Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Jim Zub and Steven Cummings’ Wayward Comic Optioned By Manga Entertainment


Writer Jim Zub and illustrator Steven Cummings’ Wayward, an ongoing comic series published by Image Comics, has been optioned by UK-based Manga Entertainment for development in television as a Japanese animated or live action series. Zub and Cummings will act as creative consultants on the project, including development of the initial story treatment along with character and creature designs.

Wayward is an action-drama set in modern Tokyo where Yokai, Japanese creatures and spirits of legend, battle against teenagers imbued with newfound supernatural power. The series launched to critical acclaim in August 2014 and is currently available in monthly comic format and four collected trade paperbacks, with a new deluxe hardcover collection arriving in July. Wayward's first volume, String Theory, made the Young Adult Library Services Association’s 2016 List of ‘Great Graphic Novels for Teens’ and has been favorably reviewed by many outlets, including Kirkus.

Zub is a Harvey and Shuster Award-nominated comic writer (Avengers, Dungeons & Dragons, Samurai Jack, Figment). His other creator-owned titles, Glitterbomb and Skullkickers, are also published by Image Comics, the third largest comic publisher in North America.

Cummings is an American comic book artist based in Japan (Deadshot, Legends of the Dark Knight, Street Fighter, Forager).



Monday, May 15, 2017

Catalyst Prime: The Event [Review]


With the Free Comic Book Day comic of Catalyst Prime: The Event, we get to witness the launching of a new comic universe. Catalyst Prime: The Event has echoes of past comics stories like the birth of The Fantastic Four, the White Event in the original New Universe published by Marvel Comics, and the Milestone books published by Milestone Media and published by DC Comics. Each of these comics stories was not only an exploration of "what would happen if?..." but each attempted to look at what could happen if super-powered beings became manifest in worlds that were reflections of the worlds outside of the windows of the comics creators.

This may not have been intentional when Jack Kirby and Stan Lee put together that first Fantastic Four comic, but they created a world that was a reflection of the world that they lived in, complete with people with personal issues and problems. These people lived in a much more complex world than those of previous comic book characters because the world of the Fantastic Four, the worlds of Marvel Comics, dealt with things like politics and coming to terms with their "otherness" in ways that readers who were people of color, or the LGBTQ+ could identify with. Often the creators of these comics could only deal with these issues of otherness in a metaphorical manner, like the mutant X-Men or characters like The Thing that felt like their "monsterness" made them an outsider to the polite society of the rest of the world.

Even when comics like Marvel Comics' New Universe titles had more diverse casts of characters, they would still only deal with a lot of issues in a metaphorical manner. Too much injection of the so-called "real world" would make those who were used to the spotlight of comics characters looking like them feel excluded, as if the representation of characters was a zero sum game. Things like mutants were "okay" as long as they were a metaphor for queer identity, or being a person of color, but too much meant that the people who identified as the core audience for comics felt that they weren't represented.

The debut of the Milestone comics changed a lot of that. Books like Icon or Static or Blood Syndicate or Shadow Cabinet featured character who were African-American, Hispanic or Latinx, Asian and other ethnic groups. Previously there would be non-white characters who would be part of the super group, or who would be the side kick to the white guy super-hero, but now they were getting to be the stars of the books: the headlining heroes and villains of their comic stories. A lot of us take representation in comics for granted because most of the lead characters in the books look like us, but seeing that change, seeing the joy from queer and Hispanic friends as they read comics with characters who looked and loved like they did was a bit of an epiphany for me. And it isn't just that being able to see people who look like you do in comics, for those of us whose ethnicity is on the whiter side of things we get exposed to thoughts and ideas that we wouldn't normally get to see, and this enriches our lives.

So, that is a lot of words about comics that aren't Catalyst Prime: The Event. Written by Christopher Priest and Joseph Illidge, and with art by Marco Turini and Will Rosado, in Catalyst Prime: The Event we get the zero event that launches this new universe. Like with that first Fantastic Four comic, it starts with astronauts going up into space, but instead of it being the space race that impels these astronauts it is instead a potential extinction event. A meteor is coming at Earth, with the potential to destroy it.

This is a story that we've heard before in countless disaster movies of the last few episodes. But is this meteor really as dangerous as it seems? Loreena Payan, the Mexican scientist and business woman who discovered the meteor seems to be manipulating the facts to play things out to her advantage. Is she the hero, or the villain, of our story? It is too early to tell, but whichever path she ends up going down she already has complicated motivations that could make her either, or both, depending upon the story in question. The character of Loreena is obviously going to be the instigator of the Catalyst Prime stories for a while.

The astronauts are believed to be dead, due to the impact with the meteor, but to anyone who has read comics for any period of time it is obvious that, much like the Fantastic Four, the various heroes that we will see debuting in Catalyst Prime books over the next few months will be the astronauts, changed by their encounter with whatever was in space. I would be willing to bet that the debris from the meteor that rained down on the Earth will likely be the trigger event for other super-powered beings within the setting.

I live in one of the seemingly shrinking parts of this country that is an ethnic melting pot. I can turn on the radio, and the television, and hear Spanish voices. I don't have to travel far before billboards and street signs are in Spanish (or at the very least bi-lingual). The trouble is that I don't get to see this world portrayed in the comics that I read very often. I can't imagine what it must be like for the Hispanic people I know, and I wouldn't presume to talk for them. Since it appears that Milestone 2.0 isn't going to happen for a while yet, Catalyst Prime is going to be a window into a world that is like the one that I see every day, outside of my windows and when I go out into it. Is that enough of a reason to call a comic good? I think it is, and I would go a step further and say that comics like this are needed in our comic stores.

