Thursday, February 28, 2013

Risky Rich: The Mythopoetry of Kobolds - Kamikaze Midget

"For me, what sets apart the kobolds is that they are representations of the dangers of mining and being underground. The poisonous gases? The sudden collapses or pitfalls? The illness, the soot, the fiery explosions? "Accidents?" Maybe. But in a world of magic, there is often a will and a force behind the arbitrary. There are people who do these things to us. This is the mischief of kobolds. Kobolds are miners. ...and they let no bit of copper or hunk of iron go without a great wail, and, likely, a painful retribution. Never a fight, though. Cowardly and weak, a kobold's only recourse is a passive-aggressive pathology. They scurry from combat, whimper in fear of pain, and seek easy leisure quickly, but, when deprived of these things, the kobolds become bitter, spiteful, and cruel. They will not kill the interlopers, but they will make sure the interlopers meet a horrible end." 4 out of 5

Interview: author of Seduction of the Innocent - Max Allan Collins

"Your brand new novel, Seduction of the Innocent, is set in 1954 and is about comic books, censorship, and murder. Was there a particular inspiration for the novel? As I very young kid, I knew about Dr. Frederick Wertham and his book, also titled SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT, and that comic books were under fire. The first real generation of comics fandom came out of those years, of growing up seeing comic books you loved either disappear or be censored into nothingness by the Comics Code Authority, the self-censorship group spawned by Wertham. All through the sixties and seventies and beyond, really, Wertham was the Boogie Man of comics. So that time period, and a Wertham-like anti-comics crusader as murder victim, seemed ideal." 3.5 out of 5

Clean Sweep 1 3 - Ilona Andrews

"The inn and I were bound so tightly, it was almost an extension of me. I could target any intrusion with pinpoint-accuracy. This particular intruder wasn’t moving. He was mulling about in one spot. The house was dark and quiet around me. I crossed the hallway, turned, and stopped at a door to the western balcony. Something moved below, in the orchard. Let’s see what the night dragged in… The door swung open in front of me, soundless, and I stepped out onto the balcony. In the orchard, twenty yards from the house, Sean Evans was urinating on my apple tree." 4 out of 5

We Recommend: H.P. Lovecraft - Geoff Holder

"The reason why Lovecraft’s work transcends its limitations and continues to ping-pong around the collective cerebellum lies in his creation of an alternative mythology that steps aside from the usual dualistic religious preoccupations of the horror genre. Demons, angels, Heaven and Hell – even Christianity itself – are virtually absent in Lovecraft’s otherwise contemporary America. Here, evil is not combated by the flourishing of crosses or the utterance of holy words. Instead, we are introduced to a world in which blinkered humanity is revealed as a bit-player on our own planet, with monstrous, ancient extraterrestrial entities constantly seeking to break through from elsewhere and return to their previous over-lordship as masters of the universe. Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones, with their consonant-heavy names such as Azathoth, Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth, Nyarlathotep and Shub-Niggurath, are beyond conventional narratives of Good and Evil; they are cosmically indifferent to us. Except, perhaps, when they’re hungry." 4 out of 5

Mysterious Ways 1 - Michael A. Stackpole

"I’d always known this day would come. I’d kind of visualized it differently. In my fantasy, it was at midnight, with a bunch of peasants doing the whole pitchfork and torch thing outside the big, wrought-iron gates. And they had scythes, too—scythes are a must with these rabble-gone-wild things. That works in the whole Grim Reaper factor. It’s tough to feel threatened without it. Unfortunately, what we had were retirees in shorts, sandals and t-shirts, or their Sunday-go-to-meeting best, marching mid-morning in the dust by Casa Chaos’ wrought-iron front gate. Off-key hymns replaced the requisite rumble of voices. Instead of farm tools we had placards. The best read, “Bloodstone is Satan’s Minion.” On a scale of one to sharp scythe, that’s pretty pathetic. Bloodstone’s reaction was a bit better. “Minion, minion? Bah. I am no one’s minion.” He tried to sound gravely offended, but he didn’t even sneer when he said it. Even his heart wasn’t in it. But, because I am a minion, when the gate intercom buzzed, I answered it. The hymns could not drown out a soft alto voice. “We’re here to see Dr. Bloodstone. Sara Piper and Julia Ellswood.”" 4 out of 5

The Mongoliad Book Three 1: Leaving Finn - Neal Stephenson

" The Mongoliad: Book Three by Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Mark Teppo, Nicole Galland, Erik Bear, Joseph Brassey, Cooper Moo 1241 – Veturnætur CHAPTER 1: Leaving Finn The Shield-Brethren buried Finn on the hill where they had set up camp. “It is not as grand as one of those burial mounds-the kurgans-we have seen,” Raphael pointed out to Feronantus, “but it has a view of where we came from, and the sun will always warm the ground.” Given the choice, Finn had always preferred to sleep outside, where the sun could find him and warm his bones in the morning. Finn may not have been a sworn member of the Shield-Brethren, but he was a feral brother to many of them. One by one the members of the Shield-Brethren attacked the rocky ground of the hilltop. Without coming out and saying as much, they all wanted to be the one to dig Finn’s grave, as if the backbreaking labor would somehow assuage their individual guilt. It was not that they valued Finn above their other fallen comrades-the loss of any brother was equally horrific-but each was racked with a sense of responsibility for the circumstances of the hunter’s death. As he prepared Finn’s body for burial, Raphael tried not to let his thoughts dwell on other members of their company whom they had lost. Or even his own role in the deaths of those dear friends. With Vera’s assistance, he laid the small man’s body on Percival’s cloak-the knight refused to hear otherwise-and arranged Finn’s limbs as best he could. The stiffness that creeps into a man’s body in the wake of death had filled Finn, and one of his arms resisted Raphael’s efforts. His face, once it had been tenderly washed by Vera, was surprisingly boyish. Raphael felt the weight of his years when he saw the delicate lashes and the unlined swath of forehead clearly for the first time. Too young, he thought, to die so far from home. And he realized how little he knew of Finn. How little any of them knew." 3.5 out of 5

Digital Comics Publisher Breaks Away From the Print Model by Heading Back to Print - Graeme McMillan

"But Baker says the differences they’ve discovered between print and digital also include the most fundamental ideas about how comic books sell. “The digital model is completely different than the [print comic book] direct market…. It’s almost backward.” Unlike print, where sales of print comics tend to decline over the run of a series after its issue no. 1 debut, she says, the numbers for digital comics actually go up. ”Say you have issue 5 of Edison Rex [coming out]…. You have a certain number [of sales] for the new issue, but that also spikes sales of the fourth issue, and no. 3, no. 2 and no. 1 in that month. Basically, people are finding the book for the first time because the new issue has come out.” MonkeyBrain Co-Founders Allison Baker and Chris Roberson The key difference is that unlike print releases where earlier issues often sell out or become more difficult to find, digital makes “back issues” permanently available at the click of a button, allowing new readers to jump on and read the first issue of a series or storyline at any point." 4 out of 5

101 Space/Sci-Fi Role Playing Games With Links! - Zachary Houghton

"101 Space/Sci-Fi Role Playing Games (With Links!) Fresh off my list of 101 Fantasy Games That Aren't D&D or Pathfinder, here's my list of 101 Space & Sci-Fi RPGs! Again, these are in no particular order, representing a huge swing of sci-fi sub-genres, so apologies to anyone I missed--I assure you, no slight meant! Have fun, and may you find something old or new that you can get into!" 4.5 out of 5

Mix vampires and espionage with tabletop RPG Night’s Black Agents - Kenneth Hite

"At the core of Night's Black Agents is Pelgrane Press' Gumshoe system, an RPG that puts investigation at the center of the action. The age-old problem with doing mystery-solving scenarios in RPGs is that one bad roll of the dice can put up a massive roadblock that stalls the entire adventure. Gumshoe avoids this by making sure the players get the clues without having to roll – as long as they ask the right questions, they get the answers (although successful rolls can reveal more valuable or complete clues). It's then up to the players to put the pieces together and figure out how to advance the investigation. It's an elegant system that puts the focus on the players' skill, not die rolls." 4 out of 5

NPC Cast Episode 8: Alas Wallis - James Wallis

"On today’s special episode of NPC Cast, we have the chance to talk to Award-Winning game designer James Wallis about a whole slew of things, including his new role-playing game ALAS VEGAS, currently being funded on Kickstarter! We are also excited about a couple of other Kickstarter projects: Story War and Machine of Death, and James explains why Del and Aaron are moving to Norway! " 4.5 out of 5

