Monday, 31 March 2014
I have a couple of technical questions, relating to Blogger and cross-posting material to other platforms:
(a) I'm having issues with cutting and pasting links from HeroPress into Google+, it no longer picks up the pictures associated with the post (I get two choices, either my avatar or the cartoon at the foot of my blog, but never any of the pictures from the post).Neither of these are major issues - although not being able to get my post pictures to show up on Google+ is very annoying (especially when it's a very visual post like yesterday's Chin Scratcher with all the great pictures +Chirine ba Kal let me use from his blog).
Does anyone have any idea why it's doing this and, more importantly, suggestions to make it STOP doing this and allow me to post the relevant pictures?
(b) I'm signed up to Feedly (massive thank you to +Timothy Brannan for pointing me in that direction, it is a brilliant blog aggregator), but I've noticed some other blog posts only post up the first few paragraphs then have a message saying, words to the effect of, "to read the rest click here to go to the blog".
How does one go about setting up that facility? I'm guessing it's something I have to adjust - somehow - on Blogger, but I don't have the first clue as to how to proceed!
Ultimately, Blogger is a free platform (I experimented with a paid-for blog address and we all know how that crashed and burned), so I'm not complaining. I just want to make the best use of what's available.
While tinkering around trying to find a solution to this picture issue, I have integrated the comments on HeroPress with Google+ to see how that shapes out. I know when this facet was first introduced to Blogger a lot of bloggers were concerned it would dissuade comments from people with Google+ accounts.
If this turns out to be the case on HeroPress, I'll revert to the old comment forms, but I do like having all the comments - from here and any cross-postings to Google+ - all in one place.
HeroPress has now been at its new address for just over six months and generally things seem to be going well. This last weekend, the site broke into the Top 50 of the Comic Blog Elite (still a long way from the halcyon days when HeroPress.Net was an occasional Top Five site, though, back in 2012!).
This 'new' site has attracted more than 116,000 unique hits in six months and 97 followers in my Band Of Brothers And Sisters (although I have a sneaky feeling that Google is trying to phase out the Google Friend Connect widget in favour of its sprawling Google+ network).
Not all of us have the patience - and tech savvy - to draw maps with computer software and some still like to draw out dungeons and campaign settings with the good, old fashioned pen and paper.
The Squarehex Sampler Pack is available from +Peter Regan (of Oubliette magazine) who has recently launched an webstore, Squarehex, primarily trading in Dungeon Master utensils, such as square and hex paper, folders, pens etc
For a very reasonable £4.50 (plus shipping), the sampler pack includes:
- A7 7mm grid pad
- A7 7mm hex pad
- A5 7mm hex pad with large hex
- Little Hexes mini-campaign setting
- Hex symbol card
- Pocket Guide to Dungeon Geomorphs
- Dungeon symbol card
- Dungeon symbol fridge magnet
- 7mm plastic card ruler
- Black fineliner pen
- Mechanical pencil
These are all quality products, of a nice - pocket - size, should you wish to have them on you when you're outside waiting for inspiration to strike!
The sample mini-campaign setting, Little Hexes, includes a fold-out map (see below) with 14 'megahexes', each accompanied by a short (system-agnostic) description, but devoid of place names etc so it can easily be dropped into an existing campaign or used as a springboard to start your own unique setting.
Let's be honest, you can't get much for less than a fiver these days (you'd certainly be lucky to get a single decent Reaper miniature for that), and if you're contemplating designing your own dungeons or overland campaign setting this is a great place to start.
My pack also included a couple of credit card-sized character sheets - one for old school D&D-style games and one for Savage Worlds - which are marvels of miniaturisation, although you'd probably need very neat handwriting to fill some sections in.
Peter is currently running a Kickstarter for A4 & A5 Dungeon Mapping Pads, which wraps up next Monday (April 7).
It is already funded and I know from past experience that Peter has a track record for delivering swiftly on successful Kickstarters.
Sunday, 30 March 2014
I've been spending a lot of time recently catching up with the goings-on at Chirine's Workbench, the fantastic Tekumel blog of
Now here is a man who likes to create memorable games for his players, his latest being a night-time escapade where his games table was covered in miniature houses hit by internal, flickering LED tea-lights while coloured LED dome lights were used to represent lanterns as the players moved their characters in near-darkness.
