Sunday, January 30, 2011

At the Earth's Core - film (1976)

This B Cheese Science Fiction was a treat to watch. I just recently read ERB novels At the Earth's Core and Pellucidar, so I was anxious to watch this. After watching the 2009 A Princess of Mars, I was unsure as to what to hope for; however, the fact that ATEC stars Peter Cushing laid some of my fears to rest.

Released in 1976, it also stars Doug McClure and scream queen Caroline Munro.

I'll admit, I'm more forgiving of a movie made in this era. I want to see rubber monsters and cheesy set design. I crave it. Peter Cushing being in this one gave me high hopes, but I found I didn't really care for his portrayal of Dr. Abner Perry. Cushing spoke in a high nasally voice and presented the doctor as much more bumbling then I remembered him. However, Cushing did get off the best line of the movie: "You can't mesmerize me! I'm British!"

Doug McClure as David Innes was adequate, but was not how I visualized David Innes. McClure did two more ERB films with director Kevin Conner. The Land that Time Forgot preceded ATEC in 1975, andThe People that Time Forgot followed in 1977. For some reason, The People that Time Forgot is available on DVD, but "The Land" is not (there is however a 2009 remake

The best part of the movie, in my humble opinion, is Caroline Munro as Dia. Munro is known to Hammer Horror Film fans. She also starred in fantasy and science fiction movies in the 70's and 80's. She makes a delicious looking Dia.

The film follows the novel just well enough to be recognizable, but is just different enough to bother purists. Some of the more interesting portions of the novel, are not touched upon, such as the geography of Pellucidar. Many other things are rushed as well so as to pack in as much action in 92 minutes as possible.

I very much recommend this film. It has hilarious MST3K moments, and is just coherently "ERB" enough to be enjoyable.

Appendix N Birthdays: February

These are the people that started it all. Without their imaginations, this hobby that we all love may never have been. When applicable, the date of their death is provided. Each month also features "Honourable Mentions". This section is composed of people not listed on Appendix N, but geeky cool, and/or inspiring in some nerdage fashion. It is also of course completely subjective and based upon my own opinion. Please notify me if I've missed anyone from Appendix N, made any errors, or if you feel someone should be added to the Honourable Mentions column and please tell me why they should be added.

I've added a new category this month: "Hot Geek Crush of the Month". Necessary you ask? No, but it is another excuse for me to post pictures of lovely women.

Appendix N:
February 17: Andre Norton (1912/D. March 17, 2005)
February 17: Margaret St. Clair (1911/D. November 22, 1995)
February 24 :August Derleth (1909/D. July 4, 1971)

Honourable Mentions:
February 4: George A. Romero (1940, Master of Zombie flicks)
February 5: H.R. Giger (1940, famous painter)
February 5: William S. Burroughs (1914/D. August 2, 1997; Naked Lunch)
February 8: Jules Verne (1828/D. March 24, 1905; A Journey to the Center of the Earth)
February 10: Lon Chaney Jr. (1906/D. July 12, 1973; star of The Wolfman amongst others)
February 11: Leslie Nielson (1926/D. November 28, 2010; Forbidden Planet)
February 16: LeVar Burton (1957; Star Trek: The Next Generation)
February 25: Sean Astin (1971; played Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings)

Hot Geek Crush of the Month:
February 21: Jennifer Love Hewitt (1979).

Okay, being the star of Ghost Whisperer just nominally qualifies her, but damn have I ever got a geek crush on her!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Robert E. Howard's Savage Sword #1 - Dark Horse Comics

It took me a long time to get my hands on this magazine. I was out of town the week it was published in December. I ordered a copy on-line and finally received it today.

REHSS, is meant to be reminiscent of the sprawling black and white Savage Sword of Conan magazines published by Marvel in the day. I was in fact disappointed when I read the previews of this issue and learned that it would be in color. Those disappointments are lain to rest.

I can't heap praise upon this book, but I really wanted to. Don't get me wrong, while I believe the price of all comics is too high, with the 80 pages of this particular one and a price tag of $7.99, it weighs in at just under .80 a page.

It is not a Conan cash cow for Dark Horse. There is a Conan tale in the first issue, actually the first part of a three parter, and I would be shocked if there wasn't Conan tale in each issue, but the Cimmerian is not all that is offered.

In issue one, the reader is given a Conan tale, a John Silent story (actually, this is kind of a sequel to Dark Horse Comics Solomon Kane: The Castle of the Devil), a Dark Agnes story, an El Borak text piece, and a Bran Mac Morn story.

The Conan story is written by Paul Tobin, illustrated by Wellington Alves. It takes place when the Cimmerian was a young thief. At ten pages, it moves fast and is part one of a three part tale.