Catalyst Prime: The Event is a great comic adventure story. It is entertaining and engaging, and it did exactly what an introductory book is supposed to do: it made me want to read more. It made me want to explore more of this world, and to see the stories of its inhabitants unfold. If your local comic store has a copy of Catalyst Prime: The Event left over from Free Comic Book Day you really need to grab a copy. Then you need to read Noble, the first Catalyst Prime ongoing comic. We really need more comics that are not just diverse, but well-crafted. Catalyst Prime: The Event manages to out Fantastic Four even the Fantastic Four.



Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Skin & Earth From Lights And Dynamite Comics


I am used to my interests intersecting, but usually because a game I like is adapted to a comic, or a comic that I like is adapted to a game or a movie. This might be one of the few times that a musician that I like is adapting their music to a comic book.

The electro-pop artist Lights is adapting her upcoming album Skin & Earth into a comic book to be published by Dynamite Comics. Skin & Earth is the follow up album to her phenomenal release Little Machines.

If you haven't heard her music, you should.




Lights' music is poppy, but with hidden depths that linger with you after the music. The first song that I ever heard from her was the fluffy "Toes," but it was one of those songs that made me want to listen again and again. I think she is in a similar vein to Ellie Goulding, but not quite as low key as she is. Once you start listening to Lights, you definitely won't want to stop.

I am really looking forward to seeing how this comes out. We need more voices in comics, and I think that this book has the chance to be an extraordinary one.


"I feel my whole life has lead up to a project like this" says Lights. "It's a complete convergence of everything I love - music, comics, post-apocalyptic romance, crystals, wine and powerful ladies, all perfectly entwined. It'll be by far my most care-free and fierce album yet. I think now, more than ever, people need a reason to listen to a whole record, and this is mine."

"In recent years, the worlds of comic books and music have come together to produce some of the most exciting and immersive books on stands," says Dynamite CEO and publisher, Nick Barrucci. "To have the opportunity to work with such a talented and dedicated musician who is both writing and drawing the series herself will be a truly unique treat for both her fans and ours."

The comic series follows a young woman, En - a reflection of Lights herself - as she struggles to find hope in a hopeless world. Caught between romance and cults, gods and mortals, En is led down a dark path by new friends/lovers into a twisted fantasy world, forcing her to dig within and find the strength to overcome. Set in a post-apocalyptic future where corporations rule, Skin & Earth is an adventurous tale of loneliness and deceit, but ultimately becomes one of self-discovery and independence.

Skin & Earth #1 will be solicited in Diamond Comic Distributors' May 2017 Previews catalog, the premier source of merchandise for the comic book specialty market, and slated for release in July. Comic book fans are encouraged to reserve copies with their local comic book retailers. Skin & Earth will also be available for individual customer purchase through digital platforms courtesy of Comixology, Dynamite Digital, iVerse, and Dark Horse Digital.



Monday, April 03, 2017

Stop Second Guessing Yourself And Do


If you aren't subscribing to Warren Ellis' newsletter, you should be even if you aren't a comics fan.

In the latest issue he drops a bit of wisdom that I think is of use to anyone creative:
Someone on Tumblr asked me the following question:
Once you've figured out that you're secretly always telling the same story, in one shape or another - how do you get around that? When you get tired of your own moves, however hermetically sealed they might look to a reader outside your head?
And here's my answer:
I’m sure any number of reviewers will tell you that in my case it’s not much of a secret
You’re spending too much time thinking about what other people might think and too much time second-guessing yourself. Go where your energy is, and when you come to a point where you need to make a story choice, go with the less comfortable one. It’s only time and paper.  Ride the wrong way for a while and see what happens.
 Don't second guess yourself, just create.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Chris' Picks For GM's Day


RPGNow/DriveThruRPG often has sales, and I don't usually put lists like this today, but I had a couple of people ask for recommendations on what to pick out from the mass of available games. These are my recommendations, in no particular order. There are a lot of games available, and it will take me a while to work through the list, so I will probably update this a couple of times before the sale goes away.

Hubris: A World of Visceral Adventure. Hubris is a really interesting setting for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG (also on sale) that is filled with great monsters and a potent Swords & Sorcery vibe. Usable for any OSR game, or D&D-esque system with a little work. If you want a dangerous setting, this is the one for you.

I was really surprised by the Adventures In Middle-Earth Player's Guide. I will admit that I'm not the biggest fan of Tolkien, but this really surprised me. If you want a dark fantasy setting that has the benefit of familiarity to most gamers, Middle-Earth is where you want to go.

NEW is a dice pool-based game of science fiction. Character creation is robust, but quick, and the game is fast-moving. Unlike some other science fiction games, NEW isn't locked into a particular paradigm or style of science fiction. It also has the benefit of being the base for the rules to the upcoming 2000AD/Judge Dredd role-playing game from EN Publishing. I write for EN World, which is run by EN Publishing, so take this recommendation with a grain of salt if you want.

Now, I am the co-publisher at Battlefield Press, so I was involved with the publication of the Ninja High School RPG (I am also working on the upcoming Fate version of the game). But, I would still recommend this game if I wasn't involved with it. Based on the D6 rules originally published by West End Games, the Ninja High School game is a pretty light game itself. This is probably one of the better uses of the D6 rules that I have seen in a long while.

Delta Green is back! Delta Green is a modern espionage role-playing game powered by the Basic Role-Playing engine. Spies and soldiers attempt to hold back the tide of encroachment of the Cthulhu Mythos. I played in this setting a lot when it was "just" a supplement for the Call of Cthulhu RPG. This game is the King (in Yellow) of Cthulhu Role-Playing games.

Colonial Gothic is a horror role-playing game set around the time of the founding of America. Fans of historical settings and horror should check this game out. The system is a unique one, and robust.

As long as I am talking about horror games, be sure to check out the third edition of the classic horror role-playing game Chill. Chill Third Edition is a game of investigative horror and monster hunting. If you're looking for something where the heroes have a bit more of a chance than they might in a more Lovecraftian RPG, you should check out Chill.

