Wednesday 31 October 2012

Turn to 400 launches on Kickstarter

Happy Halloween! After spending your money on costumes and candy, if you have any money left then the film maker, Sean Riley, behind Turn to 400, a Fighting Fantasy documentary, would appreciate the help.

Their Kickstarter launched today and they're looking for £40,000 in 30 days to realise what looks to be a great documentary about the beloved book series.

For your pledge they are offering HD downloads of the finished movie, T-shirts, DVDs signed by Fighting Fantasy creators Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson and even a chance to appear in the film.

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Disney acquires Lucasfilm, Star Wars Episode 7 released in 2015

Here's something that I don't think anyone was expecting to hear as we edge towards Halloween: Disney is set to acquire Lucasfilm and Star Wars Episode 7 is going to be released in 2015.

Following on from its most recent high profile purchase of Marvel, Disney has agreed to buy Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion in stocks and cash.
"For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next," said George Lucas, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lucasfilm. "It's now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. I've always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime. I'm confident that with Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy, and having a new home within the Disney organization, Star Wars will certainly live on and flourish for many generations to come. Disney's reach and experience give Lucasfilm the opportunity to blaze new trails in film, television, interactive media, theme parks, live entertainment, and consumer products."
 This brings yet another huge franchise under the wing of the Mouse, and it seems there's no stopping them. Whether this will revitalize the Star Wars universe for the better remains to be seen, but there's no doubt that Star Wars fans the world over will be eagerly awaiting the arrival of a new movie. Let's just hope they don't screw it up.

Guest post: The Way of the Tiger RPG - returning to Orb

 Today I have a very special guest post from David Walters, a novelist and designer on The Way of the Tiger Roleplaying Game. Walters gives us an insight into how the game is shaping up...

For those not in the know, The Way of the Tiger by Mark Smith and Jamie Thomson is regarded by many as one of the very best gamebook series. You play a ninja on a quest of revenge in the fantasy world of Orb, a world originally developed for more standard fantasy adventuring, but given new life with Oriental themes and an innovative martial arts system. Other gamebooks by the authors have been set in the world of Orb, most notably Talisman of Death, and yet it is a world not officially developed for roleplaying before now.
The Way of the Tiger RPG is a pen and paper roleplaying game which can now be pre-ordered from the Megara Entertainment website. It will be released next year in hardback copy, with all 200+ pages in colour, and peppered with specially designed new artwork including new, detailed maps of Orb.

There are more than a dozen character classes to choose from, including Shieldmaiden of Dama, Knight Errant of Rocheval, Templar of Time, and many more (including the titular Ninja of the Way of the Tiger). Each class has multiple skill trees to choose from, and can eventually reach special grandmastery skills.
In terms of statistics, the team has replaced the gamebook rules from The Way of the Tiger with those based on a more detailed role-playing approach, but key Way of the Tiger influences such as Fate and Inner Force remain.

There will also be a detailed adventure in the book, showing more of the world of Orb and tying in with the overarching story of the gamebooks. More campaign books are planned, with the team committing long term to the project.

As well as chapters containing the bestiary and more about the setting, there will also be a chapter dedicated to the gods. There is an impressive pantheon that has a direct bearing on everyday life in Orb, and the gods, their temples, and followers are all detailed from Mark Smith’s private notes.
It should be noted that Mark Smith is directly involved with the creation of this role-playing game, not only supplying material never seen before about his world, but also quality checking work by the design team to ensure it all fits his vision of Orb.

The design team – the Avengers Assemble
Working for Mark, there is a team of designers from around the world who are working to bring the setting alive.

Mikaël Louys – Mike has been a gamesmaster since 1984, and is owner of Megara Entertainment from its headquarters in France. In 2004 he worked for one year with Joe Dever to develop an online computer role-playing game based on Lone Wolf that went as far as beta stage but no further. He then became the manager of another company, Magnamund Studios.

In 2007 Mikaël opened a new company: Megara, to work on various licences in order to be truly independent and this time with a long term vision. Megara develops pen-and-paper roleplaying games, print gamebooks (such as the new release Arcana Agency: The Thief of Memories), and electronic gamebooks (including Fabled Lands, as well as The Keep of the Lich-Lord). Megara is an international company of artists and game designers, recently opening a USA branch in California.

Megara is now celebrating its 5th year, having designed around 15 products (not all games related).
Richard S. Hetley – based in the USA, Richard is a writer, game designer, and community manager at Megara Entertainment LLC, who has written for Jamie Thomson’s Fabled Lands app, as well as The Keep of the Lich-Lord app. He met Mikaël in 2005 during the Lone Wolf project; it seems he just can't stay away from all these gamebooks.

Michael Spencelayh – based in the UK, Michael is the creator of the Orb encyclopaedia, which he started back in 1992 and released online around 2000. He has kept it up to date ever since in order to help keep Orb alive until this release of the roleplaying game. He’s a games enthusiast, who has used Orb as a setting to play 3rd edition Dungeons and Dragons.

David Walters – I’m a UK based author of six novels, many of which include ninja. I’m also a long-time fan of the Way of the Tiger gamebooks, which were an inspiration for me to become an author, so my work on this project is a real labour of love. I’ve been involved in roleplaying for nearly twenty years as a gamesmaster and a player.

Paul Gresty – originally from the UK but now based in France, Paul is the author of the Megara’s new gamebook 'Arcana Agency: the Thief of Memories', and various published short stories. He has contributed to several game products in recent years, and is a long term role-playing enthusiast having been involved in role-playing since he was ten years old.

Marcus Smith - Marcus was born and resides in Australia, where he has been a gamemaster for 20 years, six of which he has been running a role playing game set on Orb using 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons rules. Marcus has been detailing previously unexplored areas of Orb with the assistance of his player's adventures, Michael Spencelayh's encyclopaedia, and occasional correspondence with Mark Smith. Marcus' experience of writing is principally vocational, as a Lawyer where he is presently practicing as a Solicitor; and, from a career as a High School Teacher of Maths, English, and History.

