Saturday 22 September 2012

More D&D Comicstrip Adverts from the 80s

As I discussed in my earlier post, I've been re-reading 2000AD in anticipation of seeing the new Judge Dredd movie and I uncovered some adverts from the TSR UK days back in the 80s

Here are some more comic strip adverts which I've unearthed from 1986 spanning progs 486 to 494. 
Episode 1 - Village of the Dead (Prog 486)
Episode 1 - Village of the Dead (Prog 486)
Episode 2 - The Battle (Prog 487)
Episode 2 - The Battle (Prog 487)
Episode 3 - The Swamp Creature (Prog 488)
Episode 3 - The Swamp Creature (Prog 488)
Episode 4 - Into the Tower (Prog 492)
Episode 4 - Into the Tower (Prog 492)
Episode 5 - Death and Wizardry (Prog 493)
Episode 5 - Death and Wizardry (Prog 493)
Episode 6 - The Final Enemy (Prog 494)

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Dr. Doom's Mark VI Hoberman Chassis - SPOILER

In episode 3 of the new Ultimate Spider-man series, spidey and the rest of the gang lure what they think is Dr Doom onto the SHIELD Hellicarrier only to discover that it is in fact a Mark VI Hoberman Chassis (aka a Matroyshka Doom Bot).  I particularly liked the foetal position each bot is in as it deploys from its parent bot.

The Mark VI Hoberman Chassis (aka Dr. Doom's Matroyshka Doom Bots)
The Mark VI Hoberman Chassis (aka Dr. Doom's Matroyshka Doom Bots)

This is a pretty cool idea for a robot and makes a change from the now clichéd transforming or combining robots.  Despite it's cool factor, it does have it's drawbacks in that a 1ft high Doom Bot doesn't represent much of a challenge for a superhero.

Some creative type should definitely come up with a stat block for this puppy.

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Star Shadow - D&D Comic Strip Adverts Circa 1984

Whilst re-reading my old 2000ADs I stumbled across a series of D&D Comic Strips entitled Star Shadow.

Commissioned by TSR UK to advertise the Red-Box basic D&D set, each one page strip charts the continuing adventures of Morwyn Starbrow, an Elven fighter mage, and Matt Greyshadow a Halfling rogue.  The artwork is by Tim Sell and story by Graeme Morris.  Unfortunately there are some gaps in my 2000AD collection and therefore gaps in this series so if anyone has copies of Progs 391 and 392, I'd love to hear from you.
Star Shadow Episode 1 (2000AD, Prog 387) - When The North Wind Blows
Star Shadow Episode 1 (2000AD, Prog 387) - When The North Wind Blows
(click image to embiggen)
Star Shadow Episode 1 (2000AD, Prog 388) - Footsteps in the Snow
(click image to embiggen)
Star Shadow Episode 3 (2000AD, Prog 389) - The Keeper of the Frost Giant
Star Shadow Episode 3 (2000AD, Prog 389) - The Keep of the Frost Giant
(click image to embiggen)

Star Shadow Episode 4 (2000AD, Prog 390) - The Ice Gem
Star Shadow Episode 4 (2000AD, Prog 390) - The Ice Gem
(click image to embiggen)

Star Shadow Episode 7 (2000AD, Prog 393) - Flotsam and Jetsam
Star Shadow Episode 7 (2000AD, Prog 393) - Flotsam and Jetsam
(click image to embiggen)
Star Shadow Episode 8 (2000AD, Prog 394) - Upon the Blasted Heath
Star Shadow Episode 8 (2000AD, Prog 394) - Upon the Blasted Heath
(click image to embiggen)

Star Shadow Episode 9 (2000AD, Prog 395) - The Betrayer Unmasked
Star Shadow Episode 9 (2000AD, Prog 395) - The Betrayer Unmasked
(click image to embiggen)

Star Shadow Episode 10 (2000AD, Prog 396) - Tomb of the King
Star Shadow Episode 10 (2000AD, Prog 396) - Tomb of the King
(click image to embiggen)

Sunday 9 September 2012

Moviewatch: Grabbers

Grabbers is an Irish monster movie, yes you heard right, an Irish monster movie.  Set on the small island of Erin off the Irish coast which unwittingly becomes the new home of a breed of monstrous aliens after a meteor crash lands in the sea.  Alcoholic local policeman Richard Coyle (Coupling) is the unlikely hero who, with the help of straight-laced mainland policewoman Ruth Bradley (Primeval) and a bunch of sozzled locals, uncovers a series of strange deaths and sets about saving the islanders from an unspeakable tentacled horror.

Grabbers - Movie Poster
Grabbers - Movie Poster

Director Jon Wright makes excellent use of the small budge, aided by an ensemble cast including Russell Tovey (Being Human) and Bronagh Gallagher (The Commitments) to create a story which literally sucks you in.  He is of course aided by the fantastically picturesque town of Moville (near Derry) and economic use of a well thought-out and well executed CGI monster.

Essentially an Irish Tremors, Grabbers has its truly funny, if  little stereotypical, moments and there's plenty of shocks.  The monster is also quite scary, in a slimy tentacley way and plenty of craic is thrown in for good measure.