Theorems and Thaumaturgy is one of the best third party OSR magic supplements that you will find. I might be slightly biased because the author took a couple of suggestions that I made in putting this expanded second edition together. There are new spells and spellcaster classes designed for Labyrinth Lord, but usable in any OSR game.

Based on the Swords & Wizardry rules (my preferred OSR ruleset), Crypts and Things is a very British take on the old school system. If you were a fan of Warhammer Roleplay, or Games Workshop's old White Dwarf magazine, you'll enjoy Crypts and Things.

I've been a booster of the Hydra Collective designers for a while. If you want some imaginative and psychedelic adventures for your old school fantasy games, you really need to have the modules of the Slumbering Ursine Dunes trilogy: Slumbering Ursine DunesFever-Dreaming Marlinko and Misty Isles of the Eld. Chris Kutalik is one of the most inventive adventure writers in the old school movement currently, and these modules will thrill and freak out your players as they come to terms with the psychedelic fantasy world that he has created.

Inspired by the B/X edition of Dungeons & Dragons and more contemporary games like Dungeon World, The Nightmares Underneath is a "traditional" role-playing game with an nontraditional approach. If you've played classic editions of D&D you'll have this game down in no time at all. The setting of the game uses the inspirations of the Middle East and Northern Africa in its world building.

There's plenty of other games that are available in the sale, but these are some of the ones that I am familiar with. Any of these are worth having on your virtual gaming bookshelves. The sale ends March 13, 2017, so be sure to check it out before then.



Wednesday, March 01, 2017

So There's This Trailer For A World Of Darkness Documentary...



I will admit that I didn't play World of Darkness stuff until fairly recently. I could have been playing it in the 90s, and 90s me was certainly a part of the target demographic, but many of the people who were local to me at the time and who were playing the game just weren't people that I wanted to game with. So, I went off and read my Poppy Brite and Caitlin Kiernan novels in peace and played a lot of Call of Cthluhu and nowhere near as much KULT as I would have liked to have played.

Mostly I'm saying this to set the tone for the rest of this post.

I get that this is a prelude (see what I did there?) to a marketing piece that is supposed to reestablish the coolness of the World of Darkness and the eventual relaunch of games like Vampire and Werewolf. However, if we have learned anything over the last forty some years of tabletop role-playing games, it is that we can market our games without being a dick to people who like other games and styles of play. That lesson seems to have been lost on the people making this "documentary."

Also what seems to have been lost is an actual grasp of the history of role-playing games. Perhaps they could have fixed this by seeking out some outside voices, people who could speak authoritatively on the history of gaming, and its culture. If only there were people who regularly write about tabletop RPGs, and do so in a a way that demonstrates that they have tried to look at the bigger picture of things.

I am committing what I consider to be the biggest Cardinal Sin when it comes to reviewing: "DON'T BASE YOUR REVIEW OFF OF THE TRAILER." I think that if more people lived by that rule, the internet would be a much happier place. Plus if we got rid of the racist, misogynistic homophobes things would be happier too, but that has little to nothing to do with White Wolf and the World of Darkness. The reason why I'm willing to suspend this rule, in this case, has to do with the history of the people who are now in control of the White Wolf intellectual property. These people seem to be overly enthused about a grim and gritty, dark and edgy culture of the 90s that, while popular amongst a particular demographic (I know, because 90s me was all about a lot of this stuff, and I have the autographed print from James O'Barr to prove it), it was a culture that was, in many, many case, predicated on being shitty to other people. And honestly, being shitty to other people is something that geeks can stand to do less of.

There has been a number of weird decisions being made by the current regime at White Wolf, the recent mobile games fiasco being part of that.

It looks like the people running the show at White Wolf is getting the ball rolling to alienate more than a sizable chunk of their audience. I don't know, maybe they'll pull something out of their asses and it will all suddenly make sense and everyone around the world will join hands to sing a Goth Kumbaya set to a back beat of a guy beating on an old, rusty oil drum with a working circular saw. Or maybe not.

The thing is that this really isn't the way to do things in the 21st century. We can make our games, and promote our games, without belittling our fellow gamers. We can sell our games without willfully ignoring the history of tabletop RPGs. We don't have to be dicks, or talk shit about other games to make the games we love look better. We just have to love them. You know what is infectious? Love. You know what turns people off? Being a dick.

Yes, White Wolf turned a cultural corner in tabletop role-playing games with Vampire: The Masquerade. But, not because the mechanical part of the game was revolutionary. We already had dice pool mechanics (any D6-powered game, Champions and Shadowrun). We already had games that handled horror. We already had games that handled relationships (Pendragon or Ars Magica). We had so many different things.

It isn't the 90s any longer. The industry part of the tabletop role-playing industry isn't the same as it was then. The retail landscape isn't the same as it was then, either. And it is more than just the fact that businesses work differently now from then, but it is the fact that the culture of those who play tabletop role-playing games has (for the most part) shifted. Gaming is a lot more diverse. With diversity comes a wider variety of viewpoints. With a wider variety of viewpoints comes the idea that people look for different things to be "adult" and "mature."

It seems like the people who made that trailer have some outmoded sensibilities. I mean, who knows, maybe they're right. There's always going to be a market for angsty, holier-than-thou asshole types. Maybe there is this huge, untapped market of people who want to dust off their NON vinyl and go watch Mark Pauline do a show. I would be incredibly surprised to discover that is true, even though I would personally love a Survival Research Laboratories revival to happen.

I just wouldn't mind seeing gaming grow up more and decide that treating each other like shit wasn't the way to go.



Tuesday, February 28, 2017

All Time Comics: The Crime Destroyer Rises


Phrases like "revolutionary" and "redefining the genre" get thrown around a lot when reviewers talk about new comic lines coming out. There's a good chance that I will be using one or the other during the course of this review, too. All Time Comics is a new line of super-hero comics coming out from Fantagraphics Books, spearheaded by writer Josh Bayer.

