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REVIEW: Doctor Who: Dalek (Target Collection) – A Stellar Episode now in Novel Form

Blogtor Who - Thu, 03/11/2021 - 16:00

One of the best episodes of Series 1’s stellar season of stories, was Robert Shearman’s Dalek.  It was not only one of the most important episodes of the series but it defined much of the Time War and the Doctor’s pain and grief for the 10 years of the series. A huge task for such […]

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REVIEW: Doctor Who: The TV Movie (Target Collection) – Party like it’s 1999

Blogtor Who - Thu, 03/11/2021 - 14:00

Finally the Eighth Doctor hits the book shelves as a Target novelisation. Turn of the century San Francisco provides the location as two Time Lords lock horns once again. This reissue of Gary Russell’s novelisation of The TV Movie finally sees Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor immortalised on the cover of a Target novel. It also […]

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REVIEW: Doctor Who: Revelation of the Daleks – An Unloved Final Classic Target

Blogtor Who - Thu, 03/11/2021 - 12:00

Finally available in the classic Target Books format, Revelation of the Daleks concludes the original range with an uneven adaptation Here it is at last, the final 20th century Doctor Who to be novelised. Now, technically, joint last with The Pirate Planet and Doctor Who: The TV Movie to be released in the classic Target […]

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Star Trek Ranger: Here Be Dragons (part 2 & 3)

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 03/11/2021 - 12:00


Player Characters: The Crew of the USS Ranger, Federation scout ship:
Aaron as Lt.(jg.) Cayson Randolph
Andrea as Capt. Ada Greer
Dennis, as Lt. Osvaldo Marquez, Medical Officer
Paul as Cmdr. D.K. Mohan, Chief Helmsman
Synposis: While posing as travelers from a distant land, the Ranger away team manages enter the grounds of Count Angmox's castle and discover where the draconic Ksang ambassador is being held. They pass him a communicator hoping it will be of use later. The transporters are still having trouble with the strange energy fields, though. Ranger's sensors, however, are able to pinpoint a local source of the disturbance in the Count's keep.
Mohan pretends to be a wizard from a foreign land--a ploy that appears unusually succssful as they are admitted to the keep and given an audience with the court wizard, Nilras. Unfortunately, it's a ruse. Nilras strikes them down with a strange energy from his wand.
Nilras realizes the Ranger crew is from somewhere else and just wants them to leave his world. He's willing for them to take the ambassador with them, but doesn't wish to embarass the Count. The Ranger crew makes a pretense of trying to solve this dilemma, but under the guise of a test of Nilras's ability to lower the transporter-blocking field, they just beam themselves and the ambassador out.
Mohan accompanied by Ensign O'Carroll heads back to the planet in a shuttlecraft to retrieve the shuttle they left behind and destroy the Ksang shuttle. The energy fluctuations are even fiercer now and their shuttle is damaged. They are forced to take the initial shuttle back to the ship and destroy the other two, creating a larger than they would have hoped for explosion. 
Commentary: General Order One (The Prime Directive) was bent pretty far this adventure, but probably not broken. The Ranger crew recognized that the wizard was actually employing advanced technology, and noted that he was of a group genetically distinct from the general populous, but not alien, but they never discovered the wizards' secret.

REVIEW: Doctor Who: Resurrection of the Daleks – A Chance for a Second Look

Blogtor Who - Thu, 03/11/2021 - 10:00

Eric Saward’s adaptation of his own Resurrection of the Daleks gets a handsome new Target edition. But also an opportunity for reappraisal. The new crop of Target novelisations is an eclectic mix. Not just because it covers seven different Doctors, comedy, horror, adventures in history and far flung futures, either. But because this selection features […]

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Doctor Who: The War Doctor is Forged in Fire as New Details Emerge

Blogtor Who - Thu, 03/11/2021 - 09:30

The wheels are set in motion for war as the Doctor finds out who he is in Doctor Who: The War Doctor Begins Full story details are today revealed for the first adventures of the Doctor’s disavowed alter ego. As previously announced, Doctor Who: The War Doctor Begins stars Big Finish newcomer Jonathon Carley as […]

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REVIEW: Doctor Who: The Pirate Planet (Target Collection) – Douglas Adams’ work is finally a Target novel

Blogtor Who - Thu, 03/11/2021 - 08:00

The Key to Time season is finally complete in Target novels! When The Pirate Planet was eventually released in novel form in January 2017 it finally completed the story arc of Season 16. It took a while. Although loyal readers who wished to enjoy The Key to Time storyline in literature have had their collections completed […]

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Doctor Who Series 8 Steelbook Announced!

