Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Just want to wish everyone a prosperous New Year full of geeky fun.
May your comics be mint and your dice roll true.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holiday!

Just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays and hope we all have a great New Year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Not much time to game.

As some may have noticed my posting has been a bit slim this month and that is intentional. Gaming has had to take a back seat to work, Christmas shopping, finals and grad school preparation, I take the GRE today. A test on Christmas Eve!!!! Yup, it sucks.  
Anyway with all of that on my plate, I haven't done a whole lot of gaming this month. I have a stack of RPG books, adventures, magazines, comics and video games I haven't even looked at over the past few weeks. I've hardly had time to catch a hockey game, thank goodness for radio webcasts. (I'm listening to the Blues, my team, get stomped by the Red Wings as I type this.)
Anyway I will be posting more after the holidays are over. I still have plenty of new product reviews to get to, as well as some retro-reviews I've been wanting to do. There is just so much going on that I haven't been able to keep up, thankfully most of the gang on the RPGBloggers network have been doing a fantastic job of staying on top of things.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

For the Hockey Fans

As a hockey fan I have to admit that this is one of my favorite videos. I believe that it took place in 2004 and has to set some kind of record for the most fights and penalty minutes of any game in recent history. A friend and I were talking about this at work and I thought I would share it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Intervview with Jonathan Coulton

This interview is reprinted from an issue of the old Geek Gazette e-zine. I have tried to add notes and udates to any outdated information.

If you listen to geek podcast or read the Geek Gazette you’ve probably heard the name Jonathan Coulton once or twice. Mr. Coulton is a talented musician that embraces the concept of geek music in a way that is unlike any other performer that I have encountered. His music is funny and serious at the same time. With a sly wink and a nudge he can present you with the most ridiculous of notions in the most sincere way. Unlike other niche musicians Mr. Coulton’s music can make you laugh or make you think. Hailing from Colchester CT, he began his musical career as a drummer in his high school marching band, eventually switching to guitar. His love of music, which he studied in college, and performing has followed him throughout his life. His music covers topics as varied as the loyal fans who enjoy it. Whether he’s singing about a disgruntled computer programmer, Bigfoot or broken hearts his songs range from the truly geeky to the sincerely emotional. Even the most absurd subject is treated with what Mr. Coulton refers to as a sincere truth. He is a truly talented and imaginative performer who gives a part of himself to his fans with each song and only ask that they listen and enjoy. A true rarity in this selfish, American Idol society where most artists expect much more than they ever give to their fans.
Geek Gazette: From the bio on your website you obviously have a love for music and performing, but have you always had an inclination towards more humorous music?
Jonathan Coulton: Definitely. I loved Tom Lehrer as a kid, even though I didn’t get all the jokes. And when I first started writing the funny stuff came pretty naturally. Though I tend to oscillate between funny and sad – I think my first song ever was about a guy who wakes up on a cold rainy day and feels lonely. Not so funny actually. And my favorite songs are the ones that are balanced precariously on the edge between the two.
GG: Do you think your musical interest and abilities were natural or were you brought up in that kind of environment?
JC: Ah, nature vs. nurture. I’d have to say a little of both. My parents are both very musical people, and I was singing harmony with my family in the car as soon as I could speak. And I remember as a kid using two tape recorders to try and recreate the vocals for That Boy (Ringo’s Theme). Actually, it sounded terrible. I do think to be a musician you need to have some innate abilities, but it also definitely helps to have people around you making music.
GG: What artist or bands to you feel had the most impact on you musically?
JC: Answering this question always feels like pulling my pants down in front of an audience. Get ready for the free show everybody. I’ve always loved The Beatles and their offspring. Though I’m into the sensitive folky singer songwriter vibe as well. Watch this: Dan Fogelberg! Billy Joel! Simon and Garfunkel! And vocals really get me going, which is why I loved listening to old Whiffenpoofs records as a kid. These days I’m very strongly influenced by (read: derivative of) They Might Be Giants, Ben Folds and Fountains of Wayne.
GG: Your songs not only show your talent as a musician but your incredible imagination, where do you get the inspiration for your lyrics?
JC: I’m a geek at heart, so I have this background noise of geeky stuff, both popular culture and actual science. On the stove a pot is simmering and in it are Avagadro’s number, some Star Trek episodes, Bernoulli’s principle, and all the James Bond movies. I’m often writing about misunderstood characters - I like to use all this stuff to get a feeling of longing, or a bad breakup, or any kind of bottled up personality. Monsters who don’t get why everybody’s running away…
GG: Unlike Weird Al or Adam Sandler the humor and geekiness in many of your songs is very subdued, if you don’t listen to the lyrics you could miss it. A perfect example of this is Under the Pines, where you never actually state that it’s Bigfoot and Leonard Nimoy. Do you write your songs aiming for this subtlety or does it just come out that way?
JC: That one I definitely kept as subtle as I could. I try to be as sincere as possible, even when I’m writing about Bigfoot and Nimoy getting it on. There’s a danger in doing such goofy subject matter, because it’s easy to slide into the realm of “novelty songs” (some people would say that I’m there). Sometimes the more direct approach just sounds clunky and contrived to me, and in a song like that the word “Bigfoot” would stick out like a boiled egg in the middle of a wedding cake.
GG: As I am sure you know a large portion of your fan base is the “geek” community , do you consider yourself a geek?
JC: ? chr(89) + chr(101) + chr(115) + chr(46)
GG: Speaking of geeks a great many of us that listen to your music, and several of the podcast that have spotlighted your music are RPG players and comic book collectors Yet, I have never heard one of your songs that focuses on either of these topics, have you ever thought about doing one?
JC: I have, though I don’t actually have a lot of experience with comics and RPG. I know: I call myself a geek? I didn’t get into D&D because the learning and buying curve seemed like too much trouble, and I’m afraid to even get involved with something like WoW because I know that I would spend all my time on it. It also feels a little gimmicky to me – one of those subjects that can all too easily slip into the novelty zone. I wouldn’t want to write about those topics unless I could find some kind of sincere truth in there to address (not that there isn’t any sincerity in RPG and comics, just that it hasn’t revealed itself to me yet). Freakin muse – what are you gonna do?
GG: First of May, I Feel Fantastic and Skull Crusher Mountain are three of my personal favorites, which one of your songs is your personal favorite or which one do you love to play the most?
JC: My favorites to play live are the funny/sad ones. I love introducing “I Crush Everything” as a song about a giant squid who hates himself. The audience gets all ready for hilarity, and there are a couple of moments where they feel like they’re going to get it, but then it just gets sadder and sadder until everybody’s crying. It almost makes the audience uncomfortable, which I find thrilling. Of course Skullcrusher Mountain and First of May are both exciting to play because it’s really fun to watch the punchlines hit, especially with an uninitiated audience.
GG: While all of your songs are better than a lot of the music on the radio, you continue to put out mostly humorous, off beat songs, why? With songs like When You Go you obviously have the ability to write mainstream music, why stay off the radar?
JC: Somehow it’s easier for me to get at what I want to express by going through the offbeat subjects. I don’t know why that is. Maybe I’m afraid of writing about myself, and so I have to do it with a sneak attack. It’s also that I can’t often get any traction when I start with a premise like “this song will be about a boy who loves a girl.” I need a hook of an idea to hang the song on, and until I have that, I just can’t get excited enough to generate anything that I like.
GG: Some of the fan made videos for your songs are pretty good, did you encourage this or was this something the fans started?
JC: I think that I encouraged it – all my songs are released under a Creative Commons license that allows for any noncommercial re-use of the music, so the permission to do it is there explicitly. But I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of people who have taken up the challenge. All these different styles and techniques, all these people spending hours and hours working on a video for one of my songs; it’s incredibly gratifying. And I love the idea that the creative process doesn’t stop when I finish a song – obviously the beholder of any piece of art becomes part of the creative process by interpreting what they see or hear, but this goes past that. It’s like we’re collaborating on something beyond the song.
GG: Your fans are a very loyal group and I’ve heard it commented that you are the geek equivalent to Jimmy Buffet. Do you see yourself this way?
JC: Jimmy Buffet. OK, I’ll take that. I get a lot of labels like “Balladeer” or “Troubadour” and I accept them gratefully. But I’m not going to come up with some shark fin dance that everybody has to do at my concerts. OK, maybe a zombie thing, but no shark fin stuff.
GG: Since Jimmy Buffet Fans are called Parrot Heads, what would you call Jonathan Coulton fans?
JC: JoCoists? Coultonistas? Half-pony, half-monkey monsters?
GG: The internet has become the bane of the music industry, yet you seem to have embraced it. Do you think you could have achieved the following you have with out it?
JC: Absolutely not. Something’s happened over the last year, and it had little to do with any of my activities in the real world. I’m well aware that what I do is pretty niche, and not that attractive to “mainstream radio” or “record labels” or “anyone with money.” The internet has allowed me to reach the pockets of people who would like my music. That’s an old story by now, but it’s no less true. Whatever success I’ve had so far would not have been possible without broadband and the mp3 format.
GG: Even if you never get a big time recording deal, do you see yourself continuing to play and produce music for the geek masses?
JC: I hope so – as long as I can stand it. At some point it may become necessary for me to get some kind of a job that makes money, when I have a midlife crisis and need to buy a sports car RIGHT AWAY. But for now I’m getting so much pleasure out of writing and playing and connecting with people, it’s hard to imagine giving it up. GG: What exactly is a Spizzsink and a Wiffenpoof?
JC: Spizzwink and Whiffenpoof. Both are a cappella singing groups at Yale where I went to college. A little dorky maybe, especially if you’ve never seen it before – you walk into a room and there’s a bunch of college guys dressed in tuxedos singing “Midnight Train to Georgia,” I can understand why you might be a little thrown. But when you’re in it, it’s such a thrill. It’s honestly one of the greatest musical experiences I’ve ever had, just singing harmony with a large group of people. And you get a lot of tail. I mean a LOT of tail. Just kidding.

