Friday, February 28, 2014

Aaron Allston 1960-2014

News shotgunned through the wires last night that designer and novelist Aaron Allston collapsed at a convention, followed shortly by reports of his dead. Unfortunately, those reports were verified on Facebook and by email this morning.

Some may know of Allston's work through his Star Wars novels, or his original Doc Sidhe novel. Some may know of him through his work on Champions, Justice, Inc. or Lands of Mystery. Some may know of him through his revision of the D&D rules published as the Rules Cyclopedia, or the Hollow World setting for that. Some may know of him for his early work at Steve Jackson Games and on Space Gamer. He was all of these things and more.

I never knew Allston, but his work spoke to me, first as a gamer and then as a designer. He was one of a small handful of designers who were authoritative on the genres of comic book super-heroes and the pulps. Both Justice, Inc. and Lands of Mystery had an impact on my pulp gaming, and on my designs for pulp games. I don't know if he ever saw Pulp Fantasy, but he was one of the inspirations to which it was indebted.

His version of the D&D rules have been my definitive version for so long that, outside of my playing Swords & Wizardry, I'm not sure if I will ever have, or need, another version of Dungeons & Dragons.

I went through my game library and took a few photos of the things in it that he produced.

Today in the Daily Illuminator electronic newsletter, Steve Jackson had this to say:
Aaron was also the best GM I've ever known. The Champions campaign he ran for the SJ Games staff was memorable. A couple of us didn't actually know the Champions system at all, but Aaron made it not matter, and we all had a fantastic time.
Over on G+, +Allen Varney crafted this eloquent obtituary and tribute to Allston:

Aaron Allston, 1960 to 2014. You wrote large upon all of our lives, and you will not be forgotten.

Sneak Peak At The New Doctor Who Comics From Titan Comics

Regular cover by Alice X. Zhang


Eisner Award-winning writer Nick Abadzis (Laika) and fan-favorite artist Elena Casagrande (Angel, Suicide Risk, Doctor Who, Star Trek) take control of the TARDIS for their first five-issue arc with the Tenth Doctor! And don't miss the second arc, by fellow series architect Robbie Morrison (Drowntown, Nikolai Dante, The Authority)!

On-sale July 23, 2014

Regular cover by Alice X. Zhang


Series architects Al Ewing (Loki: Agent of Asgard, Mighty Avengers, Trifecta) and Rob Williams (Revolutionary War, Ordinary, Miss Fury, The Royals: Masters of War, Trifecta) kick off a whirlwind adventure through eternity for the Eleventh Doctor, with artist Simon Fraser (Nikolai Dante, Grindhouse, Doctor Who)!

On-sale July 23, 2014

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Monsters And Magic Capsule Review

Monsters & Magic is a new(ish) RPG from Sarah Newton's Mindjammer Press. I've been a fan of Sarah's work since Legends of Anglerre came out from Cubicle 7. These days she has her own imprint that is putting out her games and fiction, with distribution through Chronicle City. I say newish because the game debuted last year at Gen Con, even though I only just got my physical copy. I would have had this game for a while now, if I had been able to get to Gen Con last year, but alas.

The system in Monsters & Magic is like the bastard offspring of OD&D, Dungeon World, Fate and HeroQuest (the Glorantha-inspired RPG, not the boardgame). While I find that interesting, I don't think that everyone will.

Character generation in the game is definitely more fiddly than standard OD&D. A starting character receives a lot of options for their character, giving you a character from the gate that is typically more powerful than your bog standard old school character. In terms of complexity of character, you can get a character that is close to a D&D 3x character. It doesn't take as much work to make a Monsters & Magic character, most of the complexity is baked into the characters and doesn't require the player having to make a lot of choices (like with the feat selection in D&D 3x). You can make a competent character right out of the gate with this game. That is something that I like about it.

One of the "new school" elements in Monsters & Magic are what the game calls traits. Traits are broken down into various types, from character to race to class, and they can provide bonuses to rolls or special abilities for a character. The standard class and racial abilities that a D&D player would be used to are rolled into traits (as are 3x feats, to a degree), in a simplified manner. They work like a mashup of D&D abilities and Fate aspects and HeroQuest traits. These traits are where the HeroQuest influence is most pronounced. While most traits are predetermined, there are places where they can also be player-defined. This means that you can have more than one character in a group inspired by the same archetypes, but at the same time you can still customize characters so they can look and feel different. It is nice to have mechanical support for this sort of thing. I think that character advancement is a hybrid of Dungeon World and standard D&D.

The DIY aspect of old school gaming is well represented in these rules. Throughout the rules, Newton encourages players and GMs to manipulate and add their own touches to the game, and throughout she gives guidelines on converting material from "classic fantasy" games into Monsters & Magic. This is pretty much where the "old school" influences end for this game. Someone expecting OD&D with some extra bells and whistles is going to be disappointed in this game. This is not the first game that I have seen marketed as an old school game that misses that mark.

Don't get me wrong. I am not holding the attempt to be "old school" against the game. It is better to try to make the game that is right for you, and have it fall short to others, than to not try to make that game at all. Each game, whether we like them or not, is a step in the direction of a diverse hobby, a place without cookie cutter games. Sometimes, when trying to do many things, you are unable to put as much effort into all of those things. Despite these flaw, the underlying system is a solid one and makes interesting characters with a strong sense of story behind them, stories that manage to not overwhelm what you want to do in the here and now.

The Monsters & Magic system and GMing advice do a good job of explaining to the reader how the game should be played. There is talk about high level campaigns and how to run them. There are rules for making constructs of all shapes and sizes (similar to the rules that appeared in Legend of Angelerre, this must be something that Sarah likes in her games). The GMing section is probably better than that in many old school retroclones anyway, many of which prefer a "learn it yourself" attitude.

One problem that I had with the game actually comes out of all of the talk throughout the rules about high level play, and the various "scales" of play in the game. Despite the fact that the rules support and talk about high level play, there are only a handful of spells available for the various magic-using classes and those spells only cover up to fourth level characters. My other problem was that there really aren't a lot of monsters in the game, all told. Perhaps games like Swords & Wizardry with its extensive lists of monsters and magic have spoiled me, but it seems like a game with monsters and magic in its name should have more of both in it. Monsters can be fixed by making your own, or converting them from other sources. However, old school fans will find that adapting or creating monsters will be a bit more difficult than they are used to because the monsters are probably closer for many to 3x in terms of complexity than OD&D.

Neither of these hurdles are insurmountable, given work on the part of the GM and players, but when in a market where there is already a lot of fantasy RPGs, these are factors that could cause someone to put down Monsters & Magic and pick up another fantasy game in its place.

Ultimately, you have to decide for yourself if this is the game for you. There are a number of strong points (varied and interesting character creation, narrative game elements in the rules) to the game, but they are balanced by some weak points as well (lack of magic and monsters). There is a good game in here, it just takes a bit of coaxing to bring it out. Hopefully, a couple of years down the line, backed up by a few years of actual play and design experience, Monsters & Magic will get a revision that will address some of these issues. At less than 150 pages, there is space for these things to be added without making the game a monster of its own.

Why Non-Disclosures Should Be A Thing Of The Past

One thing that we are seeing more of in this age of Kickstarter-driven tabletop RPG development is a thankful end to the era of NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) being an industry standard. Yeah, there are still some holdouts, but for a lot of designers and companies they are realizing that NDAs are a weakness in development rather than a strength.

Yes, I can understand the argument that you don't want people bitching about things from early drafts of your game after they've been removed. That is easy enough to deal with, however. Just say: "That's not in our game anymore." Yeah, geeks like to chew up a bone of discontent until it is a little nub of negativity, but really there is only so much that you can do about people like that anyway.

