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Friday, May 29, 2015

Lest We Forget...The Goodness of Hulks And Horrors

A couple of years ago, after an ill-fated attempt to run the mess that is Machinations of the Space Princess, and still wanting to give some science fiction role-playing a chance, we switched to Hulks & Horrors for a few sessions for our After Earth campaign. Unfortunately some fluctuations in our group put the kibosh on that game. The one thing that we did enjoy was the system of Hulks & Horrors. This is a great little game that, like so many in our super saturated RPG "market," didn't really gain the foothold that it deserved.

Sadly, there is still a strong "What can I buy now?" element to gaming communities that tend to drive a mentality of "what's next" commercialism. For better or worse, this means that game are bought and then never used before the next wave of games are bought (and not used). I admit that I've never really had a collector's gene (despite all the comics that I own), and the idea of buying things just to collect them, rather than to use them is rather alien to me. My only problem with this whole cycle is that we tend to end up with subpar, or uninspired games that are being produced solely to be put up on a shelf somewhere.

One of the reasons that I liked Hulks & Horrors was because it took the simplicity of a game that I liked (Swords & Wizardry Whitebox) and took out some of the things that I didn't like about that game. As much as I like the simplicity of Whitebox, sooner or later the whole all damage is measured in d6s starts to bother me. Hulks & Horrors isn't derived from Whitebox, so that isn't why I am making the comparison between the two games.  In Hulks & Horrors, Berry went back to the open content of the 3.x SRD and then used them to create his new game, using the paradigms of older editions and an o school style of play.

Part of why Hulks & Horrors succeeded for us was because it was a lot less complicated of a ruleset than Machinations of the Space Princess, in fact Hulks & Horrors succeeded in capturing the old school simplicity that escaped Machinations. Where Machinations added a great deal of unnecessary detail to character creation and combat, Hulks & Horrors kept it simple and made for a much more playable game than Machinations.

Other than the spectacular art from Satine Phoenix, there really wasn't much to Machinations, or to the "Metal Hurlant" atmosphere that it claimed to support. While Hulks & Horrors doesn't claim to support such a style of play, there is also nothing that keeps you from playing this sort of campaign with the game. That is one of the appeals to an old school style of play, the lack of explicit support doesn't mean that you cannot use a game in that style. You can even take Hulks & Horrors sister game (using a variant of the same system), Arcana Rising, and use it to add magic to your science fiction.

From what you get in the game, I think that Hulks & Horrors supports a sort of classic star traveling science fiction with elements of the 40k Universe. You could very easily dial up the 40K-ness of the "setting" of the game with the addition of monsters and some back story.  The existing classes (Pilot, Scientist, Soldier and Psyker) could easily be ramped up to support this. For Judge Dredd fans, you could easily reskin the classes to be departments of the Justice Department and run with it. One of the reasons that I like the Scientist class is because its inspirations are a mashup of Doctor McCoy and the Doctor.

Like many old school inspired games, Hulks & Horrors doesn't have an explicit setting. Instead the ideas of the setting are revealed through the details of the character classes, and through the monsters included. This is what makes games like this so easy to hack. For example, I would say that the one thing that Hulks & Horrors would not do as well out of the box is to support a Star Wars-inspired kind of game. You could add on to it to do that, Jedi-inspired classes are a dime a dozen out there on the internet, and because of the game having the commonality of D&D as the base, conversion is fairly easy.

So, really, this is a lot of words telling you to go back and check out an overlooked game that deserves more love than it receives. I think that it will pay you back with hours of gaming fun, and stories to tell your fellow gamers for years to come.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Go To Hell With The Codex Infernus For Savage Worlds Kickstarter

Update: This Kickstarter was cancelled.

Seriously, go to Hell.

I know, normally Josh would be writing about a Kickstarter, but between his being sick and having finals you ended up with me instead. I'll try to fill his shoes.

Do you remember the time when TSR backpedaled on the infernal in D&D games because they were worried about how the hobby was viewed by outsiders? Yeah, me too. I'm glad that those days are past.

David Jarvis of Gun Metal Games is Kickstarting The Codex Infernus, a guide to Hell and all forms of deviltry for the Savage Worlds game. He has also assembled a pretty good team, including Rob Wieland, Eddy Webb, Eloy Lasanta and Monica Valentinelli. A group of very capable and creative people.

The nice thing about this supplement is that it isn't tied to a specific genre or setting. The collection of new races, Edge, Backgrounds, magic items and rules for things like exorcism, demonic pacts, possession and other infernally fun things will spice up your Savage Worlds games regardless of what they are.

And anyone who is a Rifts fan will see that this supplement will be of great use when the upcoming Rifts Savage Worlds game setting is released. But, really, who doesn't want more demons for their role-playing games?

Jarvis has also assembled a team of adventure writers to round out the supplement. John Dunn is creating an adventure around demonic time travel. Gareth Skarka is crafting an ode to the great supernatural comics of the 1970s (a perennial favorite of mine). Savage Worlds creator Shane Hensley is working on an adventure based around the Shroud of Turin. These three are just the tip of the adventure iceberg as well.

There are still a couple of weeks to go (at the time of this post) and the campaign has not yet reached the goal of $21,000. That is a lot of money, but this is going to be a quality product in the end...packed with new rules, exciting adventure, stunning art and high production values. Get in on The Codex Infernus while the getting is good.

Friday, April 17, 2015

That Big Swords And Wizardry News

There was a quiet announcement made today regarding the next "edition" of the Swords & Wizardry retroclone created by +Matt Finch, and published in its "Complete" version by Frog God Games.

For those who don't know, Swords & Wizardry is a clone of the earliest edition of the Dungeons & Dragons rules, before there were Basic or Expert versions and long before there was an Advanced version. Published as a boxed set, this edition of Dungeons & Dragons was three booklets...Volume 1: Men & Magic, Volume 2: Monsters & Treasure, and Volume 3: Underworld & Wilderness Adventures. There were also a handful of supplements for these rules as well: Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Eldritch Wizardry, Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes, and Swords & Spells.

Swords & Wizardry comes in three versions: Whitebox, Core and Complete. Whitebox covers the initial three booklets of the D&D rules. Core uses the first three supplements and parts of Greyhawk. Core uses the three booklets and the stuff from Greyhawk and Blackmoor. [I'm sure that I got one of those wrong and someone will correct me.]

