Reality Is The Playground Of The Unimaginative

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Sunday, 31 January 2021

Are You A Rake Or Will A Second Printing Of Good Society Cause You To Swoon?

Slap-bang in the middle of next month's Zine Quest 3, Australian roleplaying publisher Storybrewers is launching a Kickstarter to fund production of a second print run of its sold out Good Society: A Jane Austen RPG.

The crowdfunding season for this narrativist system begins, appropriately, on St Valentine's Day.

As well as reprinting the original game (which is most definitely not a 'zine and may cause wobbles in my restricted purchasing commitment), the Kickstarter will also include a brand new Love & Longing Deck, with 20+ extra desires and relationships for your game.

If you want to learn more about Good Society, then visit the Storybrewers' website where you can discover everything you need to know, including extensive 'how to play' videos (even for the expansion packs that add 'masked identities' and 'magic' to the Regency mix).

Zine Quest 3 Starts Tomorrow...

 

Saturday, 30 January 2021

Friends + David Lynch + Scarfolk + Creepypasta = Comrades!


Equal parts Lynchian mind-frakkery, Scarfolk weridness, and unnerving Lovecraftian Creepypasta, Comrades is released by YouTuber and Podcaster Hank Pattison, aka Death by Media Man, as a show that "aired in an Eastern European country which no longer exists. These are the only known copies."

Personally, I love this kind of creative, off the wall, stuff, but, of course, your mileage may vary.

I really want to see where - if anywhere -  Comrades goes, and what existential, cosmic horrors lie ahead for its unwitting stars.

The Viking Saga Sails On To Valhalla...

The History Channel's stunning pseudohistorical serial Vikings - one of my all-time favourite TV drama series -  may have sailed over the horizon, but the story will continue.

Jumping ship from Amazon's Prime Video (in the UK) to Netflix, a sequel has been announced, set 100 years after the Vikings finale, entitled Vikings: Valhalla.

Taking place in the 11th Century, this show will focus on the adventures of world-renowned characters such as Leif Eriksson, Freydis Eriksdotter, Harald Hardrada, and William the Conqueror.

These men and women will blaze a path as they fight for survival in the ever-changing and evolving world.
Geektown recently announced some of the main cast:

  • Sam Corlett (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) is Leif Eriksson
  • Frida Gustavsson is Freydis Eriksdotter 
  • Leo Suter (Sanditon, Victoria) is Harald Sigurdsson
  • Bradley Freegard (Keeping Faith, Doctors) is King Canute
  • Jóhannes Jóhannesson (Cursed, The Letter for the King) is Olaf Haraldson
  • Laura Berlin is Emma Of Normandy
  • David Oakes (Victoria, The White Queen, The Borgias) is Earl Godwin
  • Caroline Henderson is Jarl Haakon, leader of Kattegat. 

And while you're in the mood to go a-viking, watch this short featurette that sees Tyr Neilsen, a Viking ax expert, rating 11 fight scenes from TV and films for historical accuracy:

Decommissioned

Troll Bridge (2019)

Cohen the Barbarian was angry. Angry that he never died in battle, angry that the world had forgotten him, and angry that his knees were starting to play up in the cold.
He was also angry that his faithful mount had been gifted the ability of magical speech. The horse was insisting that they had made a wrong turn back at Slice. 
He was also angry that the horse was probably right.
This was not how it was supposed to end for the barbarian. This was not how the Discworld’s greatest hero imagined it at all.
Based upon the short short Troll Bridge, from A Blink of The Screen, the half-hour short film is a love-letter to Terry Pratchett and Discworld.

Friday, 29 January 2021

Truly It Is The Age Of The Sandman...

Not only has Netflix announced a major tranche of its cast for the upcoming live-action adaptation of Neil Gaiman's legendary Sandman comics, but Audible has confirmed that Act II and Act III of their breath-taking audio adaptation have been greenlit.

The peerless full-cast audio was my favourite audiobook of 2020, bringing the first three volumes of the graphic novel to life.

Act II
will adapt Season of Mists, Distant Mirrors, A Game of You and Convergence from the graphic novel series, while Act III will tackle Brief Lives and Worlds Ends.

Meanwhile, over at Netflix, Tom Sturridge takes the lead role of Morpheus aka Dream, the Lord of Dreaming, with Game of Thrones' Gwendolne Christie as Lucifer, the ruler of Hell.