Next up is John Silent. This tale is well written and self-contained. The art is engaging.

The text piece about El Borak is more of a teaser for issue 2 which will feature Francis X. Gordon in his first comics appearance with art by Tim Bradstreet.

Part one of a two part Dark Agnes story is next. This was the weak link of the book, but was not terrible.

Worm of the Earth is an adaption of a Bran Mac Morn story of the same name. The script is by Roy Thomas and the art is Barry Windsor-Smith. This is a reprint and makes up the bulk of the book (37 of 80 pages). This was a treat and worth the price of admission alone. Please Dark Horse, more of stuff like this.

All in all, very well done. I would have liked it to have been magazine sized and in black and white, but those gripes aside, this was great.

So I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out...

As the saying goes, last night it was very true. I've been an Anchorage Aces fan for about 10 years now. I'll admit, I knew very little about hockey until I moved to a hockey town. Now, it rivals football for my sports viewing pleasure. I watch NHL as well, but my favourite venue for watching hockey is live with my very own Anchorage Aces.

The Aces are a minor league team and are members of the ECHL (Eastern Conference Hockey League). Our biggest rivalry is with the Bakersfield Condors, and that is who we played last night, and tonight and tomorrow night.

Whenever we face the Condors, it is a guaranteed grudge match. Last night was no exception to the rule; actually, I take that back as there were an exceptional number of fights. In the end we won with a pulse pounding, edge of your seat, screaming your lungs out score of 5 to 4.

As soon as the clock hit zero at the end of third period, a massive bench clearing brawl broke out that lasted at least three minutes. The refs even received a couple pot shots, and gave a few themselves. Hell, one of the Condors even tried to call out the Aces' coach onto the ice!

I'm not sure what the fall out will be, but I wish I could be there to see it tonight; however, I have a fund raising function to go to for a dear friend whose life we are trying to save.

The NFL Probowl means nothing to me, but game three of Aces vs Condors, well, I can't wait!



Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Enemy Within: Session 1

Two weeks ago we had our first WFRP session. We are playing Warhammer Fantasy Role Play Second edition. While I am using the second edition rules, I typically ignore the Storm of Chaos element that is embedded within the edition.

For those that do not know, when the second edition was released, it was done so with an advancement in the time line of approximatively 12 years later then that provided in the first edition. During those 12 years, the Old World was nearly overrun by a Chaos Hoard from the north. Accept for my first time running second edition, I typically ignore this timeline advancement and have chosen to do so with this campaign as well.

This will be the classic WFRP Enemy Within Campaign. Almost all of my WFRP campaigns are set within the EW, or at least in some hybrid form. Three of the current members of the group have experienced elements from Death on the Reik , but have never played Shadows over Bogenhafen. We may have one more player Skype in for the game, and he has played SoB before, but I can trust him not to ruin it for the others. We have a fourth player that has never played WFRP in any fashion as well. With this in mind, I will be playing them through SoB, and an abbreviated version of DotR before launching into The Power Behind the Throne and beyond. I did choose however, not to start them with SoB, but something else. If all follows my nefarious plan, the characters should be in their third careerer, or close to it, by the time we play tPBtT.

We had one missing player of our typical four, but that was okay as I was expecting a slow start. We spent half the session making characters. When characters were completed, I started the characters out on a river barge destined for Nuln. I had considered before hand playing out the river barge journey, utilizing part of DotR along the way, but decided against it and brought them straight into Nuln.

I gave them a bit of flavor text so they could get a sense of what Nuln is like. To the best of my memory, I don't think I've ever portrayed Nuln to this particular group. I tried to give them a sense of how important the Gunnery School is to the populace. Also, Nuln was one time the capital of the Empire. With this sense of past pride, the nobles and noble-wanna-bees of the city are very fashion sensitive. The latest fad in Nuln to date are exaggerated and extravagant cod pieces.

By the time they made their way off the river barge, it was late and drizzling rain. The characters were seeking shelter and not having much success. A beggar offered to lead them to an inn where he was sure he could find lodging for them if "the g'zz 'im a couple shillins". They were not surprised when he led them into an ambush.

Since we had one player who has never played WFRP in any form before, and for the benefit of all as it's been a while for the old guard in the group, I had decided to have a combat early in the session to warm up the dice. I placed them against four thugs and didn't expect them to have too much trouble with them. Also, a TPK (Total Party Kill) had abruptly ended our Tunnels & Trolls campaign, so I was not inclined to make it difficult. I did decide to keep my dice rolls in the open though, as I still believe in letting the dice fall where they may.

