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Friday, 28 February 2014

Good News For UK Fans Of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D...


Make a note in your calendar!

Fleamarket Friday: Take A Fourth Bite Out Of Archie...


The fourth issue of Afterlife With Archie, the best comic of 2013, hits stores on March 5.

Fleamarket Friday: Last Chance To Dig Into The Barrowmaze...


The crowdsourcing campaign to fund a new - complete - edition of Greg Gillespie's Barrowmaze megadungeon draws to a close on March 4.

I generally avoid Indiegogo campaigns (they take your money when you pledge, rather than when the campaign is funded, and it's a right bugger to work out how to increase your pledge once you're onboard with a campaign), but the recent Lamentations Of The Flame Princess 2014 Free RPG Day campaign and this have pulled me in.

Greg's current campaign is to fund the publication of a single volume, collating the two previously published halves of his megadungeon, along with a raft of new material, not only adding to the dungeon, but detailing the surrounding environs.


He has also teamed up with Otherworld Miniatures to produce a line of official Barrowmaze miniatures.

There's still time to jump on in and pledge your support to the latest Barrowmaze campaign.

Greg was recently interviewed by The Escapist about his crowdsourcing camapign and his Old School Renaissance background.

He has also written, on the same site, an article about "teaching a university course on the history and culture of tabletop RPGs".

Fleamarket Friday: Bring LARP To Your Tabletop...


Orin Rakatha, a RPG campaign setting recently launched on Kickstarter, has an unusual pedigree. It is based upon a British Live Action Roleplaying (LARP) setting that has been running for 27 years, and hosted over 500 events.


The Kickstarter campaign organisers are looking to raise £14,900 by April 1, to publish a player's guide, gamesmaster's guide and starter adventure for their fantasy setting.

The books will include Pathfinder stats, but depending on how well the funding goes they might also feature other OGL systems (such as D&D 3.5, D20 & Fate).

To find out more about this well-tested setting and the incentives on offer to investors, visit the campaign's Kickstarter page and make your pledge.

Readers outside of the UK should note that the shipping costs (a flat rate of £6) are very reasonable - especially when compared to some of the ridiculous prices we Brits are often quoted for shipping by Kickstarters based in the States.

You can also find out a bit more about the setting on its own dedicated website.

Fleamarket Friday: Tame These Dragons...


The second - FREE - issue of the magazine dedicated to Arthurian roleplaying,The Dragons Of Britain, is now available for download from DriveThruRPG.

Primarily dedicated to the King Arthur: Pendragon RPG, the 64-page magazine is perfect idea fuel for any of us looking to give our roleplaying an Arthurian spin.

A mix of system-neutral articles and Pendragon pieces, the majority of the articles and adventures are easily adapted into other systems.

I'm pretty sure, even though I don't play Greg Stafford's epic RPG (currently published by Nocturnal), much of this content will eventually filter through into my campaign, even if just adding some background verisimilitude or cultural tweaks.

Fleamarket Friday: This Book Is Full Of Spiders...



The Big Book Of Spiders is the latest OSR publication from Dylan Hartwell aka Digital Orc.

Unsurprisingly, this 32-page booklet does exactly what it says on the tin. Written for Labyrinth Lord (and therefore easily adaptable to other OSR games), The Big Book Of Spiders contains:
  • More than 30 original illustrations;
  • 24 fully-detailed spiders for your game;
  • A ready-to-play adventure full of spiders and spider gear;
  • Five spider-based spells, and equipment;
  • A fully-detailed new playable character race;
  • A spider-building spell that can create over 12,000 unique spiders;
  • RPG and spider trivia;
  • Interwoven fiction narrative; and
  • More than 10 Non-Player Characters!
And is available from Dylan's own website print format for $4.99 (this price includes shipping to anywhere in North America, Europe, or Australia).

While you're on Dylan's site, don't forget to check out the PDF adventures he has on offer.

The PDF of The Big Book Of Spiders is available from RPGNow for $3.99.

On a related note, the second volume of Dyson's Delves is now available - in print and PDF.

This 149 page book of adventures and maps opens with seven adventures from the Dyson's Dodecahedron site and is followed by 44 beutifully-drawn dungeon maps, each with a lined page opposite it for the owner to stock and key the maps or just to write notes about the dungeon for his or her own game.


Buy Dyson’s Delves II in print at Lulu
Buy Dyson’s Delves II in PDF at RPGnow

[D&D Blog Hop] Single, Most Important, Lesson You've Learned From Playing D&D...