Charles Dance is Roderick Burgess, charlatan, blackmailer, and magician; Vivienne Acheampong is Lucienne, chief librarian and trusted guardian of Dream’s realm; Boyd Holbrook is The Corinthian, an escaped nightmare; and Cain, the first predator, and Abel, the first victim, will be played by Sanjeev Bhaskar and Asim Chaudhry, respectively.

Ooh La La, Welcome To Our Little Foreign Getaway... At The End Of Our Garden!


Today, the electrician, and his assistant, came and wired up the outdoor lighting and spherical water feature (which, it transpires, also has a light in it that neither Rachel nor I had previously been aware of) in our redesigned garden.

Come the better weather, and Rachel having chosen some furniture for the decking, this newly created space at the end of our garden is going to be stunning.

Even now, once the sun sets and we flick on the lights, and water feature, (from the kitchen), it looks - if you squint and ignore the pouring rain - like a quaint foreign getaway in Spain or France.

Needless to say, we're very pleased.

I Need This Table In My Life!


Our friend Mel shared this Tiktok video with Rachel, knowing that this was the kind of table I'm always on the hunt for.

I'd love a table like this in our dining room, for when the Tuesday Knights can once again gather in person, break (garlic) bread together, and sling dice.

I suggested to Rachel that this could be a wedding anniversary present, or something along those lines, but she pointed out that a table like this would need to be custom designed and, thus, prohibitively expensive.

I'm still keeping everything crossed, and sending pleading messages to Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy (and all the major gods of gift delivery) that somehow a 'real' games table might one day magically appear in our lovely house.

Thursday, 28 January 2021

My Three Rules for Zine Quest 3...

As last year's Zine Quest ably demonstrated, an avalanche of low-cost fan zines can be very alluring and it's all too easy to bust through any kind of budget you may set yourself.

So, this year, and given that I'm still waiting on delivery for a handful of 'zines from 2020, I've drawn up a list of rules for next month's bonanza that should prevent a surfeit of pledges and keep my spending down.

ONLY BUY PRINT 'ZINES: I don't particularly enjoy reading PDFs and so they tend to end up in the dark recesses of my hard drive, gathering electronic dust. And anyway, 'zines are a tactile media and meant to be held in the hands.

CHECK POSTAGE: International postage can be a killer these days. With the added idiocy of Brexit, shipping even a small 'zine into this benighted land may be almost prohibitively expensive now.

BUY SUPPLEMENTS, NOT GAMES: A key factor in this year's decision-making is the desire to focus on 'zines that add ideas to games I already own (primarily Dungeons & Dragons-style fantasy systems) rather than new, quirky, little pocket games that, while I may coo over them, will never get played in the finite number of games' nights I have left.

What's Going On Behind A Hero's Mask?

Launching February 12, on Disney+, Marvel's Behind The Mask is an exclusive documentary that "reveals the powers of heroes' and villains' secret identities".

The show will feature guests from across Marvel’s 80-year legacy, including the writers and artists behind the rise of characters like Black Panther, Miles Morales, Ms. Marvel, Luke Cage, the X-Men, Captain Marvel, and many other characters from the Marvel Universe, highlighting their impact on pop culture and media.

According to the Marvel website:

"From the very inception of comic books, secret identities have been an integral part of both super heroes and villains leading “normal” lives.
"But it’s the characters beneath that resonate within us across generations of fans. Since the advent of the Marvel Age of Comics in the early 1960s, Marvel’s writers and artists have used the notion of identities to examine the evolving concept of equal rights.
"These legendary Marvel creations and stories have not only reflected the world outside our window – they have become a reflection of our own identities and who we truly are."

BY THE GODS! Cussing In Tekralh...

via

Peplum movies were replete with cries of "By The Gods!", The Mandalorian has its "dank farrik", Battlestar Galactica famously gave us "frak", and Farscape had a whole lexicon of colourful, family-friendly, made-up swears.

Therefore, I'm thinking of collating some appropriate, creative exclamations and invectives for my forthcoming Tekralh fantasy campaign (the setting for my Frankengame).

While I'm not expecting my players in the Tuesday Knights to learn these, I reckon having some vocal NPCs using these on occasion might help inject a degree of verisimilitude into the game world.

