Friday, February 17, 2017

Love Is Love (Review)


A couple of months ago an historic co-publishing venture from IDW Publishing and DC Comics came out, Love Is Love is an anthology comic made up of 1-2 page stories by a variety of writers and artists. The book is a fundraiser for Equality Florida, an LGBTQ+ equality and justice organization here in my home state.

Stylistically, the book is all over the place. This isn't a bad thing, because it is always good to see comic books remember there is more to them than just the super-hero books.

Love Is Love is a response to the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida last June. Forty-nine people were horribly and brutally killed. When this happened, my first thought was that I had friends in Orlando that weekend, who could have easily been at the club. I was relieved to find out that they were not. Even so, it took me a while to process, and get past, this brutal act of violence. What happened in Orlando should not have happened. We should be a more civilized and enlightened society that not only knows that these things are wrong, but that also does not erase who the victims were. The Pulse Nightclub shooting was, plain and simple, an act of hate against the LGBTQ+ community here in America. We should not be good with that.

This comic was that processing for many of these characters. The stories are, by turn, frightened, angry and depressed. Justifiably so, as well. Works like Love Is Love are a necessary part of the grieving process of an event like the Pulse Nightclub shooting, because seeing the catharsis of others can help with our own processes.

Love Is Love is a powerful comic book that I think should be read by everyone, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. The stories told, while short, are powerful. I hope that people will read it and the emotional outpourings of the stories will change the views of others.

Go out and buy Love Is Love now.



Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Warhammer, Warhammer 1 2 3 4 Smutty, Bloody Pictures, Ecstasy


Comic creator Kieron Gillen has a Warhammer blog over on Tumblr. I didn't realize this, and I never thought that I would talk about it, but he brings up some similar points to things that I've talked about with the old Warhammer stuff, and other British properties, like the Nemesis The Warlock comic by Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neil and published by 2000AD.

Read Gillen's post and we can talk about it on the social media where you found a link to this. If you didn't find me directly sharing the link, tag me in it.

He talks about the Warhammer (although he probably meant Warhammer 40K) and how it related to Nemesis:
It’s worth noting that one of the other primary Warhammer influences - and I’d argue THE primary influence on 40k – also uses this dichotomy. 2000AD’s Nemesis the Warlock and associated stories use Law and Chaos, but writer Pat Mills almost always comes down on the side of Chaos. In the universe of Nemesis, the Termight empire of Earth wages a war of genocide against the rest of the galaxy to bring the jackboot down on them forever, chanting catchy slogans like Be Pure, Be Vigilant, Behave. The diverse aliens have to oppose them. The humans are, without a doubt, the bad guys, and “order” is just another word for “monstrous Imperialism”. The humans are grotesque parodies, but the aliens are also explicitly freakish, but their bizarreness bears no relation to their morality. It’s okay to be a freak. It’s better to be a freak – or rather, better to be what Order would label a freak.
I don't have any direct evidence drawing a line between either Nemesis or 40K directly influencing each other, but I've said for a while that the story of Nemesis The Warlock could be seen as the Imperium of Man from 40K as viewed through the eyes of aliens and Chaos. For those who played the more recent versions of the 40K role-playing game (from Fantasy Flight Games and now out of print) you could almost view Nemesis as being a Black Crusade campaign.

One of those dream projects that I have on my list is one of the few OSR projects that I would want to do. Basically it would be my homage to the Realm of Chaos books. It would be four books, one for each of my reinterpretations of the Chaos Lords and their various followers and retinues, specialized character classes pertaining to them, and other fun things like new spells.

Maybe one day some one with the money will let me collaborate with people like +Alex Mayo and +Benjamin Marra on these books. The books would be fun, but they definitely wouldn't be kid friendly.

Gillen pointed this blog post out in his most recent newsletter, which you should checkout.

Also, if you don't get the reference in the title of this blog post, listen to some L7.




Sunday, February 05, 2017

Joe Haldeman's Forever War Is Coming From Titan Comics (NSFW)


On February 15th, the science fiction classic, The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman is coming from Titan Comics. The visionary Hugo and Nebula Award-winning SF tale by Joe Haldeman is beautifully realised in full color by the legendary artist Marvano. An epic SF war story spanning space and time, The Forever War explores one soldier's experience caught up in the brutal machinery of a war that reaches across the stars.

What follows is an uncensored preview.






Be sure to tell your comic store to reserve a copy for you now. I am going to see about talking with Haldeman before the book comes out. Here are some of the cover variants.








Thursday, February 02, 2017

Valiant Reveals Secret Weapons


As revealed today at Vulture, Valiant is proud to announce that Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Eric Heisserer, writer of the internationally acclaimed, smash-hit motion picture Arrival, as well as the upcoming Harbinger and Bloodshot feature films from Sony Pictures, will join Harvey Award-nominated artist Raul Allen (Wrath of the Eternal Warrior) with Patricia Martin (Bloodshot Reborn) for Secret Weapons #1 (of 4) – an all-new, Valiant Prestige format limited series starring the much-demanded, super-charged hero Livewire, in June!



