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First Comics News - Mon, 04/27/2020 - 16:02


“Two Army Veterans crash in a mystical jungle populated by a lost tribe of TOXIC Warrior Women that hunt men, enslave them and then kill them. They must escape, submit to survive or die trying!”

Prolific writer, Mr. Chuck Dixon, with Rock Star Artists Jimbo Salgado and Bryan Arfel Magnaye have joined forces with Benjamin L. Henderson, Writer/Creator to develop his Original Action Packed Comic “RAVAGE: KILL ALL MEN!”


Categories: Comic Book Blogs

RICH REVIEWS: Ravage # 1

First Comics News - Mon, 04/27/2020 - 16:01

Title: Ravage # 1
Publisher: Cautionary Comics
Writers: Chuck Dixon, Benjamin L Henderson
Artist: Jimbo Salgado
Colorist: Bryan Arfel Magnaye
Letterer: Eric Weathers
Cover: Jimbo Salgado
Variant Covers: Geebo Vigonte, Graham Nolan & Gregory Wright
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Comments: Two men, Manuel Mendez aka Manny aka Doc and Randall Gunn aka Randy are two tough men. Doc hires Randy to help him find a Panthera. They are heading toward an Island. The crash is exciting as they do make a landing which they barely survive.
The two men as they put to use their survival skills are met by a tribe of women living on this Island. The Island is populated by women warriors only. Randy calls it Heaven. It may well be but only if you enjoy being a slave to their Matriarch, Queen Spain.
This comic does play out like a movie an old style grade B movie. Two strong virile men find a tribe of beautiful Amazonian women.
Well these women do outnumber the men and the women are all armed with ancient weapons. They are all fighting warrior women as well. So what will our two men do? Enjoy themselves until they realize just how much danger they are in.
The art could be more focused at times.
Doc and Randy are both highly trained fighters. Doc is more cautious and Randy more wanting sex. These two are going to have their hands full literally with these women warriors.

Categories: Comic Book Blogs


First Comics News - Mon, 04/27/2020 - 16:00

There are some pretty new comics companies that are producing quality storytelling, I’m happy to say. One of those is Caut!onary Comics, and the first book of theirs I’ve read I discovered recently at Savannah Comic Con when I talked with Ben Henderson.

It’s for mature readers, but it is a gripping story that you can’t put down once you start to read it!

Writers: Chuck Dixon, Benjamin L. Henderson
Artist: Jimbo Salgado
Colorist: Bryan Arfel Magnaye
Published by: Caut!onary Comics
Cover price: $3.00

SOLICITATION: Two Army Veterans crash in a mystical jungle populated by a lost tribe of TOXIC Women that hunt MEN!


That above catchline is an interesting one because the majority of comics readers and buyers tend to be, well, men! When there’s a voluptuous female after the guys, we’re kind of torn. We don’t want her to kill us, but… .

It should also be pointed out that Chuck Dixon and the aforementioned Mr. Henderson worked together on this comic and story. I’ve read enough of his work to know that when you see Mr. Dixon’s name somewhere on a book, you buy it, especially if you want great storytelling!

There are two main characters in this title. First is Manny Mendez, one of the “guns for hire.” Then there’s Randall Gunn, named appropriately enough, who works with Manny. They crash-land near what seems to be an Amazon-like nation filled with warrior women, which doesn’t go unnoticed by the two “soldier for hire” men. They discover the women’s leader named Spain, who has plans for these two that may not be to their liking.

The characters are fascinating, and the plotting moves at quite a rapid clip. We rarely stay in one place very long. And we find out that Spain may be up to no good, at least as far as the “world of men” is concerned.

There are several covers available for this kick-off issue, but the one I liked best had the first female fighter they encounter, who just happens to be blonde, riding a big panther surrounded by soldiers. And she’s yelling, of course, “KILL ALL MEN!!”

If it weren’t for Dixon’s strong characterization skills, this could degenerate into an old “B” movie pretty quickly. However, even with limited time to get to know the various players, we come to feel we have a good handle on them all very quickly.

There are some adult allusions in the text particularly, so this book and probably the rest of the series won’t be for the young readers. Adults, particularly males, will enjoy the sexual jargon as well as the situations. You bet they will!

I have a feeling our two guys are in for quite the shock when Spain begins to “interrogate” them. But that’s for the next issue.


As usual, I always want to compare two aspects of art when I review a comic: Character and their expressions, and action sequences. In this title, the facial expressions work extremely well, and when action starts to take place, it’s very clear and understandable. Both are strong in this book.

The one thing that might put some readers off is that the pages inside the inside and outside covers is a type of newsprint paper. I mean, it’s entirely readable, but some folks prefer slick, glossy paper for printing a comic. You don’t have that here, so I’m hoping the story will carry you into the book.


You know, if you’ve read any of Dixon’s stories before, that this is only the first layer to the story. He’s got plenty planned for the entire cast, and we’ll discover what’s really going on very soon!