Keeping the list short, so far, we have:
  • God's Bones! (an exclamation either of joy or frustration, depending on context)
  • By The Gods!  (an  exclamation either of joy or frustration, depending on context)
  • God's Holy Trousers! (generally an exclamation of frustration)
  • Aroint Thee! ("get away from me!")
  • Klimph! ("imbecile/idiot/fool" etc)
While I don't want the list to get too long (as the idea would be to have these on a Post It note inside my GM screen to add colour to random NPC encounters), this is very much a work in progress (and open to suggestions)..

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Weird Wednesday...

#RPG Episode One: City Of The Dead...

Having pressed pause on our long-running 5e Dungeons & Dragons campaign, the Tuesday Knights jumped feet-first into a new game this week, a 1950s-set Atomic Horror-themed GURPS campaign being run by Pete.

Although we're still (obviously) playing via Zoom, Pete had before him a 'battle map' of the building the adventure took place in, and a standees for all our characters and foes that he moved as the adventure progressed, so he could always convey to us where we were and what we could - or couldn't - see.
Team In Miniature: (l to r) Freya, Fr. Timothy, Buck, Onyx, and Dick

Pulling the night shift on New Year's Eve was never going to be fun, but our group made the best of it with a small party in the The Theoretical Science Foundation HQ in Carson City, Nevada.

But then, in the first few minutes of 1957, the air was rent by the cacophonous wail of the civil defence siren, and we suddenly discovered the building was surrounded by a horde of "the infected" ('zombies' to you and me).

Headquarters of The Theoretical Science Foundation, Carson City, Nevada

While Freya (Clare's journalist character) tried to tune the radio to find out what was going on, Dick (Kevin's G-man) and Onyx (Erica's cat burglar) raced down the stairs to the foyer, while Buck (my explorer) and Fr. Timothy (Simon's priest) headed down the other staircase to the garage area.

Having no luck with the radio, Freya soon joined her colleagues in the foyer where a couple of security guards were fighting off the mob of mindless flesh-eaters that smashed through the glass front doors of the building.

A pair of security guards bravely take a stand
Our heroes gather in the foyer to fight off the zombie invasion

With the keys one of the guards had tossed them, the heroes got into the armoury to retrieve their weapons and joined in the fight, making use of the reception desk as cover.

Meanwhile, in the garage Buck had hopped into the cab of a military truck and was firing up the engine, while Fr Tim continued round towards the armoury from that direction.

By the time, Fr Tim returned with an armful of weapons for Buck, the headstrong adventurer had rammed the garage doors - behind which could be heard more moans of the undead - reversed and was slamming the truck forward again.

Buck in a truck!

Fr Tim tried to jump into the back of the truck, but missed. Picking himself up he saw a handful of zombies were now walking in through the large hole Buck had made in the back of the building with the vehicle (as well as a couple of smears on the tarmac left by the zombies he had run over).

The priest decided discretion was the better part of valour and returned to the back of the foyer, where his colleagues were taking out zombies left, right, and centre with well-aimed head shots.

Freya had paused at one point to snap a photograph of the battle scene, as one of the security guards fell to a zombie bite, while Onyx fired crossbow bolts and 'deadeye' Dick Tate was popping .38 revolver slugs in zombie brainpans.

Our heroes take down 'the infected' with bullets and bolts
Buck-in-a-truck to the rescue

Outside, Buck skidded the truck around the building, at full-speed and with the headlights on full beam, eventually hitting the steps at the front of The Theoretical Science Foundation headquarters.

Leaning on the horn for a Dixie Horn blast, he launched the vehicle through the front of the offices, landing it on top of three zombies (and pinning one of the remaining security guards to the wall).

In The Foyer Now! Buck lands the truck on top of some zombies

To Be Continued...


The Theoretical Science Foundation - The Cast:
  • Buck Hannigan - played by me
  • Dick Tate - played by Kevin
  • Father Timothy O’Flaherty - played by Simon
  • Freya Larson - played by Clare
  • Onyx Jones - played by Erica
Showrunner - Pete

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Raya and The Last Dragon Coming To Disney+ Premier Access In March...


Long ago, in the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. But when sinister monsters known as the Druun threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity.
Now, 500 years later, those same monsters have returned and it’s up to a lone warrior, Raya, to track down the last dragon in order to finally stop the Druun for good.
However, along her journey, she’ll learn that it’ll take more than dragon magic to save the world - it’s going to take trust as well.
From directors Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada, co-directors Paul Briggs and John Ripa, producers Osnat Shurer and Peter Del Vecho, and featuring the voices of Kelly Marie Tran as Raya and Awkwafina as Sisu.
As long as it's no more costly than Mulan, I'm seriously considering paying to see Raya and The Last Dragon on Disney+ via Premier Access.

