Monthly Archives: October 2016

Doctor Strange – Review


 An Extra Dimension

Benedict Cumberbatch fits into Doctor Strange’s cloak easily, whilst humour, staggering visuals and emotional development make this comic-book jaunt a welcome change from the Marvel norm.

12A, 115 mins


Image result for doctor strange surgeon

After the excitement but ultimate pointlessness of Captain America: Civil War, and Marvel film after Marvel film of metropolitan destruction, their latest comic-book outing has got something new – a kind of magic. And, to my superhero-jaded eyes, it can’t come soon enough.

Doctor Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch), as his name might suggest, is a doctor. More precisely he’s a neurosurgeon, and an arrogant one at that, so unlikeable at the outset that you almost wish him ill. Not long into the film, an unfortunate accident transforms his life, but, in a welcome change, the film takes time to ponder over the consequences of this, before Strange runs off to a mystical place near Kathmandu which could…

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Best Stuff in Comics This Week

Skill Design in your LARP Adventure

Critical Path

IMG_2074 Rob Morton, James Bloodworth (me!) and Pete Morton holding a copy of their revised “Goldrush” rule system.

Live Action Role-Play, Live Role-Play, LARP, LRP, whatever you call this hobby it is all ultimately the same thing.  People engaging in fantasy worlds to resolve situations, this is what seperates us from those who produce fantastic costumes and then just stand around in them at conventions (not that there’s anything wrong with that).  LARPers will actively engage with the game world using game based skills to affect change but it is these game based skills I’m talking about in this post.

Game Based skills need to simulate real world skills so your players characters can hack a computer network, fly a spaceship, perform scientific research, mix potions, perform rituals, etc.

When I was originally trying to decide on the name of this blog, I kept on coming back to one of the first concepts…

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10 Weird Medieval Beasts

Forward to the Past

With Halloween rapidly approaching, we’re well into the season of monsters and the bizarre, but if we look back through time we’ll see that humans have been interested in strange creatures for millennia.

Encyclopedias that described the natural world gained popularity in the Middle Ages. Topics ranged from the Genesis story to the nature of God to people and their daily activities. However, it is their sections on animals, called “bestiaries,” that we most often remember. Medieval writers often attempted to explain the characteristics and names of the beasts that appeared on their pages. In many cases, they drew allegorical connections between nature and spiritual concepts applicable to the average person.

Most of the creatures portrayed actually existed, but presented alongside them were numerous mythical beasts with fantastical abilities. Even some of the real animals were depicted with special powers (like in number 6 on this list).

In celebration of…

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The Bayeux Tapestry

‘Merlin in Scotland and Govan’ – Talk by Tim Clarkson and Double Book Launch at Govan Old Church: Saturday 19 November



I wake up between 5:30 and 6:00 every morning. Old habits are hard to break.

But right before waking this morning I had a great little dream.

I was at this huge outdoor conference right after sunrise. Apparently it was some kind of business conference. There were thousands of people milling about and many had brought their kids with them.

Suddenly a guy walks up to me (I know the guy in real life, and like me he owns his own company) and says, “Jack, let me show you something!”

Then he shows me this (what is to me anyway) small and barely visible spot of oil and dirt on the back of the collar of his wife’s dress. Actually it was mostly on the tag on her dress with just a small smudge on her collar. Then he begins to bitch and complain and fuss about how all the…

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The Adventures in Middle-earth Player’s Guide from Cubicle 7 Entertainment is probably the one gaming supplement that role-players have waited the longest for. With this book, the Dungeons & Dragons game is united with the Middle-earth of J.R.R. Tolkien’s writing for the first time, officially. It only took 42 years.

Yes, there have been Middle-earth role-playing games already. Iron Crown published Middle-earth Role Playing in the 80s and 90s. Cubicle 7 Entertainment also currently publishes The One Ring Roleplaying Game. Despite the great influence that Tolkien exerted over D&D, the two streams never officially crossed before now.

Now D&D players and DMs can officially delve into Middle-earth and interact with the character’s of Tolkien’s fiction. At least partially, for now. The Player’s Guide is exactly what it says on the tin, and it contains everything that players would need to create characters native to Middle-earth, along with the basics of adventuring in that world. Creatures, characters from the books and a deeper look into the setting itself are for a further book (or books).

For decades, the concepts that many consider to be traditional fantasy, or more to the truth D&D fantasy, have been evolving in this cooking pot of tabletop games, video games and tie-in media, and now we are getting to see the raw materials for the stew getting thrown back into the pot.

I recommend the Adventures in Middle-earth Player’s Guide for people wanting to bring a more authentic Middle-earth experience into their D&D games, but I think that they might be surprised by some of the directions of the book. It is not without flaws, and I will try to address some of those as I go.

