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CGI Nostalgia

We all remember ReBoot, right? Early CGI cartoon that brought to life the inner workings of computers and the anthropomorphic data living within, excellent story, great characters and villains… I mean, it was kind of trashy, but for a kids show in the mid 90’s it was good stuff, and ran until 2001. And let us not forget Beast Wars which ran from ’96 to ’99, casting fuel on the fire of CGI’s rise to prominence on the animation scene.

But here’s the thing, shortly after these series ended there was a flurry of new computer-animated shows that attempted to ride the popularity of the new and revolutionary animation style available. Today they look dated, the graphics have been outdone a thousand times over, the animation is poor, textures are all plastic and reflect light oddly, and object interactions are entertaining to say the least.

But they’re still well worth a watch! Some of them are approaching twenty years old, and to see the difference in animation quality now compared to then is something truly staggering. The series below have some serious pros and cons, but as fragments of animation history, they are well worth dredging up… if you can find them.

Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future

The serialised adventures of a science fiction hero torn straight from the pages of the 1950’s comic strip, and keeping all of the worst science involved, like manta rays that filter feed through the upper atmosphere of Jupiter, advanced civilisations on Mars capable of strip mining Venus, complex and technologically advanced creatures living on orphaned planets that survive by steeling the water of others, and the idea that punching a monitor actually hurts The Mekon.

Each episode was one of a two-parter, embracing the serialisation of stories in the old pulp comics, and racking up suspense to keep people watching. It also meant that slightly longer tales could be told of daring adventure, in which our hero always comes out on top through superior aim, ace piloting skills, and being generally good at being the protagonist.

Max Steel

Josh McGrath became the cybernetically enhanced superhero Max Steel to sell toys for Mattel. A nineteen year old son of a weapons engineer and scientist involved in an accident involving nanotech, imagine a cross between DCs Cyborg, the Borg, and the Energiser Bunny, because his biggest weakness is a limited power supply that causes him to grow weak and potentially die. Don’t forget kids, even superheroes need batteries. Oh but he came with one hell of a battery of villains, Psycho, a heavily modified cyborg with a love of violence and ill-gotten gains, John Dread, the man-behind-the-curtain who craves the tech powering Steel, Bio-Con the man-snake, and John de Lancie!

This one got resurrected, and even had a few films to its name, but the rebooted series and live action film are far better known than the more obscure series that ran from 2000-2001, and it’s hard to come by those old episodes now.

Xcalibur

Here’s my favourite of the lot, a Canal+ import from French-Canada. Though taking the name, the series is wholly fantasy and removed from the Arthurian mythos, combining heavy amounts of magic with some wholly created components. A plucky and upstart heroine is accompanied by a mystic monk, a mighty warrior woman, and an irritating miniature pet dragon as they attempt to free a kingdom from the yoke of an evil sorcerer who dwells in a flying castle. It’s a D&D adventure pure and simple, and I watched it religiously about seven years before I ever played the game.

The people sound like typical fantasy NPCs, in fact you may hear a few familiar voices, I’m fairly sure I heard one or two. You may also notice how tiny the hands are of most characters… uncomfortably small, and there are a lot of cunning uses of hats, bald characters, and skin-tight metal armour so that things look “right”.

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Dungeon Situational – Powerful Spell Components

I’m not much of a “Spell Component” guy, at least not material components, but the visual effect of one fusing chemicals in one’s bear hands to create fire or toxin, or vial of consecrated soil that shatters and causes the undead to flee before you, it’s all very stunning, I just find it a nuisance to track.

But to stumble across a rare material or strange artifact that might imbue a spell with power beyond its typical capabilities, even as a singular use consumable treasure, makes for an interesting treasure with unique appeal that might capture the imagination of your favourite spellslinger. (more…)


How The War Will Change Planeswalkers

Have any of you been watching the revealed cards in War of the Spark, the next Magic: the Gathering set to be released and it is heavy on the narrative value. Nicol Bolas, dragon, planeswalker, pharaoh, and one of the big three ultra-villains, has assembled an army, tinkered with fate, and installed himself as the ultimate power in the multiverse, leaving only an extermination of the disloyal, gathered together in Ravnica, the endless city. He’s got an army of Eternal Champions, zombies harvested over generations on a plane he crafted in his own image, and he’s spread his influence far and wide. (more…)


Dungeon Situational – A Unique Tavern

So I have been playing a lot of D&D lately… I mean a lot of D&D, so it’s time to resurrect my idea-spitting series Dungeon Situational, where I drop a bunch of thoughts on screen in the hope that someone, somewhere can use them, or at least warp them into something useful.