The government has dispatched Amanda McKee – the technopath codenamed Livewire – to investigate the ruins of a secret facility formerly run by Toyo Harada, the most powerful telepath on Earth and her former mentor. In his quest for world betterment at any cost, Harada sought out and activated many potential psiots like himself. Those who survived, but whose powers he deemed to have no value to his cause, were hidden away at this installation. But Livewire, having studied Harada’s greatest strengths and learned his deepest weaknesses, senses opportunity where he once saw failure. A young girl who can talk to birds… A boy who can make inanimate objects gently glow… To others, these are expensive failures. But, to Livewire, they are secret weapons…in need of a leader. Now, as a mechanized killer called Rexo seeks to draw them out, Livewire and her new team of cadets will be forced to put their powers into action…in ways they never could have imagined…










Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Let's Go To Gen Con GoFundMe Campaign


As we all know, going to Gen Con isn't cheap. Even writing for EN World doesn't help to offset all of the costs of going and covering the convention for you, the readers. I started a GoFundMe campaign to help with some of the costs. In addition to just straight donations, I have a couple of fun pledge levels for it, working around the idea that not everyone can go to Gen Con, but they still want to have some of the experiences of the show.

  • For $5 I will track down a person, place or thing at the convention (1. it has to be gaming related and 2. it has to be safe for work) and take a picture of it. I will then post the picture to an online gallery here and to social media. If you have a Twitter account, I will also tag you in the post.
  • For $10 I will track down a designer or publisher of your request, ask them a couple of questions and post a video of the questions to my YouTube channel. Sorry, but I determine the questions. If the person will not consent to being recorded, unfortunately there aren't any refunds. I will try my best to convince them to let me record them for posterity.
There may be other pledge levels coming, but those are the main ones. They are a good way to augment my coverage of the convention. If you have any questions about the campaign, or would like to know if you can donate in other ways, contact me via the contact box to the left of this post.

I hope to see you at Gen Con this year!



Out Of Office


It is (almost) my birthday, and I'll be away in Las Vegas for a few days. Except for emergencies, I won't respond to emails or messages to the blog until at least Sunday.

Happy gaming.



Thursday, January 19, 2017

Fate Accelerated And Emotional Stress

From a Phonogram story inspired by TV On The Radio's Song "Wolf Like Me."
While I am in Las Vegas next week for my birthday, I am going to run a Fate Accelerated game (using my own Accelerated hack that I have talked about in various blog posts here, and around social media) about werewolves. I like werewolves, and I like Fate Accelerated, so they blend well together. This is an early form of something that I will likely use in a published game, once it gets to a more mature form.

Whether born as one, or made into one, Wolves are primal creatures with intense and powerful emotions. Like with their more potent senses these emotions can at times overwhelm a Wolf, particularly in stressful situations like combat. Wolves have an additional stress track built around their more profound emotional triggers. Rage and anger are common triggers for Wolves, but you can create a stress track for your character around any intense emotional response.

The write up for your character's emotional stress is simple. Like with 'regular" stress, they get three boxes. However, for emotional stress the Consequence that your character receives is predetermined during character creation. These consequences are considered to be Moderate. Some examples of consequences for emotional stress could be: "The Wolf Is Scratching Out From My Skin" for Rage, "I Have To Get OUT" for Fear or "Nothing Is Right" for Confusion.

The GM should compel these consequences...hard. When the consequence for their emotional stress has triggered, it should change everything about how your character sees and interacts with the world. Fate points earned from compelling the consequence of an emotional stress track should last until the consequence itself goes away. This means that you can keep those Fate points between sessions.

This isn't going to be for everyone, which is fine, but your character, as a Wolf, is more than human and more than animal, and their strengthened connection to the Natural Order comes with drawbacks as well as perks.

In case you've never heard the song...





Monday, January 16, 2017

That 10 RPGs Of Your Teen Years Meme



Social media runs on memes, and while I try to avoid them for most parts,I thought that I would talk a little about the "10 RPGs That Impacted Your Teen Years" meme that is going around Facebook (and probably other places).

There are a couple of tripping points for that meme for me. The first has to do with my age, there just weren't a lot of RPG options when I was in my teen years. The second had to do with distribution and retail, and this probably had a much greater impact upon what was available for play when I was younger.

I started gaming in 1979, on the cusp of my teen years. While there was an explosion of things going on in gaming at that time, a lot of it passed by small town Indiana because of the quirks of retail.

I've said a number of times that there was a weird geographic quirk to where I lived in that we never had the availability of a lot of modules in the area where I grew up. We had access to plenty of core rules (and by "plenty" I really mean most of the core rules published by TSR Games), but not much else. Without a local dedicated game or comic store, our game buying was pretty much limited to what was available in the mall: Waldenbooks and K.B. Toys. I think that I was in high school when the space that had been the Under 21 "Goth" hangout was bought and turned into a game store. By then things were mostly set, habit-wise.

Most of my teen gaming years revolved mostly around a couple of games: B/X D&D, AD&D and later on the classic Marvel Super-Heroes game from TSR. The D&D stuff was with the group that I had played with since starting gaming, while the Marvel game was what I preferred to run myself. There were other games, on the edges, I ran Lords of Creation a few times (it was really my introduction to multi-genre gaming), and friends had games like Gamma World, but while I really enjoyed these other games, they never really grabbed me in the way that the others did.

Just before my family moved to Florida, I found the DC Heroes game by Mayfair.