It’s adventure, it’s action, and it’s fun, so male readers (and I think many female readers as well) will really enjoy this book. It’s different, and in a good way, so I highly recommend it!

Now is the perfect time to jump on board, but getting this new comic may take an investment of time! You can go to their website at and check out their store (which has several new comics on the way), or you can catch up with Benjamin Henderson (or Mr. Dixon, I hope) at local cons to see if they haven’t sold out of their copies yet. It’ll be worth the effort, believe me!

Categories: Comic Book Blogs

Harnessing the Power of Grayskull

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 04/27/2020 - 11:00

My recent posts about the world of Masters of the Universe, had me thinking about how I would run a MOTU type game. Given the multiple canons, it's a matter of choosing and refining. This is what I've got:

Mineternia Plus. As I've discussed previously, the earlier minicomics included with the toys, before Prince Adam and before the Filmation cartoon (what fans call Mineternia or the "Savage Canon") place the action in a post-apocalyptic, science fantasy world with something of the aesthetic of 80s barbarian films, mixed with that of 70s barbarian comics. There have been a number of cool or interesting additions to MOTU since, and the world detailed in only a few abbreviated storybooks in a toyline is pretty barebones, so this canon would only be the jumping off point.

Sword & Sandal. MOTU has the mostly austere terrain and musclebound heroes of 80s barbarian films, but the world seems to call for a bit more "PG" approach, so I think another sort of musclebound hero genre is a good reference, the peplum film. Protagonists would largely be wondering do-gooders, like the Herculeses, Goliaths, Macistes, and Ursuses of these films.

A Sufficiently Advanced Technology... MOTU is science fantasy, but its tech (particularly if you discount the cartoon and some toy boxart) seems to be one-off rather than mass produced stuff. Even if we allow it's all salvage from ancient caches, it shouldn't be down to each individual with unique tech like it seems to be. I think MOTU technology is more like magic items (maybe it even runs off magic after a fashion). Individuals can only "attune" to so many items at a time.

More Henchmen, More Underbosses. The MOTU of the comics and the cartoons that follow winds up working like a superhero comics, where Skeletor and his cronies are defeated, but allowed to escape to fight another day--or in the cartoons occasionally put in jail! In keeping with a more fantasy fiction vibe, more henchmen would die. To give name villains more of a chance, Skeletor should be at something of a remove, and even his traditional underlings should command gangs. Taking out a name villain should generally be something of an accomplishment.

Reasons Why College Education Should Embrace Comic Education

First Comics News - Mon, 04/27/2020 - 10:58

Comic education is considered one of the most effective learning tools that are easy to be understood compared to textbooks. Some of the countries around the world have started to include comic education into their school curriculum. Comic knowledge is a green flag for publishers to start printing comic books that will become an impeccable addition to the educational system.

Recent research shows that college students learning from comic books have an improved thinking capacity where their brains process more than 55,000 images in a minute, which is faster than the number of times the brain processes images from reading a literature book. The comic book pictures stimulate brain cells to understand the content in the book faster.

Just like most of the 21st-century students, you will be able to cram almost all of the movie actors and actresses’ names in your favorite films. Comic books also have characters that have different roles that bring out particular content relevant to be used in the education system. The comic books education makes it easy for them to remember a character wearing a specific outfit, rather than being able to recognize the lines of a dry narrative from the textbooks after a month. By implementing comics in our college education system, the students will improve their engagement level towards education.

The Impact of Comic Books on College Education

Most tutors have approved the use of comic books in the education system as a quick method for teaching students. For instance, it’s not the case when students always lack what to write, but transferring the idea from their brain to paper may be the most challenging task. Sometimes, they lack the words, but online companies and organizations offering an essay writer have been brought up to help the students of all levels to do their homework. The services offered are pocket-friendly and are of high quality. They craft as per the tutor’s instructions. Therefore, don’t hesitate to ask for help.

There is a group of students who are slow learners, and they take too much time trying to understand what has been taught from the textbooks. But with the introduction of comic books, the slow learners have become the superheroes as the pictures help them in understanding the concept more.

Due to the introduction of comic books, some added advantages have made learning so easy. Here are the two benefits the students have gained from comic books in the educational system:

  • Comic books have inspired creativity

Some students have the talent of drawing in them, which has never been tolerated well at schools before. With the introduction of comic books education in college, the students are now able to express themselves better in drawing than in writing. Nowadays, the authors who have the talent of the drawing will have the upper hand as they will be able to compete favorably with others.

  • Comic books are easy to be understood

With short notes, colorful paintings, and neat drawings, comic books education has inspired the teachers, guardians, and also students to go for higher education.  Comic books have increased the concentration span of the students to more than 20 minutes, which is less time to cover more than one topic when using a textbook.

The comic images have improved the concentration span in the books, making it more fun to learn. With the result of massive attention, the students have now been able to boost their grades in the exams. The characters used to create the comic drawings have made their minds remember things easily.

