Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Dorkland! Roundtable Launches With Jason Durall and Fred Hicks

One of the great things about the internet is that it lets you do things (because of distance, resources, or whatever) that you wouldn't normally get to do. It also is great for allowing table top role-players of all stripes and predilections come together and cross-pollinate their ideas. In ways that even the forums of the 1990s and early 2000s were not capable of doing, entire communities are being built  around "Social Media" sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus, and entire new communities, like the Old School Renaissance, are growing up around blogs and their comment areas. Gamers are getting an unprecedented level of interaction with their favorite publishers, creators and designers because of the internet.

One of my favorite parts of gaming conventions are the panels. With panels, designers, creators and publishers get to share ideas on a topic and interact with fans, and other peers, who happen to be in the audience. It is a great way for people to learn more about their favorite creators, and to find out about their upcoming plans. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to go to conventions and take part in this. That's OK, because this where the internet gets to come in to the rescue.

One of the great tools of Google Plus is their "hangout," basically a multiperson audio/video chat that lets anyone with a Google Account and a web browser take part in things. No need for installing or running software. I have been using a Google Plus hangout for about a month now to run a Swords & Wizardry Whitebox game for a group of people around the country (and in Canada). It is a great tool and it can be easily utilized to create a "virtual game convention panel" that people can attend without having to travel, or even leave their homes. So, basically what I am going to do (under the auspices of this blog) is to host a bi-weekly moderated chat/panel discussion with a different table-top gaming designer, publisher or creator. These "Dorkland! Roundtables" will be beamed into your homes via the internet.

Our first Dorkland! Roundtable will be with Jason Durall, designer/editor of the current edition of Chaosium's Basic Roleplaying game. Jason will also, tentatively, be joined by Ben Monroe, a long time Chaosium freelancer who worked on the upcoming fantasy game from Chaosium: Magic World. This roundtable will be Monday, April 30th at 10pm EST/7pm PST. We will talk about BRP, game designing and influences and inspirations.

Our second Dorkland! Roundtable will feature Fred Hicks of Evil Hat Productions (and hopefully another Evil Hatter or two) to talk about their games, Kickstarter, and whatever else comes to mind...or you ask about. This roundtable will be on May 14th at 9pm EST/6pm PST.

Participating in these live discussions will require a Google account, and having access to Google Plus through a browser. You will also want to circle the Page for this blog, as well as my personal page to be able to take part, and be able to follow and find out about future developments on this new way of connecting to other gamers out there. Hopefully soon I will be announcing further roundtables with other gaming individuals.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Valiant Entertainment Unveils New Logo

To officiate its return to monthly publishing this May, Valiant Entertainment is proud to unveil a new interpretation of the iconic Valiant compass logo by award-winning graphic designer Rian Hughes. The newly redesigned logo -- along with Valiant's new distinctive trade dress, also designed by Hughes -- will first see print on May 2nd with the release of X-O Manowar #1 by New York Times best-selling author Robert Venditti (The Surrogates) and Eisner Award-winning artist Cary Nord (Conan).

"It is always a challenging and interesting project to design the visual identity of a publisher from the ground up in every detail -- logo, trade dress, title logos -- and to cohesively pull all these elements together so one strong visual identity emerges. Rebooting the Valiant line's design has been one such great project. The Valiant characters have a strong fanbase and heritage, and so the new logos are fresh and modern as befits a forward-looking publisher while still paying tribute to the originals, just as has been done with the characters themselves," said Hughes, whose previously published work includes logos and design pieces for Marvel Comics, DC Comics, MTV Networks, Virgin Airlines, Penguin Books, Archaia Entertainment, and the BBC, among many others.

Originally founded in 1989, Valiant Comics is one of the most successful comic publishers of all time and has featured work by many of the industry's top creative talents, including Jim Shooter, Bob Layton, Barry Windsor-Smith, Joe Quesada, David Lapham, Bryan Hitch, Steve Ditko and many more. Reincorporated as Valiant Entertainment in 2007 by CEO Jason Kothari and Chief Creative Officer Dinesh Shamdasani, the company is set to return to monthly comics publishing this summer with four new monthly titles featuring its most popular characters -- X-O Manowar #1 in May, Harbinger #1 in June, Bloodshot #1 in July, and Archer & Armstrong #1 in August.

