Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Updated: Valiant's XO Manowar #1 - 6 Unlettered Pages

Update: Valiant has released the first six pages of XO Manowar, now with letters. The pages have been added to the bottom of the post.

Valiant has released a few more of the unlettered pages from the upcoming relaunch of XO Manowar #1. Now, with more pages after the jump.

The 38th Annual Origins Awards Role-Playing Nominees

It looks like we have an interesting spread of games and supplements for this year's Origins awards. No really dominant publishers like last year's awards and a good spread of design styles. Congratulations to everyone nominated, and good luck. I have a couple of these games (in PDF at least), so I will try to talk about the ones that I have leading up to the vote at Origins this summer.

Best Roleplaying Game

Abney Park’s Airship Pirates - Cubicle 7 Entertainment - "Captain" Robert Brown, Peter Cakebread, Andrew Peregrine, Ian Sturrock, Ken Walton
Arcanis - Paradigm Concepts - Eric Wiener, Pedro Barrenechea, and Henry Lopez
Ashen Stars - Pelgrane Press - Robin D. Laws
Leverage: The RPG - Margaret Weis Productions - Cam Banks, Rob Donoghue, and Clark Valentine
The One Ring - Cubicle 7 Entertainment - Amado Angulo, Marco Maggi,
Dominic McDowall-Thomas, Francesco Nepitello

Best Roleplaying Supplement or Adventure

Bookhounds of London (Trail of Cthulhu) - Pelgrane Press - Kenneth H. Hite
Dragon Age, Set 2 (Dragon Age) - Green Ronin Publishing - Steve Kenson, T.S. Luikart,
Chris Pramas, and Jeff Tidball
The Great Clans (L5R 4th Edition) - AEG - Shawn Carman, Rob Hobart, Brian Yoon
Monster Vault (D&D 4E) - Wizards of the Coast - Rodney Thompson, Logan Bonner, & Matthew Sernett
Shadows over Scotland (Call of Cthulhu) - Cubicle 7 Entertainment - Stuart Boon

More information on all of the nominees, and the lists of the nominees in other categories can be found here.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Dark Horse's Conan: Queen of The Black Coast in Review

Finally, I managed to get a copy of this first issue. I have been looking forward to this collaboration between two fresh voices in comics: Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan. Yes, it's not the first time that they have worked together. Fans of super-hero comics should track down their two Demo collections for a series of interesting and thoroughly modern takes on super-heroes and super-powered people.

This comic isn't about someone with super-powers, a code name, or brightly colored tights. It is about Conan, the Barbarian, and it is the launch of a new Dark Horse title about the pirate years of the character, and his travels with the pirate queen Belit. Outside of a few references in other stories, the original Queen of the Black Coast, written by Robert E. Howard, is the only appearance of Belit. She appeared in numerous issues of the old comics from Marvel.

First, let's talk about the art. Becky Cloonan is one of the best young artists to hit comics in a long time. She brings an energy and vibrancy to this issue that is unlike any artist that you have probably seen before on a Conan comic. Her sensibility is very much that of the alternative comics of the last decade or so, and I think that brings a new feeling to the story. Her characters are expressive. You can see Conan smirk and Belit smolder within the pages of this book. The sample at the right shows our first glimpse of the character of Belit, filtered through the lusty imagination of Conan.

Brian Wood's writing weaves between quoting the original story and giving an emotional resonance to the characters in the story.  Both Conan and Tito have distinct voices that allow you to tell the difference between who is talking when. Even though this is a younger Conan, with much of his life and adventures before him, Wood gives the character a wight that shows the big hero that he is going to become one day. Wood and Cloonan manage to demonstrate in just a few short pages that even this young Conan is a charismatic leader of men, who manages to quickly convince a ship of merchants to help him and take him away from the city where his savage ways have once again gotten him into trouble. He only needs a small hint of violence to do it, but his manner quickly wins over the crew.

Admittedly, this is an introductory issue and it shows. Most of this issue is given to explaining who Conan, Tito, and Belit are as characters and setting the tone for Conan's world. This might be a bit dull for someone who is a long time fan of the characters and stories. However, this is a new ongoing that will also give us new adventures during this period of Conan's life, so a little bit of setup can be overlooked. To me, this is one of the classic Conan tales, and I think that the adaptation has been done right.

Is this comic worth buying? Definitely, yes. I plan to keep buying it past the adaptation of this story as well, because I think that the work done by Wood and Cloonan, as well as the talent that they have already demonstrated on other projects, show that this will be a book that is a keeper as long as they are doing it.

Cover Mock-Up

People have been clamoring for a post. This is an early mock-up of the cover. It is subject to change.

Those are public domain super-heroes Black Terror, his sidekick Tim and a sometimes associate of the two named Red Ann. The art is by Darrel D. Miller and is available on DriveThruRPG. He does art with a cool retro feel, and he also does writeups of public domain supers for the Supers! RPG.

Welcome to the blog. I am already working out a couple of posts for the blog, while I work on my revision of the 4C System. Revision is such a strong word. I'm not really rewriting things as much as I am turning the rules from a rather bland toolkit (no offense meant to the original 4C writers) into a more flavorful super-hero game. I'll be talking about what I am doing here as I go along with my development.