The Importance of Comic Books in the Community

Comic education was established in the 1920s when it was used in the newspapers to illustrate leaders as animals; for example, the authors were demonstrating their behaviors comparing them to animals. In the 20th century, comics were used in the printing of outlets with well-known names such as batman, superman, and ninja turtles. Most flips dispersed were mostly once or twice a week to keep the readers updated about the stories involved. Comic books are also used in rehabilitation centers to help some patients recover. Comic book therapy has been one of the most important means used to those who undergo rehabilitation to express their emotions from treatment and experiences through the use of images and texts.

Categories: Comic Book Blogs

Why Comic Education Is Important to College Education

First Comics News - Mon, 04/27/2020 - 10:58

Comic books are vivid books that involve images put across the piece of information, which is usually enjoyed by people of all ages as most of these books have good stories hence making them attractive. Some teachers find comics an excellent tool for education as most of the people from young to old enjoy reading comic books. As much as comics seem hard to create, they are so simple to grasp as long as you have enough time. It is an added advantage when one is a creative writer and, at the same time, skilled in drawing.

In the current generation, college students are attracted to comic books more because they read what the pictures are illustrating. Comic books education has an added advantage compared to the use of textbooks because, in comic books, the students understand the texts faster with the help of the drawings.

Importance of Comic Education in College Education

Being in a comic book class has brought so many benefits in terms of how the students connect to education. Here are five benefits of comics education for college education:

  • Eases education for part-time students

Higher education levels, such as Ph.D. and Doctorate, are the stressful ones in education. In most cases, part-time students always find themselves having a lot of schoolwork, making them not having enough time for other activities.  A lot of assignments affect employed students who are pursuing their studies.

Some are wondering if there might be someone who can help them do their homework. Look no more as multiple online services help both the parents and the students to access quality writing techniques.  These services are usually pocket-friendly and deliver up to the deadline.

Those who are working while learning might be too busy with the job and forget about assignments, making it difficult to complete them on time. These are some of the reasons why the students could embrace online writers who offer the statistics homework help at an affordable price.

With comic education, a lot of pictures that connect with the texts are involved in educating the student. But not every student will understand the story the way the comic book writer wanted them to understand it. At most, this happens to the wordless comics, which makes the students come up with stories that are related to the pictures.

  • Comic education helps in shaping the students’ self-confidence.

Most college students tend to be in the adolescent stage, and they are shy reading aloud in class to other students. These students become shy, maybe because of their deep or small voices, or they stammer while reading. But in ESL picture books, there is a minimized short text and a lot of pictures, which gives the shy students motivation to read more and more.

  • Comic education promotes students writing skills

For students to explore a non-wording comic book is an encouragement to write more. Hence, such comics support the students` writing skills. Comic books education connects the optical and oral capabilities of pupils. With a comic book, the students can express their ideas concerning different topics. This form of teaching has made the students who have low esteem in both reading and writing improve their confidence in education.

Comic books also require learners to think outside the box. Their sharpness is needed here because they have to read the story and interpret it by connecting the words with the pictures.

  • They support the student’s ideas

Most students always wish to include pictures in writing to bring out their thoughts. Some of them still find it hard, transforming imaginative ideas into words. With the help of comic education, one can now express some parts of their story with drawings to make the readers understand their thinking.

How Comic Books Are Useful in College Education

An average student has a concentration span of about twenty minutes to thirty minutes (that’s what the research says). Lack of enough time makes it hard for the tutors to cover more in this limited time. The short amount of time also affects the students who are good at reading, but when it comes to writing, they find it too difficult. But with comics education, the students can absorb more because of the neatly drawn pictures, simple and short words used in the books. As the scientists say, “the mind absorbs what the eyes see,” looking at pictures when reading also helps maintain the student’s concentration, making it easier to understand the information.

Categories: Comic Book Blogs

Fundamental Benefits of the Use of Comics in Education

First Comics News - Mon, 04/27/2020 - 10:58

Regardless of one’s background or age, all people can enjoy great comic storylines. Reading a comic book that is perfect for your kids can be fascinating and straightforward. Thus, if you are a student and desire to pursue a career as a teacher, understanding of comics is a crucial part that will significantly enhance your knowledge and skills as a professional educator.

Moreover, based on scientific study, comics always have different niches; for instance, it can be youths or older adults. Due to this, instructors consider comics to be a perfect tool that should be used in classroom settings. Moreover, they can also be used within educational software tools that have recently been introduced in learning institutions. Additionally, relating to a visual community we live in, scholars are sometimes attracted to various media compared to traditional methods of learning.

Significance of Introducing Comics at School

The use of comics in class is beneficial because not only the student’s mind is changed, but also how they perceive and feel what they are writing about. Moreover, educational comics comprise significant advantages within the learning industry. That is why, sometimes, when students are seeking assignment help from writing services, most of them get to grasp ideas quickly due to the use of comics during the tutoring process. You can review some of the reasons why comics should be incorporated in the classroom below:

  • Enhance student’s self-esteem

Well, a vital challenge that most learning institutions face over the past years is low self-esteem among students that lack reading skills. When it is related to reading an entire passage, such students may be challenged. As a result, many people always do not like reading, and this makes them shy off from other students. These scenarios always reduce the morale of students hence making them not be in a position of understanding content on their own.

