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Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Waitaminute, You're Going To Do What???



Putting the "disaster" squarely in "disaster movie", The Asylum cooks up the greatest plan ever to ensure the Earth avoids a potential extinction-level encounter with a cloud of meteors in Asteroid Vs Earth.

The Race Is Run, But The Fundraising Ain't Done...


The sponsored walk in aid of The Stroke Association is now behind us (you can read about it here), but the fundraising will continue for a few months yet.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!Our total currently stands at an amazing £1,080 and our JustGiving page remains active until July 27.

Once again, I want to say a massive "thank you" to everyone who sponsored us, it really meant a lot.

If you haven't already, please take a moment to read Rachel's post on the impact my stroke had on our lives to get an understanding of why we did this.


Don't forget, tomorrow (May 1) is the official start of Action On Stroke month, a month-long campaign to raise awareness of of stroke and TIA (Transient ischaemic attack) aka mini-stroke, through events and activities, from Step out for Stroke walks (as Rachel and I did last Sunday), community fairs, Know Your Blood Pressure events, Stroke Association services and much much more.

Amy's All About Free Comic Book Day...

Wonder Woman Wednesday...


Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Tretower Castle, Powys, Wales...


Tretower is a 12th Century castle
- adjacent to the more intact Tretower court fortified manor house - in the village of Tretower, near near Crickhowell in Powys, South Wales.

I took these pictures when Rachel and I were staying in Crickhowell back in August, 2008.

Meet The Wolverine...

D&DVD Of The Week: Hammer Of The Gods (2013)


Apocalypse Now meets Dungeons & Dragons in the brutal (if derivative) low-budget, Viking action flick Hammer Of The Gods.

Prince Steinar (Nashville's Charlie Bewley), arrives in England ahead of his own army, to meet up with his father, King Bagsecg (Game Of Thrones' James Cosmo), for a war on the Saxons - only to find that his father has already engaged in the enemy in battle and come off worse.

The dying king entrusts Steiner with finding his estranged first-born, the legendary Hakan (Da Vinci's Demons' Elliot Cowan), to take his rightful place at the head of the Viking hordes.

Steiner sets out with his best friend, Hagen (Clive Standen aka Rollo from Vikings), foul-mouthed berserker Grim (Michael Jibson), superstitious Jokul (Guy Flanagan), and his cowardly younger brother Vali (Theo Barklem-Biggs).

Along the way - like any good Dungeons & Dragons overland expedition - they have a series of random encounters (all resolved through the violence, of course) and join up with a friend of Hakan, Ivar The Boneless (Ivan Kaye aka King Aelle from Vikings) and his slavegirl Agnes (Alexandra Dowling aka Queen Anne from the recent BBC series The Musketeers).

Encounters with masked Saxons and party in-fighting see Steiner's adventuring group gradually  whittled down until he finally finds his mysterious brother - which is when things go really Apocalypse Now!

Hakan has 'gone native' - à la Colonel Kurtz - and is living in a cave with a mob of cannibalistic Picts who worship him as a god. He even has a scribe Ulric (Game Of Thrones' Francis Magee) on hand to record his proclamations, in homage to Dennis Hopper's photojournalist in Apocalypse Now.

Directed by Farren Blackburn (who gave us the awful Doctor Who Christmas Special: The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe), Hammer Of The Gods does a pretty decent job of masking its budgetary restrictions by dressing up its action-driven plot with a general hand-wavy 'otherworldly' vibe.

That aspect doesn't work quite as well as in Valhalla Rising - which uses a very similar atmosphere for its own particular Viking take on Apocalypse Now and Aguirre, The Wrath Of God - but Hammer Of The Gods still delivers in the brutality stakes and a solid, unambiguous ending.

This isn't a cerebral meditation on life, fate and religion, but a well-acted, violent, low budget action movie about a band of Vikings on a cross-country quest for something other than treasure.

Tonight On Warehouse 13...

Monday, 28 April 2014

It Never Rains But It Pours...

Having been contemplating foisting a Frankengame on The Tuesday Knights the next time I took my place behind the DM's screen, my mental spring cleaning - which has seen me crack open previously unread games - has now left me spoiled for choice.

Current contenders for my devotion are:


I've already written a bit about Maelstrom Domesday's character creation process and I really appreciate the level of support that comes with this game (e.g. the sundry cards,  packed full of information you might need during a game and now won't have to leaf through the book to find)


Yggdrasill: it's Vikings. Who doesn't love Vikings? And published by Cubicle 7, who I like to support because they've been immensely kind to me over the years and produce some lovely looking books.
 

