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!

 

Medieval – Tales from Europe FACEBOOK

Tales for Gamers Publishing WEB and NEWSLETTER

 

Nerd Dimension FACEBOOK

 

 

Sponsored Post Learn from the experts: Create a successful blog with our brand new courseThe WordPress.com Blog

Are you new to blogging, and do you want step-by-step guidance on how to publish and grow your blog? Learn more about our new Blogging for Beginners course and get 50% off through December 10th.

WordPress.com is excited to announce our newest offering: a course just for beginning bloggers where you’ll learn everything you need to know about blogging from the most trusted experts in the industry. We have helped millions of blogs get up and running, we know what works, and we want you to to know everything we know. This course provides all the fundamental skills and inspiration you need to get your blog started, an interactive community forum, and content updated annually.

Witch of Salem : Fun for 4 with a great theme [Board Game Review]

Mykal discusses one of his go to Horror tabletop games with Halloween coming up, maybe your group would enjoy Witch of Salem.

I first came across Witch of Salem (Mayfair Games ) designed by Michael Reineck (Pillars of Earth, Cuba: El Presidente) whilst watching a Dice Tower Top 10 with Tom Vassel and his buddies. I was searching for a coop board game with a good theme that did not take too long to set up and play yet still was interesting enough to my group that we play it again. Off the rip I liked the Cthulhu mythos with the it being the early 20th Century New England involving ancient ones, demons and intrigue.

My initial fears after playing Arkham Horror and Eldritch Horror (Fantasy Flight) was that I would pay a lot of money for a game that the group would not play enough to warrant its price. An issue for many people entering the hobby of board games especially those who intend to collect is the price on some of the best games are pretty steep, add in postage you are looking at a hefty some of cash for something you won’t get to use that offten. I have paid for games that I only ever got to play once and wished I could have got another honest opinion on the game before buying it. Board Game Geek did not have it scored too high (6.6) yet what I could read the game seemed straight forward, challenging and did have a tone of play that matched the theme.

The game’s designer Michael Reineck is a German designer who was nominated in 2008 for Designer of the Year, the year Witch of Salem was released along with some of his other projects. I could not find a website or social media page to dig up some more info but he has worked on more than 6 published board games and the list is nothing to sneeze at. The artwork (Franz Vohwinkel) even when looking at reviews seemed interesting as it did in Dragons Lair when I went to purchase it.The artwork looks great from the box to the cards to the map you play on with the right dark tones to bring the setting to life.

witch of salem spread 2

The box contains all your standard board game pieces, tokens, cards and a board with a manual to read which could have been streamlined a little more but was easy enough to comprehend. The game is limited to 4 players max and is a cooperative game involving strategy and combat. Not really a mystery game despite the description on the front of the box but the horror theme and the the progression mechanics are easy to use and build tension as time passes in the game.

This is a fun game and is pretty simple to learn after one playthrough. That being said, Witch of Salem is not an easy game and scales well for a maximum of 4 players. There are a variety of ancient ones you can find yourself grappling with as the time mechanics don’t seem to stress the players more rather keep the tension and pace consistent. Towards the end you and your players will have to come together to seal the gates and prevent the demons from entering our world. This is something you can play for a while as games seldom feel the same and it is great for a halloween board game before the movies or after dinner. I recommend this over Eldrith and Arkham as it plays faster, is taught easier and the price is fair considering what you get out of it. If you want something that will have you on the edge of your seat for most of the game and don’t want a million things to set up Witch of Salem is the horror coop game for you.

 

Rating: 8 out 10

I gave it a lower score because I feel that the game could be fun with more players and there were no expansions released. The rules are not as straight forward and all of the characters are the same with no significant diffirences in skills and abilities.

MANHUNT:UNABOMBER… Very Good But Could’ve Been Great

Our fellow reviewer Talon is back with another concise write up this time of Discovery Network’s MANHUNT: UNABOMBER..

– MANHUNT: UNABOMBER [Series Review] –

by Talon

UNABOMB POSTER
Poster for Manhunt: Unabomber

Manhunt: Unabomber released on August 2017 is a drama miniseries directed by Greg Yaitanes for the Discovery Network. Created by Andrew Sodroski, Jim Clemente & Tony Gittelson the series was nominated for the best original long form TV award by the Writer’s Guild of America and Tyler Huth for young Best Performance in a TV Series (Recurring Teen Actor) by the Young Artist Award. Sam Worthington plays FBI agent Jim ‘Fitz’ Fitzgerald and Paul Bettany the titular character Ted Kaczynski and are supported by co-stars Jeremy Bobb, Chris Noth and Keisha Castle-Hughes.

Discovery and Yaitanes take certain creative license in an attempt to create a historical drama narrative about the FBI manhunt focusing on the cat-and-mouse dynamic between Kaczynski and his pursuer Agent ‘Fitz’. I feel while the show is entertaining and has you coming back to see what’s happens next, it did not really give the characters enough depth and failed to adequately link Kazcynski’s fears of misuse of industrial and technological advances to the reality of current issues and events which seems to be going in that direction.