If you aren’t already a fan of Jonathan Coulton’s music but you are interested in finding out more about this talented geek balladeer check out his website, . From his site you can download songs, buy CD’s or get on the message forums and rub elbows with other half-pony half-monkey monsters. You can also subscribe to his Thing a Week podcast through itunes and download his latest geeky creations or subscribe to The Jonathan Coulton Project and download the fan made videos to his songs. ****Note: Since this article was originally published the Thing A Week Podcast has been discontinued. Although I do think you can still download some old episodes on itunes and ofcourse you can by Mr. Coulton’s music on itunes as well.****

Thursday, December 4, 2008

50 Reasons Why Chuck Norris is a Bad Mama Jama.....

I got his in an email and found it quite amusing so I thought I would share.

1. The first rule of Chuck Norris is: You do not talk about Chuck Norris
2. Chuck Norris can divide by zero
3. Chuck Norris did in fact build Rome in a day.
4. The chief export of Chuck Norris is pain
5. Chuck Norris counted to infinity-twice
6. When the boogey man goes to sleep every night he checks his closet for Chuck Norris
7. Chuck Norris doesn’t read books. He stares them down until he gets the information he wants. 8. Chuck Norris doesn’t wear a watch; HE decides what time it is.
9. Outer space exists because it is afraid to be on the same planet with Chuck Norris.
10. Chuck Norris is so fast he can run around the world and punch himself in the back of the head.
11. Chuck Norris uses a nightlight. Not because he is afraid of the dark but because the dark is afraid of Chuck Norris.
12. Contrary to popular belief there is indeed enough Chuck Norris to go around.
13. When Chuck Norris does a push-up, he isn’t lifting himself up; he’s pushing the Earth down. 14. If a tree falls in the forest does anybody hear? Yes. Chuck Norris hears it. Chuck Norris hears everything.
15. Chuck Norris played Russian roulette with a fully loaded gun and won.
16. Chuck Norris does not own a stove, oven or microwave because revenge is a dish best served cold.
17. If, by some incredible space-time paradox, Chuck Norris would ever fight himself, he’d win. Period.
18. When Chuck Norris was born, the only person who cried was the doctor. Never slap Chuck Norris.
19. There is no such thing as global warming. Chuck Norris was cold so he turned the sun up.
20. Ninjas want to grow up to be just like Chuck Norris. But the usually grow up just to be killed by Chuck Norris.
21. Staring at Chuck Norris for extended periods of time without proper eye protection will cause blindness and possibly feet-sized bruises on the face.
22. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could Chuck Norris? All of it.
23. When you’re Chuck Norris, anything + anything is equal one-one roundhouse kick to the face. 24. Chuck Norris grinds his coffee with his teeth then boils the water with his own rage.
25. Chuck Norris does not “style” his hair. It lies perfectly in place out of sheer terror.
26. Lighting never strikes twice in one place because Chuck Norris is looking for it.
27. There are no such things as tornados. Chuck Norris just hates trailer parks.
28. Chuck Norris let the dogs out.
29. Chuck Norris got his driver’s license at the age of 16. Seconds.
30. Chuck Norris is not only a noun but a verb.
31. The Manhattan Project was not intended to create nuclear weapons. It was meant to recreate the destructive power in a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick. They didn’t even come close.
32. Chuck Norris will never have a heart attack. His heart isn’t nearly foolish enough to attack him.
33. Chuck Norris crossed the road. No one ever dared to question his motives.
34. Chuck Norris is the only man who has literally beaten the odds. With his fists.
35. Chuck Norris can kick through all six degrees of separation, hitting anyone, anywhere-in the face- at any time.
36. Chuck Norris can in fact “raise the roof.” And he can do it with one hand.
37. Chuck Norris knows everything there is to know – except for the definition of mercy.
38. Paper beats rock, rock beats scissors, and scissors beats paper, but Chuck Norris bets all three at the same time.
39. Chuck Norris was once in a knife fight and the knife lost.
40. If you work in an office with Chuck Norris, don’t ask him for his three-hole punch.
41. Chuck Norris does not sleep. He waits.
42. The chemical for the highly toxic cyanide ion is CN-. There are also Chuck Norris’ initials. This is not a coincidence.
43. Chuck Norris’ pulse in measured on the Richter scale.
44. Chuck Norris had a deep and abiding respect for human life- unless it gets in his way.
45. America is not a democracy, but a Chucktatorship.
46. Dinosaurs went extinct because of the Chuck Norissaurus.
47. If at first you don’t succeed, you’re not Chuck Norris.
48. Chuck Norris knows the last digit of Pi.
49. Chuck Norris can taste lies.
50. There is no chin behind Chuck Norris’ beard. There is only another fist.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Everyone Got Rick Rolled