Lesson learned: this is the greatest hobby in the world and I wouldn't want to be doing anything else.

Fleamarket Friday: Seppuku On, Dudes!




Keanu Reeves stars in 47 Ronin, a fantastical reimagining of a famous story from Japan's samurai era.
After a treacherous warlord kills their master and banishes their kind, 47 leaderless samurai vow to seek vengeance and reclaim their honour. This band of ronin must seek help from Kai (Reeves) - an enslaved half-breed they once rejected - in their ultimate fight for redemption in a savage world of mythic and wondrous terrors. Kai becomes their most deadly weapon and the heroic inspiration for these outnumbered warriors to confront their enemy and seize eternity.
Due to be released on DVD and Blu-Ray in the States on April 1, 47 Ronin won't be available in the UK until May 12.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Look What The eBay Pixies Delivered Today...


For a very reasonable £13.77 (plus shipping), I managed to snag myself this delightful Arduin collection.

The haul consists of two volumes (in great condition) of The Compleat Arduin (Rules and Resources) plus errata, and the seller threw in his print-outs of The Arduin Adventure, a beginners version of the game, and The Arduin Primer, both of which came out between the original Grimoires and The Compleat Arduin.

As with many of the Arduin products, the book opens with a tribute to the creative genius of its creator - David A Hargrave - and a tantalising glimpse into the wonderful campaigns he and his players enjoyed.


While nothing will ever replace the original Arduin Grimoires as my "go-to" sources of gaming inspiration, it's always nice to get my hands on some more Arduin tomes to mine for ideas.

It's All Go At HeroPress Towers...


Since my unplanned stay in hospital the other week, my current health issues, on top of other reminders of the fragility of life, have stirred a new found enthusiasm in me and I've been cracking on with my latest RPG "secret project" - which I hope to unveil to the Tuesday Knights at the end of the year.

This was also inspired, in part, by my participation in Stelios V. Perdios's Dungeons & Dragons 40th Anniversary Blog Hop. This is the first - and probably the last - time I've committed myself to such an undertaking, but, if nothing else, it has reminded me of some great times in the past and heightened my nostalgia for gaming in the old school style.

This exercise allowed me to read a lot of interesting commentary from others taking part in the Blog Hop, many with experiences totally alien to my own.

Overall, it was a fascinating way to mark the 40th Anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons.

So, thank you, Stelios, for a great idea, well executed.

On the other hand, I've found that this current rush of 'adrenalin' - for want of a better phrase - has, in fact, made it difficult for me to focus on any one thing as I want to do everything NOW.

This has resulted in me starting and stopping a number of books in recent weeks, as well as slipping behind in my regular comic book reading. I've managed to hone it down to Howard Pyle's King Arthur And His Knights and Robert Chambers The King In Yellow.

At the same time I'm listening to an unabridged reading of Wizard's First Rule, the first volume of Terry Goodkind's Sword Of Truth/Legend Of The Seeker series.

And I have to say, I'm really enjoying it. It has a great Dungeons & Dragons feel about it and while the TV series diverged quite quickly from its source material, I can certainly imagine the actors from the show as the characters in the tale I am hearing.

Hopefully, things will calm down soon and I can work on my focus for HeroPress (so there'll be fewer typos or posts popping up online before I've finished them), get the first part of my 'secret project' in a presentable state, concentrate on some good books and television, watch a few decent films and generally get things back to normal.

For those of you who also read Rachel's blogs, I know she's got a couple of great articles in mind for Miniatures make me happy but she has been rushed off her feet this year.

First she took on a major project, to spearhead a total reworking of her company's website, then just as that was about to go live I got taken into hospital. And now, just when she thought she might have a breather, some legal case has been dumped in her lap that she needs to concentrate on.

Perhaps, once that's out the way, she'll have the time to revisit her miniatures blog and reopen her local history blog, A life in a suitcase.

Captain America's Conspiracy Theory...



Captain America: The Winter Soldier opens in the UK on March 28.

[D&D Blog Hop] If You Had To Do It All Over Again, Would You Do Anything Different...


Would I do anything different?

Yes, I would go out of my way to game as often as possible, with as broad a group of players as possible.

The few regrets I have around gaming all involve not playing enough. It's as simple as that. Because now, although I have an awesome, regular group in The Tuesday Knights, we only get to play for a few hours each month (the other members of the group have these pesky things called 'real lives' that involve jobs, children etc).

