Reality Is The Playground Of The Unimaginative

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Friday, 31 May 2013

Fleamarket Friday: Dogs! Playing D&D! Need I Say More?

This has to come under the heading of "every gamesroom should have one".

And I'm not even a dog person, but the moment I saw this I knew I had to have a copy of Dogs Playing D&D to hang in the stairwell of my gamesroom.

Artist Jay Bobcock has created this parody of the classic Dogs Playing Poker and is Kickstarting it to cover printing costs - a very reasonable $20 for a 19" by 27" poster print (plus $10 to ship outside the United States).

He's already reached his goal and the funding window is still open until June 14.

Go on, you know you want to...

It's dogs... playing Dungeons & Dragons...

[WIP IT GOOD Blogfest] Tekralh Reborn...

Unlike a lot of bloggers participating in DL Hammons WIP IT GOOD Blogfest, my "work in progress" is not a novel, but a setting for my roleplaying game - a proposed environment for the Tuesday Knights to explore at some future juncture.

In the process of developing this I hope to also bring some order to the chaotic shambles that is the creative side of my life.

TEKRALH REBORN is my latest attempt (third or fourth?) to bring my vision of a "dream fantasy RPG campaign" to life.

So far this has taken the form of dusting down old "houserules" I created for my game in the past (ie. modifications to the core game to personalise it for use with my game world) and adapting them to the rules system I have chosen to use for the campaign - Troll Lord Games' Castles & Crusades (a game which Tim Brannan, at The Other Side, did an excellent week-long study of recently).

I promised my players that my next campaign won't be bogged down with "unofficial" modifications and the great thing about Castles & Crusades is that - especially with the range of options available in The Castle Keeper's Guide - it plays pretty true to my idea of what an RPG should be (heavily flavoured by nostalgia for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons games I played as a youth, but with some modern adjustments).

However, while I might have the rules of the game pretty much nailed down, the big sticking point is the world. I have a good idea of core lands and lands, their politics, religion and other sources of friction, but the big problem I've always suffered from is a complete inability to draw maps.

But it's more than simply being cack-handed and artistically-challenged. Take, as an example, the capitol city where the players are going to start their adventuring career: The Golden City Of Tekralh. I want it to be a port town, but I can't decide if it's on a river or the coast, facing north, east, south or west or even if Tekralh is an island nation, a peninsula etc

I also know the neighbouring country, Vallon, has, in the recent past, invaded Tekralh. But is Vallon on a separate landmass or part of the same continent?

And how does the city-state of Tekralh relate to wherever the "monsters" are - the unexplored wilderness, the long-forgotten ruined cities and treasure-filled dungeon complexes?

I'm probably overthinking things. I really need to sketch out a rough map of the "known lands" - just for my own reference - so I can then crack on with the important things (e.g. designing and stocking the various honeypots the adventurers will seek out in the hope of making their fortunes).

My lofty aspirations are to design something along the lines of the classic campaign worlds of the original generation of gamers - Gary Gygax's Greyhawk, Dave Arneson's Blackmoor, Dave Hargrave's Arduin and, to a lesser degree as they're not pseudomedieval, MAR Barker's Tékumel and Greg Stafford's Glorantha.

Stylistically, unsurprisingly, I am drawing primarily on films and TV (as that's "my thing"), with sources as diverse as Hawk The Slayer and the Deathstalker movies to Robin Of Sherwood and Game Of Thrones - all mixed in with a heavy dose of Arthurian mythology.

I'm definitely aiming for the faux-feudal, pseudomedieval oeuvre that Dungeons & Dragons (and its sundry simulacra) naturally defaults to, not just because that's the easiest route to take (and requires less 'buy in' from the players) but also because - as someone with the surname "Knight" - I've always had a fascination with the trappings of Medieval history and therefore have a fairly decent library of resources to draw upon.

Over the next week or so, I plan to systematically release information on various aspects of life in my campaigns world, and hopefully this social study will also help me piece together a geographical overview of my world as well.

Fleamarket Friday: The Making of Return of the Jedi...

The Making of Return of the Jedi by J.W. Rinzler is available for pre-order from Amazon. The 370-plus page hardback is due out on October 1.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Adventurers Wanted!

An assemblage of adventuring parties from various TV shows and films...

