Monday 31 January 2022

Achievement Unlocked - Bloganuary

I mentioned in my New Years Resolutions post that I wanted to try to blog more and so I have, well at least for January 2022 that is.

What was the secret to your success?

Getting ahead of the game was key.  Writing and scheduling posts made the task much less stressfull and less prone to writers block.

I regularly spend my Saturday morning anlysing my notes from the previous nights session at Dragons Keep Roleplay Club and committing the action to our session blog.  

I find writing is cathartic and you need something to warm you up and get the creative juices flowing.  Our session blogs were an excellent motivational tool for this.

What about Inspiration?

A lot of my blog is about getting my ideas out of my head and onto a page where they can be immortalised and free up some space for something new.  Sometimes this is immediate, I have an idea in the shower and scribble it down, other times it takes more planning and production. These longer form articles can take many weeks to craft, especially if they are accompanied by original artwork.

Can you keep this up?

Maybe... Today, I return to work which means early starts and a long commute into and out of the office.  Will I have the energy to think about things or will I just decompress myself on the sofa. who knows...

Sunday 30 January 2022

Movieweek 3 - Spider-men vs Munich

Real life events once again got in the way of my screentime and life appears to be giving me a bit of a punch in the guts at the moment.  However, I did manage to slip in one long awaited movie and a bit of an epic historical espionage thriller. 

Spider-man: No Way Home (2021) - 8/10

I was really looking forward to this latest outing of Tom Holland's Peter Parker and to be fair it was a pretty good movie if you view it through the lens of setting up the Multiverse of Madness story arc.  As a standalone spiderman movie it kind of sucked.  

I totally get what they were trying to do with the premise.  Bring back some characters from yesteryear, fan favourites.  It was a neat idea which fell flat in execution.  We have seen this spider-man fight, as a member of The Avengers, much more imposing and dangerous villains than those from his past and they just seemed so provincial.  Moving the focus to helping and not killing them was something new but I just didn't care enough about them to feel empathy towards them.  

Live action Doc Oc was always a talker rather than a doer and whilst I always enjoy seeing Alfred Molina on the screen, this role is really beneath him.  I did like that he accepted his redemption with grace and humility which made him seem like a much more complex character than perhaps his earlier outing gave him credit for.  However, Sandman was always a pretty pathetic character, Electro's alter ego was more interesting than he was and Willem Dafoe's green goblin was only interesting when he went full goblin.

It was nice, but a bit weird, to see the other spider-men, although Toby Macguire is really starting to show his age.  This felt like they were trying to reference Spider-Man into the Spider Verse but in a much less satisfying way.  Each has their own cautionary tale for the MCU spider-man and this was painfully self aware such as referencing the back problems, the "Amazing" prefix etc etc.  I'm not adverse to a dollop of fan service every now and then, but this was really quite heavy handed.

Ultimately the film is a two hour prelude to a quick and largely down beat finale in the last 30 minutes.  I felt quite depressed by the ending and I hope that this will ultimately be resolved in future MCU movies because I truly felt that everyone got a raw deal at the end of this movie.  

Perhaps this is the MCU's defining moment, it's Empire Strikes Back middle film, it just definitely wasn't what I expected of a spider-man movie.

Munich: The Edge of War (2021) - 9/10

Wow, what a movie!!  This is a real tense espionage thriller set against the backdrop of impending war and the Munich peace conference.  Wonderfully cast with the ever classy Jeremy Irons who blows everyone away with his portrayal of Neville Chamberlain, but some creditable performances by some younger faces.  

This movie is based on the best selling book by Robert Harris and is an insight into the year long prelude before the outbreak of WWII which gave the Allies the time to prepare to win.  Chamberlain has been treated quite badly by history, mostly through the benefit of hindsight, and this movie goes someway towards trying to explain the events surrounding the peace conference and the famous piece of paper waving moment which ultimately defined his Prime Ministership.

It's a beautifully crafted movie with perfect pacing and stage craft which is rare from Netflix.  Every moment is engrossing and the viewer feels like they are transported to Autumn 1938 and that they are a fly on the wall at a pivotal moment in history.  The last time I felt like this was when I watched the masterfull Churchill.

This movie manages to pull off the almost impossible, a war movie without any war.  I recommend any real cinefile should put this on their bucketlist immediately.  

Saturday 29 January 2022

Dungeonquest - It's a Classic!

One of my passions is the Games Workshop Bookcase format games of the 1980s.  I am gradually completing my collection and one of the games I absolutely had to have was Dungeonquest.

Dungeonquest (or should I call it Dragon Keep)

Drakborgen was designed by two Swedes Jakob Bond and Dan Glimme and licensed to a range of board game companies.  Games Workshop picked up the license for the UK and sold it as Dungeonquest.

The game is essentially a race to the center of a randomly generated maze where you grab some of the Dragon's hoard and try to get out before the dragon wakes up.  As you generate your path you will encounter variouos obstacles, dead ends, traps, monsters designed to halt your progress or rob you of valuable turns.  

There is a heavy push your luck element to the game and whilst on your way out of the dungeon you won't have to face any of the monsters you encountered getting to the dragon, your path out may have been blocked requiring you to start finding a new path and encountering new monsters and traps.

Man, is this game stacked against you.  I remember playing it once back in the 80s but I didn't remember how hard it is to win.  It's a lot of fun 

It's a component fest with lots of cards and tiles, 4 character models in really cheap hard styrene and plenty of plastic cones which were the defacto stat tracking counter of the day.  The component quality is classic Games Workshop, thin as you like cardboard that just wouldn't fly in todays boardgame market.

Replayability is high because every game will have a different collection of tiles in your path.  Yes, the choice of monsters is limited, but the ingenious combat mechanism means that the monsters react differently and your combat outcome will vary depending on the cards you and the monster play against each other.  

Dungeonquest (1985) Games Workshop

Art was provided by Gary Chalk (creator of the Lone Wolf books) and it is very much of its era.