Friday, March 09, 2012

VALIANT Launches Four New Series for Summer 2012

Valiant is proud to announce four new series for the summer of 2012 -- X-O Manowar, Harbinger, Bloodshot, and Archer & Armstrong -- featuring brand new beginnings for some of comics' most iconic characters! Kicking off with X-O Manowar in May and Harbinger in June, the Summer of Valiant continues this July in Bloodshot #1, from acclaimed writer Duane Swierczynski (Immortal Iron Fist, Birds of Prey) and artists Manuel Garcia (Checkmate, Spider Man: Breakout) & Arturo Lozzi (Immortal Weapons)! Then, in August, the Valiant Universe's greatest duo begins an all-new epic journey in Archer & Armstrong #1 by the New York Times bestselling creative team of Fred Van Lente (Amazing Spider-Man, Hulk: Season One) and Clayton Henry (Uncanny X-Men)! Four months. Four titles. Infinite possibilities. The Summer of Valiant is coming!

After the jump we have some unlettered preview art from the first two Valiant comics of the Summer of Valiant.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

GMing Advice From Some Guy

OK, so....I promised some GMing advice the other day. I've been thinking about this for a couple of days now. Typically, I hate it when people present themselves as being experts when they don't know what they're talking about. I'm not going to presume that this is some sort of perfect advice that will make your gaming better, polish your floors and give you a whiter and brighter smile. It is some things that have worked for me over the years, and maybe it might help you. Fitting said advice to your personal group is up to you. Comments and feedback are welcome. If you want specific advice, I can try to help...but I'm no Dear Abby. So, let's move on...

8Tracks Music Mix: From Me To You

I made my first mix on 8Tracks. I hope you like.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

RPGNow/DriveThruRPG GM's Day Sale

I am a little bit late to the show, because of my little vacation, but I wanted to make sure that I got this out there for those of you who might be interested (and didn't already know about it).

GMs may only get one day a week, but at RPGNow/DriveThruRPG they get a whole week...a whole week of sales that is. From Classic and Contemporary White Wolf, to Fantasy Games' Unlimted's offerings from the early days of gaming, to Fading Suns, to a swath of material from the good days of D20...this sale has a little bit of everything for you.

This sale runs until March 7, so be sure to get in on some of the action. There has got to be something that you have been looking for in this sale.

Click here for the link to the sale's sub-site. [Sale is over, so links have been removed.]

This week, while the sale is going on, I am also going to do a post or two about GMing tips. That should be fun too.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Before There Were Indie RPGs, There Was A Maelstrom

Back before there were indie games, or story games, or even before games like Sorcerer and Dogs in the Vinyard, there was Maelstrom Storytelling from Hubris Games (currently owned by Precis Intermedia).

Coming out in 1997, one of the early games in the genre of narrative games, Maelstrom is really only predated by the first edition of Atlas Games' Over The Edge in this genre. Mentioning Over The Edge is important, because both games are similar in that they use descriptors to describe your characters, however the main difference is that Maelstrom departed from the "mainstream" of game design at the time by moving to a scene-based method of resolution, rather than the task-based method that is tried and true amongst most role-playing games.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Marvel Heroic Roleplaying is Here!

The PDF for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying is here and available via DriveThruComics, along with the other fine members of the OneBookShelf family of PDF sales sites.

The Avengers have been disassembled, the Fantastic Four are somewhere in space, and the X-Men aren’t answering their phone. When dozens of dangerous villains are sprung from the maximum-maximum security prison known as the Raft, who’s going to stop them? You are.


Experience all of the pulse-pounding action and nail-biting drama of the Marvel Universe at your gaming table. It’s one thing to stop an alien invasion or throw down with the Juggernaut, but sometimes you’ve got to make the hard choices—will you let a dangerous villain escape in order to save an innocent life?. With the MARVEL HEROIC ROLEPLAYING Basic Game, that great power and great responsibility is yours.

This Rulebook Includes:

Operations Manual: Easy to learn game rules for playing characters from the Marvel Universe and playing out your favorite Marvel Blockbuster Events!

Breakout: Based on the acclaimed story arc from Brian Michael Bendis’ New Avengers, including a super villain prison break and a perilous journey to the Savage Land!

Hero Datafiles: Game play sheets for many of your favorite Marvel Super Heroes, from Captain America and Spider-Man to the X-Men and Fantastic Four!

For two to eight players, ages 13 and up. Requires game dice.

This is the newest licensed game from Margaret Weis Productions, and it uses a variant of their Cortex+ rules that power games such as Smallville and Leverage. Expect a review of it soon.