Black Death
The Dungeons & Dragons Movie
Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath Of The Dragon God
Dungeons & Dragons: Book Of Vile Darkness
The Fellowship Of The Ring
Hawk The Slayer
Conan The Barbarian
Genghis: The Legend Of The Ten
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Game Of Thrones (Brotherhood Without Banners)
Robin Hood
Robin Of Sherwood

DVD Of The Week: Shadow People (2013)

One of the surprise gifts that Rachel got me this week for our wedding anniversary was the blu-ray of Shadow People, a quirky little horror flick that's sat on my Amazon wishlist for a while as it sounded like an interesting monster flick.

Turns out it's not really a monster movie, but a clever take on an established urban myth that has grown out of a genuine phenomenon - sleep-paralysis. I know its true because I experienced it some years ago when I was in China visiting Paul. I wrote about it back in 2007.

Sleep-paralysis is a genuine scientific occurrence (and provides a scientific explanation for a lot of supposedly supernatural mumbo-jumbo from ghostly visitations to alien abductions), but everything else that Shadow People weaves into the tale is make-believe.

The idea of "shadow people" is an established urban myth, but unlike sleep-paralysis that's all it is - a myth (if you read the Wikipedia article on them you see where some of the ideas for this film possibly came from).

The film, however, presents itself as a dramatisation of a real event - interspersed with interviews and news footage from the "actual event" - where a struggling late-night radio talkshow host, Charlie Crowe (Dallas Roberts), gets drawn into an unnerving conspiracy when a caller claims he is being watched by the titular Shadow People.

The story escalates when the the caller dies later in hospital for no obvious reason and soon after the "shadow people" claim a second victim.

An investigator from the CDC, Sophie Lacombe (Alison Eastwood), believes these deaths are connected with an outbreak of "Sudden Unexplained Nocturnal Death Syndrome" amongst Asian immigrants after the Vietnam war, but Charlie learns of an infamous sleep experiment at a nearby college during the 1970s where patients described seeing "shadowy entities"... and then died in their sleep!

Shadow People does a very good job of just mixing in enough truth - and even features interviews with genuine academics who have studied this phenomena - with its fantasy to subtly blur the lines between truth and fiction.

Unfortunately for some, this subtlety is taken to extremes - as though the filmmakers can't quite decide which direction to take the movie - and so some of its "scary moments" (often the shadow people moving in darkened rooms) are actually quite easy to miss because the audience simply can't see what is supposed to be going on.

That said, the resolution is extremely clever in the way it ties a very ancient myth into the modern technological age giving the plot a resolution that works on both levels - whether the "shadow people" are real or not.

When the film began, with a series of online talking heads discussing a viral video, I had a sinking feeling that this was going to be another "found footage" shlockfest, but Shadow People rises above that and while its presentation is nothing new it does a great job of getting under your skin if you let it.

The film's 12-certificate pretty much gives away that this isn't full of gore or jump-scares, instead relying on building tension, stirring the imagination and suggestions of "what's really going on" - so it won't appeal to the gorehounds or those who have to have their horror spoon-fed to them.

I'm sure the film is also full of Easter Eggs for the observant as well - early on I spotted a jumbled motel sign with the word "fnord" on it, which us old school Illuminatus! readers will know is a sign that something isn't quite right.

Shadow People is a definite grower and not for those of an easily suggestible disposition.

"Areas Of Treasure And Death"

David Hargrave's list of "areas of treasure and death" in Arduin,
as featured in Volume III of The Arduin Grimoire, The Runes Of Doom

One of my aims for my upcoming Castles & Crusades campaign is to be able to present the players with a sandbox - something I've never truly done before.

Usually I lay out the world - to give the illusion of 'freedom of choice' - but then present them with a very traditional hook to send their characters scuttling off to the main dungeon complex in the region or on a set mission.

All being well this time, as I see so many OSR DMs doing so well on their blogs, I want to be in a position to give them a slew of rumours, folk tales and myths so they can then choose which to investigate.

This does mean, of course, I need to create (at least in rough form) a lot of dungeons/encounter areas etc with the ultimate idea being to have a list at my fingertips to rival that of Dave Hargrave in his Arduin Grimoire (see above and below).

I'm pretty sure though I'll be using a mixture of original and published adventure settings (some reskinned to suit my campaign world and some 'as is').

David Hargrave's list of "areas of treasure and death" in Arduin,
as featured in Volume III of The Arduin Grimoire, The Runes Of Doom

Coming Up On Defiance...