The main benefit that comes from all of this is publicity. A Kickstarter campaign that is making lots of money is good publicity, but what makes better publicity? People blogging about their love for your game, talking it up on forums and social media. Games are meant to be played and nothing is as good for publicity as people talking about how much fun they are having while playing your game. Yes, you run the risk of people trash talking, but you run that risk after release and NDAs won't matter anyway. If one YouTube video of a group playing, and having fun, causes 10 people to look at your campaign and pledge...that's 10 people that you might not have had give you money previously.

This doesn't apply only to games that are being Kickstarted either. Open development can be even more helpful to a game that is being funded the old fashioned way because you do not have that extra push of publicity from a Kickstarter campaign. Don't treat your current and potential future customers as if they are thieves who are trying to steal your ideas. These are the people who are the front line of your game's publicity. Do you want them talking about how cool your game is, or how behind the times you are because you want to make them sign an NDA?

It is time to join the 21st century and start treating your audience appropriately. They aren't thieves trying to take your ideas. Tabletop gaming just isn't important enough for "corporate espionage." Put those beta versions of your game out there on the internet. Let gamers worry at the rules like a dog with a new squeak toy. Let them find the math errors, the spelling mistakes, for you. But most of all...let them talk. There's no point in being quiet and squirrely and Cold War about your games. Let your fans be fans, the bad apples will sort themselves out.

A Dorkland! Interview -- Bulletproof Blues Second Edition with Brandon Blackmoor

Despite being in one of the busiest points of a Kickstarter -- the final stretch -- we here at Dorkland managed to get an interview with Brandon Blackmoor about Bulletproof Blues and its Kickstarter.

Dorkland!: How has the Kickstarter experience been for you so far? Is there anything that you have learned since launching the campaign that you wish you knew prior?

Brandon Blackmoor: I should have looked at the ratio of PDF vs. print backers of other RPG projects. I underestimated how many backers would elect for a print reward level, and the net revenue from print reward levels is (for us) about 50 cents on the dollar vs 85 cents on the dollar for PDF reward levels. As a result, I needed to adjust the price points of our stretch goals about mid-way through the first week.

DL: Why set your Kickstarter campaign in a more incremental fashion? Why the sample character artwork first?

BB: Originally, all of the art came first and all of the supplemental written material came after. This was based on the assumption that people would prefer to improve the core book before wanting add-ons. After the first week, I polled the backers (approx 60 at that time) to see how they would prefer the stretch goals were structured. This indicated that they were much more interested in the supplemental material than I thought, so we re-arranged the stretch goals accordingly (at that time, none of the stretch goals had been met).

DL: One of the features of the Kickstarter (and Bulletproof Blues, in general) is a creative commons license -- why have it?

BB: Because one of the primary purposes of Bulletproof Blues is to provide an open game system that anyone can use to build their own game. In my opinion, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike is superior to the OGL for this purpose.

DL: What sets Bulletproof Blues apart from other supers RPGs?

BB: Task resolution is simple, combat is fast, powers are flexible and diverse, and the available range of power levels is deliberately broad. It follows a middle path between the complexity of games like Mutants and Masterminds and the simplicity of games like Bash (which are both fine games).

DL: What does the Kalos Universe have to offer people who are not familiar with it, but are familiar with DC or Marvel? Or people who are not very familiar with any supers setting?

BB: Kalos Universe is our own superhero setting. It allows the players to have a relatively minimal pre-made setting without the baggage that comes with DC or Marvel. That being said, most of the tropes you would want in DC or Marvel are there, or could easily be added. For that matter, if you want to play a DC or Marvel game with Bulletproof Blues, feel free.

DL: On the Kickstarter page Bulletproof Blues is described as a 'setting-dark' superhero RPG -- what exactly is meant by that?

BB: It's really only “dark” in comparison most mainstream superhero games. The authorities don't turn a blind eye to posthuman activities, and relatively few posthumans put on spandex and try to save or rule the world. Most posthumans have the same goals everyone else does: money, power, and fame. Of the themes of the setting is that most people are not “heroes” or “villains”. There is a great deal of grey in the world (but we assume that the PCs will be a lighter shade of grey than most of their antagonists). Also, posthumans are dangerous: even a relatively low-powered posthuman could kill a normal person pretty easily. That's a bit different from most superhero games.

DL: What are some of the bigger changes to the rules of Bulletproof Blues with this second edition?

BB: The rules really aren't changing. We are adding a few small additions (such as “Skill Mastery”, an advantage which confers a +3 task bonus to task rolls when not in combat). For the most part, the changes are cosmetic: new art, new layout, larger format, new character sheet design. We are also replacing the How To Play and How to GM sections with a “GM Resources” section that will provide some additional setting material and (hopefully) some good advice on running Bulletproof Blues, specifically.

DL: How compatible will content created for the first edition of the rules be with the second edition?

BB: Completely.

DL: Supers settings can get crazy (in a good way) -- what is a moment of Bulletproof Blues gaming that you have experienced and felt really exemplified the game?

BB: One of my favorites was when a character snuck into a mental hospital to examine the personal effects of a dangerous sociopath who had died under mysterious circumstances. You probably had to be there.

DL: Lastly, what was the most interesting Bulletproof Blues character you have seen, created or played?

BB: Probably the strangest was Frogger, who was played the nine-year-old son of a friend of mine. Frogger was a swamp monster who'd been living in the bayous near New Orleans since the 1800s.

We here at Dorkland! would like to thank Brandon for his time and wish him the best with the Kickstarter, which has long since met its funding goal and is nearly past its third stretch goal! If you would like more information on Bulletproof Blues Second Edition be sure to check out its Kickstarter page and Kalos Comics' website.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Gary Reed Talks About The Return of Caliber Comics

Since I've been talking about DeadWorld (and I have a feeling that I am going to eventually be moving into talking about other Caliber books as I go through my comic long boxes), I should include a link to Gary Reed's blog talking about their "return." It is an interesting article and I think it really gets to the core of what Caliber Comics was as a company that published creator owned comics, and what that means in a contemporary comic market where comic publishers have been relegated to the role of creating and maintaining IP for the purposes of making movies and TV shows.

Go over, read Gary's blog and see what you think. Hopefully you'll want to support the company, too.
Gary Reed: The Return of Caliber: "Last week, I announced that Caliber Comics was returning.  The idea of the announcement wasn't to issue some proclamation of big..."

DeadWorld Monday: Mississipi Queen

The third issue of DeadWorld is called Mississippi Queen, after the song from Mountain. I'm going to assume that you haven't haven't heard it before.

In the beginning of the issue the characters are listening to the song on the bus (I'm assuming on a tape player, since there aren't radio stations anymore and now CDs will never be invented).

This issue picks up almost immediately after the last, with the characters on the run after getting out of Slaughter, and filling up the bus with gas again.

I think that we get more hints that there is more to what is going on in DeadWorld than just zombies. Like the scene from last issue (with the character who I said would be important), the cover hints at magical creatures who aren't zombies. These impish creatures are definitely something weird and different.

The reason that this issue is entitled Mississippi Queen has to do with the characters finding a riverboat. It makes sense to hide out on a boat, right? Zombies can't swim after all. Right? Obviously nothing will go wrong with this plan.

One of the things that happens, once the characters get onto the boat, is that we get reminded that despite everything that is happening, these are just kids. We get one of the rare glimpses into seeing them be kids, rather than zombie killers.

The respite is a short one because King Zombie has found them again. I need to look a bit more closely at the first two issue now, because I'm not sure if he has been called anything other than "the motorcycle riding geek" by the characters. We know his name, as readers, but that might have just been because he was answering the letter column. Silly, I know, but still fun.