Monday, February 13, 2012

RPGNow/DriveThruRPG Feburary Discount Codes

Each month One Book Shelf, the people that run DriveThruRPG and RPGNow give out a special 20% off code for certain products. These are the PDFs that you can get at 20% off this month. If you've been waiting to pick up any of these great books, now is the time.
Aruneus Bundle [Troll in the Corner]
Part-Time Gods [Third Eye Games]
A Peculiar Pentad - Savaged [Super Genius Games]
Ultimate Dice Tower 2 [Fat Dragon Games]
Once you get to the checkout use this code in the coupon spot: GeekLoveRules2012 

As usual, all of these links have affiliate codes that raise money for things that can be reviewed here on the Blog. This coupon code is good until March 14th, 2012.

Origins of Independence In Comics: First and Caliber Comics

These probably aren't going to be long posts, but this is going to be the first in a series. Before Image Comics and before creators like Robert Kirkman, there were independent comic publishers championing the cause of creator ownership in comics. Today we are going to talk about two of these publishers: First Comics and Caliber Comics. I'm going to start with these two because they were the companies that I was most familiar with back in the day because of their proximity to me at different points in my life. First Comics was a Chicago-based company best known for comics like Dreadstar, Nexus, Badger, Jon Sable, Grimjack and American Flagg, bringing us creators like Tim Truman, Howard Chaykin, Steve Rude, Mike Baron, John Ostrander and others. Detroit-based Caliber is known for publishing books like Deadworld, The Crow, and Baker Street, as well as starting the comic careers of creators like David Mack and Brian Bendis.

Tony Moore vs. Robert Kirman: Saving The Comic Book Industry

So, the battle for The Walking Dead between Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore continues.

In Kirkman's corner:
The exact nature of Moore's role in the first six issues appears poised to become a key element of the dispute: While the artist's complaint identifies him alternately as co-creator, joint author and co-owner of the copyrights in "The Walking Dead" (and the other comics), Kirkman and his attorney Allen B. Grodsky repeatedly emphasize Moore was credited as "penciler, inker and gray tones"; Kirkman even provided The Hollywood Reporter with scans from the first few issues as further proof. The 2005 agreement spells out that Moore is to only share "created by" credit with Kirkman on "Battle Pope."
  In Moore's corner:
"Robert procured our agreement by deception," Moore told CBR. "He then failed to perform the agreement. While he has paid some royalties, he has refused to provide the documents and information he is required to provide under the agreement and which are necessary to confirm that he has paid what is owed. I have tried to obtain this information by means other than a lawsuit but have been denied and stonewalled in every attempt by Robert and his sharp-elbowed handlers. His conduct is unlawful and immoral, and he ought to be held accountable. He can try to falsely minimize my contributions, but both he and I know the truth, which I believe will be revealed in the course of this lawsuit."

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Cult of Personality

There is a dark underside to geek culture. It's really a part of human nature in general, but it seems to rear its ugly head in geek culture much more than it should. In the last few weeks, that ugly head has been rearing higher, uglier and shouting more loudly than I think it has in the past. The internet is a big component to this. Give people relative anonymity and the freedom from physical repercussions that they would get for delivering this level of nastiness in person, and you have a recipe for trouble.

The Cult of Personality

When we like someone, or the work they have done. We want to elevate them. That happens often times with creative people. We raise them up and up and up, until they are elevated to the levels of "genius" and "god." They can do no wrong at this level of elevation. The problem is, these are still people...humans that are capable of mistakes and stupidity and carelessness, just like the rest of us. These elevated creators speak, and the cracks in their divinity start while their humanity shows.

Then you have two choices: you stick by your elevation and defend the person, ignoring what you have to in order to keep them up on that pedestal that they've been elevated up onto, or you look at the facts and come to terms with the fact that the perfection that you've created in your mind isn't realistic. There is only one infallible creator, and not everyone accepts the existence of him (or her depending on the flavor of your faith). No one in any medium, whether comic books, movies, music, high or low art, literature or any other artistic endeavor, produces a perfect body of work. For every Watchmen there is a Neonomicon.

A fallacy of this line of thinking, which honestly might be derived from one of the Geek Social Fallacies, is the idea that if you do not totally except every bit of work of one of these "geniuses" as being genius, you are not a fan. Apparently, being a fan is like betting on Texas Hold-Em're either all in or you aren't in the game. This is, frankly, the tip of the iceberg of a potentially dangerous personality issues. Some people derive too much of their identity and/or self-worth from their fandom that they construe any "attack" against what they are a fan of as being a personal attack. You see this online a lot, and I have even dealt with it offline when someone attached to one of the popular online gaming forums left a gaming group we were both a part of, because I "hated on the board" because I felt (and still feel) that their reviews were poorly written and mostly missed the point of reviews.

We really shouldn't support this sort of behavior, as geeks or as humans. I don't think that I should have to explain why we shouldn't support or enable bad behavior, so I'm not going to bother with it.

There is a flip side to this phenomenon, something that grows more out of fan entitlement than out of fan worship. That is the idea that the fans know more about the property than those producing it, even when evidence (trivial things like sales) shows otherwise. This is an entirely different cult of personality, one that can often be driven by personal agendas that people want to be more widely followed. We see a lot of this in the "edition wars" between the fans of the various editions of D&D, particularly with those fans of more recent editions attempting to push their social agendas into the mainstream. Then they reply with anger and attacks when those agendas are not accepted, or are mocked openly.

