Category Archives: Review

THE ARRIVAL

THE ARRIVAL

(with one spoiler)

The wife and I went to see The Arrival today for our date. Although I have never read the short story within the first five minutes or so I had already figured out what the Arrival was, who it involved, and how it would likely occur. The clues were evidently abundant in the opening scenes. So I leaned over and whispered to my wife what would happen to whom and why.

I just couldn’t figure out the exact mechanism until I had more data and information. So I didn’t deduce  the mechanism involved until about half way through the film. Then I told her that.

Nevertheless the film was excellent in most every way. It was certainly one of the best hard sci-fi films I’ve seen in a long time. And the use of language was rather brilliant indeed. Actually, as far as language goes, it probably the very best sci-fi film I’ve ever seen (I say that as both an amateur philologist and an amateur cryptologist – so I greatly appreciated the peculiar and particular use of language indeed – plus the “scripted symbology” was especially beautiful in and of itself) and perhaps one of the best uses of language in any other kind of film I’ve ever seen. On that basis alone I highly recommend the film.

Actually the film itself came off like an old-school science fiction story/film, like a piece of work I would have expected by Arthur C. Clarke perhaps. It really was that good.

I suggest you go see it for yourself and enjoy it immensely.

I give it a 9 out of 10.

I think I will also now read the short story…

 

Spoiler: As I have been saying for a very, very long time now, if time is non-linear then nothing else really matters. Everything is immortal, and always has been.

Only the destruction of time and space itself could change that.

 

 

THE WITCHQUEEN

THE WITCHQUEEN

I’ve always said that Cersei Lannister was the single greatest and most degenerate sociopath in the entire series of novels. She is also the Queen Mother of degeneracy and should have long ago been hung by the neck until dead. She is vile, not in the common usage of the term but in the accurate usage of the term, and she is a communicable disease.

Of course the other events in this episode were equally good (which I will not now mention), for the most part, and this was definitely the best episode of this season, the Battle of the Bastards being the next best.

But yes, even Jamie Lannister, a definite degenerate himself, must now fully recognize the twisted nature of his sister and that she is every bit as “mad” as was the Mad King.

If he has any sense at all he will behead Cersei as Sansa and Jon should do to Littlefinger, but will not.

 

 

BATTLE OF THE BASTARDS

I thoroughly enjoyed the Battle of the Bastards.

Though Bolton should have been flayed alive, especially after having put an arrow through the eye of the giant. I had much hoped the giant would live. Of course I knew he would not. As I knew the Knights of the Vale would arrive too late for Jon’s Army to be fully preserved. It is Martin after all.

The dogs were a fine ending I thought, for Bolton, but he should have been flayed alive by the survivors of the men he murdered, both those of his own army and of Jon’s forces. Then set Bolton afire and burn all of the banners of the Flayed Man with his corpse and never speak of him, his house, or such a banner ever again.

I also very much enjoyed the way Dany dealt with the Slaving Fleet. And the Slave Lords.

More than time for that. Also a Queen who shakes hands, well, you can see where it will lead.

To either the Last Queen, or to far better than a Queen. And Jon Snow is no king, and neither should he ever aspire to be.

Though I do suspect that Euron Greyjoy by now has the Horn again (or on the show for once) and will attempt to use it to take control of Dany’s dragons. It’s just speculation on my part but he is widely traveled and it seems very likely to me that is his real motive in sailing to Meereen.

A singularly good episode. I hope the season finale is at least as good…

THE PACIFICATION AND PUSSIFICATION OF MARVEL’S CIVIL WAR – ALL THING

THE PACIFICATION AND PUSSIFICATION OF MARVEL’S CIVIL WAR

(Spoilers included: so if you get all emotional about spoilers then take a powder, this ain’t for you.)

My wife, the girls and I went to see Civil War this evening. Before you come to the conclusion that I didn’t like the film based on the title of this post, actually I did, let me just say the entire subject matter of Marvel’s Civil War was completely pussified and pacified by this particular film. Not that the film wasn’t good, it was at a certain level. It just had nothing to do with Civil War.

What Marvel did so bravely in the comic series Civil War (to the outrage of couch potato fisticuff Captain America’s throughout this great land) they completed pussed out on in this film and in that sense entirely ruined it. There was no tyranny of the government, nor was there a real rebellion against the government. A real shame since what this nation actually needs is a real and certifiable Civil War. The closest the film even got to the real ideas and ideals in the Civil War series was in just speaking the terms “vigilante” and “criminals.” There was nothing really about the series evident in the film. Hell it wasn’t even an initiative of the US government, it was a damned United Nations effort. Any time anything is a UN effort you can bet it will be entirely pussified, and completely ineffective at attempting to achieve it’s true goal. As this certainly was.

Nothing about the original Civil War was evident, not the fact that the government tried to suppress the rights of the individual (and not just for the Avengers, narrowing the Civil War down to just the Avengers completely missed the point, not that I disagreed entirely with what the government was attempting to do) and tried to tell individuals what they could do with their own talents and abilities and “powers.” Nor did it ever truly address the issue of what is the proper response of the individual to such an attempt at tyranny by the government? How Far does the individual have a right to go in rebelling against government oppression? (All the way – he has a God-given right to go all the way to destroy such a government. Well, all the way short of murdering the innocent. He should leave that kinda shit to the government. They’re really good at it.) All of that, all of the really important stiff, was completely missing. This was Civil War Lite, the balless Millennial Edition. The pastel and collegiate safe-zone/safe-place edition. You know, still-mint-in-box with that plastic smell. A shame Marvel pussed on that very germane and pertinent point, especially at this time in our history.