Wonder Woman Fan Film - Jesse V. Johnson

The nazi killin' business - still boomin'! 4 out of 5

Obskures: An interview with the Night’s Black Top Agent - Ken Hite

" Finally, what is your favorite game product you have done so far? What is your first and favorite gaming product in general? Kenneth Hite: Of the books I’ve done so far, it might be BOOKHOUNDS OF LONDON, or NIGHT’S BLACK AGENTS, or DAY AFTER RAGNAROK. I’m also very, very fond of my Last Unicorn original-series STAR TREK RPG corebook, and of GURPS HORROR. My “first and favorite gaming product” is always going to be Sandy Petersen’s CALL OF CTHULHU. I bought, as I like to say, the first copy sold in Oklahoma in 1981, and I have been playing it almost ever since — my current game group is a bunch of cowards, though. I’ve been reading Lovecraft since I was eleven or so; he has never stopped being terrifying. My TRAIL OF CTHULHU is a love-letter to Sandy’s design and Lovecraft’s world." 4 out of 5

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

ICONS - Steve Kenson

Another superhero riffing off the 4CS FASERIP idea (or Marvel Super Heroes) but the former is the public domain source that is usable. Here, rather than a universal table idea it goes a but Fudge dicey and rolls one die minus the second die to get a -5 to +5 range and uses that. Not a bad idea. Also uses the idea of Aspects from FATE something that I think works really well with a looser rules lighter game. Marvel's karma gave awards for acting like the character was supposed too, etc. and this takes that further. So good idea. The Open Source version here is a little less crunchy than Bulletproof Blues and is generic with no setting as such. Also uses six characteristics with a different health/stamina idea rather than BB's 8. So averaging those you again get 4CS. Again at PDF available at DriveThruRPG as well which would appear to be rather longer. 4 out of 5

BAMF Podcast -- Bulletproof Blues 2012-02-08 - Brandon Blackmoor

" Brandon: I want enough detail so that if I reasonably come and an occurrence came up, that I or some G.M. somewhere wouldn't make a judgment call every single time on reasonably common things. Like how far can I throw a car? I'm this strong, how far can I throw a car? So some very basic stuff. I've got this much power in my fire flight form. How fast is that? Is it faster than a jet plane? Is it faster than a car? How fast it that? Things like that. Not rocket science by any means. There are several games that are at the very, very, fast and loose narrative, you're as fast as the story needs you to be arena. Then there's at the other end, you've got games that are very detailed as far as that kind of thing goes. More detailed than Bulletproof Blues is. Mutants and Masterminds is a perfect example, there's lots and lots of detail there. As much as you want. It's a great game, I've played it, it's an awesome game, I love it. And then past that there are games like Champions which are even more detailed. In between that range between the Bash Icons level and Mutants and Masterminds level, I wanted something a little bit crunchier then the Icons level but not as crunchy as Mutants and Masterminds. Something faster to play, not as complex or time consuming to do conflict resolution, but with more tools to provide to swing the character around and have a handle on what kind of interactions characters can do with each other and with the world, then you typically get with the very minimalist level superhero games. It's weird, I've actually been working on this since before either of the games I'm using as examples were written. It just so happens that it falls in that spot between them. " 4 out of 5

Bulletproof Blues - Brandon Blackmoor

A well-done and lower complexity superhero game, with a built in Kalos comics universe to use if you desire. It has ranks from 1-14 in a similar if less colorful manner to TSR Marvel Superheroes but uses a 2d6+skill number roll versus a difficulty target as a resolution mechanic instead. Fans of the former would like it I think, and could nick the skills list or resolution mechanics and give them a shot with MSH if they felt like it. It includes tables of what each rank number means for a particular ability (or substance, for breaking stuff). Motivation for the game was wanting to be able to use serious superheroes like The Authority and Planetary and hadn't found a game that would suit exactly, so did one. Didn't actually like the existing Authority game presumably. :) Maybe too brutal? Anyway, superhero game fans should definitely take a look. There's a pdf at drivethrurpg too. 4 out of 5

PDQ Core Rules - Chad Underkoffler

"Most ASMP games share in common the PDQ (Prose Descriptive Qualities) system, a rules-light game engine that has three different levels of task resolution for any situation, in order to let players resolve encounters in as much or as little detail as possible. The mechanism is to generate a random number or roll, add a freeform stat or set of stats, and compare to a difficulty number -- either a fixed difficulty number or the opponent's roll. In conflicts, the amount which you beat another character's roll by is the amount of damage or failure ranks (see below). Stats are rated in five named ranks: Poor [-2], Average [+0], Good [+2], Expert [+4], and Master [+6]. Conflicts result in the accumulation of either "failure ranks" (which recover at the end of the contest) or "damage ranks" (which may take longer to heal). Each point of either type means that the loser must choose a stat to downgrade by one rank. So if you lose a conflict roll by 3, you must lower three stats each by one rank, or one stat by three ranks (with a minimum of Poor: -2). You can choose any stat to take your damage in -- i.e. you can downgrade your "Accounting" quality based on a hit in a fight. When you can't lower your stats any lower (i.e. a hit when all stats are at Poor [-2]), then you have lost the contest." 3.5 out of 5

Portal 2 - Ryk E. Spoor

" “Pull – gently, dammit, smoothly, don’t jerk!” A.J. couldn’t keep the tense exasperation from his voice as he barely reacted in time, commanding one of the three autonomous “Locust” drones, Hopper, to ease the tension on the all-too-vital cable. “No need to snap,” Dan Ritter said mildly. The dark-haired former environmental systems tech for Odin spoke English with only a trace of his native Germanic accent. “Sorry. But snap is exactly what we’ll get if we’re not careful. We’re crossing a hundred meters of ice frozen to minus one-seventy, and the cable’s dropped a LOT of flexibility.”" 3.5 out of 5

Godlike Open Source Rules - Mike Mearls

Adding the super to d20 for this superhumans in WWII game. This involves point allocation for statistics and having 'Hyperstatistics' and 'Hyperskills' for enhanced attribute superpowers and other superpowers. 3.5 out of 5

Tunnels and Trolls Free Abridged 5th Edition Rulebook - Ken St. Andre


The Hyborian Age - Robert E. Howard

Creator giving an overview of creation. 4 out of 5

OSRIC - Stuart Marshall and Matthew Finch

An OGL Old School first edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons style rules system. 4 out of 5

Clean Sweep 01 1-2 - Ilona Andrews

"It wasn’t a mountain lion. A puma would’ve pinned the dog and bitten through the nape of his neck. Then she would’ve dragged him off or at least eaten the stomach and the insides. The thing that killed Brutus smashed his skull with a devastating blow. Then it scoured the dog’s sides and sliced its stomach open, releasing the intestines, but didn’t take a single bite. This was a territorial kill, left for everyone to find – look how bad and clever I am. “That’s the third dog in two weeks,” Margaret said. “It has to be a mountain lion.”" 3.5 out of 5

One Night in O’Shaughnessy’s Bar - David D. Levine

Miracle Uplift deal. 3.5 out of 5

Sleeping Beauty - Thoraiya Dyer

Extra storage survival. 3 out of 5

GORE - Daniel Proctor

Basic Roleplaying/Call of Cthulhu style OGL gaming rules designed to allow horror roleplaying and monster fighting in general. Generic Old-School Roleplaying Engine. 3.5 out of 5

Family Teeth 6 St. Polycarp's Home For Happy Wanderers - Sarah Langan

Werecoyote, nun? 3 out of 5

Highlander Immortals - Kevin Webb

d20 Highlander Immortals add-on module. 3 out of 5

The Geek's Guide to the Galaxy Interview - Tad Williams

"Do you want to just explain for listeners what the losing the book in the flood story is? Sure, yeah. When I had submitted my first novel to my eventual publisher, DAW Books, who are still my publisher today many, many years later, I hadn’t heard a response from them for a while. So, hoping to provoke some action without seeming whiny or attention-seeking, I sent them a letter saying, “Because of floods here in California, my basement has been flooded, and you now have the only copy of my manuscript, and could you please copy it and send it back to me. I’ll pay for it.” I was hoping that they would go find the manuscript and look at it while they were copying it, and perhaps notice that they hadn’t responded yet, because this was several months after submission. But I was also hoping like hell that they didn’t know that basically California was in the middle of an eight-year drought, and that there’s almost no such thing as basements in California—I certainly have never had one." 3.5 out of 5

Author Spotlight - Marta Randall

"Right off the bat, this story breaks out of many of the conventions that space opera has typically used. You’ve built a rich, multicultural world—how did your background influence this? I can’t lay claim to a strong multi-cultural background myself. I was born in Mexico City and we would return periodically to visit relatives, but from the age of four, our household was English-language only (my teachers thought that being multi-lingual would somehow retard my progress. As a result I lost my first language, but boy, did my mother become a pro with English!). More to the point, I grew up in Berkeley but spent much of my adult life in Oakland, perhaps the most culturally diverse city in the country. That diversity created a rich, ever-evolving stew of color, taste, accent, intention, and I wanted to think about a future where all of those things still live." 3 out of 5