The show focuses on how the tactics and technology used to track down Kazcynski came to be, demonstrating that previous methods failed and illustrating classic bureaucracy present even at the FBI’s highest levels of administration hindering efficiency and development of best practices. They touch on the creation and content of the manifesto itself but from a safe distance, not really expounding on the obvious correlations between Kazcynski’s theories rising from fear of the future and what has happened in the meanwhile to society due to reckless and hasty implementations of various technologies and industrial practices. Possibly things like certain major companies online always listening, increasingly watching and constantly learning about you and your habits? Was this idea really so crazy, as opposed to going deeper through the content of the manifesto and rationale of this criminal we merely get a glimpse into what maybe led him to become the way he was. There are notable manhunts the team could have chose to develop as opposed to one where beyond the tragic crimes perpetrated there is present a fleshed out philosophy and viewpoint of the ‘villain’.

hughes, bobb, yaitness
Keisha Castle-Hughes, Jeremy Bobb & Greg Yaitanes

The series starts off in 1995 as Fitz is recruited to the Unabomb Task Force receiving no support from his colleagues regarding new ideas he brings to the table. Also we flash-forward to 1997 where he is being asked to confront his counterpart Kazcynski.

The second episode focuses on Fitz’s work on determining the validity of the Unabomber’s threat to bomb an airliner and also we have the two enemies meet for the first time.

Fitz teams up with linguist Natalie Rogers, played by Lynn Collins, together figuring out new clues which point in a different direction to the current profile but the FBI views the findings sceptically. In 1997 Ted begins explaining to his opponent Fitz that he will invalidate all the evidence produced against him.

Ted now demands that his manifesto be published if the authorities wish to see and end to the bloodshed. Fitz pushes his boss Don Ackerman, played by Chris North, to publish who decides to bring the proposal to FBI Divisional head Janet Reno played by Jane Lynch.

Agent Fitz fianlly finding the linguistic evidence he’d been looking for which points in the direction of Ted Kazcynski, tracks down Ted’s brother David, played by Mark Duplass, who is surprised at how precise the profile seems to match Ted.

The sixth episode focuses on a letter sent to David by his brother where he explains various events of his life which caused him to take up his current world view and engage in terrorist activities.

The bureau having a prime suspect goes deep under cover staking out Kazcynski’s cabin, racing the press cycle in hopes of capturing Ted before media chaos ensues creating opportunity for missteps on their end.

In the season finale, after Ted fails to have the evidence invalidated by the court, Fitz makes one last appeal for him to plead guilty.

Huth, Noth and Lynch
Tyler Huth, Chris Noth & Jane Lynch

I felt that Fitz as a character is relatable to a degree albeit riddled with cliches. Older than most his class and less educated, he earned his spot through old fashion elbow grease which I feel does endear the character the audience. His ideas though are met with low levels of enthusiasm and finds himself battling dated established conventions. Here the cliché begins, becoming so obsessed with the case it causes his marital breakup. Fit’z obsession believable grows to such an extent that he sells out his only true ally Tabby, played by Keisha Castle-Hughes, in an attempt to get back on the case.

Despite the afore mentioned you find yourself hoping that Fitz wins. The show did attempt to illustrate that Kazcynskis ultimate goal wasn’t to sow terror but bring the public’s attention to inherent risks of the technological and industrial progress. Beyond explaining Ted’s motives the show also provides possible causes for this extreme behaviour illuminating parts of his troubled childhood and youth in a ‘monsters aren’t born they are made’ approach.

Unabomber Text Published In The Washington Post
Industrial Society and its Future, Published by The Washington Post

I feel the purpose of this show was for Discovery Network to determine whether they can create a commercially viable scripted drama a now prestigious segment of the television entertainment market.

The show itself is rather cinematic and this is in no small part thanks to Zack Galler. The camera movement was precise, angles well thought out as well as were the distances of the shots.

The sound of the series was good, playing well with the narration of the story being told, and the score was solid both primarily courtesy of Gregory Tripi. Especially praiseworthy is how the sound greatly contributed to the few set pieces of the series.

I feel Donn Aron, Iain Erskine and Scott Turner handled their respective editing responsibility smoothly connecting all the pieces together.

One possible deeper meaning the team could have been trying for is a character study of both Kazcynski and Fitz, but they fail in this task as the characters seemingly lack depth. To be far Fitz is a composite of several different agents, and the real Jim Fitzgerald insisted on the show being more accurate but was ultimately overruled.

What could be seen as the shows argument regarding modernism and possible risks inherent in technological progress is grossly weakened which I will explain further in this review.

The show does do well with the ethical dillemas presented by the deciding on giving in to the demands of the Unabomber.

There is some repetitiveness throughout the show specifically – Fitz gets stuck, listens to someone talk about something unconnected, zones out and then makes a lateral leap based off a small slice of conversation after which he goes to his boss with the idea and is told to focus on what they tell him to do, for the boss to proven wrong.. That said Noth and Bobb serve the story solidly as the stubborn obstacles of the protagonist.