I think back to Batman-Superman (and Superman-Batman had it’s share of problems, but being about true ideals was not one of them) and how Superman, realizing that Luthor’s mark was about to explode and kill everyone in the US congress chamber did not even bother to move, did not even bother to attempt to move to save anyone at all. Not anyone at all. Didn’t even use his body to mitigate the explosion so at least some could survive. He just passively watched it. Just stood there shaking his head as if to say, “if only the government had allowed me, if only I had permission.” Now that’s actually about something, a critique of Modern Man, of the Modern American actually. Hell, that is the modern American. The passive, uninvolved, don’t drag me into this, that’s someone else’s job, “do I actually have your permission to intervene” modern American. Or modern Christian, take your pick. (Superman was at one time the quintessential American of Action, now he is the quintessential modern American as well. Welcome to your true selves modern Americans. Even your superheroes are now in on your pathetic act.) Civil War never rose to that point, to being about something nearly that big. It was, as a super-hero film, more or less just a kick-ass superhero film about nothing more than, you guessed it, mere superheroes. Ina tiff about their own drama-club, their own Dr. Phil episode. Civil War was not about something really important, such as the people and population that the superheroes are supposed to represent, either as wish-fulfillment, or as a real critique on their actual natures. In a way though that is unfair criticism, because unintentionally this was a critique on the character of modern Americans. How by absence, habit, and training we don’t really have any anymore. So in that sad sense it was Batman-Superman all over again, just without all the outright honesty. This film though never truly gets a chance to succeed at failing like that because it fails to be about what it was supposed to be about.

What then was Civil War the film actually about? The closest it ever got to being real was a running (literally, a lot of running) discourse about friendship, loyalty, and how far a man will go to remain loyal to a true friend. (Black Panther by the way had an excellent little sub-plot which was aloes instructive, about vengeance for the right reasons versus vengeance for the wrong reasons. I truly enjoyed watching Black Panther.)

Now didn’t get me wrong, friendship and true loyalty (that is to say the kind of, “I will fight and die for you loyalty”) is an extremely rare commodity in the modern world. And in modern America. Hell most modern Americans won’t risk themselves for anything, much less other people. See the Superman reference above, and so that’s precisely the point. So I am in no way denigrating or negating a film about true loyalty and real friendship. It’s important subject matter for modern myths, like comic superheroes. The shame is that it could have been that and still been about an actual and real Civil War. Oh, I understand that the film had to be limited (in comparison to the comics) in actor numbers and scenes and the overall plot had to be pared down, but it could have still been about a real Civil War. And friendship. Like the comic series was. It wasn’t. It wasn’t about a war at all really, and that’s the real fault of the thing. Mostly it was only about superheroes and character development and all of the other comic book bullshit that so floats the hole filled chalk anchors and thrills the nascent testicles of comic book fangurls everywhere. But it really wasn’t about anything. Other than that. Superheroes, entertainment, diversions, fist and laser beams fights, explosions.

If only there had been a Real War. An actual Civil War. But Marvel pussed out. They could have taken what they did with the last Captain America film, Winter Soldier (an excellent film about a real rebellion against government) and went all the way. Instead a cold wind blew up their skirts and they pulled their panties up and went home. And there ya go. Civil War as a faux entertainment and superhero fight fight, rather than one about a well, ya know, a war…

This was more like a hat-tip to fangurls and continuity agitators so they could babble more Nerdspeak while Rome burns. The real Rome I mean. Not that I blame the actors and actresses. They did superb jobs especially Falc, Panther, Cap, Iron Man, Vision, Widow, the kid playing Spiderman, and Bucky. No, this film was entirely a failure of writing and balls. Not acting, and maybe not even of directing. Just an horrendous and total lack of balls. No balls and you can’t write around that kinda thing. It becomes obvious quick.

Technically though, and as an entertainment, I give it a 4 out of 5. Because technically it was a superb film. And as a comic book superhero film it was also pretty good. Just not Winter Soldier good.

As far as being an important film, I give it a 2 out of 5. It was an urban film. Unlike the Winter Soldier it revolved around urban thinking. Petty turf fights. Avoidance of reality. And that showed the whole thing through.

In other words it was just another superhero fun-flick, rather than a film about what it actually means to be a Hero fighting for a truly important cause. You won’t get that in this flick. Nothing really important happens. You will get some boom-boom and some pretty flashy fights. Just not many fights about anything really worth fighting about. Or about anything applicable to the Real World. And if a story isn’t really applicable to the Real World then let’s just call it what it is, a pussified wish-fulfillment, or put another way, just another diversionary fantasy. I hope Marvel stays far away from ever again doing this kind of thing to their best work in the future.

You want something much, much more entertaining and infinitely more important then read the original Civil War comic series.

Better yet start your own Civil War. It’s way past time anyhow.

That’s my take on the thing. What’s yours?

REVIEW OF THE CODEX MARTIALIS – GAMEPLAY

This is an older review I did for the Codex Martialis, a role-playing game supplement that heavily concentrates upon the way Real World weapons behave in actual combat. At least as closely as it is possible for imaginary games to truly emulate such weapon characteristics. That being said here is my review.

 

First of all, let me begin my review by saying that the Codex Martialis is simply one of the best-written gaming supplements I have ever read. It displays a high degree of professionalism in the effort.

