Google+ Dorkland!

Monday, October 06, 2014

Mecha: Kaiju RPG Kickstarter

Heroic Journey Publishing's Kickstarter for Mecha: Kaiju is over half-way through its funding period and in sight of its funding goal. The giant monster themed supplement for Mecha includes all the stompiness that you will likely want from the genre, with plenty of art to show various types of kaiju.

The Mecha RPG works off a d6 dice pool with a roll-under mechanic and features players piloting mecha (giant robots). Mecha: Kaiju follows in this style, but introduces another staple of the genre -- the kaiju (giant monsters) that players can play as, with or against.

Hopping onto the Kickstarter is pretty easy, with the PDF of Mecha: Kaiju sitting at US$5. For US$10 you can get the Mecha Core PDF as well as the Mecha: Kaiju PDF. The US$25 tier(s) see the softcover copy of Mecha: Kaiju (along with the PDF) or an all PDF tier that also includes two other Mecha supplements.

For some critiques on the Kickstarter page -- the funding price point seems fine. There is a video that has an appropriate length (though could be a bit shorter) and gives a bit of flavor, but the text can be a bit hard to read in some shots. Both the video and the page could stand to give a bit more information on the game, especially for those who have no idea what it is. Plenty of artwork, though, which was very nice. Having some additional imagery for tier rewards would be nice.

If you want to get your stompy, giant creature and mecha-ness on, be sure to check out Mecha: Kaiju's Kickstarter page or Heroic Journey Publishing's website.

Valiant Next - The Next Wave From Valiant Comics

In 2015…the story starts here!

Valiant Entertainment is proud to announce VALIANT NEXT – an all-new wave of ongoing series and prestige format projects from some of the premier creative talents in comics today. Beginning in December with THE VALIANT #1 (of 4) by Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt, and Paolo Rivera, VALIANT NEXT continues with five blockbuster new series in 2015:

  • IVAR, TIMEWALKER #1 by Fred Van Lente and Clayton Henry in January
  • DIVINITY #1 (of 4) by Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine in February
  • IMPERIUM #1 by Joshua Dysart and Doug Braithwaite in February
  • NINJAK #1 by Matt Kindt and Clay Mann in March
  • BLOODSHOT REBORN #1 by Jeff Lemire and Mico Suayan in April

Following the critically acclaimed, smash-hit success of VALIANT FIRST in 2014, VALIANT NEXT will present six new starting points perfect for readers new and old. Featuring an exciting selection of new series starring Valiant’s biggest, most-demanded heroes alongside all-new, never before seen characters, VALIANT NEXT is the next epic evolution of Valiant's best-selling, fan-favorite publishing line.

"We've spent two years building an award-winning publishing line, pouring our hearts into re-imagining X-O MANOWAR, HARBINGER and the rest of the Valiant Universe for the modern day. Now it’s time to take it to the next level,” said Valiant CEO and Chief Creative Officer Dinesh Shamdasani. “VALIANT NEXT taps into the same creative energy that made Valiant one of the most legendary comic book companies of all time. When I was a kid, one of the best things about Valiant was picking up an issue with a brand new character, like X-O MANOWAR or NINJAK. I’m excited that we’re doing that again now with series like DIVINITY and IMPERIUM. And that’s only a fraction of what we have coming next.”

"Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt and Paolo Rivera are delivering an absolute monster of a book with THE VALIANT and it’s the perfect title to lead off VALIANT NEXT," said Valiant Editor-In-Chief Warren Simons. "This is our most ambitious initiative yet, and everyone’s bringing their A-game. The creative team of ARCHER & ARMSTRONG reuniting to launch IVAR, TIMEWALKER. Clay Mann on NINJAK – his first ongoing series at Valiant. Mico Suayan tearing it up with Jeff Lemire on BLOODSHOT REBORN. Joshua Dysart and Doug Braithwaite together for the first time for the devastating events of IMPERIUM. Not to mention the introduction of an all-new, all-powerful force in DIVINITY from the minds of Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine. It’s a kick-ass time to be a Valiant fan."

THE VALIANT #1 (of 4)

A battle ten millennia in the making…

The Eternal Warrior has protected the Earth for more than 10,000 years. A master of countless weapons and long forgotten martial arts, he is guided by the Geomancers – those who speak for the Earth. During his long watch, the Eternal Warrior has failed three times. Each time, the Geomancer was killed…and a new dark age for humanity began. Each time, he was unable to stop The Immortal Enemy – a monstrous force of nature. A civilization killer. A horror that appears differently each time it arrives…and whose seemingly only purpose is to bring disorder and darkness to the world. Now, the time has come for The Immortal Enemy to return once more. But, this time, the Eternal Warrior will be ready. This time, he has a force greater than any single warrior. This time, he has…THE VALIANT.


From the award-winning team that brought you ARCHER & ARMSTRONG, New York Times best-selling creators Fred Van Lente and Clayton Henry present a centuries-spanning race against the clock!

At this very moment in Geneva, Switzerland, history is being made. A thousand meters underground inside the Large Hadron Collider, researcher Neela Sethi is about to discover time travel – and jeopardize her life in the process.  But she doesn't know that yet. Ten minutes from now, every deadbeat chrononaut, wannabe conqueror, and misguided protector of the timestream will be banging down her door. Good thing that the legendary Ivar, Timewalker, got there first…right?  Now it's down to history's most jaded, most tempestuous time traveler to stop the worst of everything that is, was, and will be...before time runs out!

DIVINITY #1 (of 4)
Written by MATT KINDT

At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union – determined to win the Space Race at any cost – green lit a dangerously advanced mission. They sent a man farther into the cosmos than anyone has gone before or since. Lost in the stars, he encountered something unknown. Something that...changed him.

Long thought lost and erased from the history books, he has suddenly returned, crash-landing in the Australian Outback. The few that have been able to reach him believe him to be a deity -– one who turned the scorched desert into a lush oasis. They say he can bend matter, space, and even time to his will. Earth is about to meet a new god. And he's a communist.

How long can it be before the first confrontation between mankind and DIVINITY begins?

From New York Times best-selling writer Matt Kindt and blockbuster artist Trevor Hairsine comes a shocking new vision of 21st century science fiction in an all-new prestige format limited series.


A daring new superhero saga from New York Times best-selling creator Joshua Dysart – writer of of the Harvey-Award nominated series Harbinger – and superstar artist Doug Braithwaite!

Toyo Harada is the most dangerous human being on the planet. Imbued with incredible powers of the mind, he has spent his life guiding humanity from the shadows. But today he is a wanted man.  His powers are public knowledge, his allies have turned to enemies, and he is hunted by every government on the planet.

