Reality is the playground of the unimaginative
Home Of Swords, Sorcery, Superheroes, Sci-fi, Star Stuff, Silliness, Scares, and the Supernatural

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Epic Fantasy Summoned By The Power Of The Black Label...


Hot on the heels of Marvel's Conan, the climax of Game Of Thrones, and the continuing rise in popularity of Dungeons & Dragons,  DC Comics is jumping on the fantasy bandwagon with this October's The Last God.

The 12-issue series, from writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson (Jim Henson’s The Power of the Dark Crystal), artist Riccardo Federici (Aquaman) and colourist Dean White (All-Star Batman) and published by DC's Black Label imprint, is described as:
"...a cross-generational quest to kill an evil tyrant king — also known as the Last God — as he seeks to destroy the land of Cain Anuun.

Thirty years ago, a fellowship of legendary adventurers saved their world by slaying the demonic tyrant Mol Uhltep — The Last God.

Following his downfall, the realm entered a new age of peace and prosperity.

But a generation later, when the leader of the original fellowship dies, their children and successors learn their terrible lie:

The Last God still lives.

A new generation of heroes must unearth the secrets that their parents kept, and set out to finish what was started thirty years before. And this time, they must not fail.
"
The first issue of the monthly title will be released on October 30.

Horror Film Of The Week: Annabelle - Creation (2017)


It's the little things that can make a good movie.

During the first act of Annabelle: Creation, before the expected ghostly horrors begin, Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) is sharing a photograph of her fellow nuns and, at one point, she tilts it at a certain angle and, briefly, a face appears in the shadows of the picture, lenticular-like: it's Valac (from The Nun and The Conjuring 2).

It's never mentioned again, never referenced, but it's a marvellous Easter Egg tying this film - beyond the presence of its titular antagonist - to the wider Conjuring Universe.

Director David F Sandberg (who also directed the recent Shazam!) makes great use of light and shadows in this creative origin story for the demonic doll, Annabelle, that far exceeds her disappointing first 'solo' film for scares and coherence.

Written by Gary Dauberman (who was also responsible for Annabelle, Annabelle Comes Home, The Nun, IT: Chapter Two, and developing Swamp Thing for DC Universe), Annabelle: Creation sees melancholic, former toy maker, Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his bed-bound wife, Esther (Miranda Otto), opening their isolated home to Sister Charlotte and half-a-dozen orphan girls.

Twelve years earlier, in the mid 1940s, their young daughter, Annabelle (Samara Lee) had been run over and killed, and despite the generous nature of Mr Mullins, there's a definite creepy cloud of gloom hanging over the house.

Exploring a room in the house she was forbidden to enter, one girl, Janice (Talitha Bateman) is attacked in the night by some kind of demonic entity. Already hobbled by polio, this attack leaves her in a wheelchair, and the other girls start to believe her stories of 'ghosts', especially when Janice's behaviour takes a turn for the worse.

Although the climax of the main plot is slightly jumbled, even feeling a bit rushed, overall Annabelle: Creation is tightly scripted and delivers on most counts.

For the most part it avoids cheap jump scares, and instead oozes unnerving, "it's behind you", tension and atmosphere.

Taking a lesson from the first Annabelle flick, director David Sandberg doesn't dwell too long on the static doll, instead drawing the story's terror from what goes on around her.

The all-important "creation" of the central demonic doll is surprisingly interesting and clever (although I don't understand why no one ever suggested pouring a can of petrol over the doll and setting it alight, especially once it became clear how evil it was).

Towards the end of the film there's a nice nod to the "real Annabelle doll" in a sequence that dovetails neatly into the first Annabelle movie.

Besides the fantastic Easter Eggs, a strength of many of The Conjuring Universe movies has been their period settings, and that's ever-prevalent in Annabelle: Creation, with its story eventually spanning spanning three decades.