By all accounts it was an incredible - and memorable - game.
One of the many things I find so inspiring about Chirine and his group is how immersed in their game world they are, to the extent of collecting 'real world' objects that can pass as mementoes of Tekumel or turning their hands to crafting artefacts, costumes etc that then get used 'in game'.
|Locks for player's to pick and...|
|Tekumel coinage for bribery, trading and general hoarding purposes!|
This has fired me with so many ideas for when I next get behind the screen for the Tuesday Knights and I introduce them to my reinvigorated campaign.
While not every Dungeon Master has the time, inclination, talent or space for such extravagant, Braunstein-esque adventures or accumulating assorted 'found objects', how do you go about creating memorable games for your players?
Do you use ambient music, atmospheric lighting, props (purchased or hand-crafted), elaborate miniature terrain, film clips, overhead projectors, smoke machines etc?
Or is this too close to LARPing for you or too much like a wargame (although let's not forget the original game described itself, on the cover, as "Rules for Fantastic Medieval wargames campaigns playable with paper and pencil and Miniature Figures")?
Obviously, the story that evolves from your adventure and the players' involvement contributes enormously to how memorable a game ends up, but surely there's always something a DM can do to make his game that bit special?
I look forward to hearing your war stories, thoughts and ideas on this topic.
|Chirine ba Kal in his steel suit|
Saturday, 29 March 2014
Being the disorganised and forgetful buffoon that I am, I had completely forgotten about the exhibition of Dave McKean artwork on my doorstep (well at the Tunbridge Wells Museum & Art Gallery) until just before it closed.
Rachel drove me over there today so I could get in under the wire. The exhibition of this internationally acclaimed local artist's work closes tomorrow.
If you have a chance, and happen to be in the general Tunbridge Wells area of Kent then you should try and pop in tomorrow - might make a pleasant Mothers' Day trip out!
There were examples from many of the well-known comics that Dave has worked on, both doing interior art and covers, with the highlight for me being the giant, three-dimensional construction that was reduced down to become the cover of Sandman #3. A display case in the centre of the exhibit had a copy of Sandman Dustcovers open to the page where the 'comic-sized' cover could be seen for comparison.
This is only a small retrospective, so every era of his work is only represented by two or three major items, but it successfully demonstrated the breadth of his unique and distinctive work - including his directorial début with the fantasy film Mirrormask (one of his many collaborations with Neil Gaiman, who, of course, wrote Sandman for DC Comics).
Several pieces from the comic he wrote and drew, Cages, were also present, alongside examples of his children's book illustrations, including his very important collaboration with Richard Dawkins on The Magic of Reality, a science book for children (which I bought for Alec when it came out, although he is much too young to read it yet).
His latest work can be seen on the variant covers of the new Sandman: Overture comic which is coming out on an "irregular" schedule (to be kind to all those involved).
A quartet of adventurers arrive in Sandpoint for some much needed rest and recuperation, but end up as local heroes when the coastal town is attacked by a band of unexpectedly organised goblins. Then one of their friends disappears and our heroes head off to find her, and avert a scheme to wipe Sandpoint off the map.
Rise Of The Runelords: Burnt Offerings is the first chapter in a six-part audio drama from Big Finish (the production company known for its never-ending output of Doctor Who plays, as well as countless other top notch audio dramas), under the heading of Pathfinder Legends.
Anyone familiar with Big Finish's Doctor Who stories will recognise the format, but being based on a fantasy RPG there's a lot more fight scenes in Burnt Offerings than a typical Doctor Who adventure, occasionally making the flow of events slightly difficult to follow.
The voice acting is universally superb, with the strongest to my mind being the Jon Pertwee/Third Doctor-soundalike wizard Ezren (voiced by Trevor Littledale).
Ezren provides some scene-linking narration in the form of entries in his 'Pathfinder Chronicles' notebook, which is a slight change to the normal progression of Big Finish stories that I have listened to, but helps move the tale on.