There was a time when I would have considered going to see this at the cinema, as it certainly looks like my kind of movie, so it's just the price of a couple of cinema tickets.

These days - regardless of the pandemic - I'm all about watching movies in the comfort of my own home, without the noise and smell of other patrons with their snacks, phones, and inane banter. 

Gorgeous. Old School, Variant Cover For Conan The Barbarian's April Outing...

Variant cover for #20 by Dan Panosian, giving off serious John Buscema vibes

As Marvel builds towards its Conan The Barbarian issue 300 celebrations later this year, Jim Zub's superb run on the title continues in April, with a story that sees The Cimmerian heading "into the wild".

Due to hit comic store shelves on April 7, issue 20 (Legacy Numbering: #295) has Conan escaping the Khitai royal guard while stalking through an uncharted land and battling the forces of nature that would see him fall.

However, is his new comrade, Meiwei, everything she seems? 

And what secrets do Heng The Insurgent and his roving bandits hide?

Regular cover for #20 by Geoff Shaw

Monday, 25 January 2021

Musical Monday: Drank Too Much (Flo & Joan)


Rachel's favourite Flo & Joan tune.

Mission Accomplished: Our New-Look Garden Is Poised To Swing Into Life...

The 'Almost' Finished Project (so far)


The project to give our garden s fashionable facelift is complete(ish).

The team of landscape gardeners from Mary Mary Creates Gardens put the finishing touches to our little slice of heaven today.

This final tweaks included the wood chips around the garden room, the lattice work between the garden room and our neighbour's fence (to prevent Alice from getting down there), the water feature, the lighting, my swing, the water butt and compost bin etc

Patches of the remaining grass were also reseeded (something else we need to keep Alice away from!)

Now, we just need the electrician to come back now and wire in the lights and the water feature (the reflective sliver globe you can see by the decking).

Garden project progress from prep work to completion


Après le déluge
, the end of last week saw the planting up of the flower beds, installation of the decking, and repairs to our fence on the left-hand side of the garden (it has been getting progressively 'wobbly' since we moved in and the recent high winds made it look as though it was about to come down). 

Then the team returned today to wrap up as much as could be done for this stage of the project.

Thursday - a day of flowerbeds, decking foundations, and fencing
Friday - planting and decking
Today - Completion


I, of course, have already given my swing several test swings and Alice has shown her approval by getting as muddy as possible (so far today she has needed THREE baths) and trying to dig up the wood chips!

Here is Rachel and Alice's pictorial guide to our new garden:



Decking (resembling a small Shakespearean stage): desperately seeking garden furniture!
Looking forward to some serious composting
Having a water butt makes me feel very grown up, as my dad (a diligent gardener in his day)
had two water butts in their old garden... which I just used to sink plastic soldiers in!

The landscape gardeners are due back in the Spring for some final planting and to, hopefully, spruce up the old shed (give it a lick of paint and repair the roof) once it isn't quite so wet.

In the meantime we have to wait, impatiently, for everything to start to grow, so we can begin to get the full effect of our new-look garden.

Map-A-Monday: Heroes of NYC...

 via 

One Episode Isn't Enough, We Need More Destination Fantastic...

The pilot episode of Destination Fantastic - the Dungeons & Dragons-themed travel show hosted by Dwarven Forge's Stefan Pokorny and professional Dungeon Master Satine Phoenix - has been released to Kickstarter backers.

This 40-minute episode saw the bubbly pair whisked off to Iceland, in many ways the birthplace of the modern fantasy genre as its sagas directly inspired JRR Tolkien and others to create the worlds that, in turn, inspired Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson to create Dungeons & Dragons.

Along their journey, the hosts met Viking re-enactors, sampled Viking food, voyaged into the heart of a volcano, played D&D with some locals, met with an "elf whisperer", and touched the ancient tomes that hold the oldest written versions of the legendary Icelandic sagas.

Destination Fantastic aims to uncover the roots of the fantasy genre as well as inspire gamesmasters and players by taking them (virtually) to evocative real world locations that could double as fantastical environments in adventure scenarios.