So, this summer there will be a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money for a new printing/edition of Swords & Wizardry. What makes this newsworthy is that the fact that the graphic design, layout and art direction for this new edition will be an all-woman team of artists and designers lead by +Stacy Dellorfano, the founder of the online gaming convention +ConTessa. The art for the new edition will also feature new iconic characters that are female and people of color. In a way, the old school is stepping into the "new" school and with this edition of Swords & Wizardry we see Frog God Games bucking the perception that OSR/old school gamers are all conservative and reactionary individuals, interested only in continuing the status quo. Good on them for that.

This couldn't have come at a better time. It was only a few months ago that the latest edition of D&D was under fire from conservative elements of the tabletop gaming community for "insufferable PC propagandizing" for putting language saying that it was okay to play gay or transgendered characters in the game (not that anyone really needed permission for that anyway). I have said before, and I say again, that I don't like elements like these to try to claim any form of gaming of their own, and I am more than happy to see tabletop gaming dragged into the 21st century (even if some of the people are kicking and screaming).

There will be more to come on this...

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

R.I.P. Herb Trimpe

For comic fans of a certain age, artist Herb Trimpe was everywhere, and for those of us who were fans of the Shogun Warriors and Godzilla, Trimpe was a defining part of our childhoods.
Herb Trimpe was born in 1939 and raised in Peekskill, New York, where he graduated from Lakeland High School. Of his childhood art and comics influences, he said in 2002, "I really loved the Disney stuff, Donald Duck and characters like that. Funny-animal stuff, that was kind of my favorite, and I liked to draw that kind of thing. And I also liked ... Plastic Man. ... I loved comics since I was a little kid, but I was actually more interested in syndicating a comic strip than working in comics." As well, "I was a really big fan of EC comics and [artist] Jack Davis."
In the 1960s, during the period known as the Silver Age of Comics, Trimpe was assigned to pencil what became his signature character, the Hulk. Beginning with pencil-finishes over Marie Severin layouts in The Incredible Hulk vol. 2, #106 (Aug. 1968), he went on to draw the character for a virtually unbroken run of over seven years, through issue #142 (Aug. 1971), then again from #145–193 (Nov. 1971 – Nov. 1975). Additionally, Trimpe penciled the covers of five Hulk annuals (1969, 1971–72, 1976–77, titled King-Size Special! The Incredible Hulk except for #4, The Incredible Hulk Special), and both penciled and inked the 39-page feature story of The Incredible Hulk Annual #12 (Aug. 1983). Most writers on The Incredible Hulk heavily relied on Trimpe for the plot as well; in most cases he was not even given a written plot, and was left to draw the issue after only a brief story conference. Trimpe has said that he had no difficulty with this level of collaboration, and in fact enjoyed it.
Among the characters co-created by Trimpe during his run on the title were Jim Wilson in issue #131 (Sept. 1970) and Doc Samson in #141 (July 1971).[13] During his time on the comic, he became the first artist to draw for publication the character Wolverine, who would go on to become one of Marvel's most popular. The character, designed by Marvel de facto art director John Romita, Sr., was an antagonist for the Hulk, introduced in the last panel of The Incredible Hulk vol. 2, #180 (Oct. 1974) and making his first full appearance the following issue.[14] Trimpe in 2009 said he "distinctly remembers" Romita's sketch, and that, "The way I see it, [Romita and writer Len Wein] sewed the monster together and I shocked it to life! ... It was just one of those secondary or tertiary characters, actually, that we were using in that particular book with no particular notion of it going anywhere. We did characters in The [Incredible] Hulk all the time that were in [particular] issues and that was the end of them." Trimpe co-created nearly all of the characters introduced during his run on The Incredible Hulk, with Wolverine being a rare exception.
I was lucky that I was able to meet Herb Trimpe a few years ago at a local comic show in Tampa and thank him for everything that he did for my childhood. I was also able to get him to sign an issue of the Shogun Warriors comic for me.

Herb Trimpe drew The Hulk for forever, and even illustrated the Hulk story written by Harlan Ellison. He also drew the first appearance of Wolverine. His fingerprints are on the Marvel Universe until the end of time.

He will be missed.

Over on Twitter, writer Ron Marz made a couple of tweets that should be a reminder to comic fans.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Going Back To Kali

Sure, everybody loves using ninjas in their super-hero campaigns, but what if you want something that is a little different?

Luckily John Ostrander gave us an interesting new option during his run on the Suicide Squad (which I have talked about before) by introducing the Thuggee assassin Ravan in the first arc of that book. He later went on to become a member of the team and added an interesting moral dimension to the team.

There may be historical issues with the existence of the Thuggee, but that rarely gets in the way of good gaming (or comics for that matter). What I liked about Ostrander's incorporation of the cult into the DC Universe was the idea that, while they ostensibly worshiped the dread goddess Kali, their worship was out of fear and the murders that they committed were sacrifices to her in order to forestall the end of the current age and the start of the Age of Chaos, the Kali-Yuga. Ravan's "catchphrase" was "A Thousand Years, O Kali," because each consecrated death to their goddess would stall the coming of the Kali-Yuga by another thousand years.

Ravan, one of these Thuggees, set himself up as a mercenary killer. This way he could not only forestall the coming of Kali, but he could become very rich and live a playboy lifestyle while doing it. No mindless abasement here. He saw himself (as the panel to the right says) as the first of a new Thuggee cult that was in touch with the modern world. He used technology in his kills, using it to augment the traditional tools like the garrote.

Unlike the ninja, there is no running around in their underwear and using of ancient, outdated weapons for this cult. Their mixture of the ancient and the modern makes them an interesting foil for high tech super-heroes, or espionage agents.

So, how do you do this in your campaign? You could easily just reskin whatever passes for a ninja in the existing writeups for the system you are playing and add the bits about "killing for a higher cause" to them. Bam. You have Thuggee. When I introduced them into my Marvel Super-Heroes campaign back in college, that was basically all that I did. I think that my writeup for Ravan was cribbed from the one for The Taskmaster, removing his powers. A Ravan-like enemy should be capable of going toe-to-toe with a Daredevil or Bronze Tiger, but should be outclassed by a Batman or Captain America. Throw in a half dozen generic Thuggee to round things out for the player characters.