Lazaro y Antonio - Marta Randall

Lazaro y Antonio - Marta Randall
Curve kid cell deal chipping. 3.5 out of 5

Dreams In Dust - D. Thomas Minton

Working at getting enough water for lots of pee. 3 out of 5

Catskin - Kelly Link

Catskin - Kelly Link Witches and felines combo = bad. 3 out of 5

Family Teeth 5 American Jackal - J. T. Petty

You fix dogs. 2.5 out of 5

An Accounting - Brian Evenson

Disastrous midwestern Jesus. 2.5 out of 5

Opening the Dark - Malcolm Sheppard

Open Gaming License rules for 1990s style d10 dice pool horror gaming a la Storyteller 4 out of 5

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Interview: Taking Amelia Cole from the Unknown World to the Hidden War - Adam P. Knave and D. J. Kirkbride

"What are the differences for volume 2? APK: There are three major difference we want to shout to the world! CHANGE ONE: The book changes name to AMELIA COLE AND THE HIDDEN WAR. This means, if you buy it, well, right now Comixology doesn’t cross-link titles. Look at Locke & Key and Hellboy, for example. So you’ll have to pay attention and keep an eye out for the book. That’s a bit of a pain, and Comixology might change how they do and don’t link stuff before issue 1 of Hidden War ships, but we felt it was an important change. Important enough to make this risky a move. CHANGE TWO: The issues of volume 2 will be 12 story pages long (so they’ll show as 15 with cover and credits and such) instead of 22. CHANGE THREE: AMELIA COLE AND THE HIDDEN WAR will be only .99 cents an issue. DJK: Everyone be sure to read CHANGE THREE before reacting to CHANGE TWO, please. APK: And then read all three again, and then have a dance party and cupcakes." 4 out of 5

Fireside Chat: Uncanny Skullkickers with - Jim Zubkavich

"GM: Each of the Skullkickers story arcs has differed in their style and focus. What can readers look forward to as Eighty Eyes on an Evil Island kicks off? Zub: Part of the goal of Skullkickers is playing into certain fantasy cliches/tropes with each story arc. We've thrown in undead monsters, medieval city/underworld adventuring, thieves guilds, faerie folk, pirates, sea monsters... all kinds of different sword & sorcery elements all slamming together and our 'heroes' running ramshod over each and every one. This one is our 'jungle/exploration' arc so all of those tropes will be coming out to play- tropical weather, savage creatures, rainforest survival, ancient temples and apes, lots of apes." 4.5 out of 5

Monkeybrain Weekly: Talking the Story So Far with - Chris Roberson

"Last questions for you until then. 2012 saw Monkeybrain launch strong with a lot of buzz, and 2013 has already seen some really exciting new releases. What are you excited to share with readers in 2013, both in a general and specific sense? CR: Well, we’ve got a few exciting new titles that will be released in the coming weeks. THEREMIN by Curt Pires and Dalton Rose, MASK OF THE RED PANDA by Gregg Taylor and Dead Kotz, SKYBREAKER by Michael Moreci and Drew Zucker, and a surprise or two that will be announced in the next week or so. In the broader scheme, we’ve got some exciting announcements coming up in the very near future that I am VERY excited about. But in general, I’m excited about the prospect of more new readers discovering the comics we’re producing, and hopefully finding something in our lineup that resonates with them personally. So long as people keep buying them, we’ll keep making them!" 4.5 out of 5

Monday, February 25, 2013

STORM DOGS: A CSI Noir Thriller Western in Space - David Hine

"Nrama: What's the basic premise of the story as readers start this journey with the characters? Hine: On the edges of the known universe, there’s a planet called Amaranth. It’s home to a couple of intelligent native species called the Elohi and the Joppa. They have a sophisticated social structure but are not technologically advanced, so they have protected status. That means no highly advanced technology can be used on the planet, so when there are mysterious deaths among the miners working on Amaranth, the Federal Union that polices the member states sends in a specialist crime investigation team who have to fall back on primitive techniques to solve the murders. Once they start digging they find that there are all kinds of dirty secrets waiting to be unearthed and that no one is innocent. 
Nrama: So you're basically stripping these characters of their accoutrements. Is that symbolic, since, knowing you, I have a feeling they'll be "stripped" psychologically too? Hine: The story is set way into the future and clearly the technology would be so advanced that if this crime had happened on a more advanced planet the whole story would have revolved around the science. What interested me was to take this group of people out of their comfort zone and force them to rely on their wits. You’re quite correct in guessing that this will remove a lot of the protection of being part of a universal community and force them to ruthlessly examine themselves. " 4.5 out of 5

Talks to The Beat about Storm Dogs - David Hine

"Another interesting twist to this already interestingly twisted story is that the majority of the team are female, giving Hine and Braithwaite the opportunity to write things from a different perspective to the usual noir tone. Rather than the laconic, chain-smoking, alcoholic lone hero, here we have a team of four, and three of them are women – and as you can see from the images scattered here, Braithwaite has really let his imagination run. These aren’t the characters you usually see in this style of story. We’re in this for the long haul. We’ve put so much thought into developing this world that we don’t want to see this end after six issues. We’re really going for a European look to it — the pacing, the visuals, we’ve both been really inspired by French, Belgian comics while creating this book." 4 out of 5

Comics Anonymous talks to - David Hine

"Hine has managed to stay relatively tight lipped on Storm Dogs plot details, but I did manage to get some information out of him around the type of thing we can expect to see in the book. There’s quite a complex story. We have a structure that is very long term but we’ve also worked out the smaller arcs that will be covering each of the six issue seasons. We don’t really want to talk too much about the plot now but it’s basically an investigation into mysterious deaths on this planet, which is like a frontier planet. The idea is that although we’re in the future and technology has developed, because the planet is protected and the indigenous population is protected, they are very limited in the kind of technology that they can use on the planet. They have levels of technology up to ten and they can only use level four technology so they’re having to learn to deal with a hostile environment on a much more human level, rather than by depending on technology. You’ve got this kind of retro feel at the same time, it s a real kind of mash up… I wouldn’t put it into a single genre… it’s convenient to call it science fiction or a thriller or a science fiction noir but at the same there are elements of all kinds of others as well. We originally pitched it as CSI in space. " 4 out of 5

The City of Silk and Steel: The Cup Lands Upright - Mike Carey

"The captain leaned forward to deliver the death thrust. Zuleika ducked under his blade and was for an instant on her knees before him. Then she came vertically upward. Her open palm caught Captain Numair under the chin and all the force of her rising body, her straightening arm, her flexing shoulders was somehow translated into a force that operated only at the base of her wrist. Numair’s neck snapped with an audible crack, and he fell, bewildered and disbelieving as he died. Zuleika took the captain’s sword out of the air, as though the air had offered it to her, and cast her gaze downwards on En-Sadim. He was choking to death on the hot coals, his body wracked by terrible convulsions. Zuleika drove the blade into the legate’s back and slid it along the runnel of his fourth rib to slice his heart in two. The angel of death is the angel of mercy, also." 4 out of 5

Gideon's Angel 1 - Clifford Beal

" “Strictly speaking, it is by Cardinal Mazarin’s authority that I propose to you an offer of employment.” My laugh turned into a retching cough. “And what service could a broken-down Cavalier on death’s door do for the Cardinal?” De Bellièvre waved his hat expansively. “Your knowledge of soldiering is considerable, sir. The war here. A few years ago in the German kingdoms and in Sweden. His Eminence would pay handsomely for an officer of your experience. Your brother is most generous in his praise of your skills.” “I think you’re wasting your time, sir. I may not even walk again, let alone ride.” The ambassador laughed. “Nonsense. You will heal. My own surgeon will see to you. Besides, you are as strong as a cow!” “I think you mean ox.”" 3.5 out of 5

Nightmare Magazine 04 - John Joseph Adams

Better fiction, this issue, with 3 good or better stories. Williamson is the black humour standout. Nightmare Magazine 04 : On Murder Island - Matt Williamson Nightmare Magazine 04 : Need - Lisa Tuttle Nightmare Magazine 04 : Chew - Tamsyn Muir Nightmare Magazine 04 : The Ease With Which We Freed the Beast - Lucius Shepard Running out of people, not statues. 4 out of 5 Dead wait. 2.5 out of 5 Juicy Fruit of the dead. 3.5 out of 5 Giant bloody cycle. 3.5 out of 5 3.5 out of 5