"Rian and our Executive Editor Warren Simons put an incredible amount of energy into making sure that the new logo and the look of the books themselves accurately reflect our perspective on what the Valiant Universe was and can be," said Shamdasani.

"The day that Valiant titles return to the shelves of comics shops worldwide is one that fans have been eagerly awaiting for some time," said Kothari. "This powerful, yet versatile new logo is the perfect way to signify a new era for Valiant both as a company and a premier creative brand."

This is the just the latest in a series of creative endeavors Valiant has announced to coincide with its "Summer of Valiant" relaunch. Most recently, the publisher announced that it would be the first to produce animated, QR code-augmented covers for X-O Manowar #1 and Harbinger #1, as well as a series of "Pullbox Exclusive Variant" covers available only to comic shop customers who subscribe to Valiant's new #1 issues.

For more information, visit

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Looking For A Kickstarter That's More Than A Preorder? Reading With Pictures

(Chicago, IL- April 19, 2012) Reading with Pictures, a 501(c)3 nonprofit charity, announced today the official launch of their fundraising campaign to create The GraphicCvr Textbook. This groundbreaking project will enable educators to take comics beyond supplementary reading and into the core curricula.

The Graphic Textbook brings together some of the finest creative talents in the comics industry – including Fred Van Lente, Ryan Dunlavey, Janet Lee, Amy Reeder, Katie Cook and Roger Langridge – with the leading experts in visual literacy and comics-based curriculum – including Dr. Katie Monnin and Dr. James Bucky Carter – to create a gamechanging educational tool for the classroom and beyond that’s tied to a revolutionary impact study overseen by Dr. David Rapp of the Learning Sciences Department of Northwestern University.

Aimed at grades 3-6, The Graphic Textbook features a dozen short stories (both fiction and non-fiction) that address topics drawn from the list of Common Core Standards. The accompanying Teacher’s Guide will include Standards-correlated lesson plans customized to each story, research-based justifications for using comics in the classroom, a guide to establishing best classroom practices and a comprehensive listing of additional educational resources, both in print and online.

Josh Elder, President and Founder of Reading with Pictures, explains “This project has been years in the making, and it's been developed with input from hundreds of educators, academics and students nationwide. With their help, we're going to create a comic that teachers will actually want to use and a textbook that students will actually want to read. And we've done it while respecting our contributor's rights and keeping our product price below the gong market rate. We know that there's a need for this product, now we just need your help to prove it."

The Graphic Textbook will be financed entirely through a Kickstarter campaign set to launch on April 13 and run through May 17. The finished product is set for a spring 2013 release in both print and digital formats.

Back us on Kickstarter at

Visit our website at

Like us on Facebook at

Follow us on Twitter at!/ReadingWithPix

Eldritch Enterprise's The Forest of Deceit in Review

I received a PDF in my email recent, a module from Eldritch Enterprises called Forest of Deceit ($7.50 in PDF form over at RPGNow). This is part of a series of modules that feature contributions from names that should be familiar to fans of Old School D&D: Frank Mentzer and James Ward. Forest of Deceit, however is by Christopher Clark, rather than either of those two men.

Forest of Deceit is intended as the introductory or "set up" module to a series of interlinked adventures that flesh out an area of the setting. According to the module, there are three more "chapters" or adventures for this setting yet to come. This can be good or bad for GMs, because if the adventures don't catch on (or there are long delays between each release) then that can adversely impact the campaign.

While designated as an adventure, what Forest of Deceit really is would be a series of short woodland encounters, intended to be used as the adventurers travel to the city of Namar (to be outlined in an upcoming adventure). The encounters are interesting, and are linked thematically by being in a wooded area. There's nothing that really ties these encounters to the Forest of the title, so a GM could easily drop them into any sort of woodlands encounter. As a matter of fact, I may use one or two of these encounters in my own Swords & Wizardry Whitebox campaign.