Re-releases and Immitators

There have been numerous reissues of this game.  It was rereleased in Sweden as Drakborgen Legenden in 2002 and in the 2010s Fantasy Flight teamed up to reissue a few of the Games Workshop bookcase games they chose Dungeonquest alongside Fury of Dracula and Warrior Knights (probably the three best games of the series).

Drakon is another random tile laying dragon heist boardgame which Fantasy Flight re-released back in 2006 as part of their silverline game range.  A super simple game which turns it from being a race to the center to get to the dragon into a race against the other players and avoid the dragon.  I also own this and for a time it was a go-to filler game if our friday night sessions started late or ended early.  It's a quick game and is so easy to pick up for new players.

RPG Inspiration

The tile laying aspect of this game really floats my boat.  I'm a big fan of the dungeonmorphs concept and have created a bunch of my own tiles over the years and even contributed some art to a kickstarter and the davesmapper project.

It would be childs play to use the tiles to map out a random dungeon for use in any role playing game.  Much quicker than the famous Appendix A - Random Dungeon Generator found in the Dungeon Masters Guide (DMG) in my opinion.  I might even have a go myself one day. 

Every year at Dragons Keep Roleplay Club we host a memorial trophy in honour of members who are no longer with us.  One year, I actually went to the trouble of building a 2d cardboard version of the game but with a simplified combat system and character generation which used playing cards.

Thursday 27 January 2022

A New RPG YouTuber Worth a Watch

From time to time the algorithm hits paydirt and suggests a video that tickles my fancy.

Ethnic Diversity and Role Playing Games

This is a fascinating take on the problem seen from the eyes of one black roleplayer.

My regular Friday night group, Dragons Keep Roleplay Club, is a very ethnically diverse bunch of guys and gals, but we also do not have any black players.  

Is this a generational issue, because I am sure diversity among players is not an issue in video games.

The zeitgeist fueled by nostalgia vehicles such as Stranger Things would have us believe that it was different in the 80s.  The make up of the core friends conveniently mirrors that of the Ghostbusters, but the interesting thing about Lucas is that he is also our conduit to the cultural changes in the world which surrounds Hawkins.  He is confident but at the same time wants to embrace the latest trendsto blend in.

Stranger Things Ghostbusters

His sister was also a fantastic addition to the show.

I hope that as time goes on more black players get introduced to this fantastic hobby and they can enjoy the fun of letting your imagination run wild. 

Go watch the video and like and subscribe because this is a voice I  think needs a bigger audience.

Tuesday 25 January 2022

ZVP - The World Needs This Movie

I stumbled across this fan made trailer the other day and was gripped.  Watch it right to the end and see if you agree with me.  This needs to be made into a feature length movie.

Monday 24 January 2022

Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures - Map Tiles

Cast your mind back to 2003 when WotC released the D&D Miniatures Game.  Each set came with a 5"x8" single sided cardboard map tile.

Dungeons & Dragons Pokemon

The D&D Miniatures Game was essentially WotC's attempt tocreate a D&D miniatures Collectible Card Game and cash in on the popularity of Pokemon which was everywhere at the time.  This isn't meant as a slight, basically every games company was trying to do the same.  It was popular among regular D&D players as a cheap way to get officially licensed versions of painted miniatures for your AD&D Game (3.5 at the time) and was instrumental in introducing D&D to a whole new audience of young players.

The Map Tiles

These maps are a useful addition to the Game Master's arsenal of tools either for inspiration or for that on the fly dungeon, the one that is inexplicable and doesn't make any sense.

A complete archive of the map tiles seems nowhere to be found.  Come on internet do your thang.

Blood Rock Cave
My collection includes:  

  • Assembly Tile 3
  • Assembly Tile 4
  • Aftermath
  • Ancient Temple 
  • Blood Rock Cave 
  • Burial Chamber
  • Spike Stones Cave
  • Torture Chamber


If you know of anywhere that has a complete listing of the tiles which were available or you would like to share your memories of playing the Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures game please feel free to use the comments section below.

Sunday 23 January 2022

RIP - Meat Loaf (1947 - 2022)

This week we lost one of Rock 'n' Roll's greatest voices.

I don't have much to add to the volumes of heartfelt thanks for an amazing contribution to pop culture, movies and music but I'll leave this piece of artwork here as my memorium.

Meat Loaf as Eddie (Rocky Horror Picture Show)

Saturday 22 January 2022

Dungeonmorphs Vietnam - Junglemorphs 1

In response to the August 2021 RPG Blog Carnival topic "Let's Build a Dungeon" I wrote an article "Where we're going wee don't need walls!" for my friday night club Dragons Keep Roleplay Club 

I opined that the principles of dungeon building could, with a bit of imagination, be used to create any wilderness encounter.

The focus of my attention was an upcoming Savage Worlds: Tour of Darkness campaign set in the steamy jungles of Vietnam sometime during the Vietnam War (1969 to 1972).

In that article I suggested that patrols could be mapped using geomorphs or rather Junglemorphs.  True to my word this weekend I began scratching away at squared paper and came up with the first set of Junglemorphs.

Junglemorphs #1
Download a bigger version here - Junglemorph#1

Friday 21 January 2022

Sir Ian Livingston

The 2022 New Years honours list had a surprise in store for Gamers, with the legendary founder of Games Workshop, Ian Livingstone, getting a knighthood.

Arise Sir Ian Livingstone CBE

Sir Ian became a Knight Bachelor, the most ancient sort of British knight who can trace their history back to the 13th-century reign of King Henry III.

Sir Ian Livingstone CBE

He is a giant of the UK Games Industry (and I would argue the global one as well), being responsible for founding the behemoth Games Worshop which alledgedly is more profitable than Google.  Growing up in the 80s they dominated the boardgaming scene with epic titles like Space Hulk and Heroquest.

My Particular passion is for the bookcase boardgames released during this early period, but his influence on me includes his work as a writer of Fighting Fantasy Books, the early licensing and import of Dungeons & Dragons into the UK alongside publishing UK versions of games such as Paranoia, Runequest and Stormbringer.  

