Saturday, March 31, 2012

A to Z Challenge

Tomorrow begins the April A to Z blogging challenge.

This year I am doing it not just once, but twice.
I have signed up my other blog, The Freedom of Nonbelief, to the challenge as well.
I felt that my other blog could also gain from the exposure and it would help me collect my thoughts some on what I think that blog should be about.
So please join me over there as I go through the A to Z of atheism, skepticism and free thought.

Here at the Other Side, I am going to be doing the A to Z of RPGs. I am going to pick a game for each letter and talk about it. I am though having trouble with the letter I. I am thinking I should do In Nomine, but not sure yet.

I am open to suggestions!

If you are coming here from the Challenge, then please leave a link back to your own blog.

Zatannurday: Marvel Heroic Roleplaying

Continuing my exploration of the new Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game. So here is everyone's favorite Sorceress Supreme, it's Saturday it must be Zatanna!

We worked this the same night as Justice.  Again, I am happy with this build and see it as a nice compliment to the DCA/M&M3 stats.   Both have a place in my world.

Name: Zatanna
ID: Zatanna Zatara (public)

Affiliations: Solo d10, Buddy d8, Team d6 (Zee is not a team player, but she has teamed up with John Constantine, Hawkman and Batman)

Most Power Magician in the World (she is. And all the supernatural baddies know it too)
Celebrity in the Spotlight (Everyone knows who she is and she likes that)
Shades of Grey (Zee sees more grey than most Supers, even ones in the Marvel-verse)

Power Sets
Magic/Sorcery d12
Magical Spells d12, Blast d10, Senses (magical) d10, Teleport d10
Limit: Must be spoken backwards
SFX: Tantric Healing (can reduce stress)
SFX: Area Attack

Mystic d10 (pretty much knows it all)
Cosmic d10
Menace d8
Psych d8

"Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic"
1xp You uncover some plot that is magical in nature.
3xp You discover some new magical tome or artifact.
10xp You defeat the main villain without magic.

Daddy Issues
1xp You meet someone from your father's past.
3xp You take trauma from one of your father's old enemies or friends.
10 xp You must send your father's soul back to the afterlife to defeat the bad guy.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Justice: Marvel Heroic Roleplaying

Earlier this week I mentioned I spent some time over the last month with Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.  One of the first characters I though about was my paragon character "Justice".

The great thing about Justice is I have a great grasp on who this character is, what motivates her and what she wants to be.  So a game like MHR is really a good fit.  Plus is gives me the chance to compare her "Marvel" universe counterpart with her "DC Universe" counterpart.

For Issue 5 I spoke to my regular GM Greg, the guy likely to be the GM of any supers game I'll play in and my go to guy for Marvel questions, suggested an adventure where Kara travels to Madripoor.  Kara is there as part of a delegation with one of her law professors.  Her role here is of course to be quiet and learn.  Bet you know how that is going to turn out.

Since we are going to focus on the drama here Greg wanted to give her a love interest, one of the local criminals (whose name escapes me at the moment, but I think it was Wolverine's son).

So with out further ado, here is Justice.

Name: Justice
ID: Astra Kal-El / Astra Kent (secret)

Affiliations: Solo d10, Buddy d6, Team d8 (Kara is still trying to figure out who she is and she is doing that on her own.)

Distinctions: Uncompromising (sees the world in mostly black & white; good guys and bad guys)
Heroic Ambition (wants to be a hero)
Struggling with Identity (is she Amazon? Kryptonian? something new? How can she fit into a human world?)

Power Sets
Amazonian Heritage d10
Superhuman Strength d10, Superhuman Durability d10, Superhuman Stamina d10
Limit: Exausting
SFX: Multipower
SFX: Second Chance (reroll)
(she is still coming into her power)

Kryptonian Heritage d8
Superhuman Senses d8, Flight (subsonic) d8, Blast (heat vision) d8
Limit: Kryptonite - Shutdown
SFX: Second Wind (move power up to d10)
SFX: Invulnerable (spend 1pp)

Combat d10 (training from the Amazons and Bruce/Batman)
Cosmic d10
Crime d8
Science d8

Just like Mom and Dad...
1xp You encounter someone that knew your father
3xp You defeat one of your father's or mother's old enemies.
10xp You join or leave a team that your parents were on.

"Justice will Prevail!"
1xp You save an innocent life
3xp You must make a choice between the Law and Justice
10 xp You choose to see justice done at the expense of your own personal happiness.

I think this describes her rather well to be honest.  And it is something I could use to help drive the character in any other Supers game she might be in.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

White Dwarf Wednesday #10

I little late, but still Wednesday!

Issue 10 starts us off with some fantastic cover art.  Maybe the best we have seen so far.  It unites the two themes of Sci-fi and Fantasy well.

The editorial is a mix bunch, attendance at Game Day and the release of the new AD&D Player's Handbook and the late release date of the new "AD&D Referee's Guide".  Doesn't really have the same ring to it as DMG does it.
Plus the shipping costs of WD overseas is going up due to the fall of the Dollar.  Must have been the Carter Era.