Heroes & Other Worlds:  C.R. Brandon's next generation simulacra of The Fantasy Trip (which, of course, Pete is currently running for us). A wonderfully self-contained system, with infinite capacity for houseruling and expansions, H.O.W. is essentially "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" to TFT's "Basic". It's an easy read and quick to grasp.

H.O.W. is the leader of the pack at the moment, because of its sheer simplicity (and the fact that we're already playing a game using very similar mechanics) but I'm still making my way through Yggdrasill and Maelstrom Domesday, so it's a bit too early to call yet.

The Post-Lucas Star Wars Expanded Universe...

Map-A-Monday: Ganymede

click to embiggen

The first-ever geological map of Ganymede, Jupiter's largest moon, released last month.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Batman: Assault on Arkham - Trailer...



Before Son Of Batman even hits shelves (it's due out in the UK early next month), DC has already released a trailer for its next animated feature: Batman - Assault On Arkham.

This looks like another winner, although DC's masterplan to create a single universe for all its animated films seems to have fallen at the first hurdle with Assault On Arkham being set in the same universe and continuity as the bestselling Batman: Arkham Asylum videogames rather than the world of the two previous animated films.

Rachel And Tim's Grand Walking Adventure...


We did it! Rachel and I completed the sponsored walk this morning and helped raise over £1,000 (so far) for The Stroke Association.

There were about 40 or 50 people taking part, including a number of fellow stroke survivors (some much younger or physically worse off than I).

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!The course, about a third of a mile, ran round a loop through fields neighbouring Pensurst Place (just outside Tonbridge), which meant part of our circuit passed through a large herd of docile sheep (much to the delight of Bubbles, a sprightly young dog, who was accompanying his owner on the walk).

I'd said I would do three laps and that's what I managed. I'll be honest, I had been inwardly a bit cocky and thought that would be easy (as my medical records say I can manage a mile), but I'd forgotten that most of the walking I do (into Tonbridge High Street and back) includes a lot of stops and retail therapy along the way.


As we were nearing the end of our third lap I was really starting to feel the aches and get a stitch, so I knew I'd reached my limit.

Along the way we chatted with other people whose lives had been touched by stroke and every conversation, in its way, was inspirational - if for no other reason than simply to remind me that I'm not alone and other people are suffering the same (or similar) problems brought on by a stroke.

The event organisers, from The Stroke Association, were lovely as well. May is the third annual national Action On Stroke month and our sponsored walk was the first event in a busy calendar of similar walks across the country. There's even a chance that Rachel and I will be featured in their promotional material to encourage others to take part in fundraising activities.

I'm so pleased that Rachel and I did this walk and helped raise awareness of impact of this life-changing condition. I still can't believe how much we raised. The support has been amazing from family and friends, old and new, around the globe.

Our JustGiving page will remain open for a while yet if anyone else wants to contribute to this worthy cause.

Sneak Peak At The Finale Of The Following...

A Ford For All Seasons...


Saturday, 26 April 2014

Zero Issues? Just Stop It!

from cover of Original Sin #0
What's this obsession comic book companies have with "issue zeroes"?

It's ridiculous and meaningless.

Marvel's Original Sin #0 says on the cover it's "#0 of 8". No it isn't, it's issue one of nine.

What next: issue "minus one", for a prequel story?

Why can't a comic book run just start at issue one and go through, one number at a time, until it reaches the end of its run?

I can understand flagging up 'jumping on points' for new readers looking to pick up long-running titles, but otherwise comic book numbering should be simple, logical and meaningful. It should be the least challenging part of the comic book reading experience.

X-Men: A Taste Of Things To Come...

The Week In TV...


It was fantastic to have Warehouse 13 (SyFy) back on television again - albeit for an abridged (six-episode) final season. Any Warehouse 13 is better than none.

While it might appear a bit flighty and slapstick compared to the more "gritty" dramas I often laud on HeroPress, the all-embracing pulp aesthetic of Warehouse 13 is quite capable of bringing the dark when it's needed.

It's weird, it's wonderful, always thinking out of the box and - of course - stars the gorgeous Allison Scagliotti, whose Claudia Donovan will be much missed when the show ends in just over a month.

I still don't get why SyFy has pulled the plug on this, but is still churning out mediocre snoozefests like Lost Girl and Continuum.

