Friday, June 12, 2015

The Return of Reptilicus

Next Tuesday sees a release that I would not have expected -- Reptilicus on Blu-ray. It's a double-feature disc along with American-International Pictures' Tentacles, their star-filled 1977 copy of Jaws.

If you're unfamiliar with Reptilicus, have a look at my film and DVD review, including the condensed 10 minute version.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Letterman's Last Late (Night) Show

"From the home office in Lincoln, Nebraska..."

David Letterman's final episode of The Late Show aired last night. It was a good mix of on-stage bits (the Top Ten list), clips, music and Dave speaking directly to the audience as he usually does. It was also in many ways the end of an era.

It's not an exaggeration to say that I grew up with Dave. From the beginning I was one of those kids that stayed up way too late on school nights to watch his show and talked about it in the halls at school the next day. In that era before on-demand video clips, you couldn't be sure you would ever see those bits again.

I think Dave's shows struck a chord with me because he was one of us. He had the same Midwestern sense of humor that mocked and joked, but was never mean. He found the funny side of every-day occurrences. He had respect for the common person and never forgot where he came from. Who else would have made national celebrities of shopkeepers working in the theater's neighborhood?

Over time the show may have become repetitive, but the early years were great for being creative, chaotic, and willing to try anything. Dave and the show had much of the same vibe as early Saturday Night Live, as if they were left on their own in this late time slot with no one from the network overseeing the program (untrue, of course). What other shows would have characters like Larry "Bud" Melman and The Guy Under the Seats, or guests like Brother Theodore? What studio exec would have thought throwing things off a five-story tower would be funny and popular? He took concepts first started by Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show and refined them under the constraints of the network (and Carson Productions) into a format that all the late night talk shows still use today.

I could say that I miss him already, but really, I've been missing those early shows for a while now.

"She's gone already, Chief."

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Quick comments on A Red & Pleasant Land

Short on time recently for a full review, so here are comments I posted last month to RPGGeek:

R&PL raises the bar for all other small-press RPG publishers in terms of content, illustrations, and layout, and as a physical object. Looking at only the PDF version does not do this work justice.

It's designed specifically for ease of play and direct use at the table. The GM is given just enough information to create adventures in the setting through the use of bullet-point lists and tables. No dense text blocks or pages of back story that must be absorbed before playing the game. Sit down, break out this book and your favorite rules system, and start rolling for months/years of play.

Even better, it can be used as a toolkit for your own setting. How to deal with eccentric NPCs, interacting with the mirror world on the other side of the Looking Glass, the 3D spatial relationships of the castle maps, mass combat methods, instant location creation... all can be drifted into any campaign with ease.

R&PL is a new and totally unique take on a classic fantasy story, with plenty of room to make the setting your own.

Adding to the above, I had been following the previews, and considering the limited print run it was a day-one purchase for me. Check it out before they are all gone.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Conan RPG announcement from Modiphius

Early yesterday morning the news broke out across gaming social media that Modiphius had officially announced a new licensed Conan RPG. I knew that someone had the license from Paradox and Conan Properties but not who, nor when it would be released.

Modiphius is also working with Monolith Board Games, who are currently Kickstarting a Conan board game, to cross-promote (using the board game miniatures with the RPG; playing out RPG scenarios in the board game).

The RPG will use the 2d20 system, which I am not familiar with but is used in the Mutant Chronicles RPG that was successfully crowdfunded last year and is now beginning to show up in PDF.

I'm keeping an optimistic eye on how the game develops. With Howard scholars Jeffrey Shanks and Mark Finn on board, it should be in good hands.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Happy Birthday, Robert E. Howard

Today marks the 109th anniversary of the birth of pulp writer Robert E. Howard. It has become a tradition on this date for Howard fans to read a favorite story and raise a toast.

Howard wrote something for every taste: sword and sorcery, hard-boiled detectives, weird horror, historical fiction, boxing, westerns, pirates, and poetry.

I have a copy of Conan Meets the Academy checked out from the library, so I might read a few of the essays rather than one of his stories this year. Brian Murphy wrote an outstanding review and critique of the book at The Silver Key (the comments are good, also).

For more information on his life and career, start with the following sites:
I would also recommend Mark Finn's Howard biography, the Locus and World Fantasy Award-nominated Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard. An new expanded edition was released by the REH Foundation.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

What to expect here in 2015

I have become wary of promising myself too much in these New Year "looking ahead" posts. Inevitably some crisis will knock me off track from what I've proposed, and I'll feel like I haven't been able to keep up. Even so, putting these ideas out here still seems like the best way to focus on projects.

I'm eager to run an RPG campaign again. We had a short test run of D&D 5e for three sessions, using the Starter Set adventure The Lost Mine of Phandelver. The players and I had fun, although I'm not sure it was enough time to really test the system. My takeaway -- based as much on other reviews I have read as on our playtest -- is that it delivers just what I want "D&D" to be. There will always be tweaks and house-ruling, but it works as written, and at the right balance for me between simplicity and complexity.

The campaign ideas foremost on my mind at the moment:
  • D&D 5e, possibly starting with Phandelver and leading into Horde of the Dragon Queen (a heavily hacked and curtailed version) and The Rise of Tiamat (dragon cultists!). Or something completely different.
  • A Red and Pleasant Land, using 5e for the rules system
  • Shadowrun, perhaps using Savage Worlds.
  • Night's Black Agents: Dracula Dossier (not out until August/September)
  • Call of Cthulhu (a perennial favorite)
  • Conan, using Barbarians of Lemuria (The Mythic Edition of the game is due any moment now)
I'm in the very preliminary research stages for my Golden Age of Ballooning RPG, and one of my main gaming goals for the year is continuous movement towards a fully-polished game for public release.

On the blog, I'd like to write more reviews -- both of games and gaming products, and of films, reviving the Cult Classic of the Week series.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Goodbye to 2014

2014 was full of personal loss and challenges. I know it was the same for many other people, and the news stories were usually grim.

There were some great things that happened and fun times were had, but even so, I'm glad to have it in the rear-view mirror.

Next post: What to expect in 2015.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

D&D 5e Test Drive, Session 1

I was the DM for the first of three test sessions last Friday night using Lost Mine of Phandelver from the Starter Set box and it went pretty well.

6 1st-level PCs in the party:

Elf Fighter Gladiator
Half-Elf Rogue Spy
Human Warlock Criminal
(Starter Set pregens:)
Hill Dwarf Cleric Soldier
Human Fighter Folk Hero
Elf Wizard Acolyte


The party was ambushed by the goblins, found the goblin trail but set off again for Phandelver (the Warlock and Human Fighter went below 0 HP and had to make death saves). Went to the Shrine of Luck, learned of the banshee Agatha and Cragmaw Castle from Sister Garaele, and spent the night at the inn. The next morning visited Daran Edermath, the retired elf adventurer, and found out about Cragmaw Caves, and then killed the four Redbrands at the Sleeping Giant. Leveling up next session, and they have clues for several different avenues to pursue.

I need to study up on the pre-gen background connections to events in the adventure, and another look at the Basic Rules so I'm not following any preconceived ideas from past systems.

Monday, November 03, 2014