Thursday, December 20, 2012

Inexpensive, stainless steel dice ring!

We've all seen those nifty spinning rings before, yes? And I think dice rings have actually been around a while. But these dudes have a cool stainless steel model for $15 through Kickstarter.

You can pay more and get more of course, but for that cheap--plus a few chuckles from their charmingly low-budget elevator pitch video--it's well worth it.

 Better move--there's less than 72 hours left in the Kickstarter!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"Man of Steel" Trailer has given me hope!

When the Superman franchise was rebooted in 2006, I wanted desperately to have that feeling I had when I was a kid watching Chris Reeve zoom around in the sky and beat up super villains from the Phantom Zone. And while the guy who played Superman was fine, the movie was really an homage to those films. There was no journey to take with the character, he had already been there and was now coming back, hence the title, "Superman Returns".

 And hence, it didn't work.

I'm not going to bore you to tears with fanboy theories as to what didn't work or how it could have been better. The only thing that really matters from that experience is this: it focused too much on trying to relive the past instead of bringing something new to the mythos of the last son of Krypton. "Man of Steel" by director Zack Snyder, has a real chance of being the movie that "Returns" could have been.

The preview seems to have all the hallmarks of a solid attempt to tell a different Superman story. One where his senses as a child need to be tamed. My first thought was that this is a real boy--almost as if he were a child affected by autism. He's flooded with his surroundings.

This is a movie willing to take risks with the notion of Ma and Pa Kent. They're not thinking "he's going to be Superman." They're hoping he can live without being dissected. Those kids on the bus are collateral damage!

And while it's obviously ironic that Superman allows himself to be handcuffed by Earthlings, I think the bigger question is--is it that he feels responsible for us regular people? Or does Superman feel guilty for having this much power. Is this the real reason he's helping Earth instead of ruling it with Zod? Maybe the cuffs symbolize his need to make up for his "defect".

One of my favorite stories about the Man of Steel is "Superman: Birthright." In that story Clark Kent/Kal-El is someone looking to fulfill his potential and ventures not just to Metropolis--but to Africa where his do-good aspirations are tested.The result is a Superman who's believable as a guardian of more than just the his fair adopted city, but one understands and cares for the people on the other side of the planet as well. I can't recall a previous rendition that delved into how someone becomes "super" with such pathos. And yet, it wasn't overly-sentimental.

I'm beginning to think that this new version will have some of that seriousness--without the nostalgic eye-winking the Singer film.

Now, I'm not a Snyder fan. I really didn't like "300." Visually stunning, but the story was shit. And Watchmen was okay. But a "just okay" "Watchmen" film is like a waterslide on a cold, windy day. It's too much work to have so little fun. But this movie has hope. Snyder's flair for visuals has a script writer: David Goyer of the "Dark Knight" movies. Chris Nolan however you feel about him or his trilogy, has brought about the era of the "smart superhero film." I think Superman is in good hands--at least it would seem so by the look of the trailer.

 In any case, these are themes I hope are expressed in the film. Superman has tackled these issues in the comics for years. It's nice to see a film that might finally do him justice.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

FREE: Encyclopedia of Fantasy now online!

Yes, that's right, there's an Encyclopedia of Fantasy that's both free and searchable. Your worldbuilding and reference citing and just got a lot easier! So did wasting massive amounts of time on the interwebs!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Marvel's ALMOST H.P. Lovecraft comics, circa '72

Did you know that emeritus Marvel Comics writer and multiverse virtuoso Roy Thomas (Conan, Avengers, X-men, etc.) once proposed a horror series based off H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulu mythos back in the 1970s (a.k.a, the coolest era of Marvel comics)?

It's true! Sean Howe, author of the astoundingly awesome and thrillingly, thouroughly researched Marvel Comics: The Untold Story posted this treatment by Thomas to his Tumblr:

Click to enlarge:

Howe says:
Here’s another glimpse at what might have been: A 1972 Roy Thomas memo proposes, among a handful of launches and title changes, a series “hosted” (a la EC’s Crypt Keeper) by the Doctor Strange villain Nightmare.
And what’s this? An anthology comic called THE MACABRE WORLD OF H.P. LOVECRAFT?!? A few months later, an issue of Journey into Mystery would feature an adaptation of Lovecraft’s “The Haunter of the Dark,” but no series ever materialized.
Oh, what might have been!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Dr. Strange to join the Marvel movie universe!