The heroes will aleady be known to readers of the Pathfinder comics, from Dynamite, as Ezren, Merisiel the elf (Kerry Skinner), Valeros, the party's muscle (Stewart Alexander), and Harsk the tea-drinking dwarf ranger (who mercifully doesn't sound like a Scotsman, voiced by Ian Brooker) all appear there as well, as do several of the supporting characters.
The plot (written by Mark Wright, based on a story by James Jacobs) is very simplistic but only really goes off the rails when the villain of the piece, Nualia (Katarina Olsson), having captured the adventurers in a cavern full of angry goblins, decides to monologue for several minutes on her backstory and motivations.
Surely there was some way the heroes could have discovered the important parts of this information beforehand, rather than this groan-worthy grandstanding?
The play lasts about an hour with the balance of the 70-minute download/CD being incidental music tracks. The music will be added to my folder of background gaming music, but I was hoping for the usual Big Finish interviews with cast and crew as it would have been interesting to hear what the cast made of this gaming-inspired material.
Perhaps the coming episodes will scratch that particular itch.
The Pathfinder Legends are available direct from Big Finish or from Paizo, publishers of the Pathfinder RPG. You can hear a trailer for Burnt Offerings on both of these sites and Paizo also includes some voice samples for the main characters to give you a taste of what to expect.
Rachel can attest to my passion for swords (well, with a surname like mine, it's pretty much a given, right?), so I immediately fell in love with this beauty when it was profiled on Propnomicon.
Apparently, it's a replica of the steel greatsword from Skyrim, made from "acrylic, MDF, styrene, aluminium rod, body filler, Green Stuff, and a sneaky hidden bicycle brake wire in the blade" by the very talented 23-year-old Australian artist Steph aka The Anti-Lily.
And speaking of swords, check out this four-minute film below of staff from Cold Steel going Medieval on a variety of objects with an armoury of real weapons (and then mentally replace their targets with rampaging orcs, goblins, minotaurs etc):
The footage comes with the following warning from Cold Steel:
Tests featured in this presentation represent gross abuse of the product and may potentially void warranty. Many of the feats shown are incredibly dangerous and could result in serious injury or even death.
All tests are performed by skilled professionals within controlled environments and should not be attempted at home.
Meat used within this presentation was sourced from local butchers and was already intended for human consumption. The meat was carefully and hygienically preserved and donated to the Ventura County Rescue Mission.
This presentation may be deemed too graphic for some individuals, and viewer discretion is advised.
This week we bade farewell to the second season of the wonderful period sitcom Moone Boy (Sky 1), starring David Rawle as Martin and Chris O'Dowd as his imaginary friend, Seán Murphy.
The show follows the adventures of Martin and Seán as he grows up as the youngest child in a lartge family in Boyle, County Roscommon, in Ireland in the late 1980s and the early 1990s, surreally blending his make-believe world with reality through animation, wild schemes and Seán's interplay with other imaginary characters.
Fourteen-year-old Rawle is true star, demonstrating a marvellous propensity for comedy as well as being about as far from a "production line Hollywood brat" kid as possible.
As a Sky production, if you're not already watching this - and have access to Sky TV - it's easy to find in their 'on demand' service as they are rightfully proud of this inspired little comedy, which was renewed for a third season before the second even aired!
Another great British comedy currently generating belly-laughs in our house is W1A (BBC 2), a sequel to the equally hilarious Olympic-themed 2012. The new show has Ian Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville), formerly the Head of the Olympic Deliverance Commission, taking up the position of Head of Values at the BBC.
Unfortunately for him, the BBC has also hired his old sparring partner, the titanic comedy monster Siobhan Sharpe as Brand Consultant (Jessica Hynes).
David Tennant has also returned as the narrator.
Fast-paced, cuttingly funny and, I am told, very accurate, this demonstrates a very British willingness of the BBC to poke fun at its own perceived pomposity in much the same way as our Olympic organisers co-operated with the production of 2012.
|Amanda Waller And Three Members Of The Suicide Squad|
Moving away from comedy, this week's Arrow (Sky 1) was brilliantly tense with Slade Wilson (Spartacus's Manu Bennett) turning up at Oliver's family home. The majority of the episode was told in flashback to Oliver and Slade's time on The Island and for the first time I really felt as though the flashbacks truly added to the contemporary story.
