Reality Is The Playground Of The Unimaginative

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

Friday, 31 August 2012

Fleamarket Friday: Now You Can Sample Great Power...

With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story is coming to DVD.

On November 4, you will be able to own the epic story of one of the most respected comic book geniuses of our time.

Along with the film, the DVD includes special features such as:
  • Stan Lee’s Love Story: An in-depth interview with Stan and Joan Lee.
  • Heroes Helping Heroes: A look at the Hero Initiative, a non-profit devoted to helping comic creators in need.
  • A Marvel character gallery featuring over 500 characters Stan co-created.
  • More interviews with Stan
  • Director Commentary
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • And much, much more!

The DVD is now available for pre-order from Amazon.

Some more extended interviews from the documentary to whet your appetite:

[HOUSERULES] Fighting With Two Weapons...

Both Crypts & Things (page 31) and Swords & Wizardry Complete (page 41) give minimal effects for fighting with two weapons that crucially only scores one damage die between the two weapons (and with only a mere five per cent improved chance of hitting).

Crypts & Things - clearly influenced by the concept of the main gauche - even limits the second weapon to a dagger, whereas both Hollywood and history shows us that fighting with two swords is more than possible.

That simply isn't heroic enough for me, so I dug back into the rules I used to use back in the day playing AD&D (which also tie into my old "which is your prime hand" rule):

-4 to hit with off-hand, -2 to hit with prime hand
Must improve one penalty by one point
-3 to hit with off-hand, -1 to hit with prime hand
Swashbuckler (style)
-2 to hit with off-hand, no penalty with prime hand

The key difference for me is that fighting with two weapons gets you two attacks (you probably won't hit unless you have some kind of bonus, but at least you have a chance).

This includes ‘shield bashing’ if using your shield to club opponent while also striking to hit. A shield bash does 1d3 damage if successful. A spiked shield does one average dice damage (an average die is a d6 with faces that read: 2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 5 and used to feature in miniatures wargames).

Note: "swashbuckler" is a combat style available to both thieves and fighters (with other restrictions etc) in Crypts & Things.

Fleamarket Friday: Get Kuzimu To New York...

Kuzimu is a surreal indie comic, produced through 215 Ink, by British writer/artist Brett Uren.

Brett has recently launched a crowdsourcing campaign to raise the funds to get him to New York Comic Con in October so that he can get his incredible-looking work in front of the right industry people and comic book press.

He told HeroPress: "I'm looking for $1,750 for flights and accommodation over Saturday, October 13, and Sunday, October 14, at Comic Con, where I will join Andrew DelQuadro and other 215 Ink creators at booth 2279. As a new author, it is so important to be where the press is to build awareness of their work. To my mind there is no better place to do that than NYCC."

Kuzimu is a horror comic book about the realm of the dead and the consequences of a single life across time. Once a Maasai shaman, Pt'eros must face the truth of his existence to find peace and escape the afterlife. It is a dream-like book filled with interpretive visuals, symbolism and fantastically weird beings.

It was first self-published as a webcomic, then as the first independent comic published through Graphicly's digital platform. Now this year it is being released as 194-page full colour graphic novel (paperback) by indie publisher 215 Ink, in stores and at Baltimore/New York Comic Con.

Perks for backing Brett range from signed bookmarks and digital wallapers through T-shirts and copies of the graphic novel to colour sketches and original artwork.

Someone give this man a gig illustrating old school roleplaying games!

To learn more about Kuzimu visit its website.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

The Superhuman Games Begin...

The London 2012 Paralympics began last night with a spectacular, science-centric opening ceremony featuring the twin legends of Stephen Hawking and Sir Ian McKellen.

Let's hope Channel 4 can provide us with coverage as comprehensive as the BBC did for the Olympics earlier this month.

Supernatural: Shut Up, Dr Phil

The current season of Supernatural has been a steady downhill decline in quality since its strong opening, but I thought the appearance of ex-Buffy stars James Marsters and Charisma Carpenter might turn things around.

I'm sorry to say: it didn't. Supernatural used to be about consequences. Bad people did bad tjhings and they paid the price. That no longer seems to be the case.

Shut Up, Dr Phil had the Winchester brothers arriving in Prosperity, Indiana, to investigate some impossible deaths only to discover that it's the work of powerful 800-year-old witch Maggie Stark (Carpenter).

However, before they can move to stop her, her husband Donald Stark (Marsters) reveals himself to be a powerful 800-year-old witch as well and the deaths - and other problems plaguing the town - are the result of marital tensions between the couple.

A lot of this is played for dark laughs, and while Don ultimately saves the Winchesters' lives, the witches get away with with multiple murders without any consequences.

It's also worth pointing out how easily Don overcomes the Leviathan that shows up in town (Sean Owen Roberts). Given how much head-scratching the Winchesters have been doing about how to defeat these seemingly unstoppable season foes, you have to question why they don't (at least attempt to) recruit Don to their cause?

This might seem like a trivial thing but setting up an unbeatable foe that a random guest star can then beat down with the wave of a hand is pretty shoddy scriptwriting. This doesn't bode well as the team of Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming have penned a number of upcoming episodes as well.