After we moved to Florida, my exposure to gaming increased and I discovered games like Call of Cthulhu, Runequest and Golden Heroes (one of my favorite super-hero role-playing games, a distinctly British game published by Games Workshop). Call of Cthulhu became my bomb, and I would use it for pretty much any style of horror role-playing at the time.

I'm not a huge fantasy fan, and D&D has never had the appeal for me, mostly because of that. It was games like Marvel Super-Heroes and Call of Cthulhu that kept me involved with gaming.

In my college years, moving from the teen years and into my twenties, meant that I was able to be exposed to a lot more games. I was lucky between Tampa, and going back to Indiana for college, to have access to a couple of really good gaming stores, and some great comic stores. This is also the era when I discovered that I could order games directly from publishers, and not be bound to the tastes and predilections of local game stores.

The first real discovery of my college years was when GURPS from Steve Jackson Games came out. It was like the multi-genre play of Lords of Creations, but with a much better system. The first edition boxed set was a little rough, but by the third edition of the game it had settled into a pretty solid system.

In 1987, I read William Gibson's Neuromancer and, as the kids say these days, "mind blown." It took me a couple of years to find the game that meant CYBERPUNK to me. I went through Cyberspace from Iron Crown and SpaceTime from BTRC, but neither of them really appealed to me. Then we found R. Talsorian's Cyberpunk 2013 and (eventually) Cyberpunk 2020. Cyberpunk 2020 is still one of my favorite games, and I periodically dust it off for new games.

There were always other games, but these were the big ones. The 90s, and my 20s and 30s, were mostly dominated by GURPS, Marvel Super-Heroes, Call of Cthulhu (Thank you Delta Green) and Cyberpunk 2020. Most of these still see fairly regular play for me, except for GURPS. I suspect that I am going to be dusting off Cyberpunk 2020 more in the future, only because it is weirdly appropriate to the world that we're going to be living in for the next few years.

I have gotten back to D&D more in the last few years. Third edition saw my entry into professional game writing, like with so many others, but the promise of that edition started to strain under the weight of SO. MANY. OPTIONS. The OSR, and streamlined D&D rulesets like Swords & Wizardry and the Basic Fantasy RPG scratch that itch for me with that style of gaming. The return of Runequest Classic and clones like the remarkable OpenQuest also give me variety in my fantasy gaming. Fate Accelerated has also give me the bones for a gaming system that fits a lot of the needs that I have for how a system works. Like any game, it takes a little tinkering to get the engine really running in the way that you like it, but that is part of the fun of RPGs. Isn't it?



Saturday, January 14, 2017

Galileo Games And Brooklyn Indie Games Announce Merger


Brooklyn Indie Games, a boutique tabletop role-playing, board, and card game publisher, is merging with Galileo Games, publisher of fiction and tabletop role-playing games. The Brooklyn Indie Games brand will continue as an imprint under the Galileo Games label. Brooklyn Indie Games owner Tim Rodriguez will be joining Galileo Games as Vice President, Galileo Games’ Brennan Taylor will remain as President.
By bringing on the board game production and design expertise of Brooklyn Indie Games, Galileo Games plans to expand their footprint in the hobby games market, producing innovative card and board games to complement and expand the role-playing games they already offer. Galileo views this as a merger of equals, and the Galileo corporate identity will survive by virtue of its longer history and greater name recognition. With the additional experience and manpower of two companies becoming one, Galileo plans to increase their production schedule and offer a wider variety of products through the retail and direct sales channels.
"Brooklyn Indie is excited to join with Galileo Games," said new Galileo Games Vice President Tim Rodriguez. "They’re a significant player in the industry, having been around since 1995, and Brennan is personally responsible for many innovations that help the indie games industry run as smoothly as it does today."
"I am so pleased to have Tim Rodriguez joining Galileo Games," said Galileo Games President Brennan Taylor. "Tim is one of the best card game designers in the industry, and having him developing our line of board and card game products will make Galileo more competitive in that market. Tim is also a good friend and a person whose interests and business sensibilities are extremely compatible with my own. This is going to be a great partnership, and I’m looking forward to what Galileo will be coming up with as we move into 2017."
Between the two of them, Brennan Taylor and Tim Rodriguez bring over 30 years of game design and production experience to the merged company.
About Galileo Games, Inc.
Galileo Games, Inc. is a publisher of innovative role-playing games and fiction. Galileo was founded in 1995 by Brennan Taylor and Krista White. Since that time, Galileo has grown, publishing a variety of game and fiction titles, including Bulldogs!, The Ministry InitiativeShelter in PlaceKingdom of NothingMortal Coil, and How We Came to Live Here. Galileo Games, Inc. proudly works with great game designers, including Jeff Himmelman, Ralph Mazza, J.R. Blackwell, Kenneth Hite, and Fred Hicks, and talented writers, including Will Hindmarch, Mur Lafferty, Peter Woodworth, Greg Stolze, and Nathan Lowell. Products from Galileo Games are available through distribution via ACD, Lion Rampant, Golden Distribution, and Indie Press Revolution. Products may also be purchased directly by consumers via Indie Press Revolution and DriveThruRPG. More information can be found at Galileo Games’ web site www.galileogames.com.
About Brooklyn Indie Games
Brooklyn Indie Games is a small game publisher and professional services provider in the wilds of Brooklyn that brings independent designers and artists together to create great games. Brooklyn Indie Games has created and published Ghost Pirates, Backstory Cards, Omega Zone, and Heartcatchers. More information can be found at Brooklyn Indie Games’ web site www.brooklynindiegames.com.