We are a varied people, us geeks. There's nothing really wrong with that, we just have to learn to be more accepting of ourselves, others, and the opinions of others.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Guest Post: Annah Shilts Talks About The Maid RPG

Today, I present something All-New and All-Different for the Dorkland! blog (please always remember the exclamation point)...a guest post from someone wanting to break into the fine art of blogging. Today I present Annah Shilts, talking about the Maid RPG. I'm sure that many of you who follow me (the Chris me) here and on the various social media sites around the web know that I'm a big fan of the Maid RPG, and picked up a copy from the initial press run a couple of years ago when it debuted at GenCon. I've been lucky to talk with the translators/publishers of the English-language edition of the game (and I've worked with Ewen on Open Anime for Battlefield Press).

The link above is to Annah's profile on Google Plus (where she I and first encountered each other). If you're a gamer and you're not on Google Plus you really should look into it. It is a hotbed of gaming discussion and perspectives, with only a minimum of the hassle that you will find in online forums for gaming. I have another couple of people who have discussed wanting to do guest posts on here, so I guess we will see where this one goes.

What we have are Annah's thoughts and impressions from her first time playing a game, that just happened to be Maid. After the jump you'll find more about her experience.

First, a little about this random person writing to you: Hi, I’m Annah. A twenty-seven year old librarian with lots of red hair, not enough time and way too many hobbies. I’m classically trained operatic singer, dream of being a voice actor, and have a David Tennant cardboard cutout in my living room. I’ve been playing games since my father brought home a very old Pong console when I was four. Since then I’ve gone the gauntlet of Sega Genesis to Play Station 3.
I am new to tabletop RPGs. I was raised a (fairly) well behaved Christian home schooler from kindergartener through high school. Dungeons and Dragons were demonic and RPGS nearly so. Lord of the Rings and freaking Chronicles of Narnia were considered too full of magic and witchcraft for little old me.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Talking About The Clockwork & Chivalry 2e Role-Playing Game

Building on the streamlined OpenQuest rules (which were in turn derived from the MRQ1 SRD), the second edition of Clockwork and Chivalry comes storming out of the gate and into a growing pack of games building on the foundation of either Mongoose's Legend/RuneQuest rules or Chaosium's BRP system. For those who do not know, OpenQuest is a fantasy game, a retro clone of earlier editions made possible by the OGL, much like the many Old School Renaissance games were made possible by the d20 SRD material.

One "fault" that I had with the OpenQuest rules were fixed in Clockwork and Chivalry was the lack of Professions. I like Professions because it is a way for players to customize their characters, without adding a lot of detail. Professions can emulate the best parts of class-based RPGs, without some of the drawbacks that go with class-based gaming. Clockwork and Chivalry also crank up the Faction/Cults rules, by giving them a bit more mechanical strength. The addition of the idea of Righteousness Points is a little complicated at first, but they give a reason to have a Faction/Cult on your character sheet, besides just because of the fact that you can get some extra skills. For a game set in the 17th century, I think that this particularly helps to make your characters more of a part of the world of the game.

Some faults that I had with this present game:

I'm not particularly a fan of the naming conventions for spells. I understand that they are intended to give spells a more "authentic" feel, but the grammar of the spells' names just come across as forced to me. And while I like the idea of Satanists and Satanic Witches in the game, I'm not as happy with making the Satanic Witch more powerful than other forms. I understand why the authors choose this route, but I don't particularly agree and that is something that would more than likely get house ruled into a change for me. I do like the effort that the authors put into making a justification for an adventuring group, and in putting some effort into making these groups fit together. That is something that can be a hurdle for many group, trying to justify why their characters are together, and it is particularly helpful in a historical game such as this one.

A starting character in this game is not only flavorful, and starting with story ideas that can be developed from the first session, but they are not handicapped. This is definitely a game that is about capable characters doing big things in their world. It is also nice that the Professions are set up with historical fidelity, as well as ways around those "restrictions," if the group wants to play the game more ahistorically.

This game does not scrimp on background or or setting material, so the group that wants to run a fantasy game outside of the box of the usual standards of fantasy gaming, or the group that wants to run historical settings but may not as expert on the time period as they feel that they should be are both supported by the setting material in this. There is more than enough background material for England and the important personages of the time and place to get even the most historically undereducated of people up and running for campaigning in this world. There are also a couple of very good starting adventures (complete with premade characters) to get games rolling.

In short, Clockwork and Chivarly is a very solid game, one that builds on the strong foundation of d100 gaming. If you are looking for a fantasy game that is well-designed and that goes outside of the boundaries of what you will traditionally find in a fantasy RPG, this is the game for you. I am looking forward to seeing what comes next with this line, and the supplements that are forthcoming look exciting and will greatly expand the game and the world.

