Empire of the Imagination by Michael Witwer (Book Review)

Gary Gygax played a huge role in gaming history and his contribution is still felt to this day across many tables and platforms. Find out more about this rarely spoken of legend and read what we think of the book.

Written by: Michael K Grymm

“I would like the world to remember me as the guy who really enjoyed playing games and sharing his knowledge and his fun pastimes with everybody else”.

Gary Gyax,

Author, Game Designer & Legend

Unlike many of the contributors and bloggers online today who write at length on the subject of tabletop RPGs from a long history of gaming I came late to the party so to speak (forgive the pun). Though I was first introduced to Dungeons & Dragons through the cartoon that was airing on KTV2 in the early 90’s, which introduced me to basic lore and class concepts of the game despite it being severely watered down I got the idea of what fantasy as genre was.

Being a young boy in that era, growing up with tapes of Conan the Barbarian, The Hobbit animated film and the Heroic Legend of Arslan my mind already had awesome imagery populating the depths of my imagination. Heroic swordsmen dueling for the honor of their people and mages casting powerful magic against unholy demons were but a few of the cool scenarios I already had in my head running to a metal soundtrack.

            The cartoon was campy even for me as a child but I loved the idea of a group of friends coming together to defeat evil, if only around a table in a ‘let’s play pretend’ fashion. Being born and raised in Kuwait until I was 13 getting your hands on the game was next to impossible as most content in the country is still censored and certain board games, books and movies were not available. This would not be the case for videos games and movies as much because piracy was a big thing in the Middle East but nobody was pirating D&D to my knowledge.

The first copy I ever saw of the Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide were when a new American family moved into the building and one of their kids played 3.5 with their friends back home. Sadly we never got around to playing but I remember being fascinated by the class options while also being intimidated by all the charts and numbers. It was not until my mid teens where I would get a firmer grasp on what RPG systems would become thanks to computer and video games having the global impact they did in the mid 90s to mid 00’s. I can still remember playing Blizzard’ Diablo on the Sony Playstation and later Diablo II on PC before getting hooked on Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 1 & 2 for the PS 2. The Dungeons & Dragons novels and the Dragonlance books would allow me to quest further into imaginary realms with heroes and villains doing epic magical battle and added more material for our talks in the playground. These ingredients would be the fabric of day dreams and short stories my brother and I would write in our primary school education, some would even win my brother his first writing awards. Fantasy will continue to be a big part of our pastime and content we enjoy even now as adults and Gary Gygax played a part in it much like he did for millions of others.

            All these great memories and feelings of nostalgia can in a large part be contributed to work of 2 men, Gary Gygax and David Arneson. Two avid, imaginative and almost obsessed creative giants whose talents we lost far too soon. This article will focus more on Gygax, the man who would co-found Tactical Simulation Rules in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin with a few friends and change the nature and shape of gaming and entertainment forever by publishing the still popular and relevant Dungeons & Dragons tabletop rpg system.

            I first heard about this book the first year it was published but only got it to read it the following year. Myself being a huge fan of history in general I find that I too love learning about the history of authors and the games that made my childhood so interesting and colorful. This autobiography chronicling the life of a man who I feel generations owe a lot to first emerged as the thesis for author’s Master Thesis at the University of Chicago.

            The author, Michael Witwer has been in writing professionally for most of his post graduate life but also is an accomplished stage performer with a history in community service and healthcare. Michael also has a blog and has appeared on several blogs and videocasts where he not only talks about the process of writing Empire of Imagination but also the stories surrounding that time and what could not make the book. I suggest checking out his appearance on Matt Chat to find out more about our author and get some other tasty pieces of information.

            I pushed play on this audio book knowing more than the average nerd about the origins of D&D and it’s creators. Having read whatever I could find online as well as the documentary ‘Secrets of Blackmoor: The True History of Dungeons & Dragons’, the review, which will be published on Nerd Dimension next week. Familiar with Gary’s troubled past at TSR (Tactical Studies Rules) and the legal feud between himself and Dave Arneson was also something that I hoped would be cleared up through the passages of Empire of Imagination. The author did his homework and attempted his best to deliver a man’s life story with great care to his legacy while also staying the course on keeping it balanced and true to events that surrounded this overlooked legend. This was no easy task when you consider that the author had a subject that had already passed by the time he started his research and had to find contacts and sources who could still testify to the events and Gary’s character. Some of the key actors in the drama would obviously avoid making comment, namely the conniving Blume brothers who this writer feels personally and directly contributed to many of the financial headaches of TSR prior to Lorraine Williams’ arrival at the company.

            Empire of the Imagination is a collection of authentic accounts in which the reader is taken through the life and times of a simple man, not a hero fighting in a war against a maniacal tyrant nor a political leader who captivated the hearts and minds of millions. Gary Gygax for the most part was a storyteller and gamer in a time where neither would get you far in life. The man spent half of his life working a 9 – 5 struggling to get by to feed his family of 4, which would continue to grow but it is this very struggle and his optimistic attitude that endears him to the reader. Witwer would write about the highs and the lows and the moments that molded Gary in his youth to his actions and digressions in adulthood. This expose of sorts brought home to me the nature of this man and how he truly cared about gamers and the game when RPGs, videogames and publishers looked at the genre as a whole as a fad and a niche that would eventually fizzle out. He started conventions and collaborated with people via snail mail and long distance phone calls just to enhance the experience for not just his players but also all players.

            Hearing about how Gary and his war gamer buddies went from reenacting historic military battles to designing an entirely new way to play and create a format of entertainment is inspirational and warms your heart to those independent creators out there today doing the same thing. You can identify with the working class man still devoted to his passion and seeing it come to fruition left me with a good feeling.

            This book is a must read for anybody who is a fan of the RPGs and classic Dungeons & Dragons as much as it is for the novice player just entering the universe that is RPGs. The story is gripping from beginning to end and you will feel for not only Gary but also for those around him while learning what it took to keep the game going for as long as he did. His determination and drive and eternal boyish nature would allow him to repeatedly pick himself up from any thing from financial ruin which would cripple anyone else to the emotional desolation of two divorces this small and great man would rise and be responsible for how we spend countless hours of our lives today. The book is well worth the purchase and I warmly recommend it to anybody who is thinking of getting to rpgs and not just a MUST read for writer and creators already in the industry.

I will have to give this book an 8 out of 10 and is worth having as I myself have revisited it 3 times until now and every time I pick up something new.

Lords of the Cosmos #4 Kickstarter reminder!

We are exited to announce that the Kickstarter for the next issue of your favorite extreme metal futuristic dystopian fantasy is right around the corner!!! Check out more about the series and the artist Jason Lenox here.

Comic Book Men (TV Series)- Recommendation & Review

all images are copyright and ownership of Jason Lennox & rightsholders of the IP

If you have been following the site in recent years you will know that we are fans and supporters of the series and the art and writing is different to what has been popular with mainstream publishers which is one of the reasons we enjoy Jason’s work. This grimmer, darker series with a unique setting make for thrilling reads and lets us appreciate the art of the panels giving me the vibes of hand drawn classics but not aged. The villains are fleshed out antagonists that you feel with at times while at others you just are in awe of the evil. In the last issue the creators introduced some cool unconventional heroes such as Bees with shotguns, Eagles with comms to plants operating mechs, the team truly deliver on giving us something wild and engaging without jeopardizing the cruel reality of the setting or sacrificing immersion. I can promise you that it will read like no comic you read recently, especially if you are thinking of returning to the hobby it is this kind of book that takes you back to the edgy creativity of a time gone. Having read the previous 3 it is a must I pledge and get behind the project but I encourage anyone interested to look into this Kickstarter.