Thursday, December 22, 2016

Robotech And Writer Brian Wood Are Coming To Titan Comics


Next year, Titan Comics will bring to comic stores a Brian Wood written Robotech comic set in the continuity of the classic Harmony Gold USA cartoons. First airing in the States in 1985, Robotech was the gateway to anime for many fans – capturing their imagination with its epic generational story line involving war, romance, and, of course, the transforming Veritech fighters that defend the Earth against extra-terrestrial attacks. Produced by Harmony Gold USA, the original 85-episode series delved into humanity’s struggle against a series of alien invasions, from the gigantic Zentraedi to the mysterious Invid, battling for control of advanced alien technology that crash-landed on Earth.

"We are excited to have the opportunity to work with Brian to expand the Robotech universe." said Robotech's Tommy Yune, "His bold approach to storytelling is thoughtful and will be full of surprises for fans."





Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Gods And Monsters


The game that I am going to be running after the holidays for the local people is going to be the Fate Accelerated urban fantasy game that I mentioned before. Here is the basic pitch/mission statement that I gave to the group:
Once Upon A Time...
Your characters were gods, or at least they might have considered themselves to be something like that. They were powerful beings who wandered a world that was simultaneously brighter and more dangerous than the world in which they now exist. There was magic, and monsters and many other things.
Now, you can still do some cool things, but it is nowhere near as cool as what you used to do.
Even though the setting is changed, your story isn't over. You aren't entirely sure why you are still around, other more powerful beings than yourself faded away a long time ago. You know that there are still others like you around. Some of them have adjusted, relatively, to their new stations, much like you have. Others want to try to change things back to the way that they were. Whether that is possible or not, it is hard to tell, but none of the plans have worked in the hundred of years that you can remember.
Maybe you're one of the monsters from the old world. Things are just as strange for you, as it is for the beings who used to be your enemies. You can hide yourself among the populace of the world, to some degree or another, so it isn't like you're "all monster, all the time."
Maybe you're one of those people that others claim never actually existed. They say that you're just a character from a book, or a children's story. You can't possibly be real. You feel real to you, and you remember your life in this world, as well as in the stories that everyone insist are made up.
The world is a strange place.
 I see it as a sort of American Gods meets Fables (or Once Upon A Time) sort of vibe.

My definition of urban fantasy is basically "horror without the scary." You use a lot of the genre conventions and archetypes of horror, but you treat it more like the fantasy genre. If you've never read Nancy Collins' Sonja Blue stories, this is sort of the approach that she took. I never really understood why she was marketed as horror, when she should be considered the Godmother of Urban Fantasy.



Jess Nevin's Red Planet For Fate Core


With apologies to the Sisters of Mercy:
Red
Red planet
Red
Red world
Yeah, that was bad. Anyway.

It is unfortunate that we don't see the depth and breadth of the science fiction market these days that we would have seen in bookstores 30 or 40 year ago. Once again we are in a phase where, if it isn't the new shiny and written by someone whose native language isn't one of the standardized forms of English we just don't see it. Russia, and the Soviet Union when it existed, has long been a source of thought provoking genre fiction that celebrated perspectives that we don't see from American or English writers.

The "golden age" of Soviet Science Fiction was a particularly optimistic branch of SF to boot, which I'm sure surprises anyone old enough to have grown up during some portion of the Cold War.

Red Planet is a new World of Adventure for the Fate Core rules, available at the OneBookShelf sites as a Pay What You Want PDF. Written by Jess Nevins of The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana and annotating Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen fame, the book is an exploration of the tropes of a nearly forgotten sub-genre of Science Fiction of the 1940s and 1950s from the former Soviet Union.

The PDF isn's a long one, only 64 pages in total, but it has a lot packed into those pages.

The science fiction that is celebrated by Red Planet is particularly pulpy, with echos of the American heroic pulps like Doc Savage, or the space opera of Doc Smith or Flash Gordon. The situations are wild and weird, and often blur the lines between science fiction and fantasy. This approach used to be much more common than it is these days, before demographics and marketing became a part of the creative process of genre fiction.

There was a lot of bad things that happened in the real world under the auspices of the Soviet Union, and Communism, and Red Planet does not sugar coat or ignore them. These aren't Alt-Communists softened up for propaganda purposes. In fact, the setting goes far to show that the Communism of the Soviet Union, and the Capitalism of the United States, lead to war and upheaval in their battle for supremacy. The protagonists of the setting, the nation of the Union of Materialist Republics, are a rebellion against both of these cultural forces. The Materialists were colonists on Mars, the Red Planet of the title.

Once on Mars, these colonists sparked a revolution against both their own Communist oppressors back on Earth and the Capitalist enemies of their oppressors. With their rebellion, these colonists became their Union. Their culture is not only their own, but has also assimilated (relatively peacefully) the native Martian populace. The racial makeup of the Union of Materialist Republics is made up of that mix of humans and Martians. The setting of Red Planet can be viewed as similar to the original Buck Rogers stories, just with less Yellow Menace.