And, I know I came to this franchise late, but I love the way it really is a "cinematic universe" - in the style of the Marvel movies - with its stories not focusing on a single demonic entity or ghostly group simply repeating the same narrative over and over through unending sequels of ever-decreasing quality and budget.

Raven Casts A Spell - Week Four...

It's Funny Because It's True...

Saturday, 29 June 2019

#RPG I'm Kind Of Writing My Own Game: It's Not Big, It's Not Clever, But It's Mine...

A mere soupçon of the inspirational material I'm drawing upon...

Several days this week have been devoted to making serious progress on my long-gestating "fantasy heartbreaker" roleplaying system.

In collating the "best bits" of first edition Crypts & Things with my own houserules (most of which have appeared in some form on HeroPress over the years), I'm most definitely not creating some Frankengame to foist on the general public.

This game, built around my 1980's movies-inspired game setting, Tekralh (which takes Hawk The Slayer as its starting point and builds out from there) is purely for home use, my attempt to craft a system that works for me.

It won't be a complete game, just enough material that I calculate could serve as the basis for my dream of an open-ended, long-running campaign for the Tuesday Knights.

Pete's wife, Jeni, was quizzing me the other night about my hobbies, as, seeing my gamesroom for the first time, she wanted to know which of my many interests I considered the main focus of my geekery.

This is something I've been thinking about for a while, so I had an answer at hand: gaming, particularly roleplaying games.

All my other interests, in fact pretty much everything I do, in some way or another, feeds back into the wonderful world of roleplaying games.

Every film, TV show, book, comic, etc I consume informs my gaming: from suggesting plots or characters to translate to constructing thought experiments around how to emulate events in someone else's story idea in a new rules mechanic for my own gaming world.

And it's not just fiction and obvious documentaries, such as those seen on The History Channel or National Geographic, but everyday events.

Something like an international football match will get me thinking about how to bring sports into whatever roleplaying world is percolating in my brain at the time, while a trip to the doctor will conjure ideas for rules mechanics for handling disease, illness, recovery etc

In my mind's eye, I see the world through a prism of polyhedral dice and random encounter tables.

Therefore, I have to kind of smoosh all this together into a game of my own (which isn't really my own, it owes an awful lot to Newt Newport for giving us Crypts & Things in the first place, which, in turn, used key elements from Blain Neufeld’s swords-and sorcery houserules at Akratic Wizardry) just to keep my head from exploding.

At school, one of the few areas I shone in - besides writing - was "statistics" (because, ironically, of my love for roleplayng games!). My brain has become far more addled than it was in those halcyon days, but I'm still pretty sure I've got the maths and probability about right in the mechanics I'm creating.

And it's an excuse, as if I really needed one, to utilise my arsenal of funky dice.

This isn't the first time I tried to kludge together my own system, but this attempt benefits from the knowledge gleaned from previous stabs as well as the fact that, given the Tuesday Knights are still in the early days of Simon's 5e Dungeons & Dragons campaign, there's no sense of self-imposed urgency or looming deadline.

I'm taking my time, drawing up lists, not trying to bash everything out in one sitting, from start to finish. I'm writing up chapters when I'm ready, but not printing them, so I can go back and amend them when new information and ideas are forthcoming.

It is a work in progress.

It's not going to be clever and innovative, or even anything particularly new, but it's going to be mine.

There's a palpable sense of joy when things come together.

It's going to let me run the kinds of games I've always imagined.

And I'm very pleased with it so far...

The Internet Is Infested With Demons... As If We Didn't Already Know That!

Howard North, a down on his luck sewage worker, gets dragged into a global conflict between the Nekromancers, a family of badass demon hunters, and Finnegan (Monica Bellucci) - an evil demon who absorbs people's souls to increase her power.

When Howard finds out the truth behind Finnegan's past and her dark plans for the future, he teams up with his new friends to discover he is the ultimate Nekromancer, the only one with the power to defeat her and save the world.
In cinemas and on-demand on August 9, this Aussie comedy-horror has serious Ghostbusters vibes to it, and a great cast including Monica Bellucci and Faramir himself, David Wenham.