This week I had Murray take a look at the thirty-something strong idea list, and has chosen a unique tavern, it’s occupants, and a short menu. Welcome travellers, to the Stricken Willow. (more…)


Three RP Systems In Two Weeks

I’m on something of a mission to break out of my own habits, and the biggest one by far is Dungeons & Dragons, I’ve been role-playing for eleven and a half years and I’ve branched out into… one other role playing game ever, Pokethulhu. I mean, including Pathfinder I’ve played a total of four different editions, and I’ve played in other people’s games, like Dragon Age, Call of Cthulhu, Battlestar Galactica, and others. But I don’t run enough of a variety.

So what do I do? Give myself a bunch of deadlines and cram like mad! Here’s what I’m up to…

Call of Cthulhu

7th edition.

Moving from a heavy combat system into something that offers a very different kind of threat is a fun shift in terms of writing. As a fan of horror it’s nice to put players in front of a situation they can’t stab to death, so naturally I’ve been composing something where the characters are about as bland as I can muster, a bunch of office workers trapped in an industrial estate in a “situation” (don’t want to give too much away here, GM’s prerogative) that they are completely ill-equipped to handle.

The principle mechanic is the Sanity system and that’s the thing I need the most practice with. My biggest mistake was applying sanity effects without a numeric reflection, lesson learned there and I should know better than to separate mechanics and narrative. The character sheet communicates a great deal about the intent of the game, and the CoC sheet is heavy on the skills… extremely heavy on the skills, but there’s a lot to play with in character creation, you can basically create any scale of investigator, from the slick 30’s high-collared detective to the most mundane office worker.

Sentinels Comics: The Roleplaying Game

Starter pack.

Superheroism has been on the to-do list for a while, and I rather like the roster of characters from Greater Than Games. The card game, Sentinels of the Multiverse, is based on a fictional comic book universe featuring some new faces that are oddly familiar, almost as if they were drawing some unapologetic inspiration from elsewhere. It’s all about action and heavily focused on visual story telling, as the intent is to describe your actions in the form of a comic panel. This means I have to get better at my visual descriptions but given that I go heavy on the “theatre of the mind” it shouldn’t be too difficult to shift.

In terms of the mechanics, the character sheets are… if anything too thorough, so for my players it was awkward to pick out exactly how to put together their attacks and techniques, but once that hurdle was overcome it actually proved pretty comprehensive and useful, and has the potential for a lot of scenarios. Currently I’m only playing the preset scenarios which takes me out of my comfort zone, but without the full product in front of me I’m unwilling to start writing. If you’d like the full product the Kickstarter only ended in February, so preorders are still in the works.

Era: The Consortium

My regular group are unaccustomed to d10 systems, and frankly so am I, nor am I all that great at writing science fiction, but this was fun, if anything this was the most fun, especially because it’s one I’ve been studying for a while (including roping in a friend to help me break it down, thanks Chris) to make sure I get it right, but actual practice has been slow in coming. I’ve played systems before where your skills determine the number of dice you roll, first time running one, it’s… interesting not setting the target numbers, there’s a lot less of the “winging it” that I have become accustomed to.

But running sci-fi is good! I never get grenades, or guns, or systems to hack, or vehicles, oh am I going to have fun with vehicles. I’m playing The Consortium over the weekend, but I’ll be spending some time thereafter writing games, putting together some one shots and maybe a campaign or two. Sci fi opens up a few options in terms of social commentary in terms of narrative, offers a new toolkit for action scenes. The Era universe has the backbone for corporate warfare which is all kinds of my thing, but I think I made need to give the aliens a soft intro to my writing, so for now I’m going human-heavy, and bringing in the races of the Consortium over time until I can do them justice. It’s nice to finally get some momentum going, anyone want to play some sci fi?


Rick & Morty vs Dungeons & Dragons

Funny how something labelled as a “versus” really shows great coordination between both sides.