Knowing the help students get from comics, instructors are in a position of enhancing student’s education levels with the use of such graphics. Nonetheless, because the ESL visualization might not be sufficient, reduced capabilities in reviewing can sometimes be claimed and offer children an opportunity of acquiring great ideas and knowledge. Moreover, bonuses and offers are incorporated for the enhancement of student’s skills and language.

  • Students involvement with parents during learning

Commonly, teachers and guardians may not have a perfect idea about an absolute way of associating with the growing children. They should understand that studying higher education courses sometimes is not that easy, hence the parents should be involved. In this case, students must not feel worried when looking for help online. Furthermore, it may help students save time, which makes them work on their subjects efficiently.

  • Wordless comic images

Comics are often used at schools. Moreover, certain benefits come along with it; they include critical thinking, creativity, and imaginative abilities. Every moment, learners might be working on individual books and novels that may have different meanings explained by their instructors.

Visuals and images may have no meaning hence providing a blank slate to the student, which significantly shapes their way of thinking and helps in comprehending various sources utilized in class. This site explains comics as graphic books that entail the use of texts and images related to specific information transmitted from one person to the other.

  • Valid for students who are disabled

Many people have been asking, “is there any need for using comics during learning?” Well, such ideas have been put forward by researchers and professors. For example, kids who have autism can notice emotions exhibited in comics better in comparison to novels. Children who are suffering from dyslexia use comics to improve their ability to understand the world in images. It ensures that kids have a sense of fulfillment, which is crucial in enhancing their self-esteem.

  • Not costly for schools

An interesting concept is that during the process of using comics in education, precise goals and objectives are attained. Recently, schools are buying software equipment for lower prices, which highly enhances the level of knowledge in many parts of the world.

As a result, comics possess a high chance of augmenting the quality of various works and help in grasping the student’s attention in a diversified manner. Furthermore, due to focusing on specific learning methods and strategies, educators can achieve quality understanding in classrooms and work settings.


Categories: Comic Book Blogs

LULU No Like Me

The Splintered Realm - Sun, 04/26/2020 - 15:08
I was in the middle of trying to format the print edition of Tales of the Splintered Realm the other night, when Lulu decided it needed 'about 2 hours' for a system update.

Two days later, I cannot log in, I get error messages when I ask for password help, and only one of my print books is live. I'm assuming that something went horribly askew at their end, and that they are still trying to get their full system up to speed. I think I have a print edition formatted and ready to go - Lulu REALLY did not like the fonts I was using - and I hope to be able to get a preview copy ordered by the middle of next week. Once I have a print copy in hand and can confirm that it looks good to my eyes, I'll be putting it live for the world.

Hope you are enjoying playing around with the new system.

Misconceptions About Sword & Sorcery Relevant to Gaming

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 04/26/2020 - 14:00

I had in mind maybe to write a post about the elements of the fantasy subgenre Sword & Sorcery that might be useful to think about it trying to capture that feel in gaming, but after noticing there are a number of blog/forum posts on that topic, I thought the most original thing I could do in point out where I believe they go wrong, or at least overstate things. This contains slight spoilers for a bunch of stories 30 or more years old.

Magic is Inherently Corrupting. I think this belief comes from the fact that most sorcerers/wizards that show up in Sword & Sorcery are evil, but the textual evidence evidence that magical power is more corrupting than regular old power is slim. Howard's The Hour of the Dragon features good magic-users in the form of priests of Asura (maybe they are clerics?) and a witch. Gray Mouser's original mentor Glavas Rho in "The Unholy Grail" is a "good" wizard. Pelias in "The Scarlet Citadel" and Fafhrd's and Gray Mouser's mentors Sheelba and Ningauble are at least helpful and not obviously evil.

Heroes Are Amoral. While many a Sword & Sorcery hero engages in the sort of larceny and possibly murder that D&D characters are known for and some would be aptly termed anti-heroes (Karl Edward Wagner's Kane might at times be a villain protagonist), most aren't sociopaths--or at least they are less so than a lot of D&D characters. In "Two Suns Setting," Kane not only doesn't double cross Dwassllir, but he doesn't even take the treasure when it wouldn't have mattered. He even tries to save one of his subordinates who's in anaphylactic shock in Bloodstone. Conan saves more than one damsel in distress and seems to care for the people of Aquilonia when he's its king.

The Stakes Are Small. In general, S&S isn't about the epic, but this is not always the case. The Hour of the Dragon is about the fate of kingdoms, and suggests the entire world may be imperiled if Xaltotun succeeds in resurrecting Acheron. Kane is often out to conquer the world. Imaro's saga has some epic tendencies.