Reading through the preview of this comic was like rereading the Marvel Comics of my youth. A big part of this feeling comes from the art of Herb Trimpe, which is just as vibrant and energetic as it was in the 1980s. But it is more than just nostalgia that makes me feel this way about the book.



Benjamin Marra's inking brings his dynamic style to the book's artwork. The two artists work creates a look for the book that manages to both be classic and ultramodern at the same time. The art of a comic is important in setting the tone for a book, and Trimpe and Marra create a tone that is dynamic and fast paced.

Crime Destroyer is a grindhouse super-hero comic, the exuberance and excitement of super-hero comics is combined with the grit and violence of grindhouse movies to create a unique sensibility. While this book is a throwback to classic Marvel comics it is no all ages, family friendly book either. It certainly isn't the equivalent of an R or X-rated movie by any means, but it bangs its head against the border between a "hard" PG-13 and an R-rated story. There is gore, blood and dismembered bodies scattered throughout the issue.



Like all good stories, Crime Destroyer is a reflection of its time. The is an overt racism to the villains that make them ideal protagonists to an African-American super-hero. This isn't done in a hamfisted manner, unlike with some more mainstream super-hero comics, but it is there, and discernible. I think this is a good thing, as the racism simmers to the top in our own world that people are reminded that it is representative of villainy. Despite the Germanic mythology motif of the villain, they managed to keep the bad guy of the story from being a literal Nazi. Considering the world that we live in, that might be a good thing.

Comics have been socially aware for a long time now, sometimes it seems like there is a segment of the fanbase that is actively trying to discourage that. I'm glad to see that Crime Destroyer is willing to buck that trend.

On Twitter I called the first two All Time Comics (Crime Destroyer and Bullwhip) the real World's Greatest Comic Magazines. There is an energy to them that has been lacking from a lot of Marvel Comics for a while now, Crime Destroyer brings a lot of excitement back to comics. Be sure to grab a copy from your local comic store.



Friday, February 17, 2017

Love Is Love (Review)


A couple of months ago an historic co-publishing venture from IDW Publishing and DC Comics came out, Love Is Love is an anthology comic made up of 1-2 page stories by a variety of writers and artists. The book is a fundraiser for Equality Florida, an LGBTQ+ equality and justice organization here in my home state.

Stylistically, the book is all over the place. This isn't a bad thing, because it is always good to see comic books remember there is more to them than just the super-hero books.

Love Is Love is a response to the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida last June. Forty-nine people were horribly and brutally killed. When this happened, my first thought was that I had friends in Orlando that weekend, who could have easily been at the club. I was relieved to find out that they were not. Even so, it took me a while to process, and get past, this brutal act of violence. What happened in Orlando should not have happened. We should be a more civilized and enlightened society that not only knows that these things are wrong, but that also does not erase who the victims were. The Pulse Nightclub shooting was, plain and simple, an act of hate against the LGBTQ+ community here in America. We should not be good with that.

This comic was that processing for many of these characters. The stories are, by turn, frightened, angry and depressed. Justifiably so, as well. Works like Love Is Love are a necessary part of the grieving process of an event like the Pulse Nightclub shooting, because seeing the catharsis of others can help with our own processes.

Love Is Love is a powerful comic book that I think should be read by everyone, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. The stories told, while short, are powerful. I hope that people will read it and the emotional outpourings of the stories will change the views of others.

Go out and buy Love Is Love now.



Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Warhammer, Warhammer 1 2 3 4 Smutty, Bloody Pictures, Ecstasy


Comic creator Kieron Gillen has a Warhammer blog over on Tumblr. I didn't realize this, and I never thought that I would talk about it, but he brings up some similar points to things that I've talked about with the old Warhammer stuff, and other British properties, like the Nemesis The Warlock comic by Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neil and published by 2000AD.

Read Gillen's post and we can talk about it on the social media where you found a link to this. If you didn't find me directly sharing the link, tag me in it.

He talks about the Warhammer (although he probably meant Warhammer 40K) and how it related to Nemesis:
It’s worth noting that one of the other primary Warhammer influences - and I’d argue THE primary influence on 40k – also uses this dichotomy. 2000AD’s Nemesis the Warlock and associated stories use Law and Chaos, but writer Pat Mills almost always comes down on the side of Chaos. In the universe of Nemesis, the Termight empire of Earth wages a war of genocide against the rest of the galaxy to bring the jackboot down on them forever, chanting catchy slogans like Be Pure, Be Vigilant, Behave. The diverse aliens have to oppose them. The humans are, without a doubt, the bad guys, and “order” is just another word for “monstrous Imperialism”. The humans are grotesque parodies, but the aliens are also explicitly freakish, but their bizarreness bears no relation to their morality. It’s okay to be a freak. It’s better to be a freak – or rather, better to be what Order would label a freak.
I don't have any direct evidence drawing a line between either Nemesis or 40K directly influencing each other, but I've said for a while that the story of Nemesis The Warlock could be seen as the Imperium of Man from 40K as viewed through the eyes of aliens and Chaos. For those who played the more recent versions of the 40K role-playing game (from Fantasy Flight Games and now out of print) you could almost view Nemesis as being a Black Crusade campaign.

One of those dream projects that I have on my list is one of the few OSR projects that I would want to do. Basically it would be my homage to the Realm of Chaos books. It would be four books, one for each of my reinterpretations of the Chaos Lords and their various followers and retinues, specialized character classes pertaining to them, and other fun things like new spells.

Maybe one day some one with the money will let me collaborate with people like +Alex Mayo and +Benjamin Marra on these books. The books would be fun, but they definitely wouldn't be kid friendly.