While the last couple of episodes have seen a return to the structure of early seasons - the brothers turn up in a town to investigate mysterious events - they lack the visceral thrills of those halcyon days. Everything's feeling a bit tired at the moment.

Next Week:

Rachel Helps Bring Angry Birds To The UK...

I don't often talk about Rachel's job here on HeroPress - she's in PR and marketing, by the way - but I'm so proud of the work she did this week, organising the press and publicity for the the UK's first Angry Birds activity park, in Nottinghamshire.

Not only did she have to co-ordinate everything before hand and get our national media interested, but on the day she had to be in attendance to ensure everything ran smoothly (which, of course, it did).

Rachel's client is Lappset, the builders of the park, and she has helped get them huge amounts of publicity over the last year or so.

[MONSTER MASH] Muscaliet

The muscaliet has a body like a hare (though smaller), legs and tail like a squirrel, ears like a weasel, a muzzle like a mole, hair like a pig and teeth like a boar.

It climbs trees, ruining their the leaves and fruit in process, and jumps from branch to branch by the strength of its tail.

The muscaliet makes its nest in an underground hollow beneath a tree - but it gives off so much heat that it causes the tree to dry up and die. This makes its nests very easy to identify if you are hunting them. That said, they never stay in the same nest for more than a few days.

Regarded as vermin and pests by most nobility because of the devastation they cause to woodlands and orchards, the peasant caste of Tekralh regard them as a delicacy as their meat has a rich, strong flavour to it if cooked just right.

The corpse of a single muscaliet will provide meat to feed (1d3+1) adults. Their fur, while quite rough (and therefore not popular with the upper classes), makes good hats and mittens which are renowned for fending off the cold (+1 to ST in cold weather).

#ENC: 2d4
Size: Small (-4 to hit, due to size and speed)
HD: 1
AC: 13 (modified to a 17)
Atk: 1 bite (1d4+1)
ST: 17
Move: 14 (can move up vertical surfaces, such as trees, with no penalty and can leap up to 10ft)

  • Heat: The muscaliet gives off a massive natural heat that causes 1d4 damage per round to anyone within 5ft of one, those in metallic armour take an extra point of damage. It is also immune to all heat/fire attacks and if struck, its attacker must make a Saving Throw to avoid being splashed by boiling blood for 1d3 damage.
CL/XP: 2/30

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

[MONSTER MASH] Rock Monster (2008)

Perennial slacker Jason (Chad Collins) and a trio of university friends are backpacking across Eastern Europe to find the property that was supposedly bequeathed him by a late aunt.

After their bus breaks down, the quartet start walking through the forest and come upon a rusty old sword stuck in a stone. After the others have failed to pull it out, Jason reluctantly tries... and succeeds!

However, once the backpackers make it to the nearby town they discover that in removing the sword Jason has unleashed an imprisoned rock monster that contains the spirit of an evil wizard his ancestor defeated centuries earlier.

Thus begins a battle between the locals and the rock monster, which is controlled by one of their own - Dimitar (David Figlioli) who has become corrupted by an ancient tome of the wizard's spells.

During all this Jason falls for the rather beautiful daughter of the town mayor, Cassandra (Natalie Denise Sperl), who - unsurprisingly - eventually becomes a pawn in Dimitar's machinations.

Solid B-movie fare, Rock Monster turned out to be a lot better than I was expecting. The acting from the main cast is okay (although some of the supporting cast leave a bit to be desired e.g. Jason's "British" friend Warren who is thankfully killed off very quickly and doesn't even merit a mention in the credits), the script - by writer/director Declan O'Brien - is clever and well-crafted, and the special effects hold their own.

It's quite a knowing, tongue-in-cheek, script without slipping into farce that treats its subject matter with seriousness, while acknowledging that it's not the most original B-movie in the world.


Alarz Rock Monster

When the powerful dark sorcerer Alarz was slain by the knight Lazar his spirit became trapped in the stones on which he fell, permanently trapped by the magic of the knight's sword that was thrust into the stones.

Removing the sword awakens the long-dead wizard, but in the form of a 20ft high rock creature. Luckily the sword can only be removed by a blood relative of the heroic knight.

In many aspects it resembles a stone golem, composed of multiple boulders with a crude face and head atop its shoulders. However, despite the presence of eye holes, the creature is magically aware of everything around him and therefore whatever angle he is attacked from it counts as an attack from the front.

It also needs to feed and it does this by squeezing the life out of living creatures and absorbing their blood through the porous nature of its rocky body. It needs to kill (and 'eat') at leats two hit die worth of characters per day, or it becomes fatigued - halving its movement, Hit Dice and damage.

The monster is also able to blend itself into rock faces, so it is next to impossible to detect when waiting to ambush someone.

#ENC: Unique
HD: 8
AC: 5 [14]
Atk: punch/stomp (3d8)
ST: 8
Move: 6

  • Damage Immunity: The rock monster can only be harmed by +2 or better magical weapons and spells that affect rock (e.g. rock-to-mud, move earth - which cause 1d6 damage per level of spell caster) and fire magic, which slows it to half speed for a number of combat rounds equal to the damage rolled.
  • Throw Boulders: In lieu of its punching or stomping attack, the monster may scoop up and throw - or kick - a random selection of boulders that cause (1d6 x 1d6) damage on a successful hit. The range for this attack is 300ft.
  • Immortality: When destroyed the monster will reform (reroll hit points) in 2d12 hours unless it was slain by the Sword Of Lazar (complete with 'keystone').

