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

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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

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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)

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

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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

Hero Con Göteborg 2019

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After the changes here at Nerd Dimension, one being my music career taking off just as creative differences and moving left us with no studio or staff to continue. Upon my return to the snowy north I found myself with some time on my hands between meetings I learned about the con in Göteborg that was coming up. I reached out to my new friend Erik and we decided that we would attend the con. It was my first con in Sweden and I was looking forward to checking out some of the stalls and hopefully re up on some books and gifts for loved ones back home.

What seemed interesting was that Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin from Stranger Things)  and Alexander Ludvig (Bjorn from Vikings) would be there and I almost took my Stranger Things poster, but I didn’t in the end which I was glad about after the fact. Seeing such big names did make me wonder if the con manage to get some support from the big companies perhaps merch and giveaways. The comic artists who were there did get published by the big names but they were not any we were familiar with and when I arrived they did not seem too keen on talking as no one was cuing for them. Regardless of the lineup my seconday motive for attending was also checking what the stalls full of preloved goodness had to offer as I had realized there was not much in the form of gaming or tabletop sessions that was organized.

Me and Erik grabbed burgers en route to the con and got sufficiently psyched about attending and the weather was very nice for Sweden in May. After finding the parking lot we walked past a decent amount of cosplayers, so many that I started thinking it would be packed wall to wall with fellow nerds. As we approached the entrance we hear country music and a van plugging a band while Spider-Man and some obscure Anime character are striking poses. Immediately I was thrown off by that and a pony dressed up as Batman brought up a question mark. Yes, you read that right. There was a pony in costume to the side of the convention center which also is next to the horse track. I guess it could be fun for the wee ones to have something else to do but I figured maybe Knights or Cowboys might have gone over better for a stead.

When we entered we did not see such a huge turn out, surprinsingly as I figured the one con of the year might have drawn a few more like minded folks. We purchased our day passes and entered the convention area. First thing I notice are some stalls with sharply dressed people who looked like they worked at an electronics chain but none of them seemed to be pushing any hardware. A few animantion companies, but nothing that drew our attention or stood out as something interesting. We get to the center of the convention hall, noticing that the space was not really used up to its fullest with corners walled off flimsly. It looked pretty vacant other than a long cue of cosplayers waiting for the contest which really was the majority of the attendees we would later find out.

Me and Erik continue deeper into the convention center and find the gold we were searching for. We find a few comic book vendors and obviously I hit big so expect more comic reviews. Nostalgic Comics had a great selection and had fair pricing on certain books so after getting a few I slid over to the next stall and found shelves of anime DVDs and BluRays. I found a few DVDs that looked interesting but the prices were were pretty high even for the regular DVD collections so unfortunately I had to pass on those purchases.

Concerning gaming we managed to find a second game store operation working mostly online and at conventions which had interesting items including memory cards and other smaller console accessories which were fairly priced. I am considering getting a retro console to catpture some game footage and did buy a Gamecube game for 10$ which seemed OK considering you can’t find too many of them out here in Sweden. Erik purchased some Playstation 2 games and a memory card along with some comics.

I was disappointed with the lack of vendors present at the con and there was no big Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo stalls plugging any games and HBO sent a few promotional models and props but other than that I felt the content was lacking and we were done in 4 hours and that was with us taking our time. There were some interesting exihbits for Swedish authors which I felt was nice to see, always promising seeing independent authors get some shine. I found classic Dylan Dog collection prints but they did not have them in English so I passed.

Before leaving we wanted to check out the cues for the actors and saw that the price was north of 50$ so I was really glad I did not bring my poster. Moving forward we decided to make our way back to Kungsbacka all the while discussing some of the shortcomings of the con and the potential it had.

I would have to give them credit for continuing to keep the event going but I feel they should get more content including workshops, displays and even performances. The lack of content just disappointed me, I mean why could they not have at least held a few tournaments in Street Fighter or have Marvel vs Capcom etc. Maybe schedule a screening of something perhaps but it seemed like the con fell short of giving us enough selection in how to spend our money. There was one vendor selling consoles and games and there was no other real gaming presence. The kids seemed to have a good time but there was definitely more that could have been done to keep them entertained. I mean why not have had some tables to play Marvel Legendary and other comic related board games. Just a few ideas should the organizers find this article. Seeing as we only attended the one day I can only give an impression but seeing as we were there for what looked like the big day it is safe to say I did not miss anything ‘big’ so my grading will not be too harsh.

I give the con a grade of 5 out of 10 if for nothing the facilities were clean, parking large enough etc. and there were enough vendors for people looking for deals and hard to find comics could make off like bandits.

We hope that Hero Con tries to integrate more gamers and nerd culture into the next Con, perhaps reaching out to gaming clubs and groups to GM sessions on day or host board games. When I was organizing a Con in Croatia which was the first Con in Dalmatia of its kind we managed to sell board games, have people playing board games and even getting a movie screening. You do not want your con goers to leave unhappy or feel bored. The price was not too expensive but if I was to be honest I did not get much out of it and Im deep into the culture so I can only imagine the disappointment on some of the visitors who may have left without anything memorable including the experience.

 

Hope that you enjoyed this post and look forward to reading some of your comments. Were you present at Hero Con? Which Cons do you recommend in Europe? Let us know and until next time, Quest Strong and enjoy your roles.

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

By Bronze oldie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dungeons & Dragons – Shadowplague (Comic Book Review) IDW

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

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

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

shadowplague

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

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

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

Rating: 6 out of 10

 

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

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

 

Gotham by Gaslight Review

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GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT (Film Review)
Review by Talon

Gbg Animated Cover

DC Comics Promotional Poster Digital

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

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

 

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Cover of the Original One Shot

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Veins of the Earth

Veins of the Earth

by Patrick Stuart and Scrap Princess

for Lamentations of the Flame Princess

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is also:

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

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

  • 100 described caves that you can use on the fly

  • Random name generator

  • 100 works of art

  • 12 kinds of darkness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*1 (LotFP is on a silver standard)

Written by Pat Mathis

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