The Gods Are Uncaring or Evil. Most gods showing up in person in Sword & Sorcery tend to, well, monsters--but certainly not all. In the Conan stories neither Mitra or Asura are certainly not evil, and Mitra even makes an appearance in "Black Colossus." The gods in a number of Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories seem over-involved, if anything.

Tales of the Splintered Realm Now Available

The Splintered Realm - Sat, 04/25/2020 - 00:54
Tales of the Splintered Realm, the Complete Rules has been released.
Welcome to the Splintered Realm. Don your armor, heft your weapon, and prepare your magic. Adventure awaits.
In this fantasy roleplaying game, you will play a heroic player character in a fellowship of other heroes, taking on the role of your character. You will use these rules, an assortment of dice, and your imagination to help build a shared tale of the Splintered Realm.
This game is released under the Open Game License, with original content released under a Creative Commons Share-Alike License. You are free to take, adapt, modify, and re-publish this work as you see fit.
All you need is this book, a stack of graph paper, a pencil, and some dice that you fill in with a crayon, and you’ll be ready to play.
A print edition will be available by May 15; you will receive a code to take $4.95 off the cover price when the print edition is available (getting the print edition for $10.00 instead of $14.95).

Sinbad's Seventh Voyage Mapped

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 04/24/2020 - 11:00

"Unfathomable" Jason Sholtis clued me in to this cool map from the Dell Comics' adaptation of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. It seems perfect for an adventure or island crawl.

Play Test Report Part B

The Splintered Realm - Thu, 04/23/2020 - 21:06
Got to play test the warden and the bard, and learned some cool things...

The warden is actually overpowered. He had nearly as much firepower as the magic user, but also gets some healing, some defense, better armor, a fair weapon attack. He has got it all. The warden is definitely my answer to the B/X elf. I like the difference between them, though - it's a totally different set of magic you have as a warden than as a magic user, even though there are comparable effects. I had originally built the warden magic as 1 die back from comparable magic user stuff - if a tier 4 area of effect is dealing level d10 damage for a magic user, I had it as level d8 for the warden. I have pulled that back another die, so now those effects are level d6. You are still a viable offensive caster, but you are not packing the punch of a magic user.

The bard was AWESOME. Loved it. Simply fantastic. He doesn't get the high damage spells, because they don't kick in until tier 3+ (fireball), but that is no good against a fire giant, so I skipped it, and went with utility: hastes, slows, levitates, shield... this battle was about using magic to support a levitating bard raining arrows down on frustrated (and slowed) fire giant.

One other thing was that the timing of spells, with a turn being only a minute, and consisting of ten rounds, was perfect. I had to consider strategy with spell rotations - had to stop firing the bow a round before I wanted to because the levitate was wearing off and had to re-cast it, and once haste dropped, it was more effective to start throwing arcane darts (a guaranteed hit) than to keep up with the bow. 3 bow attacks with a 50% chance of hitting and 7 average damage were better than a guaranteed average of 10 at first... but not after haste dropped and it was 2 attacks. I felt a little bit like I was racing the clock - I did NOT want slow wearing off on that giant and for him to start throwing a boulder every round. I expected the bard to get owned; he was actually pretty awesome.

Niche Characters

The Splintered Realm - Thu, 04/23/2020 - 15:01
I do my best thinking while doing dishes and mowing the lawn. Truly.

And I just washed a big ol' sinkful of dishes.

In thinking about the warden and bard, and how to distinguish them a little, I had a few revelations that I'm excited to test.

For the warden, I realized that I had left the classic ranger idea of the hated enemy out of the game. I'm not sure how that happened - it has been part of most fantasy game engines I've toyed with over the last several decades, yet somehow it eluded inclusion in this version. It makes sense for a warden to have a hated enemy, and it makes sense for the warden's ability to ramp up considerably. A bonus of + level to all rolls against that enemy makes sense to me, and is VERY powerful, but also very niche. I'm going to play test with it vs. giants. Yeah. He should be excellent against giants. But I would think he'd be pretty mediocre against the giant without it. I'll probably simulate both just to see. I like this a lot - it allows the warden to really shine and dominate in certain encounters, but to be a support character the rest of the time. (I would think 'humanoids would be an enemy against any humanoid of small or medium size, while giants and their kin would be against large or bigger humanoids... thinking on this further).

For the bard, I realized that he doesn't shine during combat. He shines before and after it. It's in those quiet moments when nothing is really happening, but we're either recovering from or preparing for adventure. I am thinking of these sorts of things:

- Your song allows all allies within 30' to add your CHA modifier to their resting healing rolls.
- Your song protects the fellowship from any chance of a random encounter while you are singing.
- Your song allows all casters (yourself included) to recover a certain number of slots of spells. You may have used up your daily spell limit, but the bard can sing you into a few extra spells today. It would be small - maybe CHA modifier slots total. Hey, one extra tier 2 spell today is a help.
- Your song protects those within 30' from scrying, crystal balls, and arcane eyes.
- Your song reveals the presence of all traps within 30'.
- Your song reveals the presence of all magic within 30'.
- Your song reveals the presence of all enemies within 30'. (this one could be REALLY powerful if used in the middle of a packed inn). As you string your lyre and prepare to sing, that shifty dude in the corner makes sure to get at least 31' feet away from you... I'd call that a tell.

