Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Avengers Assembled into First Official Trailer!

Yep, it's everywhere today!


Sunday, October 9, 2011

D&D Needs Your Help: 2011 Hall of Fame Video Contest!

So you know that Dungeons & Dragons is a finalist for the 2011 National Toy Hall of Fame, right? Well they (the National Museum of Play) are asking fans to submit a short video, images, or written story telling a story about why one of the nominees are is so important to them--it's called the I Love This Toy contest.
The competition this year is pretty stiff--Star Wars figures, Hot Wheels, and Transformers are all still VERY popular. Yes, they're all Hasbro properties, so (technically) is D&D. Here's the problem--only two inductees will be selected. A few years ago, that number was three but the class of 2010 had only two.

Entries can't be longer than 2 minutes in length and there are even PRIZES:
  • 1 Grand Prize (by online votes): $250 Amazon.com gift card
  • 3 Curator's Choice prizes (determined by a panel of National Museum of Play experts): $150 Amazon.com gift card
So grab your camera/video camera, some old D&D books, a set of funky dice, and some miniatures and do your darnest to persuade the judges--and the voting public--to include the orignal fantasy RPG in the 2011 class.

Hurry: the deadline is next Friday, October 14!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wild, Wooly, and "Daffy" Wizard Runs Amuck!

No, I'm not the first person to post this. But I definitely want it on the blog because it is awesome and should be seen by as many eyeballs as possible.

That is all!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

D&D is a National Toy Hall of Fame finalist!

The National Toy Hall of Fame has included Dungeons & Dragons on the slate of finalists to it's 2011 inductees--only two selections will be inducted.  The full list includes dollhouse, Dungeons & Dragons, Hot Wheels, Jenga, Pogo Stick, puppets, R/C vehicles, Rubik’s Cube, Simon, Star Wars action figures, Transformers, and Twister. As you can see, a few items are non-branded, but Hasbro came out the big winner with eight of the 12.

From the Washington Post:
Forty-six toys have earned a place in the Hall of Fame. Among them are Crayola crayons, Silly Putty, and Hasbro’s Mr. Potato Head and the Easy-Bake Oven. Toys are chosen for induction based on several criteria, including “icon status,” longevity and innovation.

John Frascotti, chief marketing officer for Hasbro, said the company was “thrilled” to have so many finalists recognized as “childhood touchstones.”
I'm not sure if this is more or less nominees than previous year's but it seems as though the game has it's work cut out for it. Here's a look at the nominating criteria:
  • Icon-status: The toy is widely recognized, respected, and remembered
  • Longevity: The toy is more than a passing fad and has enjoyed popularity over multiple generations
  • Discovery: The toy fosters learning, creativity, or discovery through play
  • Innovation: The toy profoundly changed play or toy design. A toy may be inducted on the basis of this criterion without necessarily having met all of the first three.
I'd say based on Icon-status, Discovery, and Innovation, D&D should be inducted, but let's face it, several of the other nominees have had more staying power beyond their initial fadishness. Still, the fact that it's still around and currently remains published in a fourth edition may be enough. The other finalist I think would be worthy are Star Wars figures, which should be an easy "in" based on how they single-handedly changed the entertainment industry as a whole.

Well, it would be nice to see D&D given it's proper due. What do you think its chances are of being inducted?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Did I mention that X-Plorers is Now Available?

Yes? Good. Just trying to get the word out. I've been shouting this from the mountain tops on Exonauts and Gamma World War, but I added a few clarifications...


X-Plorers is now available as a box set, softcover print-on-demand, or a no-art FREE download. You now have THREE WAYS to start conquering the galaxy--and you could be doing so as soon as THIS AFTERNOON while you wait for your box or softcover to arrive in the mail. Here's a look at the inside of the softcover....

The game is rules-light and can be played as-is, but it's REAL strength is in it's ability to be fiddled with under the hood. Personally, I like to tinker and I'm working on my own setting using the rules. If you're looking for more resources to help get started, check out the X-Plorers tab on the top of this blog.

On a side note, the venerable Space Admiral and X-Plorers Publisher John Adams is holding a new character sheet design contest. The winner will receive a FREE box set of the game! So submit your designs to Brave Halfling. UPDATE: the PC sheet size is 5.5 x 8.5" and John has not yet set a deadline. He also reports that there are approximately 50 Boxed Sets are left--but that was several days ago already...

More info:
Anyway, go get your copy and start X-ploring!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Stop-Motion Jonny Quest is BEST THING EVAR!