And there are few better places to start than Iceland.

If I had a criticism, it would be that the show wasn't long enough. In the Q&A session after this first episode dropped online over the weekend, it was revealed that much more footage was shot than used.

Satine, Stefan, and director Josh Bishop (who also made the made 2016's fabulous Dwarvenaut documentary about Stefan) teased us with anecdotes of these 'lost' scenes, many of which sounded as inspirational as the footage that made it on screen.

It was great to intercut some of the moments with shots of Dwarven Forge terrain and fantasy miniatures of Stefan and Satine, and the gaming session with the locals at a Reykjavik games store was a clever touch (I hope that 'gaming with locals' becomes a regular part of future episodes). 

However, I do wonder if, to differentiate it from other travel shows, Destination Fantastic should lean further into the gaming aspect of its declared raison d'etre and share more of the RPG story ideas that Satine and Stefan get from the places and objects they encounter on their journeys.

Obviously, the pandemic has thrown a rather large wrench in the works of producing any more episodes at present, however, hopefully the show's recent partnership with the Hollywood entertainment company Legion M means we will - at some point - be getting further episodes as the show clearly has potential.

I really enjoyed Destination Fantastic and tweeted to that effect after watching it on Sunday morning, drawing "likes" from both the hosts (see below), which was very nice.

Musical Monday: The Wellerman (TikTok Sea Shanty Mashup 2021)


If you can't get enough of this catchy ditty, then here's a three-hour megamix (complete with some historical details on the song's meaning):

Sunday, 24 January 2021

What If Your Players' Characters Were Actually The Players Themselves?


As I tinker away, Sisyphus-like, at my fantasy RPG Frankengame, I'm always on the hunt for novel, or inventive, ways to draw the players in to my game world, get them really invested in the world of Tekralh.

I've long considered the whole planetary romance/sword-and-planet angle (à la John Carter of Mars) as a interesting hook, but I was watching The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe on Disney+ the other day and wondered if there was anything I could take from that.

Many years ago, when I was first thinking about this, the topic of "child adventurers" had just  been raised on the superb Planet Algol blog, but it's also an idea that takes me back to the early days of our original Villains & Vigilantes campaign - where a core concept was that you play "yourself with superpowers".

You didn't roll random numbers to generate your statistics, but rather you and your fellow players 'graded' yourself in a range of three to 18 in the primary stats of your characters, then you generated random superpowers and bingo! That was how The Acrobatic Flea was born.

But, of course, the big difference between superhero roleplaying games and Dungeons & Dragons-style adventures is that supers games are generally skewed towards keeping the player characters alive, where as dungeon delvers tend to be fragile, little snowflakes when they are just setting out.

There is a long literary tradition of "child adventurers" - in fact many of my favourite books have juvenile or young adult protagonists (i.e. Philip Reeves Mortal Engines and Larklight sagas and, of course, Alice In Wonderland) - but literary tropes don't necessary work as written in a roleplaying format.

Of course, there is historical precedent for this idea in the realm of Dungeons & Dragons, what with the classic cartoon series, Andre Norton's Quag Keep, and Joel Rosenberg's Guardians of the Flame series.

These days I'm sure there's a mountain of fan-fic and self-published adventure yarns along these lines, but I don't recall anyone actually employing it as a "character generation system" in their own fantasy RPG setting.

Off the top of my head I can think of several systems geared towards playing youngsters (primarily from the 'Kids on Bikes' genre, such as Bloat Games' Dark Places & Demogorgons or Free League's Tales from The Loop), but these tend to set in our reality (broadly speaking), if not our time period.

And they don't encourage players to create characters based upon themselves (although my good friend Justin 'Pun' Isaac did post a version of himself for both the Cinematic Unisystem game, Army of Darkness, and the classic Unisystem zombie game All Flesh Must Be Eaten, as part of this month's Character Creation Challenge).

I like the idea of "Earth" men and women traveling to an alien world, as it means you don't need to explain everything to the players beforehand and they can explore the world as they go along, and I have no qualms about tooling up imaginary child characters with swords and bows, but what are the logistics of such a starting point?

How would I go about generating statistics for the player-characters? Would the players play younger versions of themselves (as per Villains & Vigilantes) or roll new characters?

The older we get, do we become more drawn towards playing idealised versions of our younger selves... or less inclined?

I shall have to give this further thought.

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

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