Geeks need more intelligent action-comedy like Warehouse 13 in their viewing schedules, and the very nature of Warehouse 13 sets up the possibility of infinite story ideas.


It's also slightly odd seeing Aaron Ashmore in Warehouse 13 then switching channels from this on SyFy, when the episode ends, to The Following (Sky Atlantic) which stars his identical twin brother Shawn Ashmore.

Of course, this week sees the grand finale of season two of The Following as Ryan faces off against both Joe and Lily's evil twins.


This week is also the end of season two of Vikings and I'm certainly going to miss my Friday morning ritual of breakfasting in front of the latest adventures of Ragnar, Rollo, Lagertha and Athelstan - courtesy of Amazon Instant Video.

At least I have season three to look forward to next year.


I'm also pleased to report that, more by luck than judgement (thanks to stumbling over a random Facebook comment), I've discovered that Helix has returned. Now on 5* - rather than Channel 5 - it has been running for a few weeks and luckily, I believe, tonight's episode happens to be the first of the episodes that have not already aired.

Although it has been renewed for a second season, I really can't imagine that the 5 'network' will continue to show this creepy, sci-fi tale that it has treated with such contempt. Hopefully, it will get picked up by a Sky channel (but not Sky Living - who I still haven't forgiven for idiotically dropping Supernatural) or SyFy will air it (what with it being a SyFy production!).

Deathstroke: Arkham Assassin...



Deathstroke: Arkham Assassin is a fan-film "taking place prior to the events in Batman: Arkham Origins. A bounty is placed on Batman by crime lord Black Mask, drawing eight of the world's greatest assassins to Gotham City on Christmas Eve. The most formidable of which is Deathstroke, who provides a bloody and violent demonstration of his skills for Black Mask."

Directed by Chris White & Larry White

Friday, 25 April 2014

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Turn, Turn, Turn


In the space of just a few weeks - since T.R.A.C.K.S. - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has gone from a show I watched (and enjoyed) simply because it was based on Marvel comic book characters to a show I genuinely love and look forward to every week.

Turn, Turn, Turn - which unfolded in parallel with the main plot of Captain America: The Winter Soldier - was as fine a piece of pulpy spy-fi as you can get on mainstream television.

Massive kudos to showrunners Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, who scripted this episode, for ratcheting up the "trust no one" paranoia of the scenario.

I have to confess that I only really twigged who the mole in the central team was about the same time as Agent Coulson did and while I rather suspected the final betrayal was coming, it turned out to be more bloody than I was expecting.

While, in the context of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. the episode stands well enough on its own, giving the audience the information it needs to follow the upheavals within the S.H.I.E.L.D. organisation, those of us who've seen the latest Captain America film will certainly pick up on more Easter Eggs and passing references.

And, of course, the brilliant thing is the plot isn't over yet...

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has certainly improved since its make-up segued from primarily episodic storytelling to its current serialised format, with the stories running into each other.

Hopefully this more "modern" take on storytelling will continue if/when the show returns for a second season.

However, I am beginning to suspect that this season's erratic scheduling issues (with ABC in the States, that led to knock-on issues with Channel 4 over here) were caused by the need to sync up certain episodes to the release of Marvel movies - ie. Thor: The Dark World and, more crucially, Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Hopefully lessons have been learned and next season the movie tie-ins can be better planned for so the season can run from beginning to end with as little disruption as possible, and certainly not regular three or four week gaps between new episodes. That's a very easy way to piss off your audience and lose the interest of casual viewers.

Next Week: (trailer contains MAJOR SPOILERS if you haven't seen Turn, Turn, Turn)


[REC] This Joint, One More Time...


The impossibly cute Manuela Velasco returns to the world of zombies for the final chapter in the wonderful Spanish saga of the living dead with [REC] 4: Apocalypse.
Angela Vidal (Velasco), the young television reporter who first entered the building with the firemen, manages to make it out alive. But what the soldiers don't know is that she carries the seed of the strange infection. She is to be taken to a provisional quarantine facility, a high-security installation where she will have to stay in isolation for several days. An old oil tanker, miles off shore and surrounded by water on all sides, has been especially equipped for the quarantine.
Here are my reviews of [REC]; [REC] 2; and [REC] 3: Genesis.

DVD Of The Week: Lloyd The Conqueror (2011)


After my disappointment with Knights Of Badassdom, +Tim Snider suggested I take a look at Lloyd The Conqueror, a 2011 comedy about Live Action Role Play, that he said was a much better take on the genre.