You would get to use your song your level times per day, and each time you use it you could stack in a number of effects equal to your CHA modifier (minimum of 1). So, a bard 3 could sing 3x per day. If he has CHA 14 (+3) he would be able to stack 3 of these effects together at once. In combat, the bard is okay, and can basically back up any caster in a pinch. Outside of combat, he makes your fellowship much more durable and resilient. You wouldn't be able to sing twice in a row; I'm thinking there has to be an hour cool down between uses or something.

I REALLY like this. It's much more of a roleplaying thing, and makes those quiet moments between combat important, too. It FEELS more bard to me, which is nice.

And THAT... is why we playtest

The Splintered Realm - Thu, 04/23/2020 - 12:51
Yesterday, I threw together a set of level 5 characters with solid gear and good abilities, to represent what a level 5 character of each class might look like. I made them all human, and gave them the same attribute distribution (albeit in different attributes). I gave them max hit points. A tried to balance abilities and magic for efficiency.
And then I had each of them fight a fire giant. I got through the first four, and I'll play out the other two today.
It was... interesting.
The fighter was the most straight-up battle. He just kept hitting the giant hard, and the giant would hit him back harder. It was a straight-up slugfust. The fighter won in 8 rounds. It was a 2-hand fighter; I might try a sword and shield fighter as well, just to see the difference. I'm starting to think that 2-hand might be underpowered, or that sword and shield is overpowered. We'll find out. As it is, the fighter's higher AC and excellent damage output meant the fight was never really in doubt. He missed an unusual number of times as well, so the fight should have probably been even quicker than it was.
The magic user was a rout. He dropped ice storm, then hold monster, then a few more ice storms. He used up all of his tier 4 spells, and finished with an arcane dart to seal the deal, but once the giant failed the hold monster resist Feat, it didn't matter. Six rounds total. If the giant had made the Feat to resist hold monster, it MIGHT have been a different situation... but the magic user still had a few big guns to pull out if needed. There was a whole layer of potential strategy to prolong the fight if he had to. But it was never needed.
The thief was where I learned a lot. As written, the thief is pretty weak. Only one attack per round with a dagger and a pretty meh sneak attack. The sneak attack was successful, but only dealt an extra 11 points of damage. Against a foe with 100 hp? Not gonna matter. And it didn't. There was the possibility of an instant kill with assassination, but it's a small chance that didn't happen. The thief kept hitting, but he just could not match the damage output. Not that he SHOULD, but he should at least be competitive. I went back and added options for two weapon fighting and archery to the thief, making him a viable backup fighter (but still not nearly as effective as a true fighter), and upped the damage die on the sneak attacks from d4 to d6. It also made me revisit poison damage, which had all been level d4s. A wyvern sting deals an extra 6 points? Nope. Not a real threat. I have changed poison throughout to D6s, which are still not automatic kills, but at least they feel a little worse. I might end up going to D8s, since you get a Feat to resist. I mean, if a wyvern is going to sting you, you should have a risk of dying from it. 3d8 means you could sustain up to 24 points of damage, and that makes more sense than the 12 point cap that is currently in place.
The friar was, far and away, the most fun. He was able to deal consistent damage. He had a lot of options during the fight. He dropped sanctuary twice, allowing him to rest, cast healing spells, activate spiritual hammers, put up some vigor, and jump back into the fight. It went 17 rounds, with the friar almost dying twice, and he managed to whittle away the giant over time. He had to use a blade barrier strategically coming out of his second sanctuary to hem the giant in (and deal some quick damage) and ultimately took home a victory. I love everything about this class.
Today I will test the warden and the bard. I have a few predictions:
The warden will feel midway between the magic user and friar. His melee is weaker than the friar, but his spells are able to take bigger chunks of damage. He doesn't have the "I win" button that the magic user does, but he can still do more offensively than the friar regarding magic.
The bard is kind of a mess. I LOVE the idea of chants, but I can already see that they are going to be relatively innocuous in actual play. I mean, the idea of regenerating 1 point of damage per round all the time feels good, except when faced with a foe who can deal an average of 20 points per round. The idea that you could compel him to listen to you during combat is nice, but what are you going to do once he's compelled? It's not like you have any way to really deal significant damage. The bard is the ultimate support character and jack of all trades - that is both his strength and his weakness. I've already revised so that he takes a tier of magic every level, and will always end up with 2 tiers each of arcane, faith, and nature. I might change this so that you can take any tier you want, but you are limited to tier 3 - the thing is that I don't want a bard keeping pace with another caster. If I set a limit that you cannot learn the same spell type two levels in a row, that solves it. You can alternate between arcane and faith, for instance, and ignore nature altogether (if that's the kind of bard you want), but you still will never be as good as a magic user or friar in their arena. The bard is also going to default to the bow as the go to weapon. He's going to get archery, giving him two attacks per round when he's not casting, which will be helpful. Again, he's the ultimate support character. He's going to get owned by the giant. I just want him to be able to do a few things before he dies.  
I've spent twenty years trying to get chants into the core of the system. I may have to wait another twenty before I really figure out how to do it well.