As an example of this let me quote from the work itself:

Thanks to the unique weapon characteristics the choice of weapons becomes a major tactical consideration rather than a cosmetic adornment for a character. Weapons are not just rated for damage, but also for reach, defensive value, speed in follow-up attacks, effectiveness against armor and suitability for different types of attacks. The selection of weapons becomes another major aspect of the basic combat strategy.

I have now had the opportunity to read through the entire work and to play test it several times. What follows is my review.

One of the great advantages of the supplement, once you become familiar with the basic concepts involved, is fluidity. It creates a sort of underlying fluidity by imposing a substratum of combat techniques which, once mastered, allows fluidity by changing the outcomes of in-game combat scenarios from being merely an attrition play of hit points into a play of weapon mastery and combat employment techniques. This does take getting used to in comparison to standard D&D combat practices, but the outcome is well worth the effort. Once one becomes accustomed to the work then it is possible to use it to create and display a large variety of effective attack and counter-attack measures in rapid succession which gives the feel of an intense, hotly contested combat, rather than a mere stale exercise in die-rolling and numbers crunching “fight or flight of the calculators.” And I guess this is what I like best about the entire supplement, it is geared less to constricting combat into an imaginary “clash of the Geeky Die Titans,” where game combat is a boringly insipid mathematical exercise, and is instead designed to imply that combat is really about tactical skill, flexibility, fluidity (in the sense of moving fluidly from one applicable and effective technique or maneuver to another), training, and innovative use of resources, capabilities, and tactics. The supplement implies by both design and technique, that combat is far less about bonuses and more about training, thought, innovation, and adaptability. That combat is a matter of the mind as well of the body, of tactic as well as blind chance, and of skill in battle and not just habitual bonus accumulation. Or in other words even in a game in which certain elements are determined by mechanisms of tempered chance, by no better method than a “roll of the die” it is still skill, training, innovation, cleverness, and persistence that overcomes the seemingly impossible obstacles of a dangerous combat and wins the day before sunset. Die rolls may hinder, or assist, but they are no real match for skill and capability and brilliance in determining actual outcomes. A well trained man with a host of options and inherent capabilities will make his own luck, and he who relies merely upon the fickle grace of fortune would do well to learn that wisdom is a far greater god in combat than chance. Fortune favors the well-prepared man, and it is easy to be brave when you are sure of your own adaptability in any situation. The idea behind the Codex implies that the game combatant does not have to rely upon chance, luck, the die, or even magic to turn the tides of battle. The combatant may turn the tide of battle by skill, training, tactic, and cunning. And that is the way things are, and should be. Chance turns the tide of the moment, good tactics, on both the part of the group, and the part of the individual, turn the tide of the battle.

The degree of relative realism in the work is highly evolved given the natural limitations of role play gaming combat (which can be “only so-real”) and given the fact that most role play games resolve combat and tactical issues by emulating friction and chance through die roll. But one thing I really, really enjoy about this work is that given those natural limitations the Codex takes away much of the chance element and returns tactical skill to combat encounter as a measure of training, accomplishment, perseverance, and maneuver. In a manner of speaking the Codex is attempting to bring “Role-Play” to combat rather than saying it is just an exercise of chance, or a practice of powers.

The Codex Combat System can also be rather easily modified to fit most other gaming systems which rely upon die-rolling as a reflection of how to resolve combat practices, and the whole work interjects some very creative and interesting ideas for how to resolve the actual process of in-game combat elements. I refer to both the Martial Pool as a determination of how to enhance speed and flexibility to group combat, and to the various maneuver and practical engagement techniques such as the Martial Feats (I was particularly impressed by Feats such as Feint) that add a rich depth of combat possibilities. But to me the greatest strength of the entire work is that it takes combat away, whether this was the intention or not, from being merely an exercise in bootless chance and transforms combat into an interesting and varied practice in tactical choice, training, and personal player and character “fighting expression.”

The historical background presented within the work is also rather fascinating. A depth of historical material as well as pragmatic technique analogies are examined in detail, not as an historical work, but as reflective of how historical and real world elements of personal and tactical combat can be inter-woven into a fantasy game to create a far more rewarding experience than a mere combat re-enactment of, “magical boom-boom,” or “what power gives me the highest to-hit bonus.” In fact the supplement seems to purposely steer away from over reliance upon magic in game-combat fantasy tropes so as to intentionally explore the real potential of combat-fighters. It is not so much a work filled with trick maneuvers and rather unrealistic combat techniques that would be useless in an actual combat situation, but rather a thoughtful and measured examination of the “idea of real hand to hand combat as applied to a tactical wargaming paradigm.” A sort of well-imagined and cleverly constructed game interpretation of what really happens when men come to close quarters and grapple with each other, including aspects of why they move as they do, how they strike and defend as they do, why weapons behave as they do when yielded in such and such a manner, and so forth and so on. In short it is a well-conceived examination of both how to exploit trained character strengths and abilities, and of how to take advantage of built in limitations regarding the actualities of human (and by extension humanoid/non-human) weaponry and fighting capabilities in game combat situations.

To close my review let me briefly mention a few other points. Such as the Aescetics of the work. I especially liked the simple line drawings presented throughout the book. They matched the overall tone of the nature of the work, as well as allowing one to visualize basic points being discussed at issue. The illustrations matched the tone and atmosphere of the work as presenting realistic depictions of combat in game terms. They were “fitting” in my opinion. As were the historical references, which gave the work the feel of a more ancient text of advice about how to tactically overcome certain enemies. The references taken together with the various illustrations gave the entire Codex the feel of being “illuminated.”

Simplistically, but effectively.