Instead of surrendering, Harada has one last unthinkable gambit to play: to achieve more, faster, and with less, he will build a coalition of the powerful, the unscrupulous and the insane. No longer content to demand a better future, he will recruit a violent legion from the darkest corners of the Earth to fight for it. The battle for utopia begins now.

Written by MATT KINDT

Then: Meet inexperienced MI-6 recruit Colin King on his first mission in the field as he learns the basics of spycraft and counterintelligence, and develops a volatile relationship with his first handler.  
Now: Colin King is Ninjak, the world's foremost intelligence operative, weapons expert, and master assassin.  And he's hunting the Shadow Seven – a secret cabal of shinobi masters with mysterious ties to his training and tragic past.  

For the first time, Ninjak's past and future collide in the pages of an all-new ongoing series from New York Times bestselling writer Matt Kindt and superstar artist Clay Mann!

Written by JEFF LEMIRE

From New York Times best-selling writer Jeff Lemire and red-hot rising star Mico Suayan, Valiant delivers an all-new ongoing series for Valiant's most unrelenting hero!

Bloodshot's nanites made him a nearly unstoppable killing machine. His enhanced strength, speed, endurance, and healing made him the perfect weapon, and he served his masters at Project Rising Spirit – a private contractor trafficking in violence – very well. 

Now, Bloodshot is a shadow of his former self. He lives in self-imposed exile, reeling from the consequences of his past life and the recent events that nearly drove him mad. But when a rash of shootings by gunmen who appear to look just like Bloodshot begin, his guilt will send him on a mission to stop the killers, even if it means diving headlong into the violence that nearly destroyed him.

For more information on VALIANT NEXT, join Valiant this week at New York Comic Con 2014 for the VALIANT COMICS: THE VALIANT, RAI, X-O MANOWAR, AND BEYOND panel presentation on Friday, October 10th at 12:15 pm. Featuring Matt Kindt (THE VALIANTNINJAK, DIVINITY), Jeff Lemire (THE VALIANTBLOODSHOT REBORN), Paolo Rivera (THE VALIANT), Fred Van Lente (IVAR, TIMEWALKER), Robert Venditti (X-O MANOWAR), Editor-in-Chief Warren Simons, and Chief Creative Officer Dinesh Shamdasani, get your first look inside each VALIANT NEXT release right here, only at New York Comic Con!

Friday, October 03, 2014

Mini Reviews of Two Fate Accelerated Mini Products

I like Fate Accelerated. It is a quick, easy and streamlined game that has a deceptive depth of play options in proportion to the lightness of the rules. While I do like Fate Core, I think that Accelerated and its adaptability fits my interests and style of play much more closely. I picked up a couple of PDF mini supplements for the game over at RPGNow. They both definitely have some meat to them and have utility in your own Fate Accelerated games.

First up is the Accelerated Book of Approaches from Dice Monkey Productions. This 19 page PDF contains a cover (seen at left) and three pages of OGL. There is some good stuff to this PDF, but I really see it more as a starting point than anything else.

The best part of this book is the in-depth explanation of the Fate Accelerated approaches. One place where people new to Accelerated trip up is thinking that approaches work like stats in other games, or even like skills in Fate Core or other games. How these things work is right there on the tin: approaches. Keeping in mind that approaches are how a character approaches a game situation can make them much less frustrating, and unlock the key to their simplicity and flexibility. It is the approaches where Fate Accelerated really sings, and where a lot of the game's streamlining is happening. A lot is packed into a little space with approaches.

For those who might be new to Fate Accelerated, the Accelerated Book of Approaches also offers some new approaches inspired by the attributes from various open gaming licence systems like D6, D20 and Mongoose's Traveller rules. This highlights the flexibility and hackability of Fate Accelerated by introducing new approaches that can help familiarize a new game by introducing elements that players may already understand from other games. For me, this is a strength of the Open Gaming License, and I would like to see more publishers bring bits and pieces back and forth from various licensed systems to make new things.

However, to be honest, the adaptations in this book are not as interesting as they could be. I think that sample characters could have better demonstrated these adapted approaches. That isn't to say that these approaches wouldn't work, just that they aren't as flavorful and as interesting as they could be.

Before you give up on the Accelerated Book of Approaches we haven't actually gotten to the best part: the sets of brand new approaches. There are three sets of original approaches for "Action"-oriented games, games set in "wizarding schools" and also for "space knight" campaigns. The Action approaches are interesting, and could work well for a pulp-based Fate Accelerated game, or one inspired by the television show Leverage. The Wizarding School approaches are obviously inspired by the Harry Potter books/movies, however these approaches could be used for any sort of wizard-oriented campaign where everyone is a spell-caster of some sort. A creative GM could build an Ars Magica Acclerated hack off of these approaches. The Space Knights approaches look like they are inspired by the "force powers" from the original West End Games Star Wars RPG, which is an interesting...approach.

Like I said, this book is a starting point for people using Fate Accelerated in their games. There is still going to have to be some lifting on the part of the GM to explain these approaches in a game, and to figure out the situational applications of some of them. People interested in a D&D Accelerated game should also look at the Freeport Companion that Evil Hat and Green Ronin put out. While that is a supplement for Fate Core, it could easily be hacked for use with Fate Accelerated. It also has some interesting stuff for anyone looking to do D&Dish gaming using any version of the Fate rules.

Next is a smaller PDF than the previous. Interstellar Patrol is an 8 page supplement for Fate Accelerated that gives you the basics to start a Star Trek inspired game. No new approaches, although it would be interesting to mix this with the Mongoose Traveller approaches from the Accelerated Book of Approaches to come up with a Traveller-inspired game.

This PDF is all starting point. The GM of an Interstellar Patrol game is going to have to understand the genre of Star Trek and how it is different from other types of science fiction. However, as a Pay What You Want PDF you can pick it up for free. I do think it is worth a dollar (at the least) for giving GMs a starting point. The cover is pretty cool as well.

With this PDF and the Fate Accelerated rules you can pick up and play a fast game on one of those nights when not everyone is able to show up for game night but you still want to play a game. That quickness and simplicity of Fate Accelerated is another one of the many strengths of the system.

I recommend both, or either of these two supplements for Fate Accelerated. Hopefully they will be successful enough to encourage more simple and low cost plug-ins for the game.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Indie +2 Bundle In Its Last Hours At The Bundle of Holding

Over at the Bundle of Holding they are in the last hours of a bundle full of great indie female game designers. At the time of this post (18 hours to go!) they had only sold 554 bundles. This is criminally negligent on the part of the tabletop gaming community. Click through on that convenient link and get some great DRM-free gaming PDFs for your gaming collections.