Bettany’s portrayal is praiseworthy and in truth the show doesnt get things cooking properly until his arrival on the scene, and he is great in episode six where the story be given to him we learn of his experiences at Harvard.

On the other hand despite his masterful subtle delivery, you find Worthington as Bettany wanting more from there characters and script. Fitz’s character is intended to be Kazcynskis match, but we can find a correlation between Fitz’s awkwardness and lack of niceties evidence his compulsive personality, Barring this what really bothers is how the team fail to rationalize the notion they convey early in the series that Fitz managed to catch Kazcynski because of a shared obsessive world-view as they do not deepen the character portrayal.

The supporting cast complete the show and are probably one of the highlights, especially the a fore mentioned Castle-Hughes is a standout, Duplass, Brian d’Arcy James and Jane Lynch feel somewhat underplayed and underdeveloped but none the less handle their assignments as the seasoned professionals they are.

Jame, Galler & Duplass
Brian d’Arcy James, Zack Galler & Mark Duplass

In closing I feel that both lead actors despite their visibly high levels of commitment were left wanting more to work with in regards to their characters. There is some awkwardness inherent in the beginning of the show, though tension steadily builds, but they manage to build momentum as it progresses.

Manhunt definitely makes it hard to not continue watching as it does engage the viewers and the fact it is based on real people and events (albeit creative license was used) makes it all the more enthralling.

A major failing of the series is we never really get to know Ted Kazcynski or what makes him tick. But by far the biggest mistake they made was failing to deliver on the key argument I mentioned earlier in this review. Something starring you in the face is that we now know (at least most of us) that Kazcynski’s deep paranoia in regards to the dehumanizing side of technology in the modern era being not only sociologically ahead of his time but is also almost certainly correct.

All being said this is one of the best shows produced in recent years, it is engaging, tense and hard to not binge watch. The writers approached this series a little differently than most, the direction is efficient and Bettany does provide an intense portrayal of the titular character. This all might sound paradoxical considering the gripes listed and explained but that is because this a a very good show which could have been a great show.

This show will be most appealing to criminal history buffs and those who enjoy criminal procedurals or process themed series.

I give this series a score of

4/5

All images used are property of Discovery Communications, Trigger Street Productions, The Washington Post their associate/affiliates and various media outlets and I claim no rights over them.

My Early days with comics – Retrospective

By Bronze Oldie

Nerd Dimension claims no ownership and copyrights of Marvel IPs or artwork.

I came into to comics at the point of transition from the Silver Age to the Bronze Age. At the Time, Marvel was publishing a lot of re-prints of classic Silver age material, most notably Marvel tales (re-printing Spider-man) Marvels Greatest Comics (re-printing Fantastic Four) Marvel Triple Action (re-printing Avengers) and X-men (reprinting X-men). So I am something of an authority on Silver Age Marvel, as well as Bronze Age.

During the actual Silver Age, I was too young to read. But I was already into superheroes through the medium of television. There was a Batman series on TV at the time starring Adam West that I loved and had toys of and the show still shares a cult status among fans and marks a specific time in American Television. The DC cartoons were in my opinion were much superior to the Marvel ones. Most of the Marvel cartoons consisted of someone waving panels of Jack Kirby art while someone narrated and fell short of translating the excited from the page. The DC cartoons where much better animated, the exception being the Spiderman cartoon. So when I started learning how to read, I came into comics with a bias in favor of DC.

Unfortunately, DC squandered this advantage with comics that were so much lower in quality than the Marvel ones, even to a 6-year-old’s eyes and that is saying something. In the Early DC comics I first read, Batman was fighting ordinary criminals with no costumes or powers, Superman was fighting Terra Man (the space cowboy), Clark Kent had a new co-worker, Guy Lombardo, a sportscaster who would bully Clark (while Clark pretended to be bullied), Wonder Woman had no powers and was a Kung Fu Fighting Private Detective, The Metal Men all got melted, and the Justice League teamed up with the Justice Society to search for the Seven Soldiers of Victory.

The first Marvel comic I read, in contrast, features the climax of the Skrull/Kree War, a reprint of the Fantastic Four defeating Galactus, Ragnarok, the Mimic (with the combined powers of the X-men) fighting the Super Adaptoid (with the combined powers of the Avengers), MODOK and Dr Doom fighting over the Cosmic Cube, and in the same issue: Captain America vs Nick Fury and the Falcon vs. the Captain America and Bucky from the 1950’s. With that beginning, although I occasionally bought DC comics, I was mostly a Marvelite from then on.