How we’ve got on so far
Mikaël guides and steers the group, and is the conduit to ensuring Mark makes a decision when he has to or provides information when needed. Mikaël made sure the core attributes and rule mechanics were captured, before we each specialised in different areas that are then subject to peer review.
Marcus and Michael have been dealing with the gods (as only high priests can) and detailing some of the lands and the Orb calendar.

Paul has been working on the skill trees for the different classes, ensuring that the abilities match up with the source material and lead to interesting role-playing opportunities.
Richard has been detailing non-combat actions, the economy and the bestiary.
I’ve dabbled in a few of the other things, but I’m mostly focussed on writing the adventure.
The book is coming together well, with play testing scheduled for early 2013, with the book being released that year. Indeed, progress has been so good that work has already begun on a follow up campaign book…

Other things to look out for in the meantime
An article on Orb is hopefully coming soon to Fighting Fanzine, which explores why the setting was popular and what efforts are underway to revive it. Dave Morris’s company already has the rights to republish the Way of the Tiger as an app, but he continues to try to secure the rights to republish them as paperbacks, and possibly release the 7th in the series.

If like me you loved the Way of the Tiger series, or are curious to learn more about it and the world of Orb, then you can always check out the Facebook page for updates!/groups/370105323051113/ or the Megara website

Monday 29 October 2012

Fighting Fantasy documentary "Turn to 400" is looking for Kickstarter funding

Like Helen Mirren, Blackadder and scones, Fighting Fantasy has become a British institution with a raving horde of fans and bloggers like myself who love to roll dice and kick ass. Now a film-maker is trying to use Kickstarter to raise money for a documentary about the gamebook series called Turn to 400.

The funding will start on October 31st, Halloween day and will run for 30 days in an attempt to raise money for what could be an interesting film. They have created a Facebook page where they want people to share the news and drum up a bit of buzz about the documentary.

You can see a taster of what the documentary will offer below.

The most haunted places in the world

I have a pretty cool job that lets me work on a wide variety of different projects. Something I've been working on for the past few weeks for a client is an interactive infographic of The Most Haunted Places in the World, just in time for Halloween. Check it out below. If you can share this on your site or through social media I've very much appreciate it as I'm pretty proud of how it turned out. You can find the original here

Created by Gateway Homes

Sunday 28 October 2012

Review: Merlin 5.04 Another's Sorrow

Morgana is back at the forefront of this week's Merlin, concocting yet another nasty plan to edge ever closer to becoming Camelot's next ruler. She has teamed up with Odin, a character who has been mentioned in the past as someone that shouldn't be messed with. The two of them invade the kingdom of Nemeth, holding King Rodor hostage and sending his daughter, Princess Mithian (who you may remember from season four) along with Morgana in the guise of old lady Hilde into the heart of Camelot in order to coerce Arthur out into the trap waiting for him.

The first half of the episode is a slow burner, as Mithian attempts to escape from Morgana whilst in Camelot and Merlin slowly coming to the conclusion that all might not be right with Hilde and Mithian. Of course, the righteous king sets out with his knights to save King Rodor, not knowing the trap that awaits them when they get there. It's bizarre that Mithian is constantly trying to escape, considering Morgana tells her that her father will die if she doesn't co-operate. For most people that would be enough to go along with it, but maybe Mithian's a bit of a imbecile, although I'm fairly sure that's not what the writers were going for.

Magic has been put on the backburner this year, but this episode we see magic galore as Morgana, Merlin and even Gaius flex their sorcery chops with gusto. There are also some cracking fight scenes, especially when Arthur faces off in single combat against Odin, a battle that shows off some wonderful choreography and ends in an important scene that will have you choking down tears.

The usual comical banter between Arthur and Merlin has been mostly replaced with a mutual respect for one another, but it's not without playfulness. Unfortunately Guinevere is once again sidelined, only having one thing of importance to say before disappearing for the majority of the episode. She's a character that's in danger of being under-utilised in the series, so hopefully the writers pull it out of the bag for her in the next few episodes.

Another's Sorrow has a slow and, when you think about it, nonsensical plot, but it does have some great performances and heart-pounding fight scenes that almost makes up for its shortcomings. Not the strongest episode, but certainly not a waste of 40 minutes.


Saturday 27 October 2012

Review: Blood of the Zombies for Android/iOS

As the evenings get darker and the cold wraps its icy fingers around us, there are fewer things better than sipping a cup of hot chocolate while flipping through a gamebook in a cosy chair, especially if you're chucking grenades at hordes of shambling corpses. Tin Man Games have launched their first Fighting Fantasy adaptation for your tablet or smartphone, Blood of the Zombies, which is the latest book in the famous gamebook series penned by Ian Livingstone himself.

In the game you play as a student who is captured and imprisoned by a psychopath called Gingrich Yurr, who has instructed his scientists to create a mutant gene in human blood that will turn ordinary humans into an army of flesh-eating zombies once injected. You're thrown into a grimy cell in a Eastern European castle, guarded by the lumbering Otto. The game instructs you to kill zombies, destroy Yurr and escape. It's a tall order that will require a veritable armoury that would make Frank Castle raise an eyebrow.

Unlike other Fighting Fantasy books Blood of the Zombies only uses stamina as a statistic, leaving your ability to take down zeds in the domain of your weapons. There are three difficulty settings ranging from casual to hardcore depending on how insane you are. This is a tough game, with the possibility of getting killed in the first couple of pages.

The interface, as with all Tin Man Games titles, is simple and intuitive, with the player only needing to select options and roll dice. The artwork and layout is fantastic, and the developers have included some exclusive art that's not in the original book, which is good news for Fighting Fantasy fanatics like myself. The multiple endings will also have players coming back for more in order to get the elusive 'best ending'.

Blood of the Zombies brings the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks lumbering and groaning into the internet generation and with its simple mechanics that work well in app form. It's a fantastic game that presents a fun story, great art and a tonne of re-playability making this a hugely successful first outing for Tin Man and Fighting Fantasy. 