Zombies don't have to be able to swim.

When Dan encounters King Zombie, this might be where the characters first discover that he can talk, as well. These talking zombies are also able to exert control over the less intelligent zombies as well, calling the zombies to them and forcing them to act. The shore is swarming with zombies as King Zombie forces the boat back to the shore, surprising the characters with an attack of zombies that they have to fight off.

We get another interlude in this issue as well, and this time the "crazy" character who might have been hallucinating those fantastic creatures is given a name. We're still not sure if what he sees are hallucinations or reality, but the continuation of the combined with this issues cover hints that these may not be hallucinations.

Once again I am amazed at what Vince Locke is able to convey with his art. Yes, it is very cartoony in places (particularly this part where he is trying to cast doubt on the reality of the scene), but his art is just as instrumental in creating the new reality of the DeadWorld as is the writing.

Something is growing with these interludes. Were the zombies somehow intentional? It appears that this Deake (and people he knew) is somehow behind the zombie influx...but this seems to be saying that he might have been manipulated by outside forces into doing whatever happened that brought the dead back.

We still have a lot to find out.

The issue ends with zombies swarming onto the riverboat, the characters trapped. Dan is unconscious, perhaps incapacitated, and the characters face overwhelming odds while down their best fighter. What is going to happen next?
Let's see what happens next Monday.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Magic World Errata And Clarifications

It is probably not a surprise for any of you to discover that I'm a fan of Chaosium and their latest fantasy game, Magic World. The Magic World game is almost as if Chaosium is retro-cloning themselves. The game is the old Elric!/Stormbringer 5e game from them, with all of the Moorcockian references stripped out and a fine fantasy game let in it's wake.

If you're looking for a lightweight BRP game that has everything you need in one book (including compatibility with the Big Gold Book BRP book), this is the game for you.

As a service, I have come across a document of errata and clarifications to share with you. Click here and find it on Google Drive. Three pages, not too bad really.

The Geeky Voices Carry Page

You may, or may not, know that we have a video blog/podcast called Geeky Voices Carry. Well, if you didn't know before, now you do. I have set up a page for the podcast. You will find all of the videos for our live recordings, as well as a link to the Podcast Garden site that hosts the podcast version.

Tonight we record our 10th episode, so if you haven't listened yet you can start now and get all caught up. There is a link to the page at the top of the screen, right under the blog's banner, or you can click here.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Deadworld Monday: It's A Slaughter

In issue two of DeadWorld we get a lot of violence and combat. It really isn't that much different from the violence and combat in the first issue, but much of this issue hits us with the fact that this is a story about survival. Not just this issue, but the DeadWorld comic in general.

The schoolbus runs out of gas after the "gang" flees the onslaught of zombies from the last issue. They have a plan, sort of, to get somewhere out West where there are fewer people and hopefully fewer zombies. Mike, the erstwhile leader of the group, goes into the closest town for gasoline and maybe a spare vehicle.

The characters not only need a plan, they need to be able to get along better with each other. This isn't because of worry over someone's feelings...this is a matter of survival. Keep in mind that, as far as the characters know, the group of them are the only survivors of this zombie invasion. They haven't seen any other living people yet. This is why Mike takes Dan with him into town. He knows that, as the leader, he has to find a way to get everyone cooperating and working together. If they can't trust each other, they are not going to survive.

The closest town? Slaughter, Louisiana, and (of course there are zombies).

There is also an interlude, a very psychedelic interlude where we are introduced to a character who is running through the woods and seeing things that may (or may not) be there. This is going to be an important character to the story, but I'm not going to give that away here. Not just yet. There is also a page that shows why Vince Locke is a great artist, even at this early stage in his career. If you really need a reason to pick up this issue of DeadWorld, this page will probably be that reason. This page also hints that there is something more to all of this than zombies. We will get to that as well.

The man from the interlude may (or may not) be being chased by these creatures. You aren't going to find monsters this weird in even the weirdest of the weird fantasy RPGs. This page is a bestiary all on its own.

However, this interlude is going to be very important to the overall story of DeadWorld. Just not yet.

After the interlude we go back to Mike and Dan in the town. Like any plan, theirs starts off working well...and then zombies. There are a lot of zombies in this town, more probably than could be accounted for by the dead rising. It is almost starting to look as if a lot of people have been transformed into zombies as well. Is this a plague of some sort?

The violence is cartoony at times in these early issues, but that's intentional. It seems to me that it is trying to make the situation of zombies being all over more "real" by notching up the violence to suit the surreality of the situation. I could also be talking out of my ass.

The boys make it out, and head back to the bus with a new truck and a bunch of gasoline. That mission is accomplished without any harm to Mike and Dan. Back at the bus we have the relationships developing more as the kid tells Chris that John (who has been unconscious since the last zombie attack) loves her.

Once again we get the blend of zombies, violence and relationships that will be a hallmark of the DeadWorld comics. There is going to be interesting development to our characters as they explore their new world and the people (living and non-living in it. Honestly, I think that is one of my favorite things about this comic, is that there is a story that is unfolding. It isn't an accidental either, as we'll see in these posts there is a plan to this book. We also haven't seen the last of the intelligent zombies either. They are very important to this story.

Next week we will see what happens next, in issue three.

If you like this post, click on the link at the beginning of it and buy the issue in electronic form from from DriveThruComics. It is an affiliate link, so it will help out the blog and you're making a purchase from the that helps them out as well. It's only .99 cents, and for that you get the incredible Vince Locke page earlier in this post. That alone is worth almost a dollar.

More SuperFAE: Big Bang Comics

A favorite comic of mine for a long time was Big Bang Comics. A part of the independent comics boom of the 80s and 90s, Big Bang Comics grew out of Gary Carlson's Megaton comic. Carlson and partner Chris Ecker, were part of the Detroit scene that also brought us Caliber Comics and Kevin Siembieda of Palladium Games. While there were original characters like The Sphinx or Doctor Weird, many of the Big Bang Comics characters were homages to Golden and Silver Age comics characters like Batman or Superman. True, characters like Ultiman and Knight Watchman did have enough twists to them to make them into unique characters, it was easy to differentiate them from their inspirations.

Big Bang Comics ran for a while as a mini-series done in conjunction with Caliber Comics (where I first encountered the comic by finding it in a bagged set in a K-Mart), and then as a full color series published through Image Comics. The character of Knight Watchman first appeared in Carlson's Berzerker, a post apocalyptic comic published by Caliber Comics that (to me) bridged the universes of the Megaton comic with that of Big Bang Comics.

Today I needed to do something a little uplifting today, so I decided to revisit my SuperFAE rules hack for the Fate Accelerated and talk about some of the characters from Big Bang Comics, and how I would address them under these rules. The SuperFAE stuff is still a work in progress, so this post may contradict or add to what I had previously posted. In all cases, stick to the most current rules implementations, as they supersede previous writings.

In case you missed my first SuperFAE past, you can read it here.

Because of its freeform nature, SuperFAE fits well with the freeform nature of the comics. Not familiar with Big Bang Comics? Click here for more information about them.

Knight Watchman is Reid Randall, a fashion designer and wealthy owner of the family clothing business. Yes, that's right the "Batman" of the Big Bang Comics Universe is a fashion designer. While Reid was still in college, training to compete in the Olympics, mobsters attempted a hostile takeover of the family clothing business, killing his older brother Ted (who currently ran the family business) and Ted's wife with a car bomb.

Using his athletic prowess, and garment making skills, he fashioned himself a simple costume to hide his identity, allowing him to track down the gangsters who killed his brother. After finding and defeating the gangsters, he dressed them up in women's clothing and left them to be found by the police. Sadly, this did not become his M.O. for apprehending criminals after he decided to become a costumed hero.