Blogtor Who - Wed, 03/10/2021 - 18:55

Fan favourite artist Sophie Cowdrey returns with another beautiful steelbook cover for Doctor Who Series 8 Series 8 will be the next series to be given the steelbook treatment! The Blu-ray steelbook of series 8 will be released 19th April 2021, featuring new and exclusive Sophie Cowdrey artwork. These twelve episodes from 2014 feature the […]

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Wednesday Comics: DC, Frebruary 1980 (part 2)

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 03/10/2021 - 12:00

I'm continuing my read through of DC Comics output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis. This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around November 20,1979.


Action Comics #504
: Another overly complicated Cary Bates story, but at least this one uses it (maybe!) to better purpose than last month's. Superman encounters a mysterious armored foe, then Clark Kent is saved by a man with "prana-power" gifted to him by his father who has an origin not unlike Iron Fist, but with powers of the mind as the ancient Eastern secret rather than martial arts. It turns out the armored criminal is really the guy's girlfriend who's been hypnotizing him to make him imbue her with prana-power for criminal misdeeds. 

Adventure Comics #468: I've never thought about it before, but the Levitz/Ditko Starman almost reads like a comic book tie-in to an 80s toyline, and the Wein/Staton Plastic Man could sort of be an "all ages" approach. The combination gives this book a more kid-aimed feel.

Brave & the Bold #159: O'Neil and Aparo have Batman team-up with his greatest 70s nemesis, Ra's al-Ghul to find a scientist who has developed the formula capable of turning any substance into crystal--I feel like this was inspired by ice-nine in Cat's Cradle. Anyway, an average story.


Green Lantern #125
: I think this is my first story with pre-Crisis Qward. I had seen pictures of their warriors with the lighting bolt weapons, but never the Weaponers or their world. Anyway, the O'Neil and Staton story is another confrontation with Sinestro and the prelude to a Qwardian invasion of Earth. This feels most like a Marvel Comic of the era than any other this month.

House of Mystery #277: The lead story here by Kanigher/Pasko and Chaykin/Milgrom about an actor who gets too into his roles after a deal with dark powers isn't very good. There's a short one about a vampire in a crypt getting the upper hand on a would-be vampire slayer that's a decent one-off joke. It has nice art by Mar Amongo, who I've never heard of before. The last story is a Cinderella riff by Kashdan, made better by interesting art by Nards Cruz and Joe Matucenio.


Legion of Super-Heroes #260
: Conway and Staton have the Legion going undercover to solve a murder in a 30th Century circus. This one feels like a bit of a throwback, but it's fun.

Sgt. Rock #337: "A Bridge Called Charlie." Standard Kanigher Sgt. Rock tale about a doomed,  heroic stand, in this case, even recognized by the enemy who pins an iron cross on his corpse. 

Super Friends #29: Bridwell and Fradon present a story that feels very Silver Age in its goofy/trippiness. With aliens set on using radiation to destroy all life on Earth, Wonder Woman using her spinning lasso, vibrating at a certain frequency, to move the Super Friends partially into another dimension, so they look like costumes walking around with no person inside. The Wonder Twins backup continues the Silver Age silliness.


Time Warp #3
: These stories really nail the vibe of EC titles like Weird Science and Weird Fantasy, albeit with updated artistic sensibilities. It's nice to see Steve Ditko bring a bit of his Dr. Strange/Shade the Changing-Man trippiness to the tales he draws.

Unknown Soldier #236: This story by Haney and Ayers has the Unknown Soldier freeing a Japanese American from an interment camp to go undercover with him. The Nisei is ambivalent in his role and betrays the Unknown Soldier, but then changes his mind again and helps him. Haney makes an effort, but his story doesn't deal with these topics with the depth or subtlety they deserve.

Warlord #30: See an in-depth commentary here.


Weird Western Tales #64
: Conway and Ayers continued the Scalphunter/Bat Lash team-up from last issue, with Bat Lash explaining to Scalphunter why he betrayed him. I like to see the DC Western characters team-up, but otherwise this story is forgettable.

