Tuesday, July 29, 2008

In Which The PlatinumCat Gets a New Companion!

Introducing...Q! Short for "The Question", she's as curious as Vic Sage and as frisky as Renee Montoya....not in the lipstick-lesbian way, though.

Monday, July 28, 2008

In Which The Warlock Updates Randomly and Catches Up With the GrimDark...

I received a complaint recently from fellow Witt-Wegger Nick that I haven't talked much about our weekly Dark Heresy game on here. He's been really excited about his Cleric, who's become the de-facto party leader, and I've been so wrapped up with Origins and searching for a new job that I really haven't had the time to devote to the GrimDark of the far future.

So, Nick, this one's for you.

When we last blogged of our intrepid adventurers, they had managed to crash-land the ruined hulk of the Emperor's Ship Persephone on the planet Scintilla, capital planet of the Calixis sector. They were arrested almost immediately by the Adeptes Arbites, but were shortly sprung by High Inquisitor Globus Varaak--a mechanized husk of a corpulent man, who ran the library-fortress of the Tyrantine Cabal Inquisition.

Varaak immediately took on the group as his new Acolytes and set them about the task of finding out exactly why the Persephone crashed. This led first to the still-flaming, charred ruins of the ship in order to retrieve the logs of the late Captain Nestor Sammael. Sammael's log did little to build their confidence in their former captain, but it did provide several leads and the names of the bridge staff...the most intreguing being High Enginseer Praxilus, one of the Red Priests of the Machine God.

Having seen a red-robed figure escaping the ship as they were arrested, the Acolytes immediately turned to Hive Tarsus' temple to the Machine Lord to find out information. There, they not only found Praxilus, who was in a massive underground foundary, building new weapons for himself, but also a quest to seek out a missing tech priest--Iacton--who had disappeared into the northern wastes along the route of the walking city of Ambulon. After confronting Praxilus, the Enginseer provided him with his encrypted vox recorder, which included his own ship's log, then left for parts unknown.

Tracking Iacton through the wastes proved difficult, but the Acolytes soon found their way exploring a short cavern complex beneath Iacton's desert manor. Breaking into the manor, they soon found that Iacton was not all he seemed to be--using forbidden texts and heretical knowledge, the tech-priest was building himself an insectoid carapace in devotion to Nurgle, the Chaos-Lord of Flies. Terminating Iacton with extreme prejudice, the investigators found themselves in possession on a strange black gem, which radiated warp energy.

Upon returning to Varaak's fortress, our heroes found the Cabal in chaos. After debriefing, they soon found out that a high-ranking mole in the Adeptus Mechanicus was eliminated. Worrying that Iacton was the aforementioned mole, they reported on their activities, but were shocked to learn that the mole was a completely different tech priest.

After hacking into Praxilus' vox, our heroes did their best to piece together their new leads, and began investigating a new tech priest that had emerged--Praxilus' second-in-command Walpurgis. However, more successful avenues lead them to dig out Incarceratrix Cainye (and her relationship with First Mate Acutus), as well as an Adeptus Arbites Lieutenent who had gone through Academy alongside Comptroller Xephyron. Gaining the favor of two feuding Arbites Lieutenants, the group found themselves in possession of the necessary warrants to investigate the quarantined morgue where the found bodies from the Persephone were being kept. With that, the mystery continues next month...

Oh, and on a random note--Laura (of Life is Not Boring and Reviewing Everything)--nominated me for a blogging award! Thankee, Laura!

Oh, and on one more note--I've stared playing in a 4e game! Lionel has started us off at first level, in the 4e intro adventure "Keep on the Shadowfell". I'm now currently playing Ignatius, a rather anti-social Dwarven Warlock who holds a pact with Dispater, Lord of the Second and Master of the Iron Tower. With luck, our party will make it through the kobold defenders and win the day!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

In Which The Warlock Finds Himself Unable to Compare Billionaire Playboys...