The Red Planet of the setting is a Utopia. So to speak.

If it was a perfect utopia, there probably wouldn't be any place for the types of adventurers that we see in role-playing games. There is going to be friction and conflict between those of the Union, with the various social and cultural factions of the Earth. There is also an extradimensional faction of creatures that are not native to the solar system, or the reality, of the setting. They are two-dimensional beings called the Geometrists. The Geometrists have superior technology to Earth or Mars, as well as psychic abilities beyond anything capable of the people of the solar system.

There is also still "space" for exploration in the solar system, so characters of that type will find plenty to do among the stars of the Red Planet setting.

If you're a fan of pulp science fiction like Flash Gordon, or pulpy science fantasy like Star Wars, there will probably be things in Red Planet that will appeal to you. It is remarkable well fleshed out, considering the short page count, and there is plenty of material to spark adventure in the setting. I am glad to see tabletop role-playing publishers striking out from the safety of traditional fantasy setting and creating worlds that are different and challenging to gamers.  If you haven't checked out Nevin's Red Planet, you really should.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

40K Dawn Of War Comes To Titan Comics


Written by Ryan O’Sullivan (Eisenhorn: Xenos, Turncoat) and illustrated by Daniel Indro (Vikings: Uprising, Doctor Who), the Dawn of War III mini-series will tie-in to the colossal Dawn of War real-time-strategy games, produced by Relic Entertainment with Sega and Games Workshop, in which players command armies of the Space Marines, Orks, and the Eldar to dominate the battlefield!

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War was a critical and commercial hit in 2005, followed by the release of Dawn of War II: Retribution in 2009.

"I've been a fan of Warhammer 40,000 and all of its games for as long as I can remember,” said writer Ryan O'Sullivan. "What I enjoy about the Dawn of War series in particular, other than the ability to purge heretics, is that the games have a decade-long narrative filled with ongoing characters and conflicts. I feel very fortunate to be able to contribute towards such a story, and I hope fans of the previous games will enjoy seeing familiar faces back in action on the pages of the comic."

Titan’s Dawn of War III comic series tells an all-new tale in parallel to that of the video game story, which sees three factions – the Blood Ravens Space Marines, the Eldar, and a fearsome Ork horde – converging on a planet where a weapon of devastating power has been unearthed. .

Titan’s Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III mini-series will be available for preorder in February’s Diamond Previews catalog.




Monday, December 12, 2016

Urban Fantasy Role-Playing And Reading Vertigo's Lucifer


About fifteen years after the fact, I am reading Mike Carey's Lucifer comic that was put out by Vertigo/DC Comics. I picked up the first book of the most recent collected version a couple of months ago. So far I have been a good read, and I will certainly continue the series once I've finished book one.

I don't actually watch the TV show based on the comic, so that wasn't my motivation.

I read Neil Gaiman's Sandman in its entirety (as pretty much every pretentious comic fan of my age group did) as it was coming out. This particular incarnation of the character of Lucifer debuted in issue four of the Sandman comic. In that issue, Dream of the Endless (lead character of the Sandman comic for those who may not have read it) went into Hell to retrieve one of the magical objects that were like the "badges" of his office as the Dream Lord. I won't go into too much detail about that story, because there may be a few readers of this blog who haven't read it yet. I will say that the story ended up with Lucifer abdicating his "job" as the Lord of Hell to become a semi-mortal being.

The Lucifer comic picked up with Lucifer living in Los Angeles and owning a nightclub called Lux.

I think that I expected that Lucifer would be more of a horror comic, like Gaiman's Sandman would often be. But instead it swings like a pendulum between the poles of a horror comic like Sandman was, and more like an Urban Fantasy in the style of Bill Willingham's Fables comic. Actually, I think that the me of now likes it better as an Urban Fantasy story more than the me of 15 years ago, who likely would have preferred it to be more of a horror story.

It is good that we change, and our tastes change with us. It must be a good thing that I am reading this now, because I am more prepared for it than I would have been when it first came out.

As a role-player, I can see this comic influencing a campaign that is in the same space as one also inspired by Gaiman's Sandman and, of course, his breakthrough novel American Gods (which I need to read again before the television show for that starts out next year). Comics are an appropriate place to explore modern mythologies in the mode of Carey's Lucifer or Gaiman's Sandman comics because comic book super-heroes are pretty much our modern American mythology.

Comics and mythology always brings me to one of my favorite songs by the Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip:


I think that the relevance of the song is on an uptick again.

The stories of comics like Lucifer and Sandman exist in our mythic American subconsciousness. This is also where I think a lot of role-playing game campaigns exist as well. These are stories of gods and monsters, the heroes that face both and the mortal beings who ultimately have to deal with all of these things.

I am trying to tie all of this together because, in the next month or so I am going to be starting up a new campaign with some people that I have gamed with for a while, and others that I have never gamed with before. They're voting on what sort of game they want me to run, and one of the choices is an Urban Fantasy game. Whenever I want to run an urban fantasy game, I pull out my old Sandman trade collections and I dig out my CD of Fully Completely by The Tragically Hip and I start to pull together a world that is inspired by the world outside of our windows, but at the same time tied into the mythic undercurrents of our world.