Jason is a pretty humble guy and he is not all over social media like a lot other folks in the industry but his work ethic and openness impressed me from day one when I first reached out. He was prompt with his response and polite, making time for a small time site like us really is a testament to him wanting to help out smaller creators. A family man with his handful most days it is no small feat for him to consistently deliver on Lords of the Cosmos and I do hope that we see many more issues of this epic adventure while wishing Mr. Lennox nothing but great success in his future endeavors.

Thanks for reading, please check out Jason’s social media and website to stay up to date on all the great work he is doing.

The Death of Superman and the Reign of Supermen – Lightning did not strike twice !

In the 90s my generation witnessed the death of an iconic character. Today the newer generations get to relive that momumental moment in the medium of comics. Read what how we feel about the new itiration and take on the comics that changed the path of Superman and brought him into the modern era.

Having grown up in the 90s I was lucky to have watched some of the best-animated features and series in the history of television and got to read some of the runs in comics. To me, it is my favorite era of comics because of the sheer volume of content being produced when it came to comics and action figures and kids of my generation really had a lot to see and pine over. One of the big things of the 90’s was also something that rattled comic book fans all over the planet as we first heard that DC comics were going to kill Superman! The comic itself is said to have contributed to the subsequent downward spiral in comic book sales as at the time there was a boom in which niether publisher lost time capitalizing on. To speak on this we must also discuss when this orginally came to be to compare previous installments.

Graphic Novel Cover
Cover of the Graphic Novel

The comic, titled ‘Doomsday’ (Dan Jurgens & Roger Stern) was discussed on national television and in the press when it dropped in 93 and apart from flying off the shelves Warner Bros and DC comics would fail capitalize, waiting until 2007 with it arriving on DVD in 2008 called Superman: Doomsday. Fun fact Kevin Smith has a cameo playing himself poking fun at the time he worked on a Superman script. Even the talent of legends Bruce Timm (Batman Animated Series and Justice League) and Duane Capizzi ( Transformers: Prime, Darkwing Duck, and The Batman).The animated feature was well-drawn but differed from the source material which is a pattern that would follow in the decades to come. The problem was that Warner Bros should have released this movie in the early 90’s when the comics were out to have fully capitalized as Superman: Doomsday was not released to rave reviews and was not making anyone’s top 10 list anytime soon. Superman dying is a big deal and coming late to the party may have affected the interest of the masses in this animated film but it was a decent release and if you can find it somewhere for cheap it is a decent addition to any collection for the sake of nostalgia.

It would be more than a decade later before DC and Warner Bros would revisit the storyline, this time opting to remain closer to the source material by including Superboy, the Eradicator, and Steel. I am reviewing the combo pack release in which you have the option of watching both titles back to back in on sitting.  My buddy and I from the board game club watched it and though it felt like it dragged on. We were two different demographics watching this movie, for him, it was his first time watching or hearing about Superman dying. It then hit me that the younger generation have grown up with blockbuster movies and loads of shows and movies and comics themselves were not mainstream for ages. This means my friend Lenny never really got into comics growing up and now in his late teens is diving deeper into the history of these characters he grew up with.

The casting of talent was spot on with Hollywood names such as Nathan Fillion (Firefly & Castle) voicing Hal’s Green Lantern, Rebecca Romjin   (X-men Trilogy, Punisher & The Librarians) as Lois Lane and Rosario Dawson (Daredevil and Iron Fist) as Wonder Woman. I have no complaints on their voiceacting and the dialogue proved to be convincing enough but it did not have the style and look of the 2007 adaptation. I was pleasantly surprized when I sutmbled upon the BluRay Double Feature release where you could get and stream both movies back to back.

As someone who is a huge Bruce Timm and Paul Dini fan I would have preferred if they tried to keep some of the original look from the 90s and early 00s but I will not hold it against them. Warner Brothers have been consistently releasing at least 1 animated feature a year if not more while continuing to support live action shows such as Super Girl, Green Arrow and Titans. Despite their major motion pictures earning big bucks at theaters but the negative critiques and feedback from fans following the Justice League movie and the how Aquaman failed to capture the the interest of many older viewers. With a new man in charge and at the helm of future Warner Brothers releases with a growing interest in appealling to the Chinese market the studio needs to be wise  to avoid the blunders of the past and the mistakes other corproations are making in appeasing the Eastern market.

Warner Brothers are wise to keep the fans happy with content over the years and this release will scratch an itch and does give you a story worth watching. The first part of the story (The Death of Superman) will have you watching Supes give it all his all as the Justice League struggle against the arrival of Doomsday. They carnage and desperation is paced well throughout and the inevitable ending does leave you wondering what would happen next. The Regin of the Supermen would see our first itiration of the comic series where in the absence of Kalel other ‘Supermen’ would rise up and attempt to fill that void. As to not spoil too much of it but we get to see Luthor still angling to be the most powerful man on the planet by introducing Superboy as other ‘versions’ of the former hero rose up including the Eradictor and Steel weaving an interesting narrative. The more adult tone of the story does well in immersing the viewer in what is going on. You have Darksied appearing and watching the heroes and citizens try to make sense of this new era where heroes compete over the top spot while new evils find their way to our blue marble with villianous intentions.

Reing of the Supermen Comic cover
Cover for the Graphic Novel

The second part of the arc plays out better than the previous installment and watching the dynamics between the different characters and the attention paid to the minute details of each of the ‘supermen’ added more to the feature. The writers and producers attempted to include as much as they could from the source material and do not make it a campy feature and touch on issues such as self belief, betrayal and revenge in a way we have not experienced in their perevious animated features.  I can warmly recommend watching these two features back to back when you have 3 hours to kill however I sadly will not recommend it as a purchase.

 

Despite being different to what most fans have grown accustomed and used to from WB Animations it does not go deep enough for me to want to re-watch it any time soon. For that reason I would have to give it a 6.5 out of 10 as it is a double feature package and it would be unfair to judge them as standalone releases (which you still can get seperately). It is good fun for Superman fans and fans of the genre in general but not worth the money as I do not see it adding much value or replay value to most collections.

Until next time I would like to wish all of our nerds and nerdettes the best possible week and just ask for you to invite some friends to our Facebook page and hit the like button so we know you enjoy our content. If you would like to suggest a topic for us to cover or a creator you think would care to be interviewed do not hesistate to send us an email after liking our FB page.

 

*Nerd Dimension claim no ownership or copyrights over the images or IPs described and reviewed in our posts. We utilize any materials under fair use for news and review purposes .  

 

 

..not as good as the comic

NerdDimension.Com presents the BATMAN: HUSH Film Review
by Talon

BATMAN: HUSH Film Review

by Talon

Batman: Hush is an animated film by Warner Bros. Animation based off an 8 issue Comic Book story arc of the same name written by Jim Lee & Jeph Loeb which ran from 2002-2003, the feature directed by Justin Copeland was premiered at San Diego Comic-Con of 2019. The leads of the film are voiced by Jason O’Mara, Batman, & Jennifer Morrison voicing Selina Kyle aka Catwoman.

Jeph, Justin, Jim, Jennifer and Jason
Right to Left: Jeph Loeb, Justin Copeland, Jim Lee, Jennifer Morrison & Jason O’Mara

This adaptation leaves much to be desired by true fans of the source material but will likely appeal to those new to the story as the writer and film team have taken liberties and creative licenses as with most movie adaptations today, especially comic related ones. Judging the film on its own merits Batman:Hush is good but not as good as the comic.