That’s basically the whole story here, if you like Dungeons & Dragons & Rick & Morty… then it’s a good comic, as one would expect from a story penned by Patrick Rothfuss, fantasy author and famed D&D player with the PAX team, occasional guest star on Critical Role, and he’s a standy-up DM like me. Jim Zub co-penned the piece and has a back-catalogue of D&D comics under his belt. (more…)


GeekOut Shrewsbury March ’19 – Vidya Games

The so-called video game heavy event ended up being notably video game light… didn’t stop a record turnout or a fun time being had by all.

Sidenote, two years of GeekOut Shrewsbury, not as cool as the first anniversary, but Murray still gave it a birthday badge.

Pre-Meet

Murray – a month or two ago – armed me with the Commander card for Magic that I have coveted for quite some time, and I now feel like he did it just to show me how badly I build decks. Atraxa, the Praetor’s Voice, the angel of Phyrexia, whose presence on the field makes the strong grow stronger and the infection spread… I might do an article on the deck if people are curious, suffice to say Murray wheeled out a collection of commander decks and put pay do my dreams of Phyrexian dominance.

~sigh~

I rant, but thanks to Taste of Shrewsbury, good food, good drink, a lovely space, and very welcoming and keen to hear more about who we are and what we do. Also nice to see Cal show up in cosplay… and with biscuits.

Monty’s Tower

We are two months running of record breaking numbers, by my own headcount something in the order of forty people throughout the day! No small feat considering we’re not a weekend event. I may have forgotten to eat until a very late hour… well except for a sacrificial biscuit.

The caveat of size is that it is getting harder and harder for me to meet and greet and get to know everyone, I do my best, but I check to make sure everyone is enjoying themselves and so far as I could see everyone was.

Knightsweeper

What noble hero ventures onto the field of battle before the soldiery have arranged themselves at either side, to ensure that the underhanded deeds of the enemy are undone, and to remove the hidden explosives that could undo the best laid plans? Our noble knightsweeper, who picks his way across the board to find the mines hidden nearby.

Now, I wasn’t counting on a well practised minesweeper or chess player to step up to the board, but one of each, who successfully swept the board clean of mines, meaning a versus match had to be played, each starting from a corner and approaching carefully, attempting to outmanoeuvre one another while avoiding the explosives.

The first prize, a £10 Steam voucher, was useless to both first place winner Hannah, and second place Zach! Hannah is, fortunately, an adventurer in Meadsbridge, and has happily accepted and in-game reward (shameless bit of cross-promotion, but it works). For others… an IOU I guess?

Next month’s event is on the 25th of April, GeekOut Infinity, releasing the same day as the conclusion to the Infinity War MCU storyline! Soon after, there will be a cinema trip to see the film soon after GeekOut itself. Look for details on Facebook and Meetup soon.


Mask of Mayhem – Borderlands Trailer Deep-Dive

Well I was going to review the Rick and Morty D&D crossover comic today… even asked for it back off the guy who borrowed it. Sorry Alan, blame 2k and Gearbox for dropping a bombshell on one of the other things I go nuts for:

Let’s get into this.

We’re opening on guns, gears and vault symbols, and a scene of pschyos worshipping at the feet of an angel with excessively large lapels. Judging by the mirrored haircuts, I’m thinking brother-sister combo with an option on Siren number 5 of 6 as the sister. It’d be nice to take on an evil(er) Siren who gets to do more than die a tentacle-y death before doing much more than laying down threats. That’s a nice looking rifle over that guy’s shoulder too, I’m guessing Dahl.

Blink and you’ll miss it, looks like a mask of Handsome Jack over the door to the temple scene there. We know Jack had some clones, a personality uploaded into cloud storage, and one hell of a personality cult, I suppose it’s possible we’re seeing a continuation of his saga.

