Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Record Store Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Amanda Palmer (The Dresden Dolls)

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

- Steve Wilson (Porcupine Trees)

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

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

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

- Mac Lethal

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

- Dean Wareham (Luna)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Valiant Comics Solicitations for July 2012

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

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

The Summer of Valiant continues!

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

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

On sale July 11 • $3.99

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

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

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

On sale July 11• $3.99

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

The smash hit series of the summer continues!

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

On sale July 18 • $3.99

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

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Dogma of Appendix N in Fantasy Gaming

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

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


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

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

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

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

A couple of interesting quotes from the press release:

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

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

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

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

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

  • I am enjoying this playtest.

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 02, 2012

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

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

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cary Nord Signs As VALIANT's First Exclusive Creator

Valiant is proud to announce that Eisner Award-winning artist Cary Nord has signed on to become the publisher's first exclusive creator. Nord will be making his Valiant Comics debut alongside New York Times best-selling author Robert Venditti in X-O Manowar #1 -- a landmark 40-page issue that launches Valiant's return to comic shops on May 2nd.

"It's been immensely exciting working on X-O Manowar," said Nord. "I'm having a great time working with this character and this team. The chance to help define the Valiant Universe was one that was just too good to pass up."

With over two decades of industry experience, Nord has contributed to some of the most popular series in comics, including Daredevil and Action Comics, and has collaborated with some of the industry's preeminent talents. With writer Kurt Busiek, Nord forged an Eisner Award-winning run on Dark Horse's Conan.

This May, Nord tackles the return of another comic book icon with X-O Manowar #1 -- the first issue of a new ongoing series that will cement the foundations of the Valiant Universe -- and spotlight the visceral action and dynamic storytelling that have made him a fan favorite artist around the world.

"Cary is a tremendous talent and his work on X-O Manowar has elicited an off-the-charts response from fans and retailers. We're extraordinarily happy to have him on board for the long haul," said Executive Editor Warren Simons. "We're dedicated to bringing excellence with our comics month in and month out, and Cary has already proven himself to be a true visionary in designing the new direction of the Valiant Universe with X-O Manowar."

Get your first look at Nord's spectacular work on X-O Manowar #1 when the Summer of Valiant begins on May 2nd! And don't forget to ask your local retailer about the X-O Manowar #1 exclusive Pullbox and QR Voice variant covers. Visit for more information and news on all of Valiant's summer titles -- Harbinger #1 in June, Bloodshot #1 in July, and Archer & Armstrong #1 in August.

Cover by ESAD RIBIC (MAR121221)
Pullbox Exclusive Variant by CARY NORD (MAR121222)
Variant Cover by DAVID AJA (MAR121223)
$3.99/Rated T+/40 pgs.

Variant Cover by ARTURO LOZZI
$3.99/Rated T+/32 pgs.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Castles and Crusades Classic Monsters: The Manual

Classic Monsters is a compilation of some of the classic monsters of old school gaming, taken from the open content of the first Tome of Horrors and converted to the C&C system. This book greatly expands the amount of monster available from the Monsters & Treasure book, and would be a boon to anyone running a game of Castles & Crusades. The art is up to the usual high standards of a Castles & Crusades book, and the layout follows the crisp and clean standards of the other C&C books.

Unfortunately, among the weird and wacky monsters from the early days of the first edition of the Advanced Game, the one glaring absence would be the demons and devils. Yes, it would be easy enough to convert these...but they just seems to be much too noticeable in their absence, particularly in comparison to other much more thorough old school monster manuals that are on the market. Does this render Classic Monsters useless, or make it a less attractive purchase? Well, no to either of those questions. Classic Monsters is definitely much more affordable (and likely easier to find) than those other monster manuals, and there are still plenty of other monsters that are available in this book. With a couple of hundred new monsters, there is still a lot of meat for a Castle Keeper in this volume.

Comparing this book to the recent edition of the Tome of Horrors Complete (ToHC) for Swords & Wizardry, would not be a fair comparison for Classic Monsters only because ToHC has five times the page count of Classic Monsters. It does, however, not shy away from the conversion of Devils and Demons. You can almost call these infernal creatures the Great Schism of AD&D, as it was their removal from AD&D 2e that upset a good number of gamers who felt that the new edition was overly sanitized after the "Satanic" scares over D&D of the 80s. I am certainly not accusing Castles & Crusades or Classic Monsters of being sanitized, but for me this is a glaring omission. I like the existence of the infernal to test the goodness of characters, and as a fan of writers like Michael Moorcock I like to emulate his fiction with demonic characters. Not that I would not be able to adapt or convert this material myself, if I wanted. I don't want people thinking that Classic Monsters is a bad book, because it certainly isn't. I just feel that it could have been a better book with the addition of more material. Who knows, maybe someone at Troll Lord Games will want to do something along the lines of the great old Demons series for AD&D that Mayfair Games put out all those years ago.

One of the strong points of the write-ups for these monsters is the combat section. For those less experienced Castle Keepers, or those who were not around in the hobby when many of these creatures were first published, having that brief outline of how each monster acts in combat can be very useful. There is also enough ecology information to be able to place these monsters into an adventure in a way that makes some logical sense.

Yes, this is a volume that adapts material that is already available, but sometimes not having to do the conversion work is worth the price of admission, and not everyone still has copies of the original MM2 or the Fiend Folio around to use for their Castles & Crusades games. Because of that, this book is useful and a good addition to anyone's Castles & Crusades library.

You can purchase the PDF of this book here, and if you keep the affiliate code, a portion of the sale will benefit this blog and allow for more things to be reviewed.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

G+ RPG Recruitment

Are you on Google+? Do you like old school fantasy gaming? I am recruiting for a Swords & Wizardry Whitebox game that will be played on Google+ hangouts, Tuesdays at about 10pm EST. Most of the goal is to introduce an online friend to tabletop role-playing (or the approximation of it online). You can find the PDF at the above link, so there is no cost to you to play. My G+ profile can be found in the column at the right, and you can express your interest in the comments below. This will be a G+ hangouts game, so you have to be set up over there to play.

There's a little interest already, so we are probably looking for two more players.

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.