They did win the combat, but I was a bit surprised that one player ended the combat with 1 wound point left and another with only 4. In WFRP terms, this meant that the player with only 1 wound remaining was heavily wounded and could only heal one wound point per week without the benefit of a physician. With a physician, she can earn one wound point per day maximum. When she reaches four wound points, she can then either heal one wound point per day, or visit a physician and heal 1d10 per healing session. In short, she was not in good shape.

After the combat, they did not have any more luck finding an inn. They did find one with lodging available; however, a mishap with the door and the an extortionist inn keep convinced them to not stay there. They were lucky enough to have a town watchman take pity upon them. He allowed them to stay the night in a cell and even fed them a meager prison breakfast of gruel in the morning. He suggested to them that they may be able to find work at the Reik Platz. At the Reik Platz, there is a tree where job notices are posted. They would, he warned them, have to find different lodging for the night.

They thanked him and set out on their way. The first found lodging, then after asking directions, found a physician. There visit to the physician went well for them. Only the heavily wounded character is still injured. After paying the physician, the still wounded character, a female hobbit, went back to the room to rest. The other two players, a male human Protagonist and a male human Marine went to the Reik Platz to seek work. They found four possible leads for jobs posted at the tree.

That is where we ended the session. Not much was accomplished and most of the night was spent with me spouting flavor description to them to illustrate Nuln and the Old World to them. I was surprised by the level of carnage reached during the combat, but in the end I was pleased as it showed very well, especially to our new player, just how deadly combat can be in WFRP.

I'm handling experience very ad-hoc. I am simply awarding 25 xp per each hour of real time played. Our average session length is 3 hours. I'm offering a 25 xp bonus for a short session report, which if I get any, will be posted here.

We didn't play this past week, but hope to next week.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

STEELERS! HELL YEAH! A celebration with pictures of hot babes.

What a day! My Steelers are going to the Superbowl to take on the Packers. Heck, I even won $50 on a bet with a co-worker that the Packers would beat the Bears.

In celebration, and for absolutely no good reason, I'm posting pictures of lovely women with Steelers attire on.


Notice, all geeky related fun will be put on hold for me today as I watch my Steelers tackle the Jets. If this goes poorly, I may be too drunk to post later as I'll be drowning my sorrows with copious amounts of Pyramid IPA. Later.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Savage Sword of Conan Volume 1

Today being the 105th anniversary of the birth of Robert E. Howard, put me in the mood to review an item that I read many months ago: The Savage Sword of Conan Volume 1. This 544 page book is published by Dark Horse Comics and reprints The Savage Tales of Conan the Barbarian #'s 1-5 and The Savage Sword of Conan #'s 1-10. Both were black and white magazine sized comics originally published by Marvel Comics beginning in August 1973, tSToC, and August 1974 for tSSoC.

This isn't new, I know, again I am late for the bus, I believe at this present time Dark Horse is now up to volume 9 of the series. They intend to reprint all issues of The Savage Sword of Conan. Being a comics guy, I did know of these when they first came out, and I did buy volumes 1 and 2 when they were published; however, I did not take the time to read volume 1 until nearly a year ago, and I have not yet read volume 2.

This isn't from a lack of love for the series, as a teenager, I bought as many issues of Savage Sword as I could get my hands on. I spent much time in art class practicing my skills at drawing Conan while using Savage Sword as a model. I fully intend to buy all the volumes, but I'm slow to the party.

There are many remarkable things about the stories reprinted in the book. I could rave about the Roy Thomas scripts or go on about the art of Barry Windsor-Smith, John Buscema, Jim Starlin or Alex Nino, amongst others; however, that has been done elsewhere.

I will write briefly of the story reprinted from Savage Sword #6 "The People of the Dark". It is from a story of the same name originally written by Robert E. Howard. The original incarnation of the story was first published in Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror, June 1932 (found here via the Creative Commons Attributions/Share Alike Licence). It was not a Conan story. There was a character named Conan the reaver in the story, but he was Gaelic, not Cimmerian. Roy Thomas adapted the story by REH, and in his version, it is transformed into a Conan story. Many, including myself, believe the Conan of this story was catalyst or earlier incarnation of the Conan first read in "The Phoenix on the Sword" (Weird Tales December 1932--which in turn was a rewrite of a rejected Kull story "By this Axe I Rule!", May 1929).

The art for Roy Thomas script is done by Alex Nino. Nino at the time had drawn for Marvel before, but would hit his stride with black and white horror comics: Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella and later Heavy Metal. Being a regular reader of Dark Horse Presents, I am passingly familiar with his work there as well.

