Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Stop Motion Jonny Quest

Found: A stop motion recreation of the Jonny Quest opening titles. This website chronicles the efforts of Roger Evans and his assistant, Brandi McAlister.

The end product is an amazing video of the highest quality. Every shot in the opening is recreated with amazing detail. The music is the exact original and the you can see the editing is right on cue. This video is painful in that I wish there could be a series with this quality. It is simply amazing.

On this site each shot links to a series of production photos of the techniques behind the incredible video.

Jonny Quest Opening Titles from Roger D. Evans on Vimeo.

Richelieu's Guide to Entertainment

The ever informative and all knowing Richelieu has produced another book. Richelieu's Guide to Entertainment clocks in at 12 pages and is written under Richelieu's pen name- Paul "Wiggy" Wade-Williams.
The Roman motto of "bread and circuses" neatly encompassed two crucial points of running a society: the people remain generally content if fed and entertained. France may be suffering great hardship, but for now, her citizens can still enjoy a variety of diversions and spectacles.
This supplement describes the many forms of entertainment of the age, details two sinister organizations, and provides advice for making entertainer characters. Also included are three sample player characters and 8 entertaining lackeys.
Entertainment is the 13th book in Richelieu series.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Mythic Eras and HEXiPedia

We celebrate the return of Mythic Eras (which was down for a week or so due to technical difficulties). Mythic Eras is an invaluable resource for the Ubiquity role-playing game system. Collected on the site is a large number of files, anything from character sheets, maps, adventures, to full campaign PDFs all compiled and organized by one who goes by Harrier Potter.

All role-playing games worthy usually do have great  resources- or they should.  Perhaps a game's volume of fan-made resources is an indication of it's quality, popularity, and success. In this case the fans of Hollow Earth Expedition and other Ubiquity games like All For One, Desolation have a very nicely presented place to seek and submit projects. There are fan made settings like Wilderness Adventure Kids and Wild West, also.

Imajica is the keeper of HEXiPedia. This is a wiki where fans are welcome to store projects and information pertaining to their Ubiquity system games.

The last major resources for Ubiquity games are the Exile Game Studio forums and the Triple Ace Games forums. Both are invaluable information kiosks where fans and the game creators talk about all aspects of the games.

Another resource that has recently popped up is Zombie's HEX Page which is actually a resource for the players who are in his games, which can be quite useful for one looking for cheat sheets or various character sheets.

The Ubiquity game system is a relatively young game system with a smaller product line than many other games with large fan-bases. The online support for the game is very solid and of high quality. Triple Ace Games is starting to change this by putting out a larger number of products. The more this happens, the more people will discover the game, the more need for this type of support, the better for it with the quality we have already in place.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Heist Society

The Heist Society is a book series by Abby Carter who is still best known for her first series- The Gallagher Girls

It is natural to compare the two series, because they're from the same author, they are written for the same general audience, and the characters in each series have very similar sets of specialty skills and relatively similar lifestyles. Fundamentally, however, the characters in each series are opposites from each other. One series is about spies and the other is about thieves.

I saw the Gallagher Girls as a very entertaining vehicle for young girls to see character values that were positive and conservative. The special agents in training are all characters with high morals and each has a strong sense of justice and loyalty (even though as spies they are always using the art of deception in a plethora of ways, but we forgive them for their lies). The good guys girls and the bad guys are pretty clearly defined and when they're not- that is the element of the plot.

Heist Society is like the older and more mature and rebellious sister to the Gallagher Girls. Where the Gallagher Girls worst sin is lying and will always try to please the parents, Heist Society are getting away with what they can, they lie AND they steel. Another departure from Gallagher is the 3rd person perspective of narrative. While we still follow one character, here we occasionally get a glimpse at the thoughts of other characters. The 1st person narrative of Gallagher Girl, Cameron Morgan, is cleverly written like a post-ops report which works well with that series. It feels like this method is easier to write and feels more like a film. I've always found the 3rd person narrative the most natural. We are with Kate Bishop as she organizes a heist with a young mismatched team to save her father from the criminal underworld.