As there was no episode this week, SyFy has kindly released a "coming this season" trailer to keep us hooked...

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Rocket Age Blasts Off From Cubicle 7...

Perhaps because I'd watched a Captain Proton episode of Star Trek: Voyager this morning (Bride Of Chaotica!) and was thinking what a great background that would make for an RPG, Cubicle 7's announcement of its new Rocket Age RPG line has piqued my interest.

Certainly more than I would have liked it to, as I thought I had my Gamer ADD under control by concentrating all my efforts into a Castles & Crusades campaign for the Tuesday Knights.

Cubicle 7 has named Ken Spencer as Line Developer and Lead Writer for Rocket Age, the new game line of golden-age interplanetary science fiction.

Rocket Age will use the same rules system as Doctor Who: Adventures In Time And Space and Primeval. Apparently this engine is called Vortex, did everyone else know this?

Dominic McDowall, Cubicle 7 CEO said on their website: "Ken is a terrific addition to the C7 team. You’re going to love what he’s doing with Rocket Age – every page is packed with great ideas, it’s hugely inspiring."

A former archeologist and educator, Ken now splits his time between writing and being a stay-at-home dad. As a freelance writer he has worked for Alephtar Games, Chaosium, Steve Jackson Games, and Frog God Games.

Ken said: "Rocket Age has gone from an idea, to a dream, and is now a reality. To share this alternate history retro sci-fi vision with my fellow gamers is a wondrous experience."

Over on RPG.Net, Ken has posted an open-call for possible adventure writers for the game.

[GUEST POST] It’s Funny, The Stuff You Learn Ten Years On...

Author Richard Dansky And Friend...
This guest post is by Richard Dansky, the writer behind much of the Wraith RPG from White Wolf, and author of the new novel Vaporware.

A decade ago, I turned in my last bits of writing for White Wolf. It was sort of a grand farewell tour of freelance, closing out with some Wraith-related stuff (Abyssals and Orpheus) and a chaser of Corax (Book of Changing Breeds).

I knew then that the folks down in Clarkston were going to be making like Daffy Duck in that one cartoon (the one where his punch line is “But I can only do it once") and blowing the whole thing up.

I also knew that at that point I had a fiction writing career that was growing in fits and starts, and a burgeoning video game writing career that was about to start taking me places like Paris and the front of the room at GDC.

So I said goodbye to game writing, and to the World of Darkness and its blood kin in particular, with a little regret but no second thoughts. I’d said what I needed to say, done what I thought I needed to do, and played my metaphorical Last Waltz.

I mean, it’s not that I wasn’t proud of the work that I had done, as a writer or as a developer.

I still have what may be the only Wraith fridge magnet that Henry Higgenbotham ever sold, going strong and guarding my kitchen from the forces of Oblivion. I still have art by Andrew Ritchie and Ron Spencer and Heather McKinney in my office at home, right where I can look at them any time I need an extra dose of the spooky for inspiration. I still get nachas when someone mentions Wraith fondly online, and I remain endlessly appreciative for the opportunities that working on the World of Darkness brought me.

But ten years is a long time. Memories blur. Things change. The stuff that seemed so very vital, so worth laying down on the train tracks for then starts looking like small change when viewed from sufficient distance.

And so I found myself talking online with a friend who also happened to be a White Wolf fan from back in the day.

We were talking about the differences between working in tabletop and working in video games, and that got me reminiscing about some of the wackier stories from back in the day.

You know, stuff like the time layout artist Katie McCaskill’s computer kept crashing while laying out a Wraith book until I stuck a pendant with the Tetragrammaton on it.

Or the time we had to set up a LARP in the office for a tabloid television show, one that ended with the reporter shaking her head and muttering sadly to herself “they’re just nerds”.

Or the way walking around a convention in Kansas City – my first official con as a Wolfie – had led to Laws of the Night through the simple expedient of my arm getting too damn tired from hauling around all those damn books.

You get the idea.

I went through the anecdotes and the good times and the bad times, the times people left and the times there were moments of what felt like transcendent creation.

And at the end of it, I said to my friend: “You know, the thing about doing all that – all the late nights and the last minute scrambles to fill in the missing ten thousand words layout needed and all the other insanity – was that it really felt like we were doing something important."

Left unsaid, of course, was: "Maybe, in retrospect, we weren’t."

Maybe the passion we put into arguing over whether a particular book would be 128 pages or 144, whether John Cobb was the right choice of cover artist for a particular book, whether Rasputin was, hell, we’re not even going to touch the Rasputin thing here... 

