Thursday, April 12, 2007

Novelist Kurt Vonnegut dies at 84

Kurt Vonnegut, the satirical novelist who captured the absurdity of war and questioned the advances of science in darkly humorous works such as 'Slaughterhouse-Five' and 'Cat's Cradle,' died Wednesday. He was 84.

Vonnegut, who often marveled that he had lived so long despite his lifelong smoking habit, had suffered brain injuries after a fall at his Manhattan home weeks ago, said his wife, photographer Jill Krementz.

The author of at least 19 novels, many of them best-sellers, as well as dozens of short stories, essays and plays, Vonnegut relished the role of a social critic. He lectured regularly, exhorting audiences to think for themselves and delighting in barbed commentary against the institutions he felt were dehumanizing people.

'I will say anything to be funny, often in the most horrible situations,' Vonnegut, whose watery, heavy-lidded eyes and unruly hair made him seem to be in existential pain, once told a gathering of psychiatrists.

A self-described religious skeptic and freethinking humanist, Vonnegut used protagonists such as Billy Pilgrim and Eliot Rosewater as transparent vehicles for his points of view. He also filled his novels with satirical commentary and even drawings that were only loosely connected to the plot. In 'Slaughterhouse-Five,' he drew a headstone with the epitaph: 'Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt.'

"Ghost Rider" creator sues over copyright

The creator of Ghost Rider has sued Marvel Enterprises, Sony Pictures Entertainment and several entities over what he claims is an unauthorized 'joint venture and conspiracy to exploit, profit from and utilize' his copyrights to the comic book character.

Gary Friedrich and his company filed the 61-page complaint April 4 in federal court in Illinois claiming 21 violations based on the production and marketing of Sony's recent 'Ghost Rider,' starring Nicolas Cage and Eva Mendes. Friedrich claims the copyrights used in the film and in related products reverted from Marvel to him in 2001.

The defendants include Sony's Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, producers Relativity Media, Crystal Sky Pictures and Michael De Luca Prods. as well as Hasbro Inc. and Take-Two Interactive.

Friedrich alleges copyright infringement, and accuses Marvel of waste for failing "to properly utilize and capitalize" on the Ghost Rider character. Marvel's attempts to do so, Friedrich claims, have only damaged the value of his work by failing to properly promote and protect the characters and by accepting inadequate royalties from co-defendants. Friedrich also claims that toymaker Hasbro and videogame firm Take-Two have improperly created merchandise based on the characters.

Friedrich created the character of Johnny Blaze and his alter ego Ghost Rider in 1968. Three years later, he agreed to publish the character in comic books through Stan Lee's Magazine Management, which eventually became Marvel Entertainment.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Doctor Is So In!

This adaptation of Dr. Strange into a TV movie in the seventies even embarrassed Stan Lee.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Comic Artist Marshall Rogers Dies

This is a great loss to comics. To me, Marshall Rogers is one of the definite artists for Batman.

Comic Artist Marshall Rogers Dies
Comics have lost another luminary. Details are still sketchy, but word came earlier today that Marshall Rogers died yesterday or Saturday. The cause of death was not immediately disclosed.

Rogers was born on January 22nd, 1950 in Flushing, New York.

From “DC Profiles #26” which appeared in 1978 (courtesy of the Marshall Rogers Fan Site):

Of all DC's rapidly rising new stars, Marshall Rogers' ascent has been swiftest of all. In less than a year, Marshall has gone from back feature artist to first-stringer on Detective Comics and Mr. Miracle.

Marshall almost didn't make it to comics. His studies in art school concentrated on architecture, but after two years of studying designing parking lots and shopping centers, Marshall decided 'the world wasn't ready for another Frank Lloyd Wright' and left school seeking fame and fortune in the comic field.

Unfortunately, the comics world was not yet ready for Marshall Rogers. For the next two years, he worked in a hardware store while doing occasional illustrations for mass circulation magazines and sharpening his artistic skills.

Apparently, those two years did the trick. Marshall broke into comics, landing a stint pencilling for Marvel's Britain weeklies.