One thing I had a hard time with Heist Society was it wasn't until about half way through the book that I started to like anyone in it. By the nature of the characters' lives they are bad-guys/girls. None of them could stand up to any of the Gallagher Girls (in skill or virtue). The ending of the first book, however, was so pleasing that I instantly forgave any misgivings about the characters. The 2nd half of the first book was excellent. I look forward to diving into the second book.

The two books that are available are Heist Society was written in 2010 and the second book- Uncommon Criminals is the latest, in 2011.

It appears that the popularity of the Gallagher Girls series will be eclipsed by the Heist Society series as soon as Drew Barrymore's production of the Heist Society film starts to hit the media.

Gallagher Girls advertisment

Found - an advert for the Gallagher Girls series...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Plateau of the Ape Men & The Dragons of London

Leagues of Adventure is the new setting from Triple Ace Games. Today they released a limited edition book produced for the 2011 UK Games Expo. Here's Paul "Wiggy" Wade-Williams' own description:

It's always a very exciting time when are able to talk about a new setting! This week we are proud to give 100 lucky people a chance to own the VERY limited introductory adventure to Leagues of Adventure - our brand new Victorian steampunk setting of derring-do and high adventure for the Ubiquity system! 
This edition is limited to only 100 copies and is exclusive to the TAG webstore so make sure you dont miss out and order today! 

Leagues of Adventure: Plateau of the Ape Men & The Dragons of London Welcome to Leagues of Adventure a rip-roaring setting of exploration and derring-do in the late Victorian Age! 
This is an age where the world is slowly shrinking. Colonial powers are extending their grip on Africa and Asia, brave men and women are venturing ever further into the great wildernesses in search of lost civilizations, new species of plants and animals, and to map the unexplored tracts. Travel between the great population centers has never been so easy, yet travel into the wilderness remains fraught with danger and mystery. 
This quickstart edition specially produced for UK Games Expo 2011 contains: 
• an introduction to Ubiquity. 
• two short adventures. 
• six sample characters. 
• enough rules for you to play the adventures contained within this volume. 
So take an action packed trip into the world of Leagues of Adventure! 
When ordering this product you recieve both the VERY special limited edition softback book plus the free ebook! 

Available from the TAG store 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Leagues of Adventure

Plateau of the Ape Men & The Dragons of London
Triple Ace Games introduces a brand new line for the Ubiquity System. Leagues of Adventure is set in the Victorian age with some steam-punk elements included which is being referred to as steam-pulp.

At this point there is only one product released for Leagues of Adventure, it is an adventure that was published for the 2011 UK Games EXPO in a very limited run. The product will be (or was) available for a brief window of time on the Triple Ace Games website.

Triple Ace Games create produced the swashbuckling, Three Musketeer campaign setting- All For One for the Ubiquity system which has enjoyed a rapid release of products- usually one PDF a month.

They also have three products from their Daring Tales of Adventure converted from the Savage Worlds system to Ubiquity. It sounds like more from the original line will make it's way to Ubiquity. These naturally fit well with the original Ubiquity RPG- Hollow World Expedition.

Leagues of Adventure is a new product line, it isn't expected to see releases as frequently as All For One has, but there should be plenty of aspects to cover. It looks like it's going to be a very nice campaign setting.

James Bond

BOND by RM73
An interesting article by Terence Bowman popped up on Den of the Geek today. It looks at the differences between literary characters and their film counterparts. In this post we'll look at Ian Fleming's 007, James Bond.

As a kid I remember discovering James Bond through my dad. He being a fan of the films guaranteed that I was going to be a fan, too. We even went to A View To A Kill in the theater!