Realizing that there were others in need of help, oppressed by crime, in his hometown of Midway City, Reid took the identity of Knight Watchman and became the Twilight Paladin of Midway City.

These would be the aspects that I would use for Knight Watchman in a game:

High Concept: Twilight Paladin of Midway City
Origin: Using His Training For The Good Of Those Around Him
Trouble: Must Keep His True Identity A Secret!

For his other aspects, being that Knight Watchman is a fairly black and white character, in terms of morality, I would probably use Must Do The Right Thing! and Square-Jawed Hero. Those give him a certain Silver Age charm, without hamstringing the character at the same time.

For Knight Watchman's approaches I would do this:

Fighting +3
Agility +4
Strength +0
Endurance +1
Reason +3
Intuition +2
Psyche +1

While Knight Watchman is a fighter, he is also a thinking super-hero. Some may think that the +0 for the Strength approach isn't going to be enough, but rather than thinking of it as Mediocre (like the +0 ranking in Fate) I prefer to think of it as being human normal. A good way around this would be to give the character a stunt that would let them give damage with their Agility, instead of their strength:

Because I am a trained Olympic athlete, I can use my Agility to attack and damage people when I spend a Fate Point.

Ultiman is the Ultimate Human Being, and as former astronaut Christopher Kelly is the stand in for Superman in the Big Bang Comics universe. When Kelly was an astronaut on one of the Gemini space missions, his rocket was struck by a mysterious meteor. The radioactive rock bathed Kelly in its strange rays, making him faster, stronger, invulnerable to most harm, and able to fly. The radioactive energies supercharged his cells, turning him into a superhuman power battery.

Later in his career, this would turn on Kelly, as his energies dwindled and he looked for ways to reclaim his glories as America's foremost super-hero.

Concept: America's Super-Hero
Origin: Changed By A Radioactive Meteor Into The Ultimate Human Being
Trouble: Living Battery Of Supercharged Power

The nice thing about the trouble is that it can be Invoked or Compelled to represent Kelly's powers when they start to ebb, as well as when they are at peak capacity. This was, after all, how we first saw Ultiman, later in his life, when he appeared in Megaton Comics.

Fighting +3
Agility +2
Strength +4
Endurance +3
Reason +0
Intuition +1
Psyche +1

While super-powerful physically, Kelly is mostly unchanged mentally by the radiation that gave him his superpowers. When his powers are at his peak, I would give the following Power Stunt:

Because I am supercharged with energies, I can have a +2 to one of my approaches, when I spend a Fate Point.

The nice thing about the Fate Point economy is that it can be used to represent things like a super-hero whose powers ebb and flow. Without a Fate Point, Ultiman is just his "normal" self. While all of this is good for representing a Silver Age version of the character, if you want a modern version of the character just fill out his aspects with Must Find More Energy! or Hungry For That Recharge to simulate the fact that the radioactive energies in Kelly's cells is dwindling. Powerful electrical charges, or other intense energy discharges can also power up Kelly, for situations when Ultiman needs to be even more ultimate.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for the Big Bang Comics universe, but it gives you two characters that can be used as examples for creating your own SuperFAE characters. I know that there's interest in more posts about the SuperFAE rules, and this is trying to fulfill that. If you also want to see me talk more about the Big Bang Comics characters, let me know and I can do that too.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Invisibles Friday: Poor People Gonna Rise Up...

So, every Friday now I am going to post about an issue of the Grant Morrison comic The Invisibles. Part of me wants to just pick issues at random and talk about them, but I'll be good and stick to talking about the run in order. I'm going to be honest, despite having loved comics like The Doom Patrol and Sebastian O, I was not a huge fan of this comic at first. The first story arc  just didn't connect with me like some of Morrison's previous work had done.

I read the first story arc and decided that the book wasn't for me.

Then months later I read about the controversy surrounding the book in the comic press (back in the days when we read magazines to find out about what was going on in comics). DC Comics had some dialog changed in the book, in one case a line spoken by the Marquis de Sade was changed so that it would not sound as if children were being "used" in the story, and in another case a reference to Walt Disney was blacked out. What is interesting is the fact that both bits were restored to what Morrison intended in the collected editions.

However, the article that talked about the censoring also talked about the second story arc Arcadia, and the article intrigued me enough to pick the book back up and start reading it again. I didn't stop until the book ended its run.

The Invisibles has received a lot of press and critical thought over the years. I am not sure what this series is going to contribute to that body of work, but we will see. My intention isn't to be scholarly or to compile annotations. I am just going to go through each issue, give my thoughts and impressions and talk about what I saw in that book. Breaking down all of the magical symbolism will probably take a stronger mind than mine.

Beetles and Beatles play an important role in this first issue. Beetles play an important part in the symbolism of birth and rebirth, and that is the running theme of this first story arc (and most of the run of The Invisibles as well). Dane McGowan must be reborn into his role of Jack Frost in order to save the world from Armageddon. This is a theme that Morrison uses often. His JLA run dealt with the Earth's super-heroes running up against the ultimate Armageddon in the form of the sleeping God Weapon Mageddon. This wasn't an unusual theme around the millennium.

John Lennon is the other Beatle toplay a part in the story. Dane see him talking with Stuart Sutcliffe on the banks of a Liverpool river, a moment of soft time when the past and the future were able to touch. Later in the issue Lennon is adapted in Chaos Magick style into a psychedelic Godshead and summoned by King Mob as an augury of the future.
Is Lennon actually being summoned, or it is just a metafictional trick of King Mob's unconscious mind, telling him what he already knows to be true? In a book like The Invisibles the answer can go either way.

For a lot of people, Grant Morrison is a fairly incomprehensible writer. He certainly doesn't write the typical comic book stories, whether he's working on a book like The Invisibles or comics like New X-Men or JLA. He has a certain psychedelic style (of which the above page is fairly representative) and an enthusiasm for the medium that I find contagious. I may not like everything that he does, but when he is on I think he is one of the best writers in comics.

The antagonists introduced in this issue show two of Morrison's influences writ large: Williams S. Burroughs and H.P. Lovecraft. The reason that I use the more generic term of "antagonist," because I am not always convinced that King Mob and his Invisibles cell are always the hero of this story. Even as the "good guys," they do a lot of things that don't set them that far from the antagonists.

Control is bad. Freedom is awesome. It is Michael Moorcock's Law versus Chaos, D&D great, eternal conflict, done up in comic book form. This isn't anything new, really. DC Comics has used a version of Moorcock's Law vs. Chaos for decades in their book. This won't be the only time that Moorcock's influence will show up in this book.

I think that for me, a big part of the appeal of this book (once it really had my attention) was the fact that it took a lot of the things that I was interested in: Moorcock, Lovecraft, Burroughs; and wrote about them in a new context. Throughout the run we will see visits from the Divine Marquis, Borges and P.K. Dick on the evolving story as well.

One thing that I will likely get to in one of these posts was the Grant Morrison Versus Warner Brothers story that happened, as Morrison claimed that the movie The Matrix took some of the concepts of The Invisibles without crediting him for them. As we will see, the theme of initiation (so important to occult thinking) will be important to this first story arc, and as initiation is a fairly universal literary/mystic theme it is not unusual that stories that deal with the theme will have some points of commonality.

Corridors are an important theme as well, as they are symbolic of journeys and traveling. This is something that will pop up more than once as we go through these comics.