CL: 12/2,000


The Sword Of Lazar - Originally the sword of a famous knight, the weapon - once removed from the rock where it has sat for hundreds of years - now acts as a very simple +2 long sword.

However, when its keystone (a red, ruby kept in a necklace) is fitted back into the pommel the sword gains additional powers:
  • The sword is now +3 to hit and damage.
  • If it slays the Alarz Rock Monster, the beast stays dead forever.
  • Once per day, if thrust into the ground, it can create the effect of an "earthquake" spell (opens a 60ft long, diamond-shaped fissure from the point where it strikes the ground; any creatures within that area - 60ft at widest part - will fall into the flaming magma below and be killed, unless they make a 6d6 vs DEX+LVL STAT check. Check Swords & Wizardry Complete, page 58, for full details of spell).
  • A wizard who learns the correct incantation can, at sunrise, and with the rock monster within 20ft, channel the essence of the sorcerer Alarz out of the monster and into his own body. The creature will crumble to dust and the magician will become a powerful force for evil (exact details up to DM). He will also, probably, become a villainous NPC.

Alternative Avengers Opening...

As if you weren't psyched enough already for the DVD/blu-ray release!

Rivendell In Lego...

For more (and larger) pictures of this Lego work of art - depicting the Last Homely House, in the Valley of Rivendell, from Lord Of The Rings - visit  Geek Tyrant.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Welcoming The Wee Folk...

"By placing these doors around your home, on skirting board, walls or doors you will let the wee folk in"
Rachel got me a "Wee Folk Door" at the Herstmonceux Medieval Festival and it now has pride of place at the bottom of the stairs to the gamesroom (as pictured above).

The "instruction leaflet" which came with it (and included the message that started this post) explains:
"The wee folk will accept your hospitality, and gladly share your home.
But beware, they like to borrow things and hide them in places not known.
Ask them out loud to return the item that they have since took.
It will be returned to quite quickly, but be sure to search every cranny and nook.
So, when you next lose your keys or can't find your mobile phone,
Remember to ask the wee folk to return what they have taken on loan!"

[HOUSERULES] Warp-Spasms Revisited...

Cú Chulainn in Warp-Spasm, by an artist who goes by the handle of Warpspasm
The first warp-spasm seized Cúchulainn, and made him into a monstrous thing, hideous and shapeless, unheard of. His shanks and his joints, every knuckle and angle and organ from head to foot, shook like a tree in the flood or a reed in the stream. His body made a furious twist inside his skin, so that his feet and shins switched to the rear and his heels and calves switched to the front...
On his head the temple-sinews stretched to the nape of his neck, each mighty, immense, measureless knob as big as the head of a month-old child... he sucked one eye so deep into his head that a wild crane couldn't probe it onto his cheek out of the depths of his skull; the other eye fell out along his cheek.
His mouth weirdly distorted: his cheek peeled back from his jaws until the gullet appeared, his lungs and his liver flapped in his mouth and throat, his lower jaw struck the upper a lion-killing blow, and fiery flakes large as a ram's fleece reached his mouth from his throat...
The hair of his head twisted like the tange of a red thornbush stuck in a gap; if a royal apple tree with all its kingly fruit were shaken above him, scarce an apple would reach the ground but each would be spiked on a bristle of his hair as it stood up on his scalp with rage.

When a barbarian character is first created the DM will get the player to roll 3d6 (after the completion of basic character generation). If the dice come up as three sixes then the character is gifted/cursed with the power of the warp-spasm (or ríastrad, meaning "the act of contorting").

This is a kind of bizarre body-distorting battle frenzy that luckily only afflicts a few barbarians. Something in the manner or surroundings of their birth has connected them with the power of the earth and when they lose control (as barbarians are wont to do), this energy is channelled through their body in a truly unnerving manner.

When a person with this 'gift' goes into any form of combat, gets angry, hit with a 'fear' spell, is driven berserk etc then they roll a d10 and on a 10 they go into spasm.

The character transforms into a grotesque monster, increasing his height by about 30 per cent and weight by 60 per cent, rending his clothes and belongings.

If he is wearing non-magical armour when he goes into spasm it is ripped apart as he distorts causing him 1d2 damage for leather armour, 1d4 for ringmail, 1d6 for chain and 1d8 for plate (if the armour is magical, it doesn't tear off and the barbarian suffers twice the damage per armour type and his body somehow moulds itself around the armour). Shields are, of course, discarded - thrown (1d6 x unmodified STR) feet in a random direction.

The warrior will not break out of his spasm until all visible enemies are dead, then each round he must roll 4d6 under his adjusted WIS+LVL or turn on his comrades.

In spasm, the character's STR/CON are multiplied by 1.5 (with the attendant, relevant boni/increased HP etc; see below if STAT is now over 18) DEX is increased by three and INT/WIS are both lowered by six.

He doubles the number of attacks he can normally deliver in a round because of his mighty fury, but he also suffers a -3 penalty on Armour Class as he isn't paying attention to defending himself and cannot use any of his class skills.

Being in this state costs the barbarian 1HP per combat round (but only until all his HP are gone, he cannot lose CON this way).