I know. Horribly pretentious, isn't it?

As a GM, my approach to creating a campaign is to think out what I want the world to be like. Imagine who the important characters who aren't the characters will be. Work out what some of the big stories that are going on in this world. Then we plunk the player's characters down into the middle of things, see how they react to the world and what direction we would need to take things into once the irresistible object meets the immovable force. That is where the fun of a campaign comes up for me, as a GM. I don't like to craft the stories of what I want to happen in the world, because I think that takes the choice away from the players, away from their characters, and turns the game more into a novel than the share experience of a role-playing game. Every character in a world should have a story, but those stories should never overwhelm what might happen once the characters exist.

So, hopefully, the players will pick the Urban Fantasy game. We'll see what happens, whichever campaign it ends up being, I will talk about it here over time.



Saturday, December 10, 2016

Keeping Up With The Comics


Some days it just seems like the pile of comics at my bedside just gets taller. Maybe I just need help reading through it.



Friday, December 09, 2016

Dorkland Rumblings


I've decided to give the world of online newsletters a shot. Starting sometime during or after the holidays, I will start up Dorkland Rumblings, which will be more or less random things that I want to get out, but don't want to do a full blog post, or put them out onto social media.

Don't expect a lot of inbox clutter from this list, we will probably all be "lucky" if I remember to use it once a month. It will, however, contain adult content (most likely adult language), so if that sort of thing bothers you you might not want to join it. The newsletter will likely also be more plug heavy than other sources, as it will be the place that I will more actively talk about what I'm reading, listening to, etc.

There will also be a box on the sidebar that will allow people to join at any time. I hope that some of you will give it a try.




All Time Comics From Fantagraphics


Coming next year from Fantagraphics has to be the most interesting super-hero work in a long time. Combining some of the best veteran and newer talents in comics, All Time Comics is promising to be the biggest mind-bender in comics for 2017.
From Fantagraphics, the publisher of the world's greatest cartoonists, comes ALL TIME COMICS, a shared superhero universe featuring the world’s most fanta*stic heroes. Atlas! Blind Justice! Bullwhip! Crime Destroyer! Each issue of ALL TIME COMICS features a mash up of new cartoonists and classic comic book creators collaborating with writer Josh Bayer to unleash superhero stories that no other publisher would dare to publish: a stunning series of six comic books featuring startling stand alone, interconnected adventures chock full of retro crime fighting.
These comics look to be Fletcher Hanks levels of awesomeness, and I am looking forward to see them come out.



ALL TIME COMICS: CRIME DESTROYER #1
Josh Bayer (story); Herb Trimpe (pencils); Ben Marra (inks); Jim Rugg (cover) + Johnny Ryan (cover); MARCH 2017

ALL TIME COMICS: BULLWHIP #1
Josh Bayer (story); Ben Marra (pencils); Al Milgrom (inks); Das Pastoras (cover) + Tony Millionaire (cover); APRIL 2017

ALL TIME COMICS: ATLAS #1
Josh Bayer (story); Ben Marra (story, pencils, inks); Das Pastoras (cover); MAY 2017

ALL TIME COMICS: BLIND JUSTICE #1
Josh Bayer (story and pencils); Rick Buckler (pencils); Al Milgrom (inks); Victor Martinez (cover); JUNE 2017

ALL TIME COMICS: CRIME DESTROYER #2
Josh Bayer (story); Ben Marra (story, pencils, inks); Das Pastoras (cover); JULY 2017

ALL TIME COMICS: BLIND JUSTICE #2
Josh Bayer (story); Ben Marra (story); Noah Van Sciver (pencils); Al Milgrom (inks); Das Pastoras (cover); AUGUST 2017



IDW 40% Off Sale On D&D Comics On DriveThruComics


The old and new Dungeons & Dragons comics are available for pretty good prices at a holiday sale at DriveThruComics. There's a bunch of collections and single issues that are part of the sale.

This includes classic AD&D comics originally published by DC Comics back in the day.


As well as the newer Legends of Baldur's Gate comics written by Jim Zub.


While not 40% off, there's also sales on the IDW Hasbro comics at DriveThruComics, including G.I. Joe and Transformers stuff. Check it all out!



Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Southern Poverty Law Center RPG Charity Bundle

Note: This bundle has ended and the links to it have been removed.

There's a charity bundle over at the OneBookShelf sites to help raise some money for the Southern Poverty Law Center. As disclosure, Battlefield Press is one of the participants in the bundle.

Edit: I linked to the SPLC donation page, rather than the Bundle. Here's the link to the charity bundle.

From the Southern Poverty Law Center's website:
In the decades since its founding, the SPLC shut down some of the nation’s most violent white supremacist groups by winning crushing, multimillion-dollar jury verdicts on behalf of their victims. It dismantled vestiges of Jim Crow, reformed juvenile justice practices, shattered barriers to equality for women, children, the LGBT community and the disabled, protected low-wage immigrant workers from exploitation, and more.
It is a charity that is worth helping out. Find out more about them on their website.




Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Kieron Gillen On Diversity


Kieron Gillen has written some of my favorite comics over the last few years: Phonogram, Young Avengers and Wicked + Divine. He's also work on Thor and other properties around the Marvel Universe. Some of the things that he writes resonates with me, particularly because of his use of pop music as a thread through his writing. I've found a few good indie bands because of his comics (and I rediscovered my love for the unappreciated British power pop band Kenickie).