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

This little bit of wonderfulness from Roger D. Evans has been keeping me entertained since last week and even got me to go order the DVD set of the original show.

Film geeks like myself are going to want to check out his production diary. Apart from some effects like the sun and eye blinking, the entire intro is stop-motion animation using models.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

He-Man: The Bollywood Musical

That's one far-out space barbarian!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Old School Renaissance gets a shout out from Wired Magazine!

I was just perusing the interwebs and read a nice little write-up of Gen Con which included a mention of the OSR:
Thankfully, more than just old timers are keeping the old RPGs alive. Publishing collectives like The Old School Renaissance Group and voices like the Blog of Holding are intent on honoring the groundbreaking heritage of D&D. A downloadable gaming product called Old School Hack is doing its best to introduce a streamlined, D&D-like RPG experience to a new generation of players. “A hack of a hack of the original Red Box version of a certain popular hack-and-slash fantasy game,” is what the folks say about their wee little product. Old School Hack also won the best free product “gold” award at Gen Con’s ENnies, the game industry’s version of the Oscars/Emmys. I applaud Kirin Robinson, the man behind OSH, who humbly notes, “I’m certainly not any sort of professional game designer, just another hobbyist looking to put together a fun game.
Check out the full story. The D&D documentary I'd posted about a while back is also mentioned in the article. They've set up a Facebook page for fans to follow along and give feedback.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Should higher AC be an even bigger encumbrance?

I'm sure I'm not the first to pose this question, but a new study aimed at quantifying the physical strain and exertion of armored medieval knights might shed some light. Researchers from the University of Leeds outfitted test subjects with heavy armor and ran them through a battery of tests, the most telling of which was the treadmill. From io9.com:
Donning these replica suits — which were modeled on the armor of a 15th century London sheriff named William Martyn — forced the volunteers to expend approximately twice the amount of energy when engaging in cardiovascular activity.

After physiologist Graham Askew of the University of Leeds monitored the mail-bedecked volunteers trudging and jogging on treadmills, the researchers discovered that wearing the armor resulted in volunteers using 1.9 times more energy while running and 2.3 times more while walking.
Emphasis mine. It goes on to say the researchers would like to test out different types of armor, but the verdict seems written on the wall--heavy stuff is HEAVY!

Given these findings, should encumbrance be further modified? Should there be a minimum Strength score to even WEAR certain types of armor? (Some games already do this, yes?). Get your fighters back to the gym!

Check out the full article.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Avengers "teaser-of-a-teaser" trailer now out

So this new teaser trailer is really a few smatterings of a the longer teaser that appears at the end of Captain America. If you want to see the full length version, plan on staying after the credits when you see Cap in theaters.

Here's a peek at Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk and Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton (Hawkeye):

BTW, the new Cappy film is shield-wielding-tastic and worth the full-price of admission, IMHO.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Avengers Teaser Poster Assembled!

click to embiggen a whoooole lot!

Important items about the Avengers film:

  1. Avengers teaser poster has been released, click to see the new team in all their glory. 
  2. Go see Captain America. Not only is it one heck of an action flick, it has the trailer for Avengers after the credits. 
  3. While there's no Henry "Hank" Pym (aka Ant Man, aka Giant Man, aka...) or Janet "the Wasp" Van Dyne, I'm pretty pleased with the inclusion of Black Widow and Hawkeye who are not only more believable (at this point) but their roles are well cast. Now if we could just get to putting the Vision in the second Avengers I'll be a happy nerd. C'mon Marvel, it's easy--just introduce Pym at the end of Avengers working on Ultron....
  4. The Avengers are awesome...but you already knew that.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

HELP! Any Wikipedia Editors Out There?

Looks like the D&D Simulacrums page is scheduled for merger with--I'm not sure what. But the users on that page are saying it doesn't deserve it's own page. To be clear, this is the page that explains what retro-clones, etc. are.

I'm not adept enough to get in there and discuss--is there an experience Wikipedia editor out there in the OSR that can intervene?

It's important that the OSR and related movements have some solid article there to explain these games. This page sets up the reasoning for Swords & Wizardry, Labyrinth Lord, X-plorers, Mutant Future, and more.

Here's the discussion page

John Carter Trailer!


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

D&D Documentary Set for 40th Anniversary

Looks like there's a D&D documentary in the works, set to debut in 2013 on the history of the game. From the Examiner:
Dungeons & Dragons: A Documentary will be a definitive look at the game Dungeons & Dragons, its history, appeal and effect. A game like no other, with influences far-reaching and subtle. A feature length film, shot on HD video. 
There's not much more info at this point--including whether or not this is an official project of Wizards (it doesn't look like it). That may be a strong point since they'd likely provide a more balanced look. However, a solely independent project could possibly have issues getting access. I wonder if they'll be able to incorporate any interviews from Gary or Dave before they passed. Stay tuned on this one.