"The People of the Dark" is a past-lives story and in both REH's original tale and in the Roy Thomas script, it is told in first person narrative by the protagonist John O'Brien. During the course of the story, John O'Brien is on a quest to kill another man whom he is competing with for the affections of a lover. He is rendered unconscious and has a dream memory of an earlier life in which he was Conan. In REH's version, this is not the same Conan known in popular culture, in Thomas' script, it is the very same.

In both versions of the story, REH's views on barbarism vs. civilization are apparent, plus I came away with a social commentary (or perhaps better stated as a social influence) of evolution. The Children of the Night/Little People/reptile like humanoids of the story are explained as perhaps an earlier incarnation of homo-sapiens that faltered and failed. Howard no doubt was aware of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species.

The Conan of the story, regardless of which version is read, can not be colored as a hero at on-set. He is seeking to kill another man over a woman that he seeks as a prize. There is a moment of redemption at stories end that does allow him to be viewed in a more heroic manner.

In summary, it was interesting to read both versions of the story and do a comparison. It is also nice to read a Howard tale upon this day of his birth and still enjoy it 78 years after inception to still find it enjoyable and relevant.

In Remembrance of Robert E. Howard

Because there is nothing original I can say of Robert E. Howard on the day of his birth...I've read a number of great posts about Howard today...I will post one of my favorite Frank Frazetta paintings. I first encountered this image on the cover of Red Nails edited by Karl Wagner. Enjoy.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

ERB - Frank Frazetta Art

I just finished reading the first three Barsoom novels. It put me in the mood to showcase some ERB inspired art by one of my favorite fantastical artists, Mr. Frank Frazetta.

Richard Corben's Den Comics

In December of 2010, I did a mini-review of the 1981 animated feature Heavy Metal. In that review, I mentioned that I liked the feature "Den" about a scrawny nerd that gets whisked away to a far-away planet, in the process the said scrawny nerd, Dan, is transformed into the uber muscular Den.

What I didn't realize at the time was the history behind that story. The short is based upon underground comics great Richard Corben. I've encountered Corben's work before. While I'm not a big fan of Heavy Metal magazine, and I'm just not cool enough to get into the underground comics scene on the ground floor (I'm always late to the party on the good stuff), I've seen his work in Dark Horse's Alien comics, DC's Hellblazer, and in other mainstream circles. While I am not a Dan Corben fanatic, I like his work.

His "Den" stories have an interesting publication background. It all started when he produced a short animated movie called Neverwhere. From there the story moved to Metal Hurlant (a French comics magazine that the American Heavy Metal was patterned after). Stateside, it continued in Heavy Metal magazine, from there mostly into Corben's own independent company Fantagor.

the Den stories take place on an alien planet called Neverwhere (where apparently clothes have not yet been invented) and are described as a cross between Edgar Rice Burrough's "Barsoom" stories and Robert E. Howard's Conan stories. I am a fan of both. What really intrigues me is Corben does not skirt the inherent sexiness of stories in that vein. For instance, it is easily forgotten that ERB often portrays the women of his stories as either nude or nearly so. This happens often in REH tales as well. Corben's Den stories are known for there full frontal nudity art. Perhaps my favorite description is "Conan on Viagra" (this being a reference to the fact that Den and many of Corben's male portrayals are well endowed--indeed).

Call me a pervert if you will, but I think it is undeniable that one of the reasons I really enjoy the stories of Burroughs and Howard is for their latent sexuality. The Den stories, from what I've been able to view on the internet and read about elsewhere, put sex in the forefront. This is outright in the "Den" segment of the Heavy Metal movie.

Granted, Corben has been criticized for his overly busty portrayal of women and for the fact that they serve as sexual fantasy fulfillment in his stories. My only defense to this is he is writing escapism. I like escapism. One important part of escapism, for me at least, is fantasy fulfillment. I want to be as brave as John Carter, I want to be as cunning as Conan and while it might cause stares in the locker room, well to be as well-endowed as Den might open a whole new career for me. Sex plays a role in my enjoyment of escapism as well. I have posted art of Dejah Thoris on this blog before, why? I'm attracted to the idea of her. In a ERB story, a princess is lovely, desirable and always needs rescue. Macho? Sure, but again, this is escapism.

I can't say Richard Corben's "Den" stories are high art, as I've never read them, but I would be eager to do so. A quick search on ebay today shows that might be an expensive venture.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Steelers BABY!

I had big plans of getting at least three blog posts up this weekend, the second in my series on Lin Carter and a couple of reviews; however, the playoffs ate up most of my time, alongside unexpected house repairs. I have been re-reading much Warhammer material, I'm sure there will be something on that soon, as session one will be this Tuesday.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Frank Cho Dejah Thoris Sculpture

Feast your eyes on this piece of art. Wow! I dig it. Two of my favorite things: Dejah Thoris, who I've had a crush on since I was 10, and the art work of Frank Cho.