World's Finest Comics #261: All of these stories are pretty goofy, though some are goofy and enjoyable, others less so. Conway's Green Arrow/Black Canary story about an elderly lady given superpowers by toxic exposure to become "Auntie Gravity" is in the "less so" category, and made worse by Saviuk's inability to draw an old woman. O'Neil and Buckler's Superman/Batman team-up involving the Penguin and Terra-Man hypnotizing some actor into thinking he's the real Butch Cassidy is just too much of a puzzler to accurately assess. The Bridwell/Newton Mary Marvel story is about what you expect from 70s Marvel Family stuff. The Black Lightning story by O'Neil and Tanghal is the most serious but still has clowns on a boat.

Doctor Who Wins Radio Times Award

Blogtor Who - Tue, 03/09/2021 - 20:51

Doctor Who has won Best Science Fiction/Fantasy at this year’s Radio Times Awards At a virtual ceremony last night, the Radio Times has named Doctor Who the Best Science Fiction/Fantasy series of 2020. The awards are voted for by the Radio Times readers and in the end Doctor Who beat strong competition to take the […]

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On Bestial Ecosystems Created by Monstrous Inhabitation!

Hack & Slash - Tue, 03/09/2021 - 20:18

 Hello friends!

My new Kickstarter for Bestial Ecosystems Created by Monstrous Inhabitation is now live!

Well, from the depths of the diaspora of G+, comes monster ecologies. I've written a book for players and downtime activates. I've written a book for Referees and agency building encounters. To go along with On Downtime & Demesnes and Artifices, Deceptions, and Dilemmas, comes Bestial Ecosystems Created by Monstrous Inhabitation!

It's got tons of ideas for monsters, advice for building ecologies, and ways to integrate that experience in play! What's more is that Kickstarter stretch goals will be exclusive to Kickstarter backers. So if you want this, now is the time to get it!

Go get in for a dollar and check out the PDF, and participate with other Kickstarter backers as you decide which biomes to explore and which monsters to add as Kickstarter exclusives.
Hack & Slash 

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

How To Adjust Combat Difficulty on the Fly Using the Magic of Roleplaying

DM David - Tue, 03/09/2021 - 13:10

In Sly Flourish’s DM Deep Dive, Mike Shea explains how he adjusts encounter difficulty. “I don’t fudge dice, but I fudge everything else. A die roll is a die roll. That’s sacrosanct. But everything else around it is malleable.” This leads Mike to change things like the monsters’ hit points and damage numbers. The Dungeons & Dragons rules grant dungeon masters this freedom. The range of possibilities created by, say, a deathlock’s 8d8 hit points ranges from 8 to 64. DMs can choose the average of 36 hp or opt for another value.

I favor tweaking the numbers before the fight. This gains the minor benefit of letting me describe creatures as frailer or stouter than normal. I often dial up hit points for leaders, solo monsters, and other obvious targets for focused fire. In an encounter where a deathlock spellcaster leads a horde of lesser undead, the caster becomes an obvious target for focused fire and probably needs all 64 hp to live to cast a second spell. Some monsters need a damage boost to pose a threat. For example, gargoyles deal such feeble damage compared to their toughness that they turn fights into chores. My gargoyles may deal max damage rather than average damage.

Mainly, I refrain from changing the numbers during a fight. This helps me avoid the temptation to steer the game to suit my plans and expectations. Instead, the players’ actions and the dice guide the narrative. Sometimes during a battle I lower hit points to bring a battle to a quicker end, but by then the outcome is settled. Does this self-imposed restriction lead to more fun? Perhaps only for me. Players typically never learn whether adjustments came before or during combat.

In the Deep Dive, Mike Shea and his guest Ryan Servis mention a powerful way to adjust difficulty on the fly. Have the foes make better or worse tactical decisions—usually worse. Most often this means holding back a big attack or spell when using it could destroy the party. Sometimes it means changing targets instead of finishing a character, or focusing fire on an armored paladin or stout barbarian able take the blows.

Most DMs base some of a creature’s tactics on one roleplaying factor: the creature’s intelligence. They use smarter tactics with brainier monsters. DMs seldom dial up difficulty by playing low-intelligence creatures with cunning, but often this makes sense. Even beasts instinctively know to use their fighting traits in dangerous ways. Wolves gang up on the weak. Rats duck and cover. Tyrannosauruses bite before they swallow.