Author Spotlight - Lucius Shepard

"What work can readers expect to see from you next? A short story collection entitled Five Autobiographies and a Fiction, a short novel called The Wild North King, and a novel, The End of Life As We Know It. And stories. The next one, I believe, is “American Police Haiku,” a novella for Pete Crowther at PS Publishing." 3.5 out of 5

The Ease With Which We Freed The Beast - Lucius Shepard

Giant bloody cycle. 3.5 out of 5

A Chronological Bibliography of Early Occult Detectives - Tim Prasil

"1855 Harry Escott appeared in Fitz-James O’Brien’s short story “The Pot of Tulips,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine 11:66 (November 1855), pp. 807-814. Four years later, Escott appeared again in O’Brien’s short story “What Was It? A Mystery,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine 18:106 (March 1859), pp. 504-510. Both stories were reprinted in the collection The Poems and Stories of Fitz-James O’Brien (edited by William Winter, Boston: James R. Osgood, 1881) and in another collection of O’Brien’s work, The Diamond Lens with Other Stories (edited by William Winter, New York: Charles Scribner Sons, 1885)." 4.5 out of 5

Need - Lisa Tuttle

Dead wait. 2.5 out of 5

Shadows In the Moonlight - Robert E. Howard

"A swift crashing of horses through the tall reeds; a heavy fall, a despairing cry. From the dying steed there staggered up its rider, a slender girl in sandals and girdled tunic. Her dark hair fell over her white shoulders, her eyes were those of a trapped animal. She did not look at the jungle of reeds that hemmed in the little clearing, nor at the blue waters that lapped the low shore behind her. Her wide-eyed gaze was fixed in agonized intensity on the horseman who pushed through the reedy screen and dismounted before her. He was a tall man, slender, but hard as steel. From head to heel he was clad in light silvered mesh-mail that fitted his supple form like a glove. From under the dome-shaped, gold-chased helmet his brown eyes regarded her mockingly. 'Stand back!' her voice shrilled with terror. 'Touch me not, Shah Amurath, or I will throw myself into the water and drown!' He laughed, and his laughter was like the purr of a sword sliding from a silken sheath. 'No, you will not drown, Olivia, daughter of confusion, for the marge is too shallow, and I can catch you before you can reach the deeps. You gave me a merry chase, by the gods, and all my men are far behind us. But there is no horse west of Vilayet that can distance Irem for long.' He nodded at the tall, slender-legged desert stallion behind him. 'Let me go!' begged the girl, tears of despair staining her face. 'Have I not suffered enough? Is there any humiliation, pain or degradation you have not heaped on me? How long must my torment last?' 'As long as I find pleasure in your whimperings, your pleas, tears and writhings,' he answered with a smile that would have seemed gentle to a stranger. 'You are strangely virile, Olivia. I wonder if I shall ever weary of you, as I have always wearied of women before. You are ever fresh and unsullied, in spite of me. Each new day with you brings a new delight. 'But come—let us return to Akif, where the people are still feting the conqueror of the miserable kozaki; while he, the conqueror, is engaged in recapturing a wretched fugitive, a foolish, lovely, idiotic runaway!' 'No!' She recoiled, turning toward the waters lapping bluely among the reeds. 'Yes!' His flash of open anger was like a spark struck from flint. With a quickness her tender limbs could not approximate, he caught her wrist, twisting it in pure wanton cruelty until she screamed and sank to her knees. 'Slut! I should drag you back to Akif at my horse's tail, but I will be merciful and carry you on my saddle-bow, for which favor you shall humbly thank me, while—' He released her with a startled oath and sprang back, his saber flashing out, as a terrible apparition burst from the reedy jungle sounding an inarticulate cry of hate. Olivia, staring up from the ground, saw what she took to be either a savage or a madman advancing on Shah Amurath in an attitude of deadly menace. He was powerfully built, naked but for a girdled loincloth, which was stained with blood and crusted with dried mire. His black mane was matted with mud and clotted blood; there were streaks of dried blood on his chest and limbs, dried blood on the long straight sword he gripped in his right hand. From under the tangle of his locks, bloodshot eyes glared like coals of blue fire. 'You Hyrkanian dog!' mouthed this apparition in a barbarous accent. 'The devils of vengeance have brought you here!' 'Kozak!' ejaculated Shah Amurath, recoiling. 'I did not know a dog of you escaped! I thought you all lay stiff on the steppe, by Ilbars River.' 'All but me, damn you!' cried the other. 'Oh, I've dreamed of such a meeting as this, while I crawled on my belly through the brambles, or lay under rocks while the ants gnawed my flesh, or crouched in the mire up to my mouth—I dreamed, but never hoped it would come to pass. Oh, gods of Hell, how I have yearned for this!' The stranger's bloodthirsty joy was terrible to behold. His jaws champed spasmodically, froth appeared on his blackened lips. 'Keep back!' ordered Shah Amurath, watching him narrowly. 'Ha!' It was like the bark of a timber wolf. 'Shah Amurath, the great Lord of Akif! Oh, damn you, how I love the sight of you—you, who fed my comrades to the vultures, who tore them between wild horses, blinded and maimed and mutilated them—ai, you dog, you filthy dog!' His voice rose to a maddened scream, and he charged. In spite of the terror of his wild appearance, Olivia looked to see him fall at the first crossing of the blades. Madman or savage, what could he do, naked, against the mailed chief of Akif? There was an instant when the blades flamed and licked, seeming barely to touch each other and leap apart; then the broadsword flashed past the saber and descended terrifically on Shah Amurath's shoulder. Olivia cried out at the fury of that stroke. Above the crunch of the rending mail, she distinctly heard the snap of the shoulder-bone. The Hyrkanian reeled back, suddenly ashen, blood spurting over the links of his hauberk; his saber slipped from his nerveless fingers. 'Quarter!' he gasped. 'Quarter?' There was a quiver of frenzy in the stranger's voice. 'Quarter such as you gave us, you swine!' Olivia closed her eyes. This was no longer battle, but butchery, frantic, bloody, impelled by an hysteria of fury and hate, in which culminated the sufferings of battle, massacre, torture, and fear-ridden, thirst-maddened, hunger-haunted flight. Though Olivia knew that Shah Amurath deserved no mercy or pity from any living creature, yet she closed her eyes and pressed her hands over her ears, to shut out the sight of that dripping sword that rose and fell with the sound of a butcher's cleaver, and the gurgling cries that dwindled away and ceased. She opened her eyes, to see the stranger turning away from a gory travesty that only vaguely resembled a human being. The man's breast heaved with exhaustion or passion; his brow was beaded with sweat; his right hand was splashed with blood." 4 out of 5

On Murder Island - Matt Williamson

Running out of people, not statues. 4 out of 5

Queen of the Black Coast - Robert E. Howard

"Hoofs drummed down the street that sloped to the wharfs. The folk that yelled and scattered had only a fleeting glimpse of a mailed figure on a black stallion, a wide scarlet cloak flowing out on the wind. Far up the street came the shout and clatter of pursuit, but the horseman did not look back. He swept out onto the wharfs and jerked the plunging stallion back on its haunches at the very lip of the pier. Seamen gaped up at him, as they stood to the sweep and striped sail of a high-prowed, broad-waisted galley. The master, sturdy and black-bearded, stood in the bows, easing her away from the piles with a boat-hook. He yelled angrily as the horseman sprang from the saddle and with a long leap landed squarely on the mid-deck. 'Who invited you aboard?' 'Get under way!' roared the intruder with a fierce gesture that spattered red drops from his broadsword. 'But we're bound for the coasts of Kush!' expostulated the master. 'Then I'm for Kush! Push off, I tell you!' The other cast a quick glance up the street, along which a squad of horsemen were galloping; far behind them toiled a group of archers, crossbows on their shoulders. 'Can you pay for your passage?' demanded the master. 'I pay my way with steel!' roared the man in armor, brandishing the great sword that glittered bluely in the sun. 'By Crom, man, if you don't get under way, I'll drench this galley in the blood of its crew!' The shipmaster was a good judge of men. One glance at the dark scarred face of the swordsman, hardened with passion, and he shouted a quick order, thrusting strongly against the piles. The galley wallowed out into clear water, the oars began to clack rhythmically; then a puff of wind filled the shimmering sail, the light ship heeled to the gust, then took her course like a swan, gathering headway as she skimmed along." 5 out of 5