For those who are not familiar Batman: Hush is one the most popular and critically praised graphic novels of all time but most certainly of the last two decades (IGN Ranking it 11th in their top 25 list) evidenced by the first issue having 113,061 pre-orders in October 2002 placing it at the peak of the Top 300 comics charts. Going into the project Loeb, a fan favourite having done justice to the character in previous iterations, this time teamed up with maestro artist Jim Lee by both shaking up the status quo and making a few unexpected decisions creatively they succeeded in creating buzz and controversy .

comic cover hush
Original Comic Book Cover of Batman: Hush

Returning to the animation, DC has been consistent with its art style since the Flashpoint offerings creating a sort of baseline to illustrate the connectedness of the different films. This isn’t bad, but the style isn’t up to snuff compared to Batman: The Animated Series or Jim Lee’s masterful pieces in the original comic. This movie like countless other adaptations and reboots of the last decade plus suffers from the animation writing staff putting their own touches on the story. This approach hasn’t made great projects where possibly Teen Titans: The Judas Contract and The Death of Superman are exceptions which reinforce the rule. Unfortunately most writers make big alterations to great stories in an attempt to keep the story ‘fresh’ to fans who know the original story, whilst this can work in seldom cases it did not by and large in the New 52 era or for writer Ernie Altbacker in the case of Batman: Hush.

BTAS, TEEN TITANS DEATH OF SUPES
Left to Right Box Art of Teen Titans The Judas Contract, Batman The Animated Series & The Death of Superman

The film begins with Bruce Wayne making an appearance at an evening banquet where he bumps into an old school friend Thomas Elliot (Maury Sterling) and sees Selina Kyle which gets him thinking about giving their relationship a shot again.

Shortly thereafter he stumbles upon a conspiracy involving a kidnapped young boy who is being held by Bane (Adam Gifford), as he foils the plot Catwoman makes away with the ransom money promptly delivering it to Poison Ivy (Peyton List).

As Batman attempts to catch Catwoman his grappling line is torn by a sniper shot from the titular villain sending Batman crashing to the street. Luckily there are some good people to stave off encroaching threats.

Bruce decides to begin dating Selina, and when they attend the Opera the are met by Harley Quinn (Hynden Walch) who claims that she must kill Bruce Wayne in order to free her boyfriend The Joker (Jason Spisak).

To spare you readers as many spoilers as possible I ll just add that yes Catwoman and Batman get involved, yes.

Ernie, and Co
Left to Right: Ernie Altbacker, Jason Spisak, Maury Sterling, Adam Gifford, Peyton List & Hynden Walch

In essence the viewer is treated to large portion of the classic Batman rogues gallery thanking to the stratagem of Hush, a new player on the scene who is mind controlling the lot of them. The cast is solid but both leads would have been better served if they were voiced by Kevin Conroy & Adrienne Barbeau respectively. Other welcome voices to the troop to reprise their roles would have been Arleen Sorkin as Harley, Mark Hamill as The Joker, Loren Lester as Dick Grayson/Nightwing and Richard Moll as Harvey Dent.

Conroy & Co
From Top Left to Right: Adrienne Barbeau, Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Arleen Sorkin & Loren Lester.

Fans of the source material will not be thrilled by certain changes made to the story, most being trivial and unnecessary (like switching Killer Croc with Bane or Huntress with Batgirl which basically ends Oracles role in the story) which eat away at the robust story itself but one which probably does detract from the story is the love affair between Bruce and Selina taking centre stage more so than in the comic books. Whilst this is the only aspect which is perhaps an improvement on the source material, the movie is not called Catwoman & Batman but Batman: Hush. That being said Damian Wayne’s (Stuart Allen) response to the pairing is probably the most memorable moment of the feature. Most changes feel to have been done to make the film fit in the current DC Animated universe, much like what Marvel has been doing the last decade or so, but with source material as strong as this is clearly not the best idea.

DAMIAN WAYNE CHAT
Screenshot of Damian Wayne played by Stuart Allen

The animation does feel a little generic and the above average fight scenes do not mask the misstep. Another thing I feel old school fans will be disappointed by is the seemingly forced use of profane language in an attempt to make the feature edgier, as is the sexual innuendo which feels static as it suggests O’Mara and Morrison lack adequate chemistry to pull off the romance in a believable manner.

The ending itself feels rushed and leaves one feeling anticlimactic and that the huge choices Batman made throughout the film are insignificant, which they are not. This story arc could have been better served if they spread the story into a two feature series or even three, instead we are left with numerous red herrings and you simply don’t feel Hush is a worthy opponent of the caped crusader.

This movie, unlike the beginning of Warner Bros. Animation, suffers from what most movies suffer from – too much meddling with what works. Batman: The Animated Series was a watershed moment and a classic which stands out today just because Jean MacCurdy (the company in this instance) allowed the creative team of Bruce Timm, Paul Dini & Mitch Brian to do what THEY felt was BEST.

WB DREAM TEAM
The Warner Bros Animation Dream Team Left to Right: Jean McCurdy, Bruce Timm, Paul Dini & Mitch Brian

This feature much like most films inspired by comics feels like making money was far and wide the top priority which there is nothing wrong with but by banking on an existing fan-base to support it without giving any fan service in return doesn’t seem fair. It is likely a sign of the times where everything must appeal to as many consumers as possible disrupting the organic quality of the storytelling in the process.

The animation is crisp and presented in 2160p in the Blu-ray and the DTS-HD 5.1 audio is just as quality so that is alright.

In closing its nice to see that DC continues to bring back some classic stories into the animated realm, unfortunately like others they are guilty of trying to ‘fix’ a working recipe. The original comic arc was built on a clever detective story, provided interesting plots twists and intelligent characterization from the writer and stellar artwork by the illustrator making it a classic which is still impressive today.

Worth praising is DC’s attempt to create a semblance of a continuity but I feel most fans would rather not have this done at the expense of the source material. The worse thing I felt upon finishing the film, and days later, was how generic it felt. As a big fan of Batman this leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Batman: Hush will most likely appeal most to casual fans and a public which have no foreknowledge of the comic, as it is a good animated feature but for true fans of the original work who have been waiting for it to grace the small screen format it will very likely be a serious disappointment.

We give this film a score :

2.5 / 5

All images used are property of DC Comics, StarReel Entertainment, Warner Bros. Animation, Atlas Oceanic Sound & Picture, NE4U, Salami Studios and their associate/affiliates as well as numerous media outlets and I claim no rights over them.

Medieval, Tales from Europe (new realistic setting for D&D 5E hitting Kickstarter) – Interview with Andrea Oneglia

Mykal talks with one of the Italian Trio behind Medieval – Tales from Europe to bring you guys more info on the this new, exciting setting aimed for 5th Edition players looking for more realism in their tabletop rpgs.

It has been a while since we last delved into the depths of tabletop RPGs and are fortunate enough this time to bring you some firsthand testimony and insight from a designer himself, Andrea Oneglia of Tales for Gamers Publishing (wicked nice name btw) whose efforts are focused on the release of his debut RPG setting Medieval – Tales from Europe which will be hitting Kickstarter soon.

Medieval – Tales from Europe is a historical setting that wants to bring the role players into a bizarre, unpredictable and absurdly real world, soaked in esotericism and full of that fairytale atmosphere that only the Middle Ages can offer, now finally proposed in a classic manner for the world’s most famous role playing game. A low magic system with only one race, the human, and 11 new playable classes will teleport you into the tales of an ancient and tumultuous Europe. Live unbelievable chivalrous adventures mixed with fantastic and supernatural events, marked by typical epic tones and by the satirical and grotesque ones of the folk stories. Keep up to date with the latest released news, explore our contents and support the Kickstarter campaign to receive everything you need to immerse yourself in this amazing story.

What drew me in from the first glance was the artwork I saw in a post he had on a Facebook group we both are members of. I clicked and discovered that Andrea and his team were working on a 5TH Edition Setting set in the Medieval Era which is intended to give players a more immersive and realistic feel. This to me sounded awesome and the further I dug the more I was intrigued and wanted to hear more about it. With information on the project scarce I decided to reach out to the man himself and see what unfolds. Andrea replied promptly and turned out to be a pretty solid guy and upon our request to do a write up agreed with open arms and sent us what he had at the time.