First level (one hit die) or lower characters facing a warped warrior must save (versus magic) or be subject to 'fear'.

Once the character has exhausted all his Hit Points in combat and is taking damage from his CON, he does not need to check for unconsciousness (Crypts & Things, page 32), nor does he suffer the usual -2 penalty for being in this state.

He will only register death one round after all his adjusted CON points have gone.

Recovering from a spasm, the warrior automatically loses 90 per cent of his remaining hit points and collapses into an unconscious heap for a number of hours equal to the number of rounds he was in warp. His  modified statistics also return to normal at this time and the mutations he underwent during spasm fade quickly.

If he took CON damage during this period the damage remains proportional when his CON returns to normal.

Exceptional Ability Score

A Town Called Abracadabra...

This year Pete finally convinced to watch A Town Called Eureka. I loved the final season and have now gone back to the first, as SyFy is showing the whole series from the beginning again.

But it got me to thinking: how much of a headache would it be for a Dungeon Master if the player-characters stumbled across a secret community of eccentric magicians all working on developing new spells and potions... and even trying to create magical items?

I'm not talking about a Hogwarts-esque "school" for magic, but a hothouse environment where geniuses of the sorcerous arts strive to take their science to the next level and push the boundaries of what is possible.

Would that concentration of magical energy in one space warp the fabric of reality?

Throw in my Magical Mishaps houserule and you have a recipe for joyous chaos.

Monday, 27 August 2012

The Day I Met Rifleman Harris!

Me and Rifleman Harris
Whatever else I do in my life I can now say I have met (chatted and shook hands with) one of Sharpe's Chosen Men, Rifleman Harris (aka actor Jason Salkey) from the brilliant TV series, Sharpe.

He was a celebrity guest at Military Odyssey, the three-day living history event that Rachel and I dropped in on today.

Mr Salkey was such a pleasant and unassuming chap, so nice, friendly and easy to talk to. I wish I'd engaged him in conversation longer actually as afterwards I thought of a million questions I should have asked him.

He did sign a nice big picture of Harris, Sharpe (Sean Bean), Harper and Hagman - from the Sharpe's Regiment story - that will eventually get framed and take pride of place in the gamesroom stairwell.

The world's largest multi-period re-enactment show, Military Odyssey - unlike the other big events we go to - doesn't focus on one particular period of history, so as we made our way across the grounds, we travelled through time from Ancient Britain and the Roman Empire, through to the French-Indian War and the American Civil War up to the Second World War. We even saw a lone pirate, with his family, doing then rounds.

This was the first time we'd hired me a scooter for this event and it certainly helped. I still hadn't recovered from all the walking we did on Saturday and then again yesterday when there was a slight "incident" with the car keys getting locked in the boot of the car while we were getting a replacement brake light... and Rachel and I ended up walking home to get the spareset of keys (I then stayed at home, I must admit).

There was plenty to tempt the wallet at Military Odyssey - both authentic for collectors and reproduction for the re-enactors - but, thankfully, nothing that fell completely within my ever-narrowing focus (that I could justify purchasing - with Rachel's money - that is).

In the Indoor Collectors Market, there were a couple of tables of Warhammer displays, but otherwise most of the wargames stuff there (and there wasn't much really) was Second World War.

We watched a couple of brilliantly brutal fighting displays (Vikings vs Saxons and Crusaders vs Saracens) as well as the big American Civil War re-enactment on the main battleground, before it started to rain - signalling our time to retreat to the safety of the car.

As always there were plenty of photographs taken and they can be found over at public Facebook album.

[MONSTER MASH] Curse Of The Demon Mountain (1977)

Curse of The Demon Mountain aka The Shadow Of Chikara is another of those films that I saw as a kid that blew my tiny, impressionable mind.

This was the first film I consciously recall that blended two distinct genres - in this case Western and Horror.

In subsequent years, it has been notoriously difficult to get hold of on DVD and so eventually, a few months ago, I caved and picked up off eBay - for only a couple of quid - the infamous "Dead Of Night" version... which has to be the worst quality DVD I have ever seen.

The hissing, tinny soundtrack nicely complements the blurry imagery (and this is even 'upscaled' with our blu-ray player) that resembles a sixth generation VHS pirate copy. Any hint of strong language has been brutally excised from this edition ("get away from her, you (silence)") and there are a number of dreadful, unsubtle scene cuts (almost as though they were heavy-handed advert breaks).

But then subtly is not the name of the game in Curse Of The Demon Mountain, suspicious minds will figure out the twist within minutes.

At the tail end of the American Civil War, a pair of veterans - Captain Wishbone Cutter (Joe Don Baker) and half-Indian scout Half-Moon O'Brien (Joy N. Houck Jr) - turn treasure hunters when they leave of a cache of diamonds stashed in the mountains. They bring along a geologist to assay the rocks, Amos 'Teach' Richmond (Ted Neeley).

Along the way they stalked by an unseen enemy that shoots black arrows at them, have a run-in with a trio of inbred bushwackers and rescue a damsel in distress (Sondra Locke) from the aftermath of a massacre.

There's even some pretty decent torch-lit cave exploration scenes that ooze with Dungeons & Dragons-ness and there's probably a half-decent movie (at least worthy of a remake) hidden behind the appalling presentation.