For the base price of $9.95 (US dollars, of course) you get three great games: Awesome Adventures by Willow Palecek (a streamlined hack of the Spirit of the Century SRD), Cogs, Cakes and Swordsticks by Lynne Hardy (a game of Steampunk adventure in Jolly Old England) and Tragedy In Five Parts by Michelle Lyons-McFarland (a Shakespearean role-playing game). The retail value on these PDFs would be $30, but through the Bundle of Holding, you can get them for a third of that.

But! The fun comes in when you sweeten the pot and go over the base price. If you bid over the threshold amount (just over $20 at the time of this post) you will get an exciting variety of other RPGs as well. Another Fine Mess by Ann Dupuis is a classic adventure for the Fudge RPG that allows to you play animal characters. Blade & Crown by Rachel Kronick combines the faux realism of 80s fantasy adventure RPGs with the narrativist sensibilities of indie RPG design. Cartoon Action Hour by Cynthia Celeste Miller takes you back to the days of your favorite Saturday Morning Cartoons of the 80s. Monsters & Magic by Sarah Newton combines old school gaming with new school approaches into a fast and fun fantasy roleplaying game. Shelter In Place by J. R. Blackwell is a live action role-playing game of zombie fun. Steal Away Jordan by Julia Bond Ellingboe is an exploration of slavery. Not for everyone, but it is still an intriguing game.

Why should you support a bundle like this? Two reasons. First, the games are cool, interesting and fun. Second, diversity is always a good thing. Gamers can get locked in their ways and only play the same games, sometimes for decades. Consider getting exposed to new outlooks like the Five Year Mission of the Enterprise and "explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations." You might find your next favorite game if you look around.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Last Parsec On Kickstarter

Pinnacle Entertainment Group has a new Kickstarter running for their new sci-fi Savage Worlds setting, The Last Parsec. With the new Kickstarter comes a press release that details some information on the game, the Kickstarter, and includes links to more information. Those already interested will likely enjoy looking at this primer PDF for The Last Parsec that goes into a little more depth on the setting and races available. Of note, The Last Parsec will require the Savage Worlds core rules and Savage Worlds Science Fiction Companion to play.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Looking At Little Wizards - An All Ages Fantasy RPG

After a brief pause, +David Rollins gives up some opinions on Little Wizards, an all ages fantasty RPG from Crafty Games. There is also a free preview available of the game on RPGNow.

By David Rollins

Another Gen Con has come and gone and as the dust settles down on this year's ENnie Awards you may be sifting through the winners looking for gold, but if you are a parent looking for a good RPG to play with your kids you should be looking at one of this year's nominees.

Little Wizards from Crafty Games was nominated for the Best Family Game ENnie and while it did not win, it is worth considering if you are looking for a quality RPG to share with your kids.

The layout works well on multiple formats. I read the the pdf copy I received for review on my laptop, my desktop and even my phone. The two columns on square pages worked well on a wide screen and the columns fit easily on my phone screen so I could read a half-page at a time with no trouble. I also printed it out so I could get a feel for how the art worked in the book form.

Arnü West's illustrations are brilliant, with plenty of action in every scene depicted. It's clear at a mere glance that this game is all about young wizards doing cool stuff. West's style mixes the familiar with the fantastic to open up a world that is both magical and comfortable for a brand new player. Some of the choices West makes, such as the viewpoint and the form of the buildings, reminds me of illustrations from old copies of Peter Pan which gives everything a classic feel.

The mechanics of the game are based on a roll of two, six-sided dice. The player rolls and adds a trait to meet a target number based on difficulty of a chosen action. That much is familiar to most gaming parents but there are some innovations that encourage a certain type of play. Traits are rated as Good (+0), Better (+1) or Best (+2). No character can be the best at everything so the players will need to work in teams where everyone has an important role to play. There are also rules for cooperation that allow other characters to help, so players only need to come up with a reasonable way their characters can contribute to start stacking up +1s on their friends' action rolls.

Character creation is easy, with a handful of choices and random tables that players can roll on, choose from, or simply use as inspiration. My daughter had a great time rolling up her Little Wizard's personality with the tables.

The Magic system is open-ended with plenty of room for players to get creative to use their magic to solve problems and plenty of suggestions and examples to help them along as well. There are different types of magic so again, teamwork is emphasized in the design.

There are no hit points or health in this game. If a character gets hurt it becomes a problem that needs to be dealt with. The violence in the game is on par with what you would find in a cartoon program like Scooby Do or My Little Pony so it's not likely that the players will find themselves dealing with character injuries often.

My favourite part of this game is the setting! It's wonderful how the original french author, Antoine Bauza, and the english language developer, Amanda Valentine, managed to blend so much of my favourite fantasy fiction for young readers into Coinworld. I see echoes of Ursula K. LeGuin's Earthsea in the Archipelagoes and the role wizards occupy as problem solvers. Terry Pratchett's Discworld shines in the shape of Coinworld and in the types of magic. A game about young wizards can't escape comparison to J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series and it certainly shows in much of the visual aesthetic and technology level of the Little Wizards setting.

Coinworld is a disc with two sides, a light side with mischievous creatures like fairies and a darker side with monsters like goblins and vampires. The two sides are a mirror of each other, with each cluster of islands forming an archipelago that has a counterpart on the other side of the world. These archipelagoes have their own personality and features. What I like is that they are described in broad strokes with a few paragraphs of basic description and what kind of adventure would likely happen there. The more detailed descriptions of the archipelagoes come at the end of the book in the three sample adventures. Each adventure gives a little more detail about its location in the introduction. This choice implies that the world is not really defined until the characters actually visit there. This sand-box approach is a great way to get your kids used to the old-school style of play. The sample adventures give players and new “Narrators” a great place to start and plenty of hooks for adventures to have after each of the ones provided.

The only drawback of this game is there is no visual component. Most of the game is theatre-of-the-
mind style play without maps or miniatures. My youngest daughter is a visual learner so the games with paper miniatures tend to hold her attention better than this style of game. My oldest, on the other hand, is an auditory learner so this game turned out to be a great fit for her. I found it to be more of a feature than a drawback because I prefer the theatre-of-the-mind style of play to maps, grids and miniatures but it is something to consider.

Little Wizards is a wonderful table-top role-playing game to play with kids. It's a great introduction to the game and has a decent experience system so it can work well for long term play too. I like that the material that it draws on for inspiration doesn't force the same old fantasy tropes and assumptions on new players. They are offered a new world to explore and make their own. If that sounds good to you, head over to the Crafty Games' website to find out how you can get your copy!

A panelist on the Geeky Voices Carry podcast, +David Rollins talks about gaming, fantasy fiction and other interests of his across social media like Google+. David also plays games. A lot of games.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Dorkland Interview -- Amazing Adventures RPG with Jason Vey

The Amazing Adventures RPG Kickstarter is entering its last week of funding. Troll Lord Games' SIEGE engine-powered pulpy RPG has already met and surpassed its funding goal and is starring down another stretch goal. During this busy period, we here at Dorkland! got a chance to sit down with Jason Vey, author of Amazing Adventures, for an interview.