So, I've been debating about writing this review since I've seen it. The Dark Knight The newest, biggest, most anticipated summer blockbuster of the year. It's out, and I find myself dumbfounded, trying to figure out how to think about it.

Mainly, I think this is because I enjoyed Iron Man so much. But, as I've thought about the two films more and more, I find myself nearly unable to compare them. However, I'll do my best, here, as I give my review on The Dark Knight.

The Dark Knight begins scant months after Batman Begins--the mob families of Gotham are in disarray, and the appearance of The Batman has caused several "copycat vigilantes" to pop up, to say nothing of "the freaks"...including a perennial psychopath called The Joker. However, rising to the occasion is also District Attorney Harvey Dent, played by a grimly determined Aaron Eckhart.

If Iron Man was a film that was driven by Robert Downey Jr.'s performance, The Dark Knight succeeds in spite of Christian Bale's presentation. This is not to say that Christian Bale does badly, but the film itself is not about him--The Batman's already been established, and the screentime focuses more specifically on Dent and the late Heath Ledger's Joker. Batman becomes second fiddle in his own film, growling menacingly at any who come by, as he simply reacts to the Joker's threats as swiftly and mercilessly as possible.

And it is Ledger that absolutely steals the show. Something of a combination of Sid Vicious and "A Clockwork Orange"'s Alex (both of whom were inspirations for Ledger's character), with a touch of Kevin Spacey's "John Doe", The Joker comes across as a man possessed. Licking the corners of his facial scars with frentic abandon, Ledger slinks his way through the part like a predatory cat. The writing for the Joker, particularly, crackles like a loose high-voltage cord. Jeff Bridges' Obediah Stane has nothing on this guy--while Bridges made for a suitable industrial businessman, Ledger brings a genuine insanity to the part that no villain in recent memory can match.

The plot of The Dark Knight moves subtly and (to a degree) slowly, starting first as a bust on mob money launderers, then spiraling further and further out of control as the Joker turns his anarchic vision to judges, Police Commissioner Gordon, and D.A. Dent, as he goads The Batman to dare to stop him, mainly by breaking his "one rule"--no killing. While the film maintains a taut sense of tension throughout, the side-plots and continual layered machinations run just a little long. I actually began to wonder, by about the 2 hour mark, where they were getting any more Gotham policemen or Joker henchmen...

Believe it or not--and trust me, this is going to sound odd--I found myself somewhat bored with The Dark Knight's fight scenes. Oftentimes, they felt unnecessary and rushed, and I felt myself longing for them to end as soon as possible, so we could get back to the high tension. This was a massive departure from most superhero movies, where the actions scenes pile up like one of Michael Bay's wet dreams. Again, Iron Man had a good balance here, but the action drove the plot, rather than vice versa, as in The Dark Knight.

I suppose this is another major point of differentiation. Iron Man and The Dark Knight both shared PG-13 ratings, but for very different representations. Iron Man had the various expected explosions, but was not afraid to kill--I remember particularly when the Armored Avenger punches one of the Gulmira terrorists and he crumples into a wall about 20 feet away. The Dark Knight, on the other hand, has the exact opposite effect. While Batman refuses to kill, this movie is dark. Yes, I know you've heard that already, but let me put this straight...

...early on in the movie, the Joker kills a mob thug. With a pencil. The camera speed is moved up, so that the action happens in a flash, as the Joker literally slams the mobster's head down, impaling his skull on a sharpened pencil.

That's grim. That's dark. That's psychotic. It's ground that superhero movies have never trod before. It's more reminiscent of films like Se7en or Saw than of Fantastic Four, and doesn't let up through the whole film. The irony of this is not lost on me--Iron Man kills people, while Batman does not...yet Batman's film is so much darker, most likely for that fact.

I have no problem with this direction in films, but it shows a grim darkness that is almost unfitting with other superhero movies. That said, I cannot believe whatsoever that parents would let their children under 10 or 11 see this, particularly unsupervised.