We have some new magic items for Tekumel.
Nine new monsters for Fiend Facotry, of which only one graduated to the Fiend Folio.  The others though are worth looking at.  In particular a couple of interesting skeletons and a couple of cats.

Some traps sent in by readers.  I have never been over enamored with traps. They have their place, but I never fetishized them like other players/game masters.

As promised we have a collection of letters on realism in the game.  These are the same arguments that we have today, so I guess we will always have them.

Next up is a combat simulation/duel game called "Light Sword".  Which were light sabers with the serial numbers filled off.  It looks interesting enough and could be used with any sort of melee combat.  The thing I thought was odd was the art.  The first is a man's face with a nondescript sword next to it, the next one is a topless woman in a loin-cloth with two "light daggers".  The artist took the time to make sure her breasts were properly shaded, but her hair is just an outline.  Not sure what was the though process on this one.

Open Box this issues gives us the boxed set of Gamma World (9/10) and the AD&D Player's Handbook (10/10).  Worth the read just get that feeling again when everything was new.

More on the Experienced Traveller by Mike Ferguson. Chapter 3 of the Valley of the four Winds follows.
We end the issue with 7 pages of ads.  The most so far.

Not a stellar issue, but a solid one.  The Fiend Factory continues to give me entertainment and I am thinking a Fiend Folio 2 of updated monsters that didn't make the cut would be a fantastic fan-book.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My Month with Marvel

I have now had Marvel Heroic Roleplaying now for about a month.  I have read it. Re-read it. Watched games, read reviews and even detailed some characters.  Here are my thoughts.

First, I have to be honest, I am still and probably always be a DC fan foremost.  I "dabbled" in Marvel back in the 80's like others.  I enjoyed the X-Men, loved Spider-Man, enjoyed Doctor Strange and Ghost Rider...and that was about it.  I didn't have any dislike for Marvel, I just like DC better.
I enjoyed the old TSR Marvel game, but I also liked DC Heroes from Mayfair and Villains and Vigilantes.

Secondly, MHR is about as far away from the OSR as you can possibly get and still use the same set of dice.

Ok. So there are a lot of reviews out for this now, and there is really nothing new I can add to all of that.  Here is though less of a review and more of a bunch of my opinions and insights on the game.

The most notable feature of this game is there is nothing in the way of comparing ability to ability really.  Yes there are things like "combat expert" and there levels of that, but nothing along the lines of Strength vs. Strength  So there is no way to tell really who would win in an arm wrestling Thor or Thing.  But the deal is that this not something that is likely to happen UNLESS it was part of the plot, then the winner is decided by other things.

MHR is more of a game where the players are providing the framework.  You need to create your character with the other characters and players in mind.  Maybe not as much as Smallville or Leverage, but still.  It is also a game where the main drama is about heroes, not really supers.  It really is a "comic book" RPG, not a cartoon, supers or even super hero movie RPG. This game is about building characters, the relationships between them and the drama. Which, if you think about it, is kinda what Marvel Comics is about.

The game moves well from what I have seen in play and after working with your character you get the hang of the game quickly.

The book itself is great to look at, but I was expecting more to be honest.  Compare to Green Ronin's DC book.  The DCA is overflowing with art.  Everywhere.  MHR has art, but it seems to use it more sparingly.  Plus I swear it was the same characters over and over. I could easily name dozens of character I didn't see, but that is not the point, I would have liked some others.
I would have liked to Dr. Strange or some other magical/mystical types since that is my favorite part of any game and Marvel in particular. Strange at least is important enough that he should be included in the Basic rules.

Will I play this game?
That is really the only question right? Yes, I love to try it out with the right group. To me the right group would be people who are willing to invest in their characters and be able to "play the drama".  So yes, with the right group of people.

Still I might want to dual stat characters with MHR and some other traditional supers game, maybe even DCA/M&M3.

I'll be posting some characters here soon.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Zatannurday: Fred Hembeck

Today I have a special treat. Not only something original, but something inspired by Zatannurday!

Look at what I got!

It's a Fred Hembeck original!

I got this as a gift from George Vasliakos, the editor and Zombie Lord at Eden Studios.  He got this for me because he knows I am a big Zatanna fan and this weekly feature!

That is really awesome!

So thanks George and thanks Fred!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Vastra and Jenny

Been thinking some more about Vastra and Jenny.

I did some posts back when "A Good Man Goes to War" first aired.
Introduction and Ghosts of Albion stats.
Doctor Who RPG stats

I have found some very cool links recently that expand their story more.
Vastra and Jenny

I have a Ghosts of Albion game coming up and I'd love to work them in somehow.  Just not sure how to do that yet.  Especially since the idea I have in mind is already dangerously close to "The Hungry Earth" except I am basing it of of a real riot that happened in London in 1846.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Walking to Mordor

Go to Google Maps.

For your starting point enter "The Shire", for your destination enter "Mordor".
Change to Walking and get directions.

It works for Rivendell too.

Blog Roll Fixed

The simple solution was to split up my blog rolls.
You will now see I have an RPG one and an Everything Else one that has all the writing, horror, comic and other stuff I read.