Q1.) So Andrea, tell us a little about yourself? (-short points where are you from, where you grew up etc.)

I was born and raised in Italy, in a small city 20 miles away from Naples, not far from Pompei, surrounded by the sea and by cultural and architectural remains of romans and Etruscan populations. I grew up in a territory rich in history and soaked in mysticism, legends and ancient tales. I grew up with the stories my grandparents used to tell me about the saints and other spiritual beliefs, for example the Jianara (a famous witch who would sneak in your room while you sleep to choke you to death! I’ve never known why!). Most of the time, those stories turned into world war II stories, unfortunately.

Q2) When did you first embark on you journey into the roleplaying games?

The role-playing games came much later in my life, even if the gaming world in general has always been a constant since my childhood (mostly videogames). Another separate hobby of mine was reading and writing, principally science fiction and fantasy. I enjoyed writing stories about interstellar travels, multidimensional existences and a lot about medieval fantasy settings too, things like King Arthur stories or even more unrealistic as Lord of the Rings. At the age of 15 I found out there was a way to combine the two things (games and narrative) and the result was incredible! That’s how I got into the role-playing games world, starting with Dungeons and Dragons (the most popular) and having the chance to explore the others just later. D&D allowed me to bring other people, mostly my friends, into the stories I used to write, to make them see what I see and to make them live the worlds I have created, which was something I have always researched. We from Tales for Gamers Publishing believe in the artistic power these things innately possess and we want to give our contribution in helping others “live” more engaging tales, as the historical ones can be.

Q3) You are a European working in Canada, so have you come across any cultural and business differences since you have moved?

My moving to Canada was a shock I could say. We are talking about a country that turned immigration into one of its main strengths, since it’s a relatively young country that needs young professionals to grow. We can’t really say the same for Italy, where for cultural, geographical and organizational aspects immigration hasn’t been considered as a resource yet. This makes Canada a giant boiling pot where everything ferments, grows and can contribution to a diverse ecosystem. There is space and opportunities for every decent person who feels like making a difference in this world in all the fields, from science to art (there is a huge community of role-players here!). At the same time, being a young country, founded entirely on colonialist politics (that dissolved almost completely what was here before), it doesn’t share the long reaching pasts of a lot of the nation’s back in Europe. Speaking about Quebec at least (where I live), the locals still struggle to find an identity and a link with their past which translates in still keeping today a veiled, and for some traits silly, discord between the French and English cultures on the territory (the two countries who fought for the occupation in the 18th century).

Q4) So what about your setting, Medieval Tales – from Europe (Medieval, Tales from Europe) made you feel confident enough to make the bold step of crowdfunding at this early stage?

The most immediate answer I can offer is: “because I love it!” Because I am the first excited fan of this setting and I like to play it with my friends! Even at the time when the mechanics were unclear, we were already trying (spontaneously, in our game sessions) to build up a more realistic system, more theatrical and less role-standard, more human and less divine, more survival and less chill. I can honestly admit that there is nothing like this around (yet)! Yes, there are medieval settings, some of them quite good, but for one reason or another they didn’t see much success and the gamers community seems still to crave more of it in their gaming. Medieval, Tales from Europe, is also introducing new (or not explored enough!) concepts in the RPGs world (the supernatural and the fear of the unknown, the weapons as ultimate deadly instruments, the concept of ultra-specialized classes), which raised huge interest in the players I shared it with. All these things made me decide to take action, step forward and propose something different to our community of players.

Professions + logo Kickstarter

Q5) 11 professions this early seems interesting and from the material you have shown they all vary and will probably feel different. I noticed that you did not shy away from including some interesting yet darker parts of European History including the Surgeon which reminds us of images of the plague. Please tell us about some of the classes and how they differ to a newcomer.

A realistic and historical setting as ours intends to be, needs to start from scratch with the classes. Most of the examples of what we have seen so far appeared inadequate for our purposes. Having the classes boil down to be no more than a fighters, better fighter,  other mediocre fighters, but fighters at the end of the day (which, just to be clear, works just fine in some of the amazing and valid RPGs systems we see around, based mainly on combat). With all the respect for those great titles, those classes sounded just wrong for the setting we have started developing. I like to look upon our 11 new classes as actors on a stage, ultra-specialized, very different from one another and, most importantly, irreplaceable! If your party are short an Explorer, the other players need to work harder to compensate some of the benefits the Explorer can provide during travels and still have some needs unmet. Same for the Artist, the Rogue and all the other classes (which are called Professions in this setting). The Surgeon is for sure one of the most interesting actors on our medieval stage! He can provide useful support in sewing the wounds and in restoring your hit points and there will be no one else able to do it in such an efficient way. The Surgeon can be a sneaky danger too if under menace, since he or she knows the body’s weak points, how to damage them or use them during torture. In summary, there is nothing in common in the different Professions except they are all humans with important skills but vulnerable and never perfect; people that try to do one unique important thing: survive!

Medieval - Tales from Europe
Nerd Dimension do not claim any ownership or copyrights over Medieval – Tales from Europe.

Q6) Low fantasy as a choice brings a lot with it. You have chosen to limit the playable races to only Human which I think is a pro but I am certain you must have got a few odd looks from some of the folks around the table or at the comic store. Please shed light on the decision and how you feel it will positively impact the game?

A low-fantasy system with only humans came as a crucial choice, even if drastic for some aspects, for the sake of a more realistic setting. This for us is going to add other interesting elements, not remove them as we are trying to be as true to the setting. I will try elaborate with an example. Have you ever thought about how devastating some abilities such as Darkvision (an ability in classic rpgs that allow a character to see in the dark) can be on the narration, on the suspense and the engagement you can have at the table when a character gets into a fully dark catacomb? Why there is even a torch in the starting pack of an adventurer if 70% of the classes can see in the dark and you are never going to light it up in a dungeon (and we could say the same about so many other cool but useless objects)? However, the RPG world is wide and vast, and there are players who love settings where “human issues” can be simply overcome with a snap of fingers. Medieval, Tales from Europe wants to provide an alternative support for those players who seek a more competitive game setting, where you’d better think twice in choosing your equipment if you don’t want to end up alone, frozen to the bones, in a dark cave full of venomous snakes or a bear (deadly situations even for a 20th level character in some cases). Also, these features allow for us to finally branch out for some new kind of stories we can play out around the table, such as the story of Saladin who led the Islamic forces during the Crusades, or the story of Joan of Arc and the Hundred Year war, along with many other historical events that comprise the rich history of Europe. Or those tales between myth and legends such as Robin Hood, King Arthur and Lancelot’s story, and heritage of our European culture, stories that simply need the characters to be human and far fro perfect. Is there another way you can play these scenarios with Dungeons and Dragons without the new features (and the drastic choices) Medieval, Tales from Europe is going to introduce?

Q6.2) In the brief you emailed us you highlighted that Low Magic is different to No Magic and we wanted to give you an opportunity to expand on that for our readers.