But over the years, perhaps a hint of doubt might have crept in.

And then my friend said: "To an awful lot of us, you were."

Which humbled me. And it reminded me as well that the work we did, as much as it was for us – and it was for us, as we threw every bit of creative energy we had into those books – it was also for the folks who’d be picking those books up, and reading them, and playing with them.

That, all hokey sentiment aside, it might have brought some joy to some people’s life, might have given them help expressing themselves in a way they hadn’t before. Just a game, sure, as I kept writing in every Mind’s Eye Theatre book I did, but also a part of our lives, and a part of theirs as well.

Like I said, humbling. But also refreshing, and a reminder, as I move forward into new creative endeavors – games like Splinter Cell: Blacklist, novels like Vaporware – that if the work I do is important enough to do and do well, then it just might be important to someone who picks it up, reads or plays it, and makes it a part of their life.

That the passion I put into it can find an echo in someone else, which means it’s always worth digging deep for that commitment, that energy.

Only took me ten years to learn it, too. But then again, I was always a quick study.

A 14-year veteran of the video game industry, Richard Dansky is the Central Clancy Writer for Ubisoft/Red Storm. Named by Gamasutra as one of the top 20 game writers in 2009, he has written for games ranging from Outland to the upcoming Splinter Cell: Blacklist. Richard is also the author of six novels, including the critically praised Firefly Rain. He lives and works in North Carolina with his wife and their statistically improbable collections of books, scotch and cats.

Richard and his works can be found online at:

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The Zod Squad!

It's taken a long while for the trailers for Man Of Steel to win me round and I'm still not wholly convinced this is going to be "my" idea of Superman, but Michael Shannon does make an impressive Zod. And the best way to judge a hero is by the calibre of his villains, right?

Of course I will be disappointed if no-one utters the immortal line: "Kneel before Zod!"

Kiss My Axe!

An unexpected downpouring of rain today discouraged me from going to the gym (I normally go on Wednesday and Thursday, but had toyed with changing the routine) and so, instead of spending all day in front of either the TV or the computer, I opted to do some tidying up in the gamesroom.

The top of my "to do" list was to get all my Sláine graphic novels together and organise them into chronological order (the idea being, eventually, to read them in this order rather than the random hit-and-miss approach I've been taking in recent years).

The correct order, should anyone be interested, is:
  • Warrior's Dawn
  • Time Killer
  • Sláine The King
  • The Horned God
  • Demon Killer
  • Lord Of Misrule
  • Treasures Of Britain
  • The Grail War
  • The Books Of Invasion I to III
  • Sláine The Wanderer
All this Celtic goodness has, of course, got me fired up to read the latest Castles & Crusades supplement Codex Celtarum, which is sitting in my "to be read" pile of gaming books.

Tim Brannan did a fantastic overview of the book last week on his blog, The Other Side, during his week-long look at Castles & Crusades.

For a few moments, while sorting through all the Sláine books, I even thought of running a purely Celtic campaign for The Tuesday Knights but I fear that has a similar roadblock as running a samurai and ninja campaign: a surfeit of tongue-twistingly unpronounceable names!


A couple of recent, short stage-fights from The Academy Of Theatrical Combat for a quick shot of visceral gaming inspiration.

[HOUSERULES] More Tools For A Rogue's Utility Belt...

All rogues have access to  class skills of climbing, decipher script, opening locks, hide, listen, stealth, pick pockets and traps – but like fighters (as detailed yesterday) as they progress in levels they can gain specialist skills which help to individualise them.

The rogue gains one skill at third level, a second at seventh, a third at 11th level, a fourth at 15th level and a fifth at 19th level.  Unless stated otherwise, each may only be taken once.

1. IMPROVED CLASS SKILL: The thief gains an extra +1 bonus to any one of his traditional class skills (e.g. of climbing, decipher script, opening locks, hide, listen, stealth, pick pockets and traps). If taken a second time, the bonus must be applied to a different skill.

2. DISGUISE MASTER (Charisma): The thief is a master of disguise and gains the assassin's disguise ability (see player's handbook, page 17).

3. CON ARTIST (Charisma): The thief has the gift of the gab and can talk his way out of any situation or convince people that what he says is true. This isn’t a magical ability though, so has limits – depending on his credibility and circumstances.