My RPG one though is now just as full as it was before, so even if it is an RPG site chances are I'll have to add you to the other blog roll.

Another new Blog on the block

Jason Vey of Spellcraft & Swordplay, has a new blog out for movie reviews.

Overpriced Popcorn: Film Reviews for the Rest of Us! 

You can read his introductory post on what he plans to do with and why.
It promises to be very interesting.  Jason and I talk about movies all the time and while we don't always agree, the conversation is never dull.

So check out this new blog and tell your friends.

Blog Roll

You might notice my blog roll is gone.
I am attempting to fix it and add the new blogs I am following and maybe even arrange them in some sort of order.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

White Dwarf Wednesday Issue 9

Issue 9 of White Dwarf nearly finishes up the transitional year of 1978.  We saw a lot of changes int he magazine in the last year and there are still more to come.

In another editorial that seems taken from today's blogs or posting boards is the amount of "Realism" people want in their game.  So much so in fact that they opted to withhold their letters page till next issue since so many were on the topic of realism.

Mike Ferguson gives us some new skills and rules for Traveller. The Fiend Factory is up and running again with FF faves such as the Svart and Umpleby.  Ok, faves might be too strong of a word. There are half a dozen monsters here that didn't make the cut for the Fiend Folio and I have been wondering if there is enough here to make a "Fiend Folio 2" that never was.  Let me think about that one.

Another instalment of "Valley of the Four Winds".
A mini-dungeon "The Lichway" for 6-8 1st level characters which looks like a blast.  Interestingly enough one of the monsters introduced is the Susurrus.  This monster will also later go on to join his Fiend Factory cousins in the Fiend Folio.  The art used is identical (what what I can remember). And later go on to influence this author on a magic item.

Kalgar is back and takes an odd twist. The adventures of Kalgar are no more than the dreams of some man and watched on some sort of high-tech viewscreen by another man and woman.  Not sure where this is going yet.

Open Box gives reviews on Superhero 44 by Lou Zocchi and Legions of the Petal Throne from TSR.  We are also treated to reviews of G1, G2 and G3 which get a 9/10 from Don Turnbull. Finally Judges guild gives us Citadel of Fire (6/10).

We get a new class in the form of the Foresters for Chivalry & Sorcery.

Treasure Chest is a mixed bag of some traps, useless items and instant ability scores for monsters.
The issue wraps up with a couple pages of ads.

White Dwarf Wednesday...

Will be happening later today.  Got stuck in meetings all morning long.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Itching for the Tomb of Horrors

As I posted yesterday my son is going to get to play some of the classic greats, B1, B2, and X1. This along with the idea that 4e is on the wane and 5e coming up, I don't really need to complete my 3.x game just yet.  Plus there are still so many classics I want to play again.

So my kids' characters are at 20th level.  I was thinking that I could take the Tomb of Horrors (3.5 revision), link in some of the ideas (and maps) from the 4e version.  Add some monsters from the Tome of Horrors complete edition and just through it all together in a meat grinder.

They have already gone through S2 and S4 (not sure about S3 yet)

It really could be awesome.

It is one of the all time greats.  And even though the characters are twice the level, I would make it a little deadlier.  Plus a lot of this adventure is really based on Player skill and not Character skill.  My kids are still younger than the average player of this adventure, so the greater power characters might be offset by that alone.

Interestingly enough, this is the only adventure I know of that has has official products for each edition of D&D.

So kind of a no-brainer really.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Kinda jealous of my son right now...

My oldest son, in addition to playing a 3.x game with me and my younger son, plays "D&D" every Saturday for about 3 hours.

He is playing with my sometimes DM, sometimes player, Greg, his sons and a couple of other kids all between the ages of 11 and 12.

You can read about those games on Greg's blog:

They are playing ACKS right now and my son loves it.  He likes that it is so old school and there are not a bunch of rules he needs to play.  But they are going to do B1 and B2 and maybe even X1.

How much better can that be really?

Anyway, go to Greg's blog and you can be jealous too.

Marvel Maybe??

I'd love to get some posts in this week about Marvel Heroic Roleplay.

I have a bunch of things ready to go, I just need to post them.

In the meantime, here is another review.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Game Day

Well.  I went to game day today but only had one person show up.
Still though I had a good time.  Got to chat with some people, got to buy some minis and check out some new games.

I am looking forward to the next EN World game day and I hope tosee you all there.

Zatannurday: Justice League Dark, the first 5

Switching from Young Justice Zatanna to the more mature and tattooed Justice League Dark Zatanna.

Justice League Dark concluded it's first story arc, the threat of Enchnatress and the mystery of June Moon. 

Tattoos and a chain wallet?
To be honest I liked it.  I like the idea that sometimes there is crap out there so scary that even the Justice League is incapable of dealing with it.  That it takes a misfit group like this to deal with it.