When we think about the Middle Ages it suddenly brings up dark images to ones mind such as the esotericism of forbidden doctrines and the use of occult sciences which in the Dark Ages claimed to induce supernatural effects on people and situations (a classic example is the voodoo dolls or the habit of keeping crystals or herbs in the houses to keep the malevolent spirits away). In such a scenario it’s hard to imagine a setting that doesn’t take magic into consideration in some form. At the same time, magic as we know it, described well by the fantasy settings of the past, doesn’t exist in our world and it can’t exist in a realistic setting. That’s why we had to work firstly on the concept of magic we wanted to introduce and then on the game mechanics and how to put it in player’s hands. In Medieval, Tales from Europe magic doesn’t exist, but people might interpret some weird signs and circumstance as such because they believe in it and, most importantly, they fear it! The Arcanist, one of the most magic-like Profession we have introduced, is nothing else than a trickster who is himself convinced of the reality of the effects he creates to be true. Such an insane personality can have a great impact on other people’s minds because he uses fear as a weapon, and he will find out it can be as sharp as a blade. In our setting everything is possible, all the supernatural effects can be realized but only if the character is good enough in influencing people’s mind. How does this translate in game mechanics? There will be no spell list in this new setting. We have introduced (for the first time in a tabletop RPG setting, to our knowledge!) a system where whatever supernatural effect can be created by the player itself, not combining parts or pre-generated words but simply inventing it. The Storyteller will give a score to those effects and the player will need to roll a Charisma check (Influence) to create the right grade of suggestion and make the effect appear real to those who are watching (even if it is not). Some of these tricks can have an effect as real as an arrow in the chest!

Q7) You are obviously intending to run Medieval Tales – From Europe over the Dungeons & Dragons 5 Edition rules set which is the most popular on the market. This is a two part question so sorry Andrea,

  1. What did you like about 5E and how do you feel you added to it with your setting
  2. As an independent publisher and creator can you tell us how it is working with an existing rules set and whether it comes with complications?

The 5th Edition is far from being a perfect setting but nothing ever is to be honest. For example, it gives the impression of going easy on players as a RPG system. I feel players are not challenged enough and a lot revolves around the combat with fewer opportunities for diversifying and customizing the characters that it’s previous editions. Even the level progression, according to the Dungeon Master’s Guide should be triggered by an insane amount of combat encounters, primarily. This being said, the system seems to have a pretty strong up-side, which deserved to be use for our setting: it is incredibly widespread (everyone plays it!) and it’s the easiest to learn, an aspect that attracts a lot of new players. As I said previously, we had to adjust some aspects of the 5th edition engine to make it suitable for a realistic setting but we kept intact most of the main backbone. We tried to make the smallest changes possible, preferring to adjust some mechanics instead of outright removing them and forcing players to learn new ones from scratch. The results are far better than what we anticipated with a more challenging and a more interpretative fashion of play compared to the basic 5th edition. Thanks to the Open-Gaming License (OGL) released by Wizard of the Coast in early 2019, the 5th edition rules are free from copyright and everyone can use them, under specific conditions and with the limitation of not including any of the world-settings the company has created for an eventual business idea. Thanks, Wizards!

Q8) Being bilingual yourself I have to ask whether or not you intend to publish in several languages other than English, perhaps Italian, Espanyol or German?

Out first choice was the Italian language, an automatic choice given the nature of content and the south-European flavor of the setting. Plus, Italy is proving lately to be infected with the bug and in Europe is leading in new role players and in new related contents including boardgame publishers. With the recent growth in popularity of boardgames, roleplaying games and the success of movies like the Avengers and shows like Stranger Things the ranks of tabletop rpg fans continue to grow daily in my home country. We decided to also publish in English in order to reach everyone else in the world and give them the chance to get immersed in the fascinating tales of our continent. If Medieval, Tales from Europe is going to be translated in other languages, it depends on many aspects, mostly the Kickstarter campaign outcome.

Q9) The artwork we have managed to see so far are distinct and reminiscent of Fantasy Novel covers in a more modern style. What is your experience and advice when it comes to reaching out to talent whether it be artists or designers, has the internet allowed for more affordable and efficient collaboration?

The power of social media and this recent RPG explosion we are having in Italy allowed me to get in touch with some great artists in the field. I had the fortune to meet the artists and got them involved in this project quite easily. I guess they saw a chance to get some more exposure (they are all still carving out their own path) and at the same time they gave me the honor of using their amazing illustrations for this project, which appear to fit our vision and one for the project! It’s mind boggling how many artists are out there online working on these types creative jobs, whether it is artwork or game-design. I see a great future for such collaborations and partnerships as more and more talent is taking their abilities online.

Q10) The last question is about the Kickstarter and what do backers get? What are you goals, what is the figure and more importantly, what do supporters get who pledge to your campaign?

We expect to see a great Kickstarter campaign in December 2019 which hopefully will turn Medieval, Tales from Europe from ideas into reality. The funds we are asking for will be entirely used in completing the project, to cover the production and shipment costs of the material we offer and the expenses in time and instruments the artists involved in this project need in order to give us their best. In defining the rewards we are going to offer in exchange of the pledges, we based the decision on a simple concept: we want the player to get what they need to start their experience with Medieval, Tales from Europe as soon as they get it in their hands, and nothing more. We believe that less is more, and we want to concentrate the material in useful products, avoiding unused gadgets. Among the rewards there will be the Player’s Guide in PDF and Hardcover format and some others contents including a one-shot adventure, a little guide for the encounters with some crucial enemies stats, famous medieval characters’ sheet, artworks and more. There will be some good deals for the early birds and for those present in our newsletter list. Most important, we will take care of the shipping cost of all the products and once the campaign is over, hopefully with a positive outcome, our backers will not be charged anything more. They will be invited in a private Facebook group where they can follow the different stages of the project, stay in touch with us the producers and just wait for the product to arrive.

Arcanist

Andrea’s story is one shared by many independent creators but too many allow their ideas to remain nothing more than pencil scratches on the back of a character sheet. Andrea has been thinking and working on a setting with a foundation in realism that itself is historically rich and inspiring. Himself investing into getting the artists to help bring these same ideas to life. The dancing blades that harken to the ottoman and Turkish Empires look fierce while the Warrior and Explorer remind you of the Knights of Britain and the voyages of the Spanish Fleet. This Era in European history is rife with conflict, myths, religion and intrigue so splashing in a dab of fantasy adds just enough to make it feel new and worth exploring. This game is different in the best way possible, it is supposed to be different.

We must commend Tales for Gamers Publishing for getting behind their ideas and having a vision they are pursuing. They are doing what designers could never have dreamed of twenty years ago, today they can call their friends and fans to action. Gamers have elevated crowdfunding to where it is legitimately funding bestselling products tabletop to the Xbox store and Tales for Gamers are not taking much risk. By taking their time to build more awareness for their game they can launch a Kickstarter to an interested public and audience. More important it is great to see an Italian creator and publisher aspiring to make his mark internationally with his work. This is a European project that we are certain will find it’s place at tables across the continent. Our job at Nerd Dimension is help however we can because growing up I always dreamed of being part of the industry, work within in and belong to the culture and now I do. Today we can step up and get behind creators like never before and Medieval Tales – From Europe is something that I feel has been missing from the tabletop and with our help Tales for Gamers can remedy it. We would like to salute the valiant efforts of Giovanni Laudante IT specialist of the group, Davide Santonicola the super fan who always is ready to help and last but not least collaborator Maurizio Infante.

We are going to pledge to the campaign and we invite our readers to check out their page and see what it’s about for themselves. Andrea and his team are communicative and are always looking for more people to hear about Medieval Tales so please give them a like and show them some support. I myself have been guilty of scrolling past Kickstarter posts because most of them fail for a reason but I am glad that I checked this one out. Next time you guys are going through your troll page, click on one of those posts if it seems cool because you could be helping that dream come true for somebody.

I was thrilled to cover this and expect us to have Andrea back on, this time he will appear on our podcast which will go back up when our co-host Bakreni returns so make sure you are subscribed and are following our pages to hear how everything went. Until next time reader, role deep and stop trying to pick pocket in the tavern already!

 

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Lords of the Cosmos – Epic 80s Heavy Metal Space Fantasy the way we want it !

Mykal does a write up on the interesting comic Lords of the Cosmos and discusses why he feels people should get behind this Epic 80s comic and its Kickstarter .

