Podlight: The Lovecraft Tapes (Podcast Recommendation)

Four years ago I was looking for a way to get into the tabletop RPG Call of Cthulhu, having already familiarized myself with the basics of a D100 system and was always a fan of HP Lovecraft’s work it sounded like it could prove to be a fun thing to run for my group someday as we all enjoyed horror as a genre of game, novel and film.

While scouring YouTube and Facebook for something worth checking out I actually stumbled upon The Lovecraft Tapes in the podcast app later that day on my cellphone. I decided to start from the first case / season (Lights, Cameras, Chaos)episode and never looked back.

The Lovecraft Tapes Logo (awesome Tees in the merch store)

The podcast is an actual-play series with a video and audio component in which the Keeper / Host Jeremy runs sessions of the Call of Cthulhu, with Matt, Bryan and George playing the roles of investigators in an episodic format. With George mysteriously disappearing after a case the boys would recruit the talents of Gabe to continue their investigative efforts. Jeremy’s narration and chemistry with the players make for enjoyable listening but also helps in explaining how the mechanics in the game works for novice players. The party banter never gets stale and the way they approach the problem solving keeps the game fresh from episode to episode.

The boys at Lovecraft Tapes have grown through the years and have an impressive back catalogue of content worth checking out for anybody who is a fan of COC or someone new to the system and looking for a fun way to figure out how you could run the game. Jeremy never overcorrects and lets his players doom themselves but that is what is the fun in this specific game, the party seldom makes it to next week yet here they manage to survive to laugh another day…for the most part.

Apart from providing listeners with the podcast they also have Recommendos where the guys review and recommend video games, movies and a wide range of other cool stuff worth checking out. They always give a shout out to indie stuff when they can and are very responsive to queries and emails which I can vouch for myself. I can only apologize that it took me this long to get around to doing a piece on these guys. I salute their commitment to the culture and fun and hope to hear more from them for many years to come. Even how they would interject comedic ancient one commercials would bring cool intermissions between bad rolls and horrific consequences was but one of the many ways the team crafted brilliant entertainment for all fans of the genre. If you are somebody who cannot get enough of COC or HP Lovecraft this could be that casual listening for your down time between plotting sessions or reading novels.

When I first started listening I must have binged through the first 3 investigations in no time as I was working a warehouse job which was tedious to put it mildly somewhere in the countryside of Sweden. With a nagging supervisor and coworkers who did not care too much about the new Slav I was left to my own devices and forklift. Jeremy and the guys played a huge part in me not letting the company’s BS affect me as much during the day to day grind as the provided enough humor and intrigue to keep me going through eps. I soon found myself downloading 2-3 episodes at home and looking forward to work just cause I knew I would go through more of the adventures. For that I am indebted to you bros and supremely grateful.

So for any of you looking to get a fix of audio horror within a comedic yet interesting narrative look no further than The Lovercraft Tapes. It is hard to bring light to unspeakable dark cosmic horrors such as the ones contained in the tomes printed by Chaosium and Delta Green but this team will bring you out the end of it with some good laughs and a smile on your face.

The site offers several tiers of support from a Student of Miskatonic to The Dreamlands granting you different levels of access from prior rewards and benefits to including opportunities to play videogames with the guys and even the chance to play an NPC in an episode of the podcast! This group of gamers have truly been able to translate their passion into something great that can be monetized and inspire us here at Nerd Dimension to stick with our passions and make sure to have fun on the journey.

If you would like to find out more about The Lovecraft Tapes and see how you could support them please do click the links bellow and make sure you like their page and subscribe. There is a ton of cool content on their website and more information about the now expanded team of contributors and players.

Patreon

YouTube Channel

Twitter

Discord

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.

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

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

By Bronze oldie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marvel : Legendary Board Game Review – A coop deck builder for the newbs but does it deliver ?

Upper Decks smash is reviewed. Capes, Crime Fighters and Cards, lots and lots of cards !!!

This review was years in the making and I wanted to play through the game enough times before passing judgement on something I was excited about for so long. I was hyped about it when I first heard of the concept of a coop Marvel game, something to play with friends that was not miniatures on a board and had more possibilities. Granted I was not a deck-builder fan at the time but it sounded like something I could enjoy.  More importantly I wanted my group to have played a few hands to see how players of different levels of experience felt about it. A game with hundreds of cards and new mechanics may be fun for an avid gamer but a newbie might be overwhelmed by all the things they have to remember.