The PDF version, while a bit pricy in my opinion is available from DriveThruRPG. As usual, there is an affiliate code attached that will help me pick up future releases to talk about here on my blog.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Talking About Mongoose's Legend Role-Playing Game

Mongoose's Legend is the spiritual successor to the RuneQuest game originally developed and released by Chaosim Games and Avalon Hill, back in the 70s and 80s. Mongoose's Legend is the actual successor to their own RuneQuest game, rebranded and given a life extension after Mongoose gave up the license on the RuneQuest name. Much like the earlier incarnations of the RuneQuest game, Legend does one thing very well: it gives gamers a grittier alternative to the 800lb. gorilla of fantasy role-playing...Dungeons & Dragons.

Inspired by, and derived from, the Basic Role-Playing System that has powered games such as RuneQuest and Call of Cthulhu, Legend is a fantasy game that relies on character attributes and skills, rather than classes and levels, to define the capabilities of a character. This might not be for everyone, and Legend would take some stretching to reach some of the power levels of that other fantasy role-playing game, but what Legend does well.

Character generation in Legend is a snap. Legend offers two manners with which to create characters: the tried and true random method as well as a point buy method. Either of these are capable of creating well-rounded and interesting characters. Coupled with guidelines for Veteran characters, you can make characters that run the gamut from starting adventurers to seasoned pros, in no time at all. Cultural Backgrounds and Professions let you decide who your character was before becoming an adventurer, leaving it up to you to determine what your character is going to be through play. Having the option of both random determination and focused point buy should make a spectrum of gamers happy. Heroic abilities give your character the sort of "legend"ary capabilities to grow into that will make them the match of any fictional creation.

Task resolution is simple and everything is based off of the percentile dice, giving an intuitive way to explain what characters are capable of doing to both non-gamers, and gamers who may not be experienced with percentile-based game systems.

Legend postulates a world filled with magic, more so that many other fantasy games available on the market. One of the things that sets this game apart from many other fantasy games is the concept of Common Magic. Common Magic, simply enough, is the inherent magic of the universe, those magical effects that anyone can use without having to go through the training and experience of most magic-using characters in other games. This helps to create a richer fantasy world where magic is a part of the every day. This might not be fancy or powerful magic, but it can be life (and game) changing. This is one element that has been with RuneQuest since the very beginning, and it surprises me that has not been adopted by more fantasy games. Having common, everyday magic within the reach of everyone makes for a fantasy that is so much more fantastic that what you find in a lot of role-playing games.

The graphic design of Legend isn't fancy, but that isn't a problem. The black and white design is clean and easy to read. The illustrations, also in black and white, do a very good job of setting the tone for the game, and its implied world. Legend may not have a default setting, like when Mongoose published it originally under the RuneQuest brand, but the implied world that comes across through the text, the art work, and through design choices like Common Magic, makes for a rich implied world that is just waiting for you and your gaming group to fill in with the exploits of your characters. If Legend is not in your gamer's toolbox of fantasy games, you should fix that with this PDF. Even if you do not play Legend, the ideas presented in this game can be brought across to any fantasy game and enrich it with its different approaches to the genre.

Another nice thing about this game is that it is 100% OGL-released open gaming content. Obviously the illustrations and such are not a part of this, but there is still plenty of meat on this game's bones. What exactly does this mean for you? Basically, one of two things:
  1. You can publish your own expansion material, settings, new rules options and the like for the game (you can find a compatibility logo over here on Mongoose's website). Your Legend games can then inspire and create games for others.
  2. You can create a completely new game based on the Legend system. This is what D101 Games did with the earlier RuneQuest SRD to create their great OpenQuest game. I talked about OpenQuest in a previous blog post here, if Legend sounds interesting to you, you should check it out as well.
Legend is a solid game, a game that is well worth your time and effort to check out. I have a link to buy the PDF just below (which is selling for only $1 at the time this was written). If you have questions or comments about this review, you can find me over at Google+ or Twitter. If you follow me at Google+ and it isn't readily apparent for me why you are doing it, just drop me a mesage via my profile and let me know.

You can purchase the PDF of Legend from RPGNow/DriveThruRPG. Yes, that is an affiliate code, but it helps me to be able to pick up new material to be able to talk about with you. I have a couple of the other Legend PDFs, and if there is enough interest in this I will talk about some of them as well. Let me know in the comments here and either of the places I mentioned above, if you would like to see further material talked about on this blog.

And designers/ can reach me at either of the above links if you would like reviews done of your material as well.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Warren Ellis' Desolation Jones: An Appreciation

I am going to talk about Desolation Jones today. What is Desolation Jones? I hear you asking. Simply, it was a six issue mini-series published by the late, lamented Wildstorm Comics in 2005, written by Warren Ellis and with art by J.H. Williams III. We're not going to talk about the follow-up that Ellis was unable to finish in this and focus on the mini that was completed. If you click the link above, you'll find out how to buy it through, hopefully earning some affiliate credit for me.

First off, if you are a fan of the Burn Notice television show and you like comics I think you should check out Desolation Jones. The high concept of this comic is similar: spies broken by their jobs, or unable to interact normally with others because of agency experiments, are given a choice...die or move to Los Angeles. Yes, an interesting choice. However, in this comic Los Angeles is a secret open-air prison for former intelligence agents to are too important to kill but in too bad of shape (mostly psychologically) to still undertake missions regularly. Behave and stay within the city limits of L.A. and the former agents can continue to live.