Closeup of our angel’s face (sick chokers lady) with a CL4P-TP unit fighting a skag, pan around over the brother’s shoulder with even bigger guns pointing at us, and we move on to someone who makes me think… possible vault hunter? Maybe just your average semi-heroic NPC, he has the bearing of someone heroic if a little ignoble what with the goatee and eyepatch. Over his shoulder is Loader Bot from Tales from the Borderlands! At least it’d better be. A cyborg cyclops in a heavy coat carrying some heavy firepower, I’d be shocked and heartbroken if he’s not one of our next vault hunters, but I’m not willing to point to the first guy and say “Rhys” just yet… nor am I entirely convinced that face number 3 is Fiona or face 4 Sasha HOWEVER face 4 does look a lot like the mysterious lady from that tech demo we saw a while back:

That tech demo, “pay no attention to the character, she is just an asset”. Round helmet with an aerial on the right hand side, high pauldron on the left, same build and bearing. Honestly at the time I thought this would be Fiona, the round military helmet replacing the round bowler hat. Now we see a face, I dunno, eyes and chin seem wrong, and face 3 the eyebrow scar is on the wrong side and in the wrong place. Anyway, a team of four mismatched people riding a vehicle shooting their way through a bunch of rakks seem pretty vault-hunterish to me.

Next scene is brick, Mordecai and Tiny Tina (sporting some badass bunny ears, go gurl!) high fiving, not easy to do three-ways, but hey. I do believe Brick is now wearing a bandana like Roland’s, and Mordecai definitely has a new feather. Tina appears to be older, spikier, and hopefully still played by Ashly Burch.

Halfway through!

Some quickfire glimpses, a vault cult psycho, Sir Hammerlock, some dude in a cape and underpants standing on a pile of corpses, Scooter’s sister Ellie with a drill-hand, and a fully winged Lilith standing on a giant Crimson Lance helmet, all as we zip through a pile of assorted tech, engine parts, gun parts, spiky bits, the works. Glimpses of redesigns in their and a little hint as to how Pandora has developed as a world in general.

Final shot, take notice of the girl in the monowheel, pretty sure she’s face 3 in the Vault Hunter line-up, but there’s a couple of little details you might miss here too, a shot of Moxxxi’s new bar, some kind of assassin looking type riding the back of a rakk, and a skaag, which means little but I still like them. The assassin’s hood intrigues me though, because as we get the long pan-out to that psycho-mask, there are other mini-tableaus dotted around of other hooded people.

There’s a figure off on the left that could be lady Hammerlock, a li’l psycho with no mask stood in front of some kind of hunched robot, a couple of our vault hunters either side of Clap-Trap, Marcus Kincaid, faces familiar and unfamiliar, scenes of violence and chaos, figures too indistinct to full make out amidst a mass of gun barrels and machine parts, but there’s some details in there that are most interesting indeed.

An Atlas logo, some Crimson Lance helmets, a possible return of Atlas under new CEO Rhys from “Tales”. I notice as well that the Maliwan “M” is pretty distinct among the other details. Maliwan haven’t been all that prominent thusfar, but it makes one wonder. And atop it all once again, this woman, this dramatic woman with dramatic hair and dramatic collar…

Tomorrow… today for you future people, during PAX East, and during GeekOut Shrewsbury, more details will be released, a perfect fit with the Vidya Games theme I’ve got going on. I will unapologetically being watching every shred of news that comes out of this new teaser, this long awaited sequel. I like riding the hype-train, and I have got my tickets ready.

I’ll do the comic review for Tuesday then I guess.


Review – The Magic Circle

A parody of gaming auteurs, The Magic Circle presents itself as an incomplete game that you are playing while it is under construction, right down to the hovering cameras of the admins floating around openly discussing the development process. A black and white fantasy world filled with monsters and wonders, and placeholder objects, unrendered models, floating production notes, object interactions filled with placeholder text, and pieces of an old game spliced together with the new content.

I have not finished this game… but I still have some thoughts… (more…)


Dear Dungeon Master – MarySue

“Slightly fatigued with Mary-Sues” of Liverpool writes:

Whenever I start up a game, or try to join an RP online (Star Trek or otherwise), almost every other player seems to want to break the boundaries of class or race to make their character ‘the exception to the rule’. I don’t mean multiclassing (which of course also happens) but more like “Yeah I’m a Vulcan, but this Vulcan has emotions”, or “I’m a high elf who’s actually a dark elf”, or “I’m a paladin, but I’m a pirate bard warmonger. Oh yeah, they deity I’m devoted to is the lawful good pantheon head”. Even stuff like “Oh we’re doing normal D&D? Cool, then I’d like to play a half-orc, half-Aasimar barbarian, and my character path is that I’m the son of a divine being and my powers will slowly develop as time goes on”.