Let's get down to the nitty gritty. How did this comic hold up? I almost wish that I hadn't read these comics in a long while, so that I could come at them with a fresher perspective. That said, I do still think that they hold up fairly well. Grant Morrison's The Invisibles is part of a British cultural "invasion," not all that different from the invasion lead by The Beatles in the 60s. Morrison's work represents a comic/literary aspect, falling in step with musicians like Blur and Oasis, of a movement that took the popular culture of the past and synthesized it into something that was representative of the (then) current times. A lot of the fears and insecurities that The Invisibles comments upon are still plaguing the world as well.

With The Invisibles, Morrison gives us a millennial view of Britian in comic book form, not dis-similar to what Jamie Delano gave us in the 80s with Hellblazer, the first John Constantine solo comic. Both of these comics are an attempt to look into the psyche of the nation of their respective times. In a way, it builds upon the British comics culture started by magazines like 2000AD and creators like Pat Mills.

As we will see, more even than mainstream books like JLA or even Aztek, The Invisibles will show us the heights and depths of Morrison's powers as a creator. Some of his greatest storytelling is going to happen in these pages, and we are going to go along for the ride.

Why should you read The Invisibles if you haven't already? Well, if you like any of the authors that I have listed as being influential on this comic then you might like this comic as well. If you are looking for a comic that makes you think, is more than just a passive form of storytelling, and that deals with more than just comic book super-heroes, you should check out The Invisibles. Sometimes horror, sometimes fantasy and sometimes science fiction, this comic is most likely the story that Morrison was meant to tell in comics. So, even if you have only read his work on Batman, or Action Comics, check out a couple of the early issues of this on Comixology or pick up the first trade from your local comic store (or your preferred internet seller) and give it a try. There's a lot in here for gamers to find as well. If you're looking for something new for your modern horror or adventure campaigns, you could do much worse than to tap into the energies of Grant Morrison's The Invisibles.

Next week we will be back with a look at the second issue.

Now, since music was an important influence on Morrison's writing I am going to close with an unrelated music video. I think that it ties in well enough with the story of Dane that I named this post after a quote from it.

We're talking about a revolution...

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Dorkland! Interview -- Mutant Chronicles 3rd Ed. with Chris Birch

Despite running a wildly popular Kickstarter, Chris Birch of Modiphius Entertainment still managed to find some time to answer some of the questions we here at Dorkland! had about Mutant Chronicles 3rd Edition and its Kickstarter.

Dorkland!: Have you learned anything new from the Mutant Chronicles Kickstarter and what might that be?

Chris Birch: Good question - well I would say that there are so many massive Mutant Chronicles fans who've just been waiting for the return of this awesome game. I keep being surprised every day as more and more join in the Kickstarter - it's like people are coming home!

DL: You've run a very successful Kickstarter before and are currently running another very successful one -- what do you feel is your reason for such success?

CB: I think it's about the huge amount of ground work we do before we get to the Kickstarter - building up the fan base, talking to them, finding out what people really want, not just what we think they want then using that to steer our cool ideas. We already knew what we were going to do with the story, but learning what products people wanted to see first, and what aspects of the Mutant Chronicles universe were more important was a huge help in shaping the releases. We had been playtesting with over 400 groups over 6 months so once you get to those kinds of numbers you can have a great start to the Kickstarter. But then it's about keeping up the hard work. You don't just sit back; you are constantly talking to people, responding, giving feedback, creating new graphics, art and sculpts to show off to keep the excitement level high. So many people think they can stick their new idea on Kickstarter with no backup, no research, and no effort day by day - and that's why not every project succeeds. We're often up till 3am working on the Kickstarter, but also the day to day business of Modiphius and it's really hard work - which is why not everyone is willing to do it. I will say though it's such rewarding work - as you see the response of your efforts almost immediately and get to talk to people who are as passionate as us. 

DL: Mutant Chronicles was created in the 1990's and the old editions show it. Will you be doing any updates to the setting to bring it more in-line with modern technological sensibilities? If so, how? Or, if not, why?

CB: The setting was actually very diesel punk although they called it techno-fantasy. The techno-fantasy is still there but we're defining the tech levels before and after the outbreak of the Dark Symmetry - what do the ships look like before the computer systems fail, and what do they end up looking like. We've drawn together all the disparate stories and timelines in to one, worked out the backstory, filled in some of the odd gaps and answered questions left hanging so people are going to discover all of this through the books. The big thing about the setting is it sits nicely in the diesel punk genre that's appeared which is where it's a 1940's/50's era of technology, everything's bigger and chunkier than it needs to be, engines are massive, vehicles huge, shoulder pads bigger! This all works with the 90's era of design they had at the time, and as we develop the looks of the worlds, buildings, ships and more it will all fit nicely with what has gone before as we'll be reusing the classic Paul Bonner art alongside new artists and the point was to bring the rest of the universe to life, not reinvent it for the sake of it. 

DL: The rules will be undergoing a change, what are some of the changes? Will it still utilize the roll-under method?

CB: Yes it's still a d20 roll under, we're making a big announcement about the rules on Monday the 17th of February, so people will know a lot more about the direction we're taking then and we hope to have a revised beta available about a week later (or before the end of the Kickstarter at least) for people to test out. It's being designed to be a really cinematic system though, allowing to you do all the crazy stunts you always imagined you should be able to do in Mutant Chronicles, without the GM suffering under a weight of stats and modifiers etc. 

DL: One of my favorite parts of the older Mutant Chronicles game was the background cycle during character creation -- what is going to happen to it in the 3rd edition?

CB: Yes, the Lifepath character generation was one of my favourite parts too, and we intend to expand on this, bringing a lot more flavoured events in to the process. It will really help you shape a very cool RPG character, but we'll also have a points buy system for those who have a specific concept they want.  

DL: Why combine the Algeroth and Ilian Guide books into the Dark Soul book?

CB: Well, actually what I should say is that the core book will contain a lot more info on all of the Dark Legion Apostles and then the Dark Soul book will expand on this for each of them as well as covering Pluto, Nero, the Dark Legion's history and much more. The idea was to bring together Ilian's and Algeroth's material in from the two books and enhance it with the rest of the Apostles. We also wanted to show how different they each are - so there will be more defined strategies and the creatures properly broken down, so each apostle has different types of heretic and creatures. The creatures and heretics are all described by how they try to attack - what their tactics are. 

DL: Will all of the original Guide books be given the 3rd edition treatment, even if their stretch goals are not met? What exactly is going to be done with the Guide books? Will they differ from the previous edition?

CB: Yes, we're bringing back all the original guides, though the Freelancer supplement is now included in a specific more detailed guide of Luna for example, and yes we'll be publishing all the books regardless of whether they get unlocked through the Kickstarter. They will be re-written, fleshed out with new material, expanded to be major geographic sourcebooks so, for example, Capitol is also the guide to Mars. There will be a lot more insight in to the organisation, gear and resources, character options etc. 

DL: What is some of the new, expanded content going to be? Are we going to get new Guide books?

CB: There's a lot more storyline to include, the histories and relationships of the Corporations, more cool gear, ships, more guide books detailing things like Mutations (which is will be a growing theme through the storyline - don't worry, no talking rabbits!) rules for spaceship combat, running your own corporation or shipping company - a great kick off for adventures, loads of new content on the Dark Legion

DL: Three campaigns are planned for 3rd edition -- will these relate to the Venusian Apocalypse adventures in any way? Will anything be done with the Venusian Aplocalypse books? If not, how easy or hard might it be to convert them to the 3rd edition?

CB: We plan to convert the Venusian Apocalypse for 3rd Edition and bring it up to date with more artwork, maps and, allegedly, there was an Episode 4. So, I have a feeling that will be really exciting as you'll be able to find out where the storyline was planned to go. There will be a major campaign book (which also reveals some of the secrets) set during the first Dark Legion War starting days after the Pluto landings, leading right up to the final climatic assault on the citadel. The second major campaign book focuses on the 2nd Dark Legion War and is more epic in scale and power. Whilst the third campaign is set during the Dark Eden period (which is still part of the 2nd Dark Legion War) and has a big focus on Earth. 