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Awesome Aliens T-Shirt

The guys at have produced this awesome Chestburster Augmented Reality T-Shirt. 

Download the accompanying ChestBurster app from either the iTunes or Android store (depending on your mobile OS) and then point your smartphone camera at the image on the T-Shirt for a surprise!

You can buy the high quality printed t-shirt from fingerfunk or just do what I did and print it onto iron-on inkjet paper.

Sunday 26 August 2012

Everyone is John

This Friday's game was postponed and a new GM, Thora, stepped up to the plate and offered to run a a one session game called Everyone is John.  I'd never heard of this game but as it was described as a rules light freeform competitive game, it was just up my alley.

John Cleese
John Cleese
The set-up for the game is simple, John is a normal bloke going about his day-to-day existence when he has a schitzophrenic episode and begins to listen to The Voice in his head.  Each player becomes a voice, with their own unique set of skills and obsessions.  However, John can only listen to one voice at a time so the players must bid using willpower to control The Voice and thereby influence what John does.  It's handy if you represent willpower with a bunch of tokens as players can simply reveal how many tokens they have in their hand.  The winning bidder then loses those tokens for the rest of the game.  

John is quite fickle and so control of The Voice only lasts for about 10 minutes or until a player fails a roll, at which time the bidding process starts again. 


Jon Bon Jovi
Jon Bon Jovi
Each player is then issued with 6 blank cards upon which they have to write 3 skills and 3 obsessions.  These are then randomly distributed to each player making sure nobody picked their own skills or obsessions.

Skills are used to reduce the difficulty of completing an action and can be actual skills (Boxing, PC Repair, Knowledge: Thermonuclear Devices), special abilities (Hail a cab first time everytime, ) or equipment (Letter Opener, Mobile Phone, Sonic Screwdriver).  Remember, the game is competitive and what you write down goes to your opponents so picking really usefull or powerful skills will most likely work against you.

Obsessions are your victory conditions and are ranked in 3 levels:

Jeanne D'Arc
Level 1 - Easy (pig out on candy, pick your nose on live TV)
Level 2 - Medium (steal a fast car, kiss a celebrity)
Level 3 - Hard (become President of the United States, Go to the Moon)

Each time you complete an obsession you score its Level, the more times you complete them the more points you score.  At the end of the game, the player with the most points is declared the winner.


Our Skills

Can Touch
their Nose
Their Tongue
Tune a Guitar Eat Fire Can
with a
Single Ant
Sonic Screwdriver Bricklaying Kung Fu Summon a
mode of
Transport by
his Last
Can hail a cab
first time,
every time
Fly a plane Literary Criticism Become the
Master of the
by wearing a
traffic cone  on
his head
and singing
"I've got the Power,
To Pick up a flower"

Our Obsessions

LVL 1 Cook
an Ostrich
Become a
Pick Nose on
Live TV
Kick an
Authority Figure
up the Bum
and run away
Charlie Chaplin
LVL 2 Steal an
Atom Bomb
Stop a
Terrorist Bomb
from destroying
Eiffel Tower
Steal a
Waxwork of
Draw a
on a
Traffic Warden
LVL 3 Capture
a Dinosaur
Find Evidence
Aliens Exist
in Area 51
Make a dog
have a
white poo

What John Did

John Shuttleworth
John Shuttleworth
John began the game walking through Victoria Station, London when he had his first episode.  He then ran outside the station and hailed a cab telling the driver to head for Madame Tussauds Waxwork Museum.  (BID)  He asked the driver to head instead for London Zoo and if he could stop by some road works on the way.  The taxi driver pulled over to the side of the road and John leap out and grabbed a traffic cone, stuck it on his head and started singing "Ive got the Power... To Pick up a Flower".  He then summoned forth all traffic wardens and got back in the taxi. 

As the taxi sped towards London Zoo, traffic wardens were walking out of side roads in a zombie-like trance.  The taxi driver swerved around them and John opened the window and tried to grab one as they passed but failed.  (BID)  John immediately demanded the taxi head to Madame Tussauds and he tried to use his sonic screwdriver to make the taxi go faster, but unfortunately failed.  (BID)  John abandoned the taxi and whilst smoking his last cigarette, summoned the TARDIS.  As it began to materialise he spotted a nearby Lollipop Woman and kicked her up the bum and ran towards the TARDIS (but unfortunately not like Charlie Chaplin).  The Doctor was suprised that the TARDIS had been so easily summoned but when John asked to go back in time to the Jurrasic era to capture a dinosaur, his curiosity got the better of him.

John Belushi
John Belushi
Arriving in the Jurrasic era, The Doctor agreed to wait in the TARDIS for John to return and watched him walk off into the swamp.  (BID)  John used his Literary Criticism to argue with himself that the Doctor was a fictional character and that the TARDIS was a poorly executed plot device and so could not possibly have transported him back through time.  This clearly meant that the swamp he was in was simply a Jurrasic era exhibit in a Natural History Museum somewhere like Sydney, Australia.  He promptly tore the shirt off his back and waved it around in the air and shouted "I claim this land in the name of Queen and Country and hereby name her Australia!!"...