When will you use these Thuggee in a campaign? Their "calling" makes them a little more complex than your typical smash and grab type of villain. You can even make the Thuggees in your campaign world into a sort of morally grey hero, after all they are trying to keep the destruction of the world at bay and stop millions from being killed when a mad death goddess incarnates in the world. Sure, their tool for doing this is to kill people, but sometimes you have to break a few eggs to make omelettes. These killers consider themselves to be holy warriors on a mission, and the super-heroes are at odds with that mission.

This can add an interesting moral dimension to a super-hero campaign, particularly if the Thuggees only target evil or criminal individuals for their sacred killings. If there was demonstrated proof that gods like Kali really existed in the world, would that make a hero's choice to stop a killer from killing a killer a more difficult one? It would certainly make it a more interesting choice. Super-heroes, particularly in role-playing games, tend to have a black and whiteness to their morality. The simple addition of a faction like this can spice a game up considerably.

Another way to introduce the Thuggee into the campaign (and this is what we did with our game back in college) is to have one of the heroes be a repentant former member of the cult. This gives an immediate "in" for the cult, and it juices up the backstory of the hero. Did they leave the cult before...or after making their first kill. Is the hero trying to make up for having killed...or are they trying to make up for the deaths that the cult is responsible for. Either choice adds interesting dimension, and motivation, to a character.

This can make a character who is like the Paul Kirk version of Manhunter from the 1970s revamp of the character. The hero is fighting a silent, shadowy war against the cult, which occasionally erupts into the streets of the city, or on some espionage mission, drawing the heroes into the action and giving the former Thuggee some allies for a time.

And if you would prefer to not integrate a real world religion or goddess into your games, then substitute a fiction god or goddess for Kali. Imagine a version of the Cthulhu Cult that isn't trying to raise their god from his watery grave in R'lyeh, but is instead trying to keep him from rising and destroying their world. Imagine a cult that sprung up out of the end of the novel Dracula (or any of the countless adaptations if you prefer) that is taking the blood of victims so that the Count will not once again rise and make his vampiric armies. A concept like this has a lot of applications to a number of different genres of gaming. The idea is that the deaths caused by this religion is supposed to serve a greater good, and by interfering with them the heroes may be dooming their own world.

Of course, it could all just be a lie and, no matter what the members of the religion believe, there is no actual god or goddess or future destruction that they are forestalling, and their murders don't make them any better than any other killer.

Regardless of how you use this concept in your games it will add an interesting morality to them. My only real recommendation would be that whatever variant of this cult that you use in your games, you make them NPCs and any PCs are former members of the group.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

The Super Villain Handbook Kickstarter

Last year, we had a post and interview about a little supplement that was in development for ICONS -- The Super Villain Handbook. Now, that supplement is being Kickstarted and, at the time of this writing, already nearing its funding goal with over three weeks left to go. For those not in the know, The Super Villain Handbook contains 40 different super villain roles for use with the supers-themed RPG, ICONS. So, if you play ICONS (or are interested in it -- you can grab it here) you'll definitely want to check out the Kickstarter.

Speaking of the Kickstarter, this project is set up fairly simply, but fairly efficient. The video is fairly long, at just over six minutes, but it covers all the information that you could want about the supplement. The text of the page is wordy, but it's written in-character and some may find it entertaining and worth the read specifically for that. Probably the biggest negative I can find is the general lack of imagery for the Kickstarter page -- having a book all about super villains should have some pretty fantastic artwork to tease the potential pledger with.

Some of the biggest positives for this project are on the financial side -- the funding goal is very reasonable and the pledge tiers are well priced. If you'd like to get in, you have some choice, low-cost options available: $1USD gets you the unillustrated PDF version of the rules, $10USD gets you the illustrated PDF version of the rules (and stretch goals) and $25USD includes the PDF, stretch goals and a credit for the print copy (shipping to be handled separately).  The more stretch goals hit, the better the value, to boot.

They have also added stretch goals with support for Fate Core, so fans of that game can now use The Super Villain Handbook in that system as well.

If you'd like to know more about The Super Villain Handbook, be sure to check out its Kickstarter page or its Facebook page.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Car Wars Giveaway: Not An Imaginary Story

This is not a Dream! Not a Joke! Not an Imaginary Story!

I've been threatening a giveaway for a few months, and it is time that I actually do it. I have an extra copy of Car Wars Classic, still in the shrink wrap, that I want to give to someone who reads the blog. In fact it is the copy that I just took a picture of:

First, I am sorry to say, that this contest is only going to be open to people within the United States. Postage anymore has gotten ridiculous, and it is too much (and to much hassle anymore) to send this outside of the U.S. for a giveaway. I will be taking entries from now until the end of April, at which point I will choose a winner.

What is the contest, you may be asking right now? Simple. In the comments of this blog post finish this sentence: "When I rolled into my first autodueling arena I ____________." Don't get carried away, the odds are good that the longer you write, the less interested I will become in your entry. The winner will be judged solely on whether or not their answer amuses me. Also, only enter once.

The box will then be put into a padded mailer and sent via some form of US Postal Service service that will allow me to get a tracking number. There will be no requests for how I send it.

I have to be able to reach the winner and get a real name and address, so if you don't want to do that please don't bother entering.

Direct questions about this contest to me via social media instead of in the comments.

Good luck and Start Your Engines!!! 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Lankhmar: City of Thieves From Pinnacle Entertainment Group

Lankhmar is coming to your Savage Worlds games, and it is coming soon. The PDF of Lankhmar: City of Thieves will be available April 14th, when the print book goes up for preorder.

That is a kickass promo image.

And then, you will most likely see the book in your local game stores this summer. I'll try to take a picture of it, if the book is available at Gen Con in a couple of months.

FINAL FANTASY: Record Keeper launches in US for iOS and Android

There's another Final Fantasy-themed mobile game out in the US -- Final Fantasy: Record Keeper is an RPG set in the universe(s) of Final Fantasy. It's also a free-to-play fix for FF lovers (with some in-app purchases available, too).

So, I've been playing around with the game a bit since its launch -- should you care about it?

Short answer: if you really love the Final Fantasy universe (all of it) and are very familiar with (all of) it, you will likely get some entertainment out of it and might even really enjoy it. If you're new or inexperienced with the Final Fantasy games, there is still a decent game here for you -- with some nice music, graphics and game play. The game is filled with references to the universe(s) and the inexperienced will, likely, have no clue as to why they should care or what's really going on.