Hero Forge in Color

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 04/23/2020 - 11:00
The beta of the color version of Hero Forge is available to those of us that backed the Kickstarter, and I have been having fun playing with it. It really has a lot of options. Here are some of things I've done so far:

This is a Demonlander (Tiefling) Sorcerer from my Land of Azurth campaign.

Here's another character from that campaign. He has a shield with a hole to a void between dimension affixed to it. Maybe once the decals are added, I'll have a better way to represent that.

This is a recreation of an 80s Remco action figure, The Jewel Thief (part of there Conan line). The toy was made of translucent plastic, so I gave his body a red jewel color/texture, which turned out pretty well but may not come through so well in the picture.

I'm interested to see what the color will look like printed for the characters from my game.

Classes and Flavor

The Splintered Realm - Wed, 04/22/2020 - 12:38
The core rules have six classes available, and I wanted to find a balance between presenting the classic tropes, and reflecting this world. Classes are where you kind of put your stamp on the game, since it's the most visible flavor piece from a player's perspective.

So, there are three classic tropes: the fighter, the magic user, and the thief. These hew as close as possible to the source material, while still being the best fit for this game. They, and their abilities, are directly inspired by B/X.

But, the three others are unique to my world, drawing from multiple sources.

The warden is inspired by the druid, but it's not really a druid. It's more of a cleric of the wilderness, if that makes sense.

The bard is more aligned with role playing. Bards get chants, which work different from the other three kinds of magic. I have wanted to put chants in the core rules for a long time, and I found a simple way to layer them in. They are nifty and different. You don't lose anything by not using bards (and ignoring the class altogether if you really want to), but they add a different layer to the game that I like.

The friar is the last one I solved. Originally, it was just a re-skinned cleric, but I have shifted it subtly to be a bit more monkish. The friar has light armor and weapons, but gets to carry a quarterstaff. The friar attacks twice each round with the quarterstaff, damage increases every level, and it is always considered an enchanted weapon - so a friar at level 1 can hit anything with it.

The friar and warden reflect the religious realities of this world. The true goddess has died, and other things have stepped up to fill the void. There has been a return to worshiping nature, and the warden has emerged as an important religious leader that is trying to fill that gap. Friars hold on to the past, looking to restore the goddess. It's sort of a reversal of a classic paradigm. The contemporary worship is in the past, while more pagan beliefs are coming to the fore. The idea of a temple in town where a bunch of priests are sitting around isn't really a thing. The temples are old, many relegated to the role of museum of the distant past, with a few lonely caretakers.

Outright Classic Geek Picks: Gotham City Villains!

Stash My Comics - Wed, 04/22/2020 - 00:32
Of course Batman is an iconic character. But there’s no denying that much of his appeal is thanks to that color rogues gallery of his. As we sit out another week of no new comics, the OG staff has gotten … Continue reading →
Categories: Comic Book Blogs

Kobold Den

The Splintered Realm - Tue, 04/21/2020 - 22:07
In play testing, my character found a map (it was a random treasure) in the lair of a giant bat. I decided this would be an area beyond the secret door in the starter dungeon for the core rules. This will ultimately be the first expansion for the game (because I'm already working on THAT). The idea is that I'm going to build a mega-dungeon over time. This is part of level 1, where it connects to the sewers under Stalwart Keep. I have learned to appreciate the value of secret doors - you can have a whole lot of things happening right next to each other if one side is not aware of the door.

In this case, a pack of kobolds set up shop in what was an abandoned start to a mine. They sneak into the sewers to hunt rats and spiders. It's fun. But then the gibbering mouther that lives in the muck pit (former start of a mine) in the middle drove their clan chief mad. And he started to sacrifice bigger and bigger things to it. And they tried to give it a rot creeper as a special treat. But the creeper wasn't as dead as they thought it was. And it ended up killing their chief. So now, they are holed up in the northwest corner, the creeper patrols the south hall, and a few guards have been forced to stand watch in the east, behind a barricade of garbage, to keep the creeper at bay. And there's a living statue that knows not to attack the kobolds. And that mouther just keeps screeching all the time, and everyone is a little on edge about it. And nobody knows that there has been a well-hidden secret door in the southwest that leads to dungeon level 2 there the whole time.