The founding of miniatures company Citadel rocked the little lead men idustry at the time and they were soon dominating the shelves with their excellent sculpts in never before seen detail.  

In later life Sir Ian got involved in Computer Games with Domark which was bought by Eidos and he was instrumental in securing the licenses to Tomb Raider and Hitman. He ended up contributing to the Tomb Raider Anniversary game.

I don't think there is another man who has made such a big impact, and continues to play a role in the UK games Industry and it is such a pleasure to listen to him speak at events like Dragonmeet which he regularly attends as a guest of honour.

Thursday 20 January 2022

Doctor Danny Dyer?

Now that Jodie Whittaker's stint as The Doctor is nearing it's end, the rumour mill has started turning.  Today, I learned that Danny Dyer could be in the running to be the next Doctor Who!

A Mockney Cockney Rhyming Slang Timelord.  I Can't Adam and Eve it!

If the doctor can regenerate into a woman then there's no reason why she can't be a pearly king is there guvnor?  

Danny Dyer the Cockney Doctor Who?
"Avvit!" or "Avin a Girafe"?

In terms of regional accent we've had 3 Scots, 2 Scouse, 1 Mancunian, 1 Tyke, a bunch of southerners and 1 Received Pronunciation.  

However, looking at the stats, I think it's glaringly obvious that we need a Welsh doctor.  

Actor/actress options include; Catherine Zeta-Jones (Darling Buds of May), Ioann Gruffudd (Fantastic 4), Jonathan Pryce (Brazil), Iwan Rheon (Game of Thrones), Ruth Jones (Gavin & Stacey), Michael Sheen (Passengers), Rhys Ifans (The Kingsman), Christian Bale (Batman The Dark Knight), Paul Whitehouse (The Fast Show).

That's a cavalcade of talent right there, although I do hear that Daniel Craig is at a loose end since hanging up the keys to the Aston Martin. Whichever actor gets tapped up for the role, can we please keep their identity a secret until the regenration episode airs.

Let me know who you think should be the next Doctor Who in the comments below.

Wednesday 19 January 2022

I am 500 Posts Old

Congratulations to me on my 500th published post.

Yoda - When this old you are, look this good you will not!

Here's a bunch of articles I am most proud of:

Optical Illusions Posts

I wrote a bunch of articles about optical illusions in art and movies and how you can integrate them into your games.  See: Optical Illusions

Free Mapping Software

A run down of all the freeware I could find (at the time) to help you make your own RPG maps at different scales.  This is a perrenial favourite and always seems to feature highly in my popular posts.  See: Mapping Tools Part 1 

Rescued Numerous Vintage Boardgames

Over the years I have rescued several boardgames such as Belisha, Chainsaw Warrior, Curse of the Mummy's Tomb, Judge Dredd and even translated my German Language copy of Cleopatra and the Society of Architects into English.   

Published my own Stuff

I have been running my own vanity project for some years now, making pocket money PDF downloads ranging from Item Cards to Papercraft Scenery check out my Store on DriveThruRPG

Tuesday 18 January 2022

Citi-Block Floor Plans for Judge Dredd

In my A to Z of the 80s, D was for Dungeon Floors and I included an honourable mention of the Judge Dredd Slaughter Margin boxed set and the rarer Citi-Block floorplans.

Citi-Block Floorplans

I have never thought too much about them and to be honest I just thought that Citi-Block was just more floorplans in the style of Slaughter Margin (which I own) with some additional counters.  I never had the incentive to buy it. 

That was until I saw this excellent Youtube video which details so much more.

Having now learned that the box includes rules on generating your own city blocks I am utterly gutted that I never picked this up back in the day.  

Copies now command a princely sum on eBay!!

Monday 17 January 2022

More Starblazer Comics

I blogged recently about Starblazer Comics the small format sci-fi stories from my childhood.  Thanks to eBay a few more dropped onto my doormat this week.

Starblazer #50 - Moonsplitter

#50 - Moonsplitter - Out of the cosmic rim, one of the many Galactic wars raged. Only one thing stood between the Earth Galac-Squad as it swept triumphantly towards the Mease aggressors homeworld - An impregnable armoury on the barren planet known as Silicon IV.  General Larz Pluto (love it) readied his Earth forces for an invasion that would end the war.  

Issue 50 marks fearless Fighting-Scientist Hadron Halley's first appearance as he fights off the Mease to save some Galac-Squad soldiers on the planet Silicon IV.  Halley uses his gadgets and his knowledge of science to single handedly defeat the bald-headed Mease and get back to the safety of a Terran carrier only to find that General Larz Pluto has been captured.

Halley mounts a one-man rescue mission and infiltrates the Mease base, locates the Genral and makes a bid to escape.  The interior design of the Mease base is really interesting and features numerous psychedelic looking geometric patterns which wouldn't look out of place in a Zenith strip.  Curiously the Mease also seem to use the English alphabet, which is handy.  The titular moonsplitter device makes its debut and the Fi-Sci command use it to bombard the mease base with moon fragments utterly devastating the planet, but that's okay because they are the good guys... right?   

Starblazer #51 - Prisoners of Zorr

#51 Prisoners of Zorr - By the year 2382 Earth was the administrative centre of The Galactic Foundation.  The gigantic Sandpoint Military Academy trained a multi-planetary peace-keeping force and the highlight of each year was the passing out parade when only the best pupils qualified.  The planet Zorr had observers present... and they were interested in only the best.

Cadets Sol and Hammond are top of their class at Sandpoint (a potmanteau of Sandhurst and Westpoint) and due to graduate in a few days when thay are kidnapped by mysterious alien observers and transported to a prison compound on the planet Zorr.  

Along with cadets from other worldsthey are subjected to batteries of tests and arduous training exercises to turn them into the ace pilots that the planet's ruler Zorr needs to fly his Dragon Ships and conquer the galaxy.   Will they escape the prison and overthrow this evil dictator?  Will they ever see Earth again?