DL: Lastly, there are a lot of very interesting facets to the Mutant Chronicles universe -- what are your favorite parts of it? What are the aspects that really get you excited about this game and setting?

CB: I think it was the techno-fantasy but with the grounding in the civilisations we know - it's kind of near future, recognisable designs and styling, but the techno-fantasy element lets us do anything. The universe is full of extremes, massive guns, bigger shoulder pads, insane battles and stories. It's the final stand of humanity and I love stories that deal with the epic heroism possible in such extremes.

We here at Dorkland! would like to thank Chris Birch for his time and wish him the best with the ongoing Kickstarter. If you would like to know more about giant shoulder pads, Dark Symmetry, and corporate life, be sure to check out the Mutant Chronicles 3rd Edition Kickstarter page or Modiphius Entertainment's website.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Deadworld Monday: The Original Walking Dead Comic

Today I start my series of commentary and criticism on the DeadWorld comic. I am going to be focusing mostly on the original run of the series, published originally through Arrow Comics and eventually finding its home with Caliber Comics. If you want to read along, you can pick up this issue of DeadWorld through DriveThruComics for only 99 cents in electronic form. Yes, that is an affiliate link, I hope that you will support both the original creators and the blog.

Warning, there are spoilers.

As a disclosure, I really wasn't a fan of DeadWorld at the time that it came out. I was a late comer to the comic. A few years ago, when I was part of another RPG publisher, I approached Caliber publisher Gary Reed about the rights to Baker Street for role-playing, unfortunately they weren't available but as we talked about his other properties we came to DeadWorld. We talked and made a deal to bring DeadWorld to role-playing, but (as with many things in this business) it did not work out. Caliber Comics published some incredibly rich world, and hopefully one day they will end up in a role-playing game from someone.

The short version of this story is that, while researching the book for the writing of the RPG, I came to be a big fan of DeadWorld. While I am going to be talking about the classic run, the book is still out today through IDW and you can probably still find the Image Comics edition trades in comic stores.

What made DeadWorld so cool, right out of the gate? Two words:Vince Locke. The cover from the first issue of the comic almost lets you know what what you are getting in for with this comic. Zombies, of course.

The story starts in Louisiana. We don't know why, and this is mostly because the main characters don't know either, but the dead have risen and the world is in chaos. Fans of the original Night of the Living Dead will recognize this set up. In fact, this first issue has George Romero's finger prints all over it. The characters are fighting for survival. The geography is very limited. Characters get hurt. However, it manages to keep above being a pastiche and rapidly becomes its own thing.

Right off the bat you start to get an idea of who the characters are, and some of their social relationships. While some of these people were friends before the zombies came, some of them were also thrown together out of a need for survival.
In this page we have the introductions of Dan, Donna, Mickey, Joey (Spud), and Dan. In just a few panels Stuart Kerr, the writer, gives each character a personality and starts to set up the interpersonal dynamics of their relationships. We know that the dead rising didn't just happen, but it is still recent enough that no one really knows yet what to do about things.

One of the things that fascinated me about this, coming to DeadWorld after the fact, was the fact that this is a world where the internet did not yet exist and where the media was not as ubiquitous as it is nowadays. This actually adds a layer of authenticity to the comic for me, and helps support why people don't really know what happened. There were no embedded reporters going down to the zombie onslaught on live television, or streaming internet video. This makes DeadWorld almost an alternate past of what the world could have turned into, if zombies had destroyed civilization 30-some years ago.

And then, of course, zombies attack:

For many, this is going to be the meat of the comic. The thing is that it isn't. To be honest, particularly in hindsight, a horde of attacking zombies isn't any big deal. The really important part of the story, the thing that was scary and intriguing for me, came a few pages before the zombie attack.

That's right. These zombies are organized, and their leaders cannot only talk...but they cane think as well. These panels gives us our first look at King Zombie, an important character who will come up in future issues (and posts). And not only can they talk and think...they can ride motorcycles.

How metal is that?

Of course, the motorcycle-riding zombies scare the hell out of the characters, who have never seen or heard of such things. This is also, for me, what sets DeadWorld apart from other zombie comics out there. They weren't afraid to do things that you wouldn't expect. Over the course of these posts we will see more of these intelligent zombies, their plans and their actions.

Kerr and Locke hit the ground running with this first issue of DeadWorld. We already have an idea of what the world is like (the characters are forced to scavenge and forage for food and materials, zombies are pretty prevalent in the world, society's infrastructure has collapsed) and then they pull the rug out from under the readers and the characters by showing that there might be an intelligent force behind all of this, guiding things.

So, this is our first DeadWorld Monday post. I may periodically supplement these with gaming related posts as well, but mostly I am going to talk about the comic, what makes it cool and why I think you should find it for yourself. Go back up to the top of the post and click on the link and buy your own copy of the comic.

Dorkland Interview With British Comics Force Pat Mills

Pat Mills is a force in British comics, and one who may not be as recognized as a name in the States despite the fact that he created or co-created such important and seminal characters as Judge Dredd, Nemesis The Warlock, Slaine and Marshall Law. He is also responsible for starting the British comic magazine 2000AD, which is still publishing today. I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Mills because of the upcoming reissue of his Accident Man comics from Titan Comics. Here is how it went...

Dorkland: Thank you for taking the time for this interview. Before we get to talking about the reprint of your Accident Man comics, can we set a little of your biography for those who may not know about it? You started out developing magazines and comics for D.C. Thomson and IPC, but for many one of your greatest, and lasting, creations was the 2000AD magazine. How did this come about, and what made you want to create a predominantly science-fiction magazine?

Pat Mills: I'd successfully produced Battle and Action so now IPC wanted another comic for the boys market. Science fiction was about to go big with Star Wars so an SF comic was the logical choice. 2000AD  was very successful when it came out. The film Star Wars followed a few months later and - surprisingly - our sales went down a little. Possibly because some readers went over to Marvel's version of the film.  For me, personally, I could probably adapt to a Western, Crime, or Horror comic. Basic drama and storytelling remains fundamentally the same.

DL: While with 2000AD you’ve created what are probably some of the most enduring characters of modern British comics in Judge Dredd, Nemesis The Warlock, The ABC Warriors and Slaine. Which of these characters are still your favorite, and what makes them still of interest to you as a writer?

PM: That's tough.  Probably Slaine because I'm in the throes of a new Slaine saga with Simon Davis which I'm really enjoying.  It's called A Simple Killing and is set in Britain and is part of a new story arc The Brutania Chronicles.  It holds my interest because there are still things i want to say about Slaine. The relationship with his father, for example, which was never explored in earlier stories. I also enjoy the sense of a character having real longevity and making the later stories every bit as strong as the early ones.

DL: You have created two of my favorite comic characters in Nemesis the Warlock and Marshall Law. Like most of your characters, neither of them are stereotypical comic characters. What qualities does a “Pat Mills” protagonist have to have, and what drives you to create these sorts of characters?

PM: Nemesis was the product of artist Kevin O'Neill and my Catholic  backgrounds. There's so much inspiration there. Torquemada is the embodiment of every racist and religious fanatic I've ever met or heard about.  Marshal Law originated because I have a huge admiration for genuine heroes who are usually ignored in fiction. I have little respect for super heroes who - in mainstream at least - are rarely heroes in the true meaning of the word. Usually they're pillars of the establishment armed with the magical equivalent of America's high tech weaponry which it uses to subdue the Third World. They ain't heroes. So Marshal Law's views and my own are rather close.  Thus  my heroes have to reflect my own experiences or views;  invariably they're under-dogs, often working class. It may be a catharsis for me to write them, but I think I also have a muse who drives me.   Who she/he/it is unknown but it's a powerful motivation and when I write traditional stories they invariably fail because my muse doesn't like them or motivate me.