Enter Michael Jones, former MI6 operative and survivor of the Desolation Test. I don't want to go into the Desolation Test in too much detail because the unveiling of it, and it's effects on Jones, are an important part of the story. Let's just say that, from what is revealed it wasn't a pleasant test, not that many things called Desolation are often pleasant. After the test Michael is give the choice by his government: we kill you, or you move to America and L.A. Michael chooses life (much like in the Wham song) and moves to Los Angeles, where he sets himself up as a private investigator to the former intelligence set. Some of this sound familar?

The story of this miniseries is an investigation into Hitler porn that Michael is hired to undertake. In true noir style, however, it quickly turns into much more. While well-written, keep in mind that Desolation Jones is not always a high minded comic. After all, this is the comic that gave us the quote "Everything goes better with bukkake." As Ellis often does in his comics, this story is a weaving of the high brow and the low brow. One of Ellis' throwaway ideas in this mini (which was going to be expanded in the unfinished follow-up) is the concept of supermodernism. Within the narrative of the comic, Ellis has Jones describe the concept as "The fact that we don't build places just to live in anymore. We build places to go through. To wait in. To be transient." As an aside, with my game designer hat on, Supermodernity is something that I think all game designers should learn something about. It is a fascinating concept that I think could inform a lot of designs in modern/SF worlds.

Jones is a detective very much in the Sam Spade/Mike Hammer mold. I don't think that the choice of the name Michael for the character is entirely coincidental. Jones solves this mystery with a mix of brutality and logic (even though Jones says repeatedly that he is not very smart) that would have fit well into any 30s L.A. noir story.

Williams art in this miniseries is on the cusp. This book was done in between his work with Alan Moore on Promethea and before he worked on the Seven Soldiers material with Grant Morrison. In Desolation Jones you can see glimpses of William's upcoming work on Seven Soldiers and Batwoman as well. This mini is very much a snapshot of an artist who is just about to come into his own, and his collaboration with Ellis on this really brings the characters and the world to life.

This comic is not for everyone. I will admit that. The themes are very adult, and there is a lot of violence and brutality in the book. It is, however, two creators that are really on their game, coming together and creating something bigger and better than what they could have done on their own. If you like crime stories, espionage stories, detective stories, noir, or even mild science fiction and you are willing to read it as a comic book then this is the miniseries for you. But mostly, I think this should be a required reading for those who are fans of Burn Notice and are looking for a comic book to fill in the time before we get new episodes. By the way, Burn Notice fans, let me know if anyone else thinks there is a commonality between the characters of Robina and Fiona.

Monday, January 09, 2012

New Year, New Game Indie Bundle

Because not just the big boys want you to play some new games this New Year, a group of small press and independent publishers and designers have banded together like a Justice League of Independence to offer to you some of their games and supplements at a reduced price. Why? Because they like you, and they want to get their stuff into your hands. While everyone else is speculating about D&D 5e today, we want you to pick up some neat new games that are not undergoing edition wars.

I should mention that my Open Core game is part of this bundle, but that is one of the reasons why you should pick up this bundle.

The bundle goes live shortly after this post goes up, so don't be surprised if some internet glitch causes a problem with the link below. Just take a deep breath and try again.

Here is what will be the link for this Bundle:

And now, some PR fluff to entertain you with, since I know that the link above is all that you really care about... (Have you clicked it yet?)

New Year, New Game Indie Bundle!

Looking to get your game on with some fantastic titles? It's a New Year and we have some great new games for you that scratch a variety of gaming itches from small press, independent publishers and designers. 

Ring in the New Year with 14 PDFs, 10 complete game systems to bring to your table.  The New Year, New Game Indie Bundle also features 1 print and play board game, a guide to conventions and several gaming supplements!

Pick up a new source book for your current system? Grab a few movie tickets and some popcorn? Why not get yourself and your group over $60 worth of games for just $30.66? Hours and hours of engaging and though provoking fun and new game systems to explore.

Hollowpoint from VSCA Publishing

Deluge from VSCA Publishing

Toys for the Sandbox: Apothacary from Occult Moon

Mi Gato se Incendia! (My Cat is on Fire!) by Benjamin Gerber

Argyle & Crew: Adventures in the Land of Skcos and two new scenarios by Benjamin Gerber

Mirkmoot’s Magical Accouterments for Creatures Great and Small by Benjamin Gerber

Shadow, Sword & Spell: Under Pashuvanam's Lush from Rogue Games, Inc.

Conventions for the Aspiring Game Professional by Jess Hartley

Instant Antagonist: The Creepy Cottontail from FR Press

Open Core Roleplaying System Classic from Battlefield Press

Toypocalypse from Top Rope Games

Old School Hack by Kirin Robinson

Kicking Historical Asses from Machine Age Productions

Homicidal Transients from Left of the Moon Games

Total Site Price:                         $50.75
Bundle Price:                             $25.16
Savings off Total Site Price:     $25.59

Go Play Something New!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

My Top Three High Traffic Posts Of 2011

Of the posts that I made last year, three of them rose to the top to be my highest traffic posts for the year. I've never done a post like this in the past. Is this just a big for more traffic? Maybe. My commentary on each follows the link.