Dorkland!: You're no stranger to Kickstarter -- what have you done differently, if anything, this time around? What do you feel has really been key to your quick funding?

Jason Vey: Honestly, this is the second Kickstarter I personally have been involved with, but the last one was for a different company which pretty much handled everything. On this one, the Trolls are keeping me very involved, asking for ideas to help push it, having me help with the marketing, answering comments from supporters, and the like.

DL: Apart from the hardcover edition of the book(s), what else is the Kickstarter aiming to do for Amazing Adventures? What all might be of interest to current owners of the softcover edition?

JV: Well, this isn't just getting the book in hardcover. We're doing a complete cover-to-cover edit of the core rules. That means incorporating errata, expanding and clarifying things, adding a few additional options, giving a character class or two a facelift, and re-expressing the rules so that they read more in line with Castles & Crusades, to increase compatibility between the two games.

DL: What are some of the inspirations behind Amazing Adventures? What kind of pulp can potential players expect?

JV: What I wanted to do with this game was provide a framework to model ANY sort of pulp. If you want to do an Indiana Jones type game, the rules are there. If the Rocketeer or Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow are more your bag, you can do it. If you dig The Shadow, there's rules for that type of character. If H.P. Lovecraft is more your thing, we've got Lovecraftian horrors and a madness system in there. If you're into Philip Marlowe hardboiled detective noir, go for it. My inspiration for this was not pulp in the strict, two-fisted way many games portray it, but pulp in terms of every sub-genre that appeared from the Dime Novels of the 1880s all the way through the sci-fi of the 50s and into the movies and stories that were inspired by them today.

DL: What seperates Amazing Adventures from other pulpy RPGs?

JV: Like I said, I think it's the breadth of possibilities. Most pulp games focus on high-flying, two-fisted adventure and neglect the horror, noir and sci-fi elements of pulp to a certain degree. This isn't true in all cases, but certainly there's a lean towards two-gun heroes in pulp RPGs. I wanted AA to be more broad in scope than that.

DL: What might interest fans of pulp stories that are not currently avid gamers? How easily might they be brought into Amazing Adventures?

JV: The SIEGE engine that powers Amazing Adventures and Castles & Crusades is so easy to use that it's an ideal engine for new gamers. The system is easy to grasp, fast and fun to play, and gets out of the way to let you focus on the game. I think most fans of pulp dream of telling their own stories of horror, weirdness, adventure, noir, sci-fi, or whatever their preferred sub-genre is. Role playing allows them to do exactly that, and Amazing Adventures is a perfect means by which they can get into the hobby and give it a try.

DL: Amazing Adventures has guidelines on how to run a pulp game -- how in-depth are they? How much background does a potential player need to run or play, if they have little to no experience with pulp?

JV: The book contains everything you need to get up and running, and in the second printing, I'm expanding the Game Master section even further for extra detail in structuring and running a pulp game. With the core book alone you have everything you need. The Manual of Monsters and Companion books, however, will blow the doors off the system and take it to unbelievable levels by greatly expanding what's already there and giving you new rules for everything from sub-genre emulation to expanded vehicle rules to mystic locations and even live action rules. I'm really excited to get the second printing and sourcebooks out there and see what people think!

DL: Lastly, what are some of the most 'amazing' moments you have had with Amazing Adventures? The kind of moments that really highlight why people should buy and play this game.

JV: Man, it's the players and characters that make the game. Some of my favorite moments have actually been con adventures I've run. I'll never forget a group I ran that had a vampire trying to get an ancient bible of an evil cult away from the PCs, and one of the players was playing Marie Laveau. Her strategy was to start stabbing the book and running around in circles while the vampire chased her and everyone else took pot shots at it! That probably doesn't read quite as funny as it played out, but trust me: there were tears of laughter in the eyes of everyone at the table.

We also, in the same group, had Bucky Newson, the Gadgeteer, try on a lie detector he'd designed, only to have it fail spectacularly to the amusement of everyone present.

There were moments of great heroism as well, like when a group's raider, Tennessee O'Malley, went toe to toe alone against an angry Succubus...and not only survived, but sent her on the run.

Some of these things are actually made possible by the character customization rules in Amazing Adventures. Unlike most class-and-level systems, we incorporate the ability to customize your character class with things like backgrounds, knowledge skills, and Generic Class Abilities, which you swap out with standard class abilities to make your character different and unique from other characters of the same class. In addition, Fate Points are a mechanic that's fairly well known, which we incorporate to allow for turning failure into success, or success into wild heroics.

I could gush about the game for pages and pages. I'm really proud of this game, probably moreso than anything I've done in my 15 years in the industry. But my hope is that people will take a look and fall in love with it for themselves. Even if you're not a fan of class-and-level systems, I think Amazing Adventures may be an exception, due to the incremental way the SIEGE engine scales.


We here at Dorkland! would like to thank Jason for his time in answering our questions. For more book-stabbing and lie detector mishaps, be sure to check out the Amazing Adventures RPG Kickstarter page and Troll Lord Games' website!

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Castles & Crusades Black Box

I love getting mail. Really, who doesn't? I particularly love getting mail when it contains some cool gaming stuff like this little boxed set from the fine people at Troll Lord Games. I saw this box while I was at Gen Con, but I was more focused on other releases from the company (as well as talking about their then-upcoming Amazing Adventures Kickstarter with them) to give this a look.

I wish that I had given it more of a look. The Castles & Crusades Black Box is a limited edition supplement for Castles & Crusades to commemorate the game's 10th Anniversary. The black box is only being released in a run of 1,000 copies, with the first 300 being numbered (inside of the lid of the box) and containing a signed plate.

What's in the box? Well, that is where it gets interesting. For me the most interesting of the three booklets in the box would be the Adventurer's Backpack. Why? Because it contains four new classes for your Castles & Crusades game, based on the familiar fantasy gaming archetypes but taking them into new directions.

These new classes are Archer, Avatar, Thief and Magic-User. Yes, a couple of the names are familiar, but these classes take things into different directions with them.

The Archer is like a fighter, but obviously based around the bow. I have to admit that the first thing that I thought about when I read through this class was Horsewoman from the DC Comic Demon Knights. Anyone who thinks that archers are going to be wimps have obviously never read that comic (and if you haven't I am sorely disappointed in you).

The Avatar is the cleric analog in the rules. Rather than giving a worshiper access to spell and abilities, like with the standard Cleric, an Avatar is a physical manifestation of a deity. This means that the Avatar is there for a specific purpose, to fulfill some goal or action of the deity manifesting in them. Obviously something big and bad is happening if an Avatar is getting involved in the story.