I was at work on Thanksgiving, so I completely missed this. Apparently the entire viewing audience got Rick Rolled. This just goes to show how much the internet and technology influences our lives. I actually think this is pretty funny... I hate the song, but the fact that this happened during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade is hilarious.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gaming Christmas List

As an answer to the call for gamer Christmas list on RPG Blog II, I have compiled a list of the 5 gaming items I want for the holidays. Most of which I probably will never get without a Christmas miracle.

  1. The Ultimate Gaming Table
  2. The Ultimate DM Screen
  3. Palladium System Pocket Guide
  4. More Supplement books for Battlestar Galactica RPG.
  5. A gaming only room. The dining room works well, but it would be nice to have a room just for gaming, so that I leave everything out for game nights.
On a more realistic level I want the following:
  1. Rifts: Book of Magic
  2. Freedom City Campaign Setting
  3. A set of Amethyst Gaming Dice
  4. 4e Draconomicon
  5. PS3 (Video games count as gaming!)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Hope you all have a great Turkey Day!
Now, I'm going to go raid the kitchen with my fork of gluttony +1....

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

No more D&D for me... for a while

I'm taking this holiday season off from D&D. I'm a bit tired of all the hype, trash talking and in fighting among fans (I've done my fair share of all of them) about 4e and have decided to remove myself from the whole mess for a while. I have expressed my likes and dislikes for the system, argued my points, and mentioned WotC's inability to deliver as/when promised more than once.
I still like the 4e system, but for the remainder of the year I will not play D&D or talk about the game on this blog. I am declaring for the rest of the year, I will not post any opinions or reviews of the game. I don't even plan to post any news items. There are so many other blogs that will pick up any important D&D news, I know there will be more than enough quality info out there. If you don't believe me check out all the great blogs over at RPGbloggers, you won't be disappointed.
My brain is over saturated with anti-WotC sentiment, much of which I have caused and this has removed some of the fun for a game I have loved for too many years. So I'm taking this time to recharge my gaming batteries. After the new year maybe I will be able to look at the game the way I use to.
Granted there are only a handful of weeks left in the year, but my next 4-5 weeks will be D&D free.
This is my end of year resolution... no D&D for me.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Quick Review: Dead Reign

Though it didn't get published in time for Halloween, as I had hoped, I finally got my copy in the mail and it did not disappoint.
Dead Reign takes place on an earth that has been over run with zombies. Over all it is reminiscent of Max Brook's World War Z book. As a matter of fact when I first started to read the rule book it seemed almost as if this were really a game based on Mr. Brook's novel. Though as you read it does break off into new and interesting directions.
The PCs are "normal" people who are trying to stay alive in an undead world. The only really non human O.C.C is the half living, people who just don't quite die of the Zombie infection. Basically they are zombies that didn't completely turn and don't feed on human flesh.
The bad zombies are more than just your standard, mindless moaners, though those are the dominate kind, there are at least 7 types of zombies including intelligent zombies.
The walking dead aren't the only things to fear in the Dead Reign world. There are humans who have been driven mad, ones who form religions around death and those that are just plain evil for the PCs to contend with as well.
The book provides a great deal of well though out information for player and GMs alike. With Tons of equipment, ideas, information about the world, monsters, and rules for nearly all situations, this game is one of the few Palladium books I would say is actually "all you need to play".

This is a Palladium game so if you are familiar with the system this game should be a fun addition to your collection. If you are not a Palladium gamer the system has a learning curve, but it isn't that difficult to master. Most complain that Palladium games tend to follow a clunky rules system and while it may be true, the system is still fun. The Palladium system is an old school system I think that is what make it feel clunky at times. People have just gotten to use to playing the streamlined systems we see released each day, but all in all the Palladium system is really not bad once you get use to it.
My biggest praise for Dead Reign is that the book is much better organized than most Palladium games. If you've played Rifts you know what I am talking about. If you need to know a rule it is pretty easy to find on the Contents page.

Granted I am a zombie fan, but overall I had a blast with this game. I know there are tons of zombie themed games out there, some may be better than Dead Reign, but so far this is my favorite and a game I will not only be playing for quite a while, but one that I will incorporate into my Rifts and Beyond the Supernatural games. I may even work some of the zombies into my Palladium Fantasy campaigns.

My final word: The book is interesting, well written and just choked full of gaming fun. If you are a horror rpg or zombie fan( and who isn't?), you need to pick up this game.

RPGBloggers NaNoWriMo - Short Story (Part 3)

Check out part three of the Nanowrimo short story.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

RPGBloggers NaNoWriMo - Short Story (Part 2)

Last month, RPGCentric posted a call for RPGBloggers to create a short story as part of NaNoWriMo. The story is progessing nicely as there are now 2 parts up for you to read. The schedule is posted below as well as with part 1 on RPGCentric, so if you haven't ready the first part of the story do it now.