DL: While Judge Dredd or Marshall Law are characters defined almost by moral absolutes, characters like Mike Fallon in Accident Man or Nemesis or Slaine are much more morally ambiguous. What is it that appeals to you, as a writer, about characters like that?

PM: They're all reflecting  truth. Accident Man kills people and makes it look like accidents. When you look at events over the last twenty years or more it's clear he's out there and kept busy. There was a time when heroes had to be moral in comics, but we've finally caught up with the rest of the media and have ambiguous characters, which reflect moral dilemmas in our own lives. That can be very absorbing to write and read. We need the comic equivalents of Breaking Bad.

DL: Humor is often a part of your stories, from biting satire to broader farces. How important of a tool is humor to you, as a writer?

PM: It's essential in comics. if it's all "straight",  it's probably a little tedious or worthy and readers will turn off. Even in Breaking Bad there's dark humour and so we need the same in comics. Satire tends to be my speciality. I think because the world is not the way it's presented to us and satire is a way of showing this. I grew up on humorous novels and satire - reading everything I could find that was satirical and that's doubtless reflected in my work. Books like Erewhon, Animal Farm, Gulliver's Travels and writers like Stephen Leacock spring to mind.

DL: One of my readers sent this question to me, to ask you: “With Judge Dredd having been made into a movie (twice!) are there any other of your characters that you would like to see adapted to movies or television?”

PM: Slaine, ABC Warriors and Accident Man would seem to be the most likely bets.  And we're looking at optioning Accident Man just now. So if we can wade through the small print in the contract we've been sent, that could happen. It also has the huge advantage of being low budget! It's been optioned before and I'm actually surprised it's never happened.

Charley's War: there is a lot of media interest  at this time because of the Great War anniversary. Hope I can say something more about that very soon.

Marshal Law we made it up to the Warner Brothers boardroom - just a few weeks before Watchmen came out. So that didn't fly - for reasons of timing and possibly the director and screenwriter assigned to the project. It's hard to gauge for certain. But we hope he's due another round.

American Reaper was commissioned by a film company and is a particularly cinematic story But often that's not enough.

Currently, my money is on Accident Man making it into the screen.

DL: If you could go back and give advice to the Pat Mills of the 70s or the 80s, what would that be?

I don't think I would do anything that different because of the pressures at the time.  But I wish I'd developed Misty - rather than just coming up with the concept - because I firmly believe there would be a strong  girls comic and adult female comic market now as a result. Stronger - or rather more popular culture - than it is now.

That's a big regret. But producing three comics was hard work and I really couldn't face another at the time.

DL: Let’s talk about Accident Man. Titan Comics is reprinting these stories in a large collected edition, and the preview of it that I have seen looks great. I was actually lucky enough to have seen some of this story in its original incarnation in your magazine Toxic! A friend brought a near complete run of the magazine back from a trip to the UK. What inspired the creation of this character?

PM: My writing partner Tony Skinner told me these guys really existed and elaborated enough to wet my appetite. Not only that, he had the technical knowledge to figure out how these "accidents" would be committed.  Rather like the way Agatha Christie weaved a whodunnit, Tony loved dreaming up ingenious accidents. We had so much fun writing him.  I wanted someone who was a reflection of the vapid, consumerist times we lived in and continue to live in.   A champion for capitalism, a shallow but very likeable guy.  And a piss-take, of course.

DL: Re-reading the preview of the collected edition, I was struck by just how timeless these stories are. What about Accident Man would appeal to the comic reader of today?

PM: Very little has changed. So we're hoping to put an Accident Man 2014 story on line soon. His hair is shaven now and he's ditched the Armani suits, but otherwise it's business as usual.  At the time we wrote him, I called him GQ Man and i was looking through GQ the other day, at the hairdressers, and the magazine hasn't changed. So Mike Fallon is still GQ Man!

DL: What is next for Pat Mills?

PM: I'm working on a Charley's War style series - Brothers in Arms - with artist David Hitchcock. Because there are so many aspects of World War One that haven't been explored in drama. For instance, government issue of cocaine tablets, a love of ragtime - early jazz - the rock and roll of its day, and widespread trading with the enemy.

DL: Thank you very much, for taking the time to do this interview. As a long time fan, it has been an honor to get the chance to talk with you.

PM: Cheers. Great talking with you, too.  Excellent questions.

Have a look at a preview of the re-issue of Mill's Accident Man comic, coming soon from Titan Comics.


Mutant Chronicles 3rd Edition Kickstarter

Dark. That might be the best word to describe Mutant Chronicles. Modiphius Entertainment's Mutant Chronicles 3rd Edition Kickstarter, however, is looking quite bright as it has long since obliterated its initial funding goal and has torn through several stretch goals already.

So, what is Mutant Chronicles? Well, here's an image that I think will help:

Apart from being some beautiful cover art, it shows off some elements that seem to be pretty key to the setting -- the man in the suit and sunglasses is very corporate, there are military forces (with spikes and skulls -- a must), and some alien-looking backdrops. Looking over the setting material briefly, the world feels like Shadowrun meets Warhammer 40k and that is something I find very attractive.

Modiphius is bringing in more than just pretty cover art, though, as they are using this Kickstarter to also re-design the rules and re-write the setting guides (along with adding new content).  So, what will it cost you to get in on all this dark-goodness?

First up is the Player's Guide PDF which you can get for £10. The Core Book PDF is £20. A printed copy of the Core Book is £40 (shipping is extra), or, for the same price, all PDFs that are unlocked during the Kickstarter, or the Core Book PDF and miniature sets (and shipping is extra). Quite a few options at the £40 level. (There are approximate conversion to USD on the Kickstarter page!)

For more information on Mutant Chronicles 3rd Edition make sure to check out Modiphius Entertainment's website or the Kickstarter page.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Bulletproof Blues Second Edition Kickstarter

If there's one thing I truly love about doing Kickstarter articles for Dorkland it's the moments when I look over a Kickstarter and think, "Ooh, that's a good idea!" Well, the Bulletproof Blues Second Edition Kickstarter gave me one of those moments. Which I'll touch on at the end of this article (if you are thinking about creating a Kickstarter in the future, you might want to check that out).

First up, as usual, is a brief overview of the product -- Bulletproof Blues, a supers RPG by Brandon Blackmoor. There are a few things to know: the game is 'rules light', it takes place in the Kalos Universe (of Kalos Comics), and the first edition rules are free under the creative commons. So, any questions you might have rules-wise or setting-wise should be found within the game's actual rules. At least the first edition version of them. This Kickstarter, however, is for the second edition which is looking to expand upon the rules and create an even better book -- while still offering the rules up for creative commons. So your support would not only net you a copy of the rules (with any improvements made via the Kickstarter) but should also get more material out into the wilds -- for all to enjoy (or remove some excuses your players might have for not getting a copy of the rules, either/or).

That (somehow) leads us to: what can you get for your money?

For $5 you can get a copy of the first edition PDF (with some additional goodies). To get the second edition PDF will cost your $10 ($25 to also get the extra material PDFs unlocked in the Kickstarter). And a print edition will cost $45 (plus all the previous goodies). So, if you are fine with PDFs you can get in on this one at a reasonable price-point.

Finally, the bit mentioned in the opening paragraph -- that "Ooh" moment I had when first checking out this Kickstarter.

