Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Monday, May 26, 2014

Happy Birthday, Peter Cushing

Today marks the 101st anniversary of Peter Cushing's birth. In his honor, enjoy this short film of Sir Peter painting model soldiers and using H.G. Wells' Little Wars wargaming rules.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Happy Birthday, Ishirō Honda

With the new Godzilla film opening next week, it's only fitting to honor the director of the original, Ishirō Honda (1911-1993), on the anniversary of his birth.

Honda (left) demonstrates the operation of a Godzilla puppet for close-up shots to Akira Kurosawa during the filming of Gojira (1954).

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Vornheim-ed Middenheim City Kit in a PDF

If you haven't been following Jeff Russell's posts on G+, he finished his Vornheim-style take on the Warhammer Fantasy city of Middenheim, and compiled all the tables into a final PDF. This is his project to distill all the gaming potential in one of the great cities in fantasy RPGs down to a set of guidelines and random tables, thus making it much easier to actually use at your table. Jeff also posted the plain text versions for anyone to compile and layout on their own, or to use for their own fantasy cities.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

British Pathé posts 85,000 historical newsreels to YouTube

Last week, the newsreel producer and archive British Pathé announced the release of their entire collection of newsreels and historical film footage on YouTube. It's a monumental collection of historic moments, from the most important events of the century to the most absurd. You don't have to be a history buff to get some use from these clips -- there is sure to be something of interest to gamers of all types.

(full list of helicopter footage: http://britishpathe.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/the-history-of-the-helicopter-early-helicopter-footage/ )

Thursday, March 27, 2014

New Godzilla Blu-rays/DVDs, part 2

Following from the previous post, here is the second part of my long-delayed look (hardly breaking news anymore) at upcoming Godzilla- and related kaiju DVDs and Blu-ray discs for the 60th anniversary.

Mill Creek has an licensing agreement with Sony Pictures to release some of Sony's films on DVD and Blu-ray. In February, Mill Creek released the Sci-Fi Creature Classics 4-movie DVD set, with The Giant Claw, two Ray Harryhausen films (It Came from Beneath the Sea and 20 Million Miles to Earth), and the original 1961 Mothra. Unfortunately, all four movies are on one DVD, with the compression issues one might expect and no extras. Each of these films can be found on other sets or individual discs with better presentations.  I haven't seen this yet, so I'll let others judge the quality. If you have only a passing interest in these movies, it might be worth it if found at a discount price.

Perhaps the biggest disc news for the year (so far) is the re-release of Sony's collection of Heisei-series Godzilla films on May 6th. These are titles for which Sony continues to retain home video rights. Eight of the films are headed to Blu-ray for the first time in a series of four double-feature discs: Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991) and Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth (1992), Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993) and Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994), Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995) and Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000), and Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003) and Godzilla: Final Wars (2004). Each are remastered in high-definition, with Japanese or English soundtracks in 5.1 DTS. Original Japanese trailers are the only extras on the majority of the discs, with making-of featurettes for both Tokyo S.O.S. and Final Wars.

Media Blasters broke the news on their Facebook page that licensing with Toho has been worked out for a re-release of Destroy All Monsters (May 1st) and Godzilla vs. Megalon (July 22nd) on both DVD and Blu-ray. Both had been released previously: DAM on DVD and Blu-ray, and Megalon only on DVD.

If you have the previous release of DAM with the commentary and other special features, or one of the lucky few who found a wealth of undocumented special features on your Megalon DVD, hang on to them. Toho's licensing agreement only allows extras that they provide, so there might only be trailers on the re-issued discs.

I'll do my best to be more timely with any other forthcoming announcements...

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

New Godzilla, King Kong, Gamera Blu-rays and DVDs on the way

I'm a big fan of giant monsters -- if you couldn't tell already. It's very exciting to read about all the great kaiju stuff on the way this year in the wake of the US Godzilla movie out in May. I had hoped we would see a few new DVDs and Blu-rays to coincide with the film, and it seems that wish has been granted in some big ways.

A bit of this is old news from January (I've been sitting on way too long), some just leaked this past weekend.