A few meditations

The Splintered Realm - Tue, 04/21/2020 - 13:28
I had time to sleep on some concepts in play testing, and here are some things I've mulled over:

Money and XP
I have to take money out of the XP progression. The XP chart is lean - it has to be. There are only 6 levels in the game. The default progression has to be slow. The difference between level 2 and level 3 is huge - it's comparable to two levels in B/X. It's comparable from moving from level 3 to level 5. The treasure charts are, by design (and necessity) relatively random. You can find a lot of gold in one lair, and nothing in the next three. That's by design. The problem is the opposite; if you get lucky for two or three lairs in a row, suddenly you are ramping up XP like crazy, and you can pick up a level very fast. Now, you've moved from level 3 (B/X numbers) to level 7 in a handful of encounters. It's a potential campaign killer. If you can kill three dragons, you deserve that XP. But if you just happen to get really lucky when rolling their treasures, it shouldn't automatically end the game because you top out your character.

CON checks vs. Feats for Poison
I toyed with making poison saves a CON check vs. a Feat. I really like this, because it makes CON a little more important, and it feels more reasonable. But, then I realized why I made it Feats in the first place:
- All creatures have a Feat rating, but only player characters have attributes. What about when a goblin gets poisoned? You have to hand wave it. Hate that.
- This opens Pandora's box. Then, shouldn't avoiding a trap be a DEX check? And shouldn't some spells be WIS checks? Shouldn't some manipulation require an INT check? Ugh. Breaks the simplicity of the engine.
- The source material says no. Feats are a synthesis of the entire saving throw system from B/X. Poison was resolved as a saving throw, not as a CON check. Old school, yo.

Attributes Revisited (Again)
Thought a little bit more about attribute scores and modifiers. My original system has the progression at +1 modifier for every 2 attribute points, and the system I was tinkering with moved it to every 4 - what if we meet in the middle at every 3? It looks like this:

Rating (Modifier) - Descriptor

2-4 (-1) Poor
5-7 (-) Average
8-10 (+1) Above Average
11-13 (+2) Exceptional
14-16 (+3) Heroic
17-19 (+4) Epic
20-22 (+5) Titanic
23-25 (+6) Godly

There is a a lot to like here. It still keeps the numbers in check, but gives a little more gradation. It also moves 'average' down slightly, which I like. A 'typical' PC has 7s across the board - he or she is nearly above average in all things. You are likely to get a handful of +1 modifiers, and getting an 11 once in a while is not unlikely. Min/Max rules have to go, however. That's old school. You get what you get.

I like the crossover for monsters. An ogre has STR 16. Giants are 17 (hill), 18 (fire and frost), or 19 (storm). A titan starts at 20.

It keeps an important break point at 14 (that's the threshold for being able to attempt epic checks). You feel almost as good about your 8 as you would 13, so a fighter with STR 8 is not feeling like a total loser next to that Fighter with STR 13. He's still capable, and viable as a character. I also like that magical devices can have a +3 attribute modifier as their default - that guarantees you will bump to the same location in the next tier up. I like that it breaks the tiers into 3 parts (low epic, medium epic, high epic). And, this ultimately ports over to the supers game a little better. I like that the Hulk gets +6 to attack and damage, and not 'just' +4. The raw scores don't change in that game, just the modifiers. Captain America (STR 13) is getting +2 to hit and damage, Spider Man (STR 15) is getting +3, Iron Man (STR 18) is getting +4, the Thing (STR 20) is getting +5, and Hulk is at his +6. This keeps a progression in place that distinguishes the characters mechanically enough to feel different, but keeps it relatively old school as well.

Play Test Reporting

The Splintered Realm - Tue, 04/21/2020 - 02:34
I've spent the evening exploring part of the starter dungeon for the core rules with a fighter I rolled up and have been playing with my revised rules, including the mods to character attributes. Oh my goodness does this feel old school. He's running from monsters, hiding behind doors, getting jumped by random encounters, climbing into little alcoves, making INT checks to map correctly... he just needs a 10' pole and he'd be the most old school dungeon crawler ever.

I LOVE the changes to attributes. Now, I am playing a viable fighter who doesn't have over the top attributes. It doesn't really matter that much. He failed a STR check to force a door (by 1 point), so that higher STR would have helped there, but that's been it. I LOVE the rules for fighting with sword and shield. Fights feel messy and dirty, as he's swinging (and repeatedly dropping) his sword and trying to shield bash skeletons to dust. I got very lucky (literally rolled 15 twice on a D30 potion chart) to get 2 greater potions of healing, which he had to drink both of just to survive. The XP are coming slow, and the treasure is small (but appropriate). Treasure no longer gives XP, so I have to keep killing monsters if I want to get XP. And I do. I really do.

The temptation to pick up a level of thief once I hit 2 is going to overwhelming (it will be SO helpful for solo dungeon crawling), and I might need lore at some point just to keep up with all the magic items I'm finding, but this has been fun.

If I was to tie XP to treasure (1 gold = 1 XP), I'd have picked up another 12 XP in addition to the 14 XP from monsters. That seems reasonable. I house rule that back in, which means that it is literally back in the rules - so it goes from house rule to official rule instantly.

The next thing is going to be to pick up a retainer of some kind. It would be cool to have a goblin or kobold who follows him around... hmm...


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