Lets be honest here.  This is a messed up group.  I am not sure if Enchnatress will be a regular, but there are signs pointing to that.  If so she might be more powerful than Zee.
Zatanna, in this incarnation seems to be bit over her daddy issues.  Course that doesn't mean she is all healthy either.  She tells Constantine that she wants to erase his memory when he uses one of her own spells, which of course gets to predictable response.  She is not wearing her classical outfit and she has more than one tattoo on her.
Speaking of John. He seems younger here, but we assume that everything about him that was true before is still true now.  He doesn't have any magic himself, but knows a couple of tricks.  Still smokes.  I am not a fan of smoking, but I am glad they didn't take that away.   This is not the Hellblazer Constantine, but he is close.  My fear is he will become the "Spike" of this bunch.
I am not sold yet on Shade or Mindwarp.  But man do they have potential.  I like how Shade, who's power is to reshape reality, only has a basic grip on reality himself.  Mindwarp is just a couple shades of grey away from being a villain himself I think.
Deadman is really the only "hero" in the bunch.  I liked his character more here than any other time I have read him (mostly in Batman).
Madame Xanadu is a treat.  She has power and sees the future.  I like how she sees it all the time and has to numb herself with pills just to get through the day.

She doesn't look dangerous.
As a book, well I am enjoying writer Peter Milligan's work but think he needs to do a better job with why this group has to deal with the problems they have and will face. The art by Mikel Janin is actually top notch.  So few comic book artists draw women well, though they do keep on doing it.  These are not the paragon of superpowers, so they are drawn like normal people (well except Deadman).  Plus the scenes are great.  When Shade looses his grip on reality and his M-vest reacts it is just cool to see.

My hope is that JLD will become something more akin to the supernatural and occult comics from the 70s.
I also have to admit that this group would be a fun one to stat up for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.

If I have a complaint it is that the story building was so slow.  I understand that there were a lot of characters we had to be introduced too and give enough of their back story, but I think the pace should have been faster.  That being said it was all still a great read and now that we have the characters in place I am hoping for even more.

I have not read #6 yet, but I understand the next big story is building.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dark Shadows

Oh Angelique...still doing bad things to bad people.  It looks campy as all hell, but damn I want to see it.

New Blog

I have started up a new blog.

I wanted a place where I could talk about some things that really would not be in place here.  Namely my views on various world political topics, science advocacy and my atheism.

The Freedom of Nonbelief 

You can read what it is all about in the posts there, but here is the selling blurb.
A blog about skepticism, atheism and the freedom of not believing in irrational or magical thoughts. I am not going to use this blog to attack religions, but instead talk about how throwing of the mental shackles off belief has been a freeing experience.
I seriously doubt there will be crossover between The Freedom of Nonbelief and The Other Side. But one never really knows.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Don't Forget!

EN World Game Day Chicago is this weekend!

Celebrate St. Patrick's Day by coming to the the aid of Ireland in her darkest hour.

Ghosts of Albion: Blight
Ireland is dying. 
Her Protector has been murdered and you are the primary suspects. Can you clear your name, regain your magic and stop whatever necromancies befoul the land? Time is short, yours and one million lives hang in the balance. Set in 1847 this is an adventure for the Ghosts of Albion RPG.

Game System: Cinematic Unisystem
Rules Edition: Ghosts of Albion
Players: Minimum 5, Max 8.
Minimum Age: Teen (13+) (PG for some violence, and problem solving)
Experience Required: None (never played before), some knowledge of "Ghosts of Albion" is helpful.
Materials Provided:  Yes, materials are provided for this game. You do not need to bring your own.  One d10 is needed.

There is a sign-up thread over at EN World,

And because I can.
One of my favorite Irish "rebel" songs.

White Dwarf Wednesday Issue 8

Back at it!  Sorry for that.
White Dwarf #8 came out Aug/Sept of 1978.  The cover art for this is really cool.  I am not sure what is going on here, but it is cool and very evocative of what I feel was D&D at the time.
The editorial laments that there are so few gaming companies overseas, especially in England and Europe.
There is a neat article on making your own monsters.  Not stats, but making models of monsters.  They skew heavy on recent additions from the Fiend Factory, but the Carrion Crawler is rather cool.  I personally never had the skills for these "arts and crafts" sort of articles.

The Fiend Factory introduces to future Fiend Folio entries such as the Tween and the Coffer Corpse.

Lew Pulsipher gives us a simple critical hit system.

The Man-Beast is a new class/race of half-human/half-animal characters.  It is very reminiscent of the Wolf Man or Jekyll and Hyde.   It is an interesting class, and one that as far as I know never had any traction.

In Open Box we have a rare treat.  A review of the first AD&D book ever, the AD&D Monster Manual.  It is described as hard cover, but with the option of getting a soft cover in the UK.  Had anyone else ever heard this before?  Don Turnbull gives it the highest praise.  This was the game changer.  The review is joined by "Space Marines" by Fan Tac Games, "Starships & Spacemen" by Fantasy Games Unlimited and "War of Wizards" by TSR.

Kalgar is down to half a page, while the letters are now a full page.
Rowland Flynn gives us our first bit of fiction in the form of "Valley of the Four Winds".  It is par for the time.  Fiction in White Dwarf and even Dragon was never my thing really.  A few pages later we get a line of miniatures based on the story.  There is more here than I know obviously.

We are given a couple of pages of classified ads and more ads.