Friday 26 October 2012

Is a new Schwarzenegger Conan movie best in life?

Now Arnie is back to being a film star again, it looks like he's trying his best to revisit his old haunts, including The Terminator. However, I can't say that I saw this coming. The former politician is now looking to reprise his role as Conan the Barbarian in a new film called The Legend of Conan. This will be a sequel to the original '82 movie rather than Conan the Destroyer (forget the recent abomination that infected our screens).

Producer Fredrik Malmberg gave Deadline an idea of how the movie will play out:
The original ended with Arnold on the throne as a seasoned warrior, and this is the take of the film we will make. It's that Nordic Viking mythic guy who has played the role of king, warrior, soldier and mercenary, and who has bedded more women than anyone, nearing the last cycle of his life. He knows he'll be going to Valhalla, and wants to go out with a good battle.
 I wonder if this one will be more about political intrigue and big strategic battles than sword and sorcery adventuring. It could be very interesting, but whether it will be good or not remains to be seen.

I leave you with a classic scene from Conan the Barbarian.

[Deadline] via [io9]

Thursday 25 October 2012

Grab Delving Deeper for free

If you have a hankering for some supremely old school roleplaying, and by that I mean an emulation of the first D&D rules, then I have some good news for you because you can get Delving Deeper for absolutely gratis!

Delving Deeper is, as you might have guessed, an OSR game originally published by Brave Halfling and is pretty much Swords & Wizardry in a different package. Still, it's free so you can't really go wrong.

I received an email from Simon Bull, the editor/co-author of Delving Deeper, making a couple of clarifications about this post. These are "Reference Rules", published by Brave Halfling, Immersive Ink and Wobbly Goblin, but you can also get a boxed version of the full rules from Brave Halfling.

Also, it may have been misleading for me to label Delving Deeper as 'Swords & Wizardy' in a different package. DD, according to Bull, is "as close as is legally possible to the original game [D&D]" while S&W "includes a umber of more modern concepts and variations." Essentially, DD is almost a direct emulation of the original edition D&D - which is pretty nifty, especially because it's difficult to find copies of this old edition.

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Official Evil Dead red band trailer launches

We had a blurry sneak peek of the new Evil Dead trailer earlier straight from NYCC, but here it is in all its gory glory. 

Yep, pretty excited about this.

Review: Pickman's Model by Kim Holm

Graphic novel adaptations of Lovecraft's stories have been ten-a-penny in the past few years and most of them have been excellent. There's always been a difficulty in adapting a story like Pickman's Model in the same way it's tricky to translate The Colour Out of Space artistically: they both contain indescribable horrors beyond human comprehension. Kim Holm has taken up the challenge and, for the most part, has succeeded in echoing the tale's dark and uneasy tone.

Pickman's Model is a story about the narrator, Mr Thurber, who meets a Bostonian artist, Richard Upton Pickman, who promises to show him the eerily realistic and disturbing paintings he's become infamous for in his area. However, the narrator gets more than he bargained for as Pickman shows him a painting that no other human has ever laid eyes on.

Holm is the artist and writer of this adaptation, which is no easy task. The story begins with the Thurber speaking to Eliot, a confidante that the reader takes the role of. For a good chunk of the beginning we're looking at Thurber reeling off his morbid tale, and while the text is good and the art is great, the stream of very similar panels starts to get tedious. However, once we get to the story proper we are treated some gorgeous black and white art in a sketchy, scratched style that perfectly matches the mood of the story.

There are three ways that Pickman's hideous paintings can be approached with graphic adaptations: try and mimic his realistic style (which will always be terrible), go super mind-bendingly abstract or don't show anything at all. Holm does the third method, showing Thurber's reactions to the paintings instead of the pictures themselves. This is a really effective way of adapting this particular tale, and Holm pulls it off really well.

Pickman's Model has always been a classic Lovecraft tale and considering the difficulty of creating a graphic novel from it, Holm has done a great job. While there are some narrative stumbling points, the artwork and mood makes this interpretation a winner for any horror fan.

This graphic novel was supplied by the author for this review.


Tuesday 23 October 2012

Watch the official Iron Man 3 trailer

Hot off the heels of the teaser, Marvel have launched the first official Iron Man 3 trailer, and it looks like we're going to be seeing the downfall of Tony Stark.

There's an air of seriousness here, rather than showing the usual quips and humour that usually punctuate Iron Man trailers. Instead we see Tony struggling with his own mortality as well as a new enemy in the Mandarin, who's bringing the explosive fight straight to Tony.

We also get a better look at Warmachine's new 'Iron Patriot' armour, which comic-readers will recognise as Norman Osborn's armour in the Dark Siege story arc. 

What do you think of the trailer?

Monday 22 October 2012

'Dungeons' sounds like a tiny Destiny Quest

Indy RPG publisher Adventure Games Guild has announced Dungeons, a short adventure game that's exclusively for one player.

From the description, Dungeons sounds like a smaller version of Destiny Quest, with quests and encounters rather than being one single adventure. Players will also get to choose a class/race, such as Barbarian, Dwarf, Elf or Mage.

The Adventure Games Guild website explains more:
There are six Quests listed in the book, which you can take your Hero on. Each Quest is made up of Encounters and Events, which might have you battling Goblins, Orcs, or worse, Wyverns and Manticores. Each Quest has a unique finishing area which you must overcome in order to complete it.

During your Quests, you can find gold and treasures and, after your Quest, your Hero will grow in strength and power
This will be AGG's first offering before the release of Adventurer: The Solo Roleplaying Game early next year. You can check out a draft manuscript of the rules on the website.

Dungeons will launch soon in PDF form for $2 on DriveThruRPG.

Sunday 21 October 2012

Review: Merlin 5.03 The Death Song of Uther Pendragon

 Season five has really seen Merlin grow up as a series and the more 'mature' storytelling continues with The Death Song of Uther Pendragon, an episode that skillfully contrasts Arthur's reign to that of his father, Uther.