The players got into the swing of things pretty quickly and it was definitely the most hilariously anarchic and inventive game I've played in a long time.  Most RPGs are not wild fights of fantasy for obvious reasons, but it is good to let your hair down every now and then to play something which demands unbridled creativity.  This game would be great in an after convention/party situation or as we found as a filler game if your regular DM hasn't turned up.

John McEnroe
John McEnroe
With slight modification to the pre-amble (Mental Health is a serious issue) and possibly pre-defined skills/goals (to keep the action a little more grounded) this concept could be used quite successfully as an introduction to RPGs for non-gamers.  It encourages problem solving through creativity and imagination and the action is fast paced with only a modicum of dice rolling so should be able to hold most people's attention.

This is definitely going into my GMs Survival Kit and may well get another play quite soon.

Friday 24 August 2012

A Fresh-ish look at Goblins

After a year long hiatus I'm back at work hanging more meat on the bones of my campaign world.  A long time ago I decided to have one of the land masses, Khorngeldte, inhabited by the goblinoid races who were locked in an incessant war with their neighbhours, the teutonic humans of Wulfschlossen.  This has been largely restricted to both sides forming raiding parties which cross the narrow Straits of Desperation.

In my last campaign I hacked an old Dungeon Magazine scenario for the Therran Campaign (The Secrets of the Towers) in order to visit Korngeldte and introduce two new characters, a Wulfschlossian Knight and his enslaved Half-Orc tracker of undetermined orgin.  Essentially the towers became a convenient plot device allowing the PCs to escape numerous pursuers, cheat death and travel great distances quickly, but importantly, it allowed me to break ground on an untravelled section of my campaign world.

Inevitably this caused me to think about the bigger picture and how the goblinoid races fit into the world, and in the best traditions of world building, do something different which the players won't be expecting.

Goblin by Marcus Dublin
Revisiting Goblinoid Stats

When looking at the D20 SRD we find that as stats go goblins are the weakest goblinoid races, but what they lose in physical strength they make up for in cunning and dexterity.  This lead me to the conclusion that if they are to be able to build (and sustain) a kingdom capable of waging war across the straits of desperation then they must rely on either technology or magic.  

A similar concept is seen in the Lord of The Rings movies where the goblins essentially assist Saruman in the construction of his Uruk army as blacksmiths, engineers and medieval geneticists.

Comparing the stat blocks for the major goblin/orc races shows that in every case goblins do not suffer an INT penalty making them far more likely to develop technologies to compensate for their small size and weak nature.

GOBLIN -2 - 2 - - -2 40-400 Rogue
HOB-GOBLIN - - 2 2 - - 30-300 Fighter
BUGBEAR 4 - 2 2 - -2 0-20 Rogue
ORC 4 -2 - - -2 -2 30-100 Barbarian
HALF-ORC 2 -2 - - - -2 - Barbarian

Goblin Blacksmith from
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Goblins only have an improved DEX stat but their Rogue class leanings lends nicely to the idea that they are tinkerers and inventors as well as skulking backstabbers.  This is supported in the Warhammer universe where the goblins are seen to be quite inventive in nature and get all manner of cool, if shoddily constructed, war machines like the Spear Chukka, the Skull Crusher and the Man Mangoler.  One of my favourite depictions of a goblin was in the movie Hellboy II: The Golden Army where the Elf King employed the goblins to manufacture an unstoppable army of robots to wage war on humanity. 

Another popular goblin trope is that of the Warg or Wolf riding goblin which suggests they have become accomplished animal handlers in order to seize a tactical advantage.  Using animals as beasts of burden and ultimately as a power source for machinery is a necessary step upon the ladder of technological evolution.

Hob-Goblins are slightly less numerous and do not suffer the CHA penalty which hints at a possible demi-human connection.  Their Fighter class makes them likely to resolve conflict through arms rather than cunning so I can quite happily see them being turned into some sort of specially bred warrior class.

Bugbears are the rarest of all the goblins and their propensity for living in caves in very small tribes esssentially writes them off for me as a potential leader.

Orcs are basically big, strong, dumb, savage, barbarians and have significantly smaller tribe sizes than goblins which leads me to conclude that an organised goblin leader could control these creatures in small numbers if he found suitable forms of leverage as a reward for loyalty such as an addiction to a psychotropic brew or some other delicacy that the Orcs enjoyed but could not manufacture for themselves... human flesh perhaps?

Half-Orcs occupy an uncomfortable middle ground in my world, they are despised by both Humans and Orcs for not being Human or Orc enough but are an unhappy by-product of Orc raids.  I have already used a Half-Orc PC as an enslaved tracker and suspect that the goblins will have some sort of menial place for those Half-Orcs that escape the clutches of the their trueblood bretheren.

The Goblin King

Putting David Bowie's portrayal of the Goblin King Jhared aside, the concept of a Goblin King features in many myths and legends.  Some etymological research suggests that the word "Gob" or "Ghob" refers specifically to the King of the Gnomes and that Goblings are lesser gnomes.  I need a Goblin King to rule my Goblin Kingdom and see this role being filled by a goblin of unnatural intelligence, cunning and deceit.  A goblin society founded on the meritocrious principle that any goblin could rise to be the ruler through cunning, deceit and backstabbery might also produce a peculiar class of goblin politicians which I find perversely appealing.