Despite its provocatively misleading cover (see above) that Rachel mistook as softcore porn when it was sitting beside our TV, Lloyd The Conqueror is a light and simple comedy (with some adult humour along the way) about a trio of slacker video gamers talked into enrolling in a local LARP league to boost their grades.



Lloyd (Evan Williams), Patrick (Jesse Reid) and Oswald (Scott Patey) are in danger of losing their funding to attend community college and thus get blackmailed into joining the Demons & Dwarves League by their sinister Medieval Literature professor, Derek (Mike Smith) - whose dominance of the game, along with his legions of orc acolytes - has been driving people away.

Lloyd manages to enlist the aid of a self-defence instructor with anger issues that he has a crush on, Cassandra (Tegan Moss), and dead-pan game shop owner Andy (Brian Posehn) aka The White Wizard (a former champion of the Demons & Dwarves League). As Tim Snider points out in his review, while a major player in this, Posehn also has a minor role in Knights Of Badassdom.

Likeable leads, solid scripting and consistent comedy make Lloyd The Conqueror a good mix of romcom and student comedy with a fair amount of geek wit thrown in that reminded me of Knights Of The Dinner Table every now and again.

With the central characters coming to LARPing as complete neophytes, the audience doesn't need to have any advanced knowledge of that world to enjoy the humour. Lloyd certainly isn't mocking the LARPing community - or gamers as a whole - but instead takes a self-deprecating approach that any level-headed enthusiast might to his own passions.

This is a film about power battles in a sub-culture that just happens to be LARP, which does provide a light-hearted physical counterpoint to the participants'  personal stakes.

Fleamarket Friday: Arrowstorm Makes The Kind Of Movies I Want To See...



To be honest I backed this project before I even watched the teaser trailer. Just knowing Arrowstorm were producing another of their fantastic fantasy epics was enough to get me to chip in.

And having Kevin Sorbo in the cast again (clearly he enjoyed his time making their recent sci-fi film Survivor) is an obvious bonus, bringing his Herculean acting chops to the piece.


Arrowstorm have yet to make a movie that hasn't appealed to me. These are true old school fantasy flicks, hearkening back to the glory days of the '70s and '80s - but with slightly more advanced special effects.

They also have a flawless track record for delivering on their Kickstarter campaigns.

Mythica: A Quest For Heroes is the start of a new trilogy from Arrowstorm, chronicling "the adventures of Marek (Melanie Stone), a wizard born with the dark power of necromancy, as she learns to harness the power that threatens to corrupt her, and build a team of adventurers to battle Szorlok, the legendary Necromancer (Matthew Mercer), in his quest to unite the four shards of the Darkspore and unleash an undead plague on the land".

For this film, they are looking to raise $75,000 by May 20.

Visit the movie's Kickstarter page to read more about the campaign, the plot of A Quest For Heroes and learn about the incentives for investment - from digital downloads, DVDs, Blu-Rays, soundtrack CDs, through to Skype meetings with the producers and special home screenings, hosted by a producer, anywhere in the world.

Fleamarket Friday: Make This Ambitious Dream A Reality...


The team that gave us the excellent HP Lovecraft adaptation Die Fabre (based on The Colour Out Of Space) is now crowdsourcing funds to bring HP Lovecraft's "dream cycle" to film for the first time.

Such an ambitious project has an equally ambitious price tag and the filmmakers are looking for 200,000 Euros (roughly £164,000 or $276,000) by May 31 (there is a detailed breakdown of costs on the movie's IndieGoGo campaign page).


Dreamlands, scripted by director Huan Vu, is primarily based on Lovecraft’s short stories Celephaïs, The White Ship, The Strange High House in the Mist and The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.

Vu adds: "It will build upon the world created by HP Lovecraft but also remain faithful to his core concepts of fantastic escapism and cosmic horror. The Dreamlands is a film you are never likely to see produced by the established film industry."

Check out the campaigns site for the numerous incentives for investment (from DVDs & Blu-Rays to props, T-shirts, posters and the chance to appear in the film), and to learn about other ways you can help the film-makers reach their goal and bring this surreal and horrific motion picture to life.

Tonight On Da Vinci's Demons...

Thursday, 24 April 2014

The King In Yellow... In A Box!


My Easter present from Rachel arrived today: Twilight Creations' CTHULHU!!! game.