The full Examiner article.

Props to Geekdad

Friday, July 8, 2011

Sendak and Tolkien: "The Hobbit" that never was

Image: Maurice Sendak/Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University, via LA Times
There's been much ado about dwarves recently with the latest image to come out of Peter Jackson's version of the Hobbit. I stumbled upon this amazing article from the LA Times (back in March) on an abandoned project by beloved children's book author/illustrator Maurice Sendak and Lord of the Rings himself. From the article:
If you look closely, you will discover a master at work in the art of subtlety: Notice the heavy crosshatching used to weigh down a world-weary Gandalf contrasted with the open, airy line work that renders the jovial Bilbo. These depictions speak in an artistic conversation that has been ongoing for centuries, yet they are immediate and approachable by the child of today.

As Sendak noted passages for possible illustration and sketched in the margins of his copy of the book, the publisher prepared the art samples for Tolkien’s approval. The editor mislabeled the samples, however, identifying the wood-elves as “hobbits,” as Sendak recalled to Maguire. This blunder nettled Tolkien. His reply was that Sendak had not read the book closely and did not know what a hobbit was. Consequently, Tolkien did not approve the drawings. Sendak was furious.
Read the rest of the article to get the full story.

I find this fascinating and heartbreaking all at once. Sendak's art is vibrant and original and his interpretation may have defined fantasy for a generation had it made it to publication. Sadly, where the wild things are not is Middle Earth.

What do you think?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

X-plorer Box Sets are Going...Going...

If you're planning to pick up the X-plorers Box Set, now is the time. It's gone by tomorrow--and only a limited edition has been printed.

So swing on over to Brave Halfling and get yours!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fantasy/Sci-Fi Con in the Twin Cities this Weekend

Man, I'm totally slipping! Somehow this one got by me--but there's still time: Convergence Con sci-fi/fantasy gaming/comic/local celebrity extravaganza is is going on this weekend. It started today and runs through Sunday, so if you're within driving distance set your booster to maximum power out and get out here! Stat block:
What: The four-day annual convention for fans of science fiction and fantasy, with celebrity guests, film screenings, live music, a masquerade ball and themed party rooms
When: Thu.-Sun 6/30-7/3
Where: Sheraton Bloomington Hotel, 7800 Normandale Blvd., Bloomington
Registration: $80
Web: www.convergence-con.org

Event Programming
In addition to the usual (artist alley, gaming, nerd movies, silent auctions, costume contests) the program schedule includes some real gems like "I'm Your GM, Not Your Therapist" and "Elaborate Death Traps and Why They Never Work" so you know you're definitely getting your money's worth.

More Info
Local zine Vita.MN did a great article about local musician Jeremy Messersmith's D&D game. They also did a nice de-coding guide for newbies and non-nerds so you can just send it to your significant other without further explanation and they'll instantly speak your lingo/encourage you to attend. (Kidding! Like that would be possible....).

Anyway, my birthday is tomorrow so I'll check it out this weekend as a present to myself.  :)

Reposted from Exonauts

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Layoffs at Wizards of the Coast R&D Dept.

If you haven't heard, Wizards of the Coast has laid off several of their creative/R&D staff--among the departures is Bill Slavicseck, head of the dept. From the posts I've read, it's not yet clear if he left of his own accord or not. He's married to Michelle Carter, another designer who was laid off. So he may have simply left in solidarity.

In any case, this is huge news--whether you enjoy D&D 4E or not. On the one hand, there's speculation that there's a re-evaluation of the older editions and what made them so popular (and therby, what led to the attrition of older players from the new ruleset). On the other hand, there's the rumor that Hasbro is really putting D&D on the path to boardgame-dom.

Now, I'm a fan of D&D translated into board games--for their own sake. But it's primary purpose is as a role-playing game. You may say to yourself, "I don't care about 4E" but the truth is that Wizards is the Big Kahuna when it comes to publishing RPGs and there's just no getting around the fact that this will have ripples throughout the industry.

I also wonder if any of this is fall out from Wizards losing the Star Wars license or their decision to drop their pre-painted plastic miniatures line. In the last year, Hasbro also stopped producing the popular Heroscape miniatures strategy game. And let's not forget that Wizards had already stopped supporting their OWN miniatures game rules before that.