The highest traffic post was my repost of the start of the Speak Out With Your Geek Out movement, from over the summer. I like what became of SOWYGO, even if it was a bit rocky at the start. I have to say that I didn't like the fact that a male geek getting "slut shamed" for being a geek (and a championship Magic player) tried to get turned into something for women to be proud of being geeks. Everyone should be proud to be geeks, and I do not like the growing trend of ignoring what happens to men online. Yes, women have bad things happen to them..but I don't think the existence of one bad thing negates the existence of another. As geeks we need to start being nicer to each and woman alike. Kudos to Monica for getting this off the ground and turning it into an event for everyone.

My second most popular post of the year was my post about the D&D With Pornstars people: Fear & Loathing In Gaming: D&D With Pornstars. Controversy (and naked women) gets clicks, apparently. In a way, these two posts are intertwined. There's been a lot of talk this year about gender issues in gaming. Many of them are right on the nose. We do need more women in gaming, honestly we need more people in gaming period. However, I come out on the side of this issue where I think that any coverage of gaming in the mainstream press that doesn't equate it with suicide or Satanism is a good thing. Really, we could use more mainstream attention. Who cares if the people being talked are porn actors? A lot of people online. Many people have spent a lot of time and Twitter and blog posts going on (at length) about how bad for the hobby this article was. Poppycock. I wish I had as much gaming as these people do. I wish most of the "commentators" on this issue had as much gaming as the D&D With Pornstars people, because then they would be more like to be gaming instead of bitching. If you come across this issue of Maxim at a store (not that I condone Byrne stealing of magazines or comics....pfft) or a library (What? I'm sure some library carries this magazine), I really recommend checking it out and actually reading the article.

Oh, I still hate the photo I took.

My number three article has neither naked women nor controversy involved in it. While it's a good post, I'm not sure if it belongs with these other two posts. :) Number three was my review of the OpenQuest RPG, a pseudo kind of sort of retro clone of the old Runequest games put out by Chaosium. It quickly turned into one of my favorite games of last year. If you haven't checked it out yet, you really should. Click that link, read the review, and pick up a copy today.

So, those are my top three traffic generators for the year. Are they my best posts? No, probably not. The SOWYGO post is just a copy and paste job. I am proud of my other two posts, however. I think the writing is good in both. Opinion writing isn't easy. You really need to have more than just an opinion. Anyone can have an opinion. What makes opinion writing good, and what makes people want to read it, is having an informed opinion on something (which means doing some thinking and some research) and backing up that informed opinion. There's a lot of "I think this because I do" writing that goes on among the so-called commentary on gaming online. That's rubbish writing at best, and overly sensationalistic at best. We need to move past that and strive for a level of professionalism in our commentary and blogging about gaming. That should be a New Years resolution for a lot of online gaming commentators.

The usual rules apply. Feel free to comment, but if you can't say something nice...don't say anything at all. I reserve the right to publish, or delete any comments that I feel belong on my blog. If you don't like that, then post to your own blog.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Review

A couple of days before Christmas, I went to see the new American version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (TGWTDT). I'm not going to call this a remake, since it was an adaptation of the book, rather than a remake of the Swedish movie (which I have not seen).

I read the book of TGWTDT back in August, and I have been looking forward to this movie since I heard it announced. Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara both do a good job of looking like the characters that I had in my mind as I read the book, Craig pulling off an admirable Blomkvist and completely making me forget about James Bond.

The filming of the movie, the cinematography, captured the brooding environment of the book. Much like in the movie Fargo, they managed to make winter a character in the movie, making you feel the cold and isolation that the characters must have felt. Blomkvist wandering about in a couple of scenes, his hand held out with his cell phone while trying to find a signal really captured this isolation.

Mara does a turn as Salander that is award-worthy. She manages to bring to life the quiet desperation and sometimes torturous existence of her character. The scenes where Salander's new "guardian" shows her how they can "work together" are particularly chilling to see brought to life on the screen.

The music of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross made great measures towards the feel of the movie with their score. The music would often weave in and out of scenes, as characters moved through physical spaces or used electronics. The title sequence cover of Led Zepplin's Immigrant Song (with vocals from Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who also did the music from 2009's Where The Wild Things Are) will go down as one of my favorite songs of 2011.

There were a couple of subplots from the book that were dropped from the movie. The subplot dealing with Blomkvist's relationship with one of the Vanger "sisters," as well as the subplot of Millennium's ongoing financial and legal battles, were both dropped from the movie. Admittedly, this was already nearly three hours of screen time but I really think that the plot of Millennium's trials and hassles would have really added to the overall feel of the story, not to mention making you happy for the end that Wennerstrom comes to in the movie. That conclusion seemed a bit too speedily wrapped up, maybe because of the fact that we lost the Millennium subplot.

Regardless, TGWTDT was an excellent movie. It drew me into its fictional world early on and kept me engrossed in what was happening, even though I already knew what would happen from reading the book. I recommend this movie to anyone who likes detective/investigative stories, or to any geek who wants to see a well-made movie and wants to escape from the doldrums of genre movies.