Not long after, Marshall showed up at DC Comics, portfolio in hand, and was given his first assignment: a two part Tales of the Great Disaster story for Weird War Tales. That was followed by some mystery stories, a Tales of Krypton piece and a four part feature in Detective Comics featuring a new villain named The Calculator. His work on the latter led Editor Julie Schwartz to hand Marshall a real plum for a newcomer: pencilling the book length Batman versus the Calculator story in Detective Comics. What came next surprised even Marshall. The powers that be assigned Marshall to Detective as the regular penciller. And he almost immediately picked up the art chores on the newly-revived Mr. Miracle book as well.

'What I try to do,' Marshall told DC Profiles, 'is first think of what's been done before and then I discard that and try to approach it from a completely different angle.' After looking over Marshall Rogers' work, we'd have to say he's found his different angle.

Beginning in the late 1970s, Rogers’ career covered many different characters, Rogers is best known for his Batman work when collaborating with writer Steve Englehart. The two first worked together on the character in Detective Comics #471-#476 (inked by Terry Austin), and for years, their version of the character was considered to be the definitive one – a dark, brooding hero who stayed to the shadows and flowed with a natural grace.

An architect by training, Rogers' work always stood out for its attention to detail, from the cityscapes of Gotham and articulated (and realistic) muscles of the heroes, to the different techniques he would employ, from bold blacks and zipatone to a wide array of others.

Rogers work was seen in many other comics from the major publishers including brief runs on DC's Mr. Miracle, Marvel’s Silver Surfer, and Dr. Strange as well as a wide variety of independent titles: Detectives, Inc., Coyote (again with Englehart), his own Capt. Quick and the Foozle, and Scorpio Rose.

Rogers left comics for a period in the early ‘90s to work in videogames, but returned later in the decade, where his work was seen in projects such as Green Lantern: Evil’s Might and most recently, Marvel Westerns: Strange Westerns Starring The Black Rider, and Batman: Dark Detective, a continuation of his and Englehart’s story from Detective Comics two and a half decades earlier. The two were reportedly considering a third installment of the larger "Dark Detective" story.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Blood From A Geek

Well, I guess that's one way to feed an addiction. I've heard of table top gamers over here in the States selling blood so that they could buy game books, so I guess this is the progression of that. At least it s going to a good cause.

Blood From A Geek
An online game operator has demanded that banned players donate blood to be allowed back into the game. Moliyo, which runs a 3D massively multiplayer online game in China, made the demand after banning 120,000 players who attempted to hack the game.

More than 100 players had already signed up to exchange half a litre (1 pint) of blood for game accounts. The company has also offered free accounts to ordinary players who give blood.

According to the announcement, the players must attend a public blood donation drive in the city of Nanjing tomorrow afternoon. Locked accounts will be reopened within 3 days.

Chinese hospitals have had increasing difficulty attracting blood donors in recent years after scandals in which thousands of donors and blood recipients contracted HIV, the virus which causes AIDS. Blood donors in China are usually paid about 12 dollars per donation.

The Green Hornet Coming to Theaters

I guess that I'll believe it when I see it. At least this one has a better chance of getting made, since the previous attempt at a Green Hornet movie was keelhauled by Kevin Smith's anxiety over doing such a large budget movie.

Of course the question that remain is: Does the Green Hornet, as a property, really have that much juice when it comes to the movie going public? Sure, there will be a hard-core geek following, but we've already seen more than once that just isn't enough to keep a movie up and going at the box office.

Only time will tell, but still I will wait until I see that the project has gotten past the pre-pre-development stage before I start to think that this might actually happen.

The Green Hornet Coming to Theaters
There's a new buzz in Hollywood: Columbia Pictures is bringing comic-book hero The Green Hornet to the big screen.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Arnold Drake: 1924-2007

The man who created my all time favorite team of comic book super-heroes (The Doom Patrol) and one of the coolest super-heroes ever (Deadman) has died. Another of the greats of the old days is gone. This is a sad day.

Arnold Drake: 1924-2007
He wasn’t as well known as say, Bob Kane or Siegel and Shuster, but if you read DC Comics produced in the ‘60s and up, you surely read some of the work of Arnold Drake, who died today, after a short bout of “a touch of pneumonia” and other complications for which he was recently hospitalized. News of Drake’s death came via writer and comics historian, Mark Evanier.