I've been a big fan of Frank Cho ever since discovering Liberty Meadows. His pin-up girl art work is in one word, lustful.

Warlord of Mars - Dynamite Comics

Ever since I was a kid, I've always been excited about my favorite things being adapted to comics. I read Marvel Comics Star Wars, but what I always looked forward to were the movies being serialized in comic format. As a geek, comic books are my first love, followed closely by great science fiction (at least great by my standards), and last comes role playing games and board games (both forms of gaming are neck and neck for me). So to have one of my favorite science fiction tales be adapted to comic book format, and done so well, is fabulous for me.

I have not, as of yet, gotten my hands on the Dark Horse reprints of Marvel Comics 1970's adaption of Burroughs John Carter tales, but I will soon. I get free Amazon bucks from my company corporate card, so I'm waiting for enough points to build to grab some from swag.

Dynamite's series is written by Arvid Nelson, best known for his work on Dark Horse Comic's Rex Mundi. and illustrated by Stephen Sadowski, who has done work for Malibu, DC, Dark Horse and Marvel. Each issue features four different covers.

Thus far, the series is an adaption of A Princess of Mars; however, a few liberties are taken with John Carter's adventures out west on earth. Issues 1 and 2 begin with Captain John Carter on earth trying to make his living by searching for gold. This is after the end of the Civil War. Nothing is changed in that regards. Dynamite did not choose to modernize the tale as was done with the direct to video movie of Princess of Mars. The two issues are split evenly between that tale and a new tale of how Tars Tarkas gained his second name.

Not everyone will be pleased with Dynamite's adaption. I've all ready read some complaints on forums and a few negative reviews, but thus far, after reading issues 1 to 3, I am enjoying them and I believe you might too. It doesn't hurt that issue one is only $1. I picked up issues 2 and 3 from my local comic shop at cover price.

Issue 3 has John Carter arriving on Barsoom, and there begins a more traditional adaption of the story.

I have not yet had the pleasure of finding a copy of Dejah Thoris #1, but I post the cover here for your viewing pleasure. It is, in my not so humble opinion, a very flattering view.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Heading North

I'm heading home from Juneau to Anchorage this evening. I've been pecking away at Part 2 of my series of posts about Lin Carter . It has grown too large. One of my goals for this year is to become a better blogger. I'm aiming for short posts that the reader would want to take the time to read. Myself, as a regular blog reader, I have a tendency to at best skim the larger posts rather then reading them. I prefer short posts that inform me and/or get me thinking. A post that makes me smile isn't turned down either.

Therefore, I'll be re-thinking and re-writing my second post in the series, so it may be some time before it appears here.

Happy Gaming.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

This week's most viewed post

I find it amusing that my most viewed post for this week thus far is my Amazing Late Night Drunk Post inspired by too much Saki and beer. Perhaps I should always blog drunk.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Appendix N Birthdays: January

I'm starting a new monthly tradition. Each month, I'll post the birthdays of authors from Appendix N. Why? These are the people that started it all. Without their imaginations, this hobby that we all love may never have been. When applicable, the date of their death is provided. Each month, and months that have no one born from Appendix N, features a larger column of "Honorable Mentions". This section is composed of people not listed on Appendix N, but geeky cool, and/or inspiring in some nerdage fashion. It is also of course completely subjective and based upon my own opinion. Please notify me if I've missed anyone from Appendix N, made any errors, or if you feel someone should be added to the Honorable Mentions column and please tell me why they should be added.

Appendix N

January 3: J.R.R Tolkien (1892/D: September 2, 1973)

January 17: John Bellairs (1938/D: March 8, 1991)

January 20: A. Merritt (1884/D: August 21, 1943)

January 22: Robert E. Howard (1906/D: June 11, 1936)

January 26: Philip Jose Farmer (1918/D: February 25, 2009)

Honorable Mentions

January 2: Isaac Asimov (1920/D: April 6, 1992; Author of Foundation and many other books)

January 5: George Reeves (1914/D: June 16, 1959; "Superman" of the 1950's)

January 6: Rowan Atkinson (1955; Star of Black Adder)

January 12: Jack London (1876/D: November 16, 1922; his adventure stories birthed the pulps)

January 13: Clark Ashton Smith (1893/D: August 14, 1961; one of the great pulp writers)

January 13: Orlando Bloom (1977; He played Legolas)

January 16: John Carpenter (1948; he gave us Halloween and several cool movies)

January 17: James Earl Jones (1931; Darth Vader)

January 19: Edgar Allen Poe (1809/D: October 7, 1849; without him, no HPL)