4. LORE MASTER (Intelligence): The thief ‘knows things’, odd snippets of history and legend. When dealing with information concerning his home and its environs he can make a saving throw at +3 to know something useful, otherwise he makes a straight saving throw. The further he is from his homeland, the vaguer and more tenuous his knowledge will become. But it’s better than nothing.

5. FORGER (Intelligence): The thief can forge documents – as long as he has an original to copy – that will fool most people. He makes his ability check to create the forgery and they must make an Intelligence check (with a CL equal to his level) check to detect it as a forgery (as long as he made his saving throw; otherwise the CL is zero).

6. ESCAPOLOGIST (Dexterity): The thief can slip bonds and manacles (given enough time) if he makes his ability check. Certain chains etc may give negative modifiers to the roll, but he will always get a saving throw and have some chance of escaping.

7. WILL OF IRON: When being seduced/interrogated (Wisdom check) or tortured (Constitution check) he gains a +3 to his save to resist giving up any information.

8. ACROBAT (Dexterity): The thief is a master tumbler and acrobat, able to perform acrobatic feats on a successful ability check. As long as she is wearing light armour (leather or less), carrying nothing larger than a short, one-handed weapon and has no shield, she opt to make an acrobatic defence - in lieu of her attack action - and, on a successful save, gains an additional +4 to her AC for that round.

9. BALANCE (Dexterity): The thief is adept at walking on narrow ledges, on high-wires etc on a successful ability check.

10. APPRAISAL (Intelligence): If the thief spends two combat rounds studying a piece of jewellery a pile of coins, a work of art, a wallhanging etc and then makes a successful ability check he will be able to guess its true value to within plus/minus 1d10 per cent. Cannot ascertain magical powers of an item, if it is enchanted, just its pure fiscal worth.

11. ONE BLADE IS NEVER ENOUGH: If the thief is somehow disarmed in combat, he may draw a concealed dagger from his boot (or elsewhere on his person) that same round and attack with it the next round (with no penalties) - instead of wasting time trying to retrieve his lost weapon mid-combat. He does not need to state beforehand that he has the blade concealed on his person, but can only pull this trick once per fight. Clearly if, for some reason, he's naked then this trick doesn't work (no, seriously, don't even try and think about it...)

12. GETAWAY:  Base movement rate increases by 20 per cent, as long as she is wearing light armour (leather or less), carrying nothing larger than a short, one-handed weapon and has no shield.

The BBC Knows What I Like...

Based on The Cousins' War, Philippa Gregory's best selling historical novel series, The White Queen charts the thrilling story of the ruthless and manipulative women caught up in the ongoing conflict for the throne during the War of the Roses.

This major series - of ten one-hour episodes - is guaranteed a slot on my Sky+ box as it ticks all the right "knights in shining armour" boxes for me.

No indications as to when it will be screened yet, but then the BBC are always very cagey about such things and probably won't reveal dates until the show inevitably makes the front cover of the Radio Times!

Monday, 27 May 2013

Warner Bros, You Are Spoiling Us!

A Castle Fit For A High-Level Knight...

A view across the moat to the postern gate of Bodiam Castle
I've already posted on Facebook my collection of photographs of Bodiam Castle, in Sussex, where Rachel and I spent most of Saturday - our wedding anniversary.

A frequent backdrop to BBC and History Channel documentaries about the Medieval era, Bodiam Castle may be ruined inside but its exterior is largely complete and, with its enormous moat, presents an imposing view to any "attacking force of knights" riding towards it.

The 14th Century castle - built by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge (who sported an impressive unicorn helm on for his jousting armour) - was possibly more for show than anything else, an emblem of Sir Edward's wealth and political status (both gained through a combination of military prowess and strategic family marriages).

As castle ruins go, there's still plenty to explore and be inspired by, with several of the towers being accessible to the more able-bodied (ie. not me).

However, even if you don't fancy ascending narrow, winding staircases there are also a number of dungeon-esque storerooms on the ground level as well as the sunken well room in the south-west corner.

The castle is also well-stocked with signage, but not overly so, with some interesting tit-bits of Medieval trivia that gamers - who aren't already mediaeval scholars - can always cherry-pick to add some flavour to their faux feudal societies.


I can easily see myself drawing upon that floorplan (below) for the layout of a castle - ruined or otherwise - in my upcoming Castles & Crusades campaign. Because, ultimately, who doesn't love maps?