Comics in those days were $0.20 each. I’m pretty certain that they were deliberately priced at double the cost of a chocolate bar, which costed $0.10 in those days. At 20 cents per comic, that should have meant, if I got hold of a dollar, that I should have been able to get 5 comics for a dollar. It should have been that way. . . . But Americans like to make tax paying as painful a process as possible. Every Spring Americans get super stressed trying to fill out the income tax form and I am sure many have seen this play out in sitcoms through the years. But unlike other countries, in the States, sales tax is tacked on on top of the labeled price, not included in it. So a dollar bought me 4 comics and some change. Then a period of inflation began under president Nixon. Chocolate bars became slightly larger and rose to $0.15 and comics added a couple of pages and rose to $0.25 each. Again, this should have been 4 for a dollar. Instead, it was 3 for a dollar and some change leftover.

Every pharmacy, or 7-11 small store had a rotating rack that would hold more than 50 different comics within its thin frame. And I was very dependent on the good will of parents to buy me that comic I wanted so bad. Often I had to choose one over the other as was the case for most kids growing up. So I chose not to find out what happened with the Avengers and the Space Phantom, because I wanted to see Quicksilver and the Human Torch fight over Crystal. Most comics stories were two of three issues long and I would often miss the beginning or conclusion of a story, after all it is hard to develop consistent buying patterns as an infant with no disposable income! There were a few instances where I was able to get every issue of a particular comic for several months in a row. Because if a story lasted longer than one issue, it would be a whole month before I got to see what happened next.

I was just the right age to be coming in at the very beginning of a lot of Bronze Age things. My very second Avengers story was based on a idea suggested by an intern named Chris Claremont, in which the Avengers fought the Sentinels. I came in at the beginning of the Defenders, and just before Steve Englehart began writing the Avengers and Captain America. I was there for the beginning of Jim Starlin’s run on Captain Marvel and Roy Thomas’ run on Fantastic Four.

I thought I liked particular characters. I didn’t realize that I actually like particular writers, including: Stan Lee (Fantastic Four, Avengers), Roy Thomas (Avengers, X-men, Fantastic Four), Steve Englehart (Defenders, Avengers, Captain America, Doctor Strange, Amazing Adventures featuring: the Beast), Steve Gerber (Defenders), and Jim Starlin (Captain Marvel). Because of this I missed things I would have liked and later discovered like Warlock (Jim Starlin), early issues of Master of Kung Fu (Jim Starlin and Steve Englehart), Guardians of the Galaxy (Steve Gerber) and Man Thing (Steve Gerber).    

The Marvel Universe was much more coherent back then. It was only ten years old at that point and several writers had very long runs in the Silver age. Most notably Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, who did more than a hundred issues of Fantastic Four, as well as a long run on Thor and Roy Thomas who had very long runs on both Avengers and X-men. Comics would often reference events in past issues, and would often include a panel showing the events they were talking about with a footnote, indicating which issue they were referring to. Writers would spin very long subplots and then tell the next writer what they had been doing. So, for example, Roy Thomas had been laying clues for years that something was strange about the Vision. And it was years more before Steve Englehart finally revealed that the vision had been built from the android body of the original Human Torch.

Also, the Comics Code was loosening its’ grip a bit, allowing horror comics to be produced. DC mostly did anthology horror comics. (Swamp Thing was an exception) But Marvel was doing ongoing series featuring Dracula, Frankenstein, the Living Mummy, Werewolf by Night, Man Thing and the Ghost Rider. And Western and War comics were still around too. 

But then, this era of my comics fandom came to an end, when I moved to a place where comics were not available. As a result, I missed things. But when I moved back, I returned to comics. Again, just in time.

hope you enjoyed reading, thank you for your time and please share, rate, review, comment and subscribe to be kept in the loop.

 

FACEBOOK – Follow us here to never miss a beat

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

JODOROWSKY’S DUNE …The Game-Changer That Never Was

Jodorovsky’s Dune is being reviewed by our in house writer Talon!

91KRqAzzB0L._SL1500_

Blu-Ray copy of Jodorowsky’s Dune

JODOROWSKY’S DUNE

..The Game-Changer that Never Was..

By Talon

Jodorovsky’s Dune is a documentary by Croatian-American director Frank Pavich screened at the 66th Cannes Film Festival as part of Directors Fortnight May 13th and released May 21st 2014. Of the numerous nominations and awards it has received most notable seem to be The Australian Film Critics Association’s Best Documentary and  Imagine Film Festival’s audience award The Silver Scream. Making appearances aside from titular Jodorowsky are Dan O’Bannon, H.R. Giger, Gary Kurtz and Chris Foss to name a few.

JODO & PAVICH
Alexander Jodorowsky & Frank Pavich

The film focuses on Chilean director Alexander Jodorowsky and his never actualized interpretation of influential Nebula & Hugo award winning novel Dune by Frank Herbert. Inciting a great deal of what-if sentiment in an enjoyable manner it is a well done nostalgia piece. Pavich lets you behind the scenes into a fraternal world of creative spiritual  warriors, Jodorowsky would call them, by weaving tales known only to select insiders and collaborators from a special moment in the past. The film serves as a call to action for visionary dreamers with an ambitious leaning.