Over the years I eventually saw films and appreciate them for what they are. However, getting into the Fleming novels AND gaining a perspective from film and video school revealed just how bad they really are. I believe that if you want to continue to like the Bond films, you must stay away from the novels.
James Bond author Ian Fleming once described Sean Connery, the first actor to play 007 on the big screen, as "a Glaswegian lorry driver who mangles my character". Many Fleming fans might be inclined to agree with that sentiment, though their issues may not lie solely with Connery.
The 1959 novel Goldfinger, for instance, opens with Bond sitting in a bar in Miami Airport. He’s just flown back from Central America, where he has just carried out an assignment to kill a drug dealer who was working for the Communists. As he sits there, Bond reflects on his deadly deeds in the line of duty. His internal musings on the nature of his dark and often brutal occupation depict a man questioning his own morality and place in the world. Fleming's writing in this part of the book is almost poignant in its existentialism.
Cut to the corresponding opening scene in the movie, Goldfinger. Connery, as Bond, on a similar mission, emerges out of a lake with a plastic duck on his head. He then takes off his wet suit to reveal that he is wearing a perfectly dry tuxedo underneath. Nothing can describe the difference between the Bond novels and the Bond films better than that comparison.
Described by Fleming as a “blunt instrument” rather than a hero, the literary Bond bore only a passing resemblance to his cinematic counterpart. Bond was a cool, detached and efficient killer in the service of his country, hence the term, “Licence to kill”. He rarely uttered a joke or a witty one-liner, least of all in regard to someone that he had just killed.
The actors that followed Connery in the role of Bond strayed to and from Fleming in varying degrees. Roger Moore played a highly camp character that happened to have the same name as Ian Fleming’s Bond. Timothy Dalton took over the role in 1987's The Living Daylights, and is often denigrated by critics as one of the worst Bonds ever. Ironically, Dalton is lauded by fans as one of the best. They see him as the only actor who truly brought the spirit of Fleming’s 007 to the role.
Pierce Brosnan took over the cinematic Bond mantle in GoldenEye in 1995. Brosnan's interpretation was something of a compromise between the lighter Bond of Connery, Lazenby or Moore, and the darker Bond of Fleming and Dalton.
Finally, Casino Royale, the Bond reboot of 2006 starring Daniel Craig as 007, brought back a darker Bond, even though he still wasn’t entirely based on Fleming’s work. Craig and the franchise both used Fleming, and at the same time did their own thing with the character. The result seemed to finally satisfy both fans and mass audiences alike.

This article strikes a cord with me. I prefer the original concept of the character over the various film versions.

As for the films, I really enjoy the music mainly. And the traditions that have stayed with the franchise throughout. I am enjoying the latest two films and hope to see more like them (especially the last one, Quantum of Solace- I think I'm the only person on Earth that liked it better than Casino Royal!).

This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein

This Dark Endeaver: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein by Kenneth Oppel came out today. This is his back story to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein novel. 

Victor and Konrad are the twin brothers Frankenstein. They are nearly inseparable. Growing up, their lives are filled with imaginary adventures...until the day their adventures turn all too real.They stumble upon The Dark Library, and secret books of alchemy and ancient remedies are discovered. Father forbids that they ever enter the room again, but this only peaks Victor's curiosity more. When Konrad falls gravely ill, Victor is not be satisfied with the various doctors his parents have called in to help. He is drawn back to The Dark Library where he uncovers an ancient formula for the Elixir of Life. Elizabeth, Henry, and Victor immediately set out to find assistance in a man who was once known for his alchemical works to help create the formula.
Determination and the unthinkable outcome of losing his brother spur Victor on in the quest for the three ingredients that will save Konrads life. After scaling the highest trees in the Strumwald, diving into the deepest lake caves, and sacrificing one’s own body part, the three fearless friends risk their lives to save another.
Oppel is a very talented writer based on the Airborn trilogy. I got the impression that the work rests on a very solid foundation. His writing style is extremely clear and consistent. When reading you can plow forward into the story with complete trust of the author. I often felt that each of the books could be used as text-book this is how it's done right examples.

His characters were likable if not somewhat frustrating in their stubborn flaws, which was wonderful. Oppel even had the ability to make some villains very likable (a talent I greatly admire).

A film adaptation of Oppel's This Dark Endeaver: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein is already in the works and currently is listed as in development.