Nightmare Magazine 03 - John Joseph Adams

Similar to the last issue, but with an interesting Mignola interview and a Bad Santa bit. Nightmare Magazine 03 : Nightmare Magazine 03 - John Joseph Adams Nightmare Magazine 03 : The Nowhere Man - Sarah Pinborough Nightmare Magazine 03 : Chop Shop - J.B. Park Nightmare Magazine 03 : Summer - Tananarive Due Nightmare Magazine 03 : Foul Weather - Daniel H. Wilson Getting older and crazier, Somewhere. 3 out of 5 Losing bits, please. 3.5 out of 5 Baby leech poo. 2.5 out of 5 Bad flight. 3.5 out of 5 3 out of 5

The Geek's Guide To the Galaxy Interview - Mike Mignola

"But Hellboy has become a big commercial success. So do you think the concept actually was more commercial than you gave it credit for? Oh, well certainly it’s been much more commercial than either of us ever imagined, I’m sure. I mean, the funniest question I get from people is, “How did you come up with this commercial franchise?” Well, first off, if you’re looking to come up with a commercial franchise, chances are you’re not going to call it “Hellboy.” You know, it does limit its potential as a Saturday morning cartoon and as a toy that can be sold in Toys-R-Us. I mean, I thought the name was cute and funny. What I guess I wasn’t prepared for is how many people would really have trouble with the word “hell.” So yeah, it’s completely a fluke. It’s just that for whatever reason the comic was appealing to comics people. It appealed to a broader audience maybe than a lot of the regular comics I was doing. Suddenly I found out I had a lot more women reading the book. I’m not sure why. Maybe because he’s not a superhero, maybe because he’s written a little bit more with some humor and he’s a little bit more of a regular guy, so it’s just kind of funny that he looks like the devil but he talks—kind of, I hope, I think—like a regular guy. And then certainly you’ve got to give a lot of credit to the movie. I got really lucky that a very, very talented director [Guillermo del Toro] happened to be a big fan of the comic." 4 out of 5

Foul Weather - Daniel H. Wilson

Bad flight. 3.5 out of 5

The Sons of Tara - Umberto Pignatelli

A planetary romance short module about a Martian mother's quest to help. 3.5 out of 5

Inventory - Carmen Maria Machado

Lover list. 3.5 out of 5

Summer - Tanarive Due

Baby leech poo. 2.5 out of 5

The H Word: Getting What You Deserve - R.J. Sevin

"Coal in your stocking? Nope. Try having your FUCKING FACE EATEN, little Virginia O’Hanlon!" 4 out of 5

Chop Shop - J. B. Park

Losing bits, please. 3.5 out of 5

Ian Tregillis in conversation on The Laundry Files with - Charlie Stross

"Charlie: That was the idea a book or two ago – a 9 book series with CNG fairly explicitly arriving in book 5. Except, it doesn’t. I realised partway through THE FULLER MEMORANDUM that the original deadline for CNG would have actually passed by the time the book came out, so I retconned a fix: CNG now covers a seventy year period, and by book 5, THE RHESUS CHART (forthcoming, Orbit, 2014 (I hope!)), we’ll be 3-4 years into it. Things are slowly getting weirder and weirder, after the manner of the proverb about turning up the heat under a pan with a frog sitting in it. Books 5 and 6 happen during the early stages of CNG; I’m now thinking in terms of book 7 being where it very visibly arrives with a bang. But doubtless I’ll change my mind before I write it . . . !" 4 out of 5

Fudge Transhuman Space - Loic Prot

"Why Fudge THS ? Mainly because I don't like GURPS as a game system, although I love the THS setting. So I needed to adapt it to a system I prefer. I chose Fudge because I like Fudge :-) . I know it can sound stupid to try to adapt a crunchy system like GURPS with a Hard-Science setting like THS to a dumb-stupid system like Fudge. But I wanted to see if this was doable. I let you judge. A complete system: I wanted not just to adapt GTHS to Fudge, where basically you have GTHS running in the background and Fudge as a front layer (a bit like DOS running behind Win98). I wanted to have a complete independent system, and I designed my own way, which is not necessarily the Fudge way or the GURPS way. Therefore I don't simply use the GURPS Attributes, Skills and Advantages/Disadvantages system, I chose to design my own list of Attributes, Skills and Gifts & Faults. Of course FTHS is strongly inspired by GTHS - through the free GURPS Lite (pdf) ruleset, so the GTHS aficionados won't be totally lost. Complete GTHS to FTHS Conversion guidelines are provided. I also mixed the THS setting with some personal ideas & adaptations which are clearly signalled by the sign. Warning: you cannot play Fudge THS without having the GURPS THS books for the setting, and lots of terms from GTHS are directly used here without further explanation. But you can always use FTHS stand-alone as a set of SF RPG rules to adapt the setting of your choice. Some credits: thanks to Tim Hall and his GURPS to Fudge Conversion guidelines, to David Bruns' various additional rules. Some conventions: THS mean "TransHuman Space", GTHS means "GURPS TransHuman Space", FTHS means "Fudge TransHuman Space". PC means Player Character, NPC means Non-Player Character, GM means Game Master, ODF means Offensive Damage Factor, DDF means Defensive Damage Factor, PD means Passive Defence. Page reference like "TSXX" refer to the soft-cover GTHS mainbook; FW is for Fifth Wave, DB for Deep Beyond, ITW for In The Well, PF for Personnal Files. Oh, and sorry for Americans: all units are converted to Metric System..." 3.5 out of 5

The Nowhere Man - Sarah Pinborough

Getting older and crazier, Somewhere. 3 out of 5

How to Put the Sword in Sword and Sorcery - Violette Malan

"There are some great books that explain all kinds of things about swords and swordplay. There’s Captain Sir Richard Burton’s The Book of the Sword. There’s By the Sword, Richard Cohen’s excellent book on the history of duelling and fencing from ancient into modern times. And there’s also John Clements’ Renaissance Swordsmanship, which has illustrations showing fighting with different kinds of swords, against different kinds of weapons. It also describes fighting moves in such a way that you can put together a fight — so long as it’s not too complicated." 3.5 out of 5

BLOG Classic Comic Strip Goldtiger Rediscovered… Sort Of - Guy Adams and Jimmy Broxton

"Which is where Guy Adams and Jimmy Broxton come in. Together they’ve discovered Goldtiger, a lost cult newspaper strip from the 1960s. Packed full of action, style and casual violence, Goldtiger was the last great work of Antonio Barreti and Louis Shaeffer, a writer and artist team who seemed consumed by Goldtiger and the controversy surrounding it. Now, thanks to Guy and Jimmy’s efforts, this subversive story of action, death, sex and fashion has sprung to light. They’re currently running a KickStarter to finance a full reprint of the long overlooked series. Except, of course, they’re not. What they are doing is creating an entirely new strip pretending to be a ’60s newspaper strip, and creating the mythology of its creative team’s increasingly horrifying lives to go with it. " 4 out of 5

Stars Without Number: Free RPG and Source Material - Armchair Gamer

"'ve written about it Stars Without Number before, but I'd like to go back to it. Primarily because Sine Nomine (Kevin Crawford) has consistently cranked out quality adventures and sourcebooks that, despite their occasional brevity, blow you away with mineable material for your science fiction game. And all this material is presented from the point of view of a Science Fiction sandbox game. So what material can you get for free (we're talking PDF, of course) online? Stars Without Number: Free Edition -- a retro science fiction role playing game influenced by the Old School Renaissance and partially inspired by the great fantasy role-playing game editions written by Tom Moldvay and Frank Mentzer." 4 out of 5

Retrospective: Daredevils - James Maliszewski

Released in 1982, FGU's Daredevils (written by Bob Charrette and Paul Hume, the duo who had previously created the well-regarded Bushido and would later go on to create Shadowrun) was the first "pulp" game I ever remember seeing, let alone playing. In RPG-speak, "pulp" is treated as if it were a genre, usually exemplified by anything from genuine pulp fiction featuring characters like The Shadow and Doc Savage to those inspired by them (or their imitators) in other media, such as Indiana Jones. 4 out of 5

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Dungeon Master: The Life and Legacy of Gary Gygax - David Kushner