The most room to adjust difficulty comes from letting smart foes make weak tactical choices. Such poor choices can stem from roleplaying. In stories, villains frequently make bad decision, often because of the same character flaws that led them to evil. Their rage drives them to focus attacks on the wrong target. Their overconfidence leads them to save a devastating spell. Their sadism makes them leave a foe to suffer rather than dealing a killing blow. Their cowardice tempts them to run when they could have won. Their arrogance leads them to tell their henchmen to finish killing an apparently defeated party. A villain’s hubris can change a total-party kill into a second chance for victory.

In a battle scenes, bringing out such character flaws add a dimension to a villain while they explain the poor choices that spare the heroes. Still, you rarely need an explanation. Ryan Servis says, “The players never complain when the enemy makes a bad decision, but if you admitted to your players that you were fudging dice, they would all be upset.” Players rarely track all a monster’s abilities, so they seldom notice those fatal errors.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Review & Commentary On The Sorcerer Class for Labyrinth Lord By James Mishler, & Jodi Moran-Mishler From James Mishler Games For Labyrinth Lord Or Your Old School Games

Dark Corners of RPGing - Mon, 03/08/2021 - 17:56

 


James & Jodi Mishler from Mishler Games have created an OSR sorcerer class that dips deeply into the mythology of  classic Dungeons & Dragon style games with their latest Sorcerer Class for  Labyrinth Lord

"The new Sorcerer Class for Labyrinth Lord includes the following:

 
Class Details, including Spellcasting, Sorcerous Origin, and Evoke Magic;
 
The following Sorcerous Origins, each with their own special abilities:
Angel-Blood
Demon-Blood
Djinn-Blood
Dragon-Blood
Efreet-Blood
Fairy-Blood
Vampire-Blood
 
New spells for the Dragon-Blood and Vampire-Blood sorcerers, adapted from spells included in the Dragonborn Race and Necromancer Class booklets."  The Sorcerer PC  Class is one of those classes you don't think your gonna need as a player or DM but then it hits you. This is a perfect class for an OSR  horror game or even a science fantasy campaign.  


Here the Mishler's do an excellent job of boiling down the PC  sorcerer into its OSR roots & this is both its charm. And its dangers; "Sorcerers are humans who possess innate magical spell-casting powers due to ancient, inhuman family bloodlines, such as through having an angel, demon, dragon, fairy, genie, vampire, or other magically-powerful creature in their family line." Why do I say dangers?! Because sorcerers have powerful supernatural or occult  parents. Parent can be very protective of their children. 
Mishler's sorcerers go to twentieth level & leave lots of room for the players & DM's to have fun with the class in OSR games. The class has plenty of opportunities to take full advantage of the magic infused nature of the class; "SPELLCASTING: Sorcerers possess the ability to cast magic-user spells, but in a very different way than magic-users gain and cast spells. A sorcerer does not learn spells, scribe them in spell books, and then memorize the spells desired. Instead, a sorcerer innately knows a number of spells equal to her level plus her Charisma bonus. She then use her spell slots to cast the spells she knows in any combination desired, within her combination of known spells and available spell casting slots. For example, at 1st level Tiana the Sorceress (CHA 16, +2) knows three 1st level spells (plus one from her Sorcerous Origin), which she can cast in any combination of two spells per day using her two 1st-level spell-casting slots. At each level, when a sorcerer gains a new spell, she may choose a spell of a spell level that she can cast (including any newly-gained spell level from that character level) from the magic-user spell list. For example, Tiana the Sorceress advances from 3rd to 4th level; she may choose one new spell of 1st or 2 nd level, as she can now cast 2nd level spells." 