Game Material:

It turns out that this representation of the supernatural elements of the film is actually based more on my inaccurate childhood memories of the movie (or perhaps I saw a different cut on TV) than what I saw when I watched Curse Of The Demon Mountain the other day.


The chikara is a guardian spirit-demon that enjoys toying with those who enter its territory unbidden. An ancient elven legends claims it was once the protector of, and provider for, a tribe who lived on the mountain. But the tribe's shaman grew jealous of the attention the mighty bird was garnering, slew it and threw its corpse into the river.

The chikara rose from death as a powerful demon and drove the elves from their home, declaring that no-one would ever be allowed to set foot on its land ever again.

When stalking its prey, the highly-intelligent chikara will endeavour to 'split the party' anyway it can and then pick people off one at a time. For fun.

#ENC: One
HD: 5
AC: 3 [16]
Atk: 1 claws, in eagle form, (1d8+1) or 1 arrow (2d6+3)
ST: 12
Move: 12/24 (fly)

  • Shape Change: The chikara's natural form is a black, smoky, roughly humanoid-shaped cloud of blackness out of which it can fire a single, black arrow once per round. However, it can also take the form of a member of any of the kindred races (human, elf, dwarf, halfling) for as long as it likes or the form of a giant eagle (whatever form it is, it retains its basic statistics as above). The act of transformation takes a single combat round.
  • Immunity: In all its forms it is immune to non-magical attacks, as well as sleep, charm and mind-control spells.
  • Territory Control: Within its designated territory, the chikara has the power to cause small distortions of reality. This can manifest as minor rockslides to block pathways, messing with directions (so the party doubles back on itself without realising), creating fog and so on. It rarely uses this power to directly harm its victims as it thrives off their fear and confusion.
  • Magic Bow: In humanoid form it is able to produce, almost from thin air, a black, elven bow and a single arrow. It will only fire one arrow, then leave. If any other creatures try to take this weapon it dissolves into mist and floats away.

CL/XP: 9/1,100

Musical Monday: きゃりーぱみゅぱみゅ - PONPONPON

PONPONPON performed by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, an out-of-this-world piece of J-Pop, drawn to my attention by Darius Whiteplume. Just the sort of insanity injection your eyeballs need on a Monday morning.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Star Trek: Renegades Is Coming...

Star Trek: Renegades, from the producers and writers of Star Trek: Of Gods and Men. This new, independent movie will - like Of Gods And Men - be directed by Voyager's very own Vulcan, Tim Russ aka Tuvok.

For more news, we are promised "a huge, new Star Trek movie announcement" on September 8.

Mud, Blood And Spectacles!

As the armies of knights and archers clashed in the grounds of Herstmonceux Castle, the heavens opened adding yet another wonderful piece of "realism" to the annual festival of Medieval life at the historic venue.

Rachel and I spent a wonderfully exhausting day absorbing the sights, sounds, smell, feel and even taste of the Middle Ages during our annual visit to this inspiring three-day event.

We watched the mammoth, anarchic recreation of a battle from The War Of The Roses, as we did last year, but this time round it had the added bonus of sleeting rain to help transport us back in time. The only thing that would have stopped them, we were told, was thunder and lightning!

Ye Olde Optician
Elsewhere we got to watch a butcher preparing a hog's head (well, I did, Rachel couldn't watch), chat with a Medieval spectacle-maker (I didn't realise people actually wore glasses as early as the 13th Century), sample some jerky from Wales (what Dungeons & Dragons adventurers would call 'dried rations'), listen to an awesome folk band and shuffle around a variety of tents offering goods and wares.

There were more people offering incredible armour and weapons for sale this year, but the current Knight financial crisis rather put the kibosh of this being anything more than a window shopping exercise. I will get the rest of my suit of armour one day!

The rain did mess with the event timetable though, so I missed the sword-fighting demonstration that I so enjoyed last year. But, all being well, we'll be back in 2013!

I took a load of pictures as always and they're available for all to peruse on my public Facebook album - beware though there are pictures of hog's head being skinned, if you're a bit sensitive to that kind of thing.

[HOUSERULES] That Old Black Magic...

One of my favourite aspects of the Crypts & Things rules is its division of magic into shades (black, grey and white), each with a different cost for using.

I have, of course, been compelled to 'tinker' with the rules and have come up with a couple of houserules to further differentiate black magic from its less evil cousins.

Luke: Is the dark side stronger?
Yoda: No, no, no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.
If the majority of a magicians' spells (even those in his spell book that he is not yet powerful enough to use) are Black Magic, then he gains a +10% bonus to experience.


If a magician is receiving the experience bonus above, every new level of experience he achieves means the player must roll a d10 and if the result is equal to, or less than, the number of Black Magic spells he has in his spell book then the magician becomes tainted by the power of black magic.

The check should also be made every time the magician rolls a Magical Mishap, when casting a Black Magic spell.