All in all this a larger issue, but like issue 7 most of the new space is given over to ads.  Again, this is not a bad thing.  Then as now, I like to look at the ads.  The ads of Dragon have been loving detailed by James at Grognardia.  Someone really should do the same for the ads of WD.

For example have you seen this one before in Dragon?
Maybe you have, I haven't.  It looks awesome!
I think that is what enjoy the most going through these old White Dwarfs.  Everything was so new, so exciting.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

DriveThruRPG March Sale

Time for the DriveThruRPG monthly sale.

Here are the products you can get 20% off of:

SAWS+ Character Sheet [Dire Giraffe Publishing]
SAWS+ Character Sheet for Pathfinder [Dire Giraffe Publishing]
HELLAS: Princes of the Universe [Khepera Publishing]
Bard's Tales [Raging Swan Press]
Iconic Characters [Raging Swan Press]
So What's That Shiny Thing Like, Anyway? [Raging Swan Press]
Caladon Falls [Savage Mojo]
Castle Builder Volume 1: Strongholds [Skirmisher Publishing]

And here is the code to use: WhenIrishDiceAreRollin

This code is good until April 10th, 2012.


Random links

On the run today.  Many meetings and much ado to do.

So here are some links I have found useful in the last couple of days.

Running an alt-history game? Thinking of writing one?  Well here are some things to keep in mind.
IO9: 10 Worst Mistakes That Authors of Alternate History Make,

Want to learn more about the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying system?
Well here is the site to go to.
Exploring Infinity: Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Collected Miscellanies

Elizabeth J Kolodziej is working on getting her next book published.
Send her a buck or two for "The Last Witch Series"

Speaking of which (or witch), Strange Music has a witch class up for B/X

And speaking of Kickstarters, here is a blog that keeps track of all the RPG Kickstarter projects out there.

I know posted this one before, but it is really cool.
Hi-res maps of the Caves of Chaos.

Don't forget to sign up for Ghosts of Albion at Chicago Game Day!

Monday, March 12, 2012

EN World Game Day Chicago

I am going to be running a game at EN World Game Day Chicago!

I'll be running Ghosts of Albion: Blight. Seems appropriate given that Game Day this year in March 17.

Here is the blurb for the game:

Ghosts of Albion: Blight
Ireland is dying. 
Her Protector has been murdered and you are the primary suspects. Can you clear your name, regain your magic and stop whatever necromancies befoul the land? Time is short, yours and one million lives hang in the balance. Set in 1847 this is an adventure for the Ghosts of Albion RPG.

Game System: Cinematic Unisystem
Rules Edition: Ghosts of Albion
Players: Minimum 5, Max 8.
Minimum Age: Teen (13+) (PG for some violence, and problem solving)
Experience Required: None (never played before), some knowledge of "Ghosts of Albion" is helpful.
Materials Provided: Yes, materials are provided for this game. You do not need to bring your own.  One d10 is needed.

There is a sign-up thread over at EN World,

I have an afternoon slot 3:30pm to 8:30pm on Saturday, March 17 at Games Plus in Mount Prospect, IL.

Hope to see you there.
If you let me know that you found out about this by reading my blog then your character will get a free drama point!

Question to OSR publishers and authors

I have been getting a couple of products ready to go for release and I am not getting the look and feel I want.

So a question to OSR publishing community from the professionals all the way over to the enthusiastic amateurs.

What desktop publishing/layout program do you all use?

I have tried a few myself including picking up a new one this weekend.  I am hoping to get some better results than what I have had been getting.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sherlock Holmes

So I have been on a Sherlock Holmes kick of late.

I downloaded the recordings from Grabbed some radio shows starring Sir John Gielgud, and I picked up a DVD of old TV shows starring Peter Crushing . 

I am rather looking forward to all of these.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Zatannurday: Young Justice returns

So last week marked the return of Young Justice and young Zatanna.

Interestingly enough is not that she was back, or even made a permanent part of the team, but that YJ now airs on a Saturday morning.  Yup no longer a prime time Cartoon Network show like Adventure Time, it has been moved to that slot of our youth.  I am of mixed feelings about that.  First I think it is cool that the new DC toons are all in a block during the times I was watching The Super Friends and Batman.  But I also can't help that the show will get ignored a little here.  Time will tell I guess.

So Zee is back in "Misplaced" and it is a magic filled epsiode.  We have Zatara, Klarion, Felix Faust, Wizard, Wotan and even the return of Dr. Fate.  I liked the attention to detail in this episode too.  They had Klarion casting his spell at a crossroads for example.  I also like how it was Captain Marvel that could move between the different realities.  Not just because he could be both an adult and a kid, but but because so much of Capt. Marvel is about being in between worlds; adult/child, magic/mundane, mortal and god.

There is a nice bit of dialog between Batman and Zatara and it made me for the first want to see more about him.  I should spend some time learning more about Giovanni Zatara.

 Long story short (and there are spoilers ahead) all the adults disappear from the world due to magic (yes we saw this before in Justice League Unlimited) and Young Justice has to figure it out.