Kraken Releasing picked up the rights to at least three of the Showa-era Godzilla films previously released on DVD by Sony. Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster/Godzilla vs. Hedorah, Godzilla on Monster Island/Godzilla vs. Gigan, and Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster/Ebirah, Horror of the Deep are all due on both DVD and Blu-ray on May 6th, just before Legendary/WB's Godzilla hits the theaters. Elements are being provided by Toho, including the original Japanese audio and Toho's International English dubs. It's unclear if these are the same transfers that were used for Toho's R2 discs. No extras planned aside from the original Japanese trailers. I had really hoped that Smog Monster's theatrical AIP English dub would be included, but that seems very unlikely. Kraken/Section23 Films are some of the same people who were involved with ADV.

Universal first released their Toho King Kong films on DVD timed with Peter Jackson's King Kong. To coincide with the new Godzilla film, King Kong vs. Godzilla and King Kong Escapes! get Blu-ray upgrades that hit the street on April 1st. Apparently new HD masters were made for the DVDs, so even if those masters are used, these films should look even better now on Blu. Just as with the previous DVDs, no extra features are planned.

Not to be forgotten, Daiei's Gamera series sees its first Blu-ray release from Mill Creek. The eight Showa Gamera films previously released by Shout! Factory are out on April 29th in two four-pack sets, and a DVD collection of the eight films plus the three Heisei Gamera films from the 90s that were released on Blu-ray last year. Mill Creek was responsible for last year's great Daimajin Blu-ray set, so I'm sure these will be worth the Blu-ray upgrade.

Next post: Mothra, Heisei Godzilla, and Megalon!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What to expect in 2014

Following on from my 2013 wrap-up, I've thought a bit about what I would like to do with my gaming this year and writing about it. I am a player in two face-to-face games, and the regular Weird Adventures G+ Hangout game I play in will be going on hiatus for a bit. I'd like to run something, even a short self-contained cycle of sessions, either face-to-face or over G+. Getting my schedule straightened out will be the main obstacle.

I don't want to make promises like I did this time last year. It was my goal to run Night's Black Agents sometime in 2013 and it didn't happen due to other real-life committments (I did get to play in two one-shot sessions). I will try to be more Zen-like about it and simply say "I'll do my best" this year.

With the new American Godzilla film out this May (and related DVD/Blu-ray releases) I'll have plenty to write about concerning giant monsters, along with the usual fantasy, sci-fi and horror topics.

I also want to get more gameable content posted. Often I feel as if something isn't thoroughly playtested and edited, it isn't worth posting, especially when I see all the great work done by other gaming bloggers. I need to get in the habit of posting work-in-progress, just so I can see some progress and move forward.

Areas of interest at the moment:
  • Cyberpunk settings have been on my mind lately, so...
  • converting rules-heavy settings like Shadowrun or Dark Heresy to rules-light systems: Fate Accelerated, Savage Worlds, or maybe the 2d6 system from Barbarians of Lemuria.
  • Going into more detail about my Montgolfier Brothers alt-history setting, or one of the others in the back of my mind
  • Getting Night's Black Agents, Hyborian Age/Conan, and/or a back-to-basics OSR game (Dungeon Crawl Classics, possibly) to the table or on G+
  • At the very least, adding more links to my neglected NBA resources page.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Is it too late for a "2013 year in review"?

January and February seem to have flown by. Between work, the weather, and other real-life adventures, I haven't taken any time to reflect on the past year.

I didn't get to run as many games in 2013 as I would have liked. At a local games day in January, I ran a Call of Cthulhu session that was based partially on a rulebook intro scenario mixed with a con scenario I wrote up some years ago. It seemed to go over well, and after some additional work this one might become my go-to Cthulhu convention one-shot. I also ran one "episode" of Original Series Star Trek over G+ Hangouts using Starships and Spacemen 2nd. ed. in January, which was great fun.

As far as producing usable gaming content, my creativity was really low last year. Still, I'm proud of what I did accomplish. I contributed an article on medieval cooking to the first issue of Burgs & Bailiffs, and two campaign pitches for the RPG Blog Carnival in May. You'll find a few bits of mine in the crowdsourced hexcrawls for Hexenbracken and The Kraal, and I was one of Santicore's elves, each of us wrangling a group of writers and artists for the Secret Santicore 2013 project (Volume 1 and 2 of 3 available now).

I was invited to participate in three RPG convention panels last year -- the 2013 GM's Jam! advice panel at Gen Con in August, and two panels for RPGGeek's Virtuacon13 in October, Role-playing in the Digital Age and How to Handle Difficult Players. Each of these was a blast, and I hope to be on more panels and webcasts in the future.

Wednesday: What to expect here this year.