I guess we'll have to wait and see what Wizards does next and how it will effect the rest of the RPG community--for better or worse. (Let's hope, for the eventual better!)

Rumors and speculation at the Acaeum
Props to Chuck over at Design Notes for the heads up

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Science Fantasy Matinee: Masters of the Universe

It occurred to me that we could use a break from the previous two memorium posts. Here's a little fun to brighten up your Saturday: the original Masters of the Universe movie trailer. Also known as "all of the good parts". Enjoy!

P.S. Did you know that He-Man was a Fulbright Scholar?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Comic Virtuoso Gene Colan is Gone

The news is making the rounds now that comics artists extraordinaire is gone. This is the guy who redefined Dracula for comic books for Marvel. He took Iron Man to new adventures. He gave the Avengers a hell of a time.

We'll miss you Gene.

Gene's blog
Newsarama article
Wash Post notice

Monday, June 20, 2011

Land for Gygax Memorial Approved

So it appears that the Great One will in fact get his statue--whatever shape it may take--in Donian Park in Lake Geneva, WI. From the memorial's website:
Here's a section of the City of Lake Geneva Board of Park Commissioners meeting minutes from Janurary 5th, 2011:

Gygax Memorial-

Library Park was added to the application so that it reads both Donian Park and Library Park as a potential place for a monument. The design would include a castle turret with a bust on top and possibly have a dragon wrapped around the turret. A motion was made by the Mayor to approve the site in Donian Park, south of the walkway, on the southeast corner of Mill Creek. The footprint is not to exceed 10 feet by 10 feet. This was seconded by Phillips. Added to the motion was that Gygax should bring a detailed map to bring to the Council as well as a detailed statue design to come back to the Park Board for approval. Motion passed unanimously.
Location and design are still TBD, but this is a pretty big milestone (no pun intended). I've yet to locate the park on a city map--everything so far seems to lead to a generic map of the city. I did however find this video by Gail Gygax with what looks to be a design for the memorial once this step of getting the space approved was completed. Curiously she also references plans for future game projects. I have no idea if this has already been bandied about the interwebs (I'm sure it has) but it was new to me.

Anyway, what do you think of the plans?

Full details.
Props to Boing Boing

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Science Fantasy Inspiration: Eternia 2.0

If I ever do get around to actually doing something about my long-pined for, but languishing Masters of the Universe setting ideas for Marvel Supes, I've found a few places to go for creative ebullience. My original thought was to go all Kirby-esque (which still greatly appeals to me) but I can't help but consider these dark and wild aesthetics:

This first one is by the legendary space exploration illustrator Chesley Bonestell. He did the film posters for War of the Worlds and Destination Moon. I like his NASA-era stuff, but I love this one that strays from his usual material. I love the idea of Castle Greyskull as a pyramid.

Following that train of thought, here's a nifty take on the Sorceress, sort of like Marvel's Eternity meets Nefertiti:
I believe that's a t-shirt design, FYI.

Next are a few Skelator concepts, I apologize I'm not sure who the illustrators are:

Or maybe we pump Skely up so he can stand big toe-to-big-toe with He-man...

This cover by Mike Hoffman, for me, defines Evil-Lyn. She should totally be a slinky, remorseless space sorceress. And is that Skelator in the corner? Et tu Brute!

And perhaps Teela became the Serpent Goddess from doing away with the last one:

Doesn't seem quite sci-fi enough, hmm...
That's better.

MoTU needs more ladies and I like the idea of swapping roles. I give you Duncanna, Lady-At-Arms:

Merman on the other hand can only go one direction--slimy:

Actually, I rather like the Monster Squad rendition:

Can't quite picture He-Man yet. I want something more sci-fi. Blonde Conan isn't quite enough. I'm going to have to go with the original space barbarian:

There's plenty more in the Frazetta tribute I did. A few that I think put me in the right frame-of-mind. These guys make for great snakemen and He-Man in a space helmet with a ray gun would be pretty nifty:
Even Carter's origin still works--super strength, leaping, and endurance granted due to the stronger gravity on his home planet. The sword of Greyskull is sort like that crystal chamber in Superman II that took away Kal-el's powers, switching him back and forth from Prince Adam to He-dude.

Just some thoughts....

Friday, June 10, 2011

X-plorers retro, sci-fi RPG now as a BOX SET!

Just look at that beautiful black and white box set cover!
It's here! I had a lot of fun working on this with Bill and John. I've got a detailed post over at Exonauts, or you can just go order one now.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Three great projects you should know about!