Goblin King by Tristan HaoHao


In order cross the Straits of Desperation, my goblin war bands would need boats, these could be orc powered in the form of a bireme or longship, but if the goblins have started their own industrial revolution then a more fitting form of transport would be crude steamships.  My background for the goblin capital Tak Mor has this situated between the "Iron Tree Forest" which supplies the ore for smelting and the "Fetid Sea" which the goblins are polluting with their oil waste.

I am particularly enamoured by the Empire Landship models produced by Warhammer Forge.  I'm sure that any Wulfschlossonian villagers would be terrified if they saw one of these monstrosities lurching out of the sea on its paddle-wheels.

Marienburg Class Empire Landship - expertly painted by James Wappel
I know I'm not the first person to suggest the concept of intelligent goblins, but I feel that their current niche in the fantasy bestiary as monster minions just doesn't do them justice.

A to Z of Judge Dredd at Quaequam

In anticipation of the UK cinema release of the new Judge Dredd film on the 7th of September.

I'm highlighting my old chum James Graham who is currently blogging an A to Z of Judge Dredd which is well worth a look.

Keep up the good work Jim.

Saturday 18 August 2012

The Super Secret Happy Birthday Gary Gygax Giveaway Bundle Extravapalooza!

WOTC reprint 1st Edition Players Handbook
WOTC reprint
1st Edition Players Handbook

The Secret DM is running a great contest with an awesome prize...

A complete set of WOTCs recently reprinted 1st edition AD&D books!!


The chance to have your submission published in a professionally produced digital edition!!

All you have to do is to come up with a 10 room dungeon which evokes the feeling of 1st edition and submit your entry to with the subject line Gygax Contest.

The contest runs until 27th September 2012, so get your designing pens out... I know I will.

Thursday 16 August 2012

August 2012 RPG Blog Carnival - What's in your Backpack?

The Gassy Gnoll of Game Knight Reviews is hosting this month's RPG Blog Carnival and asks the question "What's in your Backpack?" to which I answer "Item Cards".

A selection of item cards
A sample of item cards - Available as a free PDF from RPG NOW

Now you may think that this is just a piece of blatant self promotion, but in reality this is a question which has plagued some of my (and possible your) games for years...


These non-magical backpacks, which are entirely indistinguishable from a normal backpack, bestow upon certain players the uncanny ability to pull out exactly the right item with which to execute their plan and save the day in the nick of time.  When challenged these players will often say that they've had the item for ages or that they bought it in that town they visited 6 months ago. 

In the interests of game play it is often best not to argue, but there are times when it can be detrimental to the natural flow of the plot and you need the party to have eaten their last lembas cake, supped their last drop of water or be confronted by the reality that they don't have a rope to their name when they've got a rope type dilemma.


As Berin Kingsman writes, the backpack is "an in-game manifestation of my least-favorite mechanic: encumbrance" and I've got to agree with him.  Maintaining your equipment list as a part of your character sheet is a downright chore but it also presents a few other problems.

1.  Character sheets are a player's preserve not the GM's - When GMing, I'm pretty busy and certainly don't have time to ensure that your equipment is in order and that you've been marking off your rations like a good little player, that's your job!!.  However, this is easily rectified through item cards.  Basically, if you can't produce it when challenged then tough, you simply don't have it.  You can't argue all you want that you left it in your other backpack or it's in the saddlebags on the horse which is currently enjoying a holiday in the dragon's belly, but you'll only look stupid in front of the other players.  This also cures the "infinite spell components" faux pas which affects most spellcaster PCs.

2.  PC thieves steal from other PCs, fact! - How many times has your party contained a kleptomaniac PC who likes to look through everyones gear, well now they can, safe in the knowledge that they won't see any secret annotations on the victim PCs character sheet.  Just hand them the contents of your backpack and let them rifle through to their hearts content.  Better still, do it secretly and the victim PC might not even notice that the item is gone.

3.  PCs lose stuff all the time - If you had a 300 year old heirloom sword you'd look after it right?  Not PCs, they leave these things on inn tables, in slain dragons, on the floor, under pillows, in fact everywhere other than in their scabbard or sword belt.  Now unless these weapons are magical hammers like Mjolnir, most will only return to their owners hand with the assistance of copious amounts of strong elastic, which the last time I looked wasn't in their backpack!! 

Again the item card comes to the rescue, when they lose an item they have to give it up to the GM and it is lost unless they make a concerted effort to find it.  This also goes for those clumsy characters who seem to find every ravine or cliff edge and then fall off it, you break it you lose it.

Medieval Flint and Steel
A Medieval Flint and Steel
4.  Finding stuff is fun and rewarding - Finding shiny stuff is a pleasure that can often become dull with time.  But you should see your players eyes light up when you give them a new card with a picture of a diamond necklace, or a +1 magic spoon of dining.  It's like watching a bunch of kids opening pokemon boosters, all their birthdays and christmasses have come at once. 