A typical Starblazer tale as our heroes dash from one death defying encounter to the next.  There is definitely a WWII vibe about this issue, the bad guy, Zorr, looks like a cut price Mussolini and the Zorr soldiers have a mild Nazi look to them.  I was most surprised to see Zorr and General Valcan ride in on a sci-fi version of the WWII manned torpedo known as The Chariot.    

#52 The Mask of Fear - By 3000AD Man had spread out and colonised worlds among the stars.  With men, went crime. Wealth and position were highly prized, and life was cheap.  Desperate men did desperate things to achieve wealth and position - even destroy entire worlds.

When a mysterious group of three criminals destroy the planet Deltan they murder millions of innocent inhabitants including the family of Special Agent Hart Tallis.  His mission is to bring the three to justice and to seek revenge.  A fairly simple galactic manhunt as Tallis follows the few clues he can piece together.  Fortunately for him he grew up on a heavy G world he is more than a match for most of his assailants.  One by one he tracks down the members of the group of three and uncovers more evidence of their intergalactic crimes until he finally comes face to face with The Mask.  

Only one question remains... Is the mysterious Mask someow related to Diktor Van Doomcock Future Ruler of Earth?

Starblazer #54 - The Torturer of Triton II
#54 The Torturer of Triton II -
The Terran Galc-Squad were the prime fighting and exploration force of the year 2280, ready to space-warp to trouble spots anywhere within the star-systems of Federation space.  Galactic conflict was a complex business, and could involve forces beyond the experience and understanding of an ordinary galac-soldier.  To meet this challenge, a specialist unit was formed, men who had the brain power to understand science, combined with the strength and courage of a fighter.  They were called the fighting scientists and their outfit was called the Fi-Sci branch of Galac Squad.

Another Hadron Halley adventure, which opens with him deliberately crashing his shuttle into the docking bay.  What a joker!!  But wait, he survives certain death using a force-field shell he has invented.  That's going to be important later on.  The art in this issue is top notch although some of the spaceships look like they were inspired by legendary spaceship artist Chris Foss.  The one of page 31 bears an uncanny resemblance to the Jodorowsky's Dune spaceship.  The cover art depicts the evil Torturer of Triton and reminds me of Thundercats villain Mumm-RaThe evil aliens of the story look pretty good even if they are only wearing what look like silver underpants!     

#56 The Sleeping Legion - By the year 3500 Solar powered space craft had blazed man across the Galaxy.  Each passing star was an energy source, charging solar panels that fed unbelievably powerful engines.  Thus was the Milky Way explored until only the galaxies beyond remained a mystery.  Man was too busy forming the Galactic Commonwealth to take up this new challenge, so unmanned probes were sent outside the galaxy.  These reported the existence of strange, alien cultures, and armed forts were built around the galactic perimeter in case of need.  But when those forts were eventually attacked they proved useless against the might of the aliens, who at all costs had to be prevented from activating their sleeping legion.

Our heroes this week are Crane, an eyepatched wannabe Snake Plisken and his trusty droid UNGO or UMGO (The letterer seems to have had a bad day).  The aliens from the planet Largos bear a striking similarity to TMNTs Kang and once again seem to be dressed in nothing but metallic underpants.   

Crane has a real time of his life and ends up getting swallowed by a giant metal right off the cover of Judas Priests, Screaming for Vengeance. The alien art is really outta sight.  We have aliens in mobile guard towers that look like Wallace's wrong trouser's, Blobs that live in frozen craters, an alien spider that looks like it overdosed on H.R. Gieger's Biomechanics, but nothing quite prepares you for the sight of Crane in his space suit.

#57 Galactic Lawman (A Planet Tamer Story) - The Planet Tamer!  Throughout a lawless universe the name was spoken in whispers.  Just who was this mysterious instrument of justice.  Part man and part machine?  none could say for certain, but one thing was sure, wherever Evil went The Planet Tamer followed, and The Planet Tamer punished!

Our story opens on the prison ship Negril (which is also a resort town in Jamiaca) where the monosyllabic Molok, a being of pure Evil with the good looks of Brian Blessed, is none too pleased with being de-corticated.  Meanwhile in a cheap knock off Westworld the Planet Tamer arrives to arrest galactic fraudster Lorix.  With the crook swiftly apprehended and the entire pleasure dome time bombed until the space police can turn up, the Planet Tamer jets off on his space scooter towards Pados 12.  Enroute he encounters the wreckage of the Negril and learns that Molok and some convicts have escaped to the planet below.  

So begins a manhunt across the galaxy but we also discover much about our hero the Planet Tamer's history.  He was once a UPO Marshall called Jubal McKay before he was injured.  His paralysed body was rebuilt by a ceybernetics expert in some Robocop like experiment.  Catching up with Molok we discover that the de-corticator has somehow given the crook the power to manifest creatures made of ectoplasm.

This week's issue throws the kitchen sink of plot devices at our hero and then some.  How did it all turn out, well I;m not telling so you will just have to read it yourself.      

#58 Pyramid Power - After the Great Galactic War of 2482 an uneasy truce was established.  Many worlds joined a concordat to forge a lasting peace, but hte most powerful single nation, the Pugnarions, declined to take an active part.  They saw peacekeeping duties as an increased burden on their powerful spacefleet's patrolling capabilities.  Eventually, in 2492, the Pugnarions were persuaded to take part in the Amity Day celebrations.  In honour of this event they agreed to display their legendary symbol of power - the priceless ancient diamond - The Pyramid of Pugnaria.  A Concordat vessel was sent to transport the diamond along with other treasures to Centros, the Concordat capital.

The early 80s were the golden age of mysticism history authors like Eric von Daniker and this Starblazer's click bait (before click bait was a thing) title suckers us into a gripping tale of intergalactic heist whodunnit.

Investigator Petrie (he's a real dish) enlists the assistance of Professor Calegh as they track down the jewel thiefs before the Pugnarions lose their patience.  On the planet Kanthus they stop a mugging and with their new friend in tow hit the space pub (aka a fluid replenishment centre) and embark on a manhunt to find some aliens who never take off their spacesuits.  That's ruddy mysterious!