I'm always impressed by creative passion projects in the geekscape. Here's a few links to a few wonderful efforts...

Some of you are already aware of Michael Bukowski and his quest to illustrate every single monstrosity in the Lovecraftian pantheon. But just in case you were itching for some weird horror beasties in your next game and needed inspiration, have a gander. Hat tip to Boing Boing.

Kids Dungeon Adventure!
Here's another fun one by Ben Garvey who's created a dungeon-crawling game using blocks and paper minis for his pre-schoolers to learn the art of the delve. He's also got a great blog named for the game called Kids Dungeon Adventure. Wired did a fine article on it back in March. FTA:
The game’s adventure framework, which is heavy on reward and achievement, is well thought out and allows plenty of room for creativity. Garvey has some wonderful suggestions for treasure and how it affects gameplay. The monsters on the cards he has created are very kid appropriate and, with a little Photoshop work, could be customized to reflect your home and family.
Though not a wargame, it has at least ancestral ties perhaps to H.G. Wells' Floor Games. I think there's a minimal cost associated with the game, but it might be enough to give you ideas of your own.

UPDATE: here's a few other case studies about getting kids interested in RPGs: Simplifying D&D (You know, for kids?) and How to Introduce a Kid to D&D Before He Goes Into Surgery both great articles from Wired's Geekdad blog.

Age of Fable Dungeon Generator!
Finally, if you're looking to stock a dungeon in a hurry, here's a nicely done auto-generator for a campaign (?) called Age of Fable. I can't recall where I found this (somebody remind me in the comments if it was you) but it's got some great resources for pen+paper games. Not only can you generate maps, but also stock and stats plus adventure hooks. Comes in two flavors: one for Tunnels & Trolls and another Labyrinth Lord/Mutant Future. Find additional resources as well.


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Did I mention Herculoids will be on DVD June 14?

Perhaps you didn't see my post on Exonauts. Perhaps you thought I was kidding when I said I'd repost this on just about every blog I have. HERCULOIDS ON DVD PEOPLE! Laser dragons! Rock Apes! Rhinoceratopses! Slingshot wielding barbarians! Shape-shifting shmooes! Because the world needs more science fantasy cartoons filled with Alex Toth designed characters.

Pre-order the complete series or order on Tuesday, June 14!! Relevant promotional copy from Warner Bros.:
Somewhere out in deep space – and out of the creative imagination of the animation aces of Hanna-Barbera Studios – live the Herculoids. Humanoid Zandor, along with his wife Tara and son Dorno, lead a group of unique creatures: Zok the flying dragon, powerful simian Igoo (who possesses rock-like skin), rhinoceros hybrid Tundro and two protoplasmic wonders appropriately named Gloop and Gleep. Together, they use their diverse super strengths to defend their utopian planet against attack from such sinister invaders as the Pod Creatures, the Reptons and the Mutoids. For all-family entertainment, this 18-Episode, 2-Disc Collection of The Herculoid: The Complete Original Animated Series is out of this world, literally.
It's a "manufacture-on-demand" set from WB, which, kinda stinks because the price is set firmly at $29 without extras. The upside though is clean prints of the entire series. Frankly, this is the only way you're gonna get an official set. So don't go out for lunch this pay period and you can stop watching crappy Boomerang uploads on YouTube or (ahem) those other DVDs you came across....

Relevant Herculoids awesomeness:

/so awesome, it's getting re-posted on Gamma World War and Exonauts.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Wizkids to produce Pathfinder pre-painted miniatures

Pathfinder's Kyra the Cleric done-up in plastic
And so it begins. Back in January D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro quietly announced that it was discontinuing it's popular pre-painted plastic miniatures, leaving the field wide open for new takers to pick up where Wizards left off.

Enter Wizkids Games: makers of the highly collectible and widely appealing Heroclix miniature games (and their parent company Neca Toys). Announced earlier this week, Wizkids will be launching a new line of pre-paints for Paizo's Pathfinder RPG.

The minis will be all new scuplts of Pathfinder RPG characters and monsters. Now I know what you're thinking, "What about Reaper? Don't they have the Pathfinder license to produce metal minis?"

Yup. And according to Paizo and Wizkids, that's not going to change. It seems there's a market for both metal and plastic minis. I'm inclined to agree since each seems to fit different gaming purposes and even different target audiences (though many gamers collect both).