Roll 1d30 for his random taint (all effects are permanent and irreversible, short of wish-level sorcery, they also stack if the same result is rolled again later) :

Die Roll
Nose becomes hooked
Features become (1) sunken, (2) skull-like, (3) lizard-like, (4) monkey-like, (5) molten, (6) bird-like, (7) cat-like, (8) lop-sided
Back becomes hunched
Has hair issues: (1) all falls out, (2) turns white, (3) stands on end, (4) falls out in clumps
Alignment shifts towards evil
Alignment shifts towards chaos
One eye goes milky, sight is lost in it
Develops an irrational fear and hatred of (1) horse, (2) dogs, (3) birds, (4) water, (5) trees, (6) the opposite sex
Becomes lecherous
Loses 1d6” height
Weight drops (2d30+8)% overnight (-1 CON for each full 20% dropped)
Muscles atrophy (-1d3 STR)
Health declines (-1d3 CON)
Ages 2d4 years overnight
Grows fur on the back of his hands
Becomes paranoid
Loses all sense of taste and smell
Develops a limp, movement rate is halved
Incurable fungal growths appear over body (-1d3 CHA)
The Shakes, constantly twitching (-1d3 DEX)
Face contorts into gross visage (-1d3 CHA)
Parts of his body fall off: (1) a random ear, (2) nose, (3) 1d4 fingers on random hand, (4) 1d4 toes on random foot, (5) genitalia, (6) roll twice and add results
Grows a functioning third eye (1-2) middle of forehead, (3) palm of random hand, (4) back of head
Hands and feet become webbed (-1 DEX, +1 on swimming checks)
Tongue becomes forked
Grows an extra (1-4) finger or (5-6) toe on random hand/foot
Becomes flatulent and odorous (-1d3+1 CHA)
Will only eat rotten food
Gains a powerful insight into the workings of magic +1 INT

Stan's Secret Agenda...

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Spartacus Game Interview From Gen Con...

[MONSTER MASH] Zombies With Bite...

For my money zombies in Dungeons & Dragons (and its various retroclones) have never captured the true feel of the undead we know and love from the films of George Romero or The Walking Dead.

Here is my humble effort to correct that...

Flesh-Eating Zombie
#ENC: solo, 2d6, or 3d20 (herd).
HD: 2
AC: 8 [11]
ATK: 1 grab (1d4), then 1 bite (1d8)
Move: 6
ST: 16
  • Immunities: 100% resistant to sleep, charm and any mind-control magic.
  • Spread The Love: When a zombie attacks, its first attack will be a grab (for 1d4 damage) and then once it has grabbed a victim the next round it may attempt a bite attack (for 1d8 damage). As long as it keeps hitting each round the zombie may continue to bite, however if it misses its attack roll its next attack must be a grab and it cannot bite again until it has scored a successful grab. If a bite attack causes its victim CON damage then the target of the attack must make an immediate Saving Throw (at -2) to avoid becoming infected with the 'zombie plague'.
  • Zombie Plague: Someone inflicted with this disease - which can be cured by Cure Disease - loses one point of CON every half our until they are dead. Once dead, whether through CON loss from the plague or simply the normal course of combat, they will rise 1d10 minutes later as a mindless, flesh-eating zombie. Note: once the victim is dead it's too late to use the Cure Disease spell on them.
  • Damage Resistance: The first time the player-characters encounter this type of zombie for every weapon hit they score the DM rolls a d12. Only a result of "1" does the attack actually do full damage, indicating a head blow. Otherwise the weapons just do a single point of damage (plus any magical bonus) per strike. A zombie can never be reduced to below 1HP this way, though. The only way to kill them is through destroying their brains. Once the player-characters realise these zombies can only be killed by a head shot they may target the head with a -4 penalty. Magical attacks, however, do normal damage.  
  • Slow: A zombie always attacks last in a combat round, unless it has won surprise over its victim.

CL/XP: 4/120

The walking dead emit a low moaning sound most of the time and some scholars speculate this is a primitive form of communication.

Although the flesh-eaters rely in sight for close-range hunting, at longer ranges they are attracted by noise - so a party making a loud racket may well attract large crowds of zombies if they are in the region.

The Lego Story...

Celebrating the Lego Group's 80th birthday.

HeroPress In The Spotlight...

HeroPress, along with Sword And Stitchery, has been 'spotlighted' on Newt Newport's Sorcerer Under Mountain blog for its continued support of Crypts & Things.

It's always a pleasant bonus when your appreciation of a piece of work is recognised by its author.

Thanks, Newt, for writing such a great game!

Friday, 24 August 2012

Fleamarket Friday: Taste The Blood Of The Dragon...

"Under a land shrouded in volcanic ash punctuated by rocky spires that tear at the sky they say the Great Dragon sleeps. Tyanos the Black, Trickster god of the long dead Hu-Pi people stole their blood and bottled it for his insane delight. As drink of the gods it confers immortality to mortal man, but at what terrible price? The very quest for this elixir is insane. A trip into a harsh and unforgiving land of the Spires, a poor and bandit ridden weird land, inhabited by the likes of Black Joop, Nigus the Headless and the Mother of Hydra. Names that should send a shiver down your spine. So pick up your sword, down the last of your ale to steady any nerves and stride off towards a great adventure amongst the rocks that defy the sky."
Blood Of The Dragon, the first official adventure for Crypts & Things is now available in print from Lulu.

For £6 you get a 23-page introductory mini-sandbox, which is of course compatible with the other old school games,  set in the ancient and ruined lands of The Spires.