The Appendixes were also valuable and useful, and much could be made of them in relation to the larger ideas presented in the Codex. The work even came with a Character Sheet specifically designed towards making good use of the various game combat advantages offered and described in the Codex.
As a suggestion for future works of this kind I would very much like to see the author and his team of co-designers develop a similar system for use in large-scale warfare, both on the tactical and strategic level. On the tactical level as an expression of maneuver and technique, similar in construction to the present work, but aimed more at small group combat and skirmishing encounters as applied to the battlefield. On the strategic level as a work that addresses matters of training, capability, and execution of large-scale group combat engagements. For instance in such a supplement geared to warfare-gaming, rather than to role play combat-gaming one might take the basic components and ideas of the Codex Martialis and expound upon them as they relate to issues such as logistics, technological advantage (due to armies possessing certain types of weapons, armor, and transport, and therefore possessing corresponding combat formations and techniques to accompany such advantages or disadvantages), tactical control of the battlefield (or lack thereof), terrain, unit and formation maneuver, espionage, morale, and so forth and so on. In other words I view the Codex Martialis as a sort of Gaming version of the Tacticon. I’d also suggest and would like to see a gaming version of the Strategicon.

If you would like more information on the Codex then I suggest purchasing the newest version of the work. There is also a good link on EN World where the author and others discuss various elements and implications of the work. That link can be found here: Martial Pool. I should also mention as a matter for those interested that the author has another brilliant thread dealing with historical matters and which can give one some idea of the research involved in developing the Codex. That other link can be found here: History, Mythology, Art.

I hope my review was useful to you.
Jack.

 

http://www.enworld.org/forum/general-rpg-rules-discussion/241602-martial-pool-new-combat-mechanic.html

http://www.enworld.org/forum/general-rpg-discussion/242110-history-mythology-art-rpgs.html

SOME OF THE BEST

36 of the Best Roleplaying Games

“I love video games, but you can’t beat the magic in the personal interaction around a table.” — Filamena Young


Just as there really is no such thing as a best book or movie, there is no best roleplaying game, or even best in a particular category. But if you’re looking for something new to try, this selection of games will help. The games were selected to cover a wide spectrum of game mechanics, settings, and play styles. Some are well known, others relatively obscure. Some are licensed from video games, movies, TV shows, or books. Some are free for download, and several provide free quickstart PDFs.

Select an image to read a full page writeup about that game, including overview information, three of the things that make the game stand out out, purchasing information, and links to reviews and community sites.


13th Age
All Flesh Must Be Eaten
Apocalypse World
Atlantis: The Second Age

Basic Roleplaying
Burning Wheel
Doctor Who
Dragon Age

Dread
Dungeon Crawl Classics
Dungeon World
Dungeons and Dragons

Eclipse Phase
Fate Core
Fiasco
Firefly

Godlike
GURPS
Lady Blackbird
Microscope

Mindjammer
Mini Six
Misspent Youth
Mutants and Masterminds

Night's Black Agents
Numenera
Pathfinder
Pendragon

RuneQuest
Savage Worlds
Shadowrun
A Song of Ice and Fire

Star Wars
Swords & Wizardry
Traveller
Valiant Universe

CANNA YA DO IT SCOTTY? CAN YA BUILD US A NEW SHIP TO THE STARS?

I’ve seen this guy (Pegg) in both films and interviews before. He’s certainly smart enough to do this – but exactly what kind of film will he and his co-writer pen?

I certainly enjoyed both of the first two Star Trek films (the reboots) as films and storylines but the science (and technology) in both films was horrible and specious, especially in the first one. The Star Trek reboot has become ever more science fantasy (like Star Wars) and ever less science fiction, and the series has definitely drifted far, far away from hard science fiction and technology.

We already have far more than enough science fantasy out there (Star Wars) and ridiculous comic book level science fantasy (comic book films), all of which are interesting enough and enjoyable enough as entertainment. That, and only that though.

So I would very much prefer to see the Star Trek series move back towards being about true science fiction. Even hard science fiction. Star Trek inspired many of my own scientific endeavors, Star Wars never did. Star Wars inspired totally different ideals in me. Which is perfectly fine, and as it should be, but we should certainly have a vehicle that inspires young boys and girls towards actual science. A ship to the stars.

Therefore can Scotty save the day regarding that particular mission? I have absolutely no idea.
But we certainly need a writer to do that who is more engineer and explorer than sorcerer and stage magician. And so far it’s been all about the enchantment and the charm, and nothing about the science and exploration.

So good luck Scotty… you’re gonna need it man.

Though if you go there (towards actual science and discovery and exploration) then I for one will follow.

 

 

Simon Pegg Co-Writing ‘Star Trek 3′ With Doug Jung

pegg
 EXCLUSIVE: Simon Pegg has been set to co-write Star Trek 3, the film that just got Fast & Furious director Justin Lin aboard after Roberto Orci exited the helmer chair. He will co-write the script with Doug Jung, creator of the TNT series Dark Blue. Pegg’s already a pivotal player in the JJ Abrams-produced Paramount/Skydance pic; he also will reprise his role as Scotty, the engineering wiz originated by James Doohan in the original 1960s Gene Roddenberry series. Don’t be surprised if Scotty beams up further on the call sheet. Jung also wrote for Bad Robot and Paramount a film called Diamond, which is how he got the gig. They are just getting underway.