My main complaint with this adventure is that a lot of pages are wasted by reprinting the monsters. Each encounter is self-contained, with its own monster write ups, but each of these write ups is then reprinted in a six page bestiary section. Those six pages could have been better utilized with another encounter or two. And while speaking of the monsters, I have to say that I found the "shorthand" used to give stats to the monsters in this module a bit confusing, since they don't exactly sync up to any of the old (or new) school fantasy games. Since most of these monsters are fairly common, finding write ups for them in your system of choice shouldn't be hard, but I think that I would have preferred if they had gone with using the stats from an existing Old School game (anything from Castles & Crusades to Labyrinth Lord to Swords & Wizardry) rather than this approach. The OGL has made it so much easier to create compatible materials for so many games that this would have been so much easier to make something compatible than to come up with yet another way to reinvent the wheel of monster write ups.

Is this module worth the money? Well, that's a tricky question. I'm sure that someone will find a use for the material in this module, so for some that answer is an obvious yes. However, at $7.50 (for the PDF) for 34 pages of text and front and back covers, I am not sure if this is worth the money as it is. I think that this module could be much more successful if the encounters from it are integrated into a book with more of the Namar setting information integrated. That way GMs and players won't be left hanging when they finish these encounters but still do not have the city that is supposed to be their destination. With these couple of flaws, I can see this PDF being worth more in the range of $2-$3, rather than the $7.50 that it costs. There's too much introduction and not enough follow up to really make this worth the price of admission.

Hopefully this module does not set the tone for other Eldritch Enterprises modules. I would like to think that Ward and Mentzer have a lot more experience at setting up these sorts of modules, but only time will tell.

Valiant Comics Presents Harbinger #1 Lettered Preview

In this preview of the first issue of Harbinger, from the new Valiant Comics, we see that the names might be familiar but the characters and situations are updated and different. Coming this June to your Friendly Local Comic Store. Click through for the preview pages.

Valiant is proud to present a six-page lettered preview of Harbinger #1 -- the first issue of a super-hero legend reborn from New York Times best-selling author Joshua Dysart (Unknown Soldier, BPRD) and Harvey Award-nominated artist Khari Evans (Carbon Grey)!

Teenager Peter Stanchek is on a dangerous path, but wields an even more dangerous power. Skipping across the country in a desperate attempt to stay one step ahead of the authorities, Pete is quickly realizing that he's a psionically-powered "harbinger" with the potential to control minds, manipulate matter, and forever alter the course of human history. But behind the scenes and half a world away, Pete's plight has not gone unnoticed by respected philanthropist and fellow harbinger, Toyo Harada. Will Harada offer Pete the chance at the things for which he's longed -- family, inner peace, control? Or will this unlikely hero find himself inducted into a secret network of conspiracy and subversion?

Read minds. Bend steel. Break all the rules. This June, the foundations of the Valiant Universe will shake as Peter Stanchek learns the true price of power, only in Harbinger #1 - on sale June 6th!

Cover by ARTURO LOZZI (APR121252)
Pullbox Exclusive Variant by MICO SUAYAN (APR121253)
Variant Cover by DOUG BRAITHWAITE (APR121254)

New From Pagan Publishing - Delta Green: Strange Authorities



Arc Dream Publishing Presents a Collection of the Award-Winning Cthulhu Mythos Horror Fiction of John Scott Tynes

April 18,  2012 — John Scott Tynes merges Lovecraftian cosmic horror with techno-thriller espionage in “Delta Green: Strange Authorities,” now available from Arc Dream Publishing.  Cvr

“Delta Green: Strange Authorities” is a 388-page collection of award-winning Cthulhu Mythos horror fiction. It includes the short stories “The Corn King,” “Final Report,” “My Father’s Son,” and “The Dark Above,” and the Origins Award-winning novel “The Rules of Engagement.”

“Delta Green: Strange Authorities” is available in trade paperback from, Ingram Book Company, and Arc Dream Publishing, and in ebook for Kindle, Nook, iBooks and other devices.

Shane Ivey, editor and president of Arc Dream Publishing, says: “John Scott Tynes’ stories of ‘Delta Green’ are obsidian splinters of fear and beauty. John brings a sense of humanity, of its love and confusion and despair, to the mind-bending terror of the Cthulhu Mythos. These stories have been too hard to find for far too long and I am thrilled to make them available to new readers.”