It's been rumored for a while now, but it looks like Marvel is actually planning a Dr. Strange movie! From Screenrant:
Screenwriting duo Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer (the upcoming Conan the Barbarian rebooot) were reportedly hired last year to draft a script for the Dr. Strange movie. The project will be live-action and not a computer-animated film by Pixar, as was previously rumored.

According to Twitch, Donnelly and Oppenheimer have turned in their Dr. Strange script and Marvel is forwarding their draft to an undisclosed shortlist of directors “to try and sign someone up to ‘oversee continued development’” of the project.

Iron Man 3 and Thor 2 have already been scheduled for release in Summer 2013, so it seems unlikely that Dr. Strange will make the jump to the big screen before 2014 – perhaps, even around the same time that Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man movie finally arrives.
So in addition to Ant-Man (a film I'm REALLY looking forward to from a director I love) the Sorcerer Supreme could actually be casting his spell in theaters!

 So, who should direct? Who should play Strange?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Crowdfunder: Science Fiction Land--the REAL story behind ARGO

HEY KIRBY FANS! Have you seen Ben Affleck's film ARGO about how the CIA staged a filmmaking ruse for a nonexistent sci-fi film in order to rescue hostages from Iran? Well there's plenty about that story left to tell--but less than 2 days to raise the money to do it justice.

Filmmaker Judd Ehrlich is working on a documentary entitled "SCIENCE FICTION LAND" based on the real concept that inspired the CIA cover...a sci-fi theme park! The parks creators hired the King of Comics himself, Jack Kirby to design the look of the buildings. From the Kickstarter page:
In the mid-1970s, before STAR WARS, an enigmatic young inventor named Barry Ira Geller options the rights to Roger Zelazny’s award-winning novel Lord of Light, writes a screenplay and sets out to produce a sci-fi blockbuster and the world’s first science fiction theme park – Science Fiction Land. Geller dreams of inspiring the next generation of scientists and bringing the technology of the future to everyone.

A complete unknown, through his passion and determination Geller enlists an all-star team: "King of Comics" Jack Kirby; Hollywood makeup and special effects geniuses John Chambers & Maurice Stein; world-renowned architect Paolo Soleri, visionary author Ray Bradbury; and legendary futurist Buckminster Fuller.

On the verge of success, the project collapses amidst scandal, fraud, and mystery. Years later, Geller learns that his script and Kirby designs were used by CIA agent Tony Mendez as a cover during the Iran hostage crisis – his film's title changed from LORD OF LIGHT to ARGO. 
As of this writing, they're in the close-but-not-quite-there range of the $50k they need to finish the film. I pitch a little scratch their way because I'm dying to see what Kirby's designs would have looked like on a massive three-dimensional scale--and to hear one incredible real-life spy story.

There's all kinds of great swag of course, but if you're a MEGA Kirby fan, you'll can fund the film AND get yourself a Kirby Museum membership, which includes MORE Kirby swag. (I asked and they confirmed.) I seriously considered ponying up on that one.

Alas, for a mere $5 you can help out, for $25 you get a download of the film (that's what I kicked in). Not a bad entry fee for the ultimate never-never-was-land!

Images: Judd Ehrlich/Flatbush Pictures 

I posted this at Exonauts as well. :)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Kickstart a collection of teen, homebrewed D&D modules from the 80s!

Now here's a crowdfunder for the ages! The Habitition of the Stone Giant Lord & Other Adventures is a new kickstarter compling homebrew D&D modules from ye "goode olde days".

The project aims to publish those long-lost adventures of kids from the 80s using their original, hand-drawn illustrations and maps and painstakingly typed text. Here's the gist of it, from the project's creator:
In 1981, 13-year-old Gaius Stern wrote and illustrated The Habitition of the Stone Giant Lord in imitation of TSR’s Dungeons and Dragons adventure modules. The Habitition is a true labor of love, typed and drawn as a DIY addition to the “Against the Giants” series of modules, part time capsule and part outsider art.

As art, its text and image show how a creative teen made his own contribution to the genre of roleplaying adventures, but where most such books were the work of a writer, a crew of play-testers, editors, and a stable of artists, Stern went it alone. As a time capsule, it provides a window on a particular way Dungeons & Dragons was played at a particular time.

PlaGMaDA and The Hutchingsonian Presents are putting together a collection of adventures written by young people in the 1980s. The focus is on game modules written by players, including their carefully made maps and painstaking illustrations, framing the sort of adventures we played back when we were kids. Help us print this full color book, it'll be great!
$10 gets you a PDF of the book, print copies are $30. This ain't no retro clone folks, this is the stuff of nerdly dreams brought back to life with a 21st century resurrection spell!