Simon-Pegg-Star-TrekPegg certainly has the writing credits to back him up for such a job. With Edgar Wright, he’s scripted the Wright-directed Cornetto trilogy consisting of Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End, as well as Run Fatboy Run. Will tell you more when it becomes clear. Pegg is repped by UTA, Dawn Sedgwick Management in the UK and attorney Dan Fox. Jung’s repped by UTA, Circle of Confusion and Adam Kaller.

DAREDEVIL, SNAKE, WOLVERINE, AND THE BATMAN, or How I Beat Metal Gear like a Wet Stepchild

Up until this past holiday weekend I had not played any video game in months. Probably closer to a year.

But after Christmas I played some video games in my spare time, and today my oldest daughter wanted me to play Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes.

So while everyone else went off to watch football games at friend’s houses I stayed at home and played Metal Gear. (Once I start something I don’t like to break off iffin I can help it.)

In the space of a mere three hours I beat the main or primary mission. An amazingly good time for me because I tend to favor stealth and sneaking, Intel gathering, and exploration and reconnoitering of my environment over direct combat (just my nature, in both gaming and in real life). Also I stopped play two times to eat and once to walk my dog.

How good was I, you ask?

Well, let me put it to you this way. If you took Daredevil (not that stupid yellow or red suited Daredevil, but the Black Suit Daredevil) and cooked him, then fed him to Solid Snake, then wrapped that Snake around Wolverine, then made an incision and stuck that Daredevil-fed, Snake-Wrapped Wolverine inside the belly of the Batman to run that mission – well, I was still better than that…

BOO-YAH!

By the way, I really enjoyed Ground Zeroes. It was a typical operatic Metal Gear game but far more gritty and tactical and down to Earth minus most of the really weird villains and the bizarre combat sequences (and cut scenes). I think of it as Metal Gear Lite without all the crazy Japanese metaphysics about warfare and life and the universe. (It did have a couple of open gut scenes though.) Now actually I often really like the crazy Japanese metaphysics but it can get kinda convoluted and plot sticky from time to time. This was like supercooled frictionless Japanese metaphysics.

It was more of a very simple, straight forward, almost realistic (considering it is a Metal Gear game) infiltration and hostage recovery game/mission. The parameters were simple. Which was an extremely nice and simple change of pace for a Metal Gear Game.

It was short though, even with me burning through it with very few mistakes and only being killed once.

It alert mode though, those Marines sure were tough and sure did like to bunch up in hard to scatter fire-teams with good overlapping fields of fire. Another reason I avoided combat, plus I really didn’t feel like killing Marines even if they were rogue, and it was just a game. (Gotta lotta buddies who are Marines.) Though with such an undeveloped, or I should say unspecified plot it was really hard to tell good guys from bad guys or even just exactly what was going on.

I still don’t really know, but ya know, that’s a Metal Gear plot for ya, ain’t it?

INDEED

Indeed. I hate this crap too.

This is, in my opinion, nothing more than bad design left over as tactical battle unit attack initiative from D&D’s origins as a wargame.

It should either be drastically improved or eliminated altogether in D&D. I favor total elimination.

DEED-IN-DEED

How D&D swallowed another innocent clandestine female nerd… is there no end to this effrontery?

That Time I Started Playing Dungeons & Dragons for a Blog Post…

I recently went on a deep undercover writing assignment. My goal was to infiltrate a local Dungeons & Dragons group and make them believe I could be one of them, just for one night, so that I could write about the shenanigans that are role playing games.

I wanted to try something new, and my boyfriend kept going on and on about Pathfinder (which is an off shoot of Dungeons & Dragons, basically) so I figured hey, I could go for 4 hours and give it a shot, blog about it, and then move on. That was six months ago. The reason I didn’t write the blog post was because I’m still playing it and you know what? It’s really cool.

dice

Image: James Bowe via FlickrUntil I started dating my boyfriend I always thought Pathfinder was just someone mispronouncing “Pathfinders,” and that they were referring to that later version of Girl Guides where teenagers learn how to braid and roast s’mores over a bonfire while singing Kumbaya. Which is why I found it really confusing when my boyfriend told me he was going to join a Pathfinder group. It became less confusing when he explained to me that Pathfinder is an RPG (role playing game) much like Dungeons and Dragons. I mean, I still found the whole Dungeons and Dragons thing confusing, but at least I wasn’t picturing my boyfriend learning how to braid his beard while wearing a green vest full of badges anymore.

So I began to learn bits and pieces of what playing an RPG is like because I like taking interest in my boyfriend’s interests. He would come home from game night and regale me with tales of his journey through what I assumed was Middle Earth. He went on and on about slaying all sorts of monsters and finding treasures, and he talked about the jokes that were made during the night and it seemed like fun. It basically sounded like Game of Thrones if Game of Thrones were a comedy on FX. He explained to me that Pathfinder was like the younger sibling of Dungeons and Dragons. Basically if Dungeons and Dragons were Disney, Pathfinder would be Pixar.

Part of me wanted to try Pathfinder as soon as my boyfriend began explaining it to me, but there was still part of me that grew up being told “Dungeons and Dragons just isn’t cool.” This was long before Community did an episode on it, of course. I hate to admit it but I heard whispers about the people playing Dungeons and Dragons in high school, and it always seemed frowned upon. It was just Darwinism coming into play when I found myself never wanting to associate with Dungeons and Dragons. I didn’t want to get pummeled to death in the school yard. I didn’t want to be turned upside down and have my lunch money stolen.