Knowledge can be just as much of a special ability as being able to climb walls and sneak attack. This Thief represents that, from the noble with a larcenous heart to the pilfering servant. Anyone can pick a pocket, but not everyone can plan and pull off a heist...and know how to get rid of the ill-gotten goods.

Finally is this new spin on the Magic-User. While they can cast spells like their brethren, this class is focused on detecting and identifying magic, as well as using and empowering magic items. A true "magic user." One thing that I have never liked about Magic-Users in the D&D-esque games (and one of the first things that I houserule in a campaign) is to turn "Read Magic" and "Detect Magic" into class abilities for the Magic-User. I've felt that these should be things that Magic-Users do from their nature and training. It is good to see that someone else feels that way too.

The Adventurer's Backpack seems to hint at something new for Castles & Crusades in the future. Could it be time that the game is getting its own version of Unearthed Arcana? If these new classes are any indication of that I hope so. While I like the iconic in games, I also like being able to embrace the weird, and any supplement that will allow for that gets my approval.

The Of Gods & Monsters Of Aihrde booklet is pretty much what you get on the tin. This talks about unique versions of some iconic monsters for the Aihrde setting of Castles & Crusades. There aren't actual game stats for anything in this booklet, just interesting discussions of gods and monsters, and a few tables. We get plenty of game stats for monsters, so it is good to see some character being investing in them as well.

Rounding out the box is The Golden Familiar, an adventure for your C&C games.

All of this for just $29.99. This seems to be available only through the Troll Lord Games webstore, so if you are interested in picking up one of the Castles & Crusades Black Boxes you will have to go to the link at the beginning of this post.

Plus, there's dice. What gamer doesn't like dice? Get your copy before they are gone.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ptolus In The Bundle of Holding

It is a good thing that a Bundle of Holding is so big, because it takes a lot of space to hold Monte Cook's Ptolus: City By The Spire. Arguably the biggest single shot setting for gaming (I don't really consider World's Largest Dungeon a setting), Ptolus comes in at more than 800 pages. For $19.95 you get the core book AND all of the following: the Chaostech supplement, the Banewardens and Night of Dissolution adventures, the first issue of the Ptolus comic and a couple of character journals.

With the new edition of D&D rolling out, a lot of people are looking for settings for their games. Why not go for Ptolus? The conversion between 3rd and 5th editions look to be fairly minimal and you get a top flight setting that embraces the paradigms of 5th edition D&D, primarily exploration.

You should get all of the setting you will need for a hundred campaigns out of this book.

If you want to level up for the bonus material (which while cool isn't as compatible with the 5th edition rules), you only need to pay a few more dollars ($26.53 at the time of this post) you can also get the Complete Book of Eldritch MightBooks of Experimental Might I and II and Books of Hallowed Might I and II. You will also receive another adventure that you can adapt to your 5th edition games (Dark Tidings) and Secrets of the Delver's Guild, a series of articles originally written by Monte Cook to explore the world of Ptolus.

So, for less than the cost of a copy of the Player's Handbook you can purchase the last setting that you may ever need and use it for your 5th edition games.

This Bundle expires on September 16, 2014.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Spirit of 77 RPG Kickstarter

What may be the funkiest tabletop RPG of the year (all years?), Spirit of '77, is currently running a Kickstarter for the game. The '70s-themed RPG by Monkeyfun Studios is running on a modified version of Apocalypse World. For more information on Spirit of '77's rules and setting, please check out Monkeyfun's demo of the game on their website.

Since Dorkland! has covered Spirit of '77 previously, I'll hop straight into the Kickstarter page -- and what a page it is. Needless to say, the project funded pretty quickly.

The first thing you're likely to notice is the cherry red muscle car speeding away from an exploding backdrop -- very nice artwork that is interspersed during the explanation of the game. Other imagery includes explanations of the various pledge tiers, add ons, stretch goals, and the Monkeyfun Studio guys, themselves (done in-character, to boot).

Everything is nicely explained. The information on the system is fairly simple, but also covers a decent bit to give the potential pledger a general feel for the game. The free demo (also linked to and easy to find on the Kickstarter page) goes into further detail, and allows the game to be trialed before pledging. Any pledge tiers, add ons or stretch goals that may require additional information have it included right below the imagery used for explanation -- and the information is italicized to further draw attention to it. In fact, just the general use of italics, bolding, bullet points, links and images throughout the page really help to break up and emphasize the information -- making it quicker and easier to process than most Kickstarter projects.

The header video is done in-character and is fairly entertaining, as well as informative. It doesn't go terribly in-depth, but it gives a good impression of what the game is like. The biggest issue I have with the video is the audio -- it could have used some more editing and cleaning. That audio is really the only complaint I have with the Kickstarter, on the whole.

For the pledging, US$20 will get you every digital product in the Kickstarter. US$25 will net you a physical copy of the core book (and its PDF), digital stretch goals, and a sticker (US-only option, UK/Canada and International folks have their own tiers, to cover shipping). And, lastly, the US$50 tier gets you all of the physical products (core book and expansion, PDFs of both, too), as well as physical and digital stretch goals (additional costs for shipping outside the US). Overall, the pricing isn't bad. The digital only tier is quite close to the physical core book, though, but it's a solid option for those living outside the US.

And there you have it -- one of the best setup Kickstarter pages I've seen for a tabletop RPG recently, and a very funky RPG in-general. If you would like to know more about Spirit of '77, be sure to check out the Kickstarter page, Monkeyfun Studios' website, and their demo adventure -- The Cruise Ship of the Damned.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Top Five Most Viewed RPG Videos

Periodically I go through my YouTube channel (you can find a link to the right) and see what videos are the ones that people are watching. It is always interesting to see what people want to watch on my channel. Following are the five (in order) with the most viewings.

1) Dorkland Roundtable with Zak Smith

A couple of years ago I launched an experiment in interviewing gaming people via the wonders of the (then new) technology of G+ Hangouts on the Air. I did these for a couple of reasons: to put faces and voices to the names that so many of us have seen on books over the years, and to help humanize gaming creators as well. When people are used to interacting with people through the text of books, or social media, they can start to see those people as just that text. Sometimes seeing a game designer or publisher in their home, or office, shows that they aren't all that different from the rest of us.

Zak is a controversial figure for some, but he made for an interesting interview subject. Someday, I think that I would like to tackle interviewing him again.

2) The Great Cyberpunk 2020 Adventure Ep. 1

I love Cyberpunk 2020. I found the game while I was in college, back in the day when a lot of the elements of the game were still science fictional. It is a great game, and it has given me a lot of fun over the years. I ran a few episodes of it for some G+ people before scheduling fell apart. We took on the game as a sort of retro experience, much like playing Old School D&D. We didn't try to change or update the game, we just went for it. The group become a ring of "art terrorists" fighting against the corporations of the "future." It was a fun game while it lasted.