Though his comics writing career spanned thousands of stories and pages, fans will likely best remember Drake as the creator of Deadman and The Doom Patrol, as well as Stanley and His Monster.

Providence: Following the footsteps of a horror icon

I received this link from a couple of different people. Obviously someone thinks that I would be interested in a Lovecraft tour.

Providence: Following the footsteps of a horror icon
Horror writer H.P Lovecraft so identified with this New England city that the headstone on his grave reads: 'I AM PROVIDENCE,' a phrase taken directly from one of his letters.

The author, now viewed as one of the great horror writers of the 20th century, grew up near Brown University. Some of his best-known works are set in the colonial homes near downtown Providence, and his grave is in a historic city cemetery.

A visit to Lovecraft's hometown is a must for American culture buffs and fans of the author of 'At the Mountains of Madness,' a famous novella about a doomed archaeological expedition. Visitors can stroll the same streets where Lovecraft imagined stories about dormant gods returning to torment or annihilate mankind.

Several Lovecraft walking tours are being offered March 17-18 along with a 'Pulp Uncovered' festival, March 15-18, that will include discussions of the writer's legacy. The events coincide with the 70th anniversary of the writer's death. The tours will be led by the Providence Preservation Society and the Rhode Island Historical Society. The festival is being hosted by Brown University's Public Humanities Program.

But you can also do a self-guided tour of Lovecraft sites.

'It's amazing how many of the sites he described in his stories still survive in Providence and are in better condition now than in his day,' said Lovecraft biographer and archivist S.T. Joshi, who is expected to speak at the 'Pulp Uncovered' event. 'It's very much as Lovecraft knew it, so when you go there you are stepping back to his time.'

Doctor Who Serial Title Generator

Doctor Who Serial Title Generator

Emprint from RPGnet has created this cool title generator. It also creates titles that would work really well for Pulps.

Whispers From the Abyss: On the Subject of Horror

Ben Monroe's got a new blog, and his first post is about the crap that are called Horror films today.

Whispers From the Abyss: On the Subject of Horror
And that brings me to the point. Horror films today are basically porn. Seriously, think of the fundamental relationships between a 'romantic comedy' film and your average porn movie. The romantic comedy is about the relationship between the characters. It's about the emotional resonance created by the interaction of two people. Porn is about the act. Nothing more, nothing less.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Serbian vampire hunters prevent Milosevic come-back...With A Stake

I see this as the plot seed for a Hellboy game:

Serbian vampire hunters prevent Milosevic come-back
Serbian vampire hunters have acted to prevent the very remote possibility that former dictator Slobodan Milosevic might stage a come-back - by driving a three-foot stake through his heart.

According to Ananova, the politically-motivated Van Helsings, led by Miroslav Milosevic (no relation), gave themselves up to cops after attacking the deceased despot in his grave in the eastern town of Pozarevac. Milosevic popped his clogs back in 2006, while on trial in a UN war crimes tribunal for various unsavoury activities connected with the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

It Was 'Elf Defense' (Just Spelled With A 'C' Instead)

Well, at least this time it is Shadowrun.

It Was 'Elf Defense' (Just Spelled With A 'C' Instead):
A man accused of a stealing underwear from a shop in a knifepoint raid believed he was a female elf at the time, Belfast Crown Court has heard.

Captain America Dies on the Page

Well, since Bucky isn't dead any longer I don't think that Cap should really have all that much to worry about. If you ask me, it is just a gimmick to sell books. I wonder if "Reign of the Captain Americas" is going to follow and a "World Without Captain America."

Captain America Dies on the Page:
Captain America has undertaken his last mission at least for now.

The venerable superhero is killed in the issue of his namesake comic that hit stands Wednesday, the New York Daily News reported. On the new edition's pages, a sniper shoots down the shield-wielding hero as he leaves a courthouse.

It ends a long run for the stars-and-stripes-wearing character, created in 1941. Over the years, some 210 million copies of Captain America comic books, published by New York-based Marvel Entertainment Inc., have been sold in 75 countries.