Critics are pleased with the book so far...
"Oppel’s novel is a gripping tale of undying devotion, mixing hope with foreboding."—The Horn Book in a STARRED review

“Oppel’s tale is melodramatic, exciting, disquieting…a delicious mix.”—Publisher’s Weekly in a STARRED review

"Brash, jealous, and arrogant, Victor is sweet relief from today’s introspective YA protagonists, and one can easily visualize how this teen becomes the mad genius of Shelley’s Frankenstein."--Booklist

“Oppel has reinvented the gothic thriller for modern readers. The narrative crackles with tension, emotions run high, and the atmosphere is perfectly dark and brooding. The Shelleys would be proud. I definitely recommend you check out the book when it's published August 23. I anticipate This Dark Endeavor will get a lot of attention, and rightly so."--Rick Riordan
About the Author
KENNETH OPPEL’s first novel was published when he was eighteen years old. Since then, he was won extraordinary acclaim for his imaginative works, including the Silverwing trilogy and the Airborn series. The novel Airborn won both a Printz Honor and the Governor General’s Award.
At Amazon.com the first chapter of the book is available!

I look forward to checking this book out.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Images from Revelations of Mars

Posted on Facebook was some art from the forthcoming Hollow Earth Expeditions: Revelations of Mars. Here they are presented as well:





All for One: Régime Diabolique organized (updated)

kyuhyun DArtagnan by rechirasu
All For One: Régime Diabolique is a wonderful campaign setting. Triple Ace Games has made some really nice products for the line. A lot of them, actually. The problem I have is finding a list of said products that is organized, clean and clear. Without much luck I decided to make that list of links.

Each product is available in PDF. Books available in print are designated as such:

Also note that several of the above PDFs were compiled in the Compendium Une.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

D&D is Rubbish

Here is a series of videos that rant about the early and current rules for Dungeons & Dragons. What's great about these videos is that I completely agree with everything he says (also note that he didn't have much negative to say about 3rd edition/d20). I agree particularly about what he says about RuneQuest (which is pretty much the Basic Roleplaying- BRP system).

Legacy of the Terra Arcanum

Exile Game Studios quietly released another adventure. With all of the hype and media surrounding the 2011 GenCon, few noticed the PDF pop up on the usual online stores. Legacy of the Terra Arcanum was written by Mike Demchack.
After a famous historian is killed under suspicious circumstances, his fellow investigators must track down who did it and why.
The trail leads to Venice and a disturbing discovery: a long-forgotten Terra Arcanum vault containing secrets that may threaten the entire world!
The Legacy of the Terra Arcanum can fit into your ongoing Hollow Earth Expedition game or serve as a Venetian-sized stand-alone scenario. It features optional new supernatural powers and stats for additional vehicles and artifacts.
Legacy of the Terra Arcanum is available here.

Unfortunately it appears that this adventure does not yet have a color cover like the previous two adventures received (see those here!).

Which makes three official adventures (the other two being The Frozen City of Terror and Miracle Stone of the Amazon (or these two in a bundle).

Friday, August 19, 2011

Pole Position

The animated show called Pole Position was named after the Atari video game, but there was nothing in common between the show and the game other than they both featured cars. The show resembled the Americanized Japanese anime Speed Racer more than anything else. Perhaps there was a lot of influence from Knight Rider, too. The show is about three siblings who are agents for an investigative/secret agency that uses auto racing and stunts as a front. Even in the show's intro it lays out how these kid's parents were lost in the line of duty prior to the events of the show and their Uncle Zachery, head of the Pole Position Agency, acts as a surrogate father for the kids, or perhaps is the legal guardian. The agency issues the kids a semi-truck as a mobile base of operations and two cars that each have unique artificial intelligence as well as a wide array of gadgets that Q-Branch would be jealous over.  Dan drives the futuristic concept car named Roadie which sort of resembles a blue DeLorean. Tess drives the red 1965 convertible Ford Mustang named Wheels. Daisy is their younger sister who always gets involved with the case or mystery providing many-a plot point, getting kidnapped and what-not with her cohort, Kuma, who is a lemur or a hybrid monkey cat of some sort. Most animated shows of the '80s had a token animal companion with a highly irritating voice and Kuma was Pole Position's. However, they stayed one step in reality by keeping the creature as an intelligent animal with no ability to verbally speak.
Pole Position - by rsj

In 1984 Pole Position stood out beyond it's peers in several areas. The sci-fi of the show was fantastical, but never went over the top. Sure there were talking cars with artificial intelligence that displayed emotion, but the events and stunts were almost always within a believable boundary. There were hints at some elements of espionage and spies.