On Rogus they find an ancient egyptian tablet they return to earth to the egyptian museum to have it translated, the professor has seen the tablet before along with the spacesuited aliens and in a flash they are off to Sadalmelek.  Flitting from one planet to another is a trope within Starblazer stories.  If you haven't visited at least 4 alien worlds per issue then you feel a bit short changed.  The aliens (Xsilith) have been placing transmitters at strategic locations throughout the galaxy and use pyramid science to harness the energy of five suns energy creating a super weapon.  Surely it would have been easier to build a death star...

Sunday 16 January 2022

Movieweek 2022 - Week 2 - Flying Sharks, a Titanium Girl & some Eternals

I didn't watch as many movies this week as real life events got in the way a little.  I am now back to the grind after the long Christmas break and I had the small issue of finding a new car.  Hopefully my evenings will now be free to relax and watch some movies.

Sky Sharks (2020) - 3/10

Sky Sharks (2020)
Sometimess I say that I watch movies so that you don't have to and that adage has never been truer than in the case of Sky Sharks.  

Having seen the trailer for this movie about a year ago, I was honestly looking forward to seeing this and hoping that it would be another cult classic like Iron Sky, or Dead Snow.  It's not, it's an out and out exploitation movie more like Sharknado but with more sex gags, and not great ones either.

There are precious few moments in the movie which I thought were worthwhile and it seems to lumber from one set piece to another.  The characters are instantly forgettable as they try to end the Nazi Sky Shark threat once and for all but the only way to do that is to sacrifice a plane full of innocent people to lure out the Sharkwaffe.

Not content with having zombie nazis, there's a whole muddled section about zombie vietcong.  It makes precious little sense and should be avoided like the plague.

Titane (2021) - 5/10

Titane (2021)
Titane is a tough film to watch.  I'm no stranger to violent french films, I loved Doberman, I loved Man Bites Dog and I have watched Irreversible, but Titane just didn't grab me.  

The main character of Alexia is just a little bit too hard to watch in places and I had to take a break (of 2 months) before going back to complete watching it.  This is always a bad sign and either tells me that I am just not in the right mood for this movie or that it is really not a great movie.

This is an entirely different situation to that of movies like Fight Club and the TV Show Squid Game which I actively avoided thanks to the trailers.  However, having watched both, I can understand why I reacted negatively to the marketing.  

Titane should be right up my alley but the central premise to the film, that psycopathic murderer Alexia has been knocked up by an automobile, is a bit too far fetched for a movie which takes itself very seriously.  SFter a killing spree, she then runs away and gets taken in by a fireman who lost his son.  The relationship between Alexia and Vincent is a strange one full of confused sexual tension and paternal grief. 

There is a good amount of body horror in this movie and well done to whoever did the prostetics work and practical effects as they were flawless and utterly convincing.  It reminded me somewhat of the Tetsuo movies which were an awesome blend of cyberpunk and film noir with a similarly transhumanist motif running through them.  However, they are much simpler films which don't try to tell multiple stories full of complex human emotions.

Definitely one of the oddest films that I have seen in the last ten years.

Eternals (2021) - 4/10

The MCU lumbers on like a juggernaught in this latest release from the house of mouse and we are starting to to run out of really compelling stories to tell it seems.  Full disclosure, I am not a hardcore superhero movie fan and I prefer the way that DC Animated Universe treats the properties of Batman, The Justice League, Superman and Justice League Dark to the live action Marvel universe.

The Eternals promised a lot with its huge cast of A-List talent and I am so glad that Hollywood has recognised Gemma Chan as an actress who can headline a movie.  But, and it is as big bit, this movie had pacing problems from the beginning.  It chose to ponderously establish the emotional baggage that many of the characters had saddled themselves with over the course of 7,000 years spent watching over humanity and waiting for the Emergence.   

The real story was of them gradually wiping out the deviants until none remain.  Instead, against a backdrop of the fall of Tenoctitlan, we have Salma Hayak (Ajak) nonchalantly declare that the last deviant was dead.  Like a 60s supergroup, the band breaks up and they each go their seperate ways, but we don't get any montage of what they do with temselves in the intervening 500 years.  

This was a great opportunity to do some B-Roll of characters lives intertwined with famous pivotal historical events but instead we go straight into a Bollywood dance number so jarring that it rips you right out of the movie.  We don't really understand why, because in the few scenes that Kingo was in, there was literally no character development.  I cared much more about his valet than I did about him.  This is a big flaw in the build up of the movie because we struggle to bridge the gap between the Eternals as they were and what they have become.  We have little to no reference to what they have witnessed, the wars they have seen, the things they have done to hide their presence from humans as they openly live as literal Gods among men.

We then jet off to some desert hovel in Australia where Gilgamesh is living in relative squalor looking after Thena where Sersi is told by Arishem the Prime Celestial, the earth shattering truth (quite literally) behind their mission.  This was another wasted opportunity to dump some Celestials lore whihc would have driven Marvel fans wild.  For example, how many celestials are there?, who are they?, how long do they live? why do they need more celestials? what functions do they perform? what are their powers? why is Tiamut important? If celestials are so powerful why can't Arishem (The Judge) wipe out all the Deviants in a snap of his fingers?  Seems like Celestials are just a plot convenience to me.

From this point on you would think that the story would really pick up pace as we now know that there is a ticking clock.  As Tiamut's emergence draws near why aren't we seeing more of these global earthquakes and scenes of minor Deviants ravaging metropoli? 

Some of these characters were hard to love as in the case of Druig, and others you just felt were nothing more than an artists preliminary sketch (Makkari).  When we catch up with Druig he has become some sort of religious cult leader in the Amazonian jungle, controlling his followers with his mind.  This is not at all creepy behaviour and makes him really endearing to the viewer (irony).

There was precious little to like about some of the characters who clearly have been playing some background role in the evolution of humanity and then "check out" when the going gets tough.  The scene of Phastos in the ashes of Hiroshima was particularly trite and cliche without any other WWII scenes.  