Stephen Colbert weighs in on the topic:

Monday, March 05, 2007

Internet Hammer Enterprise - Review: True20 Companion

Here's a review of the upcoming book in Green Ronin's True20 line, the True20 Companion. This toolkit will help GMs be able to fine tune their True20 games.

Hammer Enterprise - Review: True20 Companion

Green Ronin’s True20 Companion, the toolkit of a book for Narrators, has finally been released in PDF form, and enterprising Narrators with desire to tinker will find plenty of goodies in the 128-page sourcebook. The five-chapter book begins with a chapter on role creation, allowing for expansion of the three heroic roles in True20 Adventure Roleplaying. Following that, the remaining four chapters address custom rules, additional material, and other extras for the “major” roleplaying genres: fantasy, space, horror, and modern adventures.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Pretty Hate Campaign

Ok, I admit it...I am probably falling for the viral marketing around Year Zero, the new release from Nine Inch Nails that is supposed to be coming out in April. The leaked MP3s that I've heard have sounded pretty good to me, and the weird websites and strange marketing is tickling my weirdness bone.

I want to come up with a game around these concepts, this is obviously a "for fun" type of thing. That plays off of some of the ideas. Check out the link, even if it is to the website, because it is an interesting story.

Pretty Hate Campaign
A dystopian civilization in the throes of extinction. A government poisoning its own citizens through the drinking water. Military police raiding private residences. The end of civil liberties. The creation of a Church-State. Mind control.

The contents of some conspiracy theorist's personal manifesto? The plot of a rote first-person shooter? The results of a quick jaunt through Actually, it's all part of the elaborate (and somewhat terrifying) concept behind Nine Inch Nails' upcoming Year Zero album (due April 17), details of which are currently being disseminated through a series of increasingly spooky — and downright odd — Web sites.

I really think that an alternate reality game model, married with a very light ruleset would let this sort of game really rock. Particularly if you could work people from other parts of the country (or even the world) into things, so that you could more fully flesh out the world and play than you can in an ordinary RPG.

This is just something that I am thinking of right now. Maybe something will come of it, maybe not.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Mexican Town Hosts Annual Congress of Witches

An interesting report from NPR.

Mexican Town Hosts Annual Congress of Witches
The Mexican town of Catemaco is hosting an unusual event this Friday: the annual International Congress of Witches. Politicians and businessmen come for power spells, and the lovelorn come for spells to entice a mate.

Requires audio software.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Philip Reed to do FASERIP, a project to create an open source/free RPG compatible with the old game

I think that this is a great idea, and would love to see a favorite system of mine no longer languish as being out of print and without support. Phil has, to me, a proven track record and I think that he will put together a great game.

Philip Reed to do FASERIP, a project to create an open source/free RPG compatible with the old game
For $1,000 in donations Philip Reed will take two weeks to create a game titled 'FASERIP.' This will be a new, free, professionally-produced game that is opened so that other publishers may create supplements compatible with it.

FASERIP will be compatible with the old Basic and Advanced games that inspired it; the game's sole purpose is as an open source document for publishers. Players can use the game to play, but they'll gain little new value from the free product planned. It is the new supplements that can be created that will be of true value to everyday players.

FASERIP, if funded, will be created and released as a free PDF. After 30 days all feedback will be considered and the file updated at which point it will also be made available in print at cost.

NOTE: No work has been started. FASERIP will not be created until after it is funded.

If you have any questions about FASERIP please contact

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Fantasy Doesn't Always Mean Escape

From time to time, I use this blog as a sounding board for things that I am designing. I find that it can help to get my ideas out there and into some sort of tangible form to help me figure out what I want to do with a particular idea that I may have.

An idea that has been rolling around in my brain for a while now, something that I have talked about to gaming friends and mentioned on places like RPGnet has been a game setting that I have called Gutterpunk.

There has been a bit of resistance in the minds of some "typical" gamers when I talk about Gutterpunk because it doesn't have any of the standard trappings that you would find in an RPG. The characters are very normal people. There are no "kewl powerz" of any sort, no magic or anything. The game is about people who manage to find themselves in fairly crappy situations and have to deal with these situations as best as they can. The resolutions to their situations aren't always all that good either. Like I said, not your standard RPG fare, but it was something that I went into realizing that whis wasn't going to be the next D&D. I know that this game will have a fairly limited appeal, but I don't want to let that stop me from doing it.