It is not a mystery to anybody who ever browsed the posts of our blog that we are avid comic and graphic novel readers, me personally usually opting for more darker storytelling in the comics I read. When I stumbled across Lords of the Cosmos in a post on Facebook my interest was piqued and was curious to see what it was all about. The more I dug the more I discovered this awesome setting and the story behind the book itself. Learning that it was an entirely independent venture and to see that they managed to recruit some truly talented names in the industry told me I had to reach out to somebody from the project. I sent a message to Jason Lenox through Messenger and was pleasantly surprised when I read the reply that he would send me the EPK and all the materials I would need to do a write up for their new Kickstarter. What really made me happy was how I managed to get the two previous issues for review which I will individually do reviews for, but this post is to tell ya’ll about this awesome book and hopefully get more people involved in the story moving forward. It feels great to support something that achieves more than expected and Lords of the Cosmos deserves to have many more issues moving forward.

Umex-cover-low-res

Lords of the Cosmos is the brainchild of co-creators Jason Lenox (Lovecraft P.I.), Jason Palmatier and Dennis Fallon (Plague) who wanted to publish something together that stood out. All three have experience within the industry and have no problem sharing their projects with other artists and talent so don’t be surprised when you see more names in the credits than usual. The drawing styles of all the artists come together to form these evocative images from page to page. The voice of the narrators through out prove that the writers and creators have a well developed and flushed out setting and know the direction in which they want the story to go. The grim tone and matching illustrations immerse you into Aiden. Each issue comes with several stories, each depicting backstories and different events on Aiden and how it impacts the present. I can say that it has been a while since I read such good writing and seen such illustration from an independent and have decided to pledge to the Kickstarter because here at Nerd Dimension we support what we like.

While doing my research on Jason I managed to find his interview on ‘Wasted Local Talent’ which gave me some more insight into his story and how hard he has been working in the industry. Knowing that he genuinely wants to deliver a good product while balancing his duties as a husband and father allowed me to get more a feel for this independent creator. His relentless work ethic and kind heart casts him as the quintessential good guy all us nerds should not only encourage but learn from. Jason has never had a cushy job working fulltime for one of the big publishers, so he decided to work towards making and releasing his own product. Sure, it is not easy setting off on your own but Nerd Dimension was started to be able to motivate and connect more creators and fans and hopefully be able to assist with efforts such as this Kickstarter. What is the point if every blogger only covers what is new and ignores the indie scene which 9 out of 10 times will scratch that itch called ‘craving for originality’ much more than the newer comics you can buy.

To avoid spoiling the story for everybody I will just give you a quick rundown of the setting in my humble yet less prolific prose. Aiden is a planet where magic and science have formed a twisted yet symbiotic harmony where two contradictions are fused together, and in Lords of the Cosmos it is done very well. The planet is home to different races including goblins, mutants, humans and aquatic beings so there is no shortage of diversity. The look and feel is that of the 80s and as Jason Lenox describes himself ‘is Metal’ which has some Mad Max moments while remaining planted in the realms of space fantasy. The characters all share harsh and grim origin stories and the planet is an active participant in the narrative in a way I have perhaps only seen in film and the team of Lords of the Cosmos really did a good job of showing it on the page. The artists do not shy away from blood and gore and the new take on races that populate the planet make it unlike any other comic I have read so far. The black and white insides give me that familiar feel of older Warhammer comics, Dylan Dog and Dr. No so it really did take me back to my childhood. All in all, I cannot recommend this Kickstarter and series enough and below I will include what Jason and his guys say about this Epic 80s series that’s coming out in 2020.

The Kickstarter as of this time is at 75% of reach their goal of 4000$ and I urge people to support! Jason Lenox was wise in his approach to crowdfunding and has integrated fan feedback and continues to post regular updates for backers to be in the loop. The different tiers each offer cool stuff including your name mentioned just for contributing a few bucks makes you as the reader feel part of the success story.

Welcome to the exciting and dangerous Aiden, the world of the Lords of the Cosmos! In the third issue the team adds depth to our heroes’ backstories as the Lords of the Cosmos try to bring order to a world that run afoul with both magic and technology. We want you, dear reader, to join us as we connect the dots from Aiden’s ancient past to the present-day conflict between the evil Umex and his arch nemesis, Aegeus, the mysterious leader of the Lords of the Cosmos. 

This issue will contain 36 black and white interior pages including part three of the main story (11 pages) that picks up right where the issue two cliffhanger ended. It includes two short stories (22 pages in total) covering different aspects of the planet Aiden and detailed scale drawings for both Disciples of Umex and the Lords of the Cosmos by superstar artist Jens Bengtsson. We have created two main covers and four variant covers for this issue, but just in case that’s not enough for you we always offer a sketch cover so your favorite character can grace the cover page.   

Zemba-cover-low-res

 

Lords of the Cosmos is © 2019 Ugli Studios. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

Joker Film Review

Talon reviews the much hyped Golden Lion winning film Joker!

JOKER COVER CRITICS POSTER
Joker Critics Movie Poster

Joker Film Review

by Talon

Todd Phillips‘s “Joker” was released to much hype on August 31 2019 winning the most prestigious award the Golden Lion at the 76th Venice International Film Festival. The film proceeded to set a box office record for October grossing over $272 million on a somewhat modest budget estimated around $70 million (modest as compared to the last two movies based on DC characters). Widespread demand at the box office is one of few bright points in this review which is more a testament to marketing budgets and tactics than of a films artistic merits. “Joker” feels as if both writers Phillips and Scott Silver set out to humanize the iconic “Joker” character but fail as we never see him go beyond a one dimensional mentally ill victim who the world keeps relentlessly beating on, but instead acquire more of an understanding of what seems to us a logically consequential downfall of a person with grossly low self-esteem.

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Joaquin Phoenix & Todd Phillips at the 76th Venice International Film Festival

The feature is infused like countless pieces of entertainment today, especially comic book movies, with darkness for no apparent purpose than for appealing to a target market. I find the movie lacks the depth it seemingly craves evidenced by its attempts at fabricating self importance. Trying to tie in what feels like everything from gun control to racism to prevailing mental illness one can’t help feel that the makers of “Joker” wanted to cash in on the current social climate but it all feels slapdash at best in its execution.

– Brief Summary, skip if you suffer from spoiler-phobia –

“Joker” starts off in the early 1980s in Gotham City which is suffering a garbage collector strike where we meet mentally ill Arthur Fleck portrayed by masterful Joaquin Phoenix. Arthur in his 30s is a party clown with stand-up comedy aspirations living in dire straits with Penny his disabled mother, played by Frances Conroy.

The action commences when Arthur is robbed on the job by teenage delinquents in front of an electronics shop of a sign he is twirling . Arthur proceeds to chase the boys down to a backstreet only to have this backfire in a violent fashion.

After Arthur is on a public bus where he finds a child turned backwards curiously staring at him. In response he goes into his clown routine making funny faces and grimaces which amuses the boy to laughter unfortunately earning Arthur a callous remark from the child’s mother demanding him to leave her child alone.

Upon returning home he shares the elevator with two of his neighbours a mother called Sophie, played by Zazie Beets, and her child where they exchange a somewhat awkward comedic interaction before he invites her to come see his stand-up comedy.

Glenn Fleshler, in the role of one of Arthur’s colleague Randall, the next day hearing about the attack  acts concerned and lends him his revolver. Arthur after botching a gig at a children’s hospital puts the weapon to use when three well-to-do men attempt to attack him on the subway train and he responds in brutal fashion even stalking and executing the sole escapee of the three who managed to reach the stairs exiting the terminal.