The sequel to “Strange Authorities,” Dennis Detwiller’s “Delta Green: Through a Glass, Darkly,” is also available in trade paperback and ebook from Arc Dream Publishing.

ABOUT JOHN SCOTT TYNES: John Scott Tynes is a game designer and writer in Seattle. He currently designs Xbox 360 videogames for Microsoft Studios. He was the founder and editor-in-chief of Pagan Publishing and Armitage House and his best-known projects include “Unknown Armies,” “Puppetland,” “Delta Green,” “The Unspeakable Oath,” and “Call of Cthulhu D20.” His film “The Yellow Sign” is available on DVD from Lurker Films.

ABOUT ARC DREAM PUBLISHING: Arc Dream Publishing produces novels and tabletop roleplaying games that have won awards and wide acclaim. Its product lines include “Delta Green,” “The Unspeakable Oath,” “Monsters and Other Childish Things,” “Wild Talents,” and “Godlike.” In 2011 Arc Dream Publishing released the novel “Delta Green: Through a Glass, Darkly,” which continues the tale that began with the stories in “Delta Green: Strange Authorities.”

ABOUT DELTA GREEN: “Delta Green” is a modern setting for H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. Delta Green itself is a conspiracy of federal agents, soldiers, intelligence officers, and “friendlies” who secretly and without sanction use the resources of the U.S. government to thwart supernatural horrors that no legitimate agency could face. Delta Green agents slip through the system, manipulating the federal bureaucracy while pushing the darkness back for another day — but often at a shattering personal cost.



Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Some Records Store Day Releases

Here are a couple of the releases that you can look forward to on Record Store Day.
First we have a collaboration between The Flaming Lips and New Fumes, with a very NSFW music video after the jump.

Record Store Day

It's time again for Record Store Day (sadly not free like Free Comic Day or Free RPG Day, but you take what you can get). The fun starts on Saturday April 21, 2012.

Here in the Saint Petersburg, Florida area Bananas Music and Daddy Kool Records are taking part in the event. I believe that Daddy Kool is going to have live music as part of Record Store Day.

Here's the list of the special stuff that is being released just for Record Store day.

I'm looking forward to a few of the things, the Beach House and Regina Spektor singles look cool, and there is a single for Starman from David Bowie. There is all sorts of good stuff for all sorts of musical tastes.

Here's a couple of great quotes from artists who are involved, or have been in the past:

"My early record shopping experiences were my musical backdrop. It's not just the ability to touch, see and smell an album and the's the fact that you are in a Real Place with Real People...and not just any people: other music-obsessed freaks like you. I discovered so many bands by just hanging out, talking to shopkeepers, getting recommendations from some random dude who was flipping through the Nick Cave bootleg box as fervently as I was. Every time I am in a different city on tour, I make a point to hit the indie retail record stores to see what they're spinning and selling, because i just LOVE being own personal and sometimes anonymous church. You can't get that feeling sitting behind your computer, ever."

- Amanda Palmer (The Dresden Dolls)

“Independent retail has always been the backbone of Porcupine Tree’s exposure in the US, and from the very beginning, the band was proactive in trying to associate with as many indie retail stores/chains as possible. We’ve always respected the aesthetics of the “pure” record store, and the importance of knowledgeable staff who can recommend great stuff to you because they truly love music and know what they’re talking about, and are not selling vacuum cleaners or washer/dryers in the next section over. Porcupine Tree would never have reached its level of retail exposure without the indie stores, we’ll always stand with them.”

- Steve Wilson (Porcupine Trees)

"The indie record shop is the nucleus of the nerd...the internet has it's temptations but physically digging for booty? there's no substitute."

- Ursula 1000 (DJ on ESL – Thievery Corporation label)

"Before all of them were shut down by itunes and downloading, my local indy record stores were perhaps the only reason life was worth living. It’s strange to think that there was a time that an album you've never heard of could be sold to you because of cool artwork and a successful listening station session. Every Tuesday, you'd walk in, say what's up to the same 3 people who are always there working, and feast your eyes upon the 'new releases' shelf. Seldom did I walk out with any money left. And I was fine with that. Now my city doesn't have any independent record stores."