The Dark Knight is an absolutely fantastic film. While it runs long, and Bale's Batman gets somewhat lost beneath Ledger's schizophrenic symphony, it deserves every ounce of hype it gets. However, it is not a true superhero/comic-book movie. It's a psychological thriller, complete with sociopathic serial killer, with just enough of a superheroic twist to get kids in the seats and action figures in the aisles.

Long story short?
Iron Man is utterly a superior superhero movie. It centers on Tony Stark as Iron Man and doesn't let up, it follows comic book conventions to a T, and it shows the necessary action in high fashion. Take it for what it is, and you'll never be disappointed in it.

The Dark Knight, to the opposite point, is a superior "film". It's a brillant character study of a psychopathic villain, and two heroes (Batman and Dent) who must walk a thin line when chasing their adversary or risk becoming equally psychopathic. It's an absolutely brilliant piece of celluloid, but it's not a superhero movie--don't treat it as such, and you'll absolutely love it. Try to categorize it with Iron Man and you'll be disapointed.

For the sake of posterity, let me put down one last thought. Coupled right before The Dark Knight was the trailer for Zak Penn's Watchmen, which I've been drooling over for months. I get the feeling, knowing the story of Watchmen, that I'll be saying most of the same comments about it, as I've shared about The Dark Knight. Time shall tell, friends and neighbors!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

In Which The Warlock is Disappointed...

So, as I mentioned in my Summer-Movie-Preview-Extravaganza entry, I've been looking forward to the coming of Hellboy II: The Golden Army for a while. I really enjoyed the prior installment--really, who's going to turn down clockwork ninja zombie Nazis?--so my anticipation for the sequel was pretty high.

My biggest worry, though, was director Guillermo Del Toro's own success. Prior to the original Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth, his biggest success was Blade II, and that's not saying much. However, his newer, over-the-top style of visuals, particularly in the aforementioned Pan's Labyrinth really seemed to be out of place for the dark, historio-occult mysteries in Hellboy. My fears, however, were answered.

As a deviation from the prior movie, which revolved around a revived Rasputin attempting to summon the Cthulhian gods of the Ogru Jahad, Hellboy II: The Golden Army deals with Celtic Mythology, as rogue elvish Prince Nuada attempts to summon the titular indestructable Golden Army to wage war on mankind. It's up to our Big Red Hero and his cohorts to keep him from doing so.

The problem with this is the fact that everything that made the original film so great--the covert nature, the creepy occult features, the secrecy and paranoia--are all abandoned. Hellboy himself doesn't seem like a freak to us anymore, when he's wandering around a "Troll Market" with all sorts of beasties. The very thing that made him unique in the first movie is abandoned, leaving us bored in the sequel.

The same thing happens in many of the fight scenes: Hellboy, as a demonic brute, simply smashed through problems with the Right Hand of Doom in the first movie, or blew them away with "The Samaritan". In ...Golden Army, the fights are replaced with absurd wire-fu moves that would be better served for a Jet Li or Jackie Chan movie.

By the same token, the side plots and newer characters add little to the characterization. Joining the force to replace the removed John Myers is ectoplasmic-strategist Johann Krauss. While his costume is visually appealing, he adds nothing to the plot, acting only as a "hard-ass C.O." for 3/4 of the film, before having the customary change of heart. Similarly, BPRD leader Manning, who had established an uneasy truce over cigars with Hellboy at the end of the first movie, now becomes naught but a sycophant to Krauss, losing all of the character development that had occured prior.

However, the biggest disappointment in characterization comes from Liz Sherman, Hellboy's main squeeze. (Minor Spoilers ahead!) Early on in the film, it becomes evident that Liz has a greater focus on her pyrokinetic abilities...and immediately after, it becomes just as evident that she's pregnant with Hellboy's baby. I was frustrated by this--instead of becoming a strong action hero in her own right through practice and self-control, Liz becomes nothing more than a baby-repository. She does little to contribute to the plot afterwards, except for the fact that she is, in fact, pregnant, and needs Hellboy to be a good father.