So I continued on through my life associating RPGs with wedgies and swirlies, and I probably even snickered negatively on occasion when people talked about their Dungeons and Dragons days. And then something wonderful happened: I woke up one day and realized that I didn’t want to be at all associated with the people who bullied other people for playing games in their basement. I realized that it’s cool to do whatever the heck you want to do if it makes you happy. Trust me, that’s a hard thing to realize when you come from the small town I come from. If you replace dancing with Dungeons and Dragons then my hometown is essentially the town from Footloose.

It’s no real secret that my boyfriend is a “nerd,” as some people would say. He reads comic books, he watches sci-fi shows and movies, he plays board games and role playing games. For years now I have been toeing the “nerd” line myself. I grew up watching shows like Buffy and Dark Angel. I always loved sci-fi movies more than any other genre. But that was where it ended. I didn’t play games. I didn’t read comics or fantasy novels. If you asked me what “the TARDIS” was, I would assume it was some sort of French dessert. And I certainly didn’t have a sweet clue what a D20 was.

Obviously when you spend a lot of time with another human being, you tend to take on some of their interests as your own. It was only natural that I would sit down and watch all of Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who with my boyfriend. Of course I would go to Comic Con in Montreal with him next. Then came the board games like Munchkin and Carcassone. I enjoyed everything he introduced me to. So naturally when he started talking about Pathfinder I began to wonder if it was something I could enjoy with him.

HOT ROLEPLAYING GAMES

HOT ROLEPLAYING GAMES

(NOT MY CHART BUT I SOMETIMES FOLLOW IT)

I’ve made a couple of changes to my live Hot Roleplaying Games chart. The chart monitors over a quarter of a million forum members and approaching a thousand blogs on a selection of major independent RPG discussion forums to create an overall sample of what games are being discussed on the web. The changes I’ve made are as follows (they will take 90 days to fully reflect, though):

•OSR games are now counted via a public system datafile which you can find here. You are able to edit and add games yourself. The system currently tracks over 160 OSR games. If something is missing, you can add it right there by editing the wiki page. The system updates itself monthly.
•There are now separate entries for Paizo Official and WotC Official to the entries for D&D and Pathfinder. This is because the system does not typically measure a company’s official forums, and as such figures would skew the samples unless *all* official forums could be included. However, folks did ask for them, so I have included scanning of WotC’s and Paizo’s official forums. The reason it’s separate is so that you can exclude it for comparison purposes, as those are the only official forums included. Therefore, treat those entries simply as being for information purposes, and feel free to compare the two to directly *each other* but your shouldn’t count them when comparing overall brand traffic. It’s important to realize that those two companies will be over-represented if you include them when comparing against games other than Pathfinder or D&D.
•That said, the data’s there, so you can add it to the other entries if you want to. Up to you what you do with the raw data! Enjoy it, ignore it, announce loudly why it’s wrong, whatever you like!

As a reminder, it’ll take 90 days for the stats to fully catch up with the changes, as the new tracking began today (thought the OSR list shouldn’t change much – it’s the same list it was using before, but is public now).

This article was originally published in forum thread: Hot Roleplaying Games started by Morrus View original post

ALONE IN THE DARK – AGAIN

The original Alone in the Dark I liked almost as well as the original Silent Hill. One of my very favorite survival horror-games of all time.

I don’t know what this will be like but it looks interesting. Although the archaeological and preternatural puzzles and the clues of the original were just as fascinating to me as the horror. So I very much hope they leave in the exploration parts of the game and do not turn it into a mere shooter.

The new Alone in the Dark mixes Left 4 Dead with Lovecraftian horror

Atari is returning to its Alone in the Dark series of survival horror games this holiday season with Alone in the Dark: Illumination, a different take on the franchise that’s more similar to Left 4 Dead than the original ’90s Alone in the Dark games or the 2008 reboot. Developed by a new studio called Pure FPS, Illumination brings co-op and online play to the series for the first time, and the studio is hoping it can honor the franchise’s heritage while delivering something fresh.

Los Angeles-based Pure FPS is led by CEO Jason Brice, who was previously the head of the indie studio Plastic Piranha. That company released the first-person shooter Rekoil in January to a poor reception, but Brice told Polygon in an interview earlier this week that he learned a lot on that project, and that the two studios are very different.

“We took the foundation of what was working” at Plastic Piranha, said Brice, and “shed most of the Rekoil” team for Pure FPS. The new studio also brought on some former 38 Studios employees, and has been working on Illumination with a team of about 20 individuals, plus some outsourcing. The project came into being after a chance meeting between Brice and some Atari representatives during a Christmas golf tournament last year, and the company offered Alone in the Dark to Pure FPS…

 

DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS DUNGEON MASTER’S GUIDE TABLE OF CONTENTS

Not everything I had hoped it would cover (although I can just add in the sections I intend to create later on) but it definitely has some extremely interesting and unforeseen (form my point of view) sections. And if it is anywhere nearly as good as the Player’s Handbook or the Monster Manual then I very much look forward to owning my copy.

DUNGEON MASTER’S GUIDE Table of Contents – UPDATED!

by
Morrus

Saturday, 25th October, 2014 07:19 PM Number of Views: 1694/1694

If you find this article useful, please share it with your friends!
That D&D 5E Dungeon Master’s Guide table of contents yesterday? It’s been updated with a new version. An extra 12 pages (including a new 6-page “Maps” appendix) and small number of other minor changes throughout – mainly slight variations in section names, although a new two-page “Madness” section appears in part 3, while the “Rewards at 20th Level” entry is gone.

dmg_toc[1]

SHADOW OF MORDOR REVIEW

Yes, I would definitely play this…

THROUGH THE AGES…

Changes and consistencies through the various incarnations…

A HANDFULL OF CLASS-IC HISTORIES

(article continued at link)

Clerics, fighters, rangers, rogues, and wizards all have long histories in the D&D game.