And YES, they're still looking for material for the book--so go get your Trapper Keeper from 1981 and start scanning those loose-leaf notes!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

New trailer for The Hobbit!

This looks really exciting!

Trailer #2

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Inspiration: Caves of Nottingham

Boing Boing mentions a post over at BLDGBLOG on the caves of Nottingham, which are being mapped as part of the Nottingham Caves Survey. They are, in many respects, similar to those at Cappadocia (manmade, cut into sandstone bedrock and cliffsides).

The storied history of the caves which inlcudes ties to Robin of Locksley--has long been the spark of tall tales. From the article:
Incredibly, there are more than 450 artificial caves excavated from the sandstone beneath the streets and buildings of Nottingham, England—including, legendarily, the old dungeon that once held Robin Hood—and not all of them are known even today, let alone mapped or studied. The city sits atop a labyrinth of human-carved spaces—some of them huge—and it will quite simply never be certain if archaeologists and historians have found them all.

"Even back in Saxon times, Nottingham was known for its caves," local historian Tony Waltham writes in his helpful guide Sandstone Caves of Nottingham, "though the great majority of those which survive today were cut much more recently." From malt kilns to pub cellars, "gentlemen's lounges" to jails, and wells to cisterns, these caves form an almost entirely privately-owned lacework of voids beneath the city.
Here's a look at the map they've created:

Nice inspiration for the Caves of Chaos, yes?

Images: Nottingham Cave Survey and BLDG BLOG

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cool 3D-printable dungeon crawler

So here's a cool thing that couldn't exist until the 21st century--a dungeon crawl tile game you can print out of resin. Here's what you get to make a complete game:
-6 delvers (Warrior, Wizard, Elf, Dwarf, Thief, and Priestess.)

-10 dwellers (2 Skittering Fiends, 2 Restless Spirits, 2 Hogboglins, 2 Shambling Corpses, 1 Cave Gronk, and 1 Ancient Guardian)

-40 dungeon tiles (print the tile set twice)

-6 door markers

-13 counters (6 Treasure counters, 6 Hazard counters, and 1 Stairs counter)

-12 six-sided dice (6 red Offense dice and 6 blue Defense dice) (These weren't printed, though I suppose you could)
All you need is a 3D printer. So if you've got one--or you're handy with that hacker/maker stuff-- then you've got yourself an endlessly printable dungeon!

Check out the full set-up. Props to Boing Boing for finding this little treasure.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Rotating planets ring for that special Space Warlock...

This is a real ring made from meteorite and gemstones in the shape of the 8 planets and Pluto (heh!). The inside ring with inset gems rotates around the outside gold ring. No word on it's ability to open astral portals or conjure subspace monsters to do your bidding.

Pricing starts at $3,600 (so I hope you mastered that turning-lead-into-gold spell).

Via Boing Boing

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Springcon 2012 this weekend in St. Paul, MN

I'll be hitting the Grandstand at the Minnesota State Fair again this weekend for Springcon -- one of two comicons held annually in the Twin Cities. The Midwest Comic Book Association does a nice job of organizing what's quickly grown from a small affair to a regional event in the last few years.

I generally like to chat with the creators and artists and get a commission if time allows. It should be fun!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Super-hero movie clip mash-up

Getting ready for The Avengers this Friday? I'm SET. And this clip is a great primer. Sure half these films are so-so and the tunes are over the top, but it's a pretty impressive undertaking.

Me? My sweetie will be defending her dissertation in the morning, followed by an evening at the local IMAX to watch the original "A" team defend the rest of us.

Found on

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A new DUNGEON! board game on its way!!!!!!

Looks like my all-time favorite board game is making a comeback--DUNGEON! Man, I take ONE DAY to move all my worldly possessions (Saturday) and then finally tonight I try to get caught up on blog roll reading and find out on Grognardia (props, BTW) what Wizards of the Coast has just announced for release come October 12:
A classic board game of dungeon exploration returns!

Dungeon! is a fast-paced game where you and your friends can decide which way to go in the hunt for bigger and better treasure.

Will you stick to level 1 and clear out the Goblins and Kobolds? Or will you delve deep into level 6 and set your sights on the Purple Worm or the Red Dragon? Along the way, you’ll have to face off against such iconic monsters as the Black Pudding, the Drow, and even the Owlbear!