As with all summer-blockbusters, the action scenes are key, but they feel genuinely purposeless and lackluster in ...Golden Army. Hellboy fights a troll servant of Nuada in the "Troll Market", but there's nothing particularly exciting about it. A fight scene with a massive plant elemental in the streets of Brooklyn began to evoke the feel of the first movie, but was continually interrupted with drivel about the "death of the faerie world" and a lack of participation by Liz (boy, a pyrokinetic sure would be useful when fighting a giant freaking tree)). Even the final fight scenes seem tacked on and artificial, as the remaining BPRD members simply stand by as Hellboy fights Nuada in what looks like a scene from Kill Bill Vol. 1 on top of a giant clock.

Oh, and the ending? Not what I was hoping for whatsoever. It genuinely doesn't make sense in the context of the series. I wouldn't bother going to see for yourself; if you're curious, just ask me or go spoil yourself.

This is getting long, so I'll sum up swiftly--the characters are shallower than their earlier versions, the plot does not fit well with Hellboy's original mythology, the action's off-kilter, and it's not what the first film was. The visuals are beautiful, but they're all that the film has going for it. Save your money, and wait for the double-feature on FX.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

In Which The PlatinumChick Has a Stroke...of Genius!

So, on the way back from Origins, after going out to O'Charley's with Lionel and his family, Jules struck upon a massively brilliant idea.

After roaming around at Origins, playing the massive series of games there, she expressed a desire to run game again. Jules is the resident Eberron-nut, and she was especially jazzed when she ran "Sharn's Eleven" at WittCon V, but felt a bit frustrated when she had to skip levels of the game, due to the slowdowns of 3.5e.

So, when she mentioned this idea in her car, driving back to Fairborn, it hit me like a bolt out of the blue.

We had 7 Witt-Weggers at Origins this year. Next year, at the very least, we'll have four of us, with at least two more already in the wings.

GAMA, the organization that runs Origins, offers incentives for people who run games at Origins. In fact, the basic incentive is free admission/payment reimbursement for that Origins Game Fair. The Wittenberg Role-Playing Guild, as an organization, is already registered as a GAMA member-organization.

Being a GAMA-affiliated organization allows you certain advantages, such as some flexibility in scheduling events...and choice of rooms. Shoggoth.net, Rogue Cthulhu, Amorphous Blob--all of these have been able to get their own rooms and their own scheduling set up. Why not us?

The vision for next year: our very own Wittenberg Role-Playing Guild room. Maybe not for the entire show, but for at least a few days of it. If we can get each Witt-Wegger to run two games--our badges would provisionally be comp-ed, we can publicise both WittCon VI/VII, and get blind playtesting for both Dungeon Slam! and MOE.

I envision us in something like the Clark room--five tables of games, with each of us at one: myself running Dungeon Slam! or the Cthulhu Dark Ages scenario, "Deus Vult!"; Ebbs running MOE or his "Ninja Nuttiness" scenario; Lionel running Paranoia or his d20 Zombies scenario; Jules running d20 Modern or "Sharn's Eleven"....
...and, coupled with this--the WittCon banner hung for all to see, business cards with the guild-website and contact info, a tack-board with pictures from prior WittCons, and laser-etched dice (cheaper than you think!) with the Guild Shield.

If this works, we could potentially even look at having guests in, as well--El Willy comes immediately to mind, but others too...

Are we on to something here? Could this work? It's time to send some e-mails...

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Origins 2008 Blog! Post-Con Wrap-Up...


That’s about my whole mentality right now. Origins is a ton of fun, but it’s a massively exhausting venture. Now that I’ve finally gotten a chance to sit down and relax, I feel like I can give a little bit of a retrospective.

• I may have been a little too virulent in my distaste for the RPGA. While I’ve had quite a few bad experiences in the “Living” games, my game this year—“Return to the Moathouse”—was a really pleasant surprise. The other players, there, were a generally jovial group who really knew their game. I was a touch frustrated at the general lack of roleplaying, but it was really nice to see the tactical rules in action. I know that it’s a con game, so you typically get one or the other, but I may have to give the RPGA a second shot, now that we’re in 4e.