But seriously, having a representation of an item can also be incredibly useful and educational.  A fact I discovered Whilst researching the images for my item cards.  My preconceptions about what an item looked like or how it was used were frequently challenged.  Just take the common or garden flint and steel, for years I imagined a piece of flint and a knurled steel rod (just like I used when I was a boy scout), but the medieval version was actually hoop shaped and held in the fist like a knuckle duster.

Likewise, I find players treat their loot differently when they can visualise it with a jewellery card or a gemstone card.  You can even make items critical to your plot in the form of a key or the parts of a puzzle.  When I last ran "Challenge of Champions" I created item cards for each of items provided in each challenge which was an immense help to my players (who are not all card carrying D&D geeks) when they tried to solve the puzzles in real time.

5.  50' of hemp rope is pretty large and heavy - This is the bit of encumberance which is frankly a cludge, as it's usually interpreted  as a function of weight and not a factor of bulk.  Other items aren't easily stowed such as a 10 foot pole.  It only takes up one slot on an equipment list but it doesn't fit in a backpack which means it has to be either put together in sections or you have to hold it.  Which leads on to the next problem...

6.  PCs only have one pair of hands, usually - The classic faux pas of most players is that they're so busy fighting with a two-handed weapon they forget that they're still taking the AC bonus from their shield.  Item cards come in handy (pardon the pun) as a visual reminder of what their PC is holding at any one time, a concept familiar to Legend of Zelda players the world over.  The logical extension of this is for players to arrange their cards in a series of stacks as a visual reminder, I normally define this as the BACK (carried on your back) RIGHT (hand), LEFT (hand), WORN (on a belt or on your head) and STOWED (on a horse or in a backpack) stacks. 

This is a particularly useful mechanic when either entering or engaged in combat,  as player will need to decide what they are going to attack with before hand.  If they lose a weapon through a fumbled roll they may need to draw a different one.  Spellcasters and other non-combat specialists may become embroiled and have to use up combat rounds fishing about in a backpack for that wand or pot of greek fire that they want to use.  It really does make a difference to how your party treats combat.

Thanks of course go to Of Dice and Dragons for continuing to promote the RPG Blog Carnival.  This is my 3rd entry and you can read the rest by clicking the RPG Blog Carnival tag below.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

The Stainless Steel Rat is no more, RIP Harry Harrison

Stainless Steel Rat author Harry Harrison has passed away aged 87.  He will be sorely missed.

Stainless Steel Rat for President
2000AD Prog 393

Sunday 12 August 2012

Make: iPhone Dice Tower

iPhone 3G box - nicely sized for use  as a dice tower or dice box
iPhone 3G box - nicely sized for use
as a dice tower or dice box
iPhone dice tower: Prepare to decouple
Prepare to decouple
iPhone dice tower: Decoupled!
iPhone dice tower: ready to nest
Ready to nest
iPhone dice tower: Nested and ready for action!
Nested and ready for action!!
Okay, so it's not a dice tower made out of actual iphones, rather just the extremely sturdy boxy it came in.  I stumbled on this instructable the other day and knocked this out in a lull between olympic events last night.   

My iphone 3G got stolen a couple of years ago and I still had the box, so i decided to put the box to good use.  The 3G box is considerably larger than either the 3GS or the iphone 4 boxes (as used in the instructable) and makes a more practicle dice tower and also doubles as a capacious dice box. 

I followed the general guide in the instructable, but as I wasn't using exactly the same box, I needed to fiddle with the dimensions of the opening hole.  I also elected to just go with one baffle which throws the dice forwards onto the cradle and then down onto the 45 degree baffle at the bottom.  I think that the second baffle's job is to slow down the dice, lessening bounce-out, so I would reccommend that you stick with the instructable and put 2 baffles in if you try this yourself. 

After construction I discovered that my hand was just a bit too podgy to comfortably retrieve the dice and the visibility from an observers point of view was also quite poor.

It was a trivial matter to trim the edges of the lid at a angle to rectify this whilst maintaining its function as a lid.  I also discovered during modification that there is enough material in the off-cuts to make your baffles.  It is entirely possible to construct the dice tower solely from the contents of the iphone box with no need to resort to scraps of foam board.  Of course you will still need the glue to hold the whole thing together.

The other advantage of the using an iphone 3G box is that it comes with foam pre-glued into the lid already, which dramtically reduces the chance of dice bouncing out. 

Saturday 11 August 2012

Cyberpunk: Appendix N - Inspirational and Educational Material

In the Gygaxian tradition here is my Appendix N for Cyberpunk, a list of the books, movies and anime which have inspired my cyberpunk adventures since first encountering it in the very late 80s.  Also available on Pinterest. 

Please do not treat this an exhaustive list of what is and isn't considered cyberpunk, these are just the things which have inspired me, I will probably add to it when I get access to the deep recesses of my cortex.