"You arrive at a small town by a large lake. Down a road, there is a yellow Victorian house with an American flag. There are revelers here. They stand on the front lawn swilling ale and eating from bountiful plates of ham and beans. They invite you to join their assembly. As you approach, however, something catches your attention: a strange buzzing sound in the air. It's coming from the tiny winged beasts that are hanging from the trees, crawling along the ground, and crashing clumsily against you. "Cicadas," explains your host, a heavyset man with a gray ponytail and thick glasses that magnify his eyes. "It's a good thing they don't have mandibles." Then, quite cordially, he invites you inside his house to play a game. The host is Gary Gygax, and the occasion is a game convention in his hometown of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, this past June. Gygax, 68. is a cocreator and popularizer of the most influential game ever made. Dungeons & Dragons — D&D to fans — isn't a straightforward board game like Monopoly or Clue. It's more like an operating system, an elaborate framework on which players can build their own scenarios: Anyone with creativity and imagination can become a game designer. D&D players create an alter ego and guide it through a virtual world, gradually upgrading abilities as they battle monsters and gather loot. The game allows teenage misfits to become mythic superheroes and face epic adventures and harrowing challenges. "It's written in every man's heart — we want to feel like warriors," Gygax's grandson tells me inside the family home. "That's what Gramps let people do." Gygax was around 5 when he began taking an interest in strategy games like chess and pinochle. Photo: Courtesy of Gail Gygax Most aspects of the game can be expressed numerically, from attributes like strength and health and intelligence to the power of a weapon and the probability that it will successfully connect with an enemy and the amount of damage it would inflict. But one player has to paint a picture with words: That person assumes the role of the dungeon master and describes for other players what they see and hear in this imaginary world, and what effects their actions have. The game is played primarily in your head, using graph paper maps to represent environments, figurines to represent your character, a die to determine probability, and a few rulebooks for reference." 4.5 out of 5

Friday, February 22, 2013

X-Terminate - Dale Henson

Getting into the early nineties the X-teams had split up, and the original members had founded their own duplicitous bunch, in X-Factor. This module is based around that concept, and starring those heroes, for fans of the good old-fashioned mutant team, and the new conspiracies they have to deal with. 3 out of 5

The X-Potential - TSR TSR

X-Men module, not as good as some of the others. 3 out of 5

A semi-brief history of D&D and some other RPGs: 1980-1989 0 TerraDave TerraDave

"1980 The Fantasy Trip by Jackson (of Texas) published by MetaGaming. Based on minigames Melee and Wizard, TFT included flexible, non-random, character creation for its two classes, three stats (Strength, Dexterity, and IQ), and combat played out on a hex-grid. MetaGaming founder Howard Thompson and Steve Jackson quickly part ways, with Thompson deriding TFT’s “complexity”. Jackson would successfully found Steve Jackson Games and release Car Wars that year, an autodueling game that would do for armed and armored cars what Melee did for fantasy fighters. Arms Law by Fischer, Fenlon, and Charlton published by Iron Crown Enterprises. A highly detailed chart driven supplement that could be used to replace the combat system in D&D, or other games. In the coming years it will be joined by Spell Law—2000 spells—[u]Claw Law[u], Character Law, etc. These will ultimately be combined into the Rolemaster game system." 5 out of 5

The Ultimate Interview With - Gary Gygax

"Reading your biography, I noticed you did some work in the boardgaming field, especially for Avalon Hill. How this experience started? Was it an interesting one? Did you attempt to sell D&D to them? The game you speak of, 'Alexander the Great', along with another board wargame, "Dunkirk" (the invasion of France and the Low Countries in 1940), were originally published by a small game company, Guidon, or which you have a question abut later on. When that company went out of business, Avalon Hill contacted me to secure an agreement to revise and publish the Alexander game. As I had been a fan, then became a friend of, Tom Shaw, then the V.P of Avalon Hill, and his assistant was Don Greenwood, a gamer I had known for some years via postal exchange and he being a member of association I had co-founded, the International Federation of Wargamers, working with them was quite pleasant. One of the most satisfying compliments I ever received was from one of the principals of Game Designer's Workshop, that laud in regards to the detail of the Order of Battle of the forces involved in the "Dunkirk" game. Since originally designing it, I have done more research, corrected some errors I discovered in the German OB, and one day I would very much like to see the campaign in play as a computer game. In the summer of 1973, before my old friend, Don Kaye, joined me to found Tactical Studies Rules, I did indeed call Avalon Hill and ask if they might be interested in publishing the game that was to be known as D&am;D. They laughed at the idea, turned it down. In 1975 Tom called back to ask if maybe they could take over publication. It was my turn to laugh. After that we laughed together about the whole affair when we met at various gaming conventions." 5 out of 5

Wayne's Books RPG Reference - Wayne's Books

The Waynes Books RPG Reference Mission This is my ever-expanding Reference of Role Playing Games (RPGs). In earlier days, I called this site Krakow RPGs and Wayne's World of Books, but I have since settled on Wayne's Books. I sell science fiction (sci-fi) & fantasy books, but my passion is the world of games. RPGs are both book and game. This site is where I post documentation of games I've sold, seen, or learned of due to your helpful emails. For many obscure games, this may be their only photo and summary available on the web. I focus on pre-2000, out of print RPGs and board games that can be so hard to find now. Most of the game entries have a link to the item for sale at the Amazon Marketplace. There, you can view new and used games for sale by me -- "waynes books" -- or from any one of thousands of Amazon sellers, knowing that ALL purchases are backed by Amazon's ironclad A-to-Z- Guarantee. Amazon gives me a small percentage for each item - whether from me or another seller - purchased through links from here. There is NO extra cost to you, the customer. Think of it as a website donation, but you don't have to pay for it. It keeps the site free from outside advertising. ...and, no, I don't have every one of these games in stock at the moment. I wish I did! 5 out of 5

A semi-brief history of D&D and some other RPGs: 1967-1979 - TerraDave TerraDave

"1967 Braunstein is developed and refereed by David Wesely. A war game scenario of an assault on a European town in which each player would play a single charecter and some players would not command troops but have other roles; this would inadvertently become what some consider the first RPG. Dave Arneson would participate, including in a Latin America version of the game. 1968 Gary Gygax and the Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Association host the first “Gen Con”, a war-gaming convention, in Lake Geneva Wisconsin." 4.5 out of 5

Nightmare Magazine 02 - John Joseph Adams

An ok issue. Nightmare Magazine 02 : Construction Project - Desirina Boskovich Nightmare Magazine 02 : Graves - Joe Haldeman Nightmare Magazine 02 : The Ash of Memory the Dust of Desire - Poppy Z. Brite Nightmare Magazine 02 : At Lorn Hall - Ramsey Campbell Creature arrival escape. 3.5 out of 5 Creepy crawly chopped corpse dreams. 3 out of 5 Pain street hook. 3.5 out of 5 Crowcross painting. 2.5 out of 5 3 out of 5

Author Spotlight - Poppy Z. Brite

"Can you tell me a little bit about the genesis of “The Ash of Memory, the Dust of Desire”? I wrote it for an anthology of “city horror,” so there was a lot of my fascination with cities and ruined industrial spaces in there, along with a great deal of dream imagery. I don’t usually use a lot of dream material in fiction, but I recall putting some in that story." 3 out of 5

At Lorn Hall - Ramsey Campbell

Crowcross painting. 2.5 out of 5

Author Spotlight - Joe Haldeman

"Vietnam gave me the central image for “Graves.” We were airlifted into an area that included a graveyard, which had been extensively shelled. Plenty of moldy old corpses. Very different from the fresh ones we normally dealt with." 3 out of 5

Geekerati Radio: Lone Wolf Development Talks Hero Lab and Realm Works - Christian Lindke

Plus other bits and pieces! " Lone Wolf Development is one of the longest lasting support software providers in the gaming industry. The company's first digital offering, Army Builder, revolutionized miniature war gaming by providing a robust and simple tool that has now benefitted generations of gamers. Following on the success of that initial product, Lone Wolf designed Hero Lab a cutting edge character creation software package that could be used with a variety of RPGs. We will talk with Colen McAlister about the challenges of designing a program that could work with a wide variety of systems. What were the challenges programmers faced in designing a flexible program architecture? Now Lone Wolf Development is tackling the most difficult challenge in gaming, providing a robust software suite for game masters with their Realm Works project. We look forward to hearing about this new tool, how it can be supported, and how its uses might extend beyond hobby gaming." 4.5 out of 5

The Ash Of Memory The Dust Of Desire - Poppy Z. Brite

Pain street hook. 3.5 out of 5

The H Word: The Ghosts of November - R. J. Sevin

"Regardless of your beliefs, a great ghost story makes you uneasy in the middle of the night when you’re sitting alone in front of your computer and something clicks or clatters at the other end of your house. You know it’s just the house settling, but you get up and look around and remind yourself that you don’t believe in that crap." 3.5 out of 5

X-Forces: The Mutant Update - Anthony Herring

The Mutant Update has two things. It has a prose guide updating people that are unfamiliar to the background of the various X-teams as they stood at the time of publication. It also has a general guide with some information and suggestions and possible scenarios, both short and long, for making adventures - this is given in bare bones fashion, not as a full module, to start some brainstorming going. Good also for an off the cuff scenario. 3.5 out of 5

Construction Project - Desirina Boskovich

Creature arrival escape. 3.5 out of 5

The Weird Weird West - Ray Winninger

Dinosaurs, the Marvel Western Heroes and more in this second time travel adventure module. 3.5 out of 5