The show had a very smooth animated quality to it compared to many other shows of that era and even decades after. Where most other shows of it's type seemed very choppy with fewer frames of animation per second, Pole Position's integrity was etched into my memory as quality.

The musical score throughout each episode features variations of the theme song and fluctuates through many styles of music. There are some recognizable themes, all very nicely done. All of it was composed and arranged by Jef Labes under Saban Productions. He clarified some of the details behind the production of the music here:
Dear Jeffrywith1e,  I was actually the composer/arranger who wrote and produced the entire library of music for the whole Pole Position series, when I was a ghost writer for Saban Productions in L. A.  The actual theme song was composed by my boss, and I did the rest.  The same tactic was used to creat the library of music for Heathcliff, Kissifur, the Getalong Gang, Wolfrock, and several other shows, mostly the animation products of DIC production from Japan.  Saban Prod. specialized in Sat. morning cartoon soundtracks back in the early 80's, and eventually got into the full production of Power Rangers and other shows of that ilk.  I moved up to the Bay Area in 1985, and though I look back fondly on those busy days and nights in their studio in Studio City, I left behind the maelstrom for the quieter life in Marin.  Cheers, Jefwith1f 
Pole Position-Roadie by GI-Joe09
The show aged rather well. The music may be the one thing that really stands out as genuine '80s. In the concept car and the '65 Mustang make the show timeless. The character design also is nicely timeless. The show looks like it could air today. The entire series is available for free at this time on hulu. Check it out right here hulu.com/pole-position

I tell you what, my son loves this show. The only reason I even thought of it lately was a toy set he got from his grandparents for his 4th birthday. The Fisher-Price Shake N Go Xtreme Race Set. The two cars that came with it match the car's colors in the show. The designs vaguely do too. The blue car looks more modern and concept like Roadie and the red car has a more classic muscle car look similar to Wheels. I wonder if this was intentional on the part of some geek toy designer, but who knows. The toys are actually very cool. Each car has a tiny differential in their rear axle so there is a pretty sophisticated design going on in there (you can tell by spinning one rear wheel and seeing the opposite wheel spin in the other direction!). I think he thinks the show IS about these cars.

I think this setting could be good for a pulpy action roleplaying game. If I were to tackle it, I'd go with Savage Worlds or Ubiquity System and scrape the chase rules out of Spycraft 2.0. It could easily be done.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

David Bowie

David Bowie by ZootCadillac
It looks like David Bowie is retiring.
David Bowie has quietly retired from the music business, according to his biographer.
Paul Trynka, who has written a new book about the legendary rocker, titled Starman, believes Bowie will only return if he can "deliver something seismic".
The author tells Spinner.com, "My heart says he'll come back but my head says he's likely not to. I think he would only come back if he thinks he could deliver something that will be seismic. If you pop back into the stage, it's got to be something that has a big explosion and lots of flashes. It would be a bit of a miracle if he comes back, but miracles do happen."
Bowie has not performed live since he sang with Alicia Keys in 2006. His last album was 2003's Reality.

He had me at "You remind me of the babe..." There was a summer or two where we would rent Labyrinth over and over (we would also rent the VCR that came in a huge plastic suitcase). I remember sticking the one speaker tape-deck to the TV to bootleg the musical soundtrack of the film. Bowie never had to make that Jim Henson film, his career was pretty well established in the mid '80s. It was just awesome that he did do it.