Slade - one of my favourite villains from DC Comics (since I first encountered him in the epic Wolfman/Perez run of Teen Titans) - was perfectly understated in his menace, never directly threatening Oliver's family, but those 'in the know' were all too aware of his potential for mayhem.
And in next week's episode we get to meet The Suicide Squad, as this show continues to run rings around Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. in terms of fan service.
As well as the return of The Big Bang Theory (E4) next week, both The Musketeers (BBC1) and The Walking Dead (Fox) are wrapping up their current seasons and will be missed from my weekly viewings.
However, possibly replacements are appearing on Tuesday in the form of new Channel 4 historical drama New Worlds, a sequel to The Devil's Whore, and the première episode of the second season of Bates Motel (Universal) on Wednesday.
Set during The Restoration period of the 1680s, New Worlds is the story of two young men and two young women striving to make better lives for themselves, both in England and in America.
Bates Motel teeters on the border between so-bad-it's-good and genuine-brilliance, so I'm willing to give it another try, although its connection to the perfect mythos of the first Psycho movie gets increasingly tenuous the more ridiculously over-the-top the lives of Norma and Norman become.
However, the show I'm most looking forward to seeing return hits Fox on Friday: Da Vinci's Demons:
Friday, 28 March 2014
Picking up from last week's episode, T.R.A.C.K.S. saw Coulson's team going undercover on a trans-European train in an attempt to follow an expensive piece of Cybertech kit back to its purchaser: Ian Quinn (David Conrad).
Of course, the mission went pear-shaped - as they were betrayed - and what unfolded turned out to be one of the best episodes of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. to date.
As well as the show's first - but hopefully not last - obligatory Stan Lee cameo, T.R.A.C.K.S. (written by Lauren LeFranc Rafe Judkins, and directed by Paul Edwards) took a clever, Rashomon-like approach for the core of the episode, recounting the same series of events from different perspectives as viewed by the sub-units of Coulson's team.
This drip-fed the audience key bits of information, helping us gradually build up a complete picture of what had occurred on the train, how the team were exposed and what happened afterwards.
This inventive format helped get over one of my bugbears of the show, in that there are often too many protagonists on screen at the same time to allow all a chance to shine.
This week everyone had an opportunity to be a bad-ass and even Skye, for once, was behaving like a 'proper' S.H.I.E.L.D. agent - and got herself shot for her troubles.
T.R.A.C.K.S. still managed to slip in some typical moments of Marvel humour along the way, even if matters did turn quite dark towards the finale, with the highlight being Ward and Coulson's clumsy attempts to get the the holographic imaging table to work.
In an episode bubbling with so much goodness, we can't overlook the return of Mike Peterson (J. August Richards) and his transformation into Deathlok, an honest-to-goodness supervillain (or anti-hero?) doing dastardly deeds at the behest of the mysterious, and unseen, Clairvoyant.
If T.R.A.C.K.S. is evidence of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. finally finding its sea legs, then let's hope there are more episodes to come of this calibre.
Next Week (beware spoilers if you haven't seen this week's episode):
If you're a gamer of a certain age then The City State Of The Invincible Overlord is as synonymous with roleplaying games as Dungeons & Dragons itself.
It was the first, published fantasy city setting and I remember it being one of the few published settings that ever saw use at The Dark Tower gaming club in Tunbridge Wells. Looking back, there seemed to be a bias towards Judges Guild scenarios and home-made dungeons - at least for the games I played in.
Somewhere along the way - in all my various moves before we came to our current home - I misplaced my 'treasure chest' cardboard box crammed with my beloved Judges Guild possessions, meaning I've lost my old copies of the City State, City State Of The World Emporer, Tegal Manor etc
All I have left from my original collections are the giant hex maps, which I filed away separately in a plastic folder.
Now, Judges Guild is bring the City State back - courtesy of a Kickstarter campaign - as a single book.