Gillen pointed this blog post out in his most recent newsletter, which you should checkout.

Also, if you don't get the reference in the title of this blog post, listen to some L7.




Sunday, February 05, 2017

Joe Haldeman's Forever War Is Coming From Titan Comics (NSFW)


On February 15th, the science fiction classic, The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman is coming from Titan Comics. The visionary Hugo and Nebula Award-winning SF tale by Joe Haldeman is beautifully realised in full color by the legendary artist Marvano. An epic SF war story spanning space and time, The Forever War explores one soldier's experience caught up in the brutal machinery of a war that reaches across the stars.

What follows is an uncensored preview.






Be sure to tell your comic store to reserve a copy for you now. I am going to see about talking with Haldeman before the book comes out. Here are some of the cover variants.








Thursday, February 02, 2017

Valiant Reveals Secret Weapons


As revealed today at Vulture, Valiant is proud to announce that Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Eric Heisserer, writer of the internationally acclaimed, smash-hit motion picture Arrival, as well as the upcoming Harbinger and Bloodshot feature films from Sony Pictures, will join Harvey Award-nominated artist Raul Allen (Wrath of the Eternal Warrior) with Patricia Martin (Bloodshot Reborn) for Secret Weapons #1 (of 4) – an all-new, Valiant Prestige format limited series starring the much-demanded, super-charged hero Livewire, in June!



The government has dispatched Amanda McKee – the technopath codenamed Livewire – to investigate the ruins of a secret facility formerly run by Toyo Harada, the most powerful telepath on Earth and her former mentor. In his quest for world betterment at any cost, Harada sought out and activated many potential psiots like himself. Those who survived, but whose powers he deemed to have no value to his cause, were hidden away at this installation. But Livewire, having studied Harada’s greatest strengths and learned his deepest weaknesses, senses opportunity where he once saw failure. A young girl who can talk to birds… A boy who can make inanimate objects gently glow… To others, these are expensive failures. But, to Livewire, they are secret weapons…in need of a leader. Now, as a mechanized killer called Rexo seeks to draw them out, Livewire and her new team of cadets will be forced to put their powers into action…in ways they never could have imagined…










Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Let's Go To Gen Con GoFundMe Campaign


As we all know, going to Gen Con isn't cheap. Even writing for EN World doesn't help to offset all of the costs of going and covering the convention for you, the readers. I started a GoFundMe campaign to help with some of the costs. In addition to just straight donations, I have a couple of fun pledge levels for it, working around the idea that not everyone can go to Gen Con, but they still want to have some of the experiences of the show.

  • For $5 I will track down a person, place or thing at the convention (1. it has to be gaming related and 2. it has to be safe for work) and take a picture of it. I will then post the picture to an online gallery here and to social media. If you have a Twitter account, I will also tag you in the post.
  • For $10 I will track down a designer or publisher of your request, ask them a couple of questions and post a video of the questions to my YouTube channel. Sorry, but I determine the questions. If the person will not consent to being recorded, unfortunately there aren't any refunds. I will try my best to convince them to let me record them for posterity.
There may be other pledge levels coming, but those are the main ones. They are a good way to augment my coverage of the convention. If you have any questions about the campaign, or would like to know if you can donate in other ways, contact me via the contact box to the left of this post.

I hope to see you at Gen Con this year!



Out Of Office


It is (almost) my birthday, and I'll be away in Las Vegas for a few days. Except for emergencies, I won't respond to emails or messages to the blog until at least Sunday.

Happy gaming.



Thursday, January 19, 2017

Fate Accelerated And Emotional Stress

From a Phonogram story inspired by TV On The Radio's Song "Wolf Like Me."
While I am in Las Vegas next week for my birthday, I am going to run a Fate Accelerated game (using my own Accelerated hack that I have talked about in various blog posts here, and around social media) about werewolves. I like werewolves, and I like Fate Accelerated, so they blend well together. This is an early form of something that I will likely use in a published game, once it gets to a more mature form.

Whether born as one, or made into one, Wolves are primal creatures with intense and powerful emotions. Like with their more potent senses these emotions can at times overwhelm a Wolf, particularly in stressful situations like combat. Wolves have an additional stress track built around their more profound emotional triggers. Rage and anger are common triggers for Wolves, but you can create a stress track for your character around any intense emotional response.

The write up for your character's emotional stress is simple. Like with 'regular" stress, they get three boxes. However, for emotional stress the Consequence that your character receives is predetermined during character creation. These consequences are considered to be Moderate. Some examples of consequences for emotional stress could be: "The Wolf Is Scratching Out From My Skin" for Rage, "I Have To Get OUT" for Fear or "Nothing Is Right" for Confusion.

The GM should compel these consequences...hard. When the consequence for their emotional stress has triggered, it should change everything about how your character sees and interacts with the world. Fate points earned from compelling the consequence of an emotional stress track should last until the consequence itself goes away. This means that you can keep those Fate points between sessions.

This isn't going to be for everyone, which is fine, but your character, as a Wolf, is more than human and more than animal, and their strengthened connection to the Natural Order comes with drawbacks as well as perks.

In case you've never heard the song...





Monday, January 16, 2017

That 10 RPGs Of Your Teen Years Meme



Social media runs on memes, and while I try to avoid them for most parts,I thought that I would talk a little about the "10 RPGs That Impacted Your Teen Years" meme that is going around Facebook (and probably other places).

There are a couple of tripping points for that meme for me. The first has to do with my age, there just weren't a lot of RPG options when I was in my teen years. The second had to do with distribution and retail, and this probably had a much greater impact upon what was available for play when I was younger.

I started gaming in 1979, on the cusp of my teen years. While there was an explosion of things going on in gaming at that time, a lot of it passed by small town Indiana because of the quirks of retail.