The booklet includes "A Rough Guide to the Spires", the "Lair of the Battle Apes" adventure and details of the fearsome Battle Apes.

A PDF version is available from DrivethruRPG, for £3.

Fleamarket Friday: Fill Your Hands With Blood And Treasure...

The full edition of Blood & Treasure, the new retroclone from John Stater, the hardest working man in the OSR, is now available from Lulu.

Or, if you prefer, the system can be purchased as two separate books: The Player's Tome and The Treasure Keeper's Tome.

To find out more about the game or simply to revel in the wonders that fall from John's table visit his incredible Land Of Nod blog.

Blood & Treasure is John's latest contribution to the growing world of legacy Dungeons & Dragons projects, acting as a bridge between old school and new school games.

To read his motivations behind the game go here.

Make Your Comic Book Ideas Go Boom...

Have you ever dreamed about creating your own comic book? Do you have a great story idea on your mind, but struggled to make it real because it’s too difficult to find an artist to collaborate with, get your submission accepted by a publisher and gather all the resources to self-publish your work?

That’s exactly what the new Silicon Valley based start-up, The StoryBoom, is trying to solve.

The idea behind the platform is "to be the easiest way to bring your comic book ideas to life".

Professional or aspiring writers submit their story ideas and the online community votes for the best one.

A page from NovaHope
The selected story is then produced by The StoryBoom, which hires a professional team for the production of a high quality comic book.

The site also takes care of publishing and the only thing the author has to worry about is writing the comic script.

The first comic has already been created, chosen during a closed beta contest of 10 stories. The winner was NovaHope by Zé Wellington.

In NovaHope corporations have replaced countries, after a major economic crisis. The leading counsel for the United Corporations of the Planet, Adam Nova, promotes a fighting robot tournament. He is seeking to find the perfect soldier to be funded by his corporation. Surrounded by protests from groups fighting for the rights of robots, the tournament favourite is Vulcano. But things get complicated when Vulcano is kidnapped by a pro-robots terrorist group.

Find out more details about the project and how you can participate via The StoryBoom’s official webpage.

Fleamarket Friday: You Are Spartacus!

Coming from Gale Force 9 in September, Spartacus: A Game of Blood & Treachery is a game of twisted schemes and bloody combats inspired by the hit STARZ Original series.

Unveiled at Gen Con last weekend, players assume the role of the Dominus of a great house competing for influence in ancient Rome, vying for dominance through careful diplomacy, cunning intrigues and the glory of the Arena.

Undermine the machinations of rivals, leverage your wealth for advantage at market and pit your gladiators in bloody contest all with the goal of seeing your house rise to supremacy.

John Kovaleski CEO of GF9 says on the company website:
"With innovative game mechanics, high production values and the rich and inspiring source material from the STARZ show, Spartacus: A Game of Blood & Treachery is much more than just another licensed product. The deep game play and compelling social interplay will have you and your friends rolling dice again and again. We are huge fans of the show, and have been able to turn our passion into a great game. Hopefully, this is just the beginning of our range of Spartacus product."
Spartacus: A Game of Blood & Treachery is recommended for three or four players, ages 17 and up due to mature content and graphic language.

Also very interested to learn, down the road, what other Spartacus products they have on the drawing board.

Fleamarket Friday: Spot The Ant-Man Reference...

A deleted scene from the blu-ray release of The Avengers, which hits shelves on September 17 in the UK and September 25 in the States. The disc includes even more deleted scenes and featurettes (like the ones below).

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Adventure Review: Beneath The Ruins


Beneath The Ruins
, by Alex Fotinakes, is the first release from Geof 'Carcosa' McKinney's new publishing venture Psychedelic Fantasies, which will be a line of unusual adventure settings featuring unique and never--seen-before magic and monsters.

The first thing that strikes you about the module is its physical shape - 11 inches tall and four-and-a-quarter inches wide. The cover is loose and contains a wonderful, hand-drawn map on the inside of the dungeon's single main level and two sub-levels.

The 16-page adventure (39 locations on the main level and 14 spread over the sub-levels) begins with a brief introduction to the location of the dungeon (it's part of Alex's Kihago megadungeon but can stand on its own or be easily integrated into your own megadungeon).

This is followed by some chat about how it's part of the Mythic Underworld - a concept I've never really given much thought to as I've always seen it as simply an excuse for DMs to pull out if their dungeons don't "make sense"... which is odd because Beneath The Ruins, despite some peculiar trappings (which I'll get to in a minute) is a very traditional dungeon.

Very traditional that is if you don't mind including a heavy dose of science-fiction in your campaigns. While reading the module I kept envisaging its locations and inhabitants as sets and aliens from the original Star Trek series (which, itself, was known to draw on subtle Lovecraftian flavours at times).

There were many bits of this sci-fi-ness that I liked - the weird alien technology was suitably old school - although I was less happy with the prevalence of bland alien weaponry.

It's slightly underwhelming that Alex has done such a good job of weirding up various gonzo contraptions in one part of the dungeon and yet the weapons are casually glossed over as virtual proxies for swords and bows.

In typical D&D terms these weapons will be easier for the player-characters to obtain (and potentially more valuable) than any monetary treasure. I would urge caution to any DM looking to run this 'as written' unless he wants an arms race to spring up in his campaign world.