One part I felt was particularly good was when Zatanna had to use her father's locator spell.  She talked about how it wasn't as easy as just talking backwards, that was just the end part.  There was prep and power and she didn't think she was up to her father's level of skill to do it.  Of course she does do it, easily in fact.  The animators did a great job of showing the disappointment on her face when the spell worked.   Why?  Because it was proof that she was up to Zatara's level now. She was growing up. It was the theme of the episode, but it hit home with her then and there.

We discover that there are two worlds, one of kids and the other of adults.  Both sides debate on whether or not it is time to use the Helm of Nabu and call on Dr. Fate.  Both sides agree that it is not yet that desperate.

Each side battles the magical baddies in their respect dimensions.  Klarion and Zatanna have it out, but Klarion is much more powerful, that is till Zee pulls out the Helm of Nabu, unknown to all her teammates.  She puts it on and Dr. Fate is back.

They manage to destroy the magic whatzit holding the worlds apart with Fate/Zatanna and Zatara working together to destroy it.  Once the world is together again though Fate doesn't want to give up Zatanna's body.
Zatara pleads with Fate to let his daughter go, stating that he will don the Helm of Nabu.  Batman promises to look after Zee.  Zatara dons the helm of Nabu and without a word flies away.

Zatanna moves into Mount Justice in to a room next to Miss Martian.  We end the episode with Zee asking to be alone.

There is more going on in this episode than just this of course.  There is the ongoing "Light" arc (which I won't detail here) and more details of what was going on.

This was a watershed episode in Zatanna's development.  We see for the first time that she may in fact be up to Zatara's power level.  Both in terms of her magic and Zatara's own assessment of her.  We also get a Doctor Fate that is more powerful than anything we have seen before. Kent Nelson in the YJ universe was just a normal human, albeit a long lived one.  Giovanni Zatara was already a master of magic and world class magician.  His power, plus that of Nabu would make Fate very, very powerful.

It also ties up one little issue.  How do we separate Zatanna from her father.  In the comics he was just "missing" and then later dead.  Here we have a clean (cleanish) break.  Zatara could always come back of course.

Again, like I said this episode really makes me want to read more about Zatara.  Maybe even put up some M&M3/DCA stats for him.

Later today (depending on when you read this) we will have a Wally West focused episode, but I am sure there will be some Zatanna bits in it.

In other Zatanna news, DC Adventures, Heroes & Villains Vol. 2 is now out with write-ups of Zee and Zachary Zatara.

Friday, March 9, 2012

What Does "The Dragon and the Phoenix" sound like?

What does the first season of my Willow & Tara game, "The Dragon and The Phoenix" sound like?

Episode 0

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 6

Episode 7

Episode 8

Episode 9

Episode 10

Episode 11

Episode 12

A little like that.

Random updates, links and posts

Hey.  It's been a crazy couple of weeks with home, work and stuff.  I have been neglecting you, my blog audience and that is not fair.

But don't expect it change yet today. ;)
I am though posting some half baked posts I have started over the last two weeks into one big random update. Might not be the best post ever, but it lets you know I am still here.

• First up my friend Elizabeth J. Kolodziej has a kickstarter up for her new book.  She is the author of the "The Last Witch" series and I reviewed the first book here a year ago today.  Kickstarter seems to be the way to go these days for starting authors.

• Need a demon? Demonicpedia then is the internet's version of the Demoniomicon of Iggwilv.
It is still a little new and not very full yet, but like all -pedias out there based on the media wiki software this one can be edited by you.  My readers here are diverse, but horror is something most of you have in common.  So I see you all as being more contributor types than just passive readers.

• A couple years back I got a book of Sherlock Holmes stories from my friend Greg Littlejohn.  I am finally getting around to reading it and I am enjoying the hell of it.  Watch out Ghosts of Albion players my mind is boiling over with ideas!

• Thanks to the recent GMs day sale at DriveThruRPG I bought a bunch of stock art for my upcoming books.  Now I just need to make enough money off of these to cover all the costs!

• Speaking of Kickstarters and ongoing works in progress. The Player's Companion to Adventure Conqueror King is underway.  I can confirm now I did a little bit of work on the Witch class.  The author of the class also drew on my 3.0 witch as inspiration.  The ACKS Witch is very different from either my withes in "The Witch" or from "Eldritch Witchery" but all three are largely compatible.  Once all three are out expect a post.

More soon!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Designers & Dragons

I have been wanting to pick up Designers & Dragons now for sometime.  With the final hours of the GM's Day Sale going on, I figured that today was that day.

This book is everything you need to know about the history of RPGs.  Shannon Appelcline, of RPG.Net fame

This is massive (440+ pages), well researched tome is perfect for reading straight through, picking up a year or company at random or even looking things up.

The style is easy to read and it's almost informal in tone.  One can easily picture Appelcline sitting down ans saying "let me tell you a story, you see it all started 1974..."  Like a storyteller the story takes turns and twists and doesn't follow a chronology,  but that is fine since it does follow a narrative.
They layout is clean and simple.  The story is the key here, and there are plenty of color photos of the games being talked about, though not all games have photos.