Still, it's free and worth a look. Press release below:

DeNA and Square Enix Launch
FINAL FANTASY: Record Keeper in North America

Fans Can Now Battle their Way through the Most Epic FINAL FANTASY Moments

SAN FRANCISCO - March 26, 2015 - DeNA and Square Enix (OTC: SQNXF) today announced the highly-anticipated release of FINAL FANTASY®: Record Keeper™ inNorth America. The first mobile game where players are able to experience the completeFINAL FANTASY universe, FINAL FANTASY: Record Keeper lets fans relive favorite moments across all past FINAL FANTASY installments and build a team of classic characters. FINAL FANTASY: Record Keeper is available on the AppStore for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch and Google Play for Android devices beginning today.

FINAL FANTASY: Record Keeper delivers the entire FINAL FANTASY universe directly into the hands of players and fans of the storied franchise. Players can recruit favorite FINAL FANTASY heroes, including Tidus, Lightning, and Cloud, to form the most dynamic team of all time. Characters can each be completely customized and equipped to the fullest with iconic gear, powerful spells, summons, and hundreds of weapons to choose from.

Gameplay in FINAL FANTASY: Record Keeper is as strategic and challenging as ever with the classic FINAL FANTASY Active Time Battle (ATB) system in place. Players battle their way through the most epic FINAL FANTASY moments, woven together for the first time on mobile with an all-new tale. Featuring skill-based interactive gameplay, players plan attacks, carefully choose tactics, and engage enemies in active time battles.

"The wait is finally over for fans who have been anxiously awaiting the release of FINAL FANTASY: Record Keeper in North America," said Shintaro Asako, CEO of DeNA West. "The game truly delivers the entire FINAL FANTASY universe that players know and love in one immersive experience that won't disappoint."

"DeNA and SQUARE ENIX are proud to present the highly anticipated FINAL FANTASY: Record Keeper to players in the US," said Ichiro Hazama, Producer atSQUARE ENIX. "The mobile RPG that took Japan by storm is set to bring that same excitement to US shores."

FINAL FANTASY: Record Keeper is available as a free download on the AppStore for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch and Google Play for Android devices beginning today. For more information on the game, visit: http://www.finalfantasyrecordkeeper.comTo download multimedia assets, including screenshots, game logo, and more, visit the game's online press kit.

A gameplay trailer is available to watch and embed on your site via the following YouTube link:

# # #
Since the release of FINAL FANTASY in 1987, this unique RPG series continues to showcase the spectacular visuals, highly imaginative worlds and rich stories leading the industry and earning the highest accolades from users around the world. Titles of the series have so far achieved a cumulative shipment of over 110 million units worldwide.

About DeNA
DeNA (pronounced "D-N-A") is a global Internet company that develops and operates a broad range of mobile and online services including games, e-commerce and other diversified offerings. Founded in 1999, DeNA is headquartered in Tokyo with offices and game development studios across the globe. DeNA Co., Ltd. is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange (2432). For more information, visit:

About Square Enix Co., Ltd.
Square Enix Co., Ltd. develops, publishes, distributes and licenses SQUARE ENIX®, EIDOS® and TAITO® branded entertainment content around the world. The Square Enix Group operates a global network of leading development studios and boasts a valuable portfolio of intellectual property, including: FINAL FANTASY, which has sold over 110 million units worldwide, and DRAGON QUEST® which has sold over 64 million units worldwide; TOMB RAIDER®, which has sold over 42 million units worldwide; and the legendary SPACE INVADERS®. Square Enix is a Japan-based, wholly-owned subsidiary of Square Enix Holdings Co., Ltd.

More information on Square Enix Co., Ltd. can be found at 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Neon Sanctum RPG Kickstarter Interview with Adam Waite

A little over a week ago the Kickstarter for Neon Sanctum, an RPG set in a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk world, launched and it's already nearing the half-way point of its funding goal with around three weeks left to go. We here at Dorkland have managed to sit down with Adam Waite of Grenade Punch Games, developers of Neon Sanctum, for a little interview about the game and its Kickstarter.

Dorkland!: How has the Kickstarter been for you, so far? What have you learned that you wish you could share with your past self?

Adam Waite: We did a LOT of research prior to the Kickstarter, so we knew roughly what to expect. I’m not sure we expected that there would be so many other great games out this month. Neon Sanctum is up against some stiff competition!

DL: Most RPGs tend to stick with just a book as their material, which makes publishing them more straightforward. What are some of the unique challenges you're facing by publishing cards (and other materials)?

AW: Clearly, the printing and shipping of a game include cards, dice and battle maps with a rulebook too is more expensive than a book. But we’ve worked hard to get some good deals. Also, once you include dice in the game it automatically qualifies it as a game eligible for VAT if sold by retailers. That also means you have to start thinking about CE marking and try to find a printer who’ll ensure your game qualifies for CE marking if you’re marketing it to under 14s.

DL: What do the cards bring to the gameplay that wouldn’t be there otherwise? Can players use Neon Sanctum without cards?

AW: The cards make the game far more accessible than a traditional RPG, but they’re core to the game – you couldn’t play Neon Sanctum without cards. We use mechanics that you couldn’t do without easily without cards, things like shuffling for initiative. Also the way players use cards mean that they cycle between their hand and cooldown decks. This brings a resource management style mechanic to the game that is unique and constantly provides the players with interesting choices.

DL: Tabletop RPGs have been played online (through various clients and means) more frequently over the years. Could Neon Sanctum be played online? If so, how might they and, if not, are there any plans to allow fans to do so in the future?

AW: Yes! In fact we’ve been doing some demonstrations via Tabletop Simulator for people interested in the game. We weren’t sure if these would be popular, but over 70 people tuned in to our first one. In addition we’re offering a free app for character creation to aid the physical game.

DL: How does Neon Sanctum's setting differ from other cyberpunk settings? What might cyberpunk fans find familiar?