The very nature of the sorcerer's magic makes it even more dangerous; "EVOKE MAGIC: Sorcerers do not have any proper training in the use of magic items that are normally limited to use by magic-users, however, their natural affinity with magic allows them to try to use such items that require activation. In order to do so, they must make a saving throw versus Wands (if using a wand) or Spells or Spell-Like Devices (if using any other item other than scrolls) each time they wish to use an item that requires active use. No roll is needed to use passive items that work without activation. To cast a scroll, the sorcerer must make a Charisma-based Spell Learning Probability Check (Intelligence Table II), with a penalty of 5% per level of the spell; even sorcerers who cannot read can try to use scrolls, as they can feel the magic in the scroll and simply evoke it out of the magical writing. However, there is danger in trying to evoke magic out of a magic item or scroll. If the saving throw fails with a Natural 1, or if the sorcerer rolls 96-00 when trying to use a scroll, Something Bad happens, the nature of which is at the whim of the Labyrinth Lord." I can think of at least ten or so uses for this class as the basis for an NPC villain or mid level hench villain with an occult parent whose a complete & utter bastard. 


Mishler shifts from the various Angel-Blood, Demon-Blood, Djinn-Blood, Dragon-Blood,  Efreet-BloodFairy-Blood, &  Vampire-Blood. There ar new spells, advantages, explainations, class advances, & all of this fits into about twenty pages. Not bad for a compact little class with tons of D&D potential to say the least. The two stand outs for my money are the Dragon Blood & the Vampire Blood who have some real potential as possible NPC  royals or henchmen for thier parents. Taking the material has been ported over into these sorcerers with spells like this; "Dragon Claw & Fang Level: 1 st level Dragon-Blood Sorcerer Duration: 1 turn per level Range: Self The sorcerer transforms her hands into dragon claws sharp as daggers, and her head into that of a dragon, complete with sharp fangs. The sorcerer may attack each round with a claw/claw/bite routine, dealing the following damage: 1st to 3 rd level 1d4/1d4/2d4, 4th to 6th level 1d4+1/1d4+1/2d6, 7th to 9th level 1d6/1d6/2d8, 10th to 12th level 1d6+1/1d6+1/2d10, 13th to 15th level 1d8/1d8/3d8, and 16th level and above 2d4/2d4/3d10. Attacks made with the claw and bite attacks are rolled on the Monster Attack Table rather than on the Magic-user Attack Table. The sorcerer can cast spells normally while her hands are claws, but other more detailed work might be troublesome." 
All in all you get the essence of the sorcerer with all of the backwash of the classes origin. In no way are the Mishler's work being desparaged here. This is a great PC class with some solid bones to it! 


So where can the Sorcerer class be used in old school or OSR games or settings?! The obvious answer is within Adventurer, Conqueror, King's  Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu. Half  dragons check & Science Fantasy check along with Sword & Sorcery. This is a perfect class to slide in the ACK's backdoor. Then there's Castles & Crusades which this class fits right into epecially given the number of elemental or potential god like cosmic powers we've got lurking in the background of Castles & Crusades. Yes I'm talking about the Adventurer's Backpack book here as the basis for a sorcerer to work along side the classes introduced within that book. 



Could the sorcerer class be used with say Lamentations of the Flame Princess!? Yes but it would require a bit of adjustment or would it?! Say using the basics of the sorcerer with some of the spells from Lamentations might be fun.. The sorcerer could be a very dangerous & unknown quatity as an NPC or as a PC. Sorcerer Class for  Labyrinth Lord is well done & serves its niche within old school or even OSR games quite nicely. A very useful class in my humble opinion. 
 The Sorcerer Class for  Labyrinth Lord is 
Available Right Here. 
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Doctor Who: A Galaxy of Stars Enter the Dalek Universe with David Tennant

Blogtor Who - Mon, 03/08/2021 - 16:30

Famous faces both old and new join David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor braves the Dalek Universe Big Finish have announced the supporting cast for upcoming David Tennant epic Doctor Who: Dalek Universe. And they include characters both old and new, played by a host of beloved actors. Among these friends and foes are Alex […]

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The Shifting Sands, D&D adventure review

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 03/08/2021 - 12:11
By Joseph Mohr Old School Role Playing OSRIC Levels 5-7

The desert sands of the Jural Empire are a dangerous place to visit. The sands are deep and are constantly in motion. Recently a sand storm uncovered an ancient pyramid that may be a thousand years old or more. It is believed that this may be the tomb of Emperor Nkuku who was a rich and powerful ruler long ago. What dangers and treasures might be discovered?

This 38 page adventure uses about sixteen pages to describe about eighty rooms in a five level pyramid. It is exactly what you would expect if I said “minimally keyed pyramid adventure.” It’s 5:43 am and I just put some Beam in my coffee, leftover from my weekend 44 cup coffeehouse adventure, to combat the ennui I now feel. 