November 9th - Part 1 (posted on RPGCentric)
November 16th - Part 2 (posted here)
November 23rd - Part 3 (posted on RPGCentric)
November 30th - Part 4 (posted on Exchange of Realities)


Shalla had been in the forest for hours, avoiding chores was hard work and she had developed quite an appetite. She spent enough time in the forest to know the juiciest, tastiest apples grew higher up in the trees and climbed up to get her pick of the choicest fruits, the ones that are so big she had to use both of her small hands to hold them. Just thinking of such a treat made her mouth water.

She felt at home here, the sounds and smells of the forest gave her a sense peace and were as soothing as the songs her mother sang to her as a child. Here among the branches of the trees was as comforting to her as finding a seat next to a warm hearth on a cold night to anyone else. She couldn't resist the call of the forest. When she lay in her warm bed at night she longed to be sleeping out here, with the cool air on her face, a blanket of stars twinkling above her, and the forest creatures singing her to sleep with their nightly lullaby.

Her mother would be angry if she stayed gone much longer, but Shalla couldn’t resist. Finding a comfortable place in the tree she had climbed, Shalla laid back to enjoy one of the delicious morsels she had secured in her pouch. She had barely swallowed her first bite when her weariness set in and the Halfling began to dream.

She still sat in her tree in the forest, but nothing seemed familiar. There were no birds singing, no squirrels bounding from limb to limb; everything seemed so dark, lifeless. The apple she held in her hand, as well as those yet to be picked, had lost its color and become mottled. It was as if the spark had been removed from every living thing in the area, a deep shadow covered the land.

Despite the overcast sky filled with rolling, dark grey clouds, Shalla somehow knew it was late afternoon. She climbed down from the safety of her perch, noticing the chill that had crept into the bark of the tree, as if winter had overcome midsummer. Surely Inara, the Summer Queen, had not succumbed to her sister Nehal, the cold Winter Queen, while Shalla slept. Their battle for dominance had raged for millennia, both too evenly matched to ever allow one to defeat the other.

Shalla began to wander the forest, trying to puzzle out what had happened. After what seemed hours, she found herself standing on the edge of a clearing. In the center were two figures, they appeared to be talking though no sounds left their lips, at least none that she could hear from this distance.

Both seemed ethereal, out of focus, as if they did not truly exist. The male was blurry, his movements slow, as if he moved through thick syrup, but still she could see that he was an elf. The female that accompanied him was something else entirely.

The woman standing in the clearing moved seductively around the elf, her skin as grey and mottled as the fruit on the trees, she moved jaggedly and much more quickly than her companion. Each movement made her appear to be in two places at once, leaving a shadowy trail behind her. Shalla was only able to discern that she was in fact a female by her dress, and shape. There was something vile about her, evil like Shalla had never encountered.

Mesmerized, Shalla’s curiosity got the better of her and she stepped into the clearing, she had never seen real ghosts before. As she moved closer she could see that the couple was indeed speaking to one another, yet her ears still heard nothing.

“The silence of the grave,” Shalla whispered to herself, a chill creeping down her spine as she continued to move wearily towards the figures.

The male elf was oblivious to her approach, but the female had become aware of Shalla’s presence and glanced quickly in her direction. Shalla froze as the ghostly woman looked at her with a jagged toothed smile.

As every hair on her body stood on end, the voice in her head screamed for her to run, but she could not move. Shalla’s heart beat in her ears as panic over took her and the two figures abruptly turned away from her. Feeling her feet beneath her once more she took the opportunity to run, run as fast as her legs could carry her.

Shalla awoke to shouting in the distance and her heart skipped a beat. It had been just a dream. Everything was normal, alive once again. She turned her attention to the voice that came in the direction of the clearing from her dream.

As her feet touched solid ground, Shalla looked up to see that the light in the sky was growing dim. It was then she realized that her mother, in a worried panic, must have sent her brothers into the woods to find her. She was going to be weeding the garden for a month once her mother found out where she had been. Shalla was about to call out to her brothers, but held her tongue as the voice became clearer.

“You! You have done this? Durgin, it’s a trap! Leave at once!”

The voice did not belong to one of her brothers and the stranger sounded as if he were in trouble. Before she realized it, she was sprinting through the forest, heading towards the voice. The fact there might be danger didn’t register in her mind, just the fact that someone might need help.

Shalla raced through the forest, so focused on her goal that she didn’t see the dwarf barreling through the brush directly in her path. The two impacted with enough force to knock them both off their feet.

“C’mon lass! We need to keep moving,” the dwarf whispered as he shook her by the shoulders.

“What’s going on,” Shalla said as the haze lifted from her mind, “who are you?”

“Ne’er mind that, gotta keep movin', get ta safety,” the dwarf whispered as he began to pull her by the hand, watching fearfully in the direction he had been running from.

Getting to her feet the two took off through the woods. Shalla had no problem keeping up with the dwarf who was breathing heavily, adrenaline the only thing keeping his legs beneath him.

“What’s chasing us,” Shalla asked as they crossed the small creek, soaking their boots in the process.

“Not… sure...blacked out.... bad,” gasped Durgin, taking the time to glace fearfully over his shoulder.

Durgin's lungs felt as if they were filled with molten iron, he was beginning to wear down and would have to stop soon, or collapse.

“My village is that way,” Shalla said slowing to keep pace with the dwarf and pointing off to their right, “we’ll be safe and you can rest there.”

“Nowhere will be safe lass,” thought Durgin as he nodded and fell in behind the Halfling.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

PC/NPC Portraits

Image From Fantasy Clip Inks Spell Casters Set 1

This weeks image courtesy of William McAusland and the gang over at Outland Arts.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

PC/NPC Portraits

Image From Fantasy Clip Inks Warriors Set 2

This weeks image courtesy of William McAusland and the gang over at Outland Arts.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

GM Block

Like most gamers I got my start playing D&D. As a matter of fact I was the DM/GM for the first game in which I ever played and have been doing so in almost every game I have played since. As fantasy gaming was my intro to RPGs I admit to having a fondness, even a preference for that genre. While I enjoy playing/running sci-fi, superhero, horror, modern and my personal favorite pulp era games, I have found I have a hard time running a good long term campaign, unless it is fantasy.