• 4e is a fantastic little system, but it definitely is going to require some changes to the way I game. I really like the speed of the rules, as well as the simplicity on the DMing end, but the way that combat is currently situated, it definitively needs a battlemap. My purchases, as I’ll talk a little bit later, kinda reflect that. That said, it really fosters imagination in terms of rituals and the like, which makes DMing authentic. I love it, but it’s going to take some changing on my end.

• I really should have had a little more variety in terms of my gaming. While all of my games were really well put together, I feel like I spent Origins playing the same things over and over—-WEGS, D&D, Dark Heresy, and Call of Cthulhu. Not that any of those are bad, but trying out some new things is all about what Origins is. I was somewhat jealous of Jules’ schedule, which had a fantastic variety. Her Saturday game alone—a d20 Modern conversion of the classic 2e D&D adventure “Expedition to the Barrier Peaks” was a unique little throwback. Lionel, as well, had a varied schedule, with a ton of new boardgames and the like. My schedule was fantastic, but was really very vanilla. Next year? Some spice!

• Late nights make for early-morning killers. The idea of playing Dungeon Slam! with El Willy and his crew has been a long time in coming, but doing it at 1:30 in the morning? Not such a great idea. Same thing with the Friday Midnight Session of WEGS…playing a game until 3:00 am utterly leaves you devastated the next day, no matter how late you sleep in. I was utterly astounded that so many of our little group wanted to play in a 2:00 am Mutant Academy game—luckily for them (sort of), it was cancelled, as the GM never showed.

• The gaming industry is really one of friendliness, across the board. All of the designers I’ve been able to meet—El Willy, Steve Jackson (last year), Mike Mearls, Michelle Nephew, Curt Covert—have been absolutely fantastic and completely receptive. Talking shop with Curt was an absolute pleasure, and gave me some solid ideas on how to change things. It’s Michelle, though, that’s given me the most to think about. I’m not a big note-taker, but I ended up with 5 pages of notes. And because of this…

• I have a ton of work to do on Dungeon Slam! A ton. That’s not even putting it mildly. I was somewhat embarrassed as the cards for the demo on Wednesday night were messy and hard to read, with all of the hand-written revisions I’ve made. Michelle had said that, when submitting to a company you want your product to be “as neat and as professional as possible, without spending”. The next few months are going to be hectic, as I keep working on DS 3.5e.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Origins Blog 2008! Entry Five--The Swag!

No con is complete without the Swag! I was good, and kept to my vow of not spending more than $100. I even came under budget this year, spending only about $90. But that said, I was more than pleased with my purchases.

(Koplow Dice Tray)

I said I was going to get it, but this ended up being my last purchase. No surprises here—I’ve needed one for a while, and now I have it. The pleasant thing was seeing Bob (Don’t Call Him The Diceman!) at the booth. He seemed rather receptive about coming back to WittCon, which is a great positive—it’ll be great to have him in our corner again!

(Ironwind Metals—Fantasy Miniatures)

With the advent of 4e, and the tactical feel of combat, I set out for the Origins auction to look for some used minis that I’d be able to use when running the game. While the auction didn’t have what I was looking for, Ironwind did! At $2.00 an ounce for loose minis, I was able to pick up quite a selection (including a Cyclops, which is the spitting image of Craig T. Nelson’s monster in Flesh Gordon). Not too bad at all, particularly for $18.00 total.

(Sorting Chips—250—Multi-Color)

If it’s one thing I’ve noticed in many of the games I’ve been running recently, it’s that status conditions are getting more and more numerous. WEGS has its “Lost Action Phase”, and that’s to say nothing of Sure-Shot, Catlike-Tread, Magic/Mystic Sense, and more. D&D 4e, in addition, has “marked” targets, Warlock curses, “Hunter’s Quarry” targets, and much more. Having a way to keep track of these seems like a good way to go, and this was a cheap way to do it. At $4.00, you can’t beat the price—it’s great!