I think this is a good thing, possibly a GREAT thing. In fact the first release is slated to be a box set (magic words!) in October. From the horse's mouth:
“WizKids essentially created the pre-painted plastic miniatures category, and they’ve only gotten better in the years since,” said Paizo CEO Lisa Stevens. “We are thrilled to work with WizKids to bring our iconic characters to tabletops all over the world.”

Pathfinder RPG Beginner Box pre-painted fantasy miniatures will be available at paizo.com and through WizKids distribution partners worldwide starting in the fourth quarter of 2011.

If anyone is set up to be the next Big Mini on Campus, it's Wizkids. First, they they've obviously got the manufacturing and distribution channels to make a stake a serious claim. Any toy/game company will tell you that having partnerships overseas with plastics companies is essential to keeping product affordable.You've got two indy toy companies who've had to be scrappy contenders in a very competitive field.

Second, they've improved their products over the years. If you look at their early minis from the Mage Knight line the paint apps were not great--passable in most cases--but more recent lines are much cleaner, sculpts are tighter, and consistently so.

Third, they're fighters. They survived a previous shutdown and not one but TWO bu- outs--one with Topps and the current one with Neca. Now with Neca's grounding they've re-emerged, released several lines--the most recent two of which have sold out to retailers. Plus they've diversified into new products with their original Quarriors game and now have licenses with Star Trek and Lord of the Rings. Keep an eye on those last two properties: ST2 and the Hobbit are gearing up in Hollywood and families will be looking for games that can extend the experience. 

In short, I think Wizkids is a great company and I'm glad to hear that they've thrown their hat into the ring with this new direction. With the makers of D&D now out of the mini gaming business, I'm curious to see how Wizkids will step up.

What's your take?

Official announcements:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Enter the Dragon: Mini Documentary on RPGers

Geek Ambassador and Grand Dungeon Master Wil Wheaton posted a short video documentary called Enter the Dragon by Roshan Murthy on RPGs and gamers. Have a look!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Fantastic Masters of the Universe Art!

Monster Brains has posted a He-sized gallery of Masters of the Universe paintings from the "classic era" of He-man and co. that were used over the years to promote the toys and TV show. Here's a few of the more sword and sorcery-esque pieces (or just stuff I prefer out of the batch!). Click to embiggen.

Good inspiration for space wizards and far future barbarians!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Is this a new Dungeon! board game?

Heir to Dungeon!?
Now I'm not certain, but this sorta' looks like Wizards of the Coast is looking to release the heir-apparent of the old Dungeon! board game from way back when. In case you were living under a drawbridge, you likely already know that about a year ago Wizards launched a new series of board games based on the 4E D&D system: Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of Ashardalon, and the forthcoming Legend of Drizzt.

Full disclosure: I own the Ravenloft game and it's quite fun (once you mind-read your way through the obtusely written rulebook). The three games have compatible but different components (dungeon tiles, player and monster pieces) so that you can mix and match an adventure of your own creation.

Enter Dungeon of Dread, which seems to not be based on the RPG directly, but rather an even more basic set of rules. At least it appears that way at first glance (more on that in a second). I'm not yet sure how "Dread" fits into the whole Wizard's playbook. The old Dungeon! game was a way to get families to have fun playing a swords and sorcery adventure game without having to learn all those bothersome RPG rules. It was a quick and easy game to learn that was part entry-product to the world of TSR Hobbies, and part "yeah, we realize you may not like RPGs but would you play this?".

As I've said before, I'm a huge fan of the old Dungeon! game, it having performed exactly what its makers set out to do--to get me interested. The ancestral connection seems even more apparent with the artwork playing tacit homage to Jeff Roslof's wonderfully evocative cover art for the game:

This new entry seems to play that part, but it's not clear yet if it's meant to be compatible with the more expensive and expansive sets, or really is the "kiddie wheels" version. Here's a brief description from Wizard's site as it stands today*:
Dungeon of Dread
D&D Boardgame
RPG Staff

Fantastic treasure lies deep within the Dungeon of Dread, but to find it you must survive a deadly gauntlet. Heroes band together to form adventuring parties and face off against monsters and villains in the dungeon—but the adventure doesn't end there!

Dungeon of Dread is an exciting, cooperative board game experience in which heroes unite in battle to achieve a common goal and defeat the enemies standing in their way. If they succeed, glory and fortune will be theirs for the taking. If they fail, all could be lost!

This cooperative board game experience is designed for 2-5 players, ages 10 and up. One player is the Dungeon Master who runs the villains and monsters; the remaining players are the heroes. The game includes 4 adventures, each one featuring a unique villain.