It's a self-contained variant of their hugely popular ZOMBIES!!! game and uses a lot of similar counters and rules as well as playing tiles to create your random layout of the streets of Kingsport.

The aim of the game is to have the players prevent deranged cultists (and Lovecraftian beasties) from summoning The King In Yellow to sleepy Kingsport.

I've promised to teach Rachel how to play, but then again I've been promising to teach her how to play chess since we first met and we still have yet to sit down at a chess board together.

Where's The Egyptian Love?


Watching an episode of Ancient Aliens this week and everything - as always - came back to the Ancient Egyptians, which got me thinking: where's our old school Ancient Egyptian fantasy roleplaying system?

While, disappointingly, indie game Nefertiti Overdrive: Ancient Egyptian Wuxia failed to fund on Kickstarter, Mike Burns has run a series of highly successful crowdfunding campaigns on IndieGoGo to produce an ever-increasing range of wonderful Ancient Egyptian character miniatures - perfect for roleplaying games.

Off the top of my head, in recent years we've seen mythical African and Indian games (Spears of Dawn and Arrows of Indra, respectively), as well as several Norse/Viking games to supplement the usual pseudo Euro-centric fantasy settings, but the big gap - to me - appears to be a dedicated Ancient Egypt roleplaying game.

The closest would be the defunct Stargate SG-1 game (which brings us neatly back to Ancient Aliens).

Unless I'm missing something, this seems an obvious gap in the market that an enterprising old school games designer could fill...

We've Hit Our First Century!


 

With the arrival of Stuart Lloyd to the ranks of my Band Of Brothers (and Sisters) we now have 100 Followers on HeroPress, which I don't think is too shabby for a site that has been going for just seven months.

Well, seven months at this address. HeroPress as a blog has been active for over seven years (longer than Rachel and I have been married).

I'm glad Google hasn't done away with the Followers widget in its campaign to get everyone onto Google+. I believe being a Follower of a blog means something. It takes a certain determination to Follow a blog, whereas putting someone in one of your Google+ circles takes about as much thought - and carries as much meaning - as "liking" something on Facebook.

Thank you all for showing an interest in my eclectic ramblings on comics, roleplaying games, TV shows, films, life and general geekery.

It's So Wrong, It Has To Be Right...


What is with The Asylum churning out female-fronted action flicks at the moment with titles that sound like top shelf magazines (or dodgy websites)? Names that you dare not Google for fear of being flagged by a Government watchdog!
"Kidnapped by a Los Angeles crime syndicate, a group of schoolgirls must fight and seduce their way to vengeance, teaching the criminals a lesson in kicking butt and taking names."
I'm sure Asian School Girls will be up to The Asylum's usual high standards of script, acting and effects...

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Fundraising Exceeds Our Wildest Dreams... And The Starting Line Is In Sight!


The much-talked about sponsored walk is almost upon us. The weather forecast is currently predicting rain for Sunday, but I certainly won't let that dampen my spirits.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!After a bit of a pause, the fundraising has taken off again thanks largely to Rachel's great post (giving her take on my medical condition), which then led top author Philip Reeve to write a brilliant piece on his blog about our efforts.

As I write this, we have sailed past our £750 target, thanks to amazing contributions from more than 40 people (we're currently just shy of £900, which is phenomenal).

This is far more than either Rachel or I expected when we set our original target at £250 (which we thought we might hit by the time of the sponsored walk, but instead sailed by within a week) and we are incredibly touched by your generosity.

One hundred per cent of the money donated goes to The Stroke Association, with JustGiving and Barclaycard taking their minimal fees out of the additional sum raised from the Government through Gift Aid.

I shall leave the JustGiving page active for a time after the event should anyone wish to contribute later (perhaps you're waiting to see photographic evidence of Rachel and I actually doing the walk at Penshurst Place) but I won't be raising our goal again - as it'll be rather nice to see how far we can get past the 100 per cent mark!

The reception to this campaign has been staggering and while I'm already fired up for my NEXT bit of charity fundraising, have no fear I won't be badgering you for at least another year.

But in the meantime, if you can spare a few pounds, please visit our fundraising page and give what you can (either through this link or by clicking the badge up there on the left).

[RPG] Creating A Character For Maelstrom Domesday...


Part of my "spring cleaning" drive at the moment is to also find the time to read a number of new(ish) RPGs I've acquired in recent months, but have just sat in the gamesroom gathering dust.