What was Druig, a character who clearly had the deepest connection and concern for humanity doing while war raged across the globe?  It would have been great to see a character reading a newspaper about the exploits of Captain America fighting the Nazis.  It's as if this movie operates within an MCU vacuum, the story is selectively blind and deaf to what is going on in the world around it. 

The problem with this approach is that it ultimately dehumanises the Eternals as characters.  If they can comfortably sit back and spectate as the the Nazi onslaught kills 15 to 20 million people across Europe, how are we expected to empathise with them when they get upset at the killing of 130 to 226 thousand people at the end of the war?  We needed those historical reference points to establish the character's gradual descent into disillusionment, anger and guilt.

This was handled much better in the movie Highlander (1986) in just a couple of flashbacks we learn how Connor Mcleod stumbled through history doing what little he can as an immortal without any flashy superpowers. 

Eternals could have been a good movie but it suffered from terribly poor storytelling, too many characters and laborious exposition.          

Saturday 15 January 2022

Session Blogging - Why I Bother Recapping my RPG Sessions

I have mentioned before that I have been the defacto session writer for our group at Dragons Keep Roleplay Club for some time now.  It takes up a good portion of my weekend but here are a few reasons why I do it.

5 Reasons Why I Write Session Reports

1. It Engages Me - Yes, that's right, if I am scribbling notes througout the game I am completely focussed on what is happening at the table.  I've been roleplaying on and off for 40 years and it's easy to become blase and become distracted by the joking, camaraderie and snacking that usually fills up at least 50% of the game.

2. It Helps the GM - Most sessions begin with a recap of what happened in the previous week.  I have witnessed several instances of the GM logging onto the last session and skimming through their own game and pulling out the salient points.  It helps their worldbuilding consistency as there's always a reference to NPCs we have interacted with (especially those created on the fly).  It helps them to remember the important details of who said what and to whom.  

When I am the GM the session report is formed from my game notes and I get the players to read the report before we start the next session.  That way I don't have to do as much of a recap to the previous session and we start playing faster.

3. It Helps Players - Real-life happens and it is a more common occurence as we get older that we have to forgoe our game night to deal with other priorities.  Having a session blog helps missing players to pick up where they left and still feel like a valued member of the group.

4. Player Engagement - Players like to read about their exploits every week.  I know of at least one player in our group who loves to see their quotes in print.  They know that they can always send me an update or an amendment if they want to highlight something or heaven forbid if I got it wrong

5. Free Content for my Blog - A selfish reason, I know, but it hardly makes me a monster.  I love the fact that I have weeks worth of sessions on my blog which I reminisce about in my dotage.  I've also published session reports on RPGGeek, so if you are a member send me a gamebuddy request.

Why Don't You? 

It's surprisingly easy, why don't you have a go yourself, you just might like it.  If you are already blogging your sessions, stick a link in the comments below as I would love to share them with my readers.

Cattermole, George; The Scribe
The Scribe, by George Cattermole - Art UK

Friday 14 January 2022

The Expanse Ends Today

The Epic Sci-fi series the Expanse ends its run on Amazon today.  I have followed the exploits of the crew of the Roscinante since day one and thoroughly enjoyed this series.

Game of Thrones in Space

I've always described The Expanse as Game of Thrones in Space as it has a similar blend of Politics, Fighting, Technology (Magic) and Monsters.  The series has had a troubled history having begun on the SyFy then jumped to Netflix and then finally Amazon.  

The Expanse Cast - Season 1

However, it has been a perfect bridge to span the yawning chasm that seperates Star Trek's far future Utopian view of the future from Star Wars gritty Space Opera. 

One of the central motifs of the show is it's commitment to realism, what we might otherwise refer to as Hard Sci-Fi.  This commitment is evident in their attention to detail depicting things like zero-g, and space flight physics, but also in their design aesthetic for things like the mobile data pads.

I for one hope that we will see the show get picked up in the future as I am sure that writers Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck will continue to write stories set in this universe.

Bon Voyage... sad face emoji

Thursday 13 January 2022

Spring Cleaning the Blog

It staggers me that I have been writing this blog since 21 August 2010. almost 12 years ago!

It is full of weird little articles which I have brain dumped ober the years and collected a huge number of tags, some of which only feature once, or I have multiple tags for the same thing.  

When We Begin, the Beguine

My first blog post was a plot idea for a Judge Dredd game. well nothing much has changed there, I'm still writing plot hooks for games and I am still running games of Judge Dredd.

Blog Stats By Label

My Top 20 Labels or Tags are:

Post Tag / Label# Articles
Judge Dredd63
Session Report40
3D Printing30
D and D26
Games Mastery25

Feel free to roam around inside my mind dump.  But, for me, it's time I did some spring cleaning.

Rosey! fetch the feather duster.  

Rosey the Robot - THe Jetsons


Wednesday 12 January 2022

Cat Theft - Not a Victimless Crime

For me 2022 went out with a bit of a Fuck You.  Some scumbags stole my Cat

Catalytic converter theft is a growing problem

According to farsight blog over 16,383 catalytic converter theft incidents were recorded in the first 7 months of the 2021, that's an average of 2,340 cats being pinched every month!  I am not one to play the victim and despite being fully insured, my car was written off as an uneconomic repair.  Which is all well and good, but there is still a financial impact to the unlucky owner in the unplanned purchase of a new vehicle.

Turn Adveristy into an RPG Plot Hook

I have to stay positive and think of a way I can turn this adversity into a positive.  How about a plot hook for a Judge Dredd game.  Enter nefarious music producer Simon Power.

He has been working on putting together a super-group girl band called Kat Kitten and the Power Converters and he just hasn't been able to get their sound right.  None of the band can sing worth a lick but he stumbled on a rare psychometric study which postulated that a cats meow at the right frequency has a psychotropic effect akin to mind control.  His plan is to add this mysterious M note to the band's song "Don't Stop By Me Now"  

His backroom boffins have isolated the particular cat's meow that he needs to fill his lineup and has despatched teams of audio analysts to track down the right cat for the job.  They have been prowling the streets of MC-1 secretly recording pet cats and passing on the owners details to a a gang of catnappers.