[HOUSERULES] Giving Fighters An Edge...

In Castles & Crusades, fighters have weapon specialisation at first level and can later gain the "combat dominance" and "extra attack" techniques at set levels, but here are 10 additional "tricks" they can add to their repertoire to individualise their fighting style as they progress.

The fighter gains one technique at third level, a second at seventh, a third at 11th level, a fourth at 15th level and a fifth at 19th level.


1. Fury: The fighter gains a +2 bonus to hit and damage for the duration of one combat (melee weapon only), but suffers a -2 penalty to his AC while in a rage. Afterwards, the character is exhausted, taking a -2 penalty to all actions. One hour of complete rest (no walking) eliminates the exhaustion.

2. Defender: The fighter gains an extra +1 bonus to his AC when using a shield.

3. Swashbuckler: So long as the fighter is wearing 'light' armour (no heavier than leather), is not using a shield, and is not using a large weapon, he/she gains a +2 bonus to his AC. Also, when using two weapons the fighter suffers only a -1 penalty with his prime hand and -4 with his off-hand.

4. Unarmed Combat: The fighter can do 1d4+1 of normal damage with only his/her fists and feet. If he/she takes this fighting style a second time, this damage increases to 2d4.

5. Unarmoured Combat: The character's gladiatorial training means, when not wearing any armour, his natural Armour Class is improved by +1 per level (up to a maximum of +10 at tenth level). He may use a shield, but the moment he puts on any form of armour his "tecnique" bonus is lost. Any Armour Class bonus from high Dexterity is unaffected by this style.

6. Cleaver: When the fighter lands a killing blow on a foe, if there is another foe within about five feet he may step through and strike at this new foe (effectively a free attack). If he slays this second foe with a single blow and there is another within range he may move on to that one and so on, for up to a number of free strikes equal to his level.

7. Fast Draw: Unless surprised, the fighter will be able to draw a one-handed weapon (can be a thrown weapon, but not a missile weapon) and strike in a single round, with a +3 bonus on his personal initiative roll, during the first round of combat. If he loses initiative that first round he may opt to "interrupt" his opponent's attack with a block that forfeits his own attack, but gives the attacker a -3 penalty to his blow (if the fighter was armed with a thrown weapon, he has thrown it at the opponent's weapon and 'spent' the shot as usual).

8. Strategist: If the player-character spends a round fighting defensively (+4 to AC, but may not strike a blow, effectively losing his attack for that round), he can study his opponent's fighting style and ascertain his weaknesses. From the next round of combat onwards he will fight at +2 to Hit against that particular foe. Should his enemy survive and the two meet again, the fighter will retain his +2 advantage for all future duels.

9. Flurry: The player-character is skilled at suddenly launching counter-attacks with a flurry of blows aimed at putting his opponent off-balance. To trigger this ability, the fighter's opponent must have attacked first in the round (whether he won Initiative or the PC won and allowed his enemy to attempt a hit first). The fighter expends two hit points (as this is an exhausting move) then rolls 2d20 - and takes the highest of the two as his "roll to hit". Additionally, if he scores a hit and his foe is of roughly the same size, or smaller, then the wounded target is pushed back (4+1d6) feet and the fighter may move with him (if he so desires).

10. Protector: Provided the player-character is using a shield and standing adjacent to an ally he adds +1 to his comrade's Armour Class for as long as the pair remain adjacent and in combat, through clever use of his shield. This style may be taken a second time to increase the bonus to +2.

All of these techniques may only be taken once by a fighter, unless stated otherwise.

INCREASED DAMAGE: As fighters go up in level, they not only become more proficient at hitting their target, but also more adept at causing damage. To reflect this, fighters gain an extra dice of damage for every five experience levels they obtain (these are not cumulative, as the die type increases it replaces the lower die types).

This extra die is rolled in addition to the normal weapon damage and is totalled with any Strength bonus, magic bonus etc.

Bonus Die

For example, Wulf the Sixth Level Fighter (with 15 Strength), armed with a long sword, which he specialises in, would roll 1d8+1d4+2 whenever he hits. This damage could be further increased depending on his choice of fighting techniques (he gained weapon specialisation at first level - which increases his damage by one point - and an extra technique at third).

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Game Of Thrones Season Three: Recap #8

As always the usual spoilerific warnings apply, but if you're not up-to-speed now on Season Three of Game Of Thrones you really shouldn't be watching this anyway!