Hitchhiking Across an Ancient Sea - Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Unstable escape. 3 out of 5

Webs: The Spider-Man Dossier - Scott E. Davis

The Grandmaster is at it again. Overworked this guy compared to the Watcher it seems, even if the Watcher got the X-Men. Guess he had first pick. Anyway, this set updated the Spider-Man setting to the early 90s and the McFarlane era, that sort of time. Some Romita artwork in this, which is pretty cool. In the same manner as those other two nineties updates it gives a written breakdown, then some campaign setting starting with an update of the old web-slinger's stats right at the start. 4 out of 5

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Nightmare Magazine 01 - John Joseph Adams

A range of quality here from poor to Barron's very good. With some ok non-fiction bits and pieces. Nightmare Magazine 01 : Property Condemned - Jonathan Maberry Nightmare Magazine 01 : Frontier Death Song - Laird Barron Nightmare Magazine 01 : Good Fences - Genevieve Valentine Nightmare Magazine 01 : Afterlife - Sarah Langan Crow ghosts chicken poop shot. 2.5 out of 5 A dogsled racer runs afoul of the Wild Hunt, but has one friend left to help. 4 out of 5 Car not blowing up, dead. 3.5 out of 5 Limbo kids. 3 out of 5

Frontier Death Song - Laird Barron

A dogsled racer runs afoul of the Wild Hunt, but has one friend left to help. 4 out of 5

Afterlife - Sarah Langan

Limbo kids. 3 out of 5

Good Fences - Genevieve Valentine

Car not blowing up, dead. 3.5 out of 5

Property Condemned - Jonathan Maberry

Crow ghosts chicken poop shot. 2.5 out of 5

The Meaning of the H Word - Paula Guran

"But defining what "works" in horror is a tricky thing because we respond in such individual ways. A time-tattered ghost story can deliver emotional wallop for one reader and not raise a goosebump for someone else, someone who needs horror that is more macabre, visceral or perverse to respond. Taste in horror is like taste in music: It all has a beat but that doesn't mean you want to dance to every tune. Despite individual preferences and a certain stigma, horror is still a handy inclusive noun that encompasses the basic "dark" emotions -- fear, abhorrence, aversion, antipathy, disgust, dread, terror, alarm, dismay, shock, disquietude, consternation, panic. And, even though I personally tend to use the term "dark fiction" in an effort to broaden reader perception of the literature I deal with, horror is still as good a term as any. We are not going to change the name of the HWA to the Scary Writers Association. Don't look for the Bram Stoker Awards to be given in recognition of Superior Achievement in Weird Fiction. None of us will be going to the World Dark Fiction Convention." 3.5 out of 5

Author Spotlight - Laird Barron

"I’ve always been interested in world mythology, especially Norse. Late in 2011, I packed up my faithful hound Athena and drove an old truck pretty much non-stop from Montana to New York State. The story came to me as I visited a rest stop in Wyoming—two a.m. and a winter breeze rolling out of the Bad Lands. Later, I was relating to fellow author John Langan that I really wanted to write a chase narrative. Our conversation eventually led to “FDS.” The Wild Hunt fits perfectly as the agent of pursuit for our hapless narrator . . ." 3 out of 5

Weapons Locker - Jeff Grubb and Jerry Epperson

Weapons Locker is a supplement for those that love their armored battlesuits and associated gadgets. 3.5 out of 5

Warlord of Baluur - Anthony Herring

Here we have big old hair bombastic Blastaar the living Bombburst, just waiting to have the crap kicked out of him. That is, this is also part of the Negative Zone trilogy of modules, designed to be used with the Fantastic Four. As such, a lot of crazy space adventure against mad warlord types that like to yell a lot and blow things up. Fun. 3 out of 5

The Uncanny X-Men Box Set - Jeff Grubb

Given that they were clearly Marvel's most popular team at the time, they got their own, impressive large boxed set focused entirely on the X-Men and their milieu. This, of course, was a natural, and updated and upgraded the mutant menace to the Advanced game. A very well used supplement. 5 out of 5

The Ultimate Powers Book - David E. Martin

The Ultimate Powers Book: Special Module Ma3 (Marvel Super Heroes) by David E. Martin is a really excellent resource for the first Marvel Super Heroes Advanced role playing game. With huge lists and detailed descriptions of possible power stunts that can be developed it is a great thing to have for designing your own characters. 5 out of 5

Time Trap - Bruce Nesmith

An Avengers model with Kang, so a bit of brain melting time travel for you. 3 out of 5

The Intricate World of Cordwainer Smith - Ross Hetherington

"Every one of Smith’s stories takes place within a single, projected future history spanning 14,000 years from the present (a history which has only ever been incompletely reconstructed – Linebarger lost his one notebook to a sailing trip). In them, after global collapse near to our present time, there is founded a single governing power – The Instrumentality of Mankind. Though the Instrumentality is willing to use any means at its disposal to preserve humanity, its dictatorship is neither that of abstract utilitarian computation, nor of pure bureaucracy. The Lords of the Instrumentality, when we meet them, are human, whatever methuselan age they have lived to, or whatever skills and technologies they employ. And, however vast and rigid the hierarchy sits under them, they retain their individuality and autonomy. Ultimately, that they will serve humanity above all other concerns is a matter of trust in the subtle wisdom of the system they serve." 3.5 out of 5

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Thunder Over Jotunheim - Bruce Nesmith

With most of the major other Marvel teams and areas covered with the modules and supplements that had be done, a bit of Norse mythology action certainly made sense. 3 out of 5

Stygian Knight - Anthony Herring

Stygian Knight is the conclusion to the Fantastic Four based Negative Zone trilogy of modules. In this one, yet another alien overlord, this time one groovy enough to do over Annihilus, etc., has some nasty plans. He'd like to get some new real estate and transport Earth to the Negative Zone, swampland, bridges and all. 3 out of 5

Spore of Arthros - Rick Swan

Pretty reasonable module, featuring Annihilus. A bit of an odd combination here, as the heroes run up against good old Fu Manchu ... err.. Yellow Claw, and also get to go racing around in the Negative Zone, which, of course, is where the old crazy bug blaster himself likes to hang out. Fantastic Four fans should like this one. 3 out of 5

2000AD, a British Institution: An Interview with Writer - Al Ewing and Henry Flint

"2000AD artist Henry Flint still recalls the excitement of encountering the first issue of the weekly SF-adventure comic. It was, he says, “nasty, brutal. Parents hated it. The morality of the heroes was questionable. After the Beano, I was a little scared. I loved it.” It’s hardly surprising that his seven year old self would feel that way. 2000AD was nasty and brutal and purposefully so. A long-pent up snarl of frustration and ambition from creators weary of profoundly conservative comics, 2000AD featured the grimmest of anti-heroes in absurdly amped-up, fantastical tales with more than just a taste of radical agitprop. An America devastated by nuclear war and ruled over by one-strike-and-you’re-executed blackshirts! Giant intelligent dinosaurs warring on time-travelling cowboys sent back to slaughter them from an environmentally-depleted and meatless 23rd century! Like so much of the very best pop culture, 2000AD took a generally dismissed form and infused it with innovative storytelling, challenging politics and a gleefully taboo-busting sense of the transgressive. “As a kid, 2000AD was a friend, it was my secret.” remembers Flint, “I felt like I’d been accepted into a secret club.”" 4 out of 5

Secret Wars II - Jeff Grubb

The game version of the second Secret War. Not particularly useful as a game setting. 2.5 out of 5

Secret Wars Crisis on Infinite Earths and the Development of the Universe-Wide Crossover - Julian Darius

"While Crisis on Infinite Earths was DC’s first universe-wide crossover, there’s some dispute over whether it was the first in comics. The answer largely depends on one’s definitions. Whatever one thinks about this, one shouldn’t pretend that the format of Crisis on Infinite Earths was created out of whole cloth by Marv Wolfman and DC Comics. But to understand the evolution of this odd, or at least rather particular, form of narrative, we have to examine the publishing history of DC’s rival, Marvel Comics. There, the crossover evolved much more organically than it did at DC. And it’s important to remember that, while the two companies are rivals, they have often responded to one another, most frequently by adapting the tone, format, or other elements of one another’s successes. It’s not too much to say that this constitutes a kind of evolving dialogue – sometimes friendly, sometimes contentious – about how to run a line of super-hero comics." 4 out of 5

Secret Wars - Jeff Grubb

Now this was a fair bit of fun, for a huge involved superhero and supervillain slugfest bashup and brawl This takes the Secret Wars mini-series and all those heroes and villains to the Beyonder's World and lets them have at it. Black Spider-Suits and Hulk lifting mountain ranges and all. 3.5 out of 5