At the beginning we are acquainted with Jodorowsky and some experiences making his breakthrough films “El Topo” & “The Holy Mountain” which propel him to cult fame and whose successes at demonstrating his unique take on film led him to be dubbed a father of the Midnight Film genre.

MICHEL SEYDOUX
Michel Seydoux

After falling out with distributor of both films and financier of “Holy Mountain” Alan Klien, Jodorowsky meets French producer Michel Seydoux who impressed by his style  grants Jodorowsky Carte Blanche in selection of his next feature. Without hesitation Jodorowsky requests Dune.

Following a trail of clues set by Pavich we learn of Jodorowsky’s methods of recruiting his diverse group of Argonauts on this spiritually inspired creative adventure. To peak some curiosity, amongst this motley of heavy hitters are iconic vocalist Mick Jagger, notorious surrealist Salvador Dali, ever enigmatic silver screen icon Orson Welles and pioneering rock group Pink Floyd to name a few.

Collage Dali, Floyd, Welles, & Jagger
(left to right) Orson Welles, Salvador Dali, Pink Floyd & Mick Jagger

You find yourself glued to the screen as you learn the herculean lengths the director is willing to go to collaboratively to create something truly great. From inception of idea, to means Jodorowsky utilizes to keep his team motivated and believing in themselves and their gifts. The sense of drive is palpable and uncanny happenstance occurrences further bolster sense of purpose and destiny the endeavour seems to possess.

The documentary inevitably pulls at heartstrings as one realizes the project is doomed, primarily stemming from executives fearing budget size and lacking gumption to venture into unexplored terrain. The sadness progressively turns into disenchantment and suspicion that crew and project were cheated out of their rightful place in history. The overall sentiment being that the bible of the dune, a compiled 3000 picture story board and preproduction book sent to major studios, being years ahead of the industry became a go to source of inspiration for countless Sci-Fi blockbusters which incorporate various visuals and even literary devices (albeit diluting them) making many common place in today’s cinema.

Collage Bab 5, Contact, Tron, Prom, 5th E, Matrx, Termi, Flash, Blade Runner
(left to right) Babylon 5, Contact, Star Wars (a new hope), TRON, Prometheus, The Fifth Element, The Matrix, Blade Runner, Alien, Flash Gordon, & The Terminator.

This film I feel set out to ensure the group’s legacy, particularly Jodorowsky’s who had little success post the Dune fiasco, and remind audience and industry alike at the folly of not taking chances creatively. The teams interpretation of Dune appears to be the best movie which was never made and they provide some in the way of perceived evidence for this case. After watching it some of you will wonder if Star Trek and Star Wars would have become as large franchises as they are now? You find yourself feeling if this Dune came out that the Sci-Fi genre and film-making would have received a much deserved dose of creativity and literary perspective on the art form itself.

Interviews are well shot as the camera movement, angles and distances are solid thanks to David Cavallo. Execution of close ups and specific moments was well done, as when focusing on Jodorowskys hands at different times to emphasis a moment.

One complaint is frugal use of Syd Garon‘s & Paul Griswold‘s animations of Moebius‘s (Jean Giraud) story board and H.R. Giger & Chris Foss sketches. You find yourself wishing they merely used story board and quality narration to the tell the entire story of Dune as they intended, but afterall is this is a documentary about making of the film and not the film, nonetheless some graphic exposition shots were cut too short to enjoy the artists’ mastery.

The Sound was solid, and at times definitely felt atmospheric thanking to the throbbing music provided by Kurt Stenzel. The Editing, handled by Paul Docherty & Alex Ricciardi, was quite alright.

It might have been swell to have Jodorwsky interviewed with several members of crew who are still among us in an intimate setting, so that we can observe some of their chemistry all these years later as they discuss various anecdotes. This felt missing for a movie striving to emphasize, in addition to other notions, what feels like the value of comradeship.

Deeper insight which can be derived is the sheer depth of dedication stemming from unfaltering belief, the dedication of Jodorowsky to make a movie to change the world. The sentiment is echoed by his faction as they discuss the making of the movie. All sacrificed but none complained what they were being put through including Brontis Jodorowsky, the directors son who for two years was training Martial Arts, Sword fighting and Gymnastics to prepare for the role of a young Paul Artriedes.

Giger, O'Bannon, Moebius & Foss
H.R. Giger, Dan O’Bannon, Moebious & Chris Foss

The story told is spellbinding packed with colourful characters, surreal encounters and events which if not true definitely should be. Jodorwsky’s Dune as a documentary is one of better released the last decade, with refreshingly unique subject matter. I am most impressed by the drive of Jodorwsky himself as with the talent and contributions of primary collaborators Moebious, H.R. Giger, Chriss Foss & Dan O’Bannon. It is this tandem of four gathered by Jodorowsky which brought a lot to one of the greatest Sci-Fi franchises ever Alien, and we appreciate the director’s hand in it.

I feel this movie appeals most to true fans of quality Sci-Fi and deeper cinema offerings (especially movie makers), skewing more to the 30 and up crowd who might have grown up hearing urban legends of the legendary Dune which was never made. Not to say a younger audience would not enjoy it but might find it harder to relate to as they are too young to remember some of the long gone pop culture icons involved in the project.