Granted I have run some memorable games in non-fantasy settings, but they seem to fizzle out once the initial adventure is over. I don't know exactly why this is, but I seem to run out of steam and develop GM block. I simply can't come up with enough interesting adventures. You would think some one who loves movies, comics, and books and owns as many of them as I do would have an endless stream of ideas for campaigns, but when it comes time to create the next adventure they end up being crap.

Maybe I just set my standards too high, or maybe I can't see the forest for the trees, but either way I never end up happy with the follow up adventures I come up with. The hardest genre for me to GM is superheroes. I don't know why, but I have an extremely difficult time with this one. There is just no genre that I am as adept at as fantasy. I know that fantasy isn't any easier to GM than any other type of game, but it sure feels like it when I try to come up with something interesting for my players.

The components for any campaign/adventure are fairly simple; heroes, villian/conflict, quest, resolution. How come I can't apply these to a sci-fi game as easily as I can a fantasy one? While I do think the answer lies in part with the players and the fact they feel secure in playing a setting they know like the back of their hand, the responsibility falls mostly on my shoulders.

So to solve my little dilemma I have decided to put D&D on hold for a while. The next time we game it will be in another system/genre, it will be a one shot game. The follow up games will also use the new system and consist of one shot adventures as well, which I will hopefully be able to tie together into a larger campaign without it being obvious, just like in the old days. I will also spend much more time developing the adventure than normal. With D&D I can pretty much adlib the entire game with an idea summed up by a few sentences that I jot down, but with the new campaign I will actually plan things out.

I think that part of the problem is that I have become a lazy DM/GM. Setting up fantasy adventures has become so easy that I no longer have to think about it. Instead I will do it like I did when I was a kid and first started gaming. I will prepare the adventure's framework at least one week in advance. Pick out all my villians/enemies and have their stats ready and copied on note cards with any important information. I also use to keep a list of alternatives just in case my group decided to severely alter my planned adventure by killing an important NPC or missing an important clue. Hopefully this will allow me to quit running on auto pilot and get the creative juices flowing once again. It may take me a while to get in the swing of running something other than fantasy, but I think I can do it.

Does anyone else have this problem or have any suggestions?

Top 10 Books to Read for Halloween 2009

I am an avid reader and naturally gravitate towards horror books at this time of year. What follows are some of my all time favorite books that get me in the Halloween spirit. Most of which are great for coming up with ideas for your Halloween RPG session. Especially the H.P. Lovecraft stuff if you are a Call of Cthulhu player.

  1. Don't Open This Book
  2. Everything's Eventual
  3. Nightmares and Dreamscapes
  4. Black Seas of Infinity
  5. The Bad Place
  6. Skeleton Crew
  7. World War Z
  8. Waking Up Screaming
  9. Book of the Dead
  10. Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark(I read this every year when I was a kid)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Diary of John Day

October 10
The damn rabbits are staring at me again. As I sit here at my desk, trying in vain to complete my latest story, they sit mockingly in my backyard. They appear so innocent and sweet frolicking among my few remaining garden plants. I am no longer fooled by their cute floppy ears and their fuzziness. They are not the cuddly creatures they appear to be. They are vile, evil little beast that wish to subjugate us and torment me because I know the truth. They speak in their vanilla voices of things no human ear should ever be subject to and the things they ask of me are beyond the means of a sane man. Yet they continue trying to drive me mad with their infernal plans and poisonous ideas. I fear they are beginning to turn others against me as well. Grover, my beloved St. Bernard, has begun to withdraw his affections and stare at me with cruel intentions thus causing me to lock my bedroom door each night. My wife thinks this odd but says little. He sniffs under the door and scratches lightly trying to gain access where he was once welcome. My fear keeps me from sleeping well, for who knows what lurks there in the darkness while I slumber. No if they take me I shall be facing their assault.

October 12
The birds and the cats, for which I have never had a fondness, have joined the rabbits in their plotting. Why just the other day Samson, Mrs. Crandle’s vile little tabby, came up to me and began rubbing against my leg. I did nothing to dissuade it, for if I had it could report to the others that I was wise to their plans, thus giving them reason to retaliate. It is best that I stay my hand for now, besides I am far too smart for such trickery. I hear them plotting in the garden, in the spaces between the walls and even from up the chimney where the birds try to recruit the squirrels. Of course the squirrels will not turn on me for they are noble and loyal creatures. They know I was the one that planted the trees that produce the nuts they store for the winter and provides them with a homes. They know this and they try to protect me. I see them jumping from limb to limb. I hear them running about on the roof scaring the birds away. If only they could keep the moles from my cellar. Moles, in case you did not know, are the rabbits spies and can gain access where others cannot. What about the mice and rats you my ask yourself, but you have nothing to fear from them. They care nothing of the coming conflict, while vile in their own right they are much too concerned with their own short lives to bother with the rabbits' evil plans. Besides they live well off of mankind. If we did not continue to prosper, and the rabbits ruled the world, who would produce the garbage that feeds their offspring and build the sewers where they thrive? Not the selfish rabbits of that you can be certain.

October 13
I am not sure of the intentions of the rest of the world’s animals, perhaps this is isolated to our country or maybe not. I tried to ask the penguins, at the zoo, but they had been bred and raised in captivity and had no clue what their free brethren thought or they simply refused to share this information. Penguins are cunning, and can be vicious creatures when the mood strikes them, they are birds after all. Yet, this was true of nearly all of the zoo’s inhabitants, except for the lion who tried to convince me the world would be better without us weak minded humans. Although he did take a liking to me and offered to let me live if I would join their rebellion and set him free. Of course I did nothing of the sort, only a madman would trust a lion. So I kindly thanked him and said that I would take my chances. He simply smiled at me with his toothy grin and politely bid me farewell. For a cat he was quite a nice fellow.