I've said a number of times that there was a weird geographic quirk to where I lived in that we never had the availability of a lot of modules in the area where I grew up. We had access to plenty of core rules (and by "plenty" I really mean most of the core rules published by TSR Games), but not much else. Without a local dedicated game or comic store, our game buying was pretty much limited to what was available in the mall: Waldenbooks and K.B. Toys. I think that I was in high school when the space that had been the Under 21 "Goth" hangout was bought and turned into a game store. By then things were mostly set, habit-wise.

Most of my teen gaming years revolved mostly around a couple of games: B/X D&D, AD&D and later on the classic Marvel Super-Heroes game from TSR. The D&D stuff was with the group that I had played with since starting gaming, while the Marvel game was what I preferred to run myself. There were other games, on the edges, I ran Lords of Creation a few times (it was really my introduction to multi-genre gaming), and friends had games like Gamma World, but while I really enjoyed these other games, they never really grabbed me in the way that the others did.

Just before my family moved to Florida, I found the DC Heroes game by Mayfair.

After we moved to Florida, my exposure to gaming increased and I discovered games like Call of Cthulhu, Runequest and Golden Heroes (one of my favorite super-hero role-playing games, a distinctly British game published by Games Workshop). Call of Cthulhu became my bomb, and I would use it for pretty much any style of horror role-playing at the time.

I'm not a huge fantasy fan, and D&D has never had the appeal for me, mostly because of that. It was games like Marvel Super-Heroes and Call of Cthulhu that kept me involved with gaming.

In my college years, moving from the teen years and into my twenties, meant that I was able to be exposed to a lot more games. I was lucky between Tampa, and going back to Indiana for college, to have access to a couple of really good gaming stores, and some great comic stores. This is also the era when I discovered that I could order games directly from publishers, and not be bound to the tastes and predilections of local game stores.

The first real discovery of my college years was when GURPS from Steve Jackson Games came out. It was like the multi-genre play of Lords of Creations, but with a much better system. The first edition boxed set was a little rough, but by the third edition of the game it had settled into a pretty solid system.

In 1987, I read William Gibson's Neuromancer and, as the kids say these days, "mind blown." It took me a couple of years to find the game that meant CYBERPUNK to me. I went through Cyberspace from Iron Crown and SpaceTime from BTRC, but neither of them really appealed to me. Then we found R. Talsorian's Cyberpunk 2013 and (eventually) Cyberpunk 2020. Cyberpunk 2020 is still one of my favorite games, and I periodically dust it off for new games.

There were always other games, but these were the big ones. The 90s, and my 20s and 30s, were mostly dominated by GURPS, Marvel Super-Heroes, Call of Cthulhu (Thank you Delta Green) and Cyberpunk 2020. Most of these still see fairly regular play for me, except for GURPS. I suspect that I am going to be dusting off Cyberpunk 2020 more in the future, only because it is weirdly appropriate to the world that we're going to be living in for the next few years.

I have gotten back to D&D more in the last few years. Third edition saw my entry into professional game writing, like with so many others, but the promise of that edition started to strain under the weight of SO. MANY. OPTIONS. The OSR, and streamlined D&D rulesets like Swords & Wizardry and the Basic Fantasy RPG scratch that itch for me with that style of gaming. The return of Runequest Classic and clones like the remarkable OpenQuest also give me variety in my fantasy gaming. Fate Accelerated has also give me the bones for a gaming system that fits a lot of the needs that I have for how a system works. Like any game, it takes a little tinkering to get the engine really running in the way that you like it, but that is part of the fun of RPGs. Isn't it?



Saturday, January 14, 2017

Galileo Games And Brooklyn Indie Games Announce Merger


Brooklyn Indie Games, a boutique tabletop role-playing, board, and card game publisher, is merging with Galileo Games, publisher of fiction and tabletop role-playing games. The Brooklyn Indie Games brand will continue as an imprint under the Galileo Games label. Brooklyn Indie Games owner Tim Rodriguez will be joining Galileo Games as Vice President, Galileo Games’ Brennan Taylor will remain as President.
By bringing on the board game production and design expertise of Brooklyn Indie Games, Galileo Games plans to expand their footprint in the hobby games market, producing innovative card and board games to complement and expand the role-playing games they already offer. Galileo views this as a merger of equals, and the Galileo corporate identity will survive by virtue of its longer history and greater name recognition. With the additional experience and manpower of two companies becoming one, Galileo plans to increase their production schedule and offer a wider variety of products through the retail and direct sales channels.
"Brooklyn Indie is excited to join with Galileo Games," said new Galileo Games Vice President Tim Rodriguez. "They’re a significant player in the industry, having been around since 1995, and Brennan is personally responsible for many innovations that help the indie games industry run as smoothly as it does today."
"I am so pleased to have Tim Rodriguez joining Galileo Games," said Galileo Games President Brennan Taylor. "Tim is one of the best card game designers in the industry, and having him developing our line of board and card game products will make Galileo more competitive in that market. Tim is also a good friend and a person whose interests and business sensibilities are extremely compatible with my own. This is going to be a great partnership, and I’m looking forward to what Galileo will be coming up with as we move into 2017."
Between the two of them, Brennan Taylor and Tim Rodriguez bring over 30 years of game design and production experience to the merged company.
About Galileo Games, Inc.
Galileo Games, Inc. is a publisher of innovative role-playing games and fiction. Galileo was founded in 1995 by Brennan Taylor and Krista White. Since that time, Galileo has grown, publishing a variety of game and fiction titles, including Bulldogs!, The Ministry InitiativeShelter in PlaceKingdom of NothingMortal Coil, and How We Came to Live Here. Galileo Games, Inc. proudly works with great game designers, including Jeff Himmelman, Ralph Mazza, J.R. Blackwell, Kenneth Hite, and Fred Hicks, and talented writers, including Will Hindmarch, Mur Lafferty, Peter Woodworth, Greg Stolze, and Nathan Lowell. Products from Galileo Games are available through distribution via ACD, Lion Rampant, Golden Distribution, and Indie Press Revolution. Products may also be purchased directly by consumers via Indie Press Revolution and DriveThruRPG. More information can be found at Galileo Games’ web site www.galileogames.com.
About Brooklyn Indie Games
Brooklyn Indie Games is a small game publisher and professional services provider in the wilds of Brooklyn that brings independent designers and artists together to create great games. Brooklyn Indie Games has created and published Ghost Pirates, Backstory Cards, Omega Zone, and Heartcatchers. More information can be found at Brooklyn Indie Games’ web site www.brooklynindiegames.com.