In the wake of Warren Ellis' long-running email newsletter, I've started following the newsletters of a couple of other comics creators, and Gillen's newsletter is one of them. If you know of any comic creators doing email newsletters like this, let me know. I'd love to see more. I would love to see more RPG creators doing something like this as well.

In my recent post from Warren Ellis' newsletter about privacy, one of the links was to setting up a free email newsletter. I think that it would be interesting to see people like Steve Kenson, or some of the OSR people even, give this a shot. It is sort of like a private blog. I've been considering it myself.

However, I digress. This post was going to be about Gillen. In his newsletter of today he posted a quote from his self-introduction to a panel about diversity that he was a member of a a comic convention. I thought the words were good ones, and helped sum up why people like myself call for wider representation, and a greater diversity of views, in comics, role-playing games, and other forms of media, geeky and otherwise.

I hope that you like what he said as much as I did. I think that it should be provoking some conversations.
Here are a selection of diverse thoughts about the state of diversity.
Perfection is impossible. Relax. “Progressive” imply change. There is no utopia, no stasis. Even the most radical in the room will be Germaine Greer one day. In 20 years time, almost everything all of us are about to say will be problematic. Especially, I suspect, the word “problematic.”
Hearing about girls sitting down and reading Ms. Marvel in the middle of a comic shop and breaking into tears would move anyone. Even a monster like me. However, as important this is, we must not forget the powerful effect on people other than those depicted. By consuming culture about people other than ourselves we flower, and our capacity for understanding and empathy expand. Diversity of culture we consume is one of the the best weapons we have to improve the world. In as much as I was saved, I suspect was saved by Tenar in Ursula Le Guin’s Tombs Of Atuan. I think that Rey may yet save a generation of boys.
It is heartbreaking when I speak to my female peers and say they’ve never had a female role model.
I often wonder how having female heroes effected Jamie McKelvie and my own work. We’re monsters, but I suspect less so.
Diversity is not just a social justice issue. Diversity is a formalist issue. Diversity makes better art, as it is truer to the world. The world is diverse. If the art our culture produces does not have the diversity of the world it pertains to show, the art is failing us.
As a creative community we are in a position where all but the biggest dinosaurs agree that diversity is good. We are all pro diversity. This is a problem, in the same way that almost everyone expresses anti-racist sentiments in a world when everyone, via the background radiation of society, is to some degree racist.
To quote Jordie Bellaire’s campaign, Comics Are For Everyone. However, that should not be confused with All Comics Are For Everyone. You cannot please everyone. That is both a truism and a directive. You should not be trying to please everyone. Ironically, the self-censorship makes less diverse art including less diverse world-views.
Creatives are not just a machine to deliver diversity.
Creatives are petrified in Writing The Other. To be honest, Creatives are petrified of Writing The Same.
I have a test for diversity. If you are using the Bechdel test in any seriousness, your writing about diversity is almost certainly pretty poor. This is surface level reading of culture. Really thinking about sexuality, about gender, about race, about everything needs to be deeper.
In a single work of art, Diversity is a zero sum game. To write a love triangle between men in Young Avengers I had to include more men. As such, I had less women than I’d like in Young Avengers. An expectation of full diversity inside any individual work actually limits the stories you’re able to tell.
Diversity is necessary but not sufficient. Treating bad art with good diversity kindly is worse than useless, because if we do then we are reducing the value of our critical opinion’s coin. As such, it worries me when I see articles about my books which have the #1 reason to read it being the diverse cast. That petrifies me.
The biggest problem in comics is the lack of diversity in the talent pool. Frustratingly, there is no quick fix for all manner of tedious economic reasons. There is a medium term fix. I believe in five years, the industry will be almost unrecognisable. I am optimistic, god help me.
I think white men should probably shut up more. So I will.
He also mentions "formalist" in this introduction, and in case you're wondering what that means, he had some talk about it over here.

I hope that his words spark something in some of you.



Sunday, November 27, 2016

Spooky Empire Appearances


I am going to be an author guest at the rescheduled Spooky Empire the weekend of December 2-4. A couple of the panels on my schedule are voluntary or tentative, but if you are going to be in Orlando that weekend, looking for something to do and want to talk gaming, you'll find me wandering around the convention center.

Check the program and on-site information for the panel locations.

Friday
7 pm
FBI Most Wanted
9 pm
Sick and Twisted

Saturday
12 pm
The Author's Network
1 pm
Writing and Publishing 101
3 pm
Multimedia Horror
4 pm
Stranger Things
8 pm
Sympathy For The Devil (moderator)

Sunday
2 pm
Intergalactic Terror (moderator)


FBI Most Wanted: Our Google search history definitely has our authors on several Watch Lists. Authors discuss research and the joys of clearing your browser history.

Sick and Twisted: This panel is 21 and up due to disturbing behavior, offensive ideas, drunken authors, and likely a piñata. No filters allowed. If you’re not offended, you’re in the wrong panel.

The Author's Network: Come sit and chat with our authors in an informal setting. Get to know what makes these weirdos tick.

Writing and Publishing 101: We discuss how to navigate the world of writing and getting published.