I don’t understand minimally keyed adventures. Obviously. It SEEMS like someone has put a lot of effort in to this. I mean, it’s almost forty pages. There are dyson maps. Someone typed the entire thing up. There is some amount of effort that goes in to something like this. Some major effort, I’m guessing. And yet, it just feels … empty? Hollow? Like, what’s the point? 

Here’s the wandering monster table:

1. 1-4 Mummies

2. Dun Pudding

3. 1-4 Mummies

4. Dust Devil

5. 1-4 Mummies

6. 1-4 Mummies led by a Priest of Raal

Are you inspired, now, as a DM to run an awesome game? Is this something better than you could have written on your own? Does your mind leap at the possibilities of a table with “1-4 Mummies” appearing repeatedly on it? Are you excitedly planning how to introduce those mummies to your party? 

“This area is empty except for a trail of very old wrappings. They nearly crumble at the touch.” The trail doesn’t go anywhere. It’s just window dressing.

“This area has three guards standing upright against the north wall. Two hold a weapons. The third does not need weapons. All are zombies but each is a monster zombie of a different type of creature”

“All along this large hallway are murals depicting the god Raal and the Emperor Nkuku. Scenes of great battles seem to dominate the work.”

“The hallway is dark. The walls, floor and ceiling are made from sand stone. The desert wind can be heard whistling in the halls.”

“Pedestal – Resting upon a pedestal here is a golden crown. The crown is adorned with sapphires, fire opals and emeralds. It is worth as much as 25000 gold pieces”

“The doors to this room are locked. This is Nkuku’s work shop. He does experimental research here and is working on creating a new type of golem. Parts of this creature standing upright in the room. Right now it only consists of a torso and a pair of leg bones. What kind of golem is being created is a mystery as it looks like none the adventurers have ever seen or heard of. On a small table here is a large tome. It is a Manual of Animation”

The fucking experimental workshop of an undead pharoah. “Parts of this creature standing upright in the room, a torso and pair of leg bones.” I guess I should be happy that I got “leg bones” instead of “legs.” 

I don’t really know how to describe something like this. Let’s say you went to the grocery. You see a 6” by 6” by 1” lump of grey color in plastic wrap. It’s labeled “meat.” It’s $3. What exactly is the point of such a thing? It’s not for date night. I mean, I hope your date has more self-respect than to date you if you prepare something like that. And it’s not for you to eat, I hope. I don’t want to come off elitist, but, there’s more to life than Krusty Brand Imitation Gruel. 

Everything is just so … bland. Why would you select something like this to fill your evening of gaming with? Are you proving how macho you are? Are you distinguishing yourself from those upstart kids with their spires of iron and crystal? Under what circumstances do you see something like this and get excited about it?

It’s a recently uncovered pyramid. It will be covered by sand again in 2d6 days. Is there a point to that? Thinking about that artificial timer, does it actually work in a case like this? I get it, its supposed to represent the shifting sands of the desert … but in an actual game? Is it going to come up?

It’s a hundred miles from nearest town, the text tells us. It’s only one mile from the nearest oasis. It takes five days to travel there. I guess that’s from the nearest town? Is that right? A hundred miles in fives days in the desert? The green smoke that the interior text tells us rises from the top of the pyramid … it’s not mentioned anywhere else in the adventure when you approach it. 

I don’t understand these things. It feels like work. It feels like drudgery. It feels like mechanically chewing some grey “meat” without regard to enjoyment. 

This is NT going to help the DM run a good game. Sure, it’s terse Mr Bathwater, but where’s the baby?

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru, with a suggested price of $3. The preview is six pages, with the last page showing you the first two rooms. Rejoice in the preview of a minimally keyed adventure.


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/346792/The-Shifting-Sands?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Bob Haney's Marvel Universe, A Comics Counterfactual

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 03/08/2021 - 12:00
I've previously speculated in a couple of different ways about DC done in a Marvel manner, but it seemed like a good time to think about things in the other direction: what if somehow DC had managed to take over Marvel just as the Marvel Age was getting off the ground?