Cyberpunk - APPENDIX N: Inspirational and Educational Material



Friday 10 August 2012

NSFW Movie Double Bubble - Cobra The Space Pirate and Cockneys vs Zombies

The classic 80s adult themed anime Space Adventure Cobra gets a live action movie directed by Alexander Aja (Piranha, The Hills Have Eyes).  Scheduled for 2013 there are no details other than this sweet poster.  I could be mistaken, but is that David Wenham (300, Van Helsing, Lord of The Rings, Australia)  posing as Cobra, I do hope so, cos he's a great character actor.

Thanks to the Troll Lord Stephen Chenault, for finding the trailer for Cockneys vs Zombies which if you haven't seen it is here.

Michelle Ryan (Eastenders) leads an unlikely ensemble cast including Alan Ford (aka Bricktop), Honor Blackman (aka Pussy Galore) and Richard Briers (aka Tom Goode) in a tale of Eastend bankrobbers going toe-to-stump with the walking dead.  Looks like a riot.

I'm no Eastender but isn't cockney rhyming slang for zombies, Stale Bread ... Walking Dead?

Wednesday 8 August 2012

Help Save Great Sci-Fi for the Future

Roger Zelazny's "Damnation Alley"
Roger Zelany's "Damnation Alley" is a great sounding startup which aims to preserve out of print vintage sci-fi novels by turning them into e-books.  It's certainly an interesting business model and a worthy cause which has support from noted authors Neil Gaiman and Ken Macleod

Essentially as a subscriber you will help to choose which books they acquire the rights to and you get it as part of your membership.  The small team of 3 "time-travelling archivists" aim to save at least 1 book a month and they already have a list of some quite suprising candidates in the shape of:
Roger Zelazny's "Damnation Alley", Poul Anderson's "Day of their Return", "Mayday Orbit" and "Go Home, Earthman!", Arthur C Clarke's "Imperial Earth" and  Michael Moorcock's "The Final Programme".

There is also a plan to launch a new Brooklyn bookstore where you can buy the saved works (and others) in dead tree format do help join the this and save some sci-fi books from being lost in the future.

Tuesday 7 August 2012

10 Reasons Why D&D is better than an MMORPG

Bill Cavalier
Bill Cavalier
1.  D&D doesn't crash hang or lag
2.  D&D doesn't have gold farmers
3.  D&D minions don't respawn
4.  D&D doen't need an internet connection or a subscription
5.  D&D graphics are the best you can imagine
6.  D&D lets you rewrite its bugs yourself
7.  D&D has the best plots you can imagine
8.  D&D doesn't become obsolete, just unfashionable
9.  D&D has an infinite number of hours play
10.  D&D doesn't have cheat codes

Thanks to Bill Cavalier's latest video "The Stingy DM" for the inspiration.

Sunday 29 July 2012

My Fighting Monks are Benders... discuss

In my experience, when a party is being assembled, the fighting monk is always the guy that gets picked last (even after the gnome).  

An Earth style mage using
Earth Fist Technique
Although monks are competent fighters and have a few neat abilities at higher levels, they always lose out in favour of a cleric because of their lack of magic.  This is a bit of a contradiction when considering that in most wuxia movies monks are kick ass characters full of mystical know-how.  In the Avatar anime franchise specifically, they are are masters of the four great elemental forces of air fire wind and water. 

In my recent Castle and Crusades campaign, when one of my players (a self confessed street fighter fanboy) decided he wanted to play something different,  I thought it would be nice to apply this Avatar concept on a new character class.  Luckily for me, I made a concious choice in the design stages of The Lands of Dual to create all of the landmasses first and then allocate cultural memes to each of them.  This enabled me to apply any of the associated mythologies and styles as I saw fit whilst simultaneously restricting any game destabilising effects to just one locale (in case they got out of hand).

One of these memes was that of the Feudal China seen in hundreds of Wuxia movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or House of Flying Daggers.  The island of Huang-Zua is my attempt to combine all of my favourite wuxia memes in one place and so it has become the home to the mystical Martial Mage's who use their mastery of fighting techniques to shape elemental forces to their will. 

The Martial Mage

Prime Attributes: Intelligence & Strength
Race: Human only (Huang-Zua)
Starting Gold: 30-120gp
Hit Die: d12
Alignment: Neutral Good or Neutral Evil
Weapons: None
Armour: None
Abilities: Unarmed Attack (as monk), Elemental spell-like abilities (as below)

The Four Elements, Styles and Schools of Martial Mages

Every Martial-Mage adopts a fighting style related to one of the four elements (Earth, Air, Fire or Water) and is taught how to use that styles techniques in one of four fighting schools.  Only that school can teach the secrets of their fighting style and their is fierce rivalry between all four schools.  It is forbidden to practise more than one school of fighting at a time although each fighting school's archive contains accounts of one or more styles being practised simultaneously by their ancient masters.

The Techniques

In the Avatar series, all the manifestations of this elemental power are triggered by a series of fighting moves and in RPG terms a conventional ranged touch attack is required in almost every instance.  This retricts the spell casting abilities of the Martial Mage character to use in solely in combat, but also distinguishes it as a class from other spell casters.