Joker-Los-Angeles-Premiere-14
Glenn Fleshler, Josh Pais, Brett Cullen, Frances Conroy, Joaquin Phoenix, Zazie Beets, Leigh Gill & Marc Maron at LA premiere of “Joker” (from left to right)

Attempting to be as spoiler free as possible I shall only mention two more scenes in this summary. Arthur is watching a black and white film in the apartment called “Shall we Dance” featuring legends Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It starts with a scene on a ship where the engine room staff are crooning a tune lead by actor Dudley Dickerson and accompanied by a jazz band who are soon joined by Fred before going into a dance number. When the actors break into dance Arthur follows suit spinning around the living room accidentally pulling the trigger of his revolver making a hole in the living room wall.

Despite having several opportune moments to do so the movie seldom elicited any emotion barring the discomfort of violence. When Josh Pais, as Holt the clown agency boss, is giving Arthur an ear beating for something we know he didn’t do, Arthur sits and takes it providing little in way of resistance to the bullying he is suffering, as opposed to sympathy I felt myself and other cinema goers just felt frustrated. This is in no small part due to the caricature of Arthur Fleck, his simplicity as a mentally ill man is poorly conceived as all we see the whole movie is his odd laughing and some excerpts from his tattered diary.

Another similar instant is when he is callously treated by a mother on the bus for no reason apart from making her son laugh, but here too he seems to just take it with the difference being he provides a card explaining his condition (Pseudobulbar affect (PBA) or emotional incontinence for those curious) and continues to endure the effects of the disorder beginning to laugh repeatedly. I hold this condition in itself as a plot device was poorly thought through, utilized and does little but delay the films pacing and irritate viewers. You get the sense as if when all else fails cue Phoenixes odd laughter.

Due to our intent to not reveal spoilers there are two scenes which I cannot disclose, where one doesn’t only feel disturbed by brutal violence but the scene actually evokes feelings of deep sadness and realization. Foreshadowing was used cleverly to bring a modicum of comprehension and most to an idea of what is likely to happen next. This was the only true directorial highlight I can recollect of the movie.

The Joker Review
Ad posters for “The Killing Joke” 1988, “Taxi Driver” 1976, “King of Comedy” 1983 & “Joker” 2019

Phillips I feel was trying to make a movie of substance by combining three different and distinct source materials which served as inspiration. It seems that the team is going for a social commentary and deeper angle as opposed to pure entertainment and I feel they fumble it like the Giants in ’78.

To most film buffs it is obvious that Phillips was inspired a great deal by Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, both Martin Scorsese films and both starring another legend Robert De Niro, which study rich well developed characters. But beyond inspiration it feels as if Phillips and company attempted a mash up of the two films, which could be a reason Scorsese decided to step away from production. Another source of inspiration especially for the premise appears to be Alan Moore‘s classic One Shot graphic novel from 1988 The Killing Joke.

To compare the first two sources, both are made dark but for different and fairly sound reasons. Where “Taxi Driver” explores results of alienation on the psyche and perspective of De Niro’s Travis Bickle, “The King of Comedy” studies awkward ideas as it cuts to bone of De Niro’s Rupert Pupkin’s denial of his repeated rejections. Whilst trying to bring the two very different concepts into one film plausibility of behaviour and execution of the idea itself seem to be the challenge. Where Travis repeatedly attempts to make connections in his film we get the feeling Arthur doesn’t try which can demonstrate Arthur possessing severely low self-esteem which can be seen as further stimulated by his mother who even asks him that for one to be a stand up comedian shouldn’t they be funny.

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Marc Maron & Robert De Niro from the “Joker”

With “The King of Comedy” it is visible that a lot has been taken from the plot but there is one crucial difference, Rupert makes his success as a stand up comedian his sole focus and relentlessly attempts to gain recognition and veneration for his skills but as we watch Joker we don’t get that feeling of effort truly invested from Arthur’s side as is the case with Rupert.

Finally to discuss the alleged inspiration coming from “The Killing Joke”, I am lost for connecting points as they are few an far between. If you mention you were inspired by “The Killing Joke” one finds it hard to find what inspired Phillips. In the novel Moore and Brian Bolland, the artist, attempt to illustrate the notion that Joker is a mirror reflection of Batman, that one bad day can separate us all from insanity and depravity. One tragedy creates both iconic characters on opposite ends of the spectrum, Bruce Wayne spends his life trying to find meaning from it whilst Jack Napier (Joker) reflects the absurdity and injustice which can befall us.

In “Joker” Batman is absent and Arthur is pushed to the edge due to seemingly a build up of lifelong torment. Beyond the obvious I enjoy Moore’s take on the project that he feels when they crafted “The Killing Joke” it was to do something original, to stimulate the industry to try new ideas and be creative and he like most reviewers I feel has become sick of the trend he birthed with his stories especially The Watchmen and “The Killing Joke”. We we can derive purpose from the source material but finding a purpose for making “Joker” aside from financial gain is difficult.

Alan Moore & Brian Bolland
Alan Moore & Brian Bolland

The movie seemingly attempts to be a social commentary and falls flat, surely pulling inspiration from various crimes and tragedies which occurred in New York during the 1970-1980s such as The Central Park 5 or the Bernhard Goetz attack but switching things up enough to not make connections clear. Some reviewers claim this is a movie about racism and white supremacy, about mental illness or even about class systems but I feel none of these themes were well enough developed and simply don’t meet the mark.

There is one scene which I feel would have made for a perfect point in the movie to endear Arthur Fleck to the audience as Peter Finch‘s Howard Beale did in Network when he went on his tirade denouncing how bad things have become, instead we receive a inefficient attempt at such with unsophisticated sentiment like “Everybody just screams at each other. Nobody’s civil any more” which obviously fails in what it endeavours to do through its simplicity and lack of substance.

All being said it feels this movie was created to launch a new movie series and build unwarranted hype. If one wanted to create something new and divergent, why not simply create a new character as opposed to using someone who has their own canon and following. Then again both Marvel and DC comics have altered their characters so much to make each character appealing to everyone possible, I feel alienating the fans whose dollars these giants built there empires on in the process.

We shall briefly touch on the film-making itself, as there are few gripes here and as there is praise to be dished out likely ensuing from the exchange of a forceful plot for continual discomfort.

Lawrence Sher‘s cinematography was solid, the camera movement is smooth, the camera angles safe as are the camera distances. Feeling it would have done better with a stronger score but the sound was decent, no complaints come to mind. The editing was handled by Jeff Groth and things seemed to flow easily, feel like the other aspects we have discussed not much to really write home about.

Globally though I perceive the “Joker” came off looking catchpenny or rushed, the scenes appeared smaller than could have been and angles could have been more varied. Some rally scenes seemed nearly as slapdash as the plot, with one protestor literally holding a garden chair over his head.

If any deeper meaning can be derived I am troubled finding it, the closest thing I can find is the alluded to mash up of three iconic pieces of art in an attempt to create a hybrid of substance. Apart from that Phillips could be attempting to paint an image of a disabled downtrodden man who has been neglected and left out to dry by family, society and the government whilst pointing a finger of blame at the wealthy. If this is the case I feel he has missed the mark.

(Possible Spoiler) You don’t really get upset when you feel the director wants to you to be mad at the Wayne family. How is it an employers responsibility to take care of a former employee or her child? It is Penny’s responsibility to take care of Arthur, and here is where one might be able to blame government for even allowing an unstable woman such as her to raise a child let alone return him to her after what he endured in her care but that again rests on a society to demand such things. On the other hand when Arthur decides to take revenge it feels wrong as he is becoming exactly what he encounters regularly, a bully. Now I am feeling if I provide any more examples the movie will be spoiled for all who wish to see it.