3) Dorkland Roundtable with James Maliszewski

I enjoyed this interview, even if I still can't pronounce James' last name properly. We talked a lot about our experiences as gamers back in the early days of the hobby. Both of us being about the same age, and having started gaming at about the same time, it was interesting to see how our experiences compared and contrasted. This was probably the last interview with James before all of the controversy around Dwimmermount. I know that's mostly why people have been watching the interview. There is still some good stuff in there, and it is an interview that I am proud of having done.

4) Masks of Nyarlathotep: Episode 1

I love Call of Cthulhu. One of the things that I had never had a chance to do was to run one of the big "megacampaigns" for the game. This was my hope. Sadly, scheduling caused the game to quickly fall apart. We still had a good time with this session. This session shows off the reasons that I enjoy the Call of Cthulhu game. One day I will run this campaign in its entirety. Hopefully.

5) Rifts Episode 1

Ah, Rifts. I've been a fan of Palladium games since I found a copy of Ninjas and Superspies back while I was in college. I have a lot of their games, but the one thing that I have never had a chance to run has been Rifts. Things blew up fast, but that's cool because that is what Rifts is supposed to be. I would run Rifts again, definitely. Every time I see a new book for it, it makes me want to run the thing. We almost went for another Rifts game as the interim before we start playing D&D 5e, but Call of Cthulhu won out instead. Surprising, but it is a fun game.

Really, I am surprised that the actual play videos have been as popular as they have been. None of us really expected that people would want to watch any of us sitting around playing role-playing games by Google Plus Hangouts. I have always been surprised that my Dorkland Roundtable with Monte Cook wasn't more popular. It does make me realize that I need to do more vblog posts on my YouTube channel, however.

Amazing Adventures RPG Kickstarter

If you are into pulpy gaming adventures, there's a Kickstarter going that may help you realize your Rocketeer dreams. Amazing Adventures is an RPG by Troll Lord Games that utilizes the SIEGE engine (as seen in Castles & Crusades). The game has been out in softcover for a couple of years but this Kickstarter project aims to bring it a hardcover edition (and, with stretch goals, its supplemental books). And bringing that hardcover, it will, as the project has already surpassed its initial funding goal and the first set of stretch goals. It's now working its way through the next sets which include hardcover editions of the supplementary books, an adventure, and something secret.
How is the Kickstarter project, in-general, though? I thought you'd never ask!

Clearly, it has more than funded and that means the project has done what it needed to do. The information present is pretty condensed, which is fine, and it does give a general overview of Amazing Adventures and the project. I would have liked to see a bit more detailed information on the SIEGE engine rules or even a play-test/demo to check out -- that would be especially useful for new, potential players. The imagery on the page is only used for stretch goals, add ons, and shipping prices. While I am fine with having all of those (especially the stretch goal 'dungeon', complete with 'secret doors' -- that's creative), there really should be, at the least, more art showing off the pulpy aspects of the game. Something to really grab the attention and entice pledgers.

The pledge tiers are done a bit differently than most projects, as the US$1 tier is used as a means to get the digital copies via add ons -- there isn't a purely digital tier. The first 'real' tier is at US$25 for the core book in print and digital. Then US$45 for the core book and the Manual of Monsters -- both print and digital. US$50 for the core book and the companion book -- print and digital. And, if you want all three, US$99 for the core, Manual of Monsters, and companion -- print and digital. That does not include international shipping, of which there is a chart to reference on the page. For the digital lovers out there, all three PDFs together are around US$49.

If you would like to get your hands on this pulpyness, be sure to check out the Kickstarter page, and, for more information, be sure to check out Troll Lord Games' website.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

New Crawljammer Issue And Tim Callahan's Demon Drums

I'm not sure why the camera on my phone decided to read the bright orangeness of the cover to Crawljammer #4 as being a fleshy pink,but that seems to have happened. Perhaps my camera is trying to tell me that the new issue is pink and fleshy. I don't have an answer for that.

I've talked before about Crawljammer over at Bleeding Cool. If you don't know what Crawljammer is...shame on you. Written with the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG in mind, Crawljammer is a zine that has been developing and supporting a science fantasy setting for that game. Why the people at Goodman Games haven't snapped up Tim Callahan and put him to work on an official Crawljammer (or similar setting) for DCC is beyond me.

In this issue you get all of the things that you expect out of Crawljammer: new classes, continual expansion of the setting and a mini-adventure. All of which is supported with top quality art. I don't play the DCC RPG myself, but that doesn't get in the way of this zine. The nature of most older edition emulators makes it easy enough to fit material from Crawljammer into your Swords & Wizardry or Castles & Crusades games. Space Pirates From Beyond The Grave, the mini-adventure in this issue, could easily be reskinned for your favorite fantasy game, if you don't play DCC or would prefer a more straight forward fantasy presentation.

Crawljammer is a spotlight shining out of the RPG zine scene, and if you haven't tracked it down yet you really should.

That puts us on to part two of this post. The second item from Tim Callahan that my camera decided to mute the colors. The actually yellow cardstock cover doubles as a map for for the Demon Drums adventure.

Originally created by Tim to give out to people at Gen Con 2014, this adventure found its way into my mail box yesterday because Tim and I managed to not see each other while we were both at Gen Con. If you saw how big the convention was, you will understand.

Thankfully, however, Tim had at least one copy of Demon Drums left and sent it too me (without my asking, which makes it doubly cool on his part).

While not a huge adventure, Demon Drums is still exciting. A dungeon, the remains of vanished, ancient civilization, which is buried beneath a haunted tree in a dark and gloomy swamp? How is this not cool. What I like about Tim's adventure writing is that he takes ideas that could easily become stereotyped and elevates them into something that is more than the sum of its stereotypes.

How again is it that this guy isn't writing official stuff for the DCC RPG?

The great thing about this adventure (other than it being a great adventure) is the fact that it can easily be slipped into a rulebook and be used as the basis for a few hours of gaming fun with your friends. And, like with Crawljammer, you can easily use Demon Drums as an adventure in the game of your choice.

If you haven't checked out Tim Callahan's work, you really need to do so now. There is a link at the top of this post to the Crawljammer blog, which is a glimpse into the mind of Tim, where you can order up the Crawljammer zine today.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Spirit of '77 RPG -- The Cruise Ship of the Damned free adventure

Monkeyfun Studios, a new developer crewed by the seasoned team of David Kizzia and Bob Richardson, are releasing their first RPG: Spirit of '77. Running on a modified Apocalypse World rule set, Spirit of '77 promises plenty of awesome 70's-themed action and adventure, taking inspiration from many of the movies and TV shows of the period.