as Jareth, The Goblin King
He went on to do some pretty good films before and after that. He was cast in the leading role of the sci-fi drama The Man Who Fell to Earth. The Hunger was an interesting vampire film. He had almost as many cameos as regular parts. In The Last Temptation of Christ he sentenced Willem Dafoe/Jesus to death as Pontius Pilot. Another cool cameo was in the Twin Peaks film- Fire Walk With Me, he appeared in Zoolander as himself. Bowie recently appeared in Christopher Nolan's The Prestige as Nikola Tesla. Loved the film, but Bowie was why I went initially. His most remarkable role probably was when he played the part of his late and real life good friend, Andy Warhol, in Basquiat. This is just a taste of his film career. My favorite may always be Jareth, the Goblin King in Labyrinth.
as Nikola Tesla

It took me another ten years to appreciate Bowie's musical career. Somehow I ended up with my brother's 1995 Bowie album, Outside, which touched some nerve in me and I took in as much of the Thin White Duke as I could hear. I love it all. The man is constantly reinventing himself and only a small selection of his catalog is ever really played. I was fortunate to see him in 1998 where he opened the concert with Quicksand wearing sandals, khakis and a white button down shirt (I'm afraid I was the only one among my peers who recognized the song!). His music lives in fantasy and science fiction. This is what I love the most about the music. With that Bowie's music is amazingly creative. So very often it detours away from what would be usual or expected. I have an appreciation for Glam Rock because of my time with Bowie's albums. No one can know just how much his music influenced today's and the last several decade's music.

I've had the theory that David Bowie is, in fact, not actually human. He belongs to some other race- perhaps alien, perhaps homo-superior. But there are other celebrates that belong to this race. The above mentioned Willem Dafoe could be one. Tilda Swinton may be another. I also suspect Annie Lenox to be of this race. Others might be (or have been) Christopher Walken and Freddie Mercury. The Man Who Fell to Earth might be more of a biography than we realized! (jk)

I am not sad about the news that Bowie is probably retiring. He has a fabulous career and there are plenty of obscure works of his I still have yet to deeply discover. I'm just a little disappointed he never did a Bond theme.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Gallagher Girls

The Gallagher Girls is a young adult series by Ally Carter which follows the adventures of Cammy "The Chameleon" Morgan who is a student at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women (which is actually a training facility for young espionage agents!). Four books have been released in the series which is said to be six when it is all finished.

We've talked about the series here before. We see the series as a fantastic and exciting venue for teaching conservative values and positive character development for young women. They are also pretty darn entertaining (no matter what age).

Since our first look at the series, the fifth book has been announced, has a release date and cover art! Out of Sight, Out of Time will be released on March 20th, 2012.

The first two books establish a vivid portrayal of the universe in which the story develops- perhaps overly so. After you finish book one - I'd Tell You That I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You you are left with a solid concept of who these characters are, where they live and what they do. But there really is no foreshadow of what's to come. The span of events and revelations from the end of the first book and the end of the fourth book (the last book at the time of this writing) is unbelievable. It's like the series grew up really fast. The first half of the series suffers from a lot of fluff. No one is really ever in danger. There are important characters introduced, but Carter sure takes her time getting to the real meat of the series. 

On her website, Carter states that she struggled with the 2nd book, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy, which was the least of the four in my opinion, too. I speculate that she almost introduced some of the plot elements into book two that we see right out of the gate in book three. It probably was a good decision on her part. What now is maybe too long of a setting up for the series may have suffered stepping into the 3rd act in that second book. It could've made quite a cliffhanger, though. Even so, what we have in the end is good quality.

The last half of the series- Don't Judge a Girl By Her Cover and Only the Good Spy Young doesn't just turn up the action and danger, it's like suddenly just on! Full blast! These two books make for a very exciting espionage thriller, even for the young adult audience. I feel the first two books ought to be read for much back story, but it's the second two books that really make the Gallagher Girls books great.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