January 20: David Lynch (1946; Directed 1984's Dune)

January 20: Deforest Kelley (1920/D: June 11, 1999; Star Trek's "Bones")

January 22: Bill Bixby (1934/D: November 21, 1993; My Favorite Martian and the Hulk)

January 27: Lewis Carroll (1832/D: January 14, 1898; Wonderland)

January 28: Elijah Wood (1981; played Frodo)

January 30: Christian Bale (1974; Thus far, the best big screen Batman)

January 30: Gene Hackman (1930; the Lex Luthor to Christopher Reeve's Superman)

January 31: Zane Grey (1872/D: October 23, 1939; his adventure stories spawned the pulps)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Is WFRP OId School?

In this post, I am referring to WFRP 1st/2nd edition. 3rd might be a different animal all together.

Is or can Warhammer Fantasy Role Play be considered "old-school"? That is the question going through my mind. Keep in mind, the answer does not change the fact that I am a huge fan of the game regardless. For myself, I feel the rule system should be dictated by the setting. For instance, for high-fantasy sword & sorcery with lots of dungeon crawls and hidden chests full of hard won treasure, well Sir, for that I want some form of Dungeons & Dragons. I say "some form" because, again, which version (OD&D or retro-clone, Cyclopedia Rules, AD&D/OSRIC or 3/3.5 edition) is dependent upon what I want to do with the game.

Then again, if I'm in the mood for something quick and easy that I know I can make up on the fly, well then Sir, give me a helping of Tunnels & Trolls please.

If I want low-fantasy, served grim and perilous with lots of secret cults and plots within plots, well Sir, please serve me up some WFRP.

WFRP works well with some old-school styles, particularly a sand-box campaign. I guarantee, from experience, that a healthy knowledge of the Old World will enable you to set your players free and say "go where thou wouldst" and you will have several evenings of entertainment. Then again, while you could use WFRP for a Dungeon Crawl, or even a mega-dungeon crawl, you would be missing a lot of flavorful opportunities. While dungeons do serve a purpose in my WFRP games, they are not a prominent feature. I would assert that this is the case with most WFRP games.

This is one aspect of the game that makes it decidedly anti-old-school for me: it often seems there is a "wrong" way to present the world of WFRP. If you are running a dungeon based campaign where treasures are won along with magical weapons from defeating monsters guarding said treasures, well...while I wouldn't do so far as to stop you from doing so, I would claim that you are missing the point of WFRP and I would do so with the chance of seeming like a snob.

I'm not claiming that all dungeon based games are as I described them above, but I would say that mine are.

My WFRP games have decidedly few "dungeons". When running adventures in the Old World, I prefer investigation scenarios built around event based encounters. Think Call of Cthulhu with swords and you have the basic idea of what I like to throw at my players. If not that, then I like location based adventures that allow my players to interact with the world at large (or in a micro-cosom); combine a healthy dose of both, and you have in my opinion the perfect WFRP game.

There are several other factors that make me wonder, "is this beloved game of mine not old-school"? For instance, I feel a skills system is necessary for WFRP. While at the same time, for most high fantasy adventures, I prefer no skill system be implemented as this allows me to decide on the fly if the characters can figure out that trap, or better yet, let them figure it out on their own logic, not dictated by a dice roll. Skills are ingrained into the WFRP system. Without the need to gain experience points and buy skills, changing careers and/or upgrading from a basic to an advanced career becomes meaningless. Therefore, to run an WFRP campaign effectively, you must use a skills system.

While combat is brutal in WFRP, the use of Fate and Fortune points gives a WFRP character an advantage that is not present in the typical old-school OD&D game (or equivalent). When I run an old-school high fantasy game (regardless of what rules system I use) my players expect that "0" hit points equals death. Not so in WFRP. In this game, if death is certain, a player can spend a Fate point and avoid it. Granted, Fate points are a finite number rarely bolstered beyond the beginning amount (at least in my games). Fortune points work the same way. Make a bad roll that is going to cost you? Spend a fortune point and re-roll. This can be done a set number of times per session, or game day, depending upon GM preference. In my high fantasy games, all rolls stick.

So in the end, I don't have an answer, other then, the WFRP rules system just feels right for the Old World. For me, it's old-school enough.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay

This shall be a short post, as I just finished stuffing myself with sushi, Saki and beer while watching the Wild Card games. I'm currently out of town on business, and sad to report that I won't be home in time to game this coming Tuesday.

During my off time whilst hanging out in my hotel room, I've been re-reading lots of WFRP material (1st and 2nd edition) that I plan on using in my upcoming game.