After last week's snow-based epic, we're back in good old Camelot where the kingdom is celebrating Arthur's coronation while the king himself mourns the loss of his father. The stark contrast between festive merriment and mourning culminates in a moving scene where Bradley James displays his versatile acting chops as he grieves over Uther's tomb, all the while a somber, regal score plays to great effect.

Arthur and Merlin, back to trading cheeky verbal blows, come across a witch hunt while out in the wilderness, which the gallant king stops and takes the old woman accused of sorcery to safety where, in her dying breath, hands Arthur a horn that can call upon spirits. Last season Arthur's stance on magic was much like his father's, especially after Uther's death, but here we see an important clarification on his views. He openly helps the sorcerer and accepts the magical talisman, which clearly indicates that his views have changed significantly over the past few years.

Of course, in his grieving state Arthur calls upon Uther and meets him in the spirit world where the deceased king, instead of greeting his son with happiness, brutally berates him for destroying his legacy of fear and oppression. It's here that we see how far from the tree the apple has fallen, with Arthur chokingly rebutting Uther's sinister words, and it's the first time in a while that we have seen the celebrated king in a weak and vulnerable state. Again, Cooper shows off some class acting, but it's Anthony Head that steals every shot he's in with his powerful presence.

Once Arthur returns from the spirit world, things in Camelot start going awry as Uther's newly released spirit attempts to exact vengeance on everyone he sees as a blot on Camelot, including Gwen and Percival, a knight of common blood. It's a classic ghost story; very apt for the Halloween season that, while not particularly scary, would possibly disturb some younger viewers, especially seeing Gwen get dragged across the hall floor by the invisible assailant, knocked out and left in a room to burn.

It's an episode that doesn't move the story along, but it does serve to provide a contrast between Arthur and Uther's reigns and it's a plot that's driven by character rather than just being a 'monster of the week' piece. There is a particularly good scene involving Merlin confronting Uther which also shows how far Merlin has come in his own development.

As stated previously, there are some stand out performances here, especially with Head who just commands the screen effortlessly. The episode is punctuated with some genuinely funny moments (one of them involving a spoon) as well as some moving scenes that have been relatively rare in the series so far. It's annoying to see Gwen become the 'female victim' again, especially as the last couple of episodes have strayed in the opposite direction to that, and we have another classic 'Arthur gets knocked out so Merlin can use magic' scene, which is beyond old hat by now. That said, this is a solid episode and a great example of the more adult storytelling the series is going for.


Iron Man 3 teaser trailer is here!

Here's a tantalizing glimpse of Iron Man 3, featuring Tony's shiny new armour, some guy with half a shaved head and Pepper Pots in dire straits. 

Check out the official synopsis:
 Marvel Studios' Iron Man 3 pits brash-but-brilliant industrialist Tony Stark/Iron Man against an enemy whose reach knows no bounds. When Stark finds his personal world destroyed at his enemy's hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find those responsible. This journey, at every turn, will test his mettle. With his back against the wall, Stark is left to survive by his own devices, relying on his ingenuity and instincts to protect those closest to him. As he fights his way back, Stark discovers the answer to the question that has secretly haunted him: does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?
 We still have to wait until Spring 2013 to see Iron Man in action again on the big screen. Are you looking forward to it?

[io9] via[Bleeding Cool]

Lose the dice: five alternative tabletop roleplaying mechanics

Dice are awesome, and us gamers are more than familiar with the great variety out there. Most roleplaying games use them one way or another because they're convenient randomisers that prevent games from becoming predictable.

However, sometimes having an alternative resolution mechanic can change the feel of a game and keep things exciting. Dice are great, but they're by no means the be-all and end-all to the options designers have for implementing mechanics. Here are five options for non-dice based RPGs:

1. Dominoes

There's a lot to be said for the humble domino. Like dice, they allow for numbered resolutions, which can make it easy to implement them into stat-heavy games that require hit points etc. There's also a visual element to having dominoes in a game, as the growing chain of bones denotes progression in a session, whether that's through combat or an action resolution. Imagine a combat where each player has a number of dominoes they can use and each action they do requires them to put down a domino. If they can't go then they have to sacrifice hit points in order to take another domino, taking damage equal to the total of the current ends of the chain.

2. Playing cards

This one's easy enough and is already a mechanic in a few games, such as Deadlands. There are a bunch of ways you can decide how actions are resolved, from playing a few hands of poker (great for Wild West games) to a simple 'higher card wins' mechanic like in War. Like dominoes, you can even make chains with cards and offer a similar hit resolution as above.

3. Jenga

A mechanic used by Dread, a horror RPG by The Impossible Dream. It's simple but very effective and leads to some great story-driven games. If you want to perform an action, such as when you're fighting, you remove a piece from the tower. Obviously the more actions there are, the riskier things become until someone sends it crashing down. If this happens they become a 'dead man walking' where if they aren't killed straight away, the next time they would be in danger for their life, they would automatically die. This leads to some great tension - all because of a classic kids' game.

4. Beer pong

Well, not exactly. If you've ever played beer pong as a college deviant, you will know that each side has a row of cups filled with beer and each teams' goal is to bounce or throw a ping pong ball into one of their opponent's cups to force them to down their beer. While drinking isn't hugely practical when it comes to gaming (unless you're playing Drinking Quest) you could always set up a space with empty cups, each cup representing a certain value, whether that be the number of hits inflicted or a representation of how well someone pulls off an action. Skill-based mechanics are quite rare, so this could be very interesting, if a little non-immersive.

5. Kerplunk!

Similar to the Jenga resolution, Kerplunk would have players remove a number of sticks depending on the type of action they want to do and the difficulty the GM sets. For example, to jump onto a moving train from a bridge without falling to your death may require four sticks to be removed. The number of marbles falling could denote the hits taken or how the story swings. If all the marbles fall then that's very bad news. 

Saturday 20 October 2012

Guest post: Guild Wars 2 - An MMO to dye for

I'm delighted to feature this guest post by gaming journalist and MMO aficionado Meredith Watson, who can be found over at and She Kills Monsters

If you live on this planet and play MMOs then you know about Guild Wars 2. You will also know
that Guild Wars 2 has some great features such as actively evading and weapon swapping. While
these features are great what really excites me is dye. Dye, you say? Yes. The ability to dye ones
gear as well as collect the dyes themselves.

I will always be drawn to games that allow for customisation in the creation and development of
characters be it the option to dye gear, change hairstyles or decorate a personal residence (player
housing). These little things, for me, really add to the fun factor of any game.

Warhammer Online, Rift, LotRO all use the dying mechanic to some degree or another but what
makes Guild Wars 2 special is that the dye drops off mobs unlike the above mentioned games
where the dye is either crafted or vendor bought (Rift). In GW2 dyes come in many, many different
colours (roughly 400) and sets: starter,common, uncommon, and rare. For me, dyes are rather like
shoes-I must have all of them.

Why would dying be important? Well,it isn't really. It certainly isn't game changing or game
breaking but there is an issue with the gear itself in Guild Wars 2 and that is that your character will
end up wearing the same themed items for quite a few levels. My ranger, though she has gotten
multiple upgrades, has looked like a pirate/swashbucker for 20+ levels now. Being able to dye her
gear adds to the interest.

Dyes also add to the roleplaying aspect of MMOs whether you actively roleplay or not. I don't
roleplay per se; I tend to stick to killing stuff but I do like to coordinate how my characters look
with what I think their class is about. The most obvious would be having thieves in dark armour.
Town Clothes can also be dyed which is also an important roleplaying aspect.

There is one drawback to the dying system in GW2 and that is the dyes are not account bound.
It is a tad frustrating getting a colour on one character that could use it and hoping it drops again
for another character that could also use it. For example, thief and necromancer would both want
a black. As it stands now, if a black dye were to drop I'd have to decide who gets it and to make
matters worse it is a rare dye. Making dyes account bound is one little thing ArenaNet could do that
would make some players happy but, again, it isn't a deal breaker.

Thursday 18 October 2012

Cyberpunk tabletop game becomes Cyberpunk 2077 video game

 CD Projekt RED has officially announced the title of its in-development role-playing game. "Cyberpunk 2077" will be set in the world created by Mike Pondsmith, one of the fathers of the cyberpunk genre and the creator of the cult-classic pen-and-paper RPG, Cyberpunk.

"The Team has to love the material. The Team has to want to be faithful to the material. The Team has to have the skills to execute the material and see that vision through to the end. They have to be on fire with the desire to make an extraordinary game.

And that leads, at last, to why we hooked up with CD Projekt RED," Mike Pondsmith commented, why he has chosen to work with the Polish game developer.

The cyberpunk atmosphere, well known from William Gibson's novels, the "Blade Runner" movie and the famous pen-and-paper game, "Cyberpunk 2020", will surround the player. The creators promise that "Cyberpunk 2077" will be true to the essence of the cyberpunk genre. Players will be thrown into the dark future of the year 2077 and into a world where advanced technologies have become both the salvation and the curse of humanity. A multi-thread, nonlinear story designed for mature players (a CD Projekt RED trademark) will take place in the sprawling metropolis of Night City and its surroundings. Players will have a chance to visit places well known from "Cyberpunk 2020", including a combat zone completely taken over by gangs, the legendary Afterlife joint and the nostalgic Forlorn Hope.

Freedom of action and diversity in gameplay will be delivered thanks to the sandbox nature of the game and mechanics inspired by the "Cyberpunk 2020" pen-and-paper system, fine tuned to meet the requirements of a modern RPG. Gameplay will pump adrenaline through players' veins and be consistent with the celebrated Cyberpunk spirit – rebellion, style, edge, uncertainty. And of course, a cyberpunk reality cannot be deprived of murderous steel – guns, rifles, implants, dozens of gadgets and other varied pieces of equipment needed to survive on the streets of Night City. The developers are focused on making the technology of 2077 credible and exciting.

What is the greatest horror movie of all time?

Halloween is fast approaching, and what better excuse to crack out all your horror movies and bask in the awesome fun the genre brings. But what, in your opinion, is the best horror movie ever?

Perhaps you're a The Thing fan, with its intense paranoia and all-out gore. Perhaps you prefer a classic like Universal's Dracula starring the charismatic Bela Lugosi. Maybe you're more of an Evil Dead 2 kind of person, loving its gore, scares and sense of humour.

So, I put it to you. What is the best horror movie ever made?

Tuesday 16 October 2012

NYCC: The Evil Dead remake gets a teaser trailer

The remake of the Evil Dead remake has been unveiled at New York Comic-Con this week, showing a darker and more serious version of the much loved cult film.

The trailer contains some iconic moments from the original two films, from the discovery of the Necronomicon to the infamous tree scene. There's even the sound of a chainsaw powering up.

The new film looks to be an amalgamation of The Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2, since it's a group of friends visiting the cabin but we also see a glimpse of the classic 'zombie hand' scene where the now female protagonist is about to cut her arm off.

According to the film-makers, there isn't a shred of CGI in this flick. All the effects are practical, which is a really good thing. The Evil Dead series is well known for its great gore effects and we can even see emulations of Raimi's pioneering camera work in the trailer.

The remake definitely doesn't look like it will have the humour of the second and third films, but maybe there's some black comedy in there somewhere. Either way, it's starting to look pretty...groovy.

BEANWORLD brings BEAN! RPG to life

BEAN! is a D2 roleplaying game where players take on the role of beans in a fantasy world. It's written and illustrated by Jeff Freels of Fabled Worlds and I recommend buying and playing it.

Fabled Worlds has just released BEANWORLD, a sourcebook for BEAN! containing a load of great setting material for the world of Terrafavus, including:

   -the creation of Beanworld and the Elder Beans
   -Beanfolk physiology
   -a discussion of Magic
   -the new Shaman and Monk Archetypes
   -some new Character races and monsters
   -an extravagantly illustrated atlas of the lands
   -maps and descriptions of Beanworld's largest city, Khamril-Dahl
   -The Beanstiary (on other worlds this would be called a "bestiary")
   -and bits of legends and lore tucked in for good measure

For a $5 PDF, you really can't go wrong with BEANWORLD. One of my favourite games has bean a BEAN! game, and it's a really great system for introducing new players to the hobby.

Cookies and quantum mechanics, a delicious combination

Quantum physics deals with the very, very, very tiny world that's all around us and, indeed, makes us. It's both an immensely mind-blowing area of science and a very difficult one to comprehend because quantum physics works differently to classical Newtonian physics. Hell, even Einstein had problems with quantum physics because it was so crazy. 

MinutePhysics have released a new video looking at the birth of quantum theory, which was founded by Max Planck a Nobel Prize-winning German physicist, who discovered that light doesn't work exactly as we used to think. Check out the video above and fill your mind with awesome knowledge.

Sunday 14 October 2012

NYCC: Agent Coulson will return for S.H.I.E.L.D TV show

 Praise be to Whedon! Comic Book Resources have confirmed that Agent Phil Coulson, the much loved agent from the phase 1 Marvel movies, will be in the upcoming S.H.I.E.L.D TV show.

Clark Gregg will return as the deadpan ass-kicking agent, which will probably mean that the series will be set prior to the events of The Avengers movie.

CBR reported the news:

 "We all love Clark Gregg, there's no doubt about that," Whedon said. "From before we made 'The Avengers,' we discussed whether there was a way for him to be a part of the Marvel Universe, perhaps a part of a TV show even after his death. … The fact of the matter is, as much as we love him, now that I'm really running Marvel, I like to keep a type of artistic integrity, which means we don't stretch the bounds of reality.

"There was never going to be a 'S.H.I.E.L.D.' show without Agent Phil Coulson!" said Feige, who appeared behind Whedon, wearing a COULSON LIVES shirt.

"He's headlining the S.H.I.E.L.D. show and always was," said Whedon.
 There's no doubt that Coulson has become a fan favourite, so it's fantastic that we're going to see him on our screens again with a bigger role. 

Via [Comic Book Resources]

Review: Merlin 5.02 Arthur's Bane Pt 2

To say that the writers of Merlin have stepped up their game is no understatement because the second part of the season premiere elevates the series to a whole new level. It feels like Merlin has really hit its pinnacle of storytelling, which bodes well for the rest of the season.

Once again, Arthur and Merlin are on their way to free the knights who have been made prisoners in Morgana's mines. However, they hit a snag at the end of the last episode when they were captured by a party of Morgana's Saxons, including Arthur's own portent of doom: Mordred. The two heroes manage to escape, resulting in a heart-pounding chase and some adept crossbow work from the king. They continue towards Ismere in order to free the knights, having to break in through a not-so-pleasant way. This is one of the three sub-plots happening in this episode, which is evidence of how far the show has come in its storytelling.

Meanwhile, Sefa, the serving girl who was caught handing over strategic maneuvers to her father Ruadan, pleads with Guinevere for her life. The queen manages to subvert expectations, showing her intelligence and adding more depth to Gwen's character.

In the mines of Ismere, Morgana continues her search for the Eudach or 'the key to all knowledge'. Gwaine has been rescued by a strange blue creature that looks like a Smurf by the way of H.R. Giger. The story flits back and forth between these scenes of Gwaine with the creature and sometimes these scenes feel pointless, especially when one lasts for about six seconds. It's a surprise to learn what the creature really is and what part it might play in the future of the show.

Speaking of surprises, this episode is littered with them and there are some great shock moments, one of which I actually let out a gasp at. The acting continues to be brilliant and Richard Wilson actually gets some screentime, which is always a bonus. We also finally see Aithusa, the white dragon from season 4, who is looking thin and sickly, presumably from the time spent imprisoned with Morgana of which we see a brief flashback.

Arthur's Bane Part 2 is another stunning episode that will be difficult to top. With such strong performances and character-driven plots, Merlin has really hit its stride. Let's hope it keeps chugging along like this.


Friday 12 October 2012

NYCC: The Joker wants to murder Batman's pals

Image credit: DC
Another year, another New York Comic-Con and the creative teams are out in force bigging up their latest books, including Batman scribe Scott Snyder, who met up with io9 to talk about his new cross-over event Death of the Family.

The new event kicked off this week in Batman #13 and focuses on the Joker doing what he does best - being a batshit insane murderer. Death of the Family crosses over with Nightwing and Batgirl as well as being the running arc in Batman. It will see the Joker sporting a new look by wearing his own face as a mask!

In his interview with io9, Snyder shed some light on his creative thought processes when stepping up to write this story:

" I come up with the story and halfway through I realized that The Joker was going to target the Bat-Family in very intimate and terrifying ways. The two options are A.) I could write those characters into Batman; or B.) knowing that those books' writers can write those characters better than I ever could, let them go crazy and tie in if they like. And luckily, the writers — like Gail Simone, who I admire and grew up reading — were all in."

The previous crossover, Court of Owls, was an amazing story, so here's hoping that Death of the Family can live up to such high expectations.

Via [io9]

Thursday 11 October 2012

Marvel NOW! launches with Uncanny Avengers

Image credit: Marvel Comics
(Warning: spoilers if you haven't read Avengers Vs X-Men)

Yesterday saw the launch of the Marvel NOW! initiative with the first book in the new universe: Uncanny Avengers.

Marvel NOW! sees a change in creative teams as well as alterations to the characters themselves, such as Dan Slott's Superior Spider-Man, which will take the reigns after The Amazing Spider-Man finishes at issue 700.

Uncanny Avengers, written by Rick Remender and drawn by John Cassaday, picks up where Avengers Vs X-Men left off, with a focus on certain characters and how Charles Xavier's death has affected them. Steve Rogers is wanting to unite mutants and homo sapiens under a new team of Avengers in order to stave off some of the ill that Scott Summers caused in the wake of him becoming Dark Pheonix.

Artist Cassaday has designed characters more like their movie counterparts, with Captain America wearing a chin-strapped helmet and Thor having his own helm redesigned. It has also been revealed that Nick Fury will now look more like Samuel L. Jackson's character in the Marvel films.

Have you read Uncanny Avengers? What did you think?

Tuesday 9 October 2012

What has Curiosity found on Mars?

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Images have come through of Curiosity finding some strange little object on the surface of Mars, but it is not yet known what it is.

There is speculation that it could be a tiny shard of the MSL descent mechanisms that chipped off as it came to land on the red planet. But what if it's something that was already there?

Right now until researchers have looked into it further we can only speculate as to what this strange little Martian object could be.

NASA states on the mission page: "Curiosity’s first scooping activity appeared to go well on Oct. 7. Subsequently, the rover team decided to refrain from using the rover’s robotic arm on Oct. 8 due to the detection of a bright object on the ground that might be a piece from the rover. Instead of arm activities during the 62nd Martian day, or sol, of the mission, Curiosity is acquiring additional imaging of the object to aid the team in identifying the object and assessing possible impact, if any, to sampling activities."

Bits of Curiosity, or something else entirely? We'll have to wait and see.

Via [Universe Today]

Monday 8 October 2012

Announcing Slackers by Trollish Delver Games

Ever wanted to play out a Kevin Smith movie? Slackers is a roleplaying game about suburban social misfits and their bizarre adventures. Think Wayne's World, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Dude, Where's My Car?! 

In Slackers, players take on the role of loveable slackers who, for some reason or another, get themselves into strange and sticky situations, whether that be a country-spanning road trip, working out what happened after blacking out, defending suburbia from rampaging aliens or even entering a fantasy realm. 

Slackers uses the USR system, which makes it easy to create characters and run a game, whether it's a beer & pretzels one-shot or a longer campaign. 

If you like movie such as Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Mallrats and The Big Lebowski, then Slackers is for you. 

A random scenario generator allows the GM to come to the table with little to no prep because, hey, a game called Slacker shouldn't make you do a bunch of work to play it. 

Slackers will be released in December of this year, so watch this space.

Sunday 7 October 2012

This week in The Trollish Delver

From Captain America becoming president to some weird shit happening on Venus, this week on The Trollish Delver has been an eventful one.

Rolemaster goes into public playtesting - the grognard's favourite is back for a new edition
Which superhero would you elect as President? - I asked the question and you answered
Cinemassacre's Monster Madness! - You should totally be watching this
Marvel Heroes goes into closed public beta - Diablo-meets-Marvel is shaping up to be awesome
Mystery cold layer found on Venus - WTF is this?
Apocalypse Prevention Inc. Savage Worlds edition released - Demons and shadow organisations galore
Play the Dishonoured interactive video - see how this new sneak-em-up plays out
Get into the Halloween spirit with Shocktober - You should totally be reading this
Fan mashes up USR and D&D - You can't have too much of a good thing

Comment of the week

Philo Pharynx gave a very in-depth answer to the question 'which superhero would you elect as president?".

"Superman would certainly be electable - except for the part where he wasn't born in America. This takes out wide swaths of comic characters.

Despite the Britsh accent, Professor Xavier was born in New York City. He's tremendously brilliant. But is America ready for a bald president?

Third party candidates have such a hard time that we'll have to write off everybody from the Image party. Which sucks, because who wouldn't vote for the Savage Dragon/Monster Girl ticket.

Since Powers switched from the Image Party to Marvel, Christian Walker is in the right party, but he doesn't have the name recognition.

Hal Jordan would be brought down when the whole Parallax thing comes out.

It would be exceedingly unlikely for a jewish/gypsy woman who practices witchcraft, used to be a supervillain, and wasn't born in the US to get elected. But when you're the Scarlet Witch, the improbable happens on a regular basis."

Merlin review: 5.01 Arthur's Bane

Merlin has managed to grow with the times over the past few years as we saw an end to the 'fart and belch' episodes that tended to plague the first couple of seasons and a move towards more adult storytelling. Season five is only going to get darker, if recent interviews with the writers are to be believed, with multiple plot strands and more mature themes. With part one of Arthur's Bane, the season five opener, it's certainly looking that way, making it the strongest start to a new season yet.

Three years have passed since Arthur took the throne of Camelot, and under his and Lady Guinevere's rule the kingdom has flourished. But, this being Merlin, this prosperity can't last for long as a new plot to usurp the throne is brewing deep in the icy northern wastes by none other than Morgana herself, along with her newly acquainted Saxon pals. While last time we saw her, the evil sorceress seemed more like a crazy lady who lived in a tree, this time she means business, sitting on her own throne and everything.

Meanwhile, a handful of knights, including Gwain and perpetually-sleeveless Percival, have left on a mission to the northern wastes where they are confronted by wolves, forcing them to flee in Monty Python-esque 'run away, run away!" terror. These guys can hold their own against decked out warriors but wolves send them reeling somehow? This feels like a lazy way to get some of our main heroes into the icy clutches of Morgana before being sent deep underground to mine for something called 'Arthur's Bane', a powerful key to do something-or-other.

Cue the blondest Pendragon to set out with a retinue of knights and a more reserved Merlin to rescue their comrades. Arthur and Merlin's relationship has famously evolved over the years from playground bullying, to mutual respect to an unadulterated bromance. Through a range of interactions in this episode, we see that they have solidified this 'brothers-in-arms' relationship, with a few japes and verbal elbowing thrown in for good measure.

Merlin's magic is kept to a minimum, only practising it to conjure a snake and pull off an egg-juggling act for Queen Annis' court, a character who makes a welcome return from the previous season as Arthur's new-found ally. Speaking of queens, Gwen has taken to the task well as both a humble and righteous ruler. Her actions towards her serving main Sefa are kind (up until a certain point in the story, when they turn very dark indeed). It's wonderful that Gwen is still her own character, looking after Camelot's affairs while the boys are out whacking things with swords and this is something that will hopefully be developed throughout the series.

This series feels huge in scope. It's Game of Thrones lite, but in the best possible way. We're treated to sweeping vistas of snow-drenched landscapes, action-packed battles that have upped the brutality-o-meter from previous seasons, and many different plot threads that are begging to be woven together. Of course, the biggest one is the return of Mordred at the end of the episode. Merlin saw him kill Arthur in a vision at the beginning of the episode, so we have to wait and see how that plays out.

Speaking of Game of Thrones, Liam Cunningham joins the Merlin cast as druid sorcerer Ruadan, who is working with Morgana to bring down Camelot. He's an adept actor and I look forward to seeing how his character develops.

Arthur's Bane has a few silly moments, such as the scared knights, but makes up for them by far with an intricate plot, character-driven motives and a new epic feel. This season promises to be something special.


Saturday 6 October 2012

Fan creates USR/ D&D mash-up

A USR fan over at Tabletop Diversions has created a downloadable guide to creating D&D characters with the system.

John Yorio, who has been featured a few times on The Trollish Delver, has taken classic Moldvay D&D and mixed it with the simple rules presented in USR to help players who fancy a good old-fashioned dungeoncrawl.

"Like chocolate and peanut butter, I think Moldvay-era classes go great with USR (as I've written several times before) for some dungeon crawl fun," said Yorio on his blog.

He has included rules for creating fighters, rogues, cleric and magic-users with races like dwarves, elves and halflings. He has even included rules for casting spells using the USR system.

So if you're feeling like you want that old school dungeon hacking vibe with a bit of a difference, you can either download the pocketmod or the PDF.

Thursday 4 October 2012

Get into the Halloween spirit with Shocktober

If you're a fan of horror flicks or a newcomer to the genre then you could do worse than follow Final Girl's Shocktober this spooky season.

Stacie Ponder, the author of Final Girl, is taking a brief daily look at various horror movies on the run up to Halloween, giving an overview of each, including some you may have never heard of.

Ponder is also the author of Slashers 101, a black and white mini comic book and creator for the RPG webcomic.

Play the Dishonoured interactive video demo

Last week I posted an interactive video of XCOM: Enemy Unknown which lets you make in-game choices and see how they play out. A similar video has now been released for steampunk-style stealth-em-up Dishonoured, allowing you to sneak, stab and teleport your way to victory.

Dishonoured: Path to Revenge lets you pick your playstyle, whether you want to be a sneaky assassin or use full on brute force to overpower your enemies. It looks like this style of choose your own adventure for videogames is becoming increasingly popular, so we can probably expect more of these in the future.

Dishonoured hits shelves on October 9 for Xbox, PC and PS3.

Via [The Escapist]

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Apocalypse Prevention Inc. Savage Worlds edition released tomorrow

Third Eye Games have announced the imminent release of Apocalypse Prevention Inc. for Savage Worlds tomorrow.

API is a tabletop roleplaying game about defending the world from evil demons that would seek to destroy it. In the time of the black death, a group of like-minded individuals formed an organisation that has grown into a global shadow company who police supernatural activity.

Players take on the role of agents, some of whom utilise magic in their fight against the darkness, while others use cybernetic implants or pure martial skill to take down demons.

The new book is re-written using the fast Savage Worlds system and includes the following:

  • Full details regarding API, their methods and motivations
  • 12 playable races, from Humans to the vampiric Taylari and the lunatic Wolf People
  • New systems for Magic and Cybernetics
  • A host of new Edges and Hindrances, including new Martial Arts Edges

If Savage Worlds is your thing, then API might be a good buy for you and your group. 

Atomospheric cold layer found on hottest planet

Venus is a pretty amazing and mysterious planet, but new findings suggest that Earth's evil twin has just become even more enigmatic.

A layer of cold may have been found in the planet's atmosphere 125 kilometres above its surface, so cold that it freezes carbon dioxide, turning it into snow or falling ice.

The orbiting Venus Express spacecraft has been sending images and data back to scientists for the past six years, whose analysis has hinted at the planet's new frosty layer, measuring around -175 degrees Celsius.

Bizarrely, the cold part is sandwiched in between two warmer layers of atmosphere. But even weirder is that it's colder than any part of Earth's of atmosphere despite being 40 million kilometres closer to the Sun.

However, researchers are being cautious about the anomaly, stating that, while the bright patches shown in images could indicate falling snow or ice, there could be another explanation for the phenomenon.

The results will be published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Marvel Heroes begins closed beta sign-up

Described by many as Diablo with superheroes, Marvel Heroes is now opening its doors for closed playtesters to take it for a spin and iron out the bugs.

But developer Gazillion emphasise the word 'test', stressing that players will be expected to provide feedback and that this isn't just a sneak preview - rather, it's an early build of the game.

There are instructions for signing up on the blog if you want to have a hand in shaping what is looking to be a fine-looking action MMO.

Via [Massively]

Monday 1 October 2012

Don't miss Cinemassacre's Monster Madness this Halloween

For me, Halloween starts on the 1st of October. Why? Because Cinemassacre's James Rolfe is a damn genius, is why. The guy who is best know for his Angry Video Game Nerd videos is also an avid horror movie expert with an encyclopedic knowledge of pretty much every film in the genre. So it's a treat that every year he dedicates the whole of October to Monster Madness, filming a series of videos all month tackling the gory, the schlocky and the creepy, usually following some kind of theme.

This year it's an 80's-A-Thon, celebrating some of the best and more obscure horror films of the decade that brought us The Evil Dead, An American Werewolf in London, Cujo and many more. A video will go live every other day starting today, so go ahead and watch Rolfe's analysis of Galaxy of Terror, a gore-laden slab of bad taste complete with the now famous Robert Englund. You can also go back and watch previous Monster Madnesses, like the amazing Godzilla-thon and highly educational History of Horror.

Which superhero would you elect as President of the USA?

Image credit: Marvel Comics
Last week, Captain America was sworn into presidency in The Ultimates, which means that the US now has an even cooler leader than Obama.

But imagine if another hero became president. What if it were Batman sat in the oval office or Doctor Strange?

So this is my question to you: if you could pick any superhero to be president, who would it be?