The game is pretty popular from the amount of expansions (11 at present) that  continue to be print and with Comic Culture and Nerd Culture being at an all time peak I felt something like a COOP deck builder required us to be able to give an accurate, fun and informative review. I saw a lot of Youtubers discussing it, lots of reviews but it was one of those games that was not so popular in Croatia so at the time of its release it did not get such a push I guess in the Eastern European markets. I digress. Nevertheless I was syked to play it after reading and hearing mixed reviews I still went in hoping for the best.  Upper Deck are not usually associated with board games as many of my peers recall them from sports trading cards and memorabilia so it had me curious to see how they would fair in this new realm. To clarify I would like to state that I was not big on deck builders or card games at the time so this was a recent purchase after I had played a few more card games .

Having new players and a bigger place meant I could get back to boardgaming and this is a game I felt I never quiet played enough of. The first time I played it was in Split with my close friends and guild brothers Boris aka Moses and Ivan aka the Apache in a small apartment an wound up playing it on the floor! So my first impression was that I needed space to run it. I recently played it at the new place with my girlfriend and fellow Nerd Dimensioners Apollo and Gustonius. I purchased the game at Dragons Lair in Kungsholmen Stockholm. The price did catch me a little off guard considering that it is not the newest title however the artwork on the box and the shape of it made for easy storage and display piece . Seeing the amount of expansions already available indicated to me that this game obviously is still selling well when so much added content is still being released.

The base game contains 500 cards in total, a gameboard and manual. Upper deck threw in a ton of free dividers so you can label all the heroes, villains, schemes etc as to make it easier the next time you play. WARNING ! This game will take time to prepare and explain and I suggest you play it with 3 before playing five. After you organize the infinity deck of cards you can build the decks which go on the board. The board is good quality and straightforward with authentic artwork. Upper Deck saw to it that the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier and reaming flavor added to the game. The manual is short and simple, big enough text and pretty easy to understand after you flipped through it.

LEGENDARY MIC FNL

Included is how to- run your very first game and other ways to run the villains so that you can easily setup the henchmen and masterminds. The mechanics involved players drawing from different decks to either build their own deck or to play their hands on the table. You combat bad guys by playing different shield cards which serve as a currency or attack points and your goal is to prevent bad guys from escaping and destroying the master minds. The game is not the easiest and you will be knocked around but it does balance out as you start taking villains off the board. The developers and designers created a beautiful game and made sure that each game will be different. The mechanics do take a couple of hands but you will know what you are doing after 3 games and will be able to explain to any new players you wish to include in the crime fighting fun.

After playing enough games I did start feeling that I was playing the mechanics more than I was fighting bad guys but in all fairness it is a deck-builder game not a classic boardgame. Luckily I had purchased the Deadpool Expansion which was not expensive and added more cards and made for some interesting combinations. This being a review of the base game I will say that despite have 500 cards the game did feel like it was more mechanics and it did not give me enough options to make it more of a game that I could play say twice a month. 7 Wonders does this well where you get enough flavor and options out the box and it gets people back to the table because it is engaging despite being a competitive game. When I purchased the Dark City expansion I saw that it allowed for more options and added mechanics which did make the game harder but in return the scales did tip back in the players favor with better cards and characters. The base game should have included a few more things and with the price tag I would have preferred a mat instead of a board for conveniences sake.

All in all Marvel did deliver a fun deck-builder that you can teach kids and adults could still enjoy as it has moments where it does feel a little pokerish yet maintains a very enjoyable team aspect. Working together, letting the next player get a certain hero so they can deliver a harder hit. It does have a competitive option where you count up the amount of damage done and cards in your deck to determine who earned the most points which also can spice it up. This is a game which needs sleeves and expansions so be prepared to dish out some coin for it if you want to truly be able to enjoy the game. The cards will get worn out and the expansions keep you and your players more interested. As a stand alone it can prove fun for a regular group but is not something we recommend for smaller groups as we feel it plays best at 4-5 players.

The Nerd Dimension will give this game a

 

6.7 out of 10

 

*Ruling: Despite the great artwork the game is a considerable investment for a game that will not have the same feeling after 20 games. The mechanics can be mastered but for new players it can take a couple of games.The Legendary system has been applied to everything from Buffy to Aliens so it is not that the system is bad but I felt there would be more flavor in the base game. However the rating jumps higher when you add the expansions so subscribe to see which ones we liked and which ones we felt did not add much.

 

For more information and content make sure you subscribe and like our Facebook Page