AW: Neon Sanctum is set in a unique world where the post apocalypse and cyberpunk collide. It’s set a couple of hundred years after a huge war, humanity was on the very brink of defeat when they found a final solution. It ended the war in a single stroke, but it also turned most of the world into uninhabitable dead zones. This forced the few humans who survived to look for new places to settle. Two hundred years one of these settlements has turned into Neon City a huge cyberpunk metropolis surrounded by mutant and bandit filled wastes.

The world obviously takes inspiration from films such as Blade Runner, Dredd and Ghost in the Shell as well as games such as videogames such as Shadowrun Returns and The Last of Us. The idea was to pick up where many movies and games end – how do humans survive once the world has been rebuilt from an apocalypse? And at what cost?

DL: Why should people buy and support Neon Sanctum? Why should they play it?

AW: People should buy and play Neon Sanctum because it’s great fun to play, accessible, and it’s something a little different. It may be a card game but it is also a really great RPG with full character customisation and advancement. The game has had some fantastic reviews so far, and as of three days in we’ve hit 34% of our target.

DL: What plans do you have for the future of Neon Sanctum?

AW: At the moment we are totally focused on the kickstarter, we do have some great stretch goals however. Things like more items, NPCs and even skill cards. The game is really modular so you could add in new cards really easily, so the scope for expansions is endless.

DL: Lastly, what has been a stand-out moment for you while playing Neon Sanctum?

AW: We always have a great time playing the game. Some recent moments include the group being so paranoid that they threw away a briefcase of a certain drug that they needed because they convinced themselves it was a bomb. Also we had a Pegasus character once leap onto the cockpit of a dropship and kill the pilot through the windscreen.

We would like to thank Adam for taking the time to answer our questions and wish him and Grenade Punch Games the best with their ongoing Kickstarter. If you'd like to know more about Neon Sanctum, be sure to check out the Kickstarter page and its website.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Neon Sanctum Kickstarter

If you have a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk RPG itch, there's a new Kickstarter that might just satisfy. Neon Sanctum by Grenade Punch Games is offering an RPG that utilizes cards in place of character sheets and involves them in the mechanics.

Sound strange? Well, it certainly might be at first and seeing, in this case, does wonders for understanding. Thankfully, the people at Grenade Punch Games have links to a free rule book and playtest kit on the Kickstarter page. Uncertain if the game is for you? Don't take anyone's word for it -- you can see for yourself.

If you do take my word for anything, though, it should be on this section: the Kickstarter project evaluation.

The video is, for most Kickstarter pages, the very first element seen and, in Neon Sanctum's case, the teaser image for it is a nice choice, and shows the post-apocalyptic setting off. The video is nicely edited, has a good length, and the imagery shows some of the cyberpunk elements. But, the information in it could easily fly over the head of someone without any knowledge of the product. Also, it didn't seem to have any audio, though I'm not sure if that's just me.

The main body of the page is really where this project shines. There is good use of imagery throughout the page and in a variety of ways. Then there's the formatting of the text and information that helps highlight important bits, and blocks of text are broken up into more manageable bites. There are even a couple of videos embedded to give further information and instruction for the product.

The product is clearly shown in imagery. The backing tiers, as well. And, as an added bonus, they went the extra mile and converted all of the monetary amounts into USD, GBP, and EUR. That isn't something we see too often.

All-around a very nice Kickstarter project.

Now, at this point, you might be wondering what getting in on it will cost you. The short: around a dollar for a 'Print and Play' version, $12USD for a player's 'deck' and, roughly, $50USD for the core set. All the contents of the core set are also shown on the Kickstarter page, if you're curious what your money is going to get you.

But, that's all this post is going to get. If you'd like to know more about Neon Sanctum, be sure to check out its Kickstarter page (which is full of information) or check out Neon Sanctum's website.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Awesome -- A YA Novel From Eva Darrows

“Hilarious and twisted, this is one bad-ass jump-kick of a book. Move over Buffy, because monster hunter Maggie Cunningham is in town. THE AWESOME does not merely live up to its name, but in fact, speeds past it at the speed of a crossbow bolt slamming into a vampire’s breastbone.”

– Chuck Wendig, author of the Miriam Black series

Seventeen-year-old Maggie Cunningham is tough, smart, and sassy. She’s also not like other girls her age, but then, who would be when the family business is monster hunting? Combat boots, ratty hooded sweatshirts, and hair worn short so nothing with claws can get a grip, Maggie’s concerns in life slant more toward survival than fashion or boys. Which presents a problem when Maggie’s mother informs Maggie that she can’t get her journeyman’s license for hunting until she loses her virginity. Something about virgin blood turning vampires into pointy rage monsters. Blood and gore and insides being on the outside and all that.

Maggie’s battled ghosts and goblins and her fair share of house brownies, but finding herself a boy—fitting in with her peers—proves a much more daunting task than any monster hunt. Did you know normal girls don’t stuff their bras with holy water balloons? Nor do they carry wooden stakes in their waistbands. And they care about things like “matching” and “footwear.” Of course, they also can’t clean a gun blindfolded, shoot a crossbow, or exorcise ghosts from a house. Which means they’re lame and Maggie’s not. Because Maggie’s awesome.

The Awesome, in fact.
Just ask her. She’d be more than happy to tell you.
After she finds herself a date.

Part monster-hunter, part heart-breaker and all AWESOME, seventeen year-old Maggie Cunningham is the Whedon-worthy hero YA has been waiting for. An apprentice in the family business, Maggie’s interests slant more towards survival than fashion or boys, which presents a problem when Maggie’s mother informs her that she can’t get her journeyman’s license until she loses her virginity (something about virgin blood turning vampires into pointy-teethed rage monsters). One foiled fumble, a dead fledgling vampire and an angry undead prince later, and it would appear that the dating scene is more complicated than Maggie had first anticipated…

An anti-paranormal romance for the YA readership, The Awesome is fast, furious and funny. Maggie is a refreshing and recognisable figure who wouldn’t be caught dead going up against a ghoul in anything as silly as tight-fitting leathers (impractical, plus muffin top).

Coming in May from Ravenstone Press (the cutting-edge YA and Children’s imprint from Rebellion Publishing).

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

And Where Is The OGL (Or Some Facsimile)?

One thing that was mentioned with the launch of D&D 5e was that there would be an OGL (Open Game License), or some equivalent released. When do we think that will be?