Culture Bully's 2011 Mashed

File this under Music and Mashups. Culture Bully has posted their 2011 Mashed compilation. You can find it here. This incredible production from The Reborn Identity (one of my favorite producers) kicks off the compilation.

The Reborn Identity - Cosmic Lifeforms (Florence + The Machine vs Carbon Based Lifeforms) by The Reborn Identity

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Best of Bootie 2011

Here is Bootie's Best of Bootie 2011 mashup compilation. This is the continuous mix version. They also have an unmixed version with the individual tracks available.

Best of Bootie 2011 by bootie

Downloads and extras can be found at the Best of Bootie 2011 page. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

In Review: Marvel's Defenders #1

I will admit that I'm not a Marvel fanboy. This is the first Marvel comic that I have bought since Agents of Atlas was cancelled. Mostly it's a taste issue...the currently in vogue style of storytelling at the House of Ideas isn't what I am interested in when reading a comic book.

That said, I have been a huge fan of the Defenders since I was a kid. I found The Defenders not long after I discovered The Avengers. For me, the appeal of The Defenders has always been that they are the weird and creepy super-heroes, tucked off in a dark corner of the Marvel Universe. This feeling is the foundation on which this incarnation of The Defenders is built. I'm pretty sure that the last book written by Matt Fraction that I read was his run on Iron Fist (who is a character in this book as well). This issue, to me, had a similar tone to those issues, more than just because Iron Fist is a member of this new version of the team. I liked that feel in Iron Fist, and so far I like that feel here in The Defenders.

The Defenders rolls out of the story of Marvel's latest big event, Fear Itself, but so far I have found that reading that event is not necessary for this book. This first story, The Defenders are brought together by The Hulk to deal with a menace from that book that he is responsible for. "Imagine all of my rage...and power and strength and hate -- imagine it taking a shape," is how The Hulk describes this menace to The Silver Surfer.

The portrayals of The Silver Surfer and Doctor Strange are probably most likely to be sticking points for some long-time Marvel fans. The Silver Surfer is shown at his most alien in this issue. I like that. It is nice to see a comic book alien being portrayed as being, well, alien for a change. This isn't just some guy in silver body paint, this is an inhuman, near-cosmic entity that just does not see the world in the same way, or interact with it in the same way, as his more human companions.

While I (surprisingly to myself) liked the new take on Doctor Strange, I'm not sure that everyone is going to like Hipster Doctor Strange. Hipster you say? When asked about his choice of reading material at one point Doctor Strange responds with "It is something very old and rather frightening I'm afraid. I don't think you'd know it." Yes, Doctor Strange read that old book before everyone else, and probably has a copy of it on vinyl as well. The good Doctor is also introduced in a post-coital scene that has been talked about in a negative manner in a few blogs already. Really, it didn't bother me all that much. Back in the day, Doctor Strange was always shown as one of the more sexual of super-heroes, with he and Clea in states of undress and seemingly interrupted during sex more than once in a comic. So, Doctor Strange having a hook-up, or using his "spooky old conjurer" status (as Namor calls it at one point) to try to pick up women is not really all that big of a stretch to me.

I have to add that I like the way that Fraction approaches the unnaturalness of Doctor Strange in this book, as well as his approach to magic. In some pre-publication publicity, Fraction mentioned that he wanted to give Doctor Strange a sort of William S. Burroughs quality in his "been there, done that" approach to the weirdness of the world. So far, I think it is successful.

The story is nothing spectacular, just your standard "let's get the band together" first issue for a team book. Geoff Johns should look at this story as an example of how to actually get all of the characters on the cover together and into the book. There is a lot of Marvel Universe esoterica in this issue, particularly the stuff with Wondagore Mountain. There isn't a lengthy exposition on it's history in the Marvel Universe, which could be good or bad. I think most comics these days assume that the reader will have more than a passing knowledge of continuity and that there aren't going to be many uninitiated readers picking up a book as there might have once been. There is just enough explanation to justify the story.

I think that, all in all, this was a fairly successful first issue that made me want to pick up the second issue when it comes out. I would have liked a bit more of an introduction to the new Red She-Hulk. If I didn't already know about the character it wouldn't have been obvious that she was long time Hulk supporting character Betty Ross. Also, neither Namor or The Silver Surfer were given much introduction as it was assumed by the writer that these characters would be known to readers already. This is probably the most negative that I had about the issue: do a better job of introducing the main characters. I really think that this issues (particularly being a number one) could have used a few more pages of story to get the cast introduced.

This leads me directly to my main negative. There's too many damn advertisements in this issue. Eight pages were given over to ads for other Marvel books (mostly X-Men books) and I think that half of those could have been cut to give a couple of more pages of background on the characters.

However, for me, the positives outweigh the negatives and I enjoyed this book. I will definitely pick up number two and hope that this book finds enough of a readership to keep it on the stands in this rough comics market. The Defenders has been, at best, always a fringe title and I hope this version finds its way.