Talking about this with my friend and occasionally fellow blogger, Jim Shelley, we came up with several ideas, but since several came down to "Bob Haney," I figured that was worth a post in and of itself. This, of course, is just idle speculation, but I could see it informing a very interesting supers rpg campaign. Maybe it will look that way to you, too.


The HulkIn this timeline, the "hero and villain in one man!" dynamic that Haney brought to Eclipso (first appearing in May of 1963) will instead get applied to Marvel's Jekyll and Hyde character, the Hulk. The Hulk would retain his more villainous "gray hulk" persona through the entirety of his short run, and Banner would be his antagonist. Just like in the real world, this series doesn't last long, so in Tales to Astonish in 1964, Haney and artist Ramona Fradon bring the camp and whimsy they would have brought to Metamorpho to the Hulk. Bruce Banner becomes stuck in Hulk form, but still tries to woo Betty Ross, while being under the thumb of her father who ostensibly has Banner on a short lease "for his own good," but doesn't hesitate to exploit his abilities.


The X-Men
"Dig this crazy teen scene!" The X-men had a rocky start, so Haney was given title, along with a new artist, Nick Cardy--the original Teen Titans team in our history. Haney made the X-Men "hip" teens and gave them new foes like the Mad Mod, and more than one motorcycle gang. The male X-Men often refer to Marvel Girl as "Marvel-chick" as a term of endearment.
The Haney/Cardy team kept the X-Men from going all reprints, though the title wouldn't really catch on until the arrival of the New X-Men, same as in the history we know.

Re-post: God Knows Everything!

Just Call Me Pastor - Mon, 03/08/2021 - 11:00

Today I thought of the simple lessons we learned in Sunday school 85 or more years ago. They would make a simple point about God the Father, or about Jesus, God’s Son. Or teach us a moral lesson about always telling the truth. 

The props for the lessons were very simple. Sometimes an oak sand table was used to create a drama, or what was called a felt-o-gram to make a picture. Or our teacher, Elva Tisdale, told us a colorful Bible story. Or we absorbed timeless truths from the choruses that we children loved to sing.

Today I recall a character I first learned about as a child, Herod the Great. I heard the story, drawn from Gospel accounts, many times during childhood and can fill in some of the grim historical background that learned since.   

Herod was outrageously wicked. But he was called Herod the Great for good reason. He built a magnificent seaport on the Mediterranean Sea and wisely named it Caesarea, after the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus. Herod also built a grand theater in Jerusalem and an amphitheater outside the city. He set in motion the rebuilding of the temple, an awe-inspiring place of worship for the Jewish people. Herod was an exceptionally skillful administrator and diplomat.

But he used his power ruthlessly. His conscience didn’t seem to function. His police were everywhere. Purges were frequent. His own wife, Mariamne, was marched off to execution because he suspected her of plotting against him. Her three sons, and five of his children from other wives, met the same end.

Herod even had all but two members of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of Jerusalem, murdered. Herod’s viciousness was on par with a ruthless figure of more recent times, Saddam Hussein.

So, when some mysterious figures called Magi arrived in Jerusalem coming from a land as far away as Persia, word spread through the city fast. The place must have buzzed. And Herod’s paranoia flared when he learned that these Magi said they had been divinely guided by a heavenly light to find the birthplace of a baby born to be King of the Jews.

Jesus was a miracle baby sent by God to be the redeemer of the world. How could he be safeguarded against a powerful sovereign who would stop at nothing to keep his throne secure?

Of course God in Heaven knows everything, including what was in Herod’s mind. I learned this as a child partly from a chorus that began: “He sees all you do; he hears all you say.”

Because God knew Herod’s intent, he sent a message to the baby’s human father, Joseph, by a dream: Get up right away and get out of town; head for Egypt; the murderous Herod intends to find and kill the child. Joseph obeyed, and the child’s life was spared.

The truth of the little choruses sung in Sunday schools so long ago concerning God’s omniscience has not changed. It is still a cornerstone conviction of orthodox Christians that God knows everything. 

The psalmist, David, wrote, “Before a word is on my tongue / you know it completely, O Lord” (Psalm 139:4). Jesus said his Father sees the insignificant sparrow fall. He also said that his Father alone knows the future date for the end of human history.

And when we live every moment based on that conviction we are known as people of faith. We have a reliable moral compass. And we can live calmly and courageously, knowing that God sees all and he hears all.     

Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory (via flickr.com)

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