This game includes the following components:
  • Game board
  • Pawns for heroes, villains, and monsters
  • Hero and villain character sheets
  • Deck of 100 cards
  • Dice

Now the original Dungeon! was a player-vs.-player game where you basically "cleared" rooms of monsters in an effort to accumulate a certain level of treasure (e.g., 30,000 gold pieces) and race back to the start to win the game. This version makes it clear that it's a cooperative game (much like the RPG) and that there are "adventures" (styled after modules with end-goals in mind).

This would make it appear to be more RPG focused, but just without the extra accessories. (Ravenloft, et al, has a TON of miniatures, game pieces, tiles, etc.).

Honestly, I'd rather have a new rendition of Dungeon! that played more like the original (an update would be fine by me too) than a Slim-fast version of the 4E games. Which, honestly, seems like an entirely disposable product. Is it really all about being able to offer a cheaper price point and shelf spot?

Here's another piece of evidence that the game is more 4E centric, as noted on Amazon's pre-order page:
Dungeon of Dread: A Dungeons & Dragons Board Game (4th Edition D&D)

(Red text is my emphasis.) It should be noted that this extended title is not on the WotC site, and perhaps it's a mistake anyway.

In any case, it's just interesting to see the past repeating itself. As to whether the game is any fun? Time will tell I suppose--it's set to release December 13, 2011.


*WotC has a way of revising their pages that sometimes makes it hard to track how a product has changed.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Notes on Geomancy and Other Earthen Magic

I've been leafing through some old moleskine entries I'd written about a class of earth-based magic users. That is to say the focus is on actual earth material (e.g., rock, soil, sand, mud, pyroclastic flows, molten crust, etc.) not organic, per se. I expect that there's already plenty of other material out there covering this territory, but it was a fun little exercise.

Following are some thoughts I had on possible directions for this sub-class, which I'd liken to being an elementalist. I found an entry on Wikipedia on Geomancy and that set me off running. I'd tied some of the spells to constitution as I pictured the strain under which the caster would be to rile, rip, or rend geologic matter into doing her or his bidding. These are just rough notes so no lengthy descriptions or stats.

Geomancy (divination)
Geomancy is a form of divination and shamanism using earthen substances.
  • Detect Earth (allows caster to scan or sense what type of rock, soil, sand, etc. is present. Consequently, this would also allow user to detect water or at least where pockets may be)
  • Geomortis/Fossilspeak (commune with the dead and buried--even fossils from millions of years ago--to see the long past)
  • Sensestep (detect and determine the maker of any footstep, their direction, relative size and physicality, and state-of-mind when the step was made)
  • Dunewhishper (hear the plotting of enemies from moderate distances through sand grains blown in highly arid or dusty conditions)

Quartz Caller
A quartz caller is able to summon the energies in crystals, which act as conduits and even amplifiers for ley line energy. The practice takes enormous discipline and physical constitution to pull the energy from the crystals.Most of these have more of a psychic quality to them.
  • Crystal to Crystal Clairvoyance (live transmission of sight and sound)
  • Teleportation (from one embedded crystal to another, the further away the higher the constitution required)
  • Life leech (sap hit points to charge crystals which can be used to give bonuses to other spells)
  • Animate Dead (using the crystals to broadcast a re-animation spell or to act as puppeteer over the dead--there is no turning of these undead as their state is not derived from a cursed magic; each dead must have a crystal jammed into the corpse in order to be activated) 
  • Mindblindness (the crystals can be activated to act as a massive psionic energy generator that "overloads" any targets that fail an intelligence check similar to an EMP, victims rendered mentally blind (as in no sight or psionic connection) though their eyes will be unharmed)
  • Vibrobomb (crystals can be made to vibrate a high, ringing tone similar to wine glass rim that will render victims in blast area temporarily deaf)
  • Seems like there should also be a light source spell also for this subspecialty

These shapers of electromagnetic energies are masters of all that's magnetic--or that which can be magnetized made so.
  • Detect Magnetism  (self explanatory)
  • Magnetokinesis (move metal objects through magnetic fields, similar to telekinesis)
  • Coilbolt (by using copper coiled bracers, user can amplify fields to create a bolt of electricity that can be hurled at a target or contained between both hands for a stun-touch effect; full coil armor would allow the wearer to levitate
  • Ferrodominus (summon, pulverize, heat, bend, and shape raw ore)