From a score of 1-5 this film gets:

4/5

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 Snowfort Pictures, CameraOne, Endless Picnic, Babylonian Productions, Warner Bros. Television, Warner Bros., South Side Amusement Company, Lucasfilm, Twentieth Century Fox, Walt Disney Productions, Lisberger/Kushner, Twentieth Century Fox, Dune Entertainment, Scott Free Productions, Gaumont, Warner Bros., Village Roadshow Pictures, Groucho Film Partnership, The Ladd Company, Shaw Brothers, Warner Bros., Brandywine Productions, Twentieth Century-Fox Productions, Starling Films, Dino De Laurentiis Company, Famous Films, Hemdale, Pacific Western, Euro Film Funding, their associate/affiliates and various media outlets and I claim no rights over them.

 

Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate (Comic Book Review)

Great to see a Baldurs Gate comic on sale but does it capture the essence and the feeling we had playing the game?

I recall the late 90s and early 2000s when fantasy video games were coming out every year that appeared to seemingly dwarf the previous releases of the year before.  Diablo, Baldurs Gate and Ice Wind Dale were released to good reviews and more importantly they were being played by people who had no idea what D&D or pen and paper RPGs were. A new generation of RPG fan and player was ushered into the fold thanks to technology and globalization. RPG games were being played in lan parties and online with Battlenet and other services growing the genres popularity and access.  At that time Dungeons & Dragons had changed ownership and its future was in the hands of Wizardz of the Coast (now a subsidary of Hasbro) and in this time we also saw  more suplimentary products for their big Intellectual Property which was Dungeons & Dragons. With Dungeons & Dragons 3.0 coming out in 2000 it would seem that the publishers managed to get all their ducks in a row as RPGs both tabletop and their PC counterparts were in trend and the brand awareness was growing.

Lets step back into the early 10s after Dungeons & Dragons have been releasing comics sporadically while the novels were still selling strong with the drow ranger Drizzt becoming the unofficial mascot of D&D and the Forgotten Realms. With Wizards poised to release a new system (5th Edition) the last thing they could afford was a cold release. A cold release is when a company releases a product or service with little to minimal marketing and promotional efforts and after 4.5 was panned by critics and players alike and with Paizo building an empire on improving 3.5 WOTC wanted to make sure 5th Edition would not only make a splash but ride in on a tidal wave.

After Wizardz of the Coast wisely decided to announce playtesting in 2012 and openly let people participate in helping them craft the new system that at the time was still called D&D Next. By 2014 they released the basic rules for free on their website  and by September players could purchase the first 3 core books and it was very well recieved. This ties in our review today as Legends of Baldurs Gate was released the same year as their system. I have to tip my hat to them as this move not only catered to fantasy comic fans, fans of their already popular settings but also any newcomers could also see the value in getting to know more about the lore of the setting through a comic. Let us not forget that the majority of younger gamers probably never played Baldurs Gate so this product could walk them through it and introduce them to what D&D was about without them having to buy an old game or do more research.

At the time I was still playing 3.5 and was reluctant to switch systems despite GMing sessions at Cons and at my friends game shop I was not onboard the 5E train but was still reading the novels and any comics I could get my hands on. When I was browsing Amazon I came across the comic and having played the PC game I was interested in reading a book that was revisiting the setting, serving as somewhat of a sequel to the game.

I placed my order and the quality seemed industry standard when it arrived, like most products published through IDW. The paperback collected 5 issues of the story and the cover art did resemble the style I was used to with their previous comics that they were printing during the 4th Edition run.

The story takes place ____ after the events that saved the people of Baldurs Gate. One of the legends Minsk, comes to life and as I like to avoid spoilers I will attempt to not give away too much in my critique of the book. The plot for the most part is nothing crazy or new but the cast of characters are interesting as you have a party come together through circumstance and have a united goal.

Jim Zubkavich and Max Dunbar deliver in this 5th Edition tie remaining as true as they could and bringing some darkness to all over storytelling. Jim himself coming off writing and working for big names just Capcom, Marvel, DC, Cartoon Network and Bandai-Namco so Wizardz chose a seasoned vet to oversee and be point on the project. Not to say Max Dunbar does not have a hefty resume including illustrating for big franchise IPs such as GI Joe, Gears of War and Judge Dredd so the talent and skills were never in question.

The characters play out like your typical party in a campaign but the twists in the plot and the pacing is done right so that someone new to the genre would not be overwhelmed. Baldurs Gate comes to life with Max Dunbar’s and Sarah Stone’s drawing styles while the dialogue and writing bring it all together in this enjoyable comic. This is a must read for anybody who loves fantasy comics and D&D especially if you are a newcomer and want to get to know the Forgotten Realms. These sort of comics are great to introduce people to the different roles in a party, to language that was spoken and even familiarizing themselves with key concepts and lore in Dungeons & Dragons.