As I mentioned before, my short-lived Tunnels & Trolls campaign came to a sudden end with a TPK. I intend to keep my campaigns short lived for the foreseeable future. Not because that is necessarily what I want, but because I do travel often, and sometimes for extended periods of time. This makes an ongoing campaign difficult to maintain. However, I did not intend my T&T campaign to be as short as it was. That happened because I am a big believer in letting the dice fall where they may.

We will be playing WFRP, and for anyone that is familiar with the game, the quintessential campaign, and my personal favorite, is the Enemy Within campaign. EW consists of five main parts: Shadows over Bogenhafen, Death on the Reik, The Power Behind the Throne, Somethings Rotten in Kislev and Empire in Flames. I have been a player in the campaign once, making it all the way through Power Behind the Throne and this will be my fourth go at running it. As the GM, I've never made it past Death on the Reik.

The reason has nothing to do with the enjoyability of the campaign. I personally have read all five volumes, and while I do not care for SRiK or EiF, the fist three volumes I enjoy immensely. Usually, I and my group get so wrapped up in the complete sandbox immersion of Death on the Reik that we never make it to PBtT before life ends the campaign.

So why am I starting a campaign that I know I have a bad track record with? In Sigmar's name, it is one hell of a ride! I love WFRP 1st and 2nd edition. I like the career path system, I like the fact that combat is lethal and unforgiving, I like the insanity rules, I like The Old World with all of its secret cults and twisted politics.

I have found other game worlds in the past that I enjoy. The first that I really got into was TSR's Birthright campaign setting, more recently, I thouroughly enjoyed The Phoenix Barony, but neither of them comes close to how much I really like the Old World.

I must ask myself the question: Self, can you stick it out this time? The answer can only be: I hope so. Happy Gaming.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Amazing late night drunk post

I'm in Juneau AK, I drank I had a great night. good night.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Phoenix Barony: Session 4 the TPK!

Last night was our fourth, and alas, final session of The Phoenix Barony utilizing Tunnels & Trolls 5th ed. for our rules system.

I didn't intend it, but I had my first TPK (total party kill) in many years. It was not very well timed, but death never is, as we had a new player enter the fold, giving our dwindling numbers a much needed boost. I'm hoping a TPK on his first evening gaming with us doesn't scare him off.

The TPK came about because I am not familiar enough with T&T to judge what is a balanced encounter. I'm not a huge advocate of "everything should be balanced", I think that sometimes the characters should run-away in abject terror. Honestly, I didn't think the encounter I had planned for them would ultimately end in everyone's demise, but in retrospect, I didn't leave much avenue for escape.

After being joined by a new member, a dwarven warrior named Ashkore, the players decided to descend to the next level found in the previous session. The entrance was in the form of a hidden trap door that opened to a ladder which descended down. At the bottom of the ladder they found a narrow tunnel with a shallow ceiling. This forced them to crouch (even the dwarves) and they entered knowing that they could not easily turn, or fight effectively with anything other then thrusting weapons.

Twenty feet in, they were harried by Rattlings that attacked them with javelins through murder-holes. They managed to survive this, although Olga our female dwarf warrior only made it by Alesion sharing a Restoration potion with her.

They fought their way into an opening where they could fight the rattlings. Ashkore, who had all ready taken damage in the tunnel, tripped a falling block which brought him near death. The rest of the combat against the 8 rattlings lasted only two rounds. Alesion and Kilshalt both cast Take That You Fiend, managing to reduce the number of rattlings to 7; however, the group lost the first combat round so all four characters took wounds. Ashkore absorbed too many wounds and fell to the ground skewered by javelins.

Round two went the same. Alesion and Kilshalt reduced another rattling to cinders, but the players again lost the combat round and had to each take wounds. I rolled a windfall of spite damage, and all the heroes died.

Afterwards, we discussed making new characters and starting fresh; however, an out cry for a return to one of our main stand-by games was raised. The game in question being Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd edition. It's been a year since we've played an WFRP, and as it is perhaps my favorite fantasy game of all time, I was not against the idea. I considered trying out 3rd edition with them, but decided I'm not ready to give up on 2nd edition just yet. I've read and own 3rd, and while there are some things I like, I have some deep reservations.

The best part for me is, all of the players presently active in the group have not been run through Shadows over Bogenhoffen nor Death on the Reik, two of my favorite WFRP adventures. I am out of town right now, but hope to be back in time to run WFRP next Tuesday, if not then the Tuesday next.

It's going to be a grim and perilous adventure.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Lin Carters Explorations in Fantasy - Part 1

I've mentioned before that while Lin Carter might not have been a brilliant author of fiction, he was one hell of a editor. He rescued many obscure masterpieces of fantasy while editor of the Ballentine Adult Fantasy Series.