Thursday, December 22, 2016

Robotech And Writer Brian Wood Are Coming To Titan Comics


Next year, Titan Comics will bring to comic stores a Brian Wood written Robotech comic set in the continuity of the classic Harmony Gold USA cartoons. First airing in the States in 1985, Robotech was the gateway to anime for many fans – capturing their imagination with its epic generational story line involving war, romance, and, of course, the transforming Veritech fighters that defend the Earth against extra-terrestrial attacks. Produced by Harmony Gold USA, the original 85-episode series delved into humanity’s struggle against a series of alien invasions, from the gigantic Zentraedi to the mysterious Invid, battling for control of advanced alien technology that crash-landed on Earth.

"We are excited to have the opportunity to work with Brian to expand the Robotech universe." said Robotech's Tommy Yune, "His bold approach to storytelling is thoughtful and will be full of surprises for fans."





Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Gods And Monsters


The game that I am going to be running after the holidays for the local people is going to be the Fate Accelerated urban fantasy game that I mentioned before. Here is the basic pitch/mission statement that I gave to the group:
Once Upon A Time...
Your characters were gods, or at least they might have considered themselves to be something like that. They were powerful beings who wandered a world that was simultaneously brighter and more dangerous than the world in which they now exist. There was magic, and monsters and many other things.
Now, you can still do some cool things, but it is nowhere near as cool as what you used to do.
Even though the setting is changed, your story isn't over. You aren't entirely sure why you are still around, other more powerful beings than yourself faded away a long time ago. You know that there are still others like you around. Some of them have adjusted, relatively, to their new stations, much like you have. Others want to try to change things back to the way that they were. Whether that is possible or not, it is hard to tell, but none of the plans have worked in the hundred of years that you can remember.
Maybe you're one of the monsters from the old world. Things are just as strange for you, as it is for the beings who used to be your enemies. You can hide yourself among the populace of the world, to some degree or another, so it isn't like you're "all monster, all the time."
Maybe you're one of those people that others claim never actually existed. They say that you're just a character from a book, or a children's story. You can't possibly be real. You feel real to you, and you remember your life in this world, as well as in the stories that everyone insist are made up.
The world is a strange place.
 I see it as a sort of American Gods meets Fables (or Once Upon A Time) sort of vibe.

My definition of urban fantasy is basically "horror without the scary." You use a lot of the genre conventions and archetypes of horror, but you treat it more like the fantasy genre. If you've never read Nancy Collins' Sonja Blue stories, this is sort of the approach that she took. I never really understood why she was marketed as horror, when she should be considered the Godmother of Urban Fantasy.



Jess Nevin's Red Planet For Fate Core


With apologies to the Sisters of Mercy:
Red
Red planet
Red
Red world
Yeah, that was bad. Anyway.

It is unfortunate that we don't see the depth and breadth of the science fiction market these days that we would have seen in bookstores 30 or 40 year ago. Once again we are in a phase where, if it isn't the new shiny and written by someone whose native language isn't one of the standardized forms of English we just don't see it. Russia, and the Soviet Union when it existed, has long been a source of thought provoking genre fiction that celebrated perspectives that we don't see from American or English writers.

The "golden age" of Soviet Science Fiction was a particularly optimistic branch of SF to boot, which I'm sure surprises anyone old enough to have grown up during some portion of the Cold War.

Red Planet is a new World of Adventure for the Fate Core rules, available at the OneBookShelf sites as a Pay What You Want PDF. Written by Jess Nevins of The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana and annotating Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen fame, the book is an exploration of the tropes of a nearly forgotten sub-genre of Science Fiction of the 1940s and 1950s from the former Soviet Union.

The PDF isn's a long one, only 64 pages in total, but it has a lot packed into those pages.

The science fiction that is celebrated by Red Planet is particularly pulpy, with echos of the American heroic pulps like Doc Savage, or the space opera of Doc Smith or Flash Gordon. The situations are wild and weird, and often blur the lines between science fiction and fantasy. This approach used to be much more common than it is these days, before demographics and marketing became a part of the creative process of genre fiction.

There was a lot of bad things that happened in the real world under the auspices of the Soviet Union, and Communism, and Red Planet does not sugar coat or ignore them. These aren't Alt-Communists softened up for propaganda purposes. In fact, the setting goes far to show that the Communism of the Soviet Union, and the Capitalism of the United States, lead to war and upheaval in their battle for supremacy. The protagonists of the setting, the nation of the Union of Materialist Republics, are a rebellion against both of these cultural forces. The Materialists were colonists on Mars, the Red Planet of the title.

Once on Mars, these colonists sparked a revolution against both their own Communist oppressors back on Earth and the Capitalist enemies of their oppressors. With their rebellion, these colonists became their Union. Their culture is not only their own, but has also assimilated (relatively peacefully) the native Martian populace. The racial makeup of the Union of Materialist Republics is made up of that mix of humans and Martians. The setting of Red Planet can be viewed as similar to the original Buck Rogers stories, just with less Yellow Menace.

The Red Planet of the setting is a Utopia. So to speak.