Throughout the Tyranny of Dragons storyline, we’ve been following the online comic adventures of five heroes—representatives of their factions, but also of five key classes to the game. In today’s D&D Alumni, we take a brief look back at the history of these classes, and how they’ve evolved into their current inception in the Player’s Handbook.

Fighters: 1972-Present

The fighters of D&D can trace their genealogy back to the heroes and super heroes of the Chainmail (1971) miniatures game, who were “well-known knights, leaders of army contingents, and similar men”. However fighters more obviously appeared in their modern form as the “fighting men” of OD&D (1974)—who became heroes at 4th level and super heroes at 8th.

From there, D&D fighters embarked on a long road to balance their power levels with their magical brethren. When they picked up the name “fighters” in AD&D (1977-1979), they also got multiple attacks a round, going as high as two attacks per round at 13th level; while Unearthed Arcana (1985) introduced weapon mastery and specialization for fighters only. Meanwhile new subclasses like the ranger, the paladin, the cavalier, and the barbarian were proliferating—and usually overshadowing the original fighter class. AD&D 2e (1989) was more of the same, except the fighter was temporarily a member of the warrior category.

The 21st century has seen the biggest changes to fighters. With D&D 3e (2000) their damage potential went through the roof, helped in part by the game’s new feats, which made high-level fighters truly dangerous for perhaps the first time. Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords (2006) made fighters even more interesting by giving them evocative special attacks, an idea that also underlay D&D 4e (2008).

In D&D 5e (2014), fighters now lie somewhere between earlier editions. The base class has more class features than early incarnations, while players who want to have more tactical options can play the Battle Master archetype and select different fighting maneuvers each turn.

Wizards: 1972-Present

Like fighters, wizards originated with Chainmail (1971). They appear there in a surprisingly mature form, already possessing well-known spells like fireball, lightning bolt, phantasmal force, protection from evil, cloudkill, and anti-magic shell. Seers, magicians, warlocks, and sorcerers also appear as less powerful wizard variants.

When the wizard returned in OD&D (1974), he was now called the magic-user, but all the wizardly variants from Chainmail appear as level titles: seer at 2nd level, magician at 6th, warlock at 8th, sorcerer at 9th, and wizard at 11th. Magic-users now also had to memorize their spells, then lost them when casting. Those primeval OD&D wizards got just six levels of spells; they’d have to wait for Supplement I: Greyhawk (1975) to learn higher level spells like power word: kill, time stop, and wish.

AD&D (1977-1979) kept magic-users largely the same, though the illusionist subclass from The Strategic Review #4 (Winter 1975) also appeared. 2nd Edition (1989) saw magic-users reclassified as mages, who were a member of the wizard category—which once more became their official name. More importantly, mages could now specialize in specific types of magic, changing the special rules for illusionists into a much more general framework that allowed for eight types of magicians. When Dark Sun (1991) was published a few years later, it introduced even more variety with defilers and preservers who cast magic in connection with the world (parasitically or cooperatively).

More variants appeared in D&D 3e (2000), which introduced new sorts of magic-users who cast their spells in different ways: the core rules brought in sorcerers, who didn’t need to memorize spells; while Complete Arcane (2004) premiered warlocks, who could cast spell-like invocations at will. These ideas created a foundation for D&D 4e (2008), which allowed wizards to cast many of their spells round after round—with more powerful spells limited to fewer uses.

More recently, D&D 5e (2014) brought back the fire-and-forget mage of old with a few compromises: wizards can recover a few spells more quickly through the study of the spellbooks in the middle of day and at high levels can cast a few spells constantly. Meanwhile, fans of other styles of casting can still play the newest versions of the sorcerer and the warlock.

 

5E AND FUN!

To a large extent I agree. My family’s first 5E D&D game was superb, simple, easy to play and run, and an extreme amount of fun. I’ll write up a complete briefing and recount later, but suffice it to say it was the most fun I’ve had playing D&D since Advanced Dungeons and Dragons and the most fun my family has ever had playing D&D.

This is the best, most exciting kind of D&D we’ve had in twenty years…It’s never been more beginner-friendly.

 

It’s The Perfect Time To Play Dungeons & Dragons

Quintin Smith

It's The Perfect Time To Play Dungeons & Dragons

You might know that the long-awaited new edition of Dungeons & Dragons is upon us. You might be playing it right now, waving an HB pencil around, informing your friends that they’re up to their nips in orcs and should roll for initiative.

Or maybe you’re the other kind of person. Maybe you’ve never played D&D, and news that the new, 5th edition returns to the roots of the game is like me telling you that scientists have discovered a new gender of swan. You’ve got some interest, though. You’re two paragraphs into an article called “It’s The Perfect Time To Play Dungeons & Dragons.” And yes, yes, yes you should. This is the best, most exciting kind of D&D we’ve had in twenty years, and that’s not all. It’s never been more beginner-friendly.

Half of that’s down to the beginner box they’re selling, which contains a quick-start rule booklet (forget any images you might have of stacks of hardback books), a set of dice, a load of pre-filled character sheets and an epic adventure that’ll fill a month of pizza-powered Sundays. You just add pencils and friends…

THE MONSTER MANUAL

A quick first review of the new 5th Edition Monster Manual

If you find this article useful, please share it with your friends!