There have been mis-steps along the way of the launch of the new game. Delays in releases held up getting the core books out. Books were cancelled and turned into PDFs (along with claims that they were never announced). There have been the usual edition wars and hurt feelings on the internet, and Dungeons & Dragons moved into a new edition.

I think that one of the few things that gamers can probably agree on is the fact that D&D 3.x greatly benefited from having the OGL and 3rd party support. We can probably also agree that the glut of third edition materials that came out because of the OGL may have also hurt the game in the long run. That's neither here nor there.

This new edition possibly has one of the lightest release schedules this side of AD&D 1e. It has been a while since new material has come out for D&D from Wizards of the Coast. Gamers are getting restless, and there are already people claiming that the launch was a failure or that fifth edition is dead. Personally, my gaming isn't built around how much material I can buy, so this trickle of material doesn't really bother me that much, but it does bring up the question of what happened to the OGL (or equivalent) that was promised? Mike Mearls mentioned that it was

The lack of direct OGL support for D&D 5e hasn't stopped some publishers from using the existing 3.x OGL to fill in some blanks and put out support for the game. One of the things that hampers these coming, but still no hints of glimmers even.efforts is the lack of ability to claim support with the new edition. The one/two punch of the 3.x OGL/SRD and the d20 Logo License opened up a lot of potential in the market. Not only could you use the mechanics from D&D 3.x as is (yes, I understand that game mechanics cannot be copyrighted, but when going for compatibility with a specific game being able to use the exact wording of the mechanics is helpful) but you could put on the cover of your book that it was compatible with Dungeons & Dragons. That alone was worth using the licenses for a lot of publishers.

Yes, I get that some people think that they don't have to use the OGL, and that is fine, too. This discussion isn't about that.

Just speaking as a gaming fan, and sometimes designer, I would like to see any open content from the fifth edition rules releases under the same OGL as third edition. Why? It will facilitate the pollination of material between the editions, making it easier for the good 3.x material to be brought over to the new edition. This was a problem with 4th edition, because the licenses wouldn't allow easy conversion of material from one system to the other. I think that it will be interesting to see how some of the player bits from the new edition (the stuff that I really liked) will work out with some of that material. Or maybe we can see the addition of things like advantage and disadvantage, and Backgrounds, worked into some of the material forked off of the 3rd edition material (like in retroclones). There is so much potential for material that, and I think that it wants to get out.

So, the question remains: Where is the OGL for Dungeons & Dragons Wizards of the Coast?

Friday, March 06, 2015

Carpe Noctem From Hashtag Comics [NSFW Previews]

Hashtag Comics is a new publisher who is sem-local to me. I met writer Martin Dunn last year at the Tampa Bay Comic-Con, and now we run into each other at local events and comic stores. After running into each other recently at Heroes Haven over in Tampa, he told me about a new publisher that he was involved with, and a book that he was writing for them. Pixel crossed the internet and I found myself with some previews to read. Hashtag Comics has an interesting approach as a publisher because they publish comics geared towards a more adult audience, as well as more family friendly titles as well.

Carpe Noctem is on the less family-friendly, more "adult" end of their publishing spectrum. The first issue was raw, and I found it very reminiscent of 90s Horror Comics, but in the hands of Dunn and artist Derrick Fish the story manages to rise above many of the cliches of this particularly genre/style of comic book story.

There is blood, and violence and sex. This is a story about vampires, werewolves and other things that go "bump" in the night, and telling stories about these sorts of creatures would be difficult without at least the blood and violence. I would be disappointed in a vampire comic that didn't have blood in it.

Carpe Noctem also has some intriguing concepts in it, ideas that elevate it about the average. The Auditors are ancient, eldritch beings that manage to avoid the Lovecraftian cliches that usually come with "Old Ones" and "Eldritch Beings" in comics, or a lot of horror for that matter. It is the task of the Auditors to keep the supernatural world a secret, often through dark means. In this first issue we are introduced to Chelsea, who is going to be the viewpoint character for the readers, the one through whom the supernatural world is revealed.

[Previews and more adult material after the jump]

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Stygian Garden of Abelia Prem Kickstarter and Interview

There's a new adventure module being Kickstarted that fans of Lamentations of the Flame Princess (and other OSR games) should look into: The Stygian Garden of Abelia Prem by Red Moon Medicine Show. The 24-page module is already written and (with backing) will sport artwork and cartography (with keyed locations). The setting seems to fall into the weird-fantasy/Gothic variety and you can check out the background story on the Kickstarter page.

At the time of this writing, the project has just shy of two weeks left and is on the verge of funding. Which, for adventure modules, is quite good. It's easy to see why it's doing well in a quick run-down of the Kickstarter page (as I like to do): the video is interesting -- the information it does present is all visual and gives a glimpse of what you (or your party) may be in for; key information is bold and easy to notice -- it's easy to skim the page and learn everything quickly; the funding goal is very reasonable; and there are a good spread of pledge levels -- including some that are very easy to get in on. Also, the image that the title is on is pretty sweet.

As an added bonus I had the chance to ask Clint Krause (of Red Moon Medicine Show) some questions about The Stygian Garden and its Kickstarter:

Dorkland!: This is at least your second Kickstarter. What did you learn from the first project that you've applied to this one?

Clint Krause: When we did the Kickstarter for Don’t Walk in Winter Wood, there was still a lot of creative work to be done once the project had funded. For example, we added a bunch of scenarios and other stuff as stretch goals. I found that I had a very hard time working creatively under the pressure of a fully funded campaign. My normal writing process is very slow and plodding with lots of tinkering and revision and re-imagining. The pressure created by our success made it very difficult to write that extra stuff. It came out okay (actually, one of those bonus scenarios has become my favorite scenario for the game), but I definitely learned a lesson. When we do a Kickstarter now, it’s important to me that all of the major creative work is done and all that remains is finishing work. It’s much less stressful that way.

DL!: This Kickstarter project is a little different from most in that the bulk of the material is already finished (sans art and maps) and there are no stretch goals. Why go this route? What are the benefits for you and for the backers?

CK: This ties into the previous question, but the idea is that this is essentially just a pre-order for the book. By now, everybody who uses Kickstarter has probably been burned by some unscrupulous creator and I don’t want that to ever happen with our projects. I want to deliver and do it in a timely way. Delays are inevitable, but it helps tremendously if the lion’s share of the work is already done.