Featuring simple, straightforward rules that are easy to learn, Dungeon! is perfect for a fantasy game night, or a warm-up before your next epic game of D&D!
After what appeared to be a false start, last year this looks like the real deal. Best of all, the game will retail for just $20, which frankly is a boon to any parents looking to bring their kiddos along in the ways of nascent geekdom and the wonders of ESP medallions. I'm sure there's bound to be some updates to the rules, but I'm really hoping it still keeps the fun monster and treasure card system--and of course the, ahem, spell cards!

And early October means it'll arrive just in time for a Halloween game-a-thon. Here's to new adventures with an old favorite!

Read Wizards announcement

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"New" Avengers trailer is INCREDIBLE!


Props to

Game designer Monte Cook leaving Wizards

Looks like famed game designer Monte Cook on-again-off-again romance with Wizards of the Coast is, er, off....again. This is from his livehjournal page:
Last week I decided that I would leave my contract position with Wizards of the Coast. I am no longer working on Dungeons & Dragons, although I may provide occasional consultation in the future. My decision is one based on differences of opinion with the company. However, I want to take this time to stress that my differences were not with my fellow designers, Rob Schwalb and Bruce Cordell. I enjoyed every moment of working with them over the past year. I have faith that they'll create a fun game. I'm rooting for them.
He goes on to say that he'll keep peeps informed about future endeavors. It was announced just this past January that he'd be the lead designer and driving force in the latest edition of D&D (5th edition) so it will be interesting to see how things congeal without his involvement.

Not so many "Wizards" at WotC any more!
See the full story.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Speaking of "cardboard roots"....

My last post about the Forbes article on gaming mentioned getting back to "cardboard roots" in order to revitalize some authentic creatvity. Nine-year-old Caine Monroy has it in spades.

If you haven't seen this video or been touched by the immense creative spirit in this kid, watch this right now. It's been making the rounds since last week when more than $165k was raised to send this him to college--and a matching fund was setup to help fund other kids' creativity.

THAT, ladies and gents, is how you bring some old fashioned imagination to your game--be it pen & paper, video, or of the skee-ball variety.

Check out the full story on the Caine's Arcade website.

Are board games and RPGs better than video games?

Get ready to nerd-fight! Let this recent Forbes article be your primer, which basically boils it down to board games/RPGs are infinitely re-playbable but take bunch of time to create:
“You can buy a great board game for under $20, and every time you play it, it’s a new game,” Silver noted. “This is a toy that can be played over and over again, so the consumer sees value in this type of purchase.”

Compare that with any major release on the consoles. Gamers play $60 for a vanilla title, and often fork out more for downloadable content or expansion packs.

Quintin’s argument is pretty compelling, but I’m not entirely sold. Yes, board and pen-and-paper games do come from a pure spring of ideas, and aren’t bogged down with the limitations of tech or the high expectations of massive profits. But aren’t we actually just comparing apples to oranges?

A good Dungeons and Dragons campaign is hard to beat on its own terms. You have to imagine a great deal.

And you have to set aside a pretty substantial chunk of time. Not just your time either. You need to find actual people to play with. Video gamers often play with friends either in the flesh or online, but at least in my experience the time requirements of a good board game or pen-and-paper RPG are vast in comparison.
...I get that, but isn't that doing that "work" the fun part? One passage I take umbrage with though:
Whereas board games require us to think, and pen-and-paper RPGs require us to imagine, video games tap more directly into the actual play.

We have to actually fight that skeleton knight, not just tell the DM what we’re doing and then role the dice. There’s pros and cons to each form, and while both low and high-tech gaming can be extremely fun and gratifying, I think we’re talking about two very different experiences that can’t really be held up the one against the other.
I'd aruge that "fight" in this example is really just semantics. Mashing buttons ain't fighting anymore than rolling dice. The one instance I could see that point is with gestural-based game systems like the Kinect or Wii (full disclosure, I own a Wii and it's a lot of fun). While I agree playing video games is more physical, I'd suggest it's better to just state that low-tech and high tech gaming gets you to use your brain in different ways and leave it at that.

I do agree though, with his clincher:
Maybe the gaming industry has mirrored too often the film industry, and needs to get back to its cardboard roots.
Indeed. Let's hear it for a healthy dose of homebrew, bootstrap creativity!