(Hex Hex; Smirk and Dagger Games)

Demoing this game with Curt Covert, while talking shop, may have been one of my most favorite sections of this year’s Origins. Hex Hex is a fun little game of backstabbing, which really runs when you’re sitting around with some good friends, just having a good time. It’d make for a stellar drinking game, too…but that’s another story. I was so impressed that I picked up the expansion, as well, Hex Hex Next, which has some even more lethal cards to toss in.

(Mutants and Masterminds 2e, Green Ronin Publishing)

Free is absolutely the best price, but this was an unexpected find. While I still love Palladium’s Heroes Unlimited, quite a few of the Witt-Weggers (Ebbs, for one) are all about the M&M. Reading through this, I can’t say I blame him too much—it’s a sweet little system. It may never replace my nostalgic favorite, but it’s a solid rules-set, with a lot of support behind it. None too bad at all.

So, I guess that, if you’re reading this, you’re wondering where are my reviews on Black Industries’ Inquisitors’ Handbook and the Kingsport Expansion for Arkham Horror. Well…I bought neither. But, this is for two different reasons.

I didn’t really find a good deal on Kingsport, and Bookery Fantasy is still offering their 15% off sale through the summer. I’d rather support my FLGS and get a sweet discount than simply get the expansion at a con, just for the experience of buying it there. I may even hold off for a tick, as Kingsport will be there for a while, and we typically play AH over at Lionel’s, so my set would go unused.

As for Inquisitors’ Handbook? Well, it’s a matter of cost. I paid $45.00 for the Dark Heresy core rules, which are in full-color and a beautiful matte hard-cover. Expensive for a book, but not unheard of. The Inquisitors’ Handbook, concurrently, is the same price, but is a soft-cover and only in black and white with red-borders. While I’d love to have it and use it, I just don’t think it’s worth it right now. Particularly when one considers that Fantasy Flight Games is expecting to put out their version in July, which will be in both hardcover and full-color. Thanks, but I’ll wait for that.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Origins Blog 2008! Entry Four

Alert! Blog Entries this week were written one week prior, on Saturday, June 28!

Whew. Origins is winding down, and the Witt-Weggers’ trip out here is about to come to a close. We head out tomorrow morning, to head home and actually get some sleep for once!

After El Willy’s Midnight Madness game, I got only about 4 hours of sleep before waking up (an hour early! Gah!) for my two seminars of the convention. The first was more of an informative session, dealing specifically with the ins and outs of getting a game published with a small-press. Michelle Nephew was particularly informative, and the setting was really casual. I took something like 5 pages of notes, and am slowly realizing that my game needs a ton of revisions—time to get back after the playtesting!

The second seminar, on 4e with Mike Mearls, was really a pleasant indulgence. Mearls really is a receptive guy, who knows his audience in and out. He was eager to ask just about any question we put to him, which was nice, as I was really curious to see his input on the new cosmology. While I still miss my beloved Great Wheel, I can see why the design team went the way they did—the idea being that, if you’re going for a setting-less game, why include a specific setting to muck things up? Again, Mearls was really a stand-up guy, and I was lucky enough to get to thank him for the earlier (near?) encounter over with Amorphous Blob.

A very sleep deprived Andy, with Mike Mearls, creator of D&D 4th Edition

Meeting up with Lionel after the game (and a purchase of Hex Hex, from Smirk and Dagger), we swiftly tried to make it over to North Market to grab some lunch…only to be interrupted by Columbus’s Annual Pride Day Parade. Thwarted by fate, we settled for the overpriced convention center food and relaxed with Jules and Ebbs while playing the aforementioned Hex Hex.

The Columbus Pride Day Parade...keeping us from North Market!

We did manage some time at the dealer-room today, which was fantastic, as I was able to finalize my purchases. More on those in a later entry.

Dinner came swiftly, and along with it came Lionel’s parents and cousin, in from New Jersey. As such, we headed to Buca di Beppo, a homestyle Italian chain.