We didn’t do stretch goals for this project because we didn’t need them. Kickstarter is a very flexible tool and there’s no need for every single project to be a big fucking cash grab. It can also be a very focused in-and-out sort of thing. That’s what we’re going for.

DL!: Are the print copies going to be print-on-demand or from a print run and why that choice, for you, over the other?

CK: The print copies will be POD through Lightning Source/OBS. We’re doing fulfillment ourselves though (even though it’s more expensive that way). Cas and I have learned that we really like doing fulfillment on our projects. It lets us add a personal touch to the packages and make sure that our backers get a premium experience. After the backer copies are all distributed, the book will become available POD on drivethrurpg/rpgnow.

Right now POD works best for us on most projects. We don’t generally have the volume of sales that would justify large print runs. If I were to do a run of something, it would be because I wanted to do something specific with the physical book that I could not do through POD.

DL!: What are some of the inspirations that went into the adventure module?

CK: I was inspired to get into OSR publishing by The Sleeping Place of the Feathered Swine by Logan Knight and Deep Carbon Observatory by Patrick Stuart and Scrap Princess. After reading those, I felt like I could really have some fun with a project like this.

The Stygian Garden was inspired by a bunch of different things. My first thought was that it would be cool to do something like an underground version of the Winchester Mystery House. I was also thinking of Bothwell Lodge near Sedalia, Missouri, which I visited many times as a kid. 

I’ve always been fascinated by the intersection between extreme wealth and fringe spirituality. There’s this great quote from the architect Robert Stacy-Judd. He said "architecture consists of frozen symbols, which can be thawed into a palatable language where measures and motifs are words and sentences."  When those frozen symbols are inspired by an eccentric viewpoint on the supernatural, the resulting “words and sentences” often tell an interesting, unnerving story.

The module also owes a debt to classics like X2 Castle Amber and House of Strahd. The song Unforgiven II by Metallica provided some imagery. The films As Above, So Below and The Taking of Deborah Logan were fresh on my mind at the time.

DL!: The adventure is for OSR titles of all natures, but you specifically mention Lamentations of the Flame Princess. How does this adventure fit with what Lamentations is about?

CK: Well, first of all LotFP is the game I’m running on a regular basis. The module is taken directly from my campaign. I think LotFP is a wonderful articulation of the classic game. As a brand, LotFP has set a precedent for creepy, atmospheric, location-based modules. The Stygian Garden harkens back to James Raggi’s earlier modules like Death Frost Doom and Hammers of the God. There are still traditional fantasy elements (elves and dwarves and stuff), but they are set loose in an eerie, dangerous environment.  It ends up playing like a slow burn horror film.

DL!: There seems to be a horticultural theme (going by the background and, well, the name) in the adventure. Why is that? What kind of role does it play in the adventure, if any?

CK: Plant-based imagery is wonderful to work with. Plants are creepy in that they are so prevalent yet so alien and they eat us when we die. These things are tied deeply into our subconscious. The module also features a number of valuable and useful plants that can be recovered by crafty adventurers. This led my players to start their own unusual garden.

DL!: Lastly, if you were to stumble across a Stygian Rose -- what would you do with it?

CK: Cas told me I should have it studied and duplicated so it could benefit a lot of people, but I wouldn’t be that forward thinking. I would probably put it in a safe and keep it until someone close to me died. Then, at the funeral, I’d leap onto the coffin while shouting “wait for it! wait for it!” and shove the thing in the cadaver’s mouth. Hopefully, the stories about the rose are true and it’d be one hell of a magic trick.

We here at Dorkland! would like to thank Clint for taking the time to answer our questions and if you would like to know more about The Stygian Garden be sure to check out its Kickstarter (still running) and Red Moon Medicine Show's website.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Dynamite Comics Mega Post

There have been a lot of announcements this week coming from Dynamite Entertainment about upcoming comics. There's a lot of cool stuff coming, so let's do a quick breakdown.

Dynamite Entertainment is proud to announce the May 2015 launch of Swords of Sorrow, the genre-spanning crossover event featuring an all-star line-up of female authors, headlined by Gail Simone (Batgirl, Birds of Prey).  Debuting with a core Swords of Sorrow series by Simone, the crossover continues throughout May with tie-in titles including the Swords of Sorrow: Vampirella / Jennifer Blood miniseries written by Nancy A. Collins (Vampirella, Swamp Thing); the Swords of Sorrow: Chaos special by Mairghread Scott (Transformers: Windblade); and the Swords of Sorrow: Masquerade / Kato special by G. Willow Wilson (Ms. Marvel) and Erica Schultz (M3). Subsequent months will debut related projects by additional female authors, including Leah Moore, Marguerite Bennett, Emma Beeby, and Mikki Kendall. The crossover event brings together Dynamite's wide roster of female characters, including the iconic Red Sonja, Dejah Thoris (of the popular Edgar Rice Burroughs' Warlord of Mars franchise), and Vampirella.

Gail Simone, who has been planning the project since her involvement was announced in July, says, "Here's the thing: I love pulp adventure, always have. But as male-dominated as comics have often been, the pulp adventure world seems to be even more so.  Most of the big name stars and creators are dudes, and that's fine, it's great. But it hit me... what if that wasn't the case? What if adventure pulps had also been written with female readers in mind, and awesome female characters in the spotlight? That's the scenario we are imagining, and it's just been a blast. The key players are Red Sonja, Vampirella, and Dejah Thoris, but it's such an epic-spanning, world-hopping event that we also have Kato, Jungle Girl, Lady Rawhide, Jennifer Blood, and so many more. It's the crossover I dreamed of when I was a kid, and now we get to make it happen."

Simone's core Swords of Sorrow story serves as the starting point for a new universe of pulp adventure. Illustrated by Sergio Davila (Legenderry: A Steampunk Adventure), the series features the supernatural heroine Vampirella, Martian princess Dejah Thoris, crimson-tressed swordswoman Red Sonja, martial artist Kato (from filmmaker Kevin Smith's reboot of The Green Hornet), primal warrior Jungle Girl, and many more. Drawn from a dozen worlds and eras to face off against a legendary evil that threatens their homelands, Dynamite's fiercest females must overcome their differences to harness the power of mystical blades -- the eponymous Swords of Sorrow -- in final conflict.