HAWK THE COLLECTOR!!!


Ahhh, the things we do for love!

The other day I acquired - for very reasonable prices on eBay - both the laser disc and VHS releases of that greatest of fantasy movies, Hawk The Slayer...

Even though I have neither a laser disc nor a video cassette player.

I know I'm supposed to be curbing my purchases these days, but, come on, it's Hawk The Slayer.

I think you can allow me this one!

Here's some pictures of their shiny goodness:

Alien: Isolation...


Friday, 28 June 2019

#RPG Soon I'll Have Enough Map Tiles To Create An Entire Country...




I've made no secret of the fact that I love adventure tiles for gaming - as an affordable, and easily stored, alternative to ultra-expensive 3D terrain - and there just happen to be two really nice Kickstarter campaigns going at the moment that have my name written all over them.

I covered Red Dragon Gaming's latest offerings for its Adventure Realms range last week, but I've since come across another UK-based fundraising campaign for yet more gorgeous-looking tabletop tiles.

Jon Hodgson is a highly regarded fantasy artist, whose work can be seen gracing beloved games such as Crypts & ThingsThe One Ring, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Dragon Warriors, and Beyond the Wall, to name but a few.

He's currently running a Kickstarter - which is open until July 9 - to fund production of multiple packs of double-sided, six inch square, tiles, with each pack themed to a typical RPG environment.

Each pack contains 30 tiles, printed on 270gsm card-stock.

The core sets are: Mountain Pass, Forest, Cavern and Heathland, but stretch goals are opening up a small collection of alternative settings, bringing the grand total to seven (including the recently unlocked fantastic 'dungeon' set).

Check out the Kickstarter page for a lot more detail on the sets already available, and the stretch goals. Global shipping is included in your pledge, so you don't need to worry about being stung with any post-Kickstarter surprise invoices.


Every Hero Has A Role In Marvel's Grand Celebration Of Its 80th Anniversary...


For its 80th anniversary, Marvel Comics is putting out an 80-page spectacular, featuring the work of 80 different creative teams.

With The Immortal Hulk's Al Ewing at the helm, Marvel Comics #1000 delves into a mystery at the heart of the Marvel Universe, beginning in Marvel Comics #1, published on August 31, 1939 (by Timely Comics).

Due to hit stores on August 28, the very first panel of Marvel Comics #1000 will reflect a panel from the original first issue and go on to reveal more mysteries of the Marvel Universe, featuring an enigmatic artifact known as the Eternity Mask.

Each page of the issue will then be contributed by a different team from throughout Marvel's history and supposedly feature every single character from the Marvel Universe, right up to a Conan story from writer Ralph Macchio and artist Marco Checchetto.

There are, of course (in the style of DC's Superman and Batman recent anniversary issues) an abundance of variant covers, many representing the various decades between the first issue of Marvel Comics and now.

The Garden Room Is All Ready For Painting...

See how the cabin tastefully blends in with its surroundings? You wouldn't know it was there...

Picking up from yesterday, the workmen finished off the new garden room today, putting in the window, covering the roof etc and so it's all ready for the next stage of the operation.

This weekend, Rachel plans to paint the building, ready for the electricians to come in next week and wire it up.

I believe the plan is to seek the assistance of Rachel's friend and work colleague (Human) Alice aka Alice Two-Legs, while Alice Four-Legs and I (Timmy One-Leg) watch from the shade (as neither of us are built for the current predicted heat wave).

It was explained to me that this would be a two-day job, undercoat one day, top coat the next.

Small room with a view...

Good Morning, Charlie! These New Angels May Have Wings...


In Elizabeth Banks’ bold vision, Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska are working for the mysterious Charles Townsend, whose security and investigative agency has expanded internationally.

With the world’s smartest, bravest, and most highly trained women all over the globe, there are now teams of Angels guided by multiple Bosleys taking on the toughest jobs everywhere.