October 14
I fear that I am alone in the defense of mankind. Everyone I have ever told of the rabbit’s plans either looked at me with pity or laughed in my face. Even my wife and child do not believe me. Several months ago Susan, my wife, took me to see a psychiatrist by the name of Dr. Morgan. He tried to convince me that it was all in my mind and that I suffered from an illness, but I am no fool. He gave himself away when he mentioned that he had bought a rabbit as a pet for his children. It was all very clear at that point, he was a traitor. They had somehow done to him as the lion had recently tried to do with me; promising to spare him if he became the servant of their evil. Of course I should not judge him so harshly, he did have children and a parent will do the unspeakable to protect a child. Never the less after numerous visits I began to simply smile, thanking him for his help and promising to take the medication he prescribed. So like the poor Dr. I tried to give in for the sake of my family. At first I thought the medicine was a miracle. I could no longer hear the animals and their devious plans. I was writing with a conviction and clarity that I had not known in some time. Needless to say my family and friends were much happier. I even destroyed my journals detailing the schemes of the rabbits, which is why there are so few entries in this, my new journal. I can see, now, why others felt my behavior was odd, the entries were a little strange. I had become so distraught and confused I made assumptions about the rabbits and their plans; which I now see are more sinister and wide spread than I had originally thought. Luckily the medicine has cured me and I no longer need to take it for my mind is as clear as a summer sky. It is most fortunate that my mind has returned to me or else Grover’s evil plan may have succeeded. I was at my desk this morning, working on the story that I am currently trying to finish, when Grover entered the room and laid beneath my chair. After some time he began to whisper. I listened closely as he spoke of killing me in my sleep. He detailed when and how he was going to do it and how funny it was that I could not hear him as he planned my death right under my nose. I rose and went to the kitchen, completely ignored by my treacherous pet. When he drifted off, to dream of my demise no doubt, I sprang into action. Drawing the knife I had procured from the kitchen I ended the miserable creature’s life. I had tried to play the game their way, to turn a deaf ear to their plans and they still plotted against me. Once they had eliminated me what was to stop them from harming my family? So I did what any man in my position would do and eliminated the most direct threat.
I drug Grover's body into the back yard displaying it for the vile rabbits and their allies to see. Then I buried him in the garden where the rabbits were fond of hiding. He would be a warning to them all that I was not going to be intimidated, that I did not fear them. Of course I will have to explain Grover’s absence to my family when they get home tonight and why the rug beneath my writing chair is missing. I will simply say that Grover chased a rabbit and I was unable to catch him. Ha!! In some ways that is more truthful than they will ever know. As for the now blood stained rug I will simply say that I dropped one of my cigarettes, burned a hole through it, and set it out for the garbage. They cannot outsmart me!!!

October 15
I am such an idiot. I spent so much time tidying up the house after disposing of Grover that I did not realize I was covered in blood. Susan confronted me when she and Aly arrived home last night. I could never lie to them so I told them exactly what happened. Boy was she mad! Of course Aly cried and I tried to comfort her but Susan snatched her up and they both left. I have no idea where, probably to her sister’s up in Columbus. It is probably for the best as things may not be safe here for much longer. So it is good that they are not here, but somewhere safe from the rabbits. I have been pacing the floor for most of the night trying to conceive a plan that would convince the rabbits and their allies to leave my family and me alone. I have no desire to be without my wife and child, but I cannot abide any harm coming to them. Until such a time as it is safe for them to return this is how it must be; I will miss them dearly, and think of them constantly.

October 16
It’s fairly cold today and most of my garden is dead but the rabbits still come. They try to play innocent but I know why there are here! To taunt me and nothing more. They keep asking me to come out and talk to them, they want to be friends. HA! I know better than that. Rabbits may be evil but they are apparently not very bright. Although Bob, he is the leader of the rabbits, is fairly convincing and almost lured me out into what would surely have been an ambush, before I came to my senses. I know that Bob is a strange name for a rabbit but their true names do not translate to human speak very well. I asked Bob once, when we were still friends, how he learned to speak human and you know what he told me? Reruns of Miami Vice! Apparently he would sit outside the Rourke’s house at night and listen to their television. You see Mr. Rourke is quite deaf and I believe that his wife is hard of hearing as well so they keep the volume fairly loud. I myself have heard their television blaring on numerous occasions as I took Grover for his nightly walk. So I know that Bob spoke truthfully, at least in that instance. That is almost funny… a rabbit speaking truthfully! Such a rare event that was; surely it is worthy of the record books. Anyway, he would sit there at night listening to Crocket and Tubbs, until one day he began to understand. Then he taught the other rabbits, and they in turn taught their allies and so on and so on. As you know rabbits breed quite rapidly so it was in no time that several generations of rabbits could now torment me. This is why I no longer watch TV. If that wretched device can drive a rabbit to such madness, imagine what it does to people. No wonder our kids are illiterate and people kill each other over trivial matters.

October 17
Oh today is a bad day!! The trees are burning and the damnable rabbits are dancing under my window. They laugh and sing their infernal songs of sex and blood. They make merry, mocking my humanity with their vile revelry. In their frenzied demonic celebration one of the birds attempted to attack me through the window next to my desk. It smashed its head and made a mess of broccoli colored blood and brains. I am sure the rabbits devoured their fallen comrade when he hit the ground, because when I looked it was gone. They are fast but I am smart. I believe they are preparing their attack. They grow bolder by the day. The end may be coming but I will face it head on. I am not afraid of them.

October 18
It has been crazy around here. They have burrowed into the cellar and are trying to work their way into the house. I have not slept in days. The rabbits continue to laugh at me and the birds are trying to get in thru the attic. I can hear them trying to peck their way in all day and night. I have locked all the doors and windows. I have barricaded the cellar and attic doors. I am afraid I am not going to be among the living much longer. The war will be fought here and I will be the first human casualty. Damn rabbits.

Oct. 23
I still have not been sleeping. Sounds enter my ears and pound on my brain like hammers. I will not let them get me first. They have put gas in my house which has begun to cloud my mind. The walls move and the floors breathe as they try to break through. I beg them to stop... I will keep their secrets…I will serve them if only they spare me this madness, but they just laugh. I don’t want them to kill me. I miss Susan and Aly. Bob said that Grover was innocent and simply trying to protect me, but the moles in the cellar tricked me into killing him. I killed the only one that believed in me. Poor Grover, I would cry but it hurts my eyes. It has to be the gas. They are trying to confuse me. The sky keeps changing color and I feel as if I am the last person on earth. Is this how the world will end? I am hungry.