While there is a lot of information there is a lot of material to cover too.  So sometimes some topics get a little shorted, but I can't blame the author for this to be honest.  There is just so much to cover.   That been said there is a lot that is in this book.  I consider myself very knowledgeable about RPGs and I was nodding along with the text going "yes I remember that" but I still found myself going "wow, I didn't know that!" quite often.

In a nice feature each chapter/part ends in a "What to Read Next" that can lead you in many different directions.  Like coming to a crossroads in a dungeon do you go right, left or straight ahead.  The choice is yours.

This book is so full of information that it will take me weeks to digest it all and I am sure I'll be coming back to it often.

This book is the most comprehensive history of RPGs and the companies that produce them to date.  I was even happy to see my own name in these pages (even if is spelled "Brannon" and not "Brannan").

One thing I am looking forward to doing is use this as another source to help out the Wikipedia articles on RPGs.  For the longest time the RPG articles on Wikipedia were the target of an editor on a crusade.  I am not sure what his motivation was, but it was obvious he had no clue what he was talking about.  In any case it did lead to the improvement of many articles.

You can also see what Kurt Wiegel has to say about it at Game Geeks.

White Dwarf Wednesday...oops!

Sorry folks!!

I just realized that today is Wednesday and I forgot to post my White Dwarf Wednesday post.

I'll do a special run of it tomorrow.

Ghosts of Albion: Batman

This made it's rounds last week, but I am just getting caught up.

Clips from a proposed Gotham by Gaslight video game.

Might make for some good Ghosts of Albion fodder.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Tale of Two Games

It has been a busy week.

So busy that I have not had the chance to game (and next weekend is not looking good for that either).  I had a lot of things planned to talk about, to do.  Just none of those happened.

But one thing I do want to talk about, two games I just picked up. And really they could not be more different.

Adventurer Conqueror King System and Marvel Heroic Roleplaying


Let me talk about why they are similar first.
Both are highly praised games that have been well received by players and designers.
Both owe something of their popular due to the legacy of games produced by TSR in the 80s.
Both, now during the GMs sale, are under $10.   So for a Hamilton, you can get a new game.
I was eagerly waiting for both. Was slightly disappointed when I finally got them (expected more from one,

But there the similarities end.

Designwise, Adventurer Conqueror King System (ACKS) has defined beginning, middle and end.  Marvel Heroic Roleplaying (MHR) is open ended. In deed things on character sheet (Milestone) change as the game goes on. In the case of milestones, something that gave you experience last year, might not this year.

Greg, my friend and GM for myself and one of the games my kids play in described MHR as the "Antithesis" of the OSR, whereas ACKS is a synthesis of all the OSR embraces.

Character design in ACKS is straight-forward, roll your dice assign (in order) your scores.  Then see what you are going to be?  Rolled high in Strength? Congrats you are a fighter!  But don't worry about much else, in fact roll up four more characters, you might need them.

Character design in MHR starts with a concept, and a fairly well articulated concept at that.  Who is your hero, what does he do? How does he work in teams or with a partner? What are his goals, his issues?  Once you have that THEN you assign values to them, but in truth these values can be about anything.  It doesn't matter to MHR that the Hulk and Thor are both strong, we don't even need numbers for that.  If the hulk wants to pick up a tank and hit you with it, he does.  What matters instead is what motivates the Hulk to do that.  How does he perform in a group.  What are the things that are important to his story.

Character design then are two very different things in both games.  Given that overlap one could stat up the Howard version of Conan (from the books) and the Marvel Comics version of Conan, but come at it from completely different mindsets.   In ACKS we would be interested in his level (depending on when we read the tale), his strength and prowess with a blade.  When the Player's Companion comes out we might even be better able to mimic him.  In MHR we are interested in his ability to work in a team, partnership or solo.  We would also be interested in who his enemies are, what his goals are.   How close is he to regaining his throne? His loves?

On a personal note. It took Greg and I a couple of hours to detail Justice and Zatanna in MHR.  Earlier in the day he, my son and 4 other 12 year olds rolled up 5 characters each for ACKS.

ACKS is a D&D clone that attempts to mimic the great stories of the pulp age.  Conan rose to power from humble beginnings. As did John Carter and the Grey Mouser.

MHR is social game that attempts to mimic comic books, not supers games.  Comic book writers don't keep track of such things as how much can the Hulk or Spidey can bench press, only that they are as strong as they need to be for a particular scene.  MHR is the same way.  Can Spidey lift 1 Ton?  No idea, can he lift enough to save Mary Jane?  That is a more important question.

ACKS will run like any number of D&D games, but maybe a little grittier, a little more deadly.
MHR will run like any number of supers games, but while you might not ever die in this game, you can loose everything important to you.  Which is sometimes worse.

I guess there is one other area where the games are the same.
Both are great fun.

It took me a bit to see the value of each game.
After all I have tons of D&D clones and Supers games.  In the end it is not about what these games do that is the same as their "cousins", but rather what they do that is different.

ACKS is about the Short Game, or rather the game that is like a story with a beginning, middle and end.
MHR is about your hero and their story, their struggles and stress.  What makes them get up and keep fighting.  To me it is no wonder that the unofficial mascot of MHR is Captain America.  In fact I think I "get " Cap a little bit better now thanks to this game.