When you're young you always think there'll be more time for gaming. There won't!

Rack up those epic all-night games and weekenders while you (and your peers) have the time and stamina, play multiple times in a week. If a friend wants to try a different system, play it. See how it goes. The main thing is: get your game on!

I still can't believe that when I went to university - as a mature student - it didn't enter my head to seek out the university's RPG club (in my defence, I had been out of the hobby for many years at that stage).

I also kind of wish, when I was younger and fitter, that I'd have at least tried Live Action Role Playing.

From reading Leaving Mundania and the several documentaries I've watched about LARPing, I get the impression that it has a lot of interesting ideas to offer tabletop gaming (as well as cool props and the opportunity to bash people with rubber swords).

"Do You Read Sutter Cane?"


Following up on my mention of In The Mouth Of Madness the other day (the best Lovecraftian film yet made), here's a gallery of the book covers published by the mysterious central character, Sutter Cane.

Cane is a popular - Stephen King-ish - horror author who has disappeared just before his latest novel was to be published. His publisher hires insurance investigator John Trent (Sam Neill) to track down the writer and recover the manuscript for the final novel of Cane's best-selling series.

If you haven't seen the film - and are a fan of the writing style and atmosphere of Lovecraft's mythos stories - then you're in for a treat.

The fact that we first meet Trent when he's a patient in a psychiatric hospital, and he is the unreliable narrator of the tale, should tell you something about the mood the film is going for, but director John Carpenter quickly ratchets up the weirdness factor beyond 11 in this delightful mindflip of a movie.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Chapter Four Of Caper...

Strange Love...


Artwork from The Doctor Strange Portfolio by Michael Golden, published by Marvel Comics in 1983, and released onto Tumblr by Brian Michael Bendis.

With talk of work beginning on a Doctor Strange movie, I hope Marvel gets round to giving this amazing character his own title again, and it embraces the psychedelic and surreal imagery that Steve Ditko wove into Stephen Strange's world from the moment the character first appeared in the '60s.

Godzilla's Stomping Us Back To The Stone Age...

[D&D Blog Hop] Do You Still Game With The Group That First Introduced You To The Hobby...


Strictly speaking, no, as I lost touch with the nebulous collective of gamers from The Dark Tower when the club shut its doors.

However, the first solid group I played with - as opposed to assorted "one DM/one player" games I played in those early years - were my great school-friends Nick, Steve and Pete.

As well as Nick's epic Traveller game, we played Villains & Vigilantes, Champions and The Fantasy Trip (all run by Steve), then later on we joined a group of gamers in Tonbridge (co-incidentally hosted in a house just round the corner from where Rachel and I now live).

This was around the time the HeroPress play-by-mail game was taking off and a couple of the Tonbridge group came on-board to run postal campaigns with us.

My involvement in gaming pretty much evaporated after that and while I continued to buy and read games, it would be quite some time before I really got back into the hobby.

In the mid-2000's (after I came out of hospital), Pete, Nick and I would get together every month for a hot curry (cooked by Pete) and boardgames. We started off with Reiner Knizia's Lord Of The Rings boardgame, but then segued into Formula De, going so far as to set up a league (which Steve later joined).


We played Formula De for just over two years and then I suggested to Pete, Nick and Steve that we consider getting back into roleplaying games. These three (along with with Nick's wife, Clare) helped me get The Tuesday Knights going back in 2008 (as I talked about yesterday).

And, as I also mentioned in yesterday's post, out of those only Pete remains a regular, active member of the Tuesday Knights, but this makes him not only one of my oldest friends (we were at primary school together) but also my longest-serving gaming compadre.

Wonder Woman Wednesday...


Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Teasing Season Four Of Game Of Thrones...

Amy's Talkin' Weird, Nerdy Fantasies...



In the latest episode of Talkin' Comics Weekly, bubbly Amy looks at new Tomb Raider series from Dark Horse comics and writer Gail Simone, then heads to a firing range to get some action hero training!

[TREASURE TROVE] The Paramnesian Ring...


A plain, gold ring created hundreds of years ago by a master of the black arts (whose name, as you may guess as you read on, has long been lost to the mists of time).

It was his ultimate 'escape route' for when the serfs he ruled over with an iron fist inevitably rose up and came after him with pitchforks and torches.

Some, who know of its existence, consider the ring a cursed item while others see the potential in its great power.

When worn, all memory of the wearer is scrubbed from the minds of all those who knew him, however tangentially. They won't be able to remember his name, his appearance, anything he has done etc

When first slipped on, it appears to anyone in the same general area as though the person vanishes and in his place is someone they don't recognise - nor do they have any idea how that person got there. If they try to recall who was there before they find, although they know 'someone' was, they cannot recall the person's name, his appearance or his connection to them.

Even if someone sees, for example, the ring wearer standing next to his own portrait, the strongest reaction that will be elicited is 'whoever that is looks a bit like you, but clearly isn't you'.

This power only works once per wearer and seven days after he first puts the ring on its great cosmic power requires him to make a Saving Throw or he suffers a loss of 3d6 Sanity, as the universe tries to heal the massive psychic rift the ring's use has caused. As always, a natural roll of a "1" results in a permanent loss of one point of Wisdom.

Until its magical power is discovered, anyone appraising the ring's value would estimate its worth at about 200sp (4gp).

Game Of Thrones: Everybody Wants To Rule The World...



Impressive fan-editted trailer for Game Of Thrones - Season Four - set to Lorde's cover of the Tears for Fears classic Everybody Wants to Rule the World.

[D&D Blog Hop] Longest Running Campaign/Gaming Group...

Hands-down the longest running campaign I've been involved in was Nick's Traveller campaign that started when we were at school (you read about it in a piece I wrote back in 2007).

Framed as a television show, it ran for three seasons and a mini-series, with Steve, Pete and I as the primary players. 

Dungeons & Dragons-wise, as I've mentioned previously in this blog hop, we didn't really go in for "campaigns" in those early days and the large circle of gamers that revolved around Tunbridge Wells' Dark Tower gaming club just slipped in and out of each other's games without any thought of continuity.

On the other hand, longest running gaming group is easy: The Tuesday Knights. Our first meeting was August 2008 and we've played pretty regularly (usually once a month) since then, primarily fantasy RPGs, but Pete's run quite a few Top Secret games and I rolled out Villains & Vigilantes for a few months.

We started with Nick, Steve, Pete and Clare and since then Nick has decided to stop playing, while Steve's new job takes up his time (and - to be fair - he lives quite a way away) and we've been joined by Kevin, Simon and Meredith.

Clare is currently 'away from the table', with her maternal duties, but has been playing solo adventures with Meredith and even taken part in an online game through Google Hangouts with a group of Australian gamers. She assures me she will be returning to our group in due course.

Christmas Has Come 10 Months Early...



Looks like I've found a reason to restart my Netflix subscription ahead of the upcoming Marvel serials. Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Lost Missions, is coming to Netflix (in the States, anyway) on March 7.

Looks rather excellent!
"Previewing the long-awaited final episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, this trailer offers a glimpse into the various story arcs of The Lost Missions. Yoda communes with Qui-Gon Jinn and is sent on a journey; Jedi Master Plo Koon discovers Sifo-Dyas' lightsaber and a clue to the creation of the clone army; Count Dooku looks to protect the secret of Order 66; Anakin Skywalker rescues Padmé Amidala; and Mace Windu battles multiple foes."

Monday, 24 February 2014

[TREASURE TROVE] The Mindsword...


In honour of Blog Hop piece about Hawk The Slayer earlier today I present an updated version of my take on The Mindsword.
"Forged in the bowels of a crooked mountain by Troll-smiths, long dead, from a metal not of this earth, but from the fused ore of a lightning bolt let fall from the dying hand of a Sky King. Imbued with unearthly power, it needed the greatest magicians and sorcerers of that time to fashion their own thaumaturgical ornaments to control its potency.

"From the secret Land of the Elvenfolk, a hilt that was the golden hand of their noblest suzerain clasped in its metalled fingers the last great elfin Mindstone, a crystalline brain orb whose incredible energy could only be sparked to life by a mind of like convolutions and accord."
- Hawk The Slayer (novel), by Terry Marcel and Harry Robertson

The Mindsword is a powerful, enchanted great sword (base damage: 1d10, requires two hands to wield).

As long as the brass pommel is grasping the Mindstone, the sword - which is virtually an artifact - has the following powers:
  • +8 to hit/damage
  • Offers a defensive bonus (while held and wielder is conscious) equal to wielder's Intelligence bonus. If he is of Lawful alignment he may also add his Wisdom bonus to his Armour Class. This counts against missile attacks as well, because the sword is moving of its own accord, in its wielder's hands, with the speed of thought to block or parry incoming weapons.
  • The Mindsword will spring into its owner's hand when he wants it. It can travel up to 10ft, but if it is adjacent to his body this is instantaneous (meaning he doesn't need to spend an action drawing or changing weapons, and will have the sword to hand even if surprised, unless surprised from sleep or a similar circumstance).
  • The sword can generate a 20ft radius circle of magical light around itself, for up to two-and-a-half hours, once per day. This glow is as bright as a torch.
  • If unused - in combat - for a month, the pommel grip will open and the Mindstone drop out so it can stored elsewhere (thus rendering the sword effectively inert). To reactivate the sword, someone must hold the Mindstone in his hand - with the sword within 10ft - and concentrate. He must then make a Wisdom STAT save (at +2 if Lawful and -2 if Chaotic), if he makes the save The Mindstone will then float out of his hand, the fingers of the pommel will open and the stone will be grasped again. Away from the sword, the Mindstone has no other powers.
Without the Mindstone in the pommel the sword appears dull to the eye and does not register as magical to any form of detection.

There are rumours of a weapon, known only as the "Dark Sword", that is thought to be the antithesis of the Mindsword and a force for great evil.

Amazing Spider-Man 2: The Rise Of Electro...

[D&D Blog Hop] First Movie That Comes To Mind That You Associate With D&D...


In much the same way that I think of In The Mouth Of Madness as the greatest Lovecraftian film (even though it's not based on a Lovecraft tale), so Hawk The Slayer is the greatest Dungeons & Dragons film - even though it's nothing to do with Dungeons & Dragons really.

I've expressed my passion for this movie many times on HeroPress over the years and I expect it will continue to pop up - especially if the long-awaited sequel, Hawk The Hunter, ever gets funding and goes into production.

Although Ray Harryhausen's creature features (particularly Jason & The Argonauts and the Sinbad movies) were the first I 'ripped off' for Dungeons & Dragons ideas, Hawk The Slayer is forever the film that makes me think "that's what a film of a game of Dungeons & Dragons would look like".

Musical Monday: Everything Is AWESOME!!!



From The Lego Movie.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

The Canvas Is Blank, Jane Is Blank...


As someone who both likes modern art and remembers learning to read with the Janet & John (was that their names?) Ladybird books, I was blown away by the genius of Miriam Elia's new book We Go to the Gallery, a send-up of the modern art world.

Read all about it on The Independent's website.

Heroes Reborn...


Heroes returns next year - as a 13-episode "event" series called Heroes Reborn.

Details are sketchy at the moment, but I'm cautiously optimistic.

Hopefully creator and executive producer Tim Kring has learned from the (plentiful) mistakes of the show's initial run and this new miniseries will be more focussed.

We Came, We Saw, We Conquered!


Today was the annual Tunbridge Wells Wargames Society Open Day (aka Cavalier) at the Tonbridge Angel Centre - about 10 minutes from my front door.

As I hadn't been up to attending the model railway show (also at the Angel Centre) last weekend, I was determined to make it to Cavalier, especially as I knew Nick and Alec would be attending.

The first thing I did was find Neil's stall, so I could unload the big box of figures I'd sorted out for him to paint (the bulk are fantasy/medieval figures for RPG use, while the rest were A Fistful Of Kung Fu box sets).

I had a look round the dealers' room before Nick and Alec arrived, then we all did a couple more circuits and visited the display games in adjoining halls before Nick decided it was time to take Alec - who was flagging by this stage (a condition I can relate to) - home to Clare.
 
The Next Generation Of Gamer...

This was Alec's first wargames show. To be honest he was more interested in the snacks Nick had brought along for him and looking for model trains (like many small boys, an enduring passion).

But one of the great things about having a three-year-old along with you is that people at several of the demonstration wargame displays invited Alec to 'join in' and roll some dice. Alec then took this as an opportunity to get Nick and I to also roll some dice.

I managed one final tour of the dealers' room after the others left, and finally gave in to the temptation to buy some figures (another box set for A Fistful Of Kung Fu, some monks and some nuns, as well as a supplement to Crooked Dice's 7th Voyage game along with some thuggee and their giant Sinbad-style animated statue).

There was a lot of lovely, and comparatively affordable, hand-made terrain and painted buildings on offer this year, but until I get the gamesroom sorted out there's no point buying stuff like that which needs a large area to store it away. I collected leaflets (with web addresses) though, so once I gets myself organised I can start thinking about what terrain I'll need.

My Haul: 7th Voyage rules supplement and assorted figures
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