Oct 30
Hey Rocky watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat…nothing up my sleeve except this shotgun. Blam take that you wascally wabbit. Sillyrabbitstricksare4kidsSillyrabbitstricksare4kidsSillyrabbitstricksare4kidsSillyrabbitstricksare4kidsSillyrabbitstricksare4kidsSillyrabbitstricksare4kidsSillyrabbitstricksare4kidsSillyrabbitstricksare4kidsSillyrabbitstricksare4kidsSillyrabbitstricksare4kidsSillyrabbitstricksare4kids

I think the time has come to die I have no choice in this matter. The moles made their way into the furniture so I was forced to set it all on fire and escaped to the upstairs bedroom. I have my dad’s old rifle, and I have barricaded the door with the dresser. The rabbits are knocking on the door. Pounding and laughing, pounding and laughing. Trick or treat…. They keep yelling at me. It is enough to drive you mad. One of them tried to sneak in disguised as Susan, but I took care of them. Let the fire and the moles deal with them now. It is no longer my problem. They can’t get me, I won’t let them. Mankind will have to fend for itself, I can’t handle it anymore. I’m too weak. I have decided to do it myself, before they break down the door. It is almost midnight and I will do it as the clock strikes twelve. The Rifle will make a mess, but the knocking and pounding in my head will stop. I am sorry Susan. I am so sorry Aly. Grover keeps trying to comfort me and ease my mind over killing him, but it still makes me sad. I keep telling him I am sorry. He just looks at me with those loving eyes; eyes I had once thought full of treachery, and wags his tail. He understands that it wasn’t my fault. It was their fault. It’s all because of the damn rabbits. If I go with him he will take me to a safe place and protect me. He is such a good dog.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Kinda busy lately

For regular readers of the Gazette I must apologize for not posting a great deal of material lately. It has been a busy few weeks and there really wasn't much time. As a matter of fact I'm doing this post in between classes so that I can get it done. Going back to college, working full time and taking care of the family is a daunting task, as many of you know.
So while the past few weeks may be a bit thin on content, I hope to rectify that soon. I have some new reviews (although some of the products I'll be reviewing are not that new), a few ideas I would like to share on horror gaming (it is October after all), some music reviews, the annual Geek Gazette Christmas list, some comic book reviews and a couple of short stories. Keep in mind the stories are first drafts so don't expect brilliance, but I wanted to churn them out and get them up before Halloween.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Top 10 Halloween Songs

Keeping with this months theme, here is my top 10 list of songs to listen on Halloween.
  1. Hey There Little Red Riding Hood
  2. Thriller
  3. re: Your Brains
  4. Ghostbusters
  5. Red Right Hand
  6. Werewolves of London
  7. Bad Moon
  8. Wicked Old Witch
  9. Creepy Doll
  10. Living Dead Girl

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

WotC News

This is actually a piece I got off of ICv2.

**“We are changing our approach to our minis product line,” Wizards of the Coast Senior Brand Manager for D&D Scott Rouse said of the company’s major changes to Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures. WotC will move the line away from fully randomized packaging beginning next year. The final 2008 release, Demonweb, will be the last D&D Minis release sold in that format. WotC will also offer more player character minis and more large figures.

Two new series will begin in 2009: Players Handbook Heroes and Monster Manual.**

Apparently the new format will allow you to buy the sets you want to get the minis you need/want for your games. I think the change was as much for the RPG gamers as it was for the minis gamers. Even if you only want to get a specific type of mini you will still need to buy multiple packs to get what you want, so they aren't really losing out on sales. Unless of course you are an extremely lucky individual who gets exactly what they want every time. If you are tell me how you do it.

Also in WotC news on ICv2:

**One other interesting item from the conference call came in response to a question about when Hasbro’s various investment initiatives were going to start paying off. The first thing CFO David Hargreaves mentioned was the revenue potential at the recently restructured Wizards of the Coast digital initiative (see “WotC Pulls the Plug on Gleemax”). “I think in terms of the Wizards of the Coast digital initiative, we should have revenue coming on tap," he said. "I think we are going out with a subscription based site there" (see “4th Edition D&D Insider”). D&D Insider has launched with limited functionality and a lower than anticipated subscription fee, with more features and higher prices to follow. **

Higher Prices!!!! Glad I decided not to subscribe.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Which D&D Charater Are You?

I took the test twice and got the same score. I'm not sure I agree with being true neutral but it is all in good fun.

I Am A:
True Neutral Human Sorcerer (5th Level)

Ability Scores:







True Neutral A true neutral character does what seems to be a good idea. He doesn't feel strongly one way or the other when it comes to good vs. evil or law vs. chaos. Most true neutral characters exhibit a lack of conviction or bias rather than a commitment to neutrality. Such a character thinks of good as better than evil after all, he would rather have good neighbors and rulers than evil ones. Still, he's not personally committed to upholding good in any abstract or universal way. Some true neutral characters, on the other hand, commit themselves philosophically to neutrality. They see good, evil, law, and chaos as prejudices and dangerous extremes. They advocate the middle way of neutrality as the best, most balanced road in the long run. True neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you act naturally, without prejudice or compulsion. However, true neutral can be a dangerous alignment because it represents apathy, indifference, and a lack of conviction.

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Sorcerers are arcane spellcasters who manipulate magic energy with imagination and talent rather than studious discipline. They have no books, no mentors, no theories just raw power that they direct at will. Sorcerers know fewer spells than wizards do and acquire them more slowly, but they can cast individual spells more often and have no need to prepare their incantations ahead of time. Also unlike wizards, sorcerers cannot specialize in a school of magic. Since sorcerers gain their powers without undergoing the years of rigorous study that wizards go through, they have more time to learn fighting skills and are proficient with simple weapons. Charisma is very important for sorcerers; the higher their value in this ability, the higher the spell level they can cast.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

Monday, October 13, 2008

D&D + a non-gamers POV = 4e?

I was having a discussion about D&D with a non gamer acquaintance of mine the other day and discovered something interesting. His idea of what D&D is like resembles 4e a great deal. At least in a general sense.

His only exposure to the game is some reruns of the old cartoon on cable and the Dungeons & Dragons movie, the one with the Wayans brother, so edition wars and things of that nature played no part in our discussion. He had seen Lord of the Rings, but wasn't a fan and prefers Madden to World of Warcraft. So while LotR and WoW both may have had some influence on his opinion I don't think it was substantial. His knowledge of table top roleplaying games is so limited that he didn't even know there were multiple editions, or even that any RPGs existed besides D&D.

I'm not really sure what got us on the topic, but he started asking me questions about how the game is played, what the purpose of the game was and why I played. After explaining myself and the game in very general terms I asked him what he thought and knew about D&D.

His idea of D&D consisted basically of a a game of superheroes living in the middle ages. He didn't know that you rolled up your own PC, but assumed you chose one of several characters that came straight from the book. According to his view these characters were like those in movies, super strong and nearly indestrucible fighters accompanied by godlike magic users who fought dragons and demons. Every character had some kind of power and super powerful weapons. Now this may not be too far from the truth, but the level of power he was talking about was more along the lines of Superman than Conan.

As our conversation continued, with me correcting several of his misconceptions, it hit me that what he described was incredibly similar to D&D 4e. Characters with incredible powers and magic weapons aplenty fighting horrible monsters sounds like a 4e game to me.