If it was a perfect utopia, there probably wouldn't be any place for the types of adventurers that we see in role-playing games. There is going to be friction and conflict between those of the Union, with the various social and cultural factions of the Earth. There is also an extradimensional faction of creatures that are not native to the solar system, or the reality, of the setting. They are two-dimensional beings called the Geometrists. The Geometrists have superior technology to Earth or Mars, as well as psychic abilities beyond anything capable of the people of the solar system.

There is also still "space" for exploration in the solar system, so characters of that type will find plenty to do among the stars of the Red Planet setting.

If you're a fan of pulp science fiction like Flash Gordon, or pulpy science fantasy like Star Wars, there will probably be things in Red Planet that will appeal to you. It is remarkable well fleshed out, considering the short page count, and there is plenty of material to spark adventure in the setting. I am glad to see tabletop role-playing publishers striking out from the safety of traditional fantasy setting and creating worlds that are different and challenging to gamers.  If you haven't checked out Nevin's Red Planet, you really should.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

40K Dawn Of War Comes To Titan Comics


Written by Ryan O’Sullivan (Eisenhorn: Xenos, Turncoat) and illustrated by Daniel Indro (Vikings: Uprising, Doctor Who), the Dawn of War III mini-series will tie-in to the colossal Dawn of War real-time-strategy games, produced by Relic Entertainment with Sega and Games Workshop, in which players command armies of the Space Marines, Orks, and the Eldar to dominate the battlefield!

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War was a critical and commercial hit in 2005, followed by the release of Dawn of War II: Retribution in 2009.

"I've been a fan of Warhammer 40,000 and all of its games for as long as I can remember,” said writer Ryan O'Sullivan. "What I enjoy about the Dawn of War series in particular, other than the ability to purge heretics, is that the games have a decade-long narrative filled with ongoing characters and conflicts. I feel very fortunate to be able to contribute towards such a story, and I hope fans of the previous games will enjoy seeing familiar faces back in action on the pages of the comic."

Titan’s Dawn of War III comic series tells an all-new tale in parallel to that of the video game story, which sees three factions – the Blood Ravens Space Marines, the Eldar, and a fearsome Ork horde – converging on a planet where a weapon of devastating power has been unearthed. .

Titan’s Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III mini-series will be available for preorder in February’s Diamond Previews catalog.




Monday, December 12, 2016

Urban Fantasy Role-Playing And Reading Vertigo's Lucifer


About fifteen years after the fact, I am reading Mike Carey's Lucifer comic that was put out by Vertigo/DC Comics. I picked up the first book of the most recent collected version a couple of months ago. So far I have been a good read, and I will certainly continue the series once I've finished book one.

I don't actually watch the TV show based on the comic, so that wasn't my motivation.

I read Neil Gaiman's Sandman in its entirety (as pretty much every pretentious comic fan of my age group did) as it was coming out. This particular incarnation of the character of Lucifer debuted in issue four of the Sandman comic. In that issue, Dream of the Endless (lead character of the Sandman comic for those who may not have read it) went into Hell to retrieve one of the magical objects that were like the "badges" of his office as the Dream Lord. I won't go into too much detail about that story, because there may be a few readers of this blog who haven't read it yet. I will say that the story ended up with Lucifer abdicating his "job" as the Lord of Hell to become a semi-mortal being.

The Lucifer comic picked up with Lucifer living in Los Angeles and owning a nightclub called Lux.

I think that I expected that Lucifer would be more of a horror comic, like Gaiman's Sandman would often be. But instead it swings like a pendulum between the poles of a horror comic like Sandman was, and more like an Urban Fantasy in the style of Bill Willingham's Fables comic. Actually, I think that the me of now likes it better as an Urban Fantasy story more than the me of 15 years ago, who likely would have preferred it to be more of a horror story.

It is good that we change, and our tastes change with us. It must be a good thing that I am reading this now, because I am more prepared for it than I would have been when it first came out.

As a role-player, I can see this comic influencing a campaign that is in the same space as one also inspired by Gaiman's Sandman and, of course, his breakthrough novel American Gods (which I need to read again before the television show for that starts out next year). Comics are an appropriate place to explore modern mythologies in the mode of Carey's Lucifer or Gaiman's Sandman comics because comic book super-heroes are pretty much our modern American mythology.

Comics and mythology always brings me to one of my favorite songs by the Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip:


I think that the relevance of the song is on an uptick again.

The stories of comics like Lucifer and Sandman exist in our mythic American subconsciousness. This is also where I think a lot of role-playing game campaigns exist as well. These are stories of gods and monsters, the heroes that face both and the mortal beings who ultimately have to deal with all of these things.

I am trying to tie all of this together because, in the next month or so I am going to be starting up a new campaign with some people that I have gamed with for a while, and others that I have never gamed with before. They're voting on what sort of game they want me to run, and one of the choices is an Urban Fantasy game. Whenever I want to run an urban fantasy game, I pull out my old Sandman trade collections and I dig out my CD of Fully Completely by The Tragically Hip and I start to pull together a world that is inspired by the world outside of our windows, but at the same time tied into the mythic undercurrents of our world.

I know. Horribly pretentious, isn't it?

As a GM, my approach to creating a campaign is to think out what I want the world to be like. Imagine who the important characters who aren't the characters will be. Work out what some of the big stories that are going on in this world. Then we plunk the player's characters down into the middle of things, see how they react to the world and what direction we would need to take things into once the irresistible object meets the immovable force. That is where the fun of a campaign comes up for me, as a GM. I don't like to craft the stories of what I want to happen in the world, because I think that takes the choice away from the players, away from their characters, and turns the game more into a novel than the share experience of a role-playing game. Every character in a world should have a story, but those stories should never overwhelm what might happen once the characters exist.

So, hopefully, the players will pick the Urban Fantasy game. We'll see what happens, whichever campaign it ends up being, I will talk about it here over time.