In his day, aside from numerous essays in journals and magazines, he wrote four non-fiction books.

Two earlier non-fiction works written by Carter were not considered part of the Ballentine Adult Fantasy Series -Tolkien: A Look Behind "The Lord of the Rings" was published in 1969 and Lovecraft: A Look Behind the "Cthulhu Mythos" saw print in 1972. Imaginary Worlds: The Art of Fantasy was published in 1973 as the 58th volume of the Ballentine Adult Fantasy Series. Written by Lin Carter, it was the only non-fiction book to officially be included in the series. Later, in 1977, he published his fourth non-fiction book, returning again to J.R.R. Tolkien with Middle-Earth: The World of Tolkien Illustrated (with paintings by David Wenzel).

I have not had the good fortune of yet hunting down a copy of Carter's Lovecraft exploration nor have I yet unearthed a copy of Tolkien Illustrated, but I have had the very good fortune of finding Tolkien: A Look Behind "The Lord of the Rings" and Imaginary Worlds. Both are thoughtful, entertaining and educational looks at the genre of fantasy. When writing my Appendix N posts or posts on the fantasy genre in general, I find myself consulting both of these tomes.

Carter was perhaps one of the most well read fantasy scholars that I know of. I once read a quote from him alluding to the idea that he read an average of one novel per day. 300 plus books a year is a staggering amount, but one thing is for certain: the man read an amazing number of novels, non-fiction books and poetry from his earliest days, up until his death in 1988. He utilizes that vast knowledge, and opinion based upon careful study backed with proof, to entertain and educate his audience in his non-fiction books that I have read. I have uncovered many interesting reads based upon Carter pointing me in the right direction.

I plan on writing a lot about Lin Carter this next calendar year of 2011. How much? I'm not sure. I'm starting with this little admition: I love Linwood Vrooman Carter. At least as an editor. I've read a bit of his fiction. Mostly in my younger days when I devoured anything "Conan", lately, I've been reading his fiction out of respect for the man. No, he was not a master of fiction, but damn could the guy ever identify the good stuff.

Who was Lin Carter? Well, honestly, I'm still discovering that. I hope to answer that question as honestly as I can; however, I think it best to let him tell us. In his own words:

Well, I love dogs, and books, and swords, and Oz, and Barsoom, and collecting Egyptian antiquities, and art nouveau, and Chinese cloisonne. And Sax Rohmer, and Paradise Lost and The Three Imposters, and Talbot Mundy, and Ezra Pound. And huge old Victorian houses, and having books published--not quite in that order, of course! I like exploring through old, cobwebbed corners of literature, piecing together fragments of neglected Sumerian epics, finding gorgeousness in the Shah Namah, forgotten jewels in the Shi-King, or prowling the dusty pages of Per-m-hru (the Egyptian "Book of the Dead"), and in short, discovering wonder in old, old books nobody else bothers to read anymore.
That says a lot about Mr. Carter. Part 2 will be about his book Tolkein: A Look Behind "The Lord of the Rings".

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Review: Black Adder - Series 1

New Years was quiet for me and my household. I celebrated by watching Black Adder Series 1. I've seen this series in bits, but had never sat through it before. Staring Rowan Atkinson, this is in my opinion one of the best comedies to come out of Britain.

Set in the era of King Richard III, Atkinson's Prince Edmond is always scheming to worm his way into wearing the crown. His plans are grand, but always prone to failure. He tries to be evil, and names himself "The Black Adder"; however, he is less evil then cowardly. One of the best of the six episodes of series one, has the Black Adder appointed to the position of the Archbishop of Canterbury, where he finally earns some respect from his father by convincing dying nobles to leave their lands to the crown instead of the church. The problem is, the archbishops keep getting assassinated. He is motivated not by love for his father, but from love of keeping his head where he likes it, upon his shoulders. The clip provided is from that episode and is titled "Why Hell is Good".

While watching this, I imagined how much fun it could be to introduce a foil to my players based upon Prince Edmond. He wouldn't of course be too dangerous, more of an annoying splinter, that tries to snare the characters in his diabolic, yet insipidly stupid, plots. The trick with my group would be in not annoying them to the point that they simply off the poor bastard. Such an NPC would have to be used sparingly, and it would have to be plain that simply killing him would make more powerful enemies, so it would be best just to avoid his plots, which shouldn't be too hard, but amusing to do so. There is dice energy somewhere there. I shall have to think on it.

It serves as an example of never quiet knowing when and where inspiration can hit for a good gaming element.

If you've never watched this series, please, for your own sake, do so. It is available for streaming from Netflix. Highly recommended.