D&D All Grows Up

D&D Rainbow by AmericanLink
I've posted before that Dungeons & Dragons slowly has been gaining a little bit more of a mainstream voice. Here's a nice article that goes right along with that.
Dungeons & Dragons grows up
By Esther Robards-Forbes
Updated: 12:53 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5, 2011
Published: 10:44 a.m. Friday, Aug. 5, 2011
As Todd Beaubien's character moves down the bridge in a dungeon, he asks, "What do I see?"
"A skeleton," replies Zero Diaz. "And it's on fire."
Drawing his weapon, Beaubien's character, along with the other five players in the game, makes quick work of the undead minion after a few rolls of the dice.
It's a typical Wednesday night at Dragon's Lair on Burnet Road, and about 40 players are gathered in the back room of the comic and game shop to play Dungeons & Dragons, the iconic tabletop role-playing game developed more than 30 years ago.
But these are not the stereotypical basement-dwelling, Doritos-munching geeks who have become fodder for gamer parody, and this is not your dad's edition of D&D.
Industry experts and gamers agree that tabletop gaming, particularly role-playing games like D&D, are seeing a revival. With more games on the market than ever before and more gamers from all walks of life rolling the dice, it's a good time to play.
"There is a renewed interest in this type of gaming," said Paul Chapman, director of marketing for Austin-based Steve Jackson games, the publisher of the popular GURPS game series. "Where gaming always used be this thing you did in college or small groups, it has become more mainstream and it lost a lot of the stigma that it used to have."
RPGs work like this: Players design characters using certain rules in the game universe, whether it's the Tolkienesque D&D or games based in the "Star Wars" or "Doctor Who" universes. Game Masters set up situations for the players, who use their characters (and all of their abilities) to navigate those scenarios and solve problems. Miniature figures on game boards can be used to represent movement through the universe. Add a dash of play acting and a healthy dose of imagination and serve up for an interesting evening with friends.
The kids who played D&D and other RPGs are all grown up, and they finally have the free time and money to devote to the hobby, they said. Many have ditched the basement for the high-end game room and swapped the Doritos for more gourmet fare. Though some gamers stick to junk food out of sense of tradition, you're more likely to find vegetarian Japanese curry or menus to match the theme of the game on offer. Potluck lunches or gourmet dinner parties now accompany many games.
"We're not teenagers anymore," said Beaubien, 45. "We make more money and we all have cholesterol counts. There's no reason to eat junk."
Experts cited several factors for the resurgence in interest.
Thanks to digital publishing, print-on-demand models and online ordering there are more games than ever before, with titles to match any interest. Players can explore totally original universes or become characters from their favorite movies, books or TV shows.
In addition to hardcopy runs, publishers such as White Wolf (known for the World of Darkness series) and Steve Jackson Games sell the downloads and printable PDFs online.
This, company representatives said, allows them to personalize the gaming experience and go in-depth on certain game mechanics for the players who want it. This model even allows writers and artists in their living rooms to design games and sell the downloads online.
While most publishers would not release specific sales figures, all reported that sales of RPGs were doing well and interest was strong. Austin's Steve Jackson games reported "a slight increase" in download sales in 2010 compared with 2009.
According to company reports, sales have seen a steady increase since 2004. "Greater personalization has led to greater interest," said Chapman of Steve Jackson Games. The online publishing model means "more games can be published economically and profitably."
The Internet has allowed gamers to find each other more easily and organize games. The economy has also played a role, said Alan Rogers, communications coordinator for Dragon's Lair.
"It's a lot harder to afford a 'World of Warcraft' account on an unemployment check than it is to go to a friend's house, drink Mountain Dew and eat Doritos and play D&D," Rogers said. "You still get the same competition, the same creativity, and you also get to socialize a little."

Saturday, August 13, 2011

HEX Adventure Cover Art

Two covers for the Hollow Earth Expedition adventures have been found. Previously they were released as PDFs with really no covers at all. These covers by Stephen Daniele are some of the finest products out there right now. His style has really set a nice tone for the series.

Miracle Stone of the Amazon and Frozen City of Terror



Friday, August 12, 2011

Hayo Miyazaki - The World's Greatest Animator

CNN confirms what we already know. That Hayo Miyazaki is the greatest animated film maker ever.


roll of the dice by runielf
I was first a comic geek. Later a game geek.