Mind you, this isn't some "art for art's sake" game either. I can't stand when people do that with any sort of endeavor that they undertake.

The characters in Gutterpunk are, as I said above, normal. They are squatters, dropouts, homeless people, and the working poor who are just trying to get by in their lives and keep things from falling apart. It is a game about people outside of the normal social structures of American society, whether by choice or circumstance, who just want to live their lives as best as they can. I'm sure that this sounds pretty boring, huh?

But I think that I have finally found a system that would support what I want to do with Gutterpunk. That would be Chad Underkoffler's Prose Descriptive (PDQ) System. Follow that link to Chad's company site (Atomic Sock Monkey Press) for more information about the system. You can even find a free stripped down version of the game in the Freebies section.

What I like about Chad's system is that it can allow you to make normal people who can do something without having to have a lot of special powers in order to be unique and to be able to accomplish something. Yes, it does at time perhaps flirt with those "narrative" labels that I really don't like but for a game like Gutterpunk I think that it would be a good system choice. Yet again, it gives a way for "normal" characters to be able to stand out and do something without having to have a laundry list of powers, spells or special abilities.

I want to be able to tell other types of stories with the players during a game session, and play other types of games. "Escape" isn't something that is only one option which is fulfilled the exact same way for everyone at the gaming table (or in the gaming hobby). So, if I want a game to fill that On The Road meets Fight Club niche that I am looking for from time to time, Gutterpunk will be able to do that for me. That's why I called this post Fantasy Doesn't Always Mean Escape, because there can be more to an RPG than just pure escapism, just like there can be for any other form of entertainment. I'm pretty sure that there are a few people out there who have some similar ideas to mine on this topic.

Part of the reason why I posted these very early "design notes" here instead of someplace like RPGnet is because I wanted to pull some of the concepts that have been swirling around in my subconscious without the typical responses of "That doesn't sound like fun" or "That isn't escape." Who knows, I might cross-post this elsewhere but for now I want to see what, if anything, comes up from the people who read this blog (regularly or irregularly).

Post a comment and let me know what you think. Let me know what you would do with a game like this.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

A Princeton Lab on ESP Plans to Close Its Doors - New York Times

The end of a strange era at Princeton:

Over almost three decades, a small laboratory at Princeton University managed to embarrass university administrators, outrage Nobel laureates, entice the support of philanthropists and make headlines around the world with its efforts to prove that thoughts can alter the course of events.

But at the end of the month, the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research laboratory, or PEAR, will close, not because of controversy but because, its founder says, it is time.

The laboratory has conducted studies on extrasensory perception and telekinesis from its cramped quarters in the basement of the university’s engineering building since 1979. Its equipment is aging, its finances dwindling.

“For 28 years, we’ve done what we wanted to do, and there’s no reason to stay and generate more of the same data,” said the laboratory’s founder, Robert G. Jahn, 76, former dean of Princeton’s engineering school and an emeritus professor. “If people don’t believe us after all the results we’ve produced, then they never will.”

Princeton made no official comment.

The gaming potential alone for this occurrence is pretty phenomenal. Where do all of these researchers and the accumulated knowledge go to? I am sure that there are corporations and shadowy organizations and individuals who would want to get a hold of the knowledge and researchers.

Obviously this information, like any other, can be used for either good or ill.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Dave's Funky Setting Generator, v 0.1

Here's an interesting one-line campaign concept generator written by an RPGnetter. If you like the strange and unusual, and I know you do, this is for you.

Dave's Funky Setting Generator, v 0.1

Here's what I got when I clicked on the link:
Premise: Rebellious transhumanists uncover a shocking conspiracy in the furthest reaches of the Astral Plane.
Genre: Crime/Pulp

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Binary Death of Robert Anton Wilson

You will be missed. I hope the pancakes are as good on the other side.

RAW Data: RAW Essence
Robert Anton Wilson Defies Medical Experts and leaves his body @4:50 AM on binary date 01/11.

All Hail Eris!