appropriate etc)

Cost of Accommodation:

Rent -
• Room in small town inn: 2-4g / night
• Room in large city inn: 3-5gp / night
• Flop house: 10sp – 1 gp / night
• Flat in a tenement block: 30 gp / month


• Shack in the woods: 50g.p, (plus labour to build, and price of land which can range from 50gp to 5,000gp)
• Shanty outside city walls: 50gp
• Home in small town: 5,000gp (doubles living expenses)
• Townhouse: 15,000gp (trebles living expenses)


Only those of the upper classes (or higher) are allowed to own slaves in Tekralh. However that doesn't stop isolated settlements acquiring slaves from unscrupulous slavers.

Adult male slave: 1,600gp
Adult female slave: 800gp
Educated adult male slave (e.g. tutor): 4,000gp
Slave boy (under 15 years): 150gp
Slave girl (under 15 years): 80gp
Red Silk, female: 1,500gp
Red Silk, male: 1,250 gp
White silk, female: 3,000gp
("silk" slaves are pleasure slaves)
Slave collar: 4gp

Red silk slave presents the evening meal to her master

RPG Resources:
  • The First Fantasy Campaign Playing Aid - Dave Arneson
  • Dragon Lords of Melniboné - Charlie Krank et al
  • Relics & Rituals: Excalibur - various

The Dragonborn Comes...

Skyrim Bard Song and Main Theme from Bethesda's video game Skyrim that seems to be quite popular with you kids, covered by Malukah.

Thanks to Tim over at Gothridge Manor for drawing this to my attention the other week.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Merlin's Miscellany: Part Five...

The Maid Stone
(from To Kill The King)

Note: although this write-up is inspired by the item as portrayed in this episode, it has been generously rewritten and re-imagined to fit in with my Tekralh campaign mythology

It is said that elongated egg-shaped piece of amber, held in a dragon's claw clasp, is actually a fragment of the Creation Grail that Mythra used to water the roots of the world tree with his own blood - to create the Erph.

The Maid Stone, as it has become known, is a powerful relic that taps into the magical web that is woven throughout the universe, twisting it and reshaping it.

It only responds (by glowing) in the hands of a magician who wills it to - otherwise it remains dull and lifeless. But whenever it is first activated, it tugs so strongly on the area's magic that any magician of equal or higher level than the person activating the stone, within one mile, will feel a sharp tug and "know" that there is some great magic at work.

The stone allows its user access to Polymorph Self, Polymorph Other (Crypts & Things core rules, page 55) at a cost of 4HP of "energy" (rather than the usual eight), Transmute Rock To Mud (C&T, page 59) for 5HP and Stone To Flesh (C&T, page 58 - Black Magic, save or lose 3 Sanity, rather than 6). Each of these "spell-like" abilities can be used only once per day.

It can be used as a defence against damage-causing energy spells (e.g. lightning bolt, fireball etc), allowing the holder to 'reflect back' the attack against the caster if he makes a successful saving throw.

A particular side-effect of owning the stone is (a) the magician will not age while the stone is in his possession; (b) he receives a +6 bonus to any saves versus diseases; and (c) his natural healing rate is doubled (ie. one point of CON per day of rest).

Twice a day, he may share this particular aspect of the stone's power though Cure Serious Wounds (C&T, page 46) or Cure Disease (C&T, page 46), although the mage may not use these particular abilities on himself.

However, the stone's most valued power is the ability to turn 'base metals' into gold, being able to create 100gp-worth of gold out of lead per Hit Point of energy the magic-user is willing to invest. The base metal must be in a molten form at the time of transformation and will only create molten gold - therefore it is probably best that the magician have a tame blacksmith to hand when he wants to perform this particular stunt.

It must be noted, though, that this transformed gold not only radiates magic to those that can detect it but only holds its golden form for a year and a day before reverting to its base metal.

Of course, if the Maid Stone is truly a fragment of The Creation Grail perhaps a canny sorcerer could use it in an attempt to track down that most powerful and elusive of all artifacts.

Happy Birthday, Michael Moorcock!

Party Time...

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Merlin: The Sword In The Stone - Part One

Tristan & Isolde
It's hard to believe this series is almost over! Merlin has gone from strength-to-strength over the years, with this current season standing up as some of the finest fantasy storytelling currently on television.

In this first episode of the season's two-part finale, The Sword In The Stone, as the court of Camelot is getting ready for The Feast of Beltane celebrations, Agravaine abandons any pretence of being Arthur's confidante and leads the troops of Helios into the castle - through the 'secret' tunnels (that everyone seems to use).

The army of Helios and Morgana take Camelot quickly and easily, with only a handful of knights giving them the slip - including Arthur and Merlin, who has to put a 'mind control' whammy on his king to get him to leave the city.

Mind-controlled Arthur is hilarious - and a brilliant example for role-players wishing to add mind control powers to their games.

During their flight, Arthur (now disguised as a "turnip-headed simpleton") and Merlin fall in with anti-royalist rogue Tristan (Ben Daniels) and his beloved warrior-woman sidekick, Isolde (Miranda Raison).

Despite Agravaine and a detachment of Hellios's troops catching up with Tristan's caravan, they manage to give the bad guy the slip again - despite losing their precious, smuggled cargo of frankincense and Isolde being wounded - and head towards Merlin's home village of Ealdor, over the border in King Lot's realm (wasn't it in Cenred's kingdom before? Perhaps its been annexed since The Moment Of Truth).

The Sword In The Stone - Part One had a heap of plot and character development to digest, but still managed to find time for some dramatic swordfights, Gwaine providing martial "entertainment" for Morgana's court and a lot of magic.

And, boy, were things dark. We were promised before season four began that the story would be taking a dark turn and the Merlin crew certainly keep their promises.

A particularly spiteful - and delightful - twist came in the suggestion that Morgana didn't even really care for Agravaine and had just been using him. Perhaps this will be her undoing in next week's, Christmas Eve, finale?

At least Arthur had a pleasant reunion in Ealdor and it was good to see that Merlin's mum show her face again; that's the sort of long-term continuity I approve of in this kind of scripted drama. On one level, it might seem like a minor detail, but for me it shows that the writers are interested in maintaining the verisimilitude - even if they did "move" Ealdor itself!


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