The Sword in the Stone Hand: The Arthurian Trends in Hellboy - Nathan Harmon

"In the literary arena, there are several myths that comic books pull from to feed their storylines. Often times, they come from Greek and Roman mythology, others come from the supernatural sources such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula. One of the legends that is sometimes touched upon slightly is King Arthur and the Round Table, made famous in the Anglo-Saxon period. Literary consumers have seen bits and pieces of it all over movies, television, books, and comics. Readers would see little tidbits of Arthurian themed ideas such as Excalibur as being a sword that endured due to its magical properties for centuries. There are also many references to Camelot and even the characters such as Lancelot and King Arthur himself. In “The Wild Hunt” storyline, Mike Mignola brings several Arthurian aspects into the Hellboy universe." 3.5 out of 5

Reap the Whirlwind- Warren Spector

This is another in the quite good series of X-Men based adventures set in the Days of Future Past setting. Part of a series of 4, Reap the Whirlwind is the third adventure in which player heroes must avoid the mutant killing sentinels, and not get themselves chucked into a death camp. This is quite well done, indeed. 3.5 out of 5

Ctl-Alt-Delete: Retcon Relaunch or Reboot? - William Proctor

"But what concerns me here, and the prime purview of this article, is the term itself, reboot. For the past three years, I have been researching the concept as part of a PhD thesis into the phenomenon which has seen the paradigm translated from the comic book language into other cultural dictionaries. Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005) began the trend in cinema which has since been adopted by a plethora of commentators to describe a wide variety of artifacts, texts and practices, some of which require interrogation due to the paradoxical elements at work across the popular culture landscape. In short, the term reboot has exploded beyond its initial definition and is being utilized in a multitude of contradictory and, I would suggest, rather problematic ways. So, then, what exactly is a reboot? How does it differ from other revisionist strategies such as the remake, the adaptation, the retcon and the relaunch?" 4 out of 5

Realms of Magic - Kim Eastland

A really excellent look at magic for the Marvel gaming system, allowing you to have magical characters that are much more interesting, and fits in with what has gone before. 5 out of 5

Ragnarok and Roll - Troy Denning

A high power level game. Asgard, Olympus, Beta Ray Bill, Firelord, Gladiator. You get the idea. 3.5 out of 5

You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby: On What Made Doctor Strange Unique The Penultimate Part - Colin Smith

"Of all Marvel’s headlining protagonists, it was Doctor Strange who was consistently shown improving his abilities through academic study. Iron Man was often shown upgrading his armor, while Giant Man would eventually adopt a hysterical regime of physical improvement, but only Strange was perpetually lost to a life of exhausting study which constantly served to increase his powers. (Peter Parker was also regularly shown bent over his homework, but that was little to do with fighting evil.) The Marvel Universe was always home by a class of technological genii, forever developing more and more improbable examples of super-science. Yet, the likes of Reed Richards and Tony Stark were rarely if ever shown wearily bent over a textbook. (The Thing would joke about Richards’ love of pouring over theory, but the evidence of that was rarely to be seen.) The super-brains arrived fully trained, and their various amazing inventions – from Cerebro to Jump Jets – seem to be generated more through physical improvisation than intellectual application. Charles Xavier and Henry Pym were far more likely to be shown as makers rather than thinkers, operators than scholars, and they seemed far closer to miracle-working mechanics than masters of scientific theory." 4 out of 5’t-earned-it-yet-baby-on-what-made-doctor-strange-unique-the-penultimate-part/

Project Wideawake - Jeff Grubb

A roster book of all the X-Men, friends and foes for the basic game era. 3.5 out of 5

Pit of the Viper - Kim Eastland

Short module included with figures. 3 out of 5

Night Moves - Anthony Herring

This is second in the Gang Wars trilogy. The module adds Cloak and Dagger as potential hero types, for fans of theirs, with the other guys still running around. Also, the Si Fan gangs of the villainous Fu Manchu, for a bit of a kung fu beatdown, or beating up as the case may be. 3.5 out of 5

Nightmares of Future Past - Steve Winter

An X-Men adventure, tying into the happenings of the Days of Future Past scenario. Given that this is one of the best X-Men stories ever, this makes this a really good adventure. Want to get chased by giant robot killers? Here is your chance to open up a can of Sentinel whuparse on yourself, and on others. 4 out of 5

New York New York - Jeff Grubb

A lower level module and supplement for the crawlers of the Concrete jungle. Including the un-awesomeness of Stilt Man and Jack-O-Lantern, that sort of thing. It is a guidebook of encounters and plot ideas and things like that to put into adventures, or when necessary for the Judge to grab something quickly for a game. A good idea. 3.5 out of 5

Night Life - Anthony Herring

The third of the Marvel Gang Wars module series. More of the same sort of crime lord and gang action, with some different suggested heroes in Moon Knight, Hawkeye and Mockingbird. One obvious natural they threw in, that is a nobrainer if you are going to be taking on kung fu assassins of the Si-Fan, is Shang Chi, the master of kung fun himself. Very cool. 3.5 out of 5

Murderworld! - Jeff Grubb

A module, of course, featuring the dastardly Arcade. That is pretty much always entertaining, as he inflicts his Murderworld deathtraps on the heroes through some sneaky deal, machination or hostage type situation. A classic scenario that can be happily adapted for other things, or used again with a few changes. 3.5 out of 5

Mutating Mutants - Bruce Nesmith

A really quite good module for the mutant types, with Sebastian Shaw and his plotting at the heart of it. It is well detailed, and thought out, with some definitely useful instruction at various points for the Judge, even some karma award guides. Very nice. 4 out of 5

Marvel Super Heroes Deluxe City Campaign Set - Allen Varney

Great bunch of maps and layours for figures based hero gaming, when some punches your character 50m through the air, it becomes easy to tell if any walls are in the way! 4 out of 5

Marvel Super Heroes Basic Set - Jeff Grubb

There were two versions of this, one in the eighties, and one at the very start of the nineties. The first one had a yellow box, and I don't think that this is very much different. With this game you can pretty much be up and running in 10-15 minutes, which is part of the attraction. Simple and fun. 4 out of 5

Marvel Super Heroes Advanced Set - Jeff Grubb

A great addition to the line - adding just enough more interesting rules options and complexity without spoiling the speed and fun factor of the FASERIP system, with many excellent supplements to support. 5 out of 5

The Left Hand of Eternity - Ray Winninger

Here, the prolific Mr. Winninger has produce some detail of the cosmic level characters of the Marvel universe. Something that the game may not handle too well with the power rank system. 3 out of 5

Lands of Doctor Doom - Anthony Herring and Scott Davis

This is one for the serious Doom-Philes, or those that would like to emigrate to Latveria, and the surrounding small countries and mystic detail. It goes into serious information on the not-so-good Doctor, and his various lairs. It also happily includes some adventure material to use with the richly detailed area setting. 3.5 out of 5

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Storm Dogs - 1

Sending an off-weave team to investigate a crime on the inhabited Amaranth. 4.5 out of 5

The Functional Nerds Podcast: Episode 135 Dungeons and Dragons with - Myke Cole

"In the 135th episode of the Functional Nerds podcast, Patrick Hester and John Anealio welcome author Myke Cole to the third seat. About Myke: As a secu­rity con­tractor, gov­ern­ment civilian and mil­i­tary officer, Myke Cole’s career has run the gamut from Coun­tert­er­rorism to Cyber War­fare to Fed­eral Law Enforce­ment. He’s done three tours in Iraq and was recalled to serve during the Deep­water Horizon oil spill. All that con­flict can wear a guy out. Thank good­ness for fan­tasy novels, comic books, late night games of Dun­geons and Dragons and lots of angst fueled writing. Things discussed in this episode include: Locke and Key by Joe Hill The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 Dungeons and Dragons" 4 out of 5

Gates of What If? - Roger Moore

Like it says, your What If, Watcher style shenanigans, Marvel RPG style. 3.5 out of 5

Gamer's Handbook of the Marvel Universe Volume 8 - TSR TSR

This book is the 1992 update of character statistics , with new characters, new villains, and gear for the Marvel Superhero Roleplaying Game. A really good idea doing these, and they were certainly looked forward to by all, to see the changes in favorite characters, and even the silly morts that were included and highly amusing. A pity all this stopped. I'd probably still be getting them now. 4.5 out of 5

Gamer's Handbook of the Marvel Universe Volume 6 - TSR TSR

The sixth volume of the excellent Marvel Super Heroes game roster encyclopedia, basically. Very useful, indeed, even for comic fans in general. The updates for 1991. 4.5 out of 5