These pet pinching perpetrators have been getting away scott free until one particular owner catches them in the act and tries to prevent her moggy from getting manhandled and she falls to her death from her apartment balcony.

Jocelyn Wildenstein - An Ugly Pageant Competitor
Jocelyn Wildenstein / Mr. Blofeldt
Ugly Competitor / Pet Cat
The victim is one Jocelyn Wildenstein, a famous ugly pageant winner and the owner of a prize winning pedigree pussy named Mr. Blofelt who just so happens to have the magical meow that Simon Power is desperately searching for.  Needless to say the cat is missing.

Ms Wildenstein's death has escalated the case of the missing moggies to a capital crime and the Judges will need to enlist the aid of Tek Division best to trawl through the hundreds of cases and thousands of hours of video footage to find the connection between the victims.  Or MAC can do the same job in about 6 hours.

The cats are all different species but the one thing that they have in common is their meows are all within a particular frequency.  

Having a Psi judge in your patrol squad will be useful when reviewing any vid footage of the missing cats.

As a backdrop to this plot hook the holo ads have been running thick and fast in the last couple of days promoting the release of the debut single from Kat Kitten and the Power Converters.

Some Potential Encounters

Record Store Riots - If the Judges don't get the connection before the release of the single, it will be fairly obvious that something is untoward is going on when the record stores run out of copies of the single due to its immense popularity.  Riots break out between crazed fans of the band as they storm record stores.

Live Concert Catatonic Conversion - Kat Kitten are appearing at an open air concert playing the B-Side of their single "Stop the World I Wanna Get Off" when the crowd suddenly go catatonic.  Reports start coming in over the air waves of mass reports of muteness among the population.  

Pop Mogul Protection - A baying mob attacks Elton John Luxy Apts the home of Simon Power and he needs to be rescued.  Attending his apartment, eagle eyed members of the patrol will notice the odd white hair laying on the sofa.  A search of the apartment will find a stash of synthi-cat food (Mr Blofelt's favourite flavour Liver and Tripe) in his kitchen.  Power will of course claim that he doesn't have a cat at all and that this is part of his diet regimen and even eat the cat food to prove it.  

Power keeps his secret musical weapon close and caged in a secret closet in his bedroom.  A member of the patrol with an allergy flaw, exceptional hearing or a Psi Judge will be sensitive to the cat's presence.  Of course if Power is subjected to cross examination with a birdie lie detector he will eventually crack.

Rounding up the Catnappers - Powers will give up the name of the gang he hired to steal the cats.  The Eartha Kitt Krew are an all female gang of catburglers who specialise in high rise heists using jet packs, skysurf boards, bat-suits, climbing gear and sucker knee pads.  

Their turf is in the lower levels of Adam West Block. They won't come quietly and are particularly adept at Martial Arts and also protected by a contingent of well armed heavies from neighbouring gang the Robinhoods out of Burt Ward Block.

Tuesday 11 January 2022

Helter Skelter - To Paint or Not to Paint

In an earlier article about Judge Dredd Boardgames, I hinted that I had prayed to the eBay Gods to send me a copy of Judge Dredd: Helter Skelter.  

 Well the Gods answered and now it is in my boardgame collection.

20 Plastic Miniatures in Need of Some Colour

Judge Dredd: Helter Skelter Miniatures

So should I do it? Should I paint these up?  Tell me in the comments box below.

Monday 10 January 2022

Starblazer: Small Format Science Fiction Adventures

I've blogged before about my love of the Starblazer Adventures RPG system which was inspired by the small format single story comic books published by DC Thomson Comics in the 1980s.

Small Size but Big Thrills

Starblazer was never as popular as it's war story cousins Commando and Battle and I know as a kid they were hard to come by in 1980s Bradford.  In fact I seem to remember there being one news kiosk in the bus depot that used to carry them in one of those wire racks for birthday cards.  Isn't it strange what you remember.

DC Thomson had started publishing collections of these long out of print gems, but after 2 volumes the faith seems to have departed.  Not to worry, I have a small collection of these thrill packed little comicbooks and they are still readily available on eBay at very reasonable prices. 

Starblazer #18 - Abandon Earth
#18 Abandon Earth - Space Wars did not exist.  By a series of treaties each galaxy remained alone and untouched.  Earth built a survey shi, Zephyrus, to prospect in deep space.  It was this ship that led to the call - "Abandon Earth".

In this tale of human humbris, the arrival of the Zephyrus in Vemlin space is interpreted as an invasion and gives rise to an intergalactic war with Earth.  The inexplicably named Carstairs is the robotic hero in this odd tale of politics and miltary strategy.

The cover art is reminiscent of the spaceship paintings of Chriss Foss, Peter Elson and Jim Burns which are gloriously immortalised in the Terran Trade Authority Books published by The Hamlyn Group in the late 70s.  I remember getting one of these coffee table books as a child and they were like nitromethane for the imagination.

Star blazer #76 - The Mind of Meredith Morgan
#76 The Mind of Meredith Morgan - Benjamin Starr was a teacher - A man who knew nothing of the mysteries of space travel.  Yet, when a simple accident brought him to the attention of the World Council, he found himself at the controls of a starship, pitting his wits against and alien computer, and warping space itself - and if he failed, Earth was doomed to an eternal Hell.

A rollercoaster of a tale which pretty much sums up a standard Starblazer storyline.  Heavy on the cliffhangers, bouncing from one near catastrophe to another a breakneck speed.  There's no time for an indepth discussion or detailed character motivations, its a swift punch to the jaw and a laser blast from the hip.  

The Starblazer Adventures RPG echoes this with it's hilarious random Starblazer Comic Title Generator.  Honestly, I could just spend a couple of hours happily rolling up different scenarios an imagining what might appear on the cover.   

Starblazer #77 - Fortress of Fear
#77 Fortress of Fear - The key to space travel, was the system of wormholes througout the galaxy.  As they were so far away, defence posts had to be constructed.  Operatives from Earth's elite fighting scientist branch, The Fi-Sci's, were put in charge of their construction.  Danger was a part of their lives , but even their brand of courage was put to the test by the... Fortress of Fear.

In this issue we follow the exploits of Hadron Halley (what a zarjaz futuristic name) as he explores the mysterious planet which is home to the even more mysterious Mind Lords.  

These cut price Mekon-like maniacal mentalists have subjugated the native population and turned them into puppets dressed like the Oz's Tin man (I kid you not).  They hide in the safety of their mushroom shaped city come spaceship and finalise their plans for Solar galactic domination.  

Elements of the artwork remind me of Simon Harrison's Bradley the Sprog but in classic fashion DC Thomson never cited who wrote or inked their comic books.  

Starblazer #160 - The Last Days of Earth
#160 The Last Days of EarthIt is 2500 AD, and Earth is protected by Earthwarriors - A select band of highly skilled fighters.  A mission starts on Picture 1 and progressively becomes more and more difficult... It is at this point that your help is needed to make vital decisions.  Read on... unless you succeed you will witness... The Last Days of Earth.

A cheeky subtitle change to "Space role-playing game in pictures" announces that DC Thomson have  jumped on the Fighting Fantasy style adventure gamebook in this story of post apocalyptic survival.  You are Space Patrolman Svenson .  I can't remember ever seeing anything as ambitious as this in comic book form although the Ace of Aces Game Books from Flying Buffalo.

Needless to say the adventure is a pretty ripsnorting affair with Svenson bouncing from one death defying panel to another before ending up in court.  I think this deserves a proper playthrough and mapping of the choice tree so I can work out what the hell is going on in this story arc.

Starblazer #174 - The Terminator
#174 The Terminator - Lawlessness abounded in the pioneer outer worlds of the Earth Federation, and the few over-worked, short lived Marshals attempted to stem the criminal tide.  Assisted by huge, deadly robotic terminators, justice slowly began to return to the colony worlds... Until one of these gigantic, unstoppable machines turned rogue and proceeded to eliminate innocent people.

It's 1986 and clearly James Cameron's lawyers thought it wasn't worth suing DC Thomson over the title of this issue.  This has all the hallmarks of a classic western story where up to no good town officials are lining their pockets with some scheme involving the mine.  Enter Marshall Skarr (God, I love these names) who is sent to Glasis V to investigate.  He gets straight to the bottom of things and stirs up trouble for the local Judge who programs a Terminator to exterminate Skarr before he really finds out what is going on.  

The Judge has done a deal with the Ellon, who basically are starfishmen, and not the cuddly Patrick kind these are more like Zygons.  The Terminator gets its second wind and helps rescue Skarr and everyone lives happily ever after.  The robot is a pretty cool design and lives up to its description as an unstoppable relentless agent of justice.

Starblazer #180 Eden The Hunter
#180 Eden the Hunter - Made an outcast because his mistake had caused the death of fellow villagers, Eden swore vengeance.  The only trouble was - he didn't know what he was fighting.

The depiction of Eden on the front cover is a bit misleading and clearly someone must have copied a picture of Kurt Russell as once you turn the page he looks more like a Native American Indian tribesman.  

This is such a weird story and the sort of techno savagery story you used to get in science fiction back in the 80s.  As the story evolves the villains of the piece are introduced, a race of electro vampires that look like a cross between a human and a pteradactyl.  Eden encounters various people along the way all of whom seem to have fallen prey to the electro vampires but Eden is a rugged outdoorsman and not to be trifled with. 

The electro vampires reminded me of one of the character Worzel from the excelent Lensman anime movie.  A highly recommended adaptation of the E.E Doc Smith, Hugo Award nominated Lensman books from the 1950s.

Starblazer #182 - Bron The Avenger
#182 - Bron The Avenger - After the Nuclear Wars devastated Earth, civilisation ceased to exist as we know it.  Murderous bands roamed the country taking what they wanted, but the hand of fate selected Bron to stand against them.  A young man with strength in his limbs, and revenge in his heart.

Well from that description Bron sounds like a lot of fun.  Starblazer didn't just do Sci-fi with spaceships and aliens, there was a healthy smattering of fantasy and crossover post apocalyptic mad max style adventure too.  Bron is one of those sword and sorcery tales set in the ruins of 1980s civilization.

The scent of anachronism is heavy and at one point Bron delves into the subterranean underworld chased by zombies and finds himself on a runaway tube train.  This theme runs throughout, the idea that some technology survives, hoarded by the "sorcerors" and technomancers with the knowledge and skill to keep the machines alive and working for their own benefit or that of their overlords.  

Starblazer #186 - Starhawk

#186 Starhawk
- The 3rd Millenium, 2600 AD, and the Galaxy spanning Terran Empire is crumbling in decline.  The savage Krell ravaging its borders and order is replaced with choas.  Barbarism exists everywhere, and amid this lawless bedlam one man stands for law and order - Sol Rynn, known as Starhawk. 

This is a return to the square jawed smoke me a kipper type hero who roams the spacelanes like a one man A-Team.  His calling card, quite literally a card you push into a machine to make a call, reads "If your cause is just, but the odds are too great Use Me".  I'm suprised he gets any business at all with approach.

Somone on Wengel IV needs his help, but the first locals he encounters practically ignore him.  Fortunately he finds the terminal used to make the call in an abandoned communications centre.  Enter the Battletoads style mutants who chase Starhawk through the jungle.  Eventually he discovers the secret lab of Hak Galos the owner of Megalos Mining who has hatched a nefarious scheme to mine Trikalak K a banned substance and key ingedient in Quark bombs.  Galos clearly has some sort of plan for those quark bombs, but it is never fully fleshed out.   

Want to Know More?

I found a great resource with some fantastic interviews from some of the original artists and writers who worked for DC Thomson back in the day.  Check it out at