The screenplay is by Elizabeth Banks from a story by Evan Spiliotopoulos and David Auburn
.
The original Charlie's Angels remains sacrosanct, an alchemical formula - and a magical part of my childhood - that can never be recreated.

The Drew Barrymore/Lucy Liu/Cameron Diaz movies came close, and I have a soft spot for their fun take, but then there was that lacklustre TV reboot and I thought the franchise would be left alone after that.

Now there's a new movie. And I'll admit I'd already written it off... until I saw this trailer.

And suddenly my interest was piqued. It actually looks rather good. And I love this idea of making the Angels an international organisation, with multiple "Bosleys".

Print Is Not Dead Which Can Eternal Lie...


Gamers of a certain age and temperament (e.g. Nicholas and I)  have fond memories of Game Designers' Workshop's Journal of the Travellers’ Aid Society (JTAS) from back in the day.

This was a regular publication renowned for the breadth of it articles covering every aspect of life in the popular Traveller universe.

Letters from the Leagues is Triple Ace Games' homage to that esteemed publication, a quarterly, subscription print + PDF publication chock full of new material for its three Ubiquity-driven Leagues settings (Leagues Of Adventure, Leagues Of Gothic Horror, and Leagues Of Cthulhu).

A £32 annual subscription, from DriveThruRPG, will get you four 32-page volumes of fresh material.

Volume 1 is ready for editing, and subscriptions will soon be available.

Here's the table of contents for the first issue, with indications of which setting the material is best suited for:

Prehistoric Monuments (All)
* Leagues
* Three Ages
* Barrows
* Stone Circles
* Astronomy
* Sample Sites

Occult Detective Agencies (GH)
* Creating a Detective Agency
* Core Personnel
* Building the Agency
* Expanding the Agency
* Facilities
* Other Facilities
* Staff
* Income
* Sample Special Staff

Yog-Sothoth (C)
* Name & Titles
* Appearance
* Morality
* Interactions with Humans
* Procreation with Humans
* Cults
* Notable Persons

Alienists &Asylums (GH & C)
* History
* Mental Illness
* Psychiatry
* Treatments
* Asylums
* Having Someone Committed
* The Cost of Madness
* Asylum Care
* Private Care

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Wittgenstein And The Spider-Verse...


Spider-Verse not only tells a classic tale of action, sci-fi, and superhero glory with the web-tacular Spider-Man at the center of it all, but it also brings back and introduces dozens of similarly web-slinging and awe-inspiring heroes into the fray as well!

Now, how does having so many different Spider-People tie into a philosophy on how we use language?

TARDIS-Like, There's A Whole New Room Materialising In Our Garden...

Morning wood...

Because you can never have too much room, today work began in our garden on our "garden room", a stylish wooden chalet that will ultimately serve double-duty as an additional storage area and a gym.

Gym sounds a bit pretentious, though. It's where our running machine will go.

The storage area will be for the Christmas and Halloween decorations that simply won't fit anywhere else inside the main house, and only need to come out (and be put away again) once a year anyway.

Two friendly builders from Johnsons Garden Buildings turned up bright and early this morning with a lorry laden with wood, and set to work putting down the base, then erecting the walls of the new addition to our "family estate".


By close of play today, you could definitely tell it's a room!

And it's massive. Far bigger than I'd pictured in my mind, yet it works with the tree (which I'm very pleased about, as I love having a fruit-bearing tree in our garden).

Tomorrow, they return to finish off the structure, including cutting a window in the wall facing the house (and our tree).

Then, at the weekend, Rachel will paint the building, so that next week electricians from Johnsons can come in and sort out that aspect of the build, meaning we'll then have power for lights (and the running machine!).

Although we haven't actually discussed it, I'm hoping Rachel will allow me to attach Shedward's old TARDIS signage to this new construct (although I suspect I'm probably supposed to be putting it on the old, rammed, shed that sits sadly in the corner of the garden).

Evening room...
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