Read the full article at

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

M.A.R. Barker Memorial set for May 5 in Minneapolis

Here's an important announcement for any Tekumel fans out there. There's going to be a memorial for the creator of Tekumel, M.A.R. Barker here in the Twin Cities--including some kind of A/V presentation. Below is an email that I received this morning from the Source Comics & Games (my FLGS) weekly update. Pasted verbatim:
Professor M.A.R. Barker Memorial From the Tekumel Foundation: Mrs. Ambereen Barker and the Tékumel Foundation invite you to a memorial celebration of the life and work of Professor M.A.R. Barker -Saturday, May 5th, 2012 -5PM to 9PM -Sheraton Midtown Minneapolis Hotel -2901 Chicago Avenue South -Minneapolis -Minnesota -55407.An audiovisual presentation will begin at 6:30pm, with stories and memories to be shared afterwards. Special announcements to follow. We hope that Prof. Barker's devoted fans, friends, colleagues and former students will be able to attend and share in this celebration. Please RSVP to the Tékumel Foundation so we may keep you informed of any changes. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
So there you are--just FYI in case you're out of town and looking to make the trip.

EDIT: I should have guessed there'd be more info at Chirine's Workbench blog.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What maps inspired you as a kid?

The Awl has a great post Maps We Wandered Into as Kids that explores fantasy maps that inspired readers growing up. I had many, but one that totally blew my brain was the one from Time Bandits.

Part cosmic blueprint, part wormhole transit schedule--it's got to be one of the coolest movie props of all time. If only it were real. Oh wait, it IS real! Or rather you can get your own reproduction.

What about you? Have any favorite cartographs from books, comics, movies, or just plain geography (Google?) that have inspired you?

Via Boing Boing, which has links to another great map post you should check out.

Also: ever try googling directions to Mordor? ;)

Monday, February 6, 2012


Extended-Assembled-Hail-Mary-Superbowl goodness. In case you missed it. I get more excited for the Avengers every time I see new footage. BTW, who do you think the bad guys are? Cast your vote in the poll at left.

I'll make a nice pie chart of the results when it's done.

Enjoy the trailer!

Here's the new trailer for Amazing Spider-man which looks equally impressive!

Monday, January 30, 2012


Scottish actor Nicol Williamson scummbed to esophogeal cancer in December, but his family just recently announced his death to the public. He was 75.

I'll of course always remember him for his near lyrical portrayl of Merlin, a performance to which I've come to compare all on-screen magicians, spellcasters, sorcerers, warlocks, and conjurers. Rest in Peace great wizard....

Obit in the New York Times.

See Merlin bid farewell to his king one last time.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Warner Bros.: We can't tell the difference between Elfquest and The Hobbit

Wow. The geniuses at Warner Bros. were developing an Elfquest movie (ostensibly looking for fantasy properties to replace their beloved Harry Potter franchise) and recently dropped the project because, as co-creator Wendy Pini puts it:
After close to four years of suspense – and longer than four years of your much-appreciated interest and support – the word has come down from Warner Bros. And the word is “no.” Their simple explanation is that they don’t want to compete with The Hobbit. This was a possibility, among several, that we were prepared for. It is a relief, at last, to know.
Apparently randy space elves are too similar to uppity halfling burgulars. Or more precisely, they hear the world "elf" and think "Tolkien". I suppose that's one better than thinking "Santa's helpers". On the other hand, perhaps Warner Bros. knows something about the elves in the new Hobbit movie we don't. (shudder)

More at Bleeding Cool

Friday, January 13, 2012

D&D 5E contents video!

"Grognard" is a new race!


Monday, January 9, 2012


I'm sure you've heard/read this already, but D&D 5 is coming--and Wizards of the Coast says it wants input this time. From the New York Times:
But there might yet be hope for Dungeons & Dragons, known as D&D. On Monday, Wizards of the Coast, the Hasbro subsidiary that owns the game, announced that a new edition is under development, the first overhaul of the rules since the contentious fourth edition was released in 2008. And Dungeons & Dragons’ designers are also planning to undertake an exceedingly rare effort for the gaming industry over the next few months: asking hundreds of thousands of fans to tell them how exactly they should reboot the franchise.
There's a movement now, perhaps you've heard of it. It's called the OSR.

So where's the banner? How do we mobilize this? Shouldn't there be a big wishlist of what we'd like the new edition to be? Where should it live and can we all sign up?


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Harryhausen Documentary Trailer Promises Awesomeness....

...but I can find no trace of the finished film's actual existence. Here's what facts I DO know about this video:
  1. It's produced by Frenetic Arts, a French-based studio.
  2. It's not out yet, despite being scheduled for Spring 2011 completion.
If you have info on this, please comment. Until then, we'll just have to be satisfied with every Harryhausen monster in one video. :)

P.S. As of June 2011, Ray Harryhausen is 91 years old and still has all of his original models from the films. He is as cool as they get!