First off, the art in this book is wonderful. From the samples of the cultures of Middle-earth to the landscapes of Middle-earth to the “None Shall Pass!” Gandalf illustration on the book’s cover, the Adventures in Middle-Earth Player’s Guide has some great art in it. If, for some strange reason, you have never seen a Lord of the Rings or Hobbit movie, the art in this book will give you plenty of visual cues as to what Middle-earth would look like. This is great art. Few people do brooding landscapes as well as Jon Hodgson.

The new classes in this book are very interesting, and they bring to the foreground some of the genre conventions of Tolkien’s works.
The Slayer is the barbaric warrior type from the less civilized lands. The Scholar is knowledgeable about the world, and a healer. The Treasure Hunter is a burglar. Wanderers are travelers who wander the roads and forests of the land. Warriors are hardy and disciplined fighters. Wardens are guardians and protectors who inspire as well as protect.

Each class has archetypes that allow for specialization and differentiation, should you have more than one representative of a class in your party of characters. The niches, while they can be thinner among the fighting classes, are well defined enough so that each class can stand out among a group of characters, and have things to do.

Instead of races, like in baseline D&D, the Adventures in Middle-earth Player’s Guide instead uses cultures. When you have a handful of non-human “races,” and then a bunch of different regional ways to say “human,” going the cultural route makes sense mechanically. In this book there are eleven cultures covering dwarves, the various regional types of humans, hobbits and the elves. Each has their own traits, suggestions for names, bonus equipment and other things. For the non-human cultures there are also “racial” abilities. Each culture also has a type, which figures into the types of equipment that starting characters would have access to.

The Adventures in Middle-earth Player’s Guide also adds virtues that help to reinforce the Middle-earth feel, and to give some additional mechanical support to cultures. Basically these are renamed feats and are broken out by the various cultures of Middle-earth. They also go a long way towards helping to differentiate different characters of the same classes. How a Barding approaches being a Warrior and a Man of Bree does that are different, and their virtues can help mechanically add those flavors.

Tolkien is held up as one of the exemplars of epic, high fantasy, but the tone that much of this book is of a darker and dirtier style of fantasy than that of the D&D style of fantasy that the game has perpetuated over the years. The Slayer and Treasure Hunter classes would be as at home in a game inspired by Howard or Leiber as they would be in a game set in Middle-earth. Other rules, such as Corruption and Shadow Weaknesses reinforce the dark fantasy feel of the book.
The Shadow over Middle-earth is growing, and encounters with it, and its allies, can cause corruption to those who are trying to fight against it. This can lead to interesting character development issues, but it can also mean a loss of player agency when Corruption can take a character out of play entirely.

The things that I didn’t like are fewer than the things that I liked in this book. I’m not a big fan of the Journeys rules. I think that these rules, and some elements of the Corruption rules, take away player agency, and the Journeys rules place more emphasis on random rolls than the actions of the characters. I wouldn’t see myself using these rules, only because the handful of handful of dice rolls made at the beginning of the journey would have too much of an impact of things that would happen at the journey’s end. Moreso than the actual actions of the characters during the journey. I’m not a fan of taking control out of the hands of the gaming group, and neither are the people with whom I tend to game. I know that, in an actual journey, a bad event at the start of things can color what happens for the rest of the journey, but there should still be a chance to overcome. For a game that pushes the idea that the characters are heroes, not being able to overcome the environment would make me wonder if the characters could have any chance of overcoming the growing threats of the Shadow.

Honestly, outside of the occasional wandering monster, I am not a huge fan of using a lot of random tables to shape play anyway because the results tend to be inconsistent and can, at worse, poke holes in the suspension of disbelief of those playing. Journeys and travel are an important element of Tolkien’s works, but they are typically the parts which appeal to me the least, so excising them shouldn’t be that hard.

Whether you want to play a game of Tolkien inspired fantasy, or your games go for something a bit darker, there will be things that you can use from the Adventures in Middle-earth Player’s Guide. There is plenty to bring new directions to D&D games that are looking for an influx of creativity.

Mechanically, the material in the Adventures in Middle-earth Player’s Guide is tightly integrated and on point. The more indie design idea that the function of rules should inform the form of the game influenced this book a good deal. The various mechanical pieces from cultures to virtues to classes all work together to enforce the feel of the game’s setting, and to make it a part of the rules of the game. This book is the product of designers and a publisher who know what they are doing and are working to elevate the design of their games. Once the physical version of the book is out, it should become an integral part of the D&D sections of any fantasy gamer’s gaming collection.

I am glad that Wizards of the Coast wised up with the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons and went back to the less restrictive OGL of the third edition game. We are definitely getting an explosion of creativity in support for this edition of D&D that we didn’t previously receive, with the last edition. While the D&D game itself seems more interested in replaying the past, because of the OGL we get books like the Adventures in Middle-earth Player’s Guide that are willing to look at the core elements of the D&D game while still making something that is bold and new. Hopefully the third party creativity that we see in books like the Adventures in Middle-earth Player’s Guide and other works like those being published by companies like Kobold Press will inspire the base of D&D development to push for new and exciting directions for the game.