I can warmly recommend this comic if you can find it at an affordable price. Looking now the paperback is selling for around 44$ on Amazon so try check Ebay and other book stores for a hardcopy. A decent gift for a teenager and adult and adds to any comic collection with lots of good images to draw inspiration from.

 

Please tell us what you think of Legends of Baldurs Gate Vol 1, do you agree with us or did you feel it was a crime against rainforrests. Let us know in the comment section or message us on social media. Til next time, quest strong and may your days be filled with adventure and joy.

 

 

 

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.

76th-Venice-Film-Festival
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.

joker-robert-de-niro-thumb
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.

What are TRPGs and why do we quest? Why we think you might like them too.

By Mykal K Grimm

If you are new to role playing games then I hope this piece will shed some light on the hobby and help further your interest in this truly enjoyable form of social entertainment. Table Top Role Playing Games are not like other games the majority of your friends might play when they hangout in their free time as it has a heavy reliance on the players imagination and it is narrative driven, a story is unfolding throughout play and you can change the course of events by decisions taken by the player. The dice have more than 6 sides or less depending on which ones are needed to be rolled and the game is not competitive in the sense that there is a winner and looser at the end. The game also lasts longer than most traditional board or card games and is played in a way that most people have not encountered as it is vastly different to Uno, Chess or Poker. We will go deeper into the mechanics at another time but it is a very different game that offers a truly unique and fun experience for the players and game masters. I will do my best to help explain what it is we do around the table and why I enjoy it and think more people would if they tried to play TRPGs.

Role Playing Games are games in which the player takes on the role of a character of a certain class and race in often a fictional setting where they are given a quest to resolve. When generating this character you roll or calculate Points for your ability score and distribute them among your skills and attributes which is done during the character creation phase. Different classes possess different talents and abilities as do races which can include dim light vision if you were an Elf or resistance to poison if you were an Orc shaman. Classes can range from the combat focused Fighter to the versatile Wizard and Elves, Dwarves and Halflings are but some of the playable races and classes in some of these systems.  These tabletop games are not merely restricted to medieval fantasy settings but those are the ones I prefer and will use them for most of my examples.

Games can be set in any era, in any environment and classes and powers vary from system to system as do the rules of play.  Mutants and Masterminds is an RPG system which sees you take on the role of a super hero or villain and battle it out Marvel style while Call of Cthulhu has the players play as Investigators trying to solve a murder before dying or loosing their collective s##t in the process. Some RPGs require a  gaming surface and miniature figurines for staging combat, others may use index cards to tell a story while some do not require anything but a piece of paper and is entirely spoken. RPGs come in many forms , levels of complexity and have actually been around since the 70’s with  Dungeons & Dragons being the first leading name in the industry and remains so until today.

Gary Gyax and Dave Arneson were enthusiastic war gamers who wanted to create a game in which you controlled a single soldier opposed to an entire unit or platoon. They would eventually brainstorm a very basic Dungeons & Dragons system and later Gary Gygax would publish it through his company TSR. D&D would change the face of gaming forever as many video game developers would use the character stats from their game to develop and design their own games with them serving as a template. In time their brand would have bestsellers popularizing the genre of fantasy further and familiarizing the reader with their RPG settings and lore. They would push the envelope for the entire industry while creating it at the same time. Fantasy was the first setting but later they would release futuristic science fiction settings in Gamma World  and other books including D20 Modern where players could use SMGs and helicopters. The whole idea was to give players a chance to enter their imaginations and with their guidelines play out epic adventures all from the safety of their own home and in the company of their friends.

Me and my guild first really got into RPGing because we all enjoyed similar things and for most of us, none of us had a chance to really play an TRPG. We would come together and after long discussions about D&D we decided to give it a shot and start playing. At first most of us were brand new to Dungeons & Dragons TRPG games but we enjoyed reading the books, seeing the great artwork. We did start with a more complex system (3.5 Edition which later evolved into Pathfinder) that did have many stats, numbers, reading and may not have been the best choice for newbies in hindsight. The learning curve is not as steep as it may appear at first glance but it does require reading the material in order to have a basic grasp of how it the game is played. Coming to the gaming table without reading anything is a mistake. With the resources available online today a new player can get a decent idea of what the game is about and a basic comprehension of stages of play and how a turn goes. We ourselves plan to put out tutorial videos down the line.

In the beginning your eyes will be overwhelmed with many of the Character sheets but after a few gaming sessions you will know what to look for and where what goes. With every session we ran we would feel more comfortable with the rules, questions would get addressed and answered and the deeper we delved into this imaginary world. My first character was Marcus Marvella, a Half Elf Ranger with a cliche backstory and I remember how much I like attributes of the class. My brother player a more advanced class of a War Mage, Boris of the Bash Bros was a Human Barbarian and Medeni played a dwarven cleric. All of us enjoyed figuring out which skills and weapons to use depending on the situation they found themselves. We learned very fast that there was a big coop component to playing the game, communication and teamwork is the only way to survive an attack or escape a potentially fatal argument. We also grew closer as friends and before long we are snapping D&D puns and jokes and it was something we all would continue to look forward to until this day.