Avatar Fan-art by DeviantART user slifertheskydragon

Likewise, in order to perform any of the techniques a martial-mage must have access to a source of elemental material matching their fighting style.  For example, a water style martial-mage must have access to a suitable volume of water.  This makes some fighting styles difficult or even impossible to use in certain environments, for example a water style mage would find it extremely hard to use their techniques in a desert, and fire and air style mages would both find using their techniques almost impossible whilst submerged.

Duration: InstantSAVE: NO
Description and Damage
When using this attack the casters hands are enveloped by elemental material. A successful melee attack inflicts 1d6 +1 per level of damage to the target.

Duration: InstantSAVE: NO
Description and Damage
When using this attack the caster shapes a ball of elemental material into a 1ft diameter ball. Upon a successful ranged touch attack, they can fire this ball upto 100ft at a single target inflicting 1d6 +1 per level of damage.

Duration: 1 Turn / levelSAVE: NO
Description and Damage
This technique allows the caster to form a ball of elemental material into a free floating disc approximately 6ft in diameter which they can move around their body at will like a shield. This affords them a +3 AC bonus against all attacks directed at them during melee and missile combat. This also affects spells which require a successful touch attack, those that automatically hit are unnafected.

Duration: InstantSAVE: NO
Description and Damage
When using this attack the Martial Mage collects and shapes an amount of elemental material into a 1ft diameter ball. Upon a successful ranged touch attack, they can fire a barrage of shards in a 20ft wide, 100ft long cone inflicting 1d6 +1 per level of damage to anyone caught in the cone.

Duration: 1 Hour / levelSAVE: N/A
Description and Damage
This technique allows the caster to create a spinning ball of elemental material which can be ridden much like a horse or other beast of burden. The ball can move in any direction at a speed of 5mph / level of caster. Any change in direction or speed requires a DEX save to avoid falling off.

Duration: InstantSAVE: DEX
Description and Damage
By using the stomp technique a Martial Mage emits a shockwave of his chosen element material in a 50ft radius sphere around him. This shockwave does no damage but all targets within the blast radius (including those flying) must make a DEX (with a +1 difficulty modifier per level of caster) save or be immediately knocked to the ground.. Alternatively a mage can direct the stomp technique at a single target up to 100ft away.

Duration: InstantSAVE: DEX
Description and Damage
After making a successful ranged touch attack, this technique allows the caster to surround the target with a mass of elemental material unless they make a DEX save (with a +1 difficulty modifier per level of caster). Targets who are successfully captured can also break free on a successful STR save (with a +1 difficulty modifier per level of caster)

Duration: 1 Hour / levelSAVE: DEX
Description and Damage
When using this technique a Martial Mage shapes a wall of his chosen elements material into a 50ft high, 10ft thick wall upto 100ft in length directly in front of him. Any targets caught in the path of the wall who fail a DEX (with a +1 difficulty modifier per level of caster) save will be hit by the wall (causing 1d6+1 per level damage) and be pushed out of the way in the direction that the wall is growing. In the case of Air and Water Style, the wall can be as transparent as the mage wishes, however in the case of the Earth and Fire the wall can only ever be opaque. The wall is impervious to all attacks other than those which take the form of the same element which do half damage.

Duration: 1 Round / LevelSAVE: N/A
Description and Damage
The caster surrounds himself with a 10 ft diameter sphere of elemental material which is impervious to all attacks other than those which take the form of the same element which do half damage. Whilst maintaining the sphere the caster cannot attack or perform any other action.

Duration: 1 Hour / levelSAVE: N/A
Description and Damage
Using this technique the Martial Mage can achieve flight. For Earth and Water styles this is achieved by creating a disc of material underneath the caster which is then levitated vertically and horizontally in the air. In the case of Fire and Air styles, jets of material are emitted from the casters hands and or feet which propel the user vertically or horizontally. The caster can accelerate or decelerate at upto 10 Mph per level and achieve a maximum height of 1,000ft per level.

Friday 27 July 2012

Read an RPG in Public Week

Today, in memory of Gary Gygax's Birthday, I took a stroll along the river and read an RPG in public.

Reading Diana Warrior Princess by Marcus L Rowland
Not 5 minutes later this little lot rowed by...

Royal Barge "Gloriana" carrying the Olympic Torch along the river Thames
Royal Barge "Gloriana" carrying the Olympic Torch along the river Thames
(click to embiggen)

... which was nice

Monday 23 July 2012

The Boys are Back!!

The first trailer for the new series of Red Dwarf is out and by the looks of it the Boys from the Dwarf are on top form.

Sunday 22 July 2012

Congratulations Bradley Wiggins...

I've just watched Bradley Wiggins become the first British rider to win the Tour de France, the world's most gruelling bicycle race covering 4,000km over 21 days.  Congratulations to Bradley and all the other members of team SKY who helped make this possible.

Bradley Wiggins leads out Mark Cavendish during the final lap of stage 20 of the 2012 Tour de France
What has this got to do with roleplay you ask, "plot and decoration" I say, and an excuse for a rambly article about sports in RPGs.

Sporting events have featured throughout all the ages of history in some form or another and there's no reason why they cannot be incorporated into any RPG scenario when the PCs enter a new town or village. 