That said, if you're feeling in an Arduin mood (and I often am) then Beneath The Ruins is ready to roll straight out of the envelope.

There is no set goal or objective with this locale except to explore and obtain treasure, which places another very large tick in the 'old school' column for me.

The dungeon level detailed here is home to two factions and one of these comes fully kitted with the advanced weaponry. Both factions have interesting views on their relationships with the environment and quickly sketched, but intriguing, backstories.

But will the player-characters discover these or will they just blunder through everything, kicking in doors, killing monsters and stealing treasure? The introduction of the factions makes this an adventure locale where sometimes talking will work better than hitting.

While the factions are at-war with each other, how the player-characters choose to interact with them is totally up to the players.

In conclusion, Beneath The Ruins is a wonderfully minimalist, gonzo adventure from the Arduin school of "anything goes" and I feel it only really dropped the ball in its uninspired treatment of the high-tech weapons that the PCs could easily get their hands on.

The module is a great taster for Alex's Kihago setting and I hope Geof can encourage him to write up further levels of this (presumably) massive complex. Beneath The Ruins feels like it would work perfectly well on its own, but I'd imagine to get the full effect you'd need to set it in the context of Kihago as a whole.

Supernatural: Defending Your Life

Sam and Dean appear to be back on familiar territory, investigating what they believe are a couple of ghost-related murders - a drunk-driver is squashed by a car in his apartment and a dog-fight organiser is ripped up by a "wild animal" in a diner's restroom.

Clues point to an abandoned farm outside Dearborn, but on the way there they meet Warren (as Julian D. Christopher), a recently released murderer, who is fleeing from the farm where he claims he was "put on trial".

He describes a series of symbols he saw and the Winchesters discover these are Egyptian markings from The Book Of The Dead, related to the god Osiris (Faran Tahir), who apparently tours the world putting guilty people on trial for their past crimes.

Only it turns out he doesn't ultimately decide their guilt - it is down to the accused, whether they feel guilty or not.

Osiris nabs Dean and puts him on trial, but Sam turns up and offers to act as defence counsel.

To be honest, the whole Osiris shtick was a bit silly - especially the most ungodlike way he kidnapped his victims (as witnessed when he later tried to take a woman outside the bar in Dearborn where he had grabbed Dean).

There were some good flashback montages of moments Dean felt guilt about (harking right back to the pilot) and it was great to see the return - albeit as a ghost - of Jo Harvelle (Alona Tal). We haven't seen the EMP meter in use for a long while either or the good old "dig up the bones, salt them and burn them" routine.

So, while there was the usual strong character stuff we have come to expect from Supernatural, there was an inescapable feeling that Defending Your Life, so early in the season, was more filler than thriller, just spinnin' its wheels.

I'll be honest and say that I'm not particularly impressed by the show's to make a big deal of Dean killing the kitsune last week. It was a murderous monster and killing them is what hunters do in the world of Supernatural.

Sure, it had a connection to Sam, but the moment it killed four people - even if they were low-lifes - it lost any right to play that card.

Hunters gank monsters; this isn't Buffy where mass-murderers can be forgiven because they've got their souls back and our heroine wubs them.

The only thing Dean has to feel guilty about is concealing the truth from Sam, but that's simply because Sam couldn't handle it.

Next Week (speaking of Buffy):

High-End D&D Minis From Gale Force 9...

Oh God, limited editions... urgh! To be honest I'm more interested in the GF9 pre-painted terrain as I suspect the figures are going to be rather pricey (and probably near impossible to find in this country anyway, unless WoTC is handling the distribution).

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

"D&D Is About The People And For The People..."

An interview with Wizards' brand manager Laura Tommervik, conducted by wargames' and miniatures' website Beasts Of War at Gen Con last week.

Spot The Difference...

Mega-City One as realised by 2000AD artist Gary Erskine
Compare the stunning picture of Mega-City One above, from Judge Dredd comic book artist Gary Erskine, with the city portrayed in the trailer below for the upcoming Dredd movie.

Did you spot the difference? The cinematic city totally lacks the claustrophobic nature of the true Mega-City. There's breathing room between the tower blocks - that's not right! In the long shots it looks like it could be any major 21st Century city.

And if they can't get a simple detail like that right you have to question how else the film has deviated from the established canon.

At least (I believe) in this one, Dredd keeps his face covered the whole time...
"During a routine day on the job, Dredd (Karl Urban) is assigned to train and evaluate Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), a rookie with powerful psychic abilities thanks to a genetic mutation. A heinous crime calls them to a neighborhood where fellow Judges rarely dare to venture- a 200 story vertical slum controlled by prostitute turned drug lord Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) and her ruthless clan. When they capture one of the clan's inner circle, Ma-Ma overtakes the compound's control center and wages a dirty, vicious war against the Judges that proves she will stop at nothing to protect her empire. With the body count climbing and no way out, Dredd and Anderson must confront the odds and engage in the relentless battle for their survival."
Sounds as though the film could do justice to Judge Anderson though and what geek doesn't love Lena Headey (Sarah Connor Chronicles, Game Of Thrones, 300), right?

Dredd opens here a week on Friday and in the meantime check out the British website and American website for the film.

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


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