- Mac Lethal

“We are drowning in a sea of Myspace, blather, and too much information. Music is everywhere and nowhere. The independent record store is the solution, a place staffed by friendly (or not) people who are actually paid to weed through this crap and help you find the good stuff.”

- Dean Wareham (Luna)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Valiant Comics Solicitations for July 2012

The July solicitations for Valiant Comics are out! This looks like another strong month for the company. I can't wait to get these books into my grubby hands.

Written by Duane Swierczynski
Art by Manuel Garcia & Arturo Lozzi
Cover by Arturo Lozzi
Pullbox Exclusive Variant by Mico Suayan
Variant Covers by David Aja & Esad Ribic

The Summer of Valiant continues!

It's the start of a new mission for one of comics' all-time best-selling superheroes in Bloodshot #1 — the first issue of a new ongoing series from acclaimed writer Duane Swierczynski (Immortal Iron Fist, Birds of Prey) and the lethal artistic tag team of Manuel Garcia (Checkmate) and Arturo Lozzi (Immortal Weapons)!

Your name is Angelo Mortalli. Your brother is trapped behind enemy lines and on the verge of — no. That's not right.  Your name is Raymond Garrison. You've retired from the dangers of the field, but a desperate plea from your oldest friend plunges you into a vicious firefight that — no. That's not right, either. You are Bloodshot.  You are the shade of gray that freedom requires. The perfect confluence of military necessity and cutting-edge technology. A walking WikiLeaks that is a reservoir of dirty secrets that could set the world on fire.  And you've just been captured.  

On sale July 11 • $3.99

Written by Joshua Dysart
Art by Khari Evans & Lewis LaRosa
Cover by Arturo Lozzi
Variant Cover by Doug Braithwaite

Outside the law. Inside your head. Welcome to the Harbinger Foundation.

The hunt for Peter Stanchek intensifies after an epic battle with Pittsburgh S.W.A.T forces him to use his powers out in the open. Now he faces the most difficult decision of his life. Continue to put his friends in harm’s way…or abandon them for the safety of Toyo Harada’s Harbinger Foundation?

On sale July 11• $3.99

Written by Robert Venditti
Art by Cary Nord
Cover by Jelena Kevic-Djurdjevic
Variant Cover by Mico Suayan

The smash hit series of the summer continues!

With the X-O Manowar armor now in his possession, all that stands between Aric and freedom is a legion of alien soldiers.  When he at last comes face to face with Commander Trill — the man responsible for his capture — the enormous power of the Manowar armor reveals its potential in a new and electrifying way. Can Aric lead his band of fellow prisoners off the Vine colony ship and back to Earth, or will their revolt be put down?  Who will live and who will die?

On sale July 18 • $3.99

About Valiant Entertainment
Valiant Entertainment is a character-based publishing and licensing company that owns and controls some of the most cherished comic characters ever createdacross all media worldwide. Since their creation in 1989, Valiant characters have sold 80 million comic books and have been the basis of a number of successful video game franchises. Valiant's extensive library includes over 1,500 characters, such as X-O Manowar, Bloodshot, Harbinger,Shadowman, Ninjak and Archer & Armstrong. Visit:

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Dogma of Appendix N in Fantasy Gaming

One thing that I never thought that AD&D/D&D was very good at was simulating the fiction of the fabled Appendix N. I don't think that it really needed to because, even as a kid, I always felt that the books in Appendix N were meant more as a guideline to inspirations than what the game was actually supposed to be about. This is supposition, but in hindsight I get the impression that after D&D came out Gygax & Co. were surprised to find out that their tastes in reading weren't as universal as they thought that they would be and that is what led to the inclusion of the Appendix N in AD&D 1e. It seems almost to be an early example of the geek social fallacies in action.

Here's the problem. What might have been intended as a "here's where our head is at with fantasy fiction, some stuff that we like that might make your D&D games cool" has been turned into a near dogmatic "THIS IS WHAT D&D IS SUPPOSED TO BE!!" by more than a few fans and publishers (who are obviously fans as well). The cries of "Appendix N Gaming!" seem to be calling for a game that never was, or at least a game that I can say that I never saw. I do think that if we are going to call for more Appendix N games, we definitely need to have more games inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Recent sad performances in the Box Office aside, Planetary Romance and Lost Worlds styles of games are sorely underrepresented in published RPGs. I understand the reticence of publishers, considering the overzealous nature of the Burroughs Estate when defending what it believes to be its rights.