Let me tell you this. I don’t think the ball of pasta that was my Gnocci de Telefone will ever leave my stomach. The walk back was hard enough. Making it to our final game—“Fallen Angels” done in Dark Heresy—will be just as big a challenge.

Lionel and Ebbs around the table, in the GrimDark of the far future...

With that, I’m out! Our happy next entry will be from the wondrous comfort of our apartment, as I wrap-up my con coverage and this year’s purchases.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

And Now for Something Completely Different...

So, in the happy little chain-o'-blogs that I mull through sometimes, I came upon this little challenge: http://lotfp.blogspot.com/2008/06/media-influences.html

Basic premise: What are the 5 biggest media influences on you as a DM/GM/etc.?
So, here we go!

1) H.P. Lovecraft
I was introduced to Lovecraft relatively late in my GMing 'career', but the Cthulhian horror concepts he started tend to permeate whatever game I'm running. In D&D, I end up with Mind Flayers and Elder Brain, summoning "Far Realm" entities alongside their humanoid cultists. Same thing happens in Conan, and even in superhero games like Heroes Unlimited.

2. Ray Harryhausen
I first watched "Jason and the Argonauts" when I was in first grade. Greek myth, filtered through stop-motion effects and bad '60s haircuts, made my childhood what it was. It started in me a love of all things mystic and mythic, which hasn't ceased yet. In terms of GMing, a lot of this shows in my backgrounding. I love having some ancient myths and heroes sitting lost in the background, whose deeds the players can emulate.

3. He-Man
If nothing else, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe has something for every GM. Ancient, forbidden magic; ultra-high technology; unique super-powers; a cackling villain with unique (and powerful) henchmen; massive, decaying fortresses...Seriously, what GM couldn't pull from a setting like this?! I was obsessed with He-Man for years, and managed to pick up the DVD releases immediately as they were released. I still go back to these for episodic game ideas...

4. Thomas Malory
As a Medievalist, Malory's 'piece de resistance' stands out any time I think about literary influences. The tragedy of Arthur's death, and the circumstances surrounding the fall of Camelot, are among the most recognizable for good reason. The nature of the Grail Quest, as well, is almost iconic in its representation of a "quest arc". I love pulling from Arthurian lore for adventures, particularly with lesser known knights (Yvain comes immediately to mind).

5. Planescape/Ravenloft
Growing up on D&D, it was really easy to paint many things in 4-color. Good was good, evil was evil, and that was it. These two campaign settings utterly threw me for a loop on that. Existential philosophy in gaming?! Moral quandaries?! Who knew that D&D could get so complex. Even in a non-planar, non-RL game, I find myself throwing in ideas and moral choices for players that are colored by these two campaign settings.

Origins 2008 Blog! Entry Three

Alert! Blog entries this week were written one week prior, on Saturday (morning), June 28!

Exhaustion was the name of the game yesterday, cats and kittens! Well, exhaustion…and WEGS, and Call of Cthulhu, and Settlers of Catan, and a little game called Hex Hex by Smirk and Dagger Games.

Back to the 2d10 and 2d6...

Willy the 2 tries his best to kill us all.

Jules and I began the day by pestering Willy the 2 in his morning “Dungeons OR Dragons” scenario, and helping to show off the system that brings craps to the geekdom table. I’ve really got to hand it to the WegsHogz—for never having done the booth-and-games thing before, their experience really shows. Their games have always been packed, and it’s been a non-stop stream of patrons at their fantastic casino/booth. Kudos to them!

Jules' Ranger faces death head-on

My Dwarven Sage against the Tentacle-Dragon.

Afterwards, we actually managed to make it through the dealer hall for once. Three days into the con, and I had yet to actually even take a look at most of the products coming out. If it’s one thing I noticed, it’s that the “flea-market” comments from last year did not fall on deaf ears. All of the booths, by default, were given black backdrops upon which to hang signs and merchandise. Simple, yeah, but it really classed up the place. Plus, despite the numerous places selling and buying used games, the feel was much more of a industry-insider show, with nearly all booths running open demos of games.