My first game was the TSR Marvel RPG. The next game I got into was TSR's Top Secret/S.I. and from there Star Wars d6. It wasn't until 3.0 that I ever got into Dungeons & Dragons. The main reason for this was that my parents were not comfortable with the magic, wizards and dragon tropes that go with fantasy gaming. And this was the mid '80s to early '90s where the mainstream view of such things were not that favorable. The settings where this wasn't so blatantly  obvious were permissible, but still not completely comfortable with my mom.

A majority of my gaming has been D&D 3rd Edition. I reserve a strong desire to play almost any system but that, but my usual gaming group are a bunch of old-school curmudgens who are stuck on 3rd- (I was able to nudge them on to Pathfinder, however which is where they still are for the most part).

I have explored many of the more prominent game systems available, sometimes immersing myself into the game for a while. Many of these I have never actually played, just... studied. GURPS is one of these. I admire the system for what it is and seems it accomplishes. I think it'd be too cumbersome for me to actually apply. D6 System and True20 are some others that I got into for some time.

On one of their visits my father expressed that he didn't understand the hobby and my enthusiasm for it. He pretty much dismissed the whole idea. Not a big deal.

A few weeks later my dad called to apologize for how that conversation went. He felt convicted and that he perhaps was too judgmental about the issue and asked for forgiveness. I told him not to worry as I wasn't offended- as gamers I suspect we all are calloused to some of this. Comes with the territory. He was forgiven, but in a moment of inspiration I told him that I'd like to run a game for him (with my mom, my wife and my step-daughter) so that he'd have first hand knowledge of what the game and the hobby is all about. He agreed. I set to work.

I finally settled on using the Top Secret/S.I. rules, but instead of the espionage setting I created a one-shot pulp adventure ambiguously set in no era with vague Nazi-ish bad guys with some relic macguffin. I pre-generated characters for everyone so as to get right into the game (robbing them of the joy of creating characters... perhaps another time). This was all with my dad as the main target audience (as this all started for him). The other element I was sure to add was to introduce my step-daughter to the concept of role-playing. Leesha was around 10 years old and had a vague idea what this gaming thing was all about. She was pretty clear she wanted a character that had a big cat as a pet. I started her off with no animal companion, but did plant a panther as an encounter in the adventure as a very likely animal companion if things played out in that direction.

We played for a few hours, they made their way through the simple dungeon tomb and overcame the bad guy. We all really got into it, but what made it all worth while was my parents asking when we could do it again! I successfully ran a one-shot game for my folks, which they enjoyed and they got it. Sadly, we haven't been able to sit down and do it again. I do plan to return to that game one day. Perhaps with a different system, however.

My latest reads have been all about the Ubiquity System from Exile Game Studio introduced through the Hollow Earth Expedition RPG. I saw this game and it's system as one that could easily be understood and used with my children and family. Then I discovered the Wilderness Kids Adventures which solidified the deal. I intend on using the Ubiquity System as our household game system.

Why RPGs? This is a way for me to not have to grow up. My fondest memories as a child were exploring the amazing and strange worlds my brother and I would create through the lens of our action figures. We never played G.I. Joe or Star Wars properly, we mashed them all together and had intergalactic bands touring in concert or people stuck in a prehistoric world, or taped paper wings to their backs and made them insect hybrid people. Gaming is a way to continue that. To continue creating.

Never Catch a Netherpott

Never Catch a Netherpott: A Never Adventure of Ethan Bell story and art by Greg Willis.

Ethan Bell does not like adventure. Yet, against his better judgement, he finds himself on a large, mysterious lake, trying to catch a strange creature.

Never Catch a Netherpott is an captivating picture book full of wonderful illustrations and is fun for all ages. Join Ethan as he gets into another exciting misadventure.

This is the first of The Ethan Bell Never Adventures.  Juvenile fiction presented in 30 pages of full color.

Check it out soon because my reliable sources say that the second book is on its way...

available on Amazon.com
Greg Willis

This author/artist happens to be my brother. AND he is the superhero that can  manipulate gravity, named.... Gravity. Well, at least his name was the inspiration for that character (as we are good friends with Gravity's creator, Sean McKeever, who might hold responsibility to my comic book addiction).

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