What's more, Spirit of '77 is going onto Kickstarter in early September (as of this writing, about a week away), and, to help you decide if this is your kind of game, the guys at Monkeyfun Studios have a free adventure to check out -- The Cruise Ship of the Damned.

The PDF sits in at 49 pages, nearly half of which are the rules which give a thorough understanding of how to play/run the game. Honestly, you're given enough to start creating some simple adventures/campaigns of your own with just this PDF. There are no character creation rules, but there are seven very interesting pre-made characters (complete with images).

It's a solid adventure and introduction to the game, in general. The amount of content there is more than worth checking out, especially since it's free. And, heck, just reading it is pretty entertaining -- a lot of the writing, especially the examples, are pretty evocative and show how much the developers really love this setting and style.

Also, they have a Spotify list linked on their site, with indicators of suggested songs to play throughout the adventure. I'm not certain how effective it is in practice, but it certainly helps get you in the mood for the game.

If you're interested in learning more (or want to snag a copy of the adventure) be sure to check out Spirit of '77's website, Facebook page, and Monkeyfun Studios' website. And keep your eyes peeled for the Kickstarter that's opening soon.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Dorkland Interview -- The Supervillain Handbook

A little while back I had a short article on Fainting Goat Games' The Super Villain Handbook -- a book for the Icons RPG -- and its Facebook page where you can see loads of material and give feedback directly to the developers. Today I bring you an interview I had with Jason Tondro of Fainting Goat Games about The Super Villain Handbook and its future.


Dorkland!: What kind of feedback are you looking for and why?

Jason Tondro: People can contribute to the book in many ways. Sometimes this is simple: I can always use more examples of a particular archetype. For example, as I write this, I just posted the "Power Corrupted" archetype. Now, obvious examples include Phoenix and Parallax. But maybe there are other great examples I've not thought of, but which you have.

Also, I like to start each entry with a good quote from the comics. So in this case, I had a lot of great Dark Phoenix quotes to pick from. But sometimes these quotes are harder to find, and fans have their own favorites. That's a great help to me.

Many contributors have helped by reminding me of stories common to a given archetype. At the heart of this book, we are asking "What stories do we tell with these villains?" So when a reader chimes in with a great story which we have seen in the comics, or a new one which a GM would find helpful, that's gold.

DL: Why a Facebook group?

JT: Because I'm an academic as well as a comic nerd, I have a lot of academics and comic nerds on my friends list. I knew that, if I posted these archetypes on FB, some very smart people would respond. And they have! I have a built-in audience of People Smarter Than Me.  It's worked perfectly.

DL: Why place your villains in the public domain?

JT: So, this was an idea which grew out of another decision. The SVH is not a "setting book", but when you're making villains, it often helps to place those characters together in a setting. In addition, there are several villain archetypes which totally depend on a hero. For example, an Evil Twin villain makes no sense if the reader doesn't know the hero whom the villain is the Evil Twin of.

So I knew I'd have to make some setting decisions. And while I was thinking about it, I considered using public domain heroes for the setting. Like, what if our Evil Twin was based off of Amazing Man or Airman or someone like that.

That led to the idea that, hey, if the heroes are all public domain, why don't we make the whole setting public domain too? And Mike Lafferty, our publisher, totally stepped up to that challenge and said, sure, yes. Not only will our characters be public domain, the art depicting them will be too. And this became the unifying theme of the setting, which we are calling the Youniverse, because everything in it belongs to you.

This has the additional benefit of introducing public domain characters like Dracula and Sherlock Holmes into the setting, and it's hard to go wrong with those two guys.

DL: What are some of the sources of inspiration behind your villains? Anything that stands out in particular?

JT: I'm really making a conscious effort on this project to make our artists partners in the creative process. One of the things I've learned about myself is that, while I'm very confident in my ability to write an engaging, compelling villain, I'm not always as good at the visual design of that villain. Sometimes I get a good idea, but often I end up falling back on "he's a guy in a trench coat" or something. And there's a place for the Trenchcoat Brigade, but a little goes a long way, and let's face it, those characters are boring to draw. Artists cry at the missed opportunity.

So this time, as we approach the villains, I'm giving the artist first crack. Not all the time. Sometimes I have a specific character in mind and I'm sure he or she is perfect. But if I don't have anything in mind, I let the artist do what he or she does best: visual design. And so Jacob Blackmon, who has done a lot of our art so far, comes to me with an image and maybe a name, and I take that and create the backstory and specifics. My job is to make that visual concept dramatically compelling. And because these artists are really good at what they do, that part of my job is very easy!

DL: Why 40 villain archtypes? Will we see more in the future? From reader feedback?

JT: It's possible. I had to stop somewhere. Archetypes are by their nature kind of fluid. Other writers would have organized this book very differently. But I felt I had something to say about each of the archetypes in this book, and that was the most important factor. There are other archetypes I am not including, but I wasn't always sure I had that much to say about them. Some archetypes are included inside others. For example, if I'm talking about Psycho villains like the Joker, who in modern stories are murderous and lethal, there's a related archetype which is still crazy, but in a more harmless way. He's goofy and comical, rather than psychotic. I call these guys Lunatics. And I didn't give them a separate entry, because I wasn't sure I had much to say about them which I couldn't say in the Psycho entry, which is where they now appear.

With 40 archetypes, the Deluxe Edition of this book is already going to be at least 160 pages. That's a big undertaking. I'm very satisfied with it's scale.

DL: Lastly, will the Super Villain Handbook make its way to a crowd-funding platform in the near future? What are the plans for its release?

JT: Mike can answer this more definitively than I, but yes, we are Kickstarter-bound. Anyone who contributes to the KS will get the Starter Edition immediately. That will detail all 40 archetypes -- how they work in comics, what their common traits and stories are -- and will have 40 stat blocks for Icons. When the KS concludes, we will move on the Deluxe Edition, which will add 40 fully developed NPC villains who are part of the Youniverse, each with art. And that will double the size of the book, at least.

I hope that helps, and thank you so much for your interest in the SVH! Join us on our FB page or at Fainting Goat.


We here at Dorkland! would like to thank Jason for taking the time to answer our questions and wish him and Fainting Goat Games the best of luck with their future crowd-funding (which, as of this post, may not be far away).

The Unbearable Riftness Of Being

Back at the beginning of the year we did an all too brief Rifts game for a couple of months. It was fun, goofy and full of big stuff. I made some mistakes as GM during the game. I probably should have reigned in the players a bit, maybe even nudged them into some other directions. I would probably come up with more options, should we decide to play Rifts again sometime.

The interesting thing is that, whenever we start towards a new game playing Rifts again is always among the suggestions. I'm pretty sure that this means that we will end up there again.