I am eager to see what Cubicle 7 Entertainment does next in their Adventures in Middle-earth line, and where they take the game next. The Adventures in Middle-earth Player’s Guide is a grand slam from a publisher at the top of their game.

Read more:

The Mysterious Plain of Jars

Queen Malakaye of Kush


The Eternals Landing Page

Getting Hitch-ed: Justice League Rebirth

The Muttering Muse

Bryan Hitch carries on his affair with the Justice League. Is it true love? Will it last? Or will it end messily? Who knows? But here’s how we start phase two…

justice-league-rebirth-cover Tony S Daniel’s cover art is… tasty.

Justice League: Rebirth is mostly about Superman. The opening four pages are narrated by him and, to be honest, those opening four pages are pretty impressive. If it’s one thing that Hitch does well (and, to be fair, he does a lot more than just one thing well), it’s… epic. As the Rebirth Superman (who is actually the pre-Flashpoint Superman after the New 52 Superman died) declaims his monologue, Hitch gives us scenes of an alien creature invading a city and of people running around in panic before Batman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg and the Flash show up to repel the invading monsters, which look a bit like giant flying…

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The Walking Dead – ep 7.1 – Has it gone too far?

Falcon at the Movies

Unfortunately, the media had a harsh reaction to season seven premiere of The Walking Dead, some going so far as to suggest that the show bordered on torture porn.  I think intense and gritty and emotional are all fine words to describe this episode, I would be hard pressed to describe it in other extremes.  On the other hand, I can understand it.  Not much happened in this episode besides torture, mutilation, and murder.  

An overwhelming majority have decried The Walking Dead.  GQ has called it a “chore” to watch.  Vox called it “dumb”.  IndieWire called it an example of the show “…at its worst…”.  UK newspaper The Independent described the episode as “too bleak to enjoy”.  IGN called it an “…uncomfortable crawl through broken glass…’  Ouch.  The AV Club said that the show “…had no narrative”.  USA Today wondered if fans will tune out.  Best of all, Forbes only treaded…

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Halloween’s Michael Myers coming to Dead by Daylight


John Carpenter’s serial killer is home for the holiday

‘Tis the season for Halloween-themed content in video games, and the developers of multiplayer horror game Dead by Daylight are taking the opportunity quite literally. Halloween’s Michael Myers and Laurie Strode — Jamie Lee Curtis’ character from John Carpenter’s 1978 film — are coming to the game as downloadable content this week, just in time for Halloween.

Michael Myers and Laurie Strode are coming to the game as a new playable killer and new playable survivor, respectively. The Halloween-themed DLC, which costs $6.99, will also come with a new environment, Haddonfield.

Dead by Daylight is a multiplayer horror game in which one player assumes the role of a killer against four survivors whose goal is to survive and escape. Myers will be the game’s fifth playable killer and comes with his own set of perks, which are detailed at…

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Prepping 101: Beyond Zombies – Survival Lessons from The Walking Dead

The Tactical Hermit


Beyond Zombies: Survival Lessons From The Walking Dead

(click on above link to be re-directed)

With the new Season 7 Starting last night, I thought this s a timely article.

And Yes all fellow TWD fans, I am still in shock over Sarge and Glen’s Death from getting brained by that that crazy SOB Negan.

All I can say is Revenge is a Bitch Negan.

Stay Alert, Stay Armed and Stay Dangerous!

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Facebook Stalking Is Finally Relevant In Investigation Game Orwell


Orwell has you cyberstalk your way through social profiles and digital presences to safeguard the city. Here’s what we think of it so far.

Did you enjoy this video?

Source: GameSpot

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In my sophomore year at Presbyterian College (one of the colleges I attended) while looking for diversionary entertainment reading to distract me from my numerous studies I happened upon the Adventures of Horatio Hornblower: The Hornblower Saga. I read every book in the series by Forester during that year, practically devouring them. I bought many of those books over time and still have some in my personal library.

It was an epiphany and my first real introduction into long series Historical Fiction. I loved them. To this day Hornblower remains my favorite fictional Commander of any ship during the Age of Sail. And one of my favorite Ship Commanders ever. Captain Kirk of the USS Enterprise is based upon Hornblower.

The difference is that over time Hornblower commanded numerous ships and even squadrons during his career.

There was an amazingly good television show detailing some of the career of Hornblower though it was very sparse in detail compared to the books. I highly recommend the series.


Hornblower Saga



“He might have had the Weather Gage but we had the weather god.”

Captain Jack Aubrey, commander of HMS Surprise

(My first favorite film from the Age of Sail and my favorite series of historical novels on the same and next to Horatio Hornblower my favorite fictional commander of that era. I highly recommend those novels. History as True Art.)


“Thank you, Defiant, for swift and honourable action…”

my second favorite fictional film about warfare during the Age of Sail

(and sometimes my first)

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