If you look at the funding point you'll see that it is fairly low -- just $1,500. Certainly, this isn't the biggest, most expensive RPG product around, but it is still doing something that I feel is very smart -- improving itself bit-by-bit instead of trying to fund everything at once. The base goal is to improve the art of the sample characters in the book. The next goal after that is for new cover art and so on. Using these smaller goals will allow them to fund (and as of this writing it's very close) almost assuredly -- meaning even if they don't garner many stretch goals, the book can still be improved to some degree. For smaller RPG developers I think that it is very important to get every bit of funding you can muster to create the best possible product. I am fairly certain I have seen this method used before, but still, it's something to seriously consider if you are looking to launch a Kickstarter.

Like always, if you want more information on Bulletproof Blues Second Edition, check out its Kickstarter page or Kalos Comics' website

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

The Old Order Changeth!!

For some comic geeks, the phrase that I used for the title of this post may seem familiar. It used to be used in The Avengers comics to signal that a change was coming to the team, that new members would be joining or other familiar favorites would be leaving. The source is from one of Tennyson's poems about Arthur, The Passing of Arthur (if you haven't read it, you really should):
And slowly answer’d Arthur from the barge: "The old order changeth, yielding place to new, And God fulfils himself in many ways, Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.
Comfort thyself: what comfort is in me? I have liv’d my life, and that which I have done May He within himself make pure! but thou, If thou shouldst never see my face again, Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice Rise like a fountain for me night and day. For what are men better than sheep or goats That nourish a blind life within the brain, If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friend? For so the whole round earth is every way Bound by gold chains about the feet of God. But now farewell. I am going a long way With these thou se√ęst—if indeed I go
(For all my mind is clouded with a doubt)— To the island-valley of Avilion; Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow, Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies Deep-meadow’d, happy, fair with orchard lawns
And bowery hollows crown’d with summer sea, Where I will heal me of my grievous wound."
For us, here at the Dorkland! blog and related endeavors like the Geeky Voices Carry video blog/podcst, change is a good thing. Fresh blood brings fresh perspectives and diversity, and as we well know diversity is something that the geeky ways of life can't get enough of. And, yes, I just made you read a poem in order to get to the news portion of this post.

If you're familiar with our Geeky Voice Carry podcast, you'll know that every two weeks we record a new episode. We being myself, +Stacy Dellorfano+David Rollins and +Josh Thompson. We each have strong, and particular viewpoints, and we aren't afraid to disagree with each other either. Geeky Voices Carry grew out of off the air discussions that we would have before our weekly Hangout on the Air game. Stacy one day suggested "We should do a podcast around our talks. It would be fun." That makes all of this her fault, in a good way.

I'm +Christopher Helton, the founder, lead blogger and editor of the Dorkland! blog and host of the Geeky Voices Carry video blog/podcast. That is my look of disdain for a lot of things on the internet (plus I just don't like getting my picture taken).

Honestly, when I started the blog back in 2003 and never thought that I would have a team of people as part of this blog or be doing a podcast. Heck, back then we didn't even have podcasts.

I started gaming at the age of 11 in 1979, when my family moved to a small town outside of Muncie, Indiana. You can say that it changed my life. Now I am the co-publisher of Battlefield Press, Inc., which has published the ENnie Award winning game setting City of Clocks, as well as the Victorian-era game Gaslight (which I will apparently be converting to Fate at some point this year). I designed the Open Core System and co-designed the d20 game Pulp Fantasy. I also have a few projects that should be dropping this year, including my Demon Codex and Paranormal Friction games and a new edition of the HeartQuest role-playing game.

I am the GM of our weekly Hangout on the Air games, and I like it that way. Considering what gets said on a weekly basis in our games, if you're afraid to play broadcast games because of what you say...I fear for what people are doing in their games that is so embarrassing. I am proud to be a geek, and gamer and to be associated with all of the people who write for the blog are a part of Geeky Voices Carry. My gaming, and my life in general has been enriched by all of you.

+David Rollins is a long time gamer and geek from Canada, in addition to being a professional photographer in what he quaintly styles his "real life." He also owes me a review. David has been a solid foundation in our weekly game. He has played a tough as nails Cleric in our Swords & Wizardry game, and he helped to playtest my strange, funky Magic-User variant for my Demon Codex game. He is a great player to have in a game, and he is good at looking at games from different angles. This skill has come in very handy on a number of playtests that we have run as a group. His perspective and insight have been invaluable to the podcast.

He is also playing a Ley Line Walker in our new Rifts game, despite the fact the the default language in game is American.

If you get a chance to have David in your hangout group for a one shot, or a few should jump at the opportunity to game with this guy. I'm glad that I've been able to do so.

+Stacy Dellorfano is another awesome gaming dynamo that I am glad that I have had the chance to meet and game with. Hopefully, this summer that will extend to finally getting to meet her in person at Gen Con. In addition to being a great addition to our gaming group, Stacy is responsible for the creation of two incredible things the +ConTessa online gaming convention and the Randomocity gaming zine. With both of these, Stacy brings diversity and unique perspectives to the greater gaming community.

Stacy has been a lot of fun to game with because she brings a no-nonsense "Can I Kill It Yet?" perspective to the group. Not that the players really need any encouragement on that part. She has also proven, as part of the Geeky Voices Carry crew that she has opinions and she isn't afraid to use them in public.

Also, keep any eye open for Stacy's first game as a designer, Precious Dark, which is a fresh and interesting look at post-apocalyptic gaming. I'm really looking forward to seeing this come to full fruition.

Stacy plays "Shootit," a Catseye Hatchling Dragon, in our Rifts game.

+Josh Thompson, when not doing traffic reports during the morning drive time on Classic Rock radio station somewhere in the American South, is our resident mix/maxer and character optimizer. I think, for the first time ever in over 30 years of gaming, that this skill has proven itself valuable to our gaming. It has certainly helped when we've played in Competitive Dungeon Crawls, and in making characters for our Rifts game.

In addition to being part of the Geeky Voices Carry team, he has become the unofficial official Kickstarter correspondent for the Dorkland! blog. His interviews with Kickstarter project managers and analysis of Kickstarter projects will continue with the new year. Hopefully, I can convince him to pick up his Analog Pixels column, where he talks about the intersection of computer games and tabletop RPGs, and how you can inform one with the other.

Josh plays an Invincible Guardsman in our Rifts game.

Now, for the newest member of the team, I would like to announce that +Helen Yanolatos will be writing for the Dorkland! blog. She will be our first ever "regional correspondent," writing about geeky goings on in her home of New York City, and eventually writing reviews of things for the blog.

Helen is an avid fan of Doctor Who, Star Trek and comics (among other things, as well). She has also created her first game design, a mini-setting for the Fate Accelerated rules called Luxuria that will appear in the second issue of Stacy's Randomocity. Having seen it, it was mind-blowing and I can't wait to see how it is received by others.

Helen also plays in the bi-weekly playtest group of my Fate Accelerated-powered game Paranormal Friction. She throws herself into her characters with a passion that I am sometimes envious of. For someone who has been involved in gaming for a short time, it certainly does not show in her play.

So, this is the Dorkland! blog/Geeky Voices Carry team. A motley band, to say the least, but it is a group of people that I am proud to write and broadcast alongside of. I honestly don't think that there are many teams as strong as this one. I may be biased in this, but I don't really care.

If you have anything that you would like to see talked about by any of the bloggers, or on our podcast, please contact me at christopher <dot> helton <at> gmail and we can talk about it. Whether we ultimately would play the games that you play, or take the approaches that you may take, we all still feel that diversity and more choices among gaming are better than the alternative. We have opinions here, and we are not afraid to use them. The key is, that well-informed opinions that are backed with facts and honesty are better than rants or "opinions" that are meant only to harm others.