Unsurprisingly, it is already funded and while it's not exactly a low-cost buy-in, if it's as awesome as the original then it will be worth every penny.
It's going to be available in two flavours - a generic version using 'universal stats' they should be easily convertible to your old school system of choice and a Pathfinder version with giant stat blocks (I'm, obviously, going to opt for the former).
Check out the campaign's Kickstarter page to learn more about the book, the maps that will become available through hitting stretch goals, possible miniatures etc and the various levels of buy-in.
The campaign runs until April 23... and in the meantime I shall keep looking for my old Judge Guild collection!
We've lost another of the greats this week.
Dave Trampier's art helped to define the early years of the roleplaying hobby, the images above being some of the most iconic from Dungeons & Dragons' formative years.
There are plenty of eloquent obituaries to this talented and enigmatic man - who walked away from the gaming industry in the middle of a Wormy storyline he was writing and drawing for Dragon magazine - out there in the old school reaches of the Internet, so I shall let his art speak for itself.
Old school artist extraordinaire and co-creator of Villains & Vigilantes, Jeff Dee has launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring one of his favourite settings back into print - using a new rules system.
Béthorm: the Plane of Tékumel RPG revives M.A.R. Barker's classic Tékumel role-playing game setting, but uses the skill-based Pocket Universe system from Jeff's company UNIgames.
This Kickstarter, which is already funded and heading into stretchgoal territory, will result in a 240+ page book, with over 70 illustrations, and will include enough background information for players to make characters, without overwhelming newcomers to the rich world of Tékumel.
The campagn runs until April 14, so scuttle over to its Kickstarter page to learn more about the game, its background and the incentives for investing.
|Tabitha takes on a Troll (images by Artyfakes)|
Orin Rakatha, the system-neutral fantasy roleplaying setting that aims to transpose almost three decades of Live Action Roleplaying to tabletop gamesa round the world, is nearing the end of its Kickstarter fundraising campaign.
As well as gorgeous painted artwork in the books (which I highlighted a selection of a few weeks ago), the setting's authors are now working with well-known cosplayer Tabitha Lyons and prop makers Artyfakes for a photoshoot where Tabitha will portray "one of the major characters in Orin Rakatha's history; which will then be turned into a unique piece of art in the GM's Guide".
With art being such a key element in conveying the LARP-setting-turned-tabletop-campaign to players, the cover art of the three books being Kickstarted have been finalised:
These form a panoramic triptych with the adventure module in the middle. Future adventures published for the setting will feature cover art that can slot in the place of the initial adventure (OR 01: Burning Night).
The limited edition black and gold hard back of GM's Guide has also been revealed. Only a 100 of these will ever be produced.
Time is ticking away, so make sure you visit the Kickstarter page to read more about this setting, its storied history and the excellent array of incentives on offer - beyond the books themselves - to secure your funding.
For those yet undecided about whether to sell their souls to +Rafael Chandler to help finance his latest bestiary of insane, inhuman monstrosities - Lusus Naturae ("Freaks of Nature") - then a free sample is on offer, via DriveThruRPG, to tempt the taste buds.
The seven-page PDF includes full details on three monsters - the Bilious Grub, the Shadhavar, and the Vitiator - including OSR gaming statistics, using the Lamentations Of The Flame Princess system (and therefore easily translatable to any other old school mechanics).
Don't forget to make a SAN check before opening this file!
A reminder to fellow British fans of Game Of Thrones, episode one of season four is being shown on Sky Atlantic at the same time it airs in the US... that's 2am for us. I shall be setting my Sky+ box to record it.
Thursday, 27 March 2014
Earlier in the year, we were teased by the idea of Guy Ritchie working with Warner Bros on a six-movie King Arthur franchise, but now I've just read that Disney is adapting T.A. Barron's The Lost Years of Merlin as Young Merlin.
This latter film has this synopsis:
"The film will trace Merlin’s journey from being a boy washed on the shores of Wales with no memory and no home, to him becoming a young man learning to use his powers and ultimately defender of the natural world and eventual mentor to King Arthur."I cannot express how excited I am at the prospect of a slew of big budget, Arthurian films clattering onto the silver screen.