Multimedia Horror: Writing for gaming, stage, radio and just about any medium you can shake your pen at.

Sympathy For The Devil: We love to root for the bad guy and we love good guys with problems. We discuss why audiences adore scoundrels.

Intergalactic Terror: SF and horror, horror in space. Fun stuff like that.



Sunday, November 20, 2016

A Peek At Warren Ellis' The Wild Storm

From Ellis' newsletter Orbital Operations again:
Hey, Jon Davis-Hunt did a promo piece for our forthcoming project THE WILD STORM and DC forgot to use it during the announcements, so I'm going to run it here because I feel like it deserves to be seen.  Copyright DC Entertainment of course, and please link to orbitaloperations.com if you use it on your website.
I probably shouldn't be doing this. But I really wanted Jon's work to be seen.
It looks intriguing. I'm guessing that is Zealot in the bottom panel, and Sentinel in the second from the bottom?

Edit: Apparently that is the revamped version of Warren Ellis creation Jenny Sparks. It looks like she is getting upgraded to being the Spirit of the 21st Century now. That's a bit of a disappointment. I would have liked to have seen Sparks kept as the Spirit of the 20th Century, and have them keep the character of Jenny Quantum as the Spirit of the 21st. I liked that the Spirit of the 21st Century wasn't a white person.



The Fate Of Airboy


This was originally inspired by a post by Mark Ellis on Facebook, talking about his interest in revitalizing the Hillman Comics aviator characters. I'm a fan of aviator pulps like G-8, and the Eclipse Comics relaunch of Airboy in the 80s introduced me to that family of characters. What Mark's post sparked in me was the idea to build an RPG, or at the very least a game that I can run for friends, around the public domain characters like Airboy, but in an updated format.

I love the pulps, but running a game in a historical era isn't always my thing. I'm not much of a stickler for the details, which can bother some who are playing in a historical game. This is why the idea of pulling the characters into the present appealed to me.

The other thing is that, frankly, games that spend a lot of time with the characters engaged in air combat in their airplanes can be boring. Breaking everything down to a series of dice rolls is kind of boring for me. This presents the second challenge with this property…how do I pay homage to the fact that these characters were aviators, without making everything about airplanes? I've been rewatching the TV show Burn Notice on Netflix recently, so an idea popped into my head.

My first thought to update these characters was to turn them into private security/military contractors. The characters would be part of a military security corporation like Blackwater USA, which would give them slightly more freedom than a strictly military campaign would have. Then, the story of Burn Notice swept in. What if David Nelson (the real name of the Airboy character) was a "burned" former military contractor? All of the equipment that he developed (including his signature airplane "Birdie") would be in the hands of his former employer (most likely the company he founded), the Air Fighters, and any security clearances that he had would be gone. You turn David Nelson into a Michael Westen type of character who 1) wants back what he believes is his life and 2) still wants to help people.

The characters in the campaign would be the people that Nelson has gathered around him on various "missions," that he feels that he can trust. That would be the player characters. Someone could play the part of Nelson, or it could be an NPC run by the GM. If the latter, you would, of course, have to resist the temptation to have him do all the cool stuff and leave the PCs to watch what he's doing.

I think that it could make for an interesting game.

The "keeping the aviator angle to things" could be as easy as having Nelson develop a new kind of drone technology, perhaps one with a highly developed AI that make the drones into the equivalent of his Alfred or Doctor Watson. If Nelson has trust issues, due to his being "burned," it could be that computer intelligences created by him would be the only "people" that he would be willing to trust for a long time.

Here is a write-up of David (Airboy) Nelson in a Fate Accelerated hack that I have been working on. I made my version of the character into more of a tech person, he created his plane instead of inheriting it, because I think it makes the character stronger and more "modern." He isn't a comic book super scientist, but he knows his way around avionics and aircraft technologies. He obviously knows a bit about computers (since he probably created the AI software himself), so he could probably be a bit of a hacker as well.

David "Airboy" Nelson
High Concept: I Can Trust The Technology That I Can Create
Trouble: Don't Call Me Airboy
Other Aspects: Military Background, Not The Person I Used To Be
Approaches: Careful +2, Clever +3, Flashy +0, Forceful +1, Quick +1, Sneaky +2
PowersCreature Summoning (Flying Drones, named Birdie Two through Four). Basic Creature Summoning, Tough Little Thing, Menagerie.*

I didn't give Nelson any stunts yet, but they would likely give him an edge in military or technical matters.

Nelson wants to be left alone mostly, but not as much as he wants his old life back. He doesn't really want the life of the military contractor, or technology think tank, back, but he wants it to be known that he really didn't do what cost him that old life. He's trying to find out what exactly that "thing" is, and how he can fix it. Nelson's approach to people tends to be like his approach to technology: tinker with the machines until you find out what isn't working right, then once you know you can fix it or you can bypass it. He's realized that a big part of why he joined the military in the first place was because he wanted to help people, so over the last few years he has started doing that again on a smaller scale. A couple of his old friends from the Air Fighters still keep in touch, on the QT.

*The powers rules that I am working on are a hack of the Venture City SRD, so if you have a copy of it, you can eyeball what I did in this write-up until I have something official. If you like Fate and super-heroes, this is something that is good to have anyway.