Medieval Sports

Victorians are often credited with inventing "leisure time" but it is estimated that medieval peasants had up to 8 weeks holiday a year, during which they engaged in a range of games and sporting activities such as:

Archery - In "The Assize of Arms" of 1252, King Henry III, mandated that every Englishman between the ages of 15 to 60 equipped themselves with a bow and arrows. In 1363, Edward III, Passed the Archery Law obliging all Englishmen to practise with their longbow every Sunday and holiday.  Needless to say archery competitions were very popular and should be a staple of any pseudo medieval fantasy game.

Bowls - Medieval bowls was a simple game of throwing a ball at a target, this illustration from the Bodliean library, shows a group of peasants taking turns throwing a bowl at a feather stuck in the ground. So popular was the game that In 1366 Edward III outlawed it as it had become a distraction from Archery practise. Edward IV issued a similar edict in 1477 against a range of pastimes such as "bowles, closh, kayles, hand-in and hand-out".

a Medieval game of Bowls
Feather-bowling (Bodleian Library, Oxford, Ms. Douce, 275, f. r12)

Boxing - Traces its origins to the Pankration of Ancient Greece where early pugilists wrapped their hands with leather thongs leaving their fingers free.  Romany Gypsies often resolve family disputes in bouts of bare knuckle fighting and there is no reason why these should not feature in the arsenal of every DM either to prove a PCs mettle or just to earn a few silver pieces when the times get tough.

Colf - The game of Golf has its origins in a much simpler version where contestants tried to hit a ball at a target such as a tree, with a wooden club.  The winner being the player who hit the target in the least number of strikes.

Gameball - Many games are considered to be the progenitor of football, but my favourite example is that of gameball and the report of a match played in the village of Ulgham, Northumberland in 1280, which resulted in a player being killed after running onto an opponents dagger.  Sounds more like Bloodbowl than football to me and could be a great opener for a murderous plot..

Henry VIII throwing a sledge hammer
Hammer-Throwing - This olympic event can trace its origins all the way back to the Tailteann games held in Ireland in 1829 BC.  Even the young Henry VIII is said to have enjoyed the sport.  I expect that every Dwarf in the Known (and unknown) Kingdoms to have a penchant for this sport.

Hurling or Shinty - Another Gaelic sport which can trace its origins back 3000 years. 

Horseshoes - Given that every village worth its salt would have at least two things, an Inn and a Blacksmith, it's inevitable that someone would invent a game which involved throwing old horseshoes at a target.

Horse Racing - The chariot races of ancient Rome had long since died out and by the Middle Ages, equestrian sport was largely confined to using horses in jousting tournaments, although I find it hard to believe that races between bored rich nobles did not take place in Medieval England.  However, on the continent the Palio di Sienna can trace its origins back to 1590 when the then Grand Duke of Tuscany outlawed bull fighting and so the population took to racing buffalo and donkeys around the piazza.  Those crazy europeans...

Palio di Sienna
Palio di Sienna
Jousting Tournaments - The joust has its origins in the Gladiatrial Arenas of Rome, the word joust is actually derived from the Latin 'Juxtare' (to meet together).  By the Middle Ages these had formalised into one of two forms, the Joust a Plaisance, an organised tournament taking place over several days with several elimination rounds or the Pas d'armes, where a Knight would advertise for combatants from the local area and then take on all challengers at once in a single bout.  Could your Knight or Paladin resist the temptation to sign up if they found one of these adverts nailed to a tree?

Quarter-staff Contests - The Robin Hood vs Little John duel is probably the most famous example of a quarter-staff contest in popular culture.  The rules for such contests are unknown but by Elizabethan times these had evolved into a contest between two people similar to fencing.  Examples of a range of polearm fighting techniques are graphically illustrated in the 1459 Fechtbücher (literally Fight Book) "Alte Armatur und Ringkunst" written by the fencing master Hans Talhoffer (An online version of the which is available courtesy of the Royal Library, Copenhagen).

Skittles - The ancestor of modern ten-pin bowling which shares its origins with bowls and other ground billiards games.  An example of a skittles set was found in the tomb of an Egyptian child dating from 2000BC.  In England this was mostly an indoor game played in a wood or clay floored alley with many local rule variations.  For bored PCs what else is there to do in a tavern when you don't feel like quaffing or listening to that rubbish bard?

Stoolball - An ancestor of Cricket, originally played between two "wickets" made from the seats of stools hung from trees or fixed to poles approximately 16 feet apart.  The object of the game was for the bowler to attempt to hit the stool whilst the batter defended with a paddle shaped bat scoring a point for each delivery defended.  A game which has clearly stood the test of time, as a formalised version is still played today.

A game of medieval stoolball
A game of medieval Stoolball

Wrestling - One of history's most ancient sporting contests which needs little explanation.

The Challenge of Champions
The Challenge of Champions series of scenarios (published in Dungeon issues #58, #69, #80, #91, #108 and #138) by Jonathan M Richards pits a party of 4 players against a series of D&D puzzles with specific challenges for fighter, priest, wizard and thief classes.  They are a lot of fun for the players and can be a great way to put a party of disparate PCs together at the start of a game.