Barron's book, originally published in 1996, is the start of an 11-book epic, so let's hope the first film is a major success and we eventually see adaptations of the whole run.
A sneak peak at a bloody skirmish between the forces of Ragnar and Jarl Borg from the next episode of Vikings (which will be available on Amazon Instant sometime tomorrow in the UK).
Other news on the Vikings front: the show has been renewed for a third season.
Two more official character portraits have been released for the upcoming Gotham TV series, giving us a glimpse of Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot (aka The Penguin) and Ben McKenzie as our protagonist James Gordon (still can't get used to a Jim Gordon without his trademark 'stache!) .
Wednesday, 26 March 2014
Today's issue of 2000AD (Prog 1874, £2.45) contains five stories, all brand new arcs - thus making it a perfect time to get onboard. As well as the expected Judge Dredd, more excitingly - for me, anyway - is a new Sláine storyline, by Pat Mills (of course) with art by Simon Davis.
A Simple Killing sees Sláine as a wanderer once more (after a stint as ruler of Ireland, travelling through time, and repelling the Formorian invaders), going where his Goddess, Danu, sends him.
An incredible website, cataloguing all (?) the various retroclones of Dungeons & Dragons was brought to my attention at Taxidermic Owlbear the other day.
It's really worth taking some time to take a look as there's plenty to pore over and, depending how encyclopaedic your knowledge is of this field, the chances are you'll find at least one system you weren't previously aware of.
|The training begins, cue Eye Of The Tiger|
Some of you may not be aware but in a month's time I am taking part in an "all-abilities" sponsored walk to raise funds for The Stroke Association.
I set up a JustGiving page to collect donations a couple of weeks ago and, thanks to a slew of amazing donations, broke through my initial £250 target in a week. At that point I raised the target to £500 and am hoping I'll be able to hit that by the time I start the walk.
This week, I started my "official" training regime - supervised by Rachel and prompted by the nurse who does my weekly blood tests who said that increased mobility would help my body adjust to the new tablets I'm on.
We started off with a short(ish) walk into town, but once the clocks go back this weekend we will be venturing to the parks and sports grounds around Tonbridge for some variety - and a chance to feed the ducks (not a euphemism, there will be real duck feeding going on).
Since my aneurysm and stroke nine years ago, exercising has been limited by my duff left leg (hence the walking stick) and reduced stamina.
This is the first time I have taken part in a sponsored event like this and while I'm not expecting to be able to walk a great distance (I believe a lap of the course will be about a mile and I'll be happy with that, anything else is gravy) I'm determined to put my heart and soul into it and raise as much money as possible.
Anything you can contribute to help will be greatly appreciated, although I realise a lot of you - especially those with children - are probably being constantly pestered for sponsorship money. It's also coming up to London Marathon time, which always sees a huge increase in sponsorship forms going round offices etc, so I'll understand if you can't.
Marvel visits the American Museum of Natural History to talk the science of the Exosuit with scientists Vincent Pieribone, Chief Scientist, Stephen J. Barlow Bluewater Expedition and Michael Lombardi, Project Coordinator, Stephen J. Barlow Bluewater Expedition.
Tuesday, 25 March 2014
Amy is excited for the upcoming release of Marvel's Captain America: the Winter Soldier, so she spotlights Captain America: Homecoming, a new comic set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and then takes Talkin' Comics on the road to talk comics with some very special guests... the red-carpet VIPs at the Hollywood premiere of the movie.
The popular rules-lite superhero RPG Icons will see print again this summer in a new edition penned by creator Steve Kenson and published by Green Ronin.
Icons: The Assembled Edition will include updates from Great Power (the game's expanded powers supplement) along with supplemental rules from other support products from the game's earlier release, such as Villainomicon and Team-Up.
You can read more about this forthcoming publication and how Steve came to 'team-up' with Green Ronin here.
Forget that other rubbish-looking Hercules flick that's being advertised at the moment, this first trailer for Brett Ratner's Hercules (starring Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson) looks the real deal - or as +Jay Exonauts put it so perfectly on Google+: "The Rock slashes and bashes his way through the Monster Manuals!"
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