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.

Friday, October 03, 2014

The Basic Tenet of the Call of Cthulhu RPG

The purpose of horror roleplaying is to have fun.

This sentence appears on p.10 of Call of Cthulhu 5th Edition, under the heading "Purpose of Play." It is the most important rule in the book.

"Fun" for your group can be defined many ways. If it's shotguns vs. Cthulhu, great. If it's roleplaying the tortured emotions and madness of artists and poets reading blasphemous tomes with nary a weapon in sight, also great. Both methods of play are valid. Both are possible with the same ruleset.

If the difference in hit damage between an M1 rifle and an elephant gun is important to a player, run with it. The unwritten rule is that all of these rules are optional, and use them as your group wishes. Whatever your group defines as fun is the object of the game.

The strength of a traditional RPG such as Call of Cthulhu is the ability to play anywhere on the continuum between the Most Important Rule and complete Rules As Written. It is not a bug. It is a feature.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

My Gen Con 2014 loot

From left to right, top to bottom:
  • Gen Con Program Guide (filled with articles, maps, mini-modules, etc.) from Goodman Games
  • Caroline Munro, First Lady of Fantasy and Peter Cushing, The Gentle Man of Horror and His 91 Films, both from McFarland Publishing (35% off two or more books on Sunday!)
  • Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad zines #1 and 2, and Wayne Snyder's Dark Ruins art-zines #1 and 2
  • From Chimera Hobby Shop's "Buy One, Get Three Free" deal: Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor, Fantastic Treasures (still in shrink-wrap), The Valdorian Age sword-and-sorcery sourcebook for Hero System, and Planet Stories' The Outlaws of Mars by Otis Kline.
  • Shadowrun 5e quick-start booklet from Free RPG Day (Battletech on the flip-side)
  • 13th Age module "Make Your Own Luck" from Free RPG Day (for running Timewatch for Pelgrane Press)
  • Unframed: The Art of Improvisation for Game Masters by various authors for Engine Publishing
Not pictured: Pelgrane Press t-shirt, Gen Con 2014 die from Crystal Caste, and Friday's blue d6 from Scotty's Brewhouse.

Now to carve out time to read all these books...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Not going dark yet

This spring and summer have been challenging. The end of one school semester, the passing of a close family member, then the start of another semester with a changed curriculum, have sapped my creative energies and then months go by without any posts.

I have volunteered for several gaming-related events this fall, so maybe putting many irons into the fire will help kick up the creative spark I am missing at the moment. Expect a Gen Con post and more to come after.

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: )

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.

Monday, January 27, 2014

40th Anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons

Yesterday was celebrated as the the 40th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons, according to the best evidence. Although we didn't play a tabletop game that day, my wife and I spent part of the day playing Diablo III on the Playstation 3. Our Level 51 characters are in the beginning of Act I in Hell Mode, our third run-through of the game together. It's a fitting way to celebrate this milestone. Any fantasy or sci-fi video or computer game where a player takes the role of a character, with levels and hit points and spells, owes its existence to D&D.

There were plenty of great posts and news articles leading up to and over the weekend about D&D's birthday, so I do not have much to add to that chorus. The most important anecdote I can offer is that, in addition to all the fun times playing D&D and the other role-playing games that followed it, rolling dice and telling stories of heroic adventure, the hobby is directly responsible for most of my best and lasting friendships.

For that and more, I have enormous gratitude for the pioneers of this weird and wonderful hobby of ours: Major David Wesely, Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson, James Ward, Dr. John Eric Holmes, Tom Moldvay, Frank Mentzer, and many, many others.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Hammer's Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) on Blu-ray

The next disc in Millennium Entertainment's series of collector's edition blu-rays of Hammer horror films will be released next Tuesday, Terence Fisher's Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), starring Peter Cushing and Susan Denberg.

The US/Region A disc features an audio commentary by actors Derek Fowlds and Robert Morris, joined by Hammer historian Jonathan Rigby, the original trailer, two "World of Hammer" episodes, a new documentary "Hammer Glamour", a stills gallery, and an unspecified number of collectors art cards.

This disc follows Dracula: Prince of Darkness last September, with no official word yet on the next Millennium blu-ray release.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Happy Birthday, Robert E. Howard

Today marks the 108th 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.

Rather than reading one of his stories, this evening I'm going out with friends to a local theater's screening of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Somehow I think ol' Two-Gun Bob would approve.

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.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Run Run Shaw, RIP

I'm not sure that I can do adequate justice to how important and influential the career of Sir Run Run Shaw has been to me and my interests in film, books, comics and more. Rather, I will link to several other posts I have seen today marking the passing of this film legend.

Some of my favorite Shaw Brothers films:
  • Eight Diagram Pole Fighter, starring Gordon Liu
  • Heroes of the East, directed by fight choreographer Lau Kar-Leung
  • The One-Armed Swordsman, directed by Chang Cheh and starring Wang Yu
  • Super Inframan, aka Infra-Man
  • The Five Deadly Venoms
  • 36th Chamber of Shaolin
  • Fist of the White Lotus, directed by and starring Lo Lieh as White Eyebrow Monk Pai Mei.