I normally would put a "Which Game Should I Buy" section here, but I won't.   I think you know already which one is right for you.  I say that you take the time to look at the other game too.

Please expect more detail on each game in the next week.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Don't you hate it when you get everything ready to game and the DM says you can't play today because of other issues (family, work...)

What makes this worse is I am the DM.

Crazy hectic week and I had hoped that the 12+ hour days I had been pulling this week would have given me some time to play today.  No such luck.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Victorian Games for Sale

There are plenty of sales at the GM's Day sale at DriveThruRPG. At the time of this writing I found over 8,000 pdfs. Some I didn't even know about.

Here are a list of my favorite Victorian Era games that are not Ghosts of Albion.

Castle Falkenstein - the original weird Victoria.  Great game.
Cthulhu by Gaslight - the horror classic.  Gothic horror + Lovecraftian horror = win.
Gaslight Victorian Fantasy (OGL Edition) and
Gaslight Victorian Fantasy (Savage Worlds Edition)  - Victorian game that you can shape how you wish.  Compatible with 1000s of other products.
Rippers - Savage Worlds Victorian horror tech
Victoriana: 1867 Edition - the original version
Victoriana 2nd Edition Core Rulebook - the updated and far superior version
Abney Park's Airship Pirates - alt Victorian high concept based on the albums and Victoriana's rules
Space: 1889 - The original trip to space, based on H.G. Welles and Jules Verne stories/
Space 1889: Red Sands - the new updated Savage Worlds version
The Kerberos Club (Savage Worlds Edition) - your characters need a place to go
Etherscope - and a way to tie all these worlds together.

All of these games are great fun in their own right, but I like them all and combine bits and pieces of them with Ghosts of Albion.

Grab them all while they are on sale.

What does D&D Sound like?

What does D&D sound like?

This is what it sounds like to me.

D&D sounds like Rush.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Dragonslayers: An Epic Epic of Epicness

So after my Book of Vile Darkness enhanced version of S4:The Lost Caverns of the Tsojcanth, the characters all for the most part hit 20th level and frankly I don't want to stop.

So I am pouring over the Epic Level Handbook now.  This is not something I used back when I was play 3.x, and it has taken this long for the boys to get to this level.  I have some issues with it, for example the editing seems bad in places. But man this book is just full of great ideas.  Some of which would be great for Epic Level Play in D&D4 or 20+ level in D&D Bacic/BECMI.
Really it is kind of a fascinating book.  It takes the rules into places the original designers I don't think expected, but yet there is such an enthusiasm for it that it makes the reality of a 30-level D&D4 a no brainer.

They have not leveled up yet, they are still in the caves.  I am merging the 3.x rewrite of the LSotT with the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdûn.  I now have the temple far, far underground where the dengerate Norkers dwell and keep millennia old rituals alive to a God no one remembers.  There will be demons, monsters of pure chaos and all sorts of evil.  Maybe even a rogue Brain Collector.  Love those guys.

To keep the sense of evil, dread and most importantly fear, I am still going to use the Book of Vile Darkness (both the 3.0 and 4.0 versions) but I'll also include some elder scariness from the Epic Level Handbook too.

The idea here is to build to something big, apocalyptic even.  That is why I bought this thing.

The Mage Knight Apocalypse Dragon to stand in for the full Goddess form of Tiamat.  That is the 3.x era Aspect of Tiamat and the 4e Orcus.   I am not sure how powerful she is going to be, but I am expecting HP in the low 1000 area, at least 30-35 HD and enough magic the stomp a small city-state.  I want it to be so epic that the boys will tell their own kids one day.  Just like the time that my characters had to defeat Orcus in the original H4 Throne of Bloodstone back in that far off time of 1987 and that mystical land sages once spoke of, Southern Illinois.

But since I also want to make all the battles leading up to this one epic in feel I am also reading other's play experience with these two modules.

Beedo over at Dreams of the Lich House has a great post on his group's battle in the Temple of Tharizdun.  This is a great run down and shows that all in not quiet in this so-called Forgotten temple.  James of Grognardia gives us his retrospective as well.  What both bloggers offer me is something I already knew, but was glad to see it all spelled out again.  The Forgotten Temple is not a simple dungeon crawl. Sure it looks like one, but it isn't one. This is alien horror.  This is Lovecraft meets the Satan Pit.
There is no over ridding goal to this adventure.  This is uncovering a plot and then running the hell away. I'll give them chances to acquire some magic items, even face some ancient, eldritch evils.

If I ever do Tharizdûn it will have to be even bigger than the Tiamat battle.

Tharizdun. Now there is name.  You don't need to know anything else about this guy other than his name to know he is up to no good.

In Gygax's Oerth he is the next best (worst) thing to Satan.  He is the Source of All Evil, to borrow a page from Charmed.  He is the biggest baddie there is.  I'll take his "Satan" aspects and his "Thasaidon" aspects and maybe even pepper in a bit of Lovecraft for good measure.

Links I am currently reading for "inspiration".

Anyone else run an Epic level game?  Or take on the Temple of Tharizdun.