The question is: do you experience this as well? Does it piss you off? Do you find that characters like that are actually interesting?

Also how do you deal with it? Do you kill one of their legs and raise it from the dead? (I know it happens, don’t try and tell me it doesn’t!)

And final question – do you find that characters that are rolled within the worldly norms (Sun elf bladesinger in forgotten realms/good old fashioned Barbarian etc) actually work better and give people more of a chance to be exceptional by playing the story rather than trying to force it at creation stage?

Hello Slightly

The exiled drow rejected by the society he knew and unable to be accepted by the society he chooses to fight for is not an unheard of cliche, it might well be that there was a time when one could hardly move through a game shop without stumbling across a Drizzt Do’Urden or variation thereof, and while the hobby is supposed to be about imagination, and while heroes are supposed to be exceptional examples of their kind… yeah, yeah, there is a definite trend towards “I’m an X but Y” where in the written lore the two variables are – not mutually exclusive, but outlandish and absurd.

Now there’s nothing wrong with playing a quirky character, and there’s nothing wrong with playing an outcast, happy people with cushy lives don’t go out adventuring… unless they do, you have to play the guy who got bored with life and took up the sword and fireballs at some point.

For example, you can be the pirate paladin, hells, I’ve literally just done it, an enforcer of the honour amongst thieves, share your loot, say nothing to the cops, and if you don’t play nice with your other underhanded brethren expect to be smote in your sleep (I can do that, my god said I could). But there is a balance to be struck between quirky and different and wacky and outlandish. Fantasy is supposed to be outlandish, so is sci-fi to an extent, but there is a difference between a Ferengi whose bad at business and decides to join Star Fleet, and a Ferengi who hates greed and money grubbing behaviour and lives like a peasant out of choice, that Ferengi would be stoned to death, like the guy who decided to roll that character. That character would be a pariah, that character should be a pariah, and that’s how the world would treat them, and that player would have to come to terms with that before they sit down or have a miserable time at the table.

Giving your character a place in the world, ties to nations, loyalty to factions, all offer potential for characters to be part of the world, opening avenues of role play and adventure, not to mention having allies may prove essential if a character is a loner and outcast. A character with family is – of course – asking for more trouble than the half-klingon-half-tiefling warlock of Salvatore, but it’s more dramatic and awesome trouble than it is painful and contrived awesome. It is more epic to have to leap to your death to save your estranged brother than it is to have everyone in every town you enter ask what the hell you are.

Hybrid characters are relatively easy to dismiss as a concept, you can play the pure biology card: “the pairing doesn’t work, no offspring can come of the union” or in the case of divinely or fiend-touched bloodlines, one lineage dominates, but if your player can present you with a well-reasoned, well balanced race that fits the world then by all means let it through… but let’s be honest here, it sounds like that’s not the kind of player we’re talking about here.

I for one have been lucky, I only rarely have to deal with such characters and they are usually only in single-game adventures, the kind that you want the obscene and ridiculous concepts so you can squeeze as much ridiculousness out of three hours as possible, however, might I suggest requesting from players that they either:

  • Follow guidelines to character creation, such as making membership to a faction mandatory, like Star Fleet, or a Ravnica guild as examples, or excluding certain races. It may seem harsh at first but given justification you’d be surprised how many players can get behind “the plan”.
  • Have new players pitch two or three character concepts. Clearly you’re dealing with some excessively creative people… maybe too creative… and giving them that brief will let them explore a few ideas, while allowing you to pick a selection that you think will gel together best.
  • Talk to the players once they’ve given their characters, and impress upon them the hard life they face as their chosen character, and ask if they’re willing to face that played out in game.

If, after all of the above, they still can’t play your way, clearly, yours is not the group for them.

 

And for the record, it was both legs, and it was one time! He was fine! He was walking around on them for months of game time with surprisingly little issue. He just spent a lot on replacing leg-wear.


If you have a question… ask it! I might even answer in this ridiculously long and rambling format. I’m not promising to turn this into a series, but when if it happens, it happens, and I’m perfectly fine with it. Other people have made a series of “Dear Dungeon Master” letters, but don’t let that stop you coming to me… this is fun!