One of the neatest little surprises was a fellow I stumbled upon while demoing Dungeon Slam! for El Willy and his crew—-this being Smirk and Dagger Games’ Curt Covert. We talked a little about the game up in the breezeway but, as it was nearly 3 am by that point, he asked me to stop by his booth for a chat. As such, we ended up there, talking shop and trying out Hex Hex, a demonic little game that combines alchemical magic and Hot Potato into a nice little combination. I’ve got to say, he’s quite the sell at this—-I’ll probably be buying Hex Hex today—-but I definitely appreciated the chance to ‘talk shop’ with another real live professional.

Lionel gets "Dutched" at Giant Settlers of Catan

After taunting El Willy some more, regarding his Midnight Special, Jules headed off for some Settlers with Lionel and Maranda. I hung around and watched, getting the chance to both see them get schooled by another woman (who proudly bore her Knight of Catan emblem), and put together my surprise for El Willy—the new and improved Nordling: a Humz Trickster dabbling in Mage, and able to pull off a Flaming FryBall and an Enchanted Weapon. Locked and loaded, I was ready to go.

So, you get wood..."

Jules, being way too excited about clay.

I've got wood for sheep, if anyone else does...

The cities and village of Giant Settlers of Catan

Unfortunately, our dinner plans at the fabulous Japanese Steak House on High Street had to be put on hold, as their operating hours just didn’t mesh with our next games. As such, we headed to Barley’s next door before Dan, Jules, and I headed off for some Call of Cthulhu.

Jules' attention is rapt in the Rogue Cthulhu room

I had seen “Byhakees in Toyland” last year, and knew I absolutely had to get in on it this year. The premise? It’s Christmas Eve, and all the toys are awake…and something’s very wrong. Playing a sentient box of Legos, I helped My Little Pony, the Blue Power Ranger, and a PokeBall (amongst others) to the bottom of what was going on. Unfortunately, we hadn’t counted on Plush Cthulhu! My little block-man gibbered and stabbed his way to a near TPK, before being put out of his misery by Optimus Prime.

Our valiant GM, and a Power Ranger from "Byhakees in Toyland"

Rainbow blindings and stuffed bear maulings at "Byhakees in Toyland"

Call of Cthulhu ended somewhat early, so I had a chance rest up before the WEGS Midnight Madness game, where we headed off in search of Ogma’s Orb of Obliteration. The trash talk on the Table Top Gamers message boards was thick and heavy prior to this game, so I knew we were in for a challenge.

Ebbs and Lionel prepare for the Friday Midnight Madness WEGS-a-thon

Rachel mulls her mini options

The three forces combine--The ShroomEaters, the WegsHogz, and the Witt-Weggers

Our adversary? The mummy KlattaBarraBoo, a massive Triple-88 who lay deep within the caverns beneath the Dwarven Monestery of Banturbury. With Trickster Nordling at the ready, I was ready for some combat...

Ogma's Orb of Obliteration awaits!

Trickster Nordling leads the charge...

After a brutal three hour session, the game ended in stalemate, with our party losing Spoints by the handful and KlattaBarraBoo down to 1/3 of his usual massive health. It was a massively entertaining game all around, particularly when getting faced down by the “Dwunks”—that is, Dwarven Monks—and their Flaming Fists of Fury. The pictures can tell the story here...

Time to Skorp!

The first fatality--a ShroomEater falls

Run, Nordling! Run!

Ebbs Gnobbits his way across the board.

Valiantly facing KlattaBarraBoo

As you can imagine, getting back at 3 am has left me more than a little exhausted, but I have plenty of time this afternoon to nap away. I adjusted my registration yesterday, ending up with two new seminars—one focusing on game publication with Michelle Nephew of Atlas Games, and a q&a with D&D guru Mike Mearls (yeah, him again!). More on these later, as I have all of 5 minutes to get there! Oi!

Laters, cats and kittens! Hopefully next update won’t quite be so long!