I guess what I am saying is that we need to look at things like Appendix N for what it was intended to be: an inspiration upon the games of those who might not have read the same books as the Founding Fathers of gaming. The books listed therein are not the destination of a fantasy game, but they are the journey towards it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tweet and Heinsoo Craft 13th Age As A 'Love Letter' to Their Favorite Dungeon-Crawling Fantasy Game

13th Age, an upcoming RPG (currently in playtest) to be published by Pelgrane Press and designed by Jonathan Tweet (designer of Ars Magica, Over The Edge, Talislanta 3e and Lead Designer for D&D 3e) and Rob Heinsoo (who has designed and/or edited for Nexus: The Infinite City, Over The Edge and D&D 4e) is already gathering buzz and interest around the internet. A press release here has some of the details of the upcoming game.

A couple of interesting quotes from the press release:

"Our goal with 13th Age is to recapture the free-wheeling style of old-school gaming by creating a game with more soul and fewer technical details," said Tweet, who spoke alongside other game industry veterans on panels at Norwescon 35, a fantasy, science fiction and gaming convention in Seattle.

Tweet continued, "13th Age makes the play group’s campaign the center of attention, with a toolkit of rules that you can pick and choose from based on the kind of game you want to play. The mechanics of 13th Age draw from classic games as well as newer, story-based games."
Although they can't yet share details about 13th Age with others, playtesters have been enthusiastic about it on online message forums. Playtester Adam Dray said, "Tonight, the one player who comes to the game for mostly social reasons said after a test combat, 'That was fun!' and engaged with her character in a deeper way than she ever has."
 Another playester, Eric Provost, said simply, "I want to play this until I can't play anymore."

I am sort of surprised that there isn't more buzz going on about this game. This sounds like the sort of thing that Wizards of the Coast is attempting to do with their upcoming edition of D&D. I'm about to do something uncommon for Bloggers in RPG circles and say that I can't really comment or compare and contrast these two games because I haven't seen the playtest documents for either. To see which of these games actually reaches these goals, I am going to have to wait for each of them to come out...just like the rest of you. I am curious to see what comes about with The 13th Age, if only because Tweet has created two of my favorite games in Ars Magica and Over The Edge.

A poster at the Something Awful boards did have this to say:

So yeah, there is a playtest going on. For awhile the NDA was simply don't distribute the files and a bunch of information was posted (see every post after this one). Now, it's don't talk about the game beyond the broadest of terms. Here's some of those broadest of terms. Keep in mind this is playtest and everything could change next round.

  • I am enjoying this playtest.

  • The playtest document is 200 pages of text, and extremely put together for such an early draft. The underlying framework is very exposed. There's a monster on a business card section as well as instructions on how to tweak monsters in general.

  • There's lots of advice on how to play the game; everything from which classes have the least fiddly bits to track, to "this mechanic ties into our design goals this way; this mechanic ties into D20 traditions this way."

  • The whole thing is riddled with optional rules. There are tons of "this is the rule, don't use it if you don't want to. Rob certainly doesn't," and, "if you ignore this rule, do X to fix the math."

  • Combat is simplified. Maps are still used, but distances are relative and broad. Minions are faster to run, status effects and modifiers are simplified, combat moves faster after each round.

  • This isn't a complete revision of D&D traditions (at least not yet). Alignments, ability scores and binary skill checks are all in, but have been reduced in importance, modified, or their most obnoxious elements have been otherwise diminished.
So, some interesting stuff. Let's see what happens with it, as it develops. I did manage to grab an exclusive look at a piece of pencil art from the upcoming game. This is an Orc Lord, which I am assuming is going to be a bad guy.
Hopefully we will hear more about this game in the months to come.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Law Versus Chaos in RPGs: The Universal Church of Truth in My Games

This is a sort of "posting of notes" or "working out the words to a tune in my head" type of post. If these ideas seem rambling, or not finished, that is probably true. I just want to get some of them out and onto "paper," probably mostly because of the online game that I am going to be running soon. Warning: Metaphor heavy posting follows the jump.