Here's an in-depth look at the last episode:

And because there's no new episode this week (boo!) here's a wonderful eight-minute featurette on "the politics of marriage":

Keep Calm And Carrie On...

I might have been a bit cynical about this remake of Carrie (why mess with perfection?) but I love the inventiveness of this animated poster!

I Am Of House Tor!

As part of the promotion machine for Man Of Steel there's a neat little website where you can - by answering a few questions - discover your Kryptonian house and house glyph.

I'm a member of The House Of Tor - as my glyph above shows - and my name is written in Kryptonian underneath.

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox...

Based on the universe-busting comic book event, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is a forthcoming DC animation that sees The Flash waking up in a world where he has no superpowers.

Perhaps He Should Have Wished Himself Into That Room...

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Why The Universe Loves Ralph Wiggum!

Thanks to Calvin's Canadian Cave Of Cool for this majestic Ralph-ism to round off today's Geek Day celebrations!

I Love Star Wars: Romance in a Galaxy Far, Far Away...

This seemed a fitting post for today.

It Binds The Galaxy Together...

Like many younglings of my generation, Star Wars spoke to me in ways other movies never did.

People often talk about being "blown away" the first time they saw the Imperial Star Destroyer rumble into shot during the opening sequence of Star Wars.

It didn't have that effect on me - for me it was totally normal; in my 10-year-old mind's eye that's what spaceships had always looked like. This was space stuff as it always should have been!

My dad took me to see Star Wars when it first came out and it was one of those rare films that really bridged the age gap.

From seeing Star Wars on the big screen, with my dad, in 1977 a fanboy was born.

I started a scrap book (cover pictured above) of Star Wars newspaper and magazine articles, along with the "Who's Who"s from the black-and-white British Star Wars comics, and a strange diagram of the Death Star trench.

As well as hordes of bubblegum cards and a small selection of action figures (I mainly remember Han Solo and Darth Vader); my collecting mania had begun.

More importantly, I wrote voraciously.

Since primary school I'd filled spare exercise books with rambling Earth-centric science-fiction and action stories, but now they took on epic, space opera qualities, filled with alien planets and strange creatures, inspired by George Lucas and his masterpiece.

Somehow I knew, albeit subconsciously, that this was a film unlike any other. A phenomenon. And the world would never be the same again.

Three decades later and George Lucas' creation is still impacting my life.

Even though Rachel isn't a fan and it was actually a total co-incidence that we were married six years ago today, May 25, 2007 (the 30th anniversary of the opening of Star Wars), we still had The Imperial March as Rachel's bridal music and she had secretly arranged for 'Darth Vader' to act as ring bearer.

At the time, Paul (my best man) was working as Assistant Editor of New Consumer magazine  and so our wedding earned a mention in their promotional material for 'alternative' weddings (as a faux new report video).

The table names for the wedding breakfast were all planets from the Saga (the head table was Cosuscant) and our cake topper was this delightful tiny replica of myself as Han Solo and Rachel as Princess Leia. They still have pride-of-place in the dinning room cabinet display, along with a number of Star Wars-themed Mr Potato Heads (Darth Tater, Spudtrooper etc)!

In my world, Star Wars surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the Galaxy together; it is such a part of my life, of who I am, it connects me to my late father, it is woven into the fabric of my wedding and continues to be a major factor in fandom/collecting/gaming etc

Speed Dating - Heroes & Villains Style...

Friday, 24 May 2013

Torn From The Headlines: Anti-Reanimation Cage...

I've seen graves with cages like this in British churchyards. However, it never dawned on me that people would concoct a very modern assumption that these were erected by Victorians afraid their loved-ones would rise as vampires or zombies (as the misleading caption from Facebook above suggests)!

They are, of course, to prevent the far more human crime of grave-robbing.

As explained on's Urban Legends site, these are grills are to keep the living out, not to keep the living dead in.

But, despite the reverse-thinking misinformation, it still makes for an interesting story.

Avengers' Tasters...

Ahead of the American premier this weekend of the first two episodes of the new Marvel cartoon Avengers Assemble here's a pair of sneaky peaks from those episodes:

Earth's Mightiest Heroes is going to be a tough act to follow, but I'm willing to be open-minded until I can judge for myself, after seeing a couple of episodes here in the UK, whether Avengers Assemble is a worthy successor.