Practitioners of volcanny are deadly, near-forces of nature. The toll on constitution is high and requires complete dedication (minus charisma for every constitution score above 11)
  • Detect Magma (sense the nearness of subterranean rivers of molten earth and their relative speed, temperature, and general consistency)
  • Porous Earth (ability to call magma--soon to be lava--to burst forth in weak spots in the ground, size of geyser is relative to constitution)
  • Shape Lava (rough to fine control over lava flow, from hot rivers of fire to thread-thin searing glass)
  • Pyroclasty (rough to fine control over pyroclastic clouds (hot volcanic ash and mud) to incinerate, suffocate, or encase targets
  • Seismic Shudder (give enemies a good scare by initiating a rumbler underfoot)

  • Diamond Finger (drill or carve any stone, dexterity would play a part in how fine a touch or complex the design)
  • Stone Rolling (roll, slide, tumble, and stack large boulders and monoliths into place; quite loud so no bonuses on initiative)
  • Dynalithicate (explode boulders into a fine powder)
  • Pebblecross (weave a temporary but sturdy bridge of fieldstone to ford a river or other barrier, can be made permanent if mortarfy is known)
  • Mortarfy (liquefy harder earth matter into a mortar substance that can be controlled telekinetically and shaped and quickly hardened)
  • Abrasia (create a cone of sandblasting to smooth or erode any surface, or rend flesh from bone)
  • Castlecasting (telekinetic construction of a stone structure, requiring massive concentration in order to piece together each part of the "puzzle"; constitution and intelligence can be no lower than 14; all previous Geomason spells must be level 3 or higher before this can be attempted)

Some thoughts anyway...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

R.I.P. D&D Minis 2003-2010

Well it's January and that means that Wizards of the Coast has to dump an under-supported and product line. The D&D line of pre-painted miniatures has officially been given the pink slip. Posted today on WotC's website--buried innocuously under the fifth heading "D&D RPG Product Release Updates":
Despite the best laid plans, sometimes we make changes to the D&D product release schedule. Usually this happens well before we’ve communicated our plans, but sometimes we must make changes to schedules that have already been announced. That happens to be the case we have here.

We have made the decision to depart from pre-painted plastic miniatures sets. Lords of Madness stands as the final release under that model. We will continue to release special collector’s sets (such as the Beholder Collector’s Set we released last fall), as well as make use of plastic figures in other product offerings. Check out the Wrath of Ashardalon board game next month for the latest example of this. Moving forward, we will continue to explore more options for players to represent characters and monsters on the tabletop, including Monster Vault and other D&D products that feature monster and character tokens.
I'm not at all surprised, as Wizards had already begun cutting back on releases and switching to cardstock tokens in all of their boxed 4E products (i.e., Gamma World, Monster Vault, etc.). While these were fine for boxed sets, the loss of the pre-painted minis is disappointing as Wizards was by far the largest producer of this cheap option for minis.

In addition, last fall, Wizard's parent company Hasbro (under the Milton Bradley moniker), stopped production on Heroscape, their constructable, miniature battles board game. The big "H" was watching sales dwindle after they dumped the original time/reality-hopping theme in favor of the almighty D&D. A stunted release of Heroscape under a Marvel Superheroes license led no where as well.

So what's the reason behind the poor sales for all these plastic minis and mini-related games? It's hard to be sure but I'd bet that poor shelf visibility and feeble marketing support are at least partially to blame. Wizards/Hasbro also seems to saturate the market with these products (and yet provide substandard marketing!) and then bail completely, much like the Star Wars RPG debacle in January of last year (Ah! It IS a tradition!).

I myself have bought bunches of the little guys (and some Heroscape stuff too for the scenery), which has been a lot of fun--and affordable for those of us who don't have time/cash to paint and prepare metal minis. While this might be a boon for companies like Reaper and their Legendary Encounters pre-paints, they're not running anywhere near the quantities or variety that WotC had. So there is no real heir-apparent.

Here's hoping the void is eventually filled. And frankly, at this point, I'd be happy to give my hard earned geek bucks to someone else. In the meanwhile, remainder stock will no doubt slowly dwindle from FLGS shelves...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fixing the Blog...

I'm working on some formatting issues, pardon any goofiness over the next few days or so. :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Free D&D Dark Sun Comic Book!

IDW Comics and Wizards of the Coast have published a free preview of their new D&D Dark Sun comic series. Whether you're a fan of the original setting or the current one, its pretty cool to see Athas getting some love. You get about 10 pages which include several versions of the cover.

Oh, they encourage you to ask your FLGS/FLCS about "A rare playable Module Edition", which I have to hand it to them, sounds like an awesome idea. I wish all comics came with stats!