At Gen Con I visited the Palladium Books booth and picked up the latest of the Rifts books, the latest part of their Minion War event. It is more of the same: weapons, spells, weird magic items and a couple of O.C.C.s to liven up your games. The thing is, and I say this every time I pick up something new for Rifts, the real problem with the game is that every time you pick up a new book for it (even if you're just reading through it in a store) you want to run Rifts. I'm not sure that this is something that consistently happens with other game lines for me. Half of our group has shiny new Player's Handbooks, but we're talking about playing Call of Cthulhu instead of D&D 5e.

What is it about this game that provokes such enthusiasm?

We played the game as written. We've spent enough time playing OSR stuff over the last couple of years that all of the weird sub-systems didn't really bother us. I'm not really one who sees obsolescence in rules, so I don't really care that these rules were put together in the 80s, or that other rules have come along since then. I think the Rifts rules work well, and once play starts they are a lot less complex than people give them credit for online. Are they perfect? No, but I don't expect that out of a game's rules. It was fun, and that's really what I want out of a game.

Will we play Rifts again some time? Probably. The interest is always there. As I read more of the Minion War material I want to play a game where the player's characters are right there, on the front line, fighting the good fight against the forces of Hells (of course Rifts has dueling Hells, because Rifts!) that are trying to grind Rifts Earth under their heels. The characters have to hold the line and close up a Hell Pit that the infernal forces of Dyval are trying to open up, allowing more of their armies onto Rifts Earh. Hell, yeah!

And I think that is where the appeal lies for Rifts. So many games hint at things, or show what could happen in their games, but with Rifts you get art that says things like "Want to arm wrestle a devil in order to win a handgun that can shoot holes in the moon? We want you to do that too. Look at this piece of art that shows you just how you can do that with Rifts. Enjoy." You see old school games with a push of "Metal! Demons! Carnage!" and there is Rifts, just ahead, waving at them to come and join it out on the edge.

For me, Rifts is the Jack Kirby of gaming. There's a lot of infectious enthusiasm, and it may not always make sense, but by the time you finish flipping through a book you are nodding your head and smiling and thinking "Hell, yeah. I can do this." And Rifts is whispering to you, "Come and put on giant suits of powered armor and fight demons with us. Travel to strange worlds where everyone are giants who live for thousands of years. Be a centaur who fights crime on a cosmic scale." And you look down and whisper "yes..."

There were a couple of sessions after this, but for one reason or another we didn't record them. These are actually proving to be some of the most popular of the "actual play" videos in my YouTube stream. The episode of Masks of Narylthotep and a couple of the Cyberpunk games are the only ones that are more popular.

Friday, August 22, 2014

New From Image - Warren Ellis And Tula Lotay Reimagine The Straightforward

Supreme was one of the mainstays of Image Comics during its early days. Spinning out of the imagination and world building of Rob Liefeld, Supreme was part of the super-powered arms race going on at the company at the time as creators tried to one up each other with the most powerful characters that they could create. Supreme was Liefeld's homage to Superman, filtered through the unique comic sensibilities of the 90s.

I will be honest, while I knew about the Supreme comic, it didn't really hit my radar until Alan Moore's run on the book. While I enjoyed that run, it was fueled more for nostalgia for comics from another age than the quality for which Moore was known.

Likewise, Ellis' work has been lackluster of late. Where his stories were once some of the most wildly creative in comics, they have of late been infected with an action movie idiom that has made them less appealing. Violence has been substituted for plot in too man of his stories for my taste.

Bring this together and I had planned on skipping this new Supreme Blue Rose series by Warren Ellis and Tula Lotay. However, the recent relaunches and reimaginings of Liefeld's Prophet and Glory were interesting comics that pushed the envelope on super-hero comics. Both were books that I would not have expected to come from Liefeld's studio.

Now, with Supreme Blue Rose I have been surprised for a third time.

The new Supreme Blue Rose by Warren Ellis and Tula Lotay is turning into something like the comic version of a Pynchon novel. Ellis is at his most creative in probably a decade and Lotay's art has a dreaminess to it that gives the story an ethereal quality, and when combined show just exactly how comic books can be an art form.

Fairly pretentious, I know.

I'm not really one to fawn over a comic book without some sort of a justification. As a media, comics have just become too fleeting and ephemeral. You read a new comic once or twice, and then put it away in a box. Maybe later you pull it out of that box and try to experience that initial buzz again. A lot of the time that just doesn't happen.

One of the stengths of Lotay's art in these issues is that she puts that ephemeral quality onto the page, making it a part of the story. Her art, and Ellis' script, has you questioning the reality of what you are experiencing within the comic. This is something that I think is a quality of good art, and something definitely lacking from a lot of mainstream comics these days.

For the longest time I was a huge Ellis fan boy, I even have a copy of Crooked Little Vein, his first novel. Ellis was an explosion onto the comic scene, wildly creative and bringing influences into his stories that we hadn't seen in comics for a long time. Ellis loves his science. Even if his science is itself sketchy, he is able to make it sound convincing with a lot of buzzwords that make you feel like he knows what he's talking about, even when you and he both know that he's just making it all up as he goes. That is one of the qualities that drew me into Ellis' work over the years.

Unfortunately, it felt like much of his initial joy faded away, to be replaced by a more cynical approach fueled by the idioms of blockbuster action movies. Violence became a replacement for plot and a catalog of damages instead filled in for characterization. Everything became an imitation of what he had done with Stormwatch and The Authority, I personally lost interest. I would still pick up books here and there, but a lot of them would be disappointments to me. I am still sad that newuniversal was never completed. Despite the art in that book having one photo reference too many, the writing was the Ellis that we all knew and loved.

However, Supreme Blue Rose isn't a return of vintage Ellis, and that is a good thing. The writing in these issues is subdued, very much in tandem with Lotay's art. Ellis seems to be more interested in creating a tone than in building a world. The setting is obviously our own contemporary world. Little touches of dialogue like "Best Instagram ever." ground his story in the real world.

This isn't some super-hero story filled with bulging biceps and over enhanced breasts. This isn't some hackneyed "deconstruction" of the super-hero genre that comes off as a fifth generation copy of Watchmen or The Dark Knight. The characters in the story aren't new. Much like with Moore's run, they are recreations of the characters that have already appeared in Supreme comics. Unlike Moore, Ellis is not trying to retool them into another comic idiom. Instead, much like in a story by British author J.G. Ballard, Ellis deftly blends the "real" and the "fantastic" into a story that would not be out of place among Borges' works.

I think that I have done enough name dropping for one review.

Let's just say that I think the first two issues of Supreme Blue Rose were engaging comics that drew me into the world that Ellis and Lotay are creating. This is not your father's Supreme. If you want something out of the mainstream, a comic that tells an intriguing story, you should check out Supreme Blue Rose today.