Despite the ending of the summer and the lull after GENCON and PAX PRIME, the excitement at the release of the new 5th Edition Player’s Handbook last month is still going strong! And by all accounts, the new adventure arc Hoard of the Dragon Queen is doing quite well, with many D&D fans enjoying the new organized play activities presented each week in stores around the country.

But now, D&D enthusiasts have a new release coming up at the end of this month – the D&D Monster Manual goes on sale this Friday the 19th of September in select stores, and for general retail sales on the 30th! As the second core rulebook for the new 5th Edition of D&D, the Monster Manual is an absolute essential purchase for any Dungeon Master looking to create their own worlds and adventures.

Don’t Miss: Review of Hoard of the Dragon Queen | Review of the Player’s Handbook | Review of the D&D Starter Set

So how does this new D&D Monster Manual compare to its predecessors? Read on and find out!

D&D Monster Manual (5th Edition)

  • Lead Designers: Mike Mearls & Jeremy Crawford
  • Monster Manual Lead: Chris Perkins
  • Stat Block Development: Chris Sims, Rodney Thompson, Peter Lee
  • Story Development: Robert J. Schwalb, Matt Sernett, Steve Townsend, James Wyatt
  • Cover Art: Raymond Swanland
  • Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
  • Year: 2014
  • Media: Hardbound (352 pages)
  • Price: $49.99 (Available for pre-order on Amazon.com for $29.97)

THE ESCAPIST’S ADVANCE ON THE MANTICORE

I very much like this type of Chimera (the Manticore)

 

Well, I guess I won’t be sleeping tonight.

The early release of the new Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual is but a week away in select stores, with general availability close on its heels on September 30th. During Gen Con, we had a spoiler of the entire table to contents, with Wizards of the Coast revealing a steady trickle of monster spoilers ever since. Without further ado, check out the new edition’s hideous Manticore:

If you’re interested in how we’ve received the new edition so far, you can see our review of the Player’s Handbook or all our coverage of Dungeons & Dragons. If you want to see the new edition in action, check out where we’ve been playing D&D 5e live on our twitch channel.

Curious about the book? Read our official Monster Manual review right here.

If you’re not up to date on Monster Manual spoilers so far, they’re right here:

THE CRITICAL HITS REVIEW

I thought that this was a fairly good and very well organized review of the new 5th Edition of the Dungeons and Dragons game. It focused primarily upon specific aspects of the Player’s Handbook (in relation to the overall game), and in doing so I thought it gave a very good, and a mostly fair, analysis of the specific points it actually addressed. It is a Geek analysis of the game, and that should be kept in mind when reading it.

I plan to write my own review of the game soon but it will not be similar to this review because I have other aspects of the game (and the Player’s Handbook) that I wish to address in a non-Geek and perhaps a more Nerdish way.

In any case I think you will enjoy this Geekish review of the game, and that coupled with my own more Nerdish look at the game, might give you a more rounded view of what to expect.

First Impressions Review: “Player’s Handbook” for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition

August 11, 2014 by Dave

I’m going to assume that if you’re here on Critical Hits, you know D&D. As such, I’m not going to go into the history of D&D editions, the open playtesting process, anything about nostalgia, etc. I’m just going to dive into my impressions of reading the book, and try to delve into some of the guts as far as I understand them (and I’ll probably get some stuff wrong.) Here we go.

Overall

The Player’s Handbook – and the D&D 5th edition ruleset as a whole- feels very polished. In fact, I’d go as far to say they focused on taking everything they had from previous editions and worlds, ran with it, refined it again, and so on. The downside to this is that there are areas where they aren’t quite as ground-breaking as they could be and leads to a few missed opportunities. At the same time, though, there’s so much that suffuses the book that seems familiar, with a lot of “oh, I see what you did there.” Previous descriptions of this edition pre-launch as attempting to be something of a “Greatest Hits” of D&D seem pretty on the mark, though each table is expected to supply some of what you feel ARE those greatest hits.

The Look

I say it flat out: I love the art in this book. Since it’s a Player’s Handbook, most of the art focuses on characters. This ranges from character representatives for different races and classes, to a small sampling of famous characters (a certain iconic drow ranger appears, for instance), to some characters that I swear are new renderings of existing D&D minis.

Part of what I love is that the book does a much better job of representation than in previous editions. More women characters in a variety of roles, more heroes of color, etc. It’s not perfect by any means, but I appreciate that there’s a much wider range of inspirational art for showing truly what the range of characters should be.

It also relies on a number of art styles, while still mostly fitting together. You’ve got more traditional character portraits, full page battle scenes, and sketches depicting conditions. There’s a few images that have that “computer generated” look to them (my chief complaint about a lot of the early 4e art) but I think the art works here. I was actually expecting to see a wider diversity of different edition-influences throughout the art (and more reused pieces), however, I think the choices they made here in the look was a much stronger choice…

review continued via title page link

 

5TH EDITION DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS PLAYER’S HANDBOOK FLIPTHROUGH

I ordered my copy of the new Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition Player’s Handbook through Amazon. They still haven’t sent it to me.  Nevertheless I am very much looking forward to receiving the book.

I haven’t yet seen the book for myself but I did find this unedited flipthrough of the new book. Admittedly I have not watched the whole thing as I do not wish to spoil the surprise but from what little I did watch I am almost certain I will like the book, and now I am looking forward to receiving my copy even more so than before.

I post this video in the case that someone else would like an advance preview of the book, either in full or in part.

Once I have received my own copy and had an opportunity to read and analyze it then I’ll post my own review.

 

 

%d bloggers like this: