Dungeons & Dragons – Shadowplague (Comic Book Review) IDW

IDW pairing with TV writer John Rogers and what we thought of it. At a time when D&D was loosing fans because of 4th Edition did they get this right?

It is no mystery that most of us at Nerd Dimension are RPG Players who have played or still continue to play Dungeons & Dragons. It is synonymous with nerds, adventure and chances are that most of the people you know have heard about it or know something about it.  In the dark era in which Wizards of the Coast got greedy and foolish by releasing what is still dubbed the worst version Dungeons & Dragons. In this time IDW had the license agreement with WOTC to publish D&D comics. IDW had already obtained licenses were already coming off successes with popular TV franchises which they turned into comics with 24, CSI and Star Trek. The publisher also would give readers also print comics for popular gaming titles (Silent, Castlevania and Metal Gear Solid) and IDW continue to cater to their readers so D&D would make perfect sense.

I had already read two volumes of classic D&D comics (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons) published by the giant DC comics and was curious to see how the newer material would read. Having also real several novels including The Crystal Shard & Homeland I went in knowing a lot about D&D and the lore.

The duo that put together Shadowplague were screenwriter John Rogers (The Core and Leverage) and seasoned artist Andrea Di Vito ( Marvel’s Annihilation), peaking my interest as I had not heard of Rogers prior to this book and actually thought it could be a idea getting someone from TV for the writing. Later I would see he worked on Catwoman.I feel I need not add insult to injury but this guy did go on to do bigger and better things. John Rogers would write for the Young Justice, Librarians and the Teen Titans all shows which I enjoyed so he was up two in my grade book.

shadowplague

I loved the art on the cover, the characters well drawn and it looked a lot fresher than the older issues I had read before. A big step up but then again I was reading content from the late 80’s & early 90’s.  The writing in Shadowplague is not the best but it is well written with the average reader in mind. I could see how the writers work in television helped him in making the story a little more engaging to those who would come in as novices. Not too many people will understand the difference between a spell and a cantrip and like most of us in high school we hated reading old English. The writer here managed to meet you halfway so that the dialogue feels modern but not too modern that it works against the feel of the setting. I like the coloring and the shading in the panels, especially how some of the characters get those extra details in the right places. I do however miss the rugged look of the older comics but the visually the comic is up to standards and I cannot complain nor praise it.

The plot is not the most original but then again what do you expect buying a Dungeons & Dragons comic? I did like that this was not a comic version of other stories but more a continued comic book series. The characters and story did not have to measure up against previous bestsellers and both the artist and the writer could add more of themselves to the creation of the book. The story revolves around a party that have just joined forces out of common interests and we read the unfolding of the stories. Some have intriguing conflicts that push them further forward whereas others are more stereotypical in a fantasy sense, meaning the elf and dwarf are not that keen on each others company. Through the story it does feel like D&D in the sense that the characters classes do get to play to their strengths in the story and the story, though dry does get you the last page.

I still prefer the older version of the comics but that is my opinion. I feel they were more original with some of the storytelling and think that Shadowplague is a light entry. I saw that quite a few people gave this book a favorable review but I will have to be the outlier…again. The writing and page count left me with things to desire, more chapters and a better conclusion for the price I paid. The book I bought online through amazon did not last two readings before falling out from the spine. I feel they could have been a little more creative with the characters and perhaps added more so that I would feel tempted to fork over more money for the next book. The way things stand now I will not be purchasing the remaining books as I have got into their more recent D&D Publications which you can bet we will talk and write about in posts to come.

Rating: 6 out of 10

 

In closing, if you can source this book or the whole run for cheap then by all  means pull out the plastic and make your bid. I could recommend this comic to someone thinking of getting into D&D and it is a good, light introduction without being too heavy. I talked with some younger readers who said it was fun to see the different races and got curious about the tabletop and video games after reading so in that sense the book does serve a purpose.  For more information on the pair behind the book they did an interview with Newsrama in 2010 we invite you to read.

Thank you for reading, please leave a comment even if it is to contradict my opinion, rate even if it is 3 out of 5  and most importantly subscribe/follow our pages on FACEBOOK + MIXCLOUD as to stay up to date on content and contests. We are always interested in your feedback and welcome your submissions and entries. To hear more on the book the in audio format visit The Nerd Dimension episode in the link.

 

Gotham by Gaslight Review

The concept of putting Bruce Wayne in Victorian Era comes from a somewhat cult classic One Shot of the same name from 1989 which was the result of a strong team up of Brian Augustyn, Mike Mignola with inks by P. Craig Russell. It focuses on the Caped Crusaders fictional battle with the infamous Jack the Ripper the notorious never identified serial killer of 1888 London. The notion is an interesting one and I definitely was curious to see how faithfully the story transitioned to the film format.

GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT (Film Review)
Review by Talon

Gbg Animated Cover
DC Comics Promotional Poster Digital

The Gotham Knight in a Victorian setting? Sounds interesting, but how well do DC with Sam Liu manage to pull this off.
For those who do not follow ‘The Nerd Dimension’ podcast, I have to provide a slight disclaimer – I am a big Batman fan, primarily his depiction by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini of Batman The Animated Series (BTAS) era. That being said I hope to be critical as I should be.

The concept of putting Bruce Wayne in Victorian Era comes from a somewhat cult classic One Shot of the same name from 1989 which was the result of a strong team up of Brian Augustyn, Mike Mignola with inks by P. Craig Russell. It focuses on the Caped Crusaders fictional battle with the infamous Jack the Ripper the notorious never identified serial killer of 1888 London. The notion is an interesting one and I definitely was curious to see how faithfully the story transitioned to the film format.

 

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Cover of the Original One Shot

 

I believe the team were attempting to recapture the feeling of BTAS to a degree and I feel finding Bruce Timm as an executive producer of the project lends credibility to the idea. Having mentioned all this, unfortunately, I feel that unlike BTAS the story falls back into the realm of simplicity with less character development making it more skewed to younger viewers. That being said, it is most definitely an enjoyable watch and one of the best-animated transformations of a comic book to a film which has been a strong trend the last decade or so. The previous statement comes with a disclaimer though if you are not into the Victorian setting and into the Dark Knight this may not be the most enjoyable move you could choose to watch.

The original Elseworld´s one shot piece was a quick read at 52 pages, and was for of a sparring or testing of an environment and its mechanics, specifically a Victorian Era Gotham. In my humble opinion, it was a well-done piece, albeit lacking the usual level of mystery and suspense I enjoy but that is in kind due to the aforementioned length of the piece itself. This I feel would have been an interesting direction the Dark Knight could have went down, a graphic novel would have been interesting to see. *

The animated incarnation I feel attempted to add to something cosmetically using, in my humble opinion, commonplace or fairly used mechanics and tropes to ‘beef up’ a shorter story with a somewhat predictable ending. Though I enjoyed how they added certain characters which weren’t in the original piece, I feel it did little for the whole especially the addition of classic love-hate relationship of Selena Kyle for political correctness or ‘playing it safe’ but detracted from the focus of the material which was I feel the exploration of a different type of Gotham.

A different Gotham not just geographically per Se but I would imagine rather contrasting to today’s more neo-liberal politically correct society. This piece could have been a form of study of the different ways our characters could have come to be in their positions, the different vocations they might be engaged in even expected gender role examinations with clever twists would be welcomed in my view.

All in all the video carnation of Gotham by Gaslight is definitely worth a watch and compared to most animation being released today the more mature rating is welcomed as the film overall quality when measured against similar comic book animated releases. This being said it could have been better, adding maybe more time to the film or simply removing the (I feel forced) characters who were added post source material which would have allowed possibly for more time to allow the environment to be explored and for us to gain more for a feel of the different characters.

All in all, this is probably one the best animated incarnations of our beloved Batman and is a strong 8/10

* The One Shot came with two stories from that Era in the edition. This tale is a little longer is called Master of the Future and is set 11 months after the events of Gotham by Gaslight.

All images used are property of DC Comics and associate/affiliates and I claim no rights over them.

Veins of the Earth

Veins of the Earth

by Patrick Stuart and Scrap Princess

for Lamentations of the Flame Princess

Just before bed, I looked at drive-through RPG, I don’t know why . . . But I found this gem. I may have been one of the first people to buy it. I liked Deep Carbon Observatory and thought I might like this too. I downloaded the PDF and read late into the night. . . .

I felt deeply moved after my first reading, something akin to a religious experience! I will never look at the Underdark the same way again! It starts with a monster manual of 52 new monsters. The first few I already liked! The next section is on Underdark societies, but after reading a few monsters, I skipped over these sections and dove into the rules.

Veins of the Earth portrays a world very different from most people’s vision of the Underdark. It’s not a series of 10 foot high tunnels that your party can have a Marching Order for. It’s Caves . . . that have to be navigated three-dimensionally. You have to climb and repel and squeeze through spaces so small that you have to stick one arm in front of you and tilt your shoulders to fit. Food is so scarce that your body is worth its’ weight in silver as a source of meat.*1

Overshadowing it all is the Dark and the deep.. deep and terrible Darkness “Dungeons are puddles of darkness. This is the sea.” Down here, infravision/darkvision doesn’t work very well. There are several methods provided in the book to adjudicate this. Down here, Light is initiative, Light is the ability to navigate, and Light is money currency. The amount of Light you have left is a measurement of time. The amount of Light you have to consume to get there is a measurement of distance. There are 20 new kinds of lamps offered in the book. Rules about what happens when you get lost in the dark. There is a new character sheet with an easier system of encumbrance than the LotFP standard.

It also has a section for the starvation rules. How long has it been since you ate? 4 days? Then you have to either buy/steal 600 light hours worth of food or eat one of your companions. Yeah, you read correctly.

Climbing in the caves is a very important skill, and non-specialized (non-thieves) party members only have a 16.66% chance of making that climb. Fortunately, you can improve your chance of climbing by studying the route of your climb. The longer you study, the better your odds, with an 82% chance if you spend more than an hour studying the route. (but keep in mind you are burning Light while you do so!) If the DM doesn’t want to roll for every climb, there is a way to roll for exploring and the time it takes. If you fall from a climb there is a highly variable chart to roll damage with the maximum roll of 1-600 hp. You might get lucky and survive that extreme fall or up to 5 of your friends might be able to catch you, sharing the damage among them and you.

Presented in the material is a new way of making caves, a sort of 3D line drawing that allows you to cover lots of rooms quickly.

There is also:

  • A method to use this to quickly generate random caves.

  • A section dedicated to the mapping of larger-scale features like rivers and mines.

  • 100 described caves that you can use on the fly

  • Random name generator

  • 100 works of art

  • 12 kinds of darkness

After reading the rules I went back and read the sections on Cultures in the Veins and monsters. The tone of Cultures and monsters varied considerably. Some of the Monsters I like a lot and would want to use whole cultures of them. Others were described too poetically which puts me off from using them.

Being a more seasoned gentleman myself, I find small print hard to read and the electronic format hard to use as I prefer to flip back and forth when using a book like this at the table. For this reason, I usually print out my pdf’s. There is the art, too. I am not a fan of Scrap Princess. , but her art on Deep Carbon Observatory is starting to grow on me . . . it sets a certain mood.

The art in this book is mostly black and white with little splashes of color. It looks much better on the tablet than the art in Deep Carbon Observatory and I can tell that on glossy pages it would look much better. There is a lot of this art throughout the book. The book has many many large sections of white text on black background. I could tell that it would use a lot of ink to print this out, all 368 pages! I ordered the actual book. . . .

When it arrived, It was extremely high quality, with a glossy cover that shows off Scrap Princess’ art the way it was meant to be seen! The cover looks much better than the one of on Maze of the Blue Medusa! There are two ribbons attached to the book, a red one and a black one to mark two different spots. The most commonly used charts are on the inside covers. The pages are thick . . . almost thick as cardstock! … . . .

All said the book is smaller than expected . . . half-page sized. . . . even smaller than Maze of the Blue Medusa! It doesn’t fit with all my other RPGing books. The smaller pages mean smaller print. Hard to read the small print. The pages are not white, but grey and I have to turn on the lights brightly in order to read the book. Many of the White (gray) print on a black background is hard to read. There is a faint pattern on the pages that I initially thought was bleed-over of print from other pages. The pages are flat, not glossy. Scrap Princess art (except the cover) does not look as good as the electronic version.

After I had had time to digest the book, I realized that there is a lot missing in the content. Several peoples are covered in the Cultures section. There are no descriptions about what individual members of that race are like. Using this book will take a lot of extra work on my part. There is a table of 100 random encounters but, to use the table I will have to flesh out most of them.

There is no equipment list telling how much do things cost. It is stated that meat is worth its’ weight in hours of Light (silver equivalent) but how much are mushrooms? Are there extra big mushrooms that can be used to make things as a substitute for wood? Or do you have to use large bone? How much is real wood worth as jewelry? How much are things from the surface worth, especially highly addictive things, like tobacco? If Light is money, how long does a candle last. How much oil will fit in a lantern? There are 20 different lamps listed. But no costs. Some of them are permanent or semi-permanent sources of Light. How much do they cost? How long do the various fuels last?

With 350+ pages, you would think they would be at least a sample village in a cave or mini-adventure. In closing . . . I highly recommend this book as a reference, but not a book at the table. I plan to print out the tables and character sheets for use at the table though.

*1 (LotFP is on a silver standard)

Written by Pat Mathis

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Fighting with little plastic men. The story of Warhammer:Fantasy Battles

New contributor and fellow Nerd Big K aka Kruno drops an article about the best table top fantasy war game of all time. Read more to find out more about this forgotten classic.

Related image

 

It was the year 1998, the author of this text was in his late teens and admittedly a bigger geek then I am now if that is even humanly possible.

My friends and I had been playing D&D from the very beginnings and as a group we have been hardcore gamers, but D&D to us was a system that was just missing something, we could not quite put our finger on it, but as we understand it now we were missing gritty reality and logic.

While playing D&D at later levels, talking 12th and up, any character could basically walk into a village, kill every single person there and leave without so much as scratch on them! So things like that happened a few times in our playgroup before we disbanded until we could find a punishing enough system that would prevent stuff like that from even the most advanced level players.

We explored and read a lot and my friend and I found an article on (god damn I feel so old for remembering) Alta Vista(for those of you who don’t know what it is, its basically something like Google but way more primitive) about Warhammer: Fantasy Battles. It was a game of heroes and armies clashing on the field of battle, where 2+ players each commanded their own little or big army as we would later discover and beat each other senseless for bragging rights and a pint of beer, or if you played seriously on the tournament scene you could win some nice expensive Warhammer figurines and accessories like paint stations and professional style airbrushes.

In August 1998 the very first box of Warhammer: Fantasy Battles 5th edition arrived in Split, Croatia and my entire crew gathered to see what was in the beautifully painted box which sported a knight in full plate armor on a warhorse charging some sort of lizard like creature.

The suspense was crazy and we were all giggling like schoolgirls, and then we opened the box, it was full of unpainted and un-assembled models of knights, archers, lizardfolk, and sported 2 phenomenal looking heroes/champions for each army.

It also contained a phenomenal rule-book with loads of rules for almost any situation that could occur during the game itself and incredible Gothic looking artwork which we all fell in love with at first sight.

While some people felt underwhelmed and a bit disappointed, most of us including me saw huge potential in Warhammer. I saw endless possibilities for customization and making your own unique army and heroes, which could possibly be used in other gaming systems not just in Warhammer.

Now that we had the actual game it was but the the beginning of the love that would mark the next 20 or so years of my life.

We would all now have to chose an army to represent us best on the battlefield, it would define the way you build your army,  the way you play and what were the strengths and weaknesses of your particular army.

As a group we all picked what we felt most comfortable with.

The Vampire Counts with their incredible necromantic magic that could make entire units of skeletons appear on the battlefield.

The High Elves with their fast moving infantry and cavalry paired with their Mages that could wreak havoc on enemies.

The Empire ,a human faction with  heavily armored knights and heavy artillery like cannons and mortars to back them up and mostly used infantry as cannon fodder and something to be sacrificed to achieve victory at any cost.

The Dark Elves and their specialist units which were lightning quick while their heroes were ferocious in up close melee combat.

The Wood Elves as absolute kings of shooting with their longbows which had extra range and extra power, and the best scout units in the game.

 The Brettonians as a human faction which could be best described as feudal french knights mixed with crusaders and peasants as backup units which provided numbers while their fantastic cavalry did heavy hitting.

The Skaven a race of mutant ratfolk which use unstable magics and fight in huge numbers while supported with a form of close combat magics and semi/mechanical shooting which were hugely unreliable but when they did work  it proved absolutely devastating for the enemy.

The Warriors of Chaos a semi human demon faction wielding insanely powerful magic, which were the ultimate bad guys in the Warhammer world.

The Dwarfs a  reliable army of heavy armored infantry that could withstand almost any charge and strike back with good measure, backed up with some of the most devastating shooting units in the game and very decent protective magic.

And the last but certainly not least, my own favorite faction

The Orcs and Goblins   purely for practical reasons cause nobody else wanted them, I took them as my favorite and never regretted it for a millisecond.

It was an army of monsters, giants, trolls, goblins and orcs which lived in a mostly nomadic tribes and while they had huge numbers they were primitive and their magic was unreliable. When it did hit  it was absolutely devastating and while orcs were huge lumbering brutes that relied on pure strength, goblins were sneaky and devious so with those 2 combined were for me a match made in heaven.

 

And so we all began collecting and painting our armies, gathering for gaming and painting sessions that would last for entire weekends, I personally remember a couple where my folks asked me „Have you guys eaten anything in the last 2 days?“ we would paint and play for hours, the game was to us so immersive and so gritty and real that we had people including me (actually, especially me) have nerd rages for rolling bad and having our heroes killed by sheer bad luck. To most of us it was the best representation of tabletop conflict we have ever seen, and we loved every second of it, because even if you lost, there was a sense of dramatic achievements when you told how your mage wiped out an entire enemy unit when his spell failed (yes it was actually quite possible for a spell to fail and do devastating damage to both friends and foes alike).

We loved the unforgiving nature of the game which made you think of it like chess but with six sided dice included, mistakes on the battlefield were severely punished and your units could quite easily be wiped out by much inferior opponents just because you left your flank or rear open and vulnerable to attack. It was unlike anything we ever played before, in D&D you could resurrect your fallen comrade, in Warhmmer if a Lord/Hero/Mage died it was a huge deal and most armies suffered greatly with a loss of such a huge point investment and lack of leadership.

Warhammer as a game itself has many extensive rules, most of which I will not mention in this text, cause I’m writing an article not a 450 page book, but I do need to mention the game has complex character stats and quite a few of them for each model/character and the better your stats the more points the model costs and each game is played with an agreed number of points, for tournaments it was considered that 2000 point games were most balanced but most playgroups played anything from 500 point skirmishes to 5000 grand battles.

The game itself developed and my group played all editions of the game, however instead of making progress, it is my firm opinion that the game was at its peak during 6th edition which was the most balanced and started deteriorating from there, instead of fixing the minor issues of the game Games Workshop made 7th edition which was somewhat an improved version of the 7th but it reduced and gimped a lot of armies because it reduced the number of race specific magical items doing away with the uniqueness of armies,instead of listening to their player base Games Workshop messed up big time, we thought OK, we can adapt its not 6th but its still playable.

After 7th edition was released followed by the semi disastrous and final installment of Warhammer: Fantasy Battles the 8th edition, while it added some great stuff, like advantage for fighting in large units the so called horde units, it absolutely killed cavalry and mobility and made all armies a copy paste of each other which huge infantry units charging frontally into each other. It seemed to us older players that the game was so stupidly simplified that even preschool children could play it, and we were pretty pissed off.  The number of race specific magical items was almost nonexistent, everything was  incredibly streamlined and we were all disappointed and incredibly angry to the point that some people actually quit playing all together after reading the rulebook.

It was a sad time, we were friends who shared an interest but this tore our group apart, nobody wanted to play with these stupidly simplified rule set, we felt like the huge effort and not to mention a really large money investment was taken from us because developers were morons who did not listen to their player base! Games Workshop wanted to make more money but they failed to realize that you can’t make such drastic changes without alienating and antagonizing longtime customers and supporters of you previous iterations.

It felt like they cheated us old players in favor of new kids and we were pissed off, I believe we had every right to be.

Warhammer: Fantasy Battles no longer exists as a game system, it is replaced by a stupidly simplified game called Age of Sigmar, which while undoubtedly fun to play has no where near the complexity of the game I loved to play which has reduced the number off stats and characters become 1 man armies that decide combat results, while in previous editions it was all about the positioning of your units making the right charge at the right time. Now it is all about who has a bigger sword on a bigger lord class character which is too simple, non complex and for this reason is NOT in the true spirit of Warhammer!!!

It makes me sad and happy at the same time that a group of enthusiasts made an unofficial Warhammer game called the 9th Age but, its not officially endorsed by Games Workshop unfortunately.

This was my experience with Warhammer: Fantasy Battles a game that has given me great joy and a lot of fun memories. It made me a lot of friends and it saddens me that it no longer exists as something I loved to play but as something completely different, that greed and corporate money grabbing destroyed what was once of the greatest tabletop war game of all time.

 

I hope you enjoyed my debut article for Nerd Dimension and look forward to reading you feedback in the comments. Remember to rate, comment and subscribe to our Facebook page and Podcast to stay in the loop as we upload new content.