I started with Maelstrom Domesday, which I got through a Kickstarter last year. It has definite  Dark Age Cthulhu flavouring (this edition being set in 1086, although the original - one of the first British RPGs - was set in the Tudor era) but what really hooked me in was its "life path" character generation method, which has shades of Traveller character creation in its methodology (but without the chance of being killed... although you can contract leprosy!).

So I thought I'd take you through the character creation process, creating a random character as we go, to show you how cool chargen is in Maelstrom Domesday.

Our nameless character starts off at age 13 with 40 points in all of his statistics (as all new characters do), which are then modified by random die rolls (four increase and two decrease).

So here's our hero when he starts off:
  • Attack Skill 41
  • Missile Skill 40
  • Defence Skill 46
  • Knowledge 38
  • Will 40
  • Endurance 46
  • Persuasion 35
  • Perception 40
  • Speed 40
  • Agility 45
Then we roll for race and social class and get: Anglo-Saxon (two on a d6) and peasant (six on 2d6). Social class affects what table you roll on for your first career path (or 'living' as they are termed here).

For the sake of this article I shall leap ahead for a moment and rather than try to come up with an authentic name, I shall roll on the random name table: 84, Brand.

But before we find out what job this 13-year-old peasant is going to be taking up, we roll 1d100 three times to see what "special characteristics" he has (these are mental, magical or physical quirks that can be either boons or banes to the character).

The three rolls are:
  • 18, Wise (has great common sense, Referee may give him appropriate hints on the right course of action - if it's based on something he already knows).
  • 68, Charmer (ladies man, gets bonus on rolls to persuade the opposite sex, but a small penalty when trying to persuade men)
  • 75. Huge (this means he is very, very large - but is an extra special characteristic that requires two of the character's slots. so I shall drop "charmer" and make our young lad huge (he'll grow to be over 6'4" and 18 s, do +2 damage in hand-to-hand combat and gets a bonus to intimidation checks).
I also roll 1d10 for Brand's starting coin: one whole silver penny (d).

Now, I roll 1d100 to determine Brand's starting career:
  • 55, Wiseman.
Unexpected, but kind of makes sense: he is "wise" after all! He gets bonus rolls to his Will, Knowledge and Perception and then another roll to spread between other statistics (he chooses Attack and Agility).
  • Attack Skill 44
  • Missile Skill 40
  • Defence Skill 46
  • Knowledge 46
  • Will 42
  • Endurance 46
  • Persuasion 35
  • Perception 43
  • Speed 40
  • Agility 48
This career lasts five years (taking him to age 18) and he gains two abilities. He chooses Survival I and Supernatural Lore I.

He also picks up another single silver penny (bringing his wealth to 2d) and checks to see if he has acquired any other resources. Yes, he has acquired a "village relic", but nothing else.

The random career event table for Wiseman is "sedentary", so I roll 1d100 again and get:
  • 39, he made a good impression on his employer (he was clearly an apprentice or protege to a village wiseman) and if he sticks at this career he'll get a 2d20 penny bonus!
Checking his career exit, he rolls 46 which means he stays a wiseman (and gets a pay bonus of nine silver pennies, bringing his personal wealth to 11d).

Brand is now 23 and his statistics are:
  • Attack Skill 44
  • Missile Skill 40
  • Defence Skill 46
  • Knowledge 52
  • Will 45
  • Endurance 46
  • Persuasion 44
  • Perception 44
  • Speed 40
  • Agility 48
He earns another 2d (total: 13d)  and acquires his own herb preparation equipment. He also picks up Herbalism I and Medicine I abilities.

His random event (78) was the opportunity to travel by ship, probably to Normandy in the retinue of a a powerful noble (I suspect Brand's master was treating him for an ailment), and along the way he learned a smattering of Norman French.

His career exit roll was 95 - outlaw! Clearly Brand discovered something about the noble he wasn't supposed to and escaped punishment by slipping away into the woods and taking up the life of an outlaw.

Outlaw is a three year career block, taking Brand to 26, increasing his Endurance, Speed and Attack Skill (plus a small bonus to be spread among other statistics of his choice).

His statistics are now:
  • Attack Skill 46
  • Missile Skill 40
  • Defence Skill 46
  • Knowledge 54
  • Will 45
  • Endurance 56
  • Persuasion 44
  • Perception 47
  • Speed 44
  • Agility 48
His personal wealth goes up to 16d, and he acquires a spear. His Survival ability goes up II and he gains Stealth I

His random event is on the Physical table: 02, no event! Boo!

But his career exit roll (05) indicates he stays an outlaw for another three years, taking him to 29. Every time he completes a career block (to a maximum of six) I roll percentile dice and if I score under his current age, then his career paths end.
  • Attack Skill 47
  • Missile Skill 40
  • Defence Skill 46
  • Knowledge 54
  • Will 45
  • Endurance 64
  • Persuasion 44
  • Perception 47
  • Speed 55
  • Agility 50
His Stealth and Survival abilities both rise (to II and III, respectively), his cash pot goes up 17d and his random event (82) sees him suffer a recurrent muscle injury which will penalise him if he overexerts himself!

Brand's life takes another weird turn with career exit roll of 68 - monk. Clearly when he injured himself he decided his outlawing days were over and he decided to take up holy orders.

Monk is five year block, which takes his age to 34 - which means at the end of his time, he will need to make an Age Check to see if old age has caught up with him. He also has to give up all his previous possessions (including his cash!)

Living as a Monk increases his Knowledge and Will primarily, but as ever gives him a small amount of discretionary points to spread between his other statistics.

His statistics are now:
  • Attack Skill 48
  • Missile Skill 40
  • Defence Skill 47
  • Knowledge 58
  • Will 51
  • Endurance 64
  • Persuasion 44
  • Perception 47
  • Speed 55
  • Agility 50
For abilities, he gains Religion I and increases his Herbalism to II (for his first term he is a Choir Monk).

His random event, on the Sedentary table, is: 84, he is claimed as a peasant by a rural lord and the sheriff agrees. His next (and final) career option can only be: peasant! What a strange and circular career trajectory Brand has taken. I sense the hand of the noble he crossed all those years ago, seeking some regress on our hero.

Aged 34, he rolls on the Ageing table with a +2 modifier. Six plus two equals eight, which means no attribute loss.

Let's see how he fares after four years as a Peasant (taking him up to the ripe old age of 38).

Working the land gives him a boost to Endurance and Perception, with a small discretionary bonus for his remaining statistics as usual.

His statistics are now:
  • Attack Skill 51
  • Missile Skill 40
  • Defence Skill 47
  • Knowledge 60
  • Will 51
  • Endurance 68
  • Persuasion 44
  • Perception 52
  • Speed 55
  • Agility 50
He gains Farming I and Barter I abilities, three silver pennies, and the clothes on his back.

His random event (Physical) came up: 92: he (legally) acquires an expensive object (jewellery/weapon/horse etc)

I roll again on the Ageing table (with a +4 bonus now) for a total of 12, which equates to 1d3 points off of two Physical Attributes. Again, all randomly decided, this results in two points off his perception and two points off Missile Skill (clearly his eyesight is going)

This means his final statistics look like this:
  • Attack Skill 51
  • Missile Skill 38
  • Defence Skill 47
  • Knowledge 60
  • Will 51
  • Endurance 68
  • Persuasion 44
  • Perception 50
  • Speed 55
  • Agility 50
Now we have to discover what supernatural event touched Brand The Huge's life and then who his patron will be.

While peasanting, Brand encountered an area where gravity was temporarily reversed on a hill (58) and this strange occurrence drew him to the attention of Roger de Lacy (a headstrong ally of the King, who frequently rides out from Ludlow castle to quell the Welsh).

Brand's abilities are: Survival III, Stealth II, Herbalism II, Farming I, Barter I, Religion I, Medicine I, Supernatural Lore I.

For a big, hulking guy, 38-year-old Brand is surprisingly knowledgeable about a great many things. Just a shame about his muscle injury (and the fact that, by Medieval standards) he's getting on a bit.

The idea now is to work out a Timeline for Brand's bizarre rags-to-rags life (from peasant wiseman back to peasant, via a spell as both an outlaw and a monk) - seeing if we can weave in historical events from the gazetteer in the Maelstrom Domesday core rules book - and then he will be ready for Roger de Lacy to send him out to investigate strange goings on...

And that's how you create a character for Maelstrom Domesday!

John Malkovich Is Blackbeard! Need I Say More?


Pirate shows are like buses - none for ages then two come along at the same time.

Will Crossbones - featuring the wonderful John Malkovich as Edward Teach aka Blackbeard - be as good as Black Sails?

We'll have to wait and see (as usual, there's no indication yet when it will be available in the UK).
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