The only thing certainly which can impress is Joaquin Phoenixes acting, he is a great actor and this role I feel forced him to resort to his bag of actors tricks constantly as there was little substance to be work with. This movie will likely be most appealing and interesting to youthful faux-nerds and less demanding quasi-fans of darker film and fiction. It has the hype to sell it, a great actor and an iconic character which they’d probably know little about previous to Heath Ledger’s Joker in the Dark Knight series (which he was amazing in) so this will probably work with a crowd in their early twenties to mind 30s with little love of comics from the era of Crisis on Infinite Earths and prior. For movie buffs I can say this movie is skippable in my humble opinion.

Please leave a Comment, Like, Subscribe and Share! If there is any Movie, Comic, Series, Game or Film you would like our team at Nerd Dimension to review YOU please let us know!

All images used are property of DC Comics, Embassy International Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Columbia Pictures, BRON Studios, Creative Wealth Media Finance and their associate/affiliates as well as numerous media outlets and I claim no rights over them.

Pathfinder: Game Mastery Guide (Pocket Edition) Review (Tabletop RPG)

Mike reviews his pocket edition of Paizo’s Game Mastery Guide. Is it worth the money and space saved?

Paizo is a company that means a lot to tabletop RPG if for nothing else for making the best use of the OGL and using their pioneering spirit to change the landscape of gaming. Paizo took a system that I myself loved which was 3.5 Dungeons & Dragons and later expanded and streamlined certain things allowing for truly an individual experience for role players. The system built upon yet kept key elements and mechanics such as alignment, attack opportunities and the feat system which made for a plethora of customization and a feeling that you were in control of your character with no character in the party really feeling or playing alike. I hope to provide more in depth articles and posts about Paizo and their contribution to the industry so plesae subscribe to Nerd Dimension.

Sure, D&D 5th Edition is a system onto itself and I give it credit and maximal respect for making a smoother system for new players and recapturing another generation with the bug that is tabletop role playing. However, as someone who enjoys Pathfinder and is not a fan of math I still managed to get used to it and with a little effort was GMing long sessions and my party never complained after the first few combats. Not to say I myself have not enjoyed 5th Edition but I find myself missing the tons of source books available for 3.5 with the simple conversion and the vast library that Pathfinder itself provided. I will recommend that anyone just getting into role playing games should start with 5th edition as it is a less complex system with more focus on the role play aspects of the game with a simpler rules set while being far more streamlined for newcomers. 

When returning and launching my group back in Stockholm I could not afford to buy too many books as I had digital copies of the core book and a few supplements so I opted to buy Bestiary 1, Advanced Classes and the Game Masters Guide with a GM Screen. My thinking behind the decision was also the space and weight both on the table and to carry around as I was actively looking for new players and venues to play. Having a portable set up for Pathfinder didn’t require much more than my Ipad 2 and the books which all fit in a backpack along with the stationary, battlemat, dice and miniatures. Subscribe to read our GM load out in the GMs Chamber that me and Bakar will put together if you are curious about stepping your game mastery up notch or two.

The book is great and the print was not as small as I feared it would be but I do not require the aid of spectacles just yet but some of my players who do wear glasses were a little irritated by this. The book has everything that the bigger book has just in a smaller print so I cannot complain about the quality or of any errors in printing that I came across using the book. I am a fan of the artwork and style used by Paizo through out Pathfinder and Pathfinder Society and it looked good in Kingmaker. I can say that I feel that Pathfinder did a good job concerning how the spread their information in their smaller books and it scaled well. I can say that the smaller size allowed me to take two books with me to work and spend lunch putting post its on pages I knew I would be referring to that were not on the screen. It was did make my backpack a little lighter so I can say I am a satisfied customer and that Paizo delivered.

Now with Pathfinder Second Edition officially out I am eagerly awaiting to hear the experience of players and GMs alike concerning the new mechanics and how it compares of the original Pathfinder.

 

Game Mastery Guide
My copy of Pathfinder’s Game Mastery Guide

Lamentations of the Flame Princess: a review of the game system

Lamentations of the Flame Princess: a review of the game system

By Bronze oldie

I was asked to review Lamentations of the Flame Princess as a game system. In case you are not familiar with this, Lamentations of the Flame Princess (LotFP) is a game company that pulls no punches and is publishing some of the highest quality and innovative RPG material on the market today. The quality of the art and the way that the books are put together is amazing. It’s very surprising to me that LotFP  is able to  get such high quality artists, when Wizards of the Coast, with backing of the Mighty Hasbro corporation, who have the ability to outbid everyone else, produces such comparatively inferior art for their games. 

LotFP publishes a wide variety of modules and game supplements. Some of them, like Carcosa or A Red and Pleasant Land are game worlds. Some are modules that you can easily plop down into the middle of a regular D&D campaign. But most of the books take place in a game world that resembles 17th Century Earth: the time of the English Civil War, the 30 years war, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

But at one point, the decision was made to make a game system to go with the books. It was originally released as box set with a players handbook, a referee’s guide, a module (Tower of the Star Gazer) and a book on how to play a RPG for people who have never done that. Since then, the players handbook: Rules & Magic has been updated. It’s available for free without the art. But the paid version without the art is much better. On the other hand, this is a game for adults, and the art reflects this. You might not want to give the book to a child if you have not seen it yet.

Looking through the book, it is mostly a clone of TSR version of D&D that is closest to the B/X version of the game. 21st century players are used to each edition of D&D being radically different from the previous version. But the TSR versions were more alike, similar to the way that 3.0, 3.5 and Pathfinder are similar. There were slight variations between TSR versions of D&D. The worse Armor Class was 10 in some versions and 9 in others. But Chainmail was AC:5 is all versions and Plate mail+Shield was AC: 2 in all versions. LotFP is very familiar to players of TSR D&D, with only a few, but significant changes. It has the same seven classes that go back to the original version of D&D. (Cleric, Fighter, Magic User, Thief, Dwarf, Elf and Halfling) Skills are rolled on a d6 instead of a % as TSR does or a d20 as 3+ editions do. The Weapons available have a few things that are spelled out, and all others are grouped according to their size.

But the biggest difference in LotFP is that the classes are more separated. Every Class is the best at something: Fighters are best at roll-to-hit, Specialists (Thieves) are best at using skills, Dwarfs have the most Hit Points. Halflings are best at Saving Throws, missile weapons, and Hiding in the wilderness. And the Magic of Clerics and Magi are completely separated. With only Dispel Magic on both spell lists. Also, the get-out-of-jail spells have been removed from the list. (Raise Dead, Resurrection, limited Wish, Wish) also, the damage dealing spells have been removed (Fireball, Lightning Bolt, Cone of Cold) leaving Magic Missile as the “go to” spell for dealing damage (which has been increased to 1d4 per level) And there are some interesting new spells. The combined effect of these changes are to make Magic dangerous and scary. And a recent book: Vaginas Are Magic, introduced a new rule that made 9th level spells potentially available to a 1st Level character.

However, the LotFP rules can sometimes confound player expectations if they have played D&D. For example: Starting in Original D&D and throughout all the boxed sets, Halflings were always a variant of Fighter. But starting with (1st ed) AD&D and on through all the later versions of the game, Halflings were strongly encouraged to be Thieves. In LotFP, Halflings are more like the 2-5th editions’ Ranger.

And players who are used to using the rules to defeat the monster instead of role playing, who are used to Feats and Skills for all classes, won’t like the simplicity of the the LotFP system. 

There are some who think that LotFP is more dangerous than other games. And it is more dangerous than the 3-5 edition games that Wiz-bro puts out. But it’s not any more dangerous than the TSR versions of the game. The big difference is that in the TSR versions of D&D, your character could at any moment be chopped up by and axe-wielding Orc. In LotFP, your character might be pulled away to the home plane of the eldritch abomination that you Summoned and failed to take control of.

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.