Still don't really understand why EMH had to be axed - unless the 'ultimate' goal is lobotomise the animated Avengers as Marvel/Disney have done with Spider-Man in the craptacular Ultimate Spider-Man?

Read All About It! Read All About It!

The local newspaper which employed me for so many years continues to demonstrate its good taste by running a page-feature on my amazing wife and her dolls house hobby today.

Naturally Rachel has all the details on her blog, Miniatures Make Me Happy, so pop on over and check out the article and more pictures of her miniature pub, The Rachel's Return, and other projects.

Needless to say, I'm very proud and extremely happy that she is able to share her passion with others - and hopefully it will drive even more visitors to her already very popular blog.

If, of course, you live in West Kent or East Sussex, you can find the article on page 30 of this week's Kent & Sussex Courier.

Latest Episode Of The Night Blogger...

The latest instalment of Al Bruno III's audio chiller The Night Blogger: The Graveyard Game...

Previous episodes can be found here.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

D&DVD Of The Week: Genghis - The Legend Of The Ten (2012)

Locked in a civil war with the rebellious Hulin tribe, the hordes of Genghis Khan (aka Chinggis Khaan aka Temujin) are stricken by plague and so a ten-man squad (an "aravt") is dispatched into the mountains to retrieve The Great Physician, a renowned healer.

On the way, they come across a burned-out homestead where they discover an abandoned baby and immediately adopt him into their group - little realising he is the son of Harkhor (G.Zolboot), the son of Hulin leader Hukhtumur (Ayurdadi), who is now tracking them believing the aravt responsible for the death of his family.

Meanwhile, The Great Physican and his granddaughter Unumunkhlei (D.Ganqeqeg) have been captured at their camp by Hukhtumur, who needs the Physician's sikills to cope with his own illness.

Just to make matters even more complicated, the Hulin tribe has a treacherous snake in its midst who is seeking to turn events to his own advantage.

I believe this is the first Mongolian film to hit the West and what a way to introduce yourself to the world. Filmed on location in Mongolia, with an all-Mongolian cast, this couldn't look more authentic and it is a visual treat, from the ruggedly-interesting faces of the cast to the fine detailing on the arms and armour of the warriors.

The sweeping landscape provides a suitably epic backdrop for this nicely paced swords-and-saddles adventure that works best when focussing on the tense cat-and-mouse hunting by the troops on either side of the conflict as they attempt to complete their missions.

Although the DVD blurb talks about great battles, this movie is really more about the samurai-like code of honour and loyalty (to each other and to their ruler) the aravt live by. Of course, there are a number of fight scenes, but these are really only skirmishes - and unfortunately this is where  occasional weaknesses show themselves with some odd framing and editing of shots.

The front cover of the DVD proclaims this as "the untold story of the greatest warrior in history". It isn't.

It also shows a massive horde of cavalry charging at the viewer - this scene doesn't appear in the film.

There's also blurb on the back of the DVD box about these ten soldiers being Genghis Khan's elite bodyguards - this is also nonsense. They are simply a unit of soldiers chosen for an important mission. Genghis Khan doesn't even appear in this movie which is named after him (I suspect by Western distributors). Calling this film Genghis makes as much sense as calling a World War II movie about a squad of British soldiers Churchill.

It's almost as though film distributors feel the need to "dumb down" foreign movies, especially when they come from exotic locales like Mongolia, because they don't believe Western audiences are smart enough to take a film as it is.

For gamers seeking inspiration with a different cultural experience, and don't have an issue with subtitles, then Genghis: The Legend Of The Ten is a great starting point as an insight into Mongolian life during the reign of Genghis Khan. Here's hoping we get more of these historical tales coming out of Mongolia now.

Gym Fixed It For Me!

Today I ache in places I didn't know I could ache.

But it's a very satisfying ache as yesterday I ramped up my work-out routine at the gym.

My physio, who is determined to get me not just walking without the aid of a stick but also running, suggested I speak to my gym coach about adding in some new machines to my routine and yesterday I did just that.

In one fell stroke I more than doubled the length of my gym routine by adding a large slice of time on the treadmill (which I really enjoy) and the rowing machine (which was surprisingly fun as well, although I'm not entirely sold on having my feet strapped into the machine but nothing supporting my back).

The only other change I've instituted is to switch from listening to podcasts to listening to music on my iPod as I pound the virtual streets on the treadmill - probably something about getting me into the right rhythm.

Now I just have to make sure I can keep this up!


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