When you quest you are playing a character other than yourself in a fictional setting where you are not bound by our current reality and norms. Want to slay dragons and rescue the princess, you can do it from the safety of your home with your friends as your allies. Ever wanted to be part of a story as it was written? Solve mysteries in a Victorian city or escape the Death Star with you friends, yes and yes guys. Questing is always going to have more options than any video game because there is no limit to your imagination. Many have described the RPG experience as the players are characters in movie and are playing it out as the Game Master is the director responsible for crafting the obstacles and supporting cast. I cannot describe the laughs had at the table and the tension when the Health Points were low and nobody had any potions and our Cleric was out of heals! The immersion is a big part of why I enjoy playing and running the game. No one session is the same and if done right a session involves just as much role playing as combat encounters.

The community of tabletop RPG players is diverse and the passion for the hobby is very real. There are dozens of groups and pages on social media and websites (cough) including Nerd Dimension who seek to make this hobby more accessible and make it easier for those wishing to pursue it as a hobby. RPGing can be a truly liberating experience, being able to break away from the problems in the real world and it can also be very social if you schedule games with new players once in a while. I hope that this post can help motivate readers to consider playing or maybe return to it now as there are so much more options now. Reach out to members in local gaming groups or go to game shops and see if there other players who need an extra player. The experience can be rewarding and it is better than solitary gaming in my opinion. At the end of every session I feel I did not waste my time, I was socializing while playing a game by telling a story. I do not have the same feeling after playing 4 hours of a PC game or console and my eyes get tired.

If you love playing RPG PC or video games, this is something you should at least look into to get some insight into how your pass time originated. I have noticed it seems harsher for video game players crossing over but there are systems that let you do awesome stuff in the early levels so don’t worry about being bored.

If you love fantasy fiction then I cannot recommend this enough for it is the closest I have gotten to playing a character from one of my favorite novels and immersing myself into a setting. It could also serve as a helpful tool to flush out your own settings and characters if you group are open to trying it out.

If you are looking for something different that could sharpen your writing, voice acting or social skills in general than this is something that could be beneficial to you.

 

Game Systems I can recommend for new players:

GURPS : A very basic system which is good for a first session as there is less attributes and a basic rule system. A great way to introduce basic character creation and principles of play found in the more complex systems especially for younger players. There are many itirations of the system with loads of settings to choose from and is the cheapest to get price ways compared to the bigger systems.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (2nd Edition): A step up in complexity but still easier than the later editions and other RPGs on the market. Despite having more rules than GURPS the AD&D system allows for more options in play and character creation. Good starting point if you have a group thinking of playing D&D the amount of materials and campaigns online to me make this the most fun to run and play for new players from teens to adults. Our very own DM Pat still runs the system until this day and you can catch him on Roll20 running sessions.

Shadowrun: A science-fiction / cyber punkish game which is more focused on skills opposed to class for solving problems and resolving combat. It is a more modern setting and is rich in theme and flavor and serves an interesting alternative to players not looking for Swords and Sorcery. The weapons and races are just as diverse as you can find in most fantasy and the twist of entery this ‘Matrix’ like cyber dimension makes for a unique experience. You have hackers to tanks and working together while one of your runners is disabling a security program is pretty cool. If you want to get a feel for the general idea of the game you can get the Shadowrun PC games for fair prices on GOG and I recommend them.

Call of Cthulhu: A horror science-fiction RPG based on the HP Lovecraft’s Mythos in which you investigate mysterious events and have to maintain your sanity and safety as the Ancient Ones hurl every demonic thing it can at your party. The basic role playing rules make it easy to get into for new players and the horror setting will have players on the edge of their seats until the very end where everyone dies…because it is very very very hard to survive in COC. A must play for all horror and Lovecraft fans thinking of entering the RPG realm.

Star Wars Roleplaying Game: What more can I say. This game was designed to be easy for those taking their first steps into roleplaying games and the theme is there in buckets. It is new and you can buy beginner boxes for cheap and I think this goes over well with younger players the most. Unleash the force with your buddies while recapturing some of the magic of the movies.

Vampire: The Masquerade :  A system unlike the others which is more story orientated opposed to combat. The system has a strong community and following is designed with those looking for more storytelling in the game and the setting and theme of vampires is very well done. Take on the curse of the night in the form of unique vampires as you and your party have to decide how to operate in this hidden world. There is a great PC game developed by Troika of this system which I recommend.

There is something for everybody in the world of tabletop RPGs and maybe this post helps somebody choose to give them a shot. Until your eyes gaze upon my humble writing once more please let us know what you think of our content in the comments section below. If you like what you read so far we welcome you to subscribe and follow our social media pages and podcast.

*Nerd Dimension also have started recruiting members and players for our Sci Fi Fantasy Club in Kungsbacka, all you need is the app Meet Up to find and get in touch with the group.

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