Gail Simone also serves as the architect for all storylines tied into the event, providing direction to her personally selected team of writers. "We got the best writers around, gave them a fun combination of characters and just let them go wild," says Simone. "It's creators like G. Willow Wilson, Marguerite Bennett, Nancy A. Collins and more, with book titles like Vampirella vs. Jennifer Blood, Kato vs. Masquerade, and Red Sonja vs. Jungle Girl. More about these tag teams will be coming soon, but it's just a ridiculous amount of fun to set these characters against each other, and I'm very proud of the astounding team of writers, who I hand-picked from among the very best of new female adventure writers. There's never been a crossover event in comics like this, ever."

Dynamite Entertainment, a leading publisher in the comics and graphic novel industry, is proud to announce that the all-new adventures featuring Will Eisner's legendary crimefighter Denny Colt, The Spirit, will be written by the award-winning comic creator Matt Wagner. Marking the beginning of a partnership between Dynamite and the Eisner Estate, the new series will celebrate seventy-five years of The Spirit, and its #1 launch issue will feature cover artwork from all-star illustrators Alex Ross, Eric Powell, and series writer Matt Wagner himself.

The Spirit stands among the most iconic and influential characters in the industry with a publishing history in newspapers and comic books lasting generations.  Many of the most accomplished creators in the field have carried the torch that Will Eisner set ablaze, including Darwyn Cooke, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Dave Gibbons, and Joe R. Lansdale, just to name a few. Matt Wagner, whose long career in comics has yielded a vast library of critically acclaimed titles, takes the reins on The Spirit for the very first time, ensuring that Eisner's creation endures as we enter its fourth quarter-century.

"I discovered The Spirit via the black-and-white, magazine-sized reprints of the mid-70s. It was the first time that I truly perceived sequential narrative as a legitimate art form, of the immense creative power of a comic-artist in his prime," says Wagner. "I can honestly say that seeing and experiencing The Spirit in my formative years ultimately led to my career as a comics author. It's such an immense thrill and a professional honor to have the chance to contribute to Will Eisner's legacy on the milestone 75th anniversary of his most influential and iconic character."

Matt Wagner is the accomplished creator of Grendel and Mage, a guiding creative force behind such mainstream blockbusters as Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman: Trinity and Batman: The Monster Men, and no stranger to pulp noir, courtesy of his groundbreaking work on such Dynamite titles as The Shadow: Year One, Green Hornet: Year One, and Zorro. He recently set Hollywood abuzz with the launch of Django/Zorro, a comic book series co-written with influential filmmaker Quentin Tarantino that teams two Western icons in an official sequel to the hit film Django Unchained.

Dynamite Entertainment is proud to announce that Mark Waid, one of the comic book industry's most accomplished writers, will be scripting the upcoming Justice, Inc.: The Avenger series. Joined by Dynamite artist Ronilson Freire, Waid will expand the Justice, Inc. universe of pulp heroes that include Condé Nast's The Shadow and Doc Savage. The new series will debut with a #1 issue in June 2015 and focus on wealthy industrialist Richard Henry Benson, the tragic, relentless vigilante and master of disguise known as The Avenger.

In Justice, Inc.: The Avenger #1, Waid and Freire continue the adventures of Richard Henry Benson, a victim of a criminal attack that left his facial features forever deadened, gray in color and incapable of showing genuine emotion. And yet, the harsh stroke of fate gave him the ability to mold his face to match the appearance of anyone... a skill he could employ as the ultimate master of disguise. Driven to mete out retribution against those who would prey on the innocent, The Avenger finds himself on a collision course with a villain even more secretive, brutal, and unrelenting than himself: an Invisible Man.

Mark Waid's participation in the Avenger launch fulfills a longtime writing goal; he says, "Moreso than The Shadow, moreso than Doc Savage, the Avenger has always, always been my favorite pulp hero, and I've been aching to write this story since I was eleven years old. What a blast! Having the opportunity to dive into the psyche of a crimefighter as unique as Benson has been a lifelong dream -- I've been thinking about what his life and mind would be like ever since I read my first Avenger paperback back in the day. How does a man live his life when he has nothing to live for but justice? How does he navigate in a world of life and love and joy when his own features are frozen and stiff like putty, mirroring his cold, dead insides? There's so much here to unpack."

With over twenty-five years of experience in his field, Mark Waid has written a wider variety of well-known characters than any other American comics author, from Superman to the Justice League to Spider-Man to Archie and hundreds of others.  His award-winning graphic novel with artist Alex Ross, Kingdom Come, is one of the best-selling comics of all time. Waid has also written two well-received titles from Dynamite Entertainment, Mark Waid's The Green Hornet and Doctor Spektor: Master of the Occult.

"Since striking up our great partnership with Condé Nast a few years back, the team here at Dynamite has looked forward to the day that The Avenger would have his own series," says Nick Barrucci, CEO and Publisher of Dynamite Entertainment. "We've been waiting for quite some time for the perfect writer to helm the project, and Mark Waid IS that perfect writer. He has a profound appreciation for the character, his history, and the genre of pulp adventure. Retailers will take heart that we've placed one of the most innovative, marquee writers on the project, and fans will surely be awestruck by the twists and turns in each and every Waid-penned issue of Justice Inc.: The Avenger."

Justice, Inc.: The Avenger #1 will be released with a number of cover options for fans to enjoy, illustrated by many of the comic industry's most recognizable artists. The first issue will feature variant editions by Alex Ross (Kingdom Come), Walter Simonson (The Mighty Thor), Francesco Francavilla (Afterlife with Archie), Marc Laming (All-New Invaders), and Barry Kitson (The Amazing Spider-Man).

The Avenger originally debuted in September 1939 as the lead character in an eponymous pulp magazine, published by Street and Smith Publications. Writer Paul Ernst is credited with creating many of the earliest Avenger tales (published under the house writer pseudonym "Kenneth Robeson"), blending the qualities of contemporary pulp heroes like Doc Savage and The Shadow, as well as his own creations that included Seekay, The Wraith, Dick Bullitt, Old Stone Face, the Gray Marauder, and Karlu the Mystic. The Avenger appeared in numerous prose novels, radio programs, and comic books throughout the decades, most recently in Dynamite Entertainment's 2014 revival of the Justice, Inc. series written by acclaimed author Michael Uslan and illustrated by Giovanni Timpano.