After thinking about this a little more I actually could see the broader appeal of 4e. To people who don't play the game, 4e gives them what some non-gamers may expect from the game. As a long time D&D player I like 4e but agree with many of my fellow gamers that it doesn't feel like D&D to me. As a system it is solid and fun to play, but it seems off when labeled as D&D. However, from the perspective of an "outsider" 4e would be pretty much what they envisioned the game to be.

None of this proves or disproves the worth of 4e, but it did give me a little something to think about.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What Happened to the Big Events?

I don't know whether I have just gotten old, or if years of hype have just made me jaded, but I am not impressed with DC and Marvel's big events this year. I liked Civil War, the various Crisis stories were ok and even enjoyed 52, Countdown... not so much, but Final Crisis & Secret Invasion are just boring me.

I picked up the first 3 issues of Secret Invasion and while I'm not saying that the story completely sucked, I just didn't "feel it". I didn't really care, which happens more and more with me and Marvel books these days. Granted I have always been more of a DC guy, but I still have my favorite Marvel characters and with those few exceptions I just couldn't care less about this event. As far as I'm concerned it isn't even happening.

Now as for DC, my comic book company of choice, I am waaaay underwhelmed with Final Crisis. The only joy I've gotten out of it so far is the fact that Martian Manhunter is finally out of the picture, at least for a while( I can't explain it, I just don't like the character). As a matter of fact I enjoyed the Sinestro Corps from last year a lot more. I'm especially looking forward to the Blackest/Darkest Night storyline coming next year. Maybe it is due to the fact I have never liked or cared about the New Gods, or the fact they are wearing out the Crisis theme, but Final Crisis isn't anymore interesting to me than what Marvel is doing this summer. Honestly, the biggest events that have been happening at either company have been in the individual books themselves.

The death and replacement of Captain America has been a great story line. The previously mentioned Sinsestro Corps was fantastic and the Hulk has been pretty good ever since the Planet Hulk story... well mostly anyway. As for the big events in far as I'm concerned Spidey's books quit being published and he is now nothing more than a movie franchise to me(the books are dead to me, though Spidergirl & Ultimate Spidey are kind of fun). At least until they decide to re-reverse the mess they have made of that continuity/character. Don't even get me started on Batman. They should just kill him and get it over with, the movies are better than the series at this point anyway.

So maybe I am jaded and cynical after many, many years of reading comics. Maybe I've just seen the same stories done over and over enough times that I quit caring. In that time I've seen worlds destroyed and remade, characters marry, divorce, die and return from the dead. The sad part is that most of those stories involve the same few characters.

There has been debate for years over what "age" of comics we are in now... Bronze, Lead, Copper, Pewter.... actually I don't even care I just want to read good books, with good stories and it seems we are hitting a bit of slup once again. (Though I will give companies like Image and Dynamite cred for doing some really good stuff. )I think that instead of rehasing the same things over and over again with the same characters it might just be time to let the old guard step down. When the Silver Age hit it brought with it the next generation of characters and maybe that is what comic books need right now. Maybe it is time for the sidekicks and kids to step up, continue the legacy and take their place as the new generation of heroes. Or maybe I'm just getting old and grumpy.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

12 Deadly Diseases for the Apocalypse

Keeping in step with the great Apocalypse theme running over at The Geek Emporium I have discovered that there is a very real potential cause of the Apocalypse looming overhead. According to a Reuters article I found on Yahoo there are 12 diseases that could wipe us out due to climate change. If you want to read it the original article is here and I have listed the 12 diseases below. The article stated that these diseases are "likely to spread more because of climate change", but this is not a definitive list just an example.

  1. avian flu
  2. tick-borne babesia
  3. cholera
  4. ebola
  5. parasites
  6. plague
  7. lyme disease
  8. red tides of algal blooms
  9. Rift Valley fever
  10. sleeping sickness
  11. tuberculosis
  12. yellow fever
I didn't know that parasites were considered a disease... learn something new every day.

Quick Reviews: Linux, a n00b's POV

While I do consider myself a bit of a computer geek and I have been wanting to try Linux for quite some time, I never made the leap. I felt comfortable in my Windows world because I knew my way around. Besides Linux is for code monkeys that spend their days staring at endless strings of code. Right?

Wrong, Linux is one of the most impressive OSs I've seen. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the various Linux Distros are the most impressive OSs I've seen. Almost anything that you can do in Windows can be done in Linux, often better. Though coming from the Windows world can be a bit difficult as it does take a little know how to get what you want from Linux, you definitely don't need a Phd in Computer Science to run a Linux system.

Now remember I am new to Linux, and I frankly suck at writing code. Keep that in mind as you read my reviews regarding various Linux Distros. I am looking at this strictly from the POV of a person who is completely unfamiliar with the system and just wants the same level of usability they got from Windows.

So why switch if all you want is the same as you had? Well that isn't exactly what I meant. I do want the ability to do the same things in Linux as I could do in Windows such as play games, watch DVDs, surf the net, check email and, when needed, a good office suite to do homework. But that isn't all that I wanted. I wanted better security, and a system where I didn't feel confined to what "they" told me I could do.

Unlike Windows, Linux has almost everything I need built right into the OS with no need to buy anything else. But I didn't buy Linux and that is the best part. Granted it may seem like I'm a cheapskate who wants to get free stuff, and that may be true, but after doing a little checking I found that Linux is built by real people who care about the product. If you have a problem you may not be able to call an anonymous customer support person who may or may not be able to help, but that isn't a bad thing. Instead all you have to do is go to the Linux community and ask for help. The people who spend their time creating these wonderful programs are the same people who will help you. There is a catch however.

If you expect to get help with Linux, lose the "I'm the customer" attitude. Since Linux is primarily community built they owe you no obligations, they simply do it out of kindness and perhaps out of appreciation for the fact you want to learn a little something from them. Maybe if you get to love Linux as they do, you may become one of them and create or work on the next great distro.

So that is enough regarding my resons to like Linux. Now onto what I think about the distros I tried.

Being a Linux newbie I wanted test the waters with as many different versions of Linux as I could. Believe me there is an incredible number of Linux versions available and I'm sure one of them will be what you are looking for. But first things first.

The desktop environment:
There are two primary desktop environments that I tried as I looked for my perfect Linux, KDE and Gnome. Now readers of this blog know I'm not a fan of gnomes, but I left my anti-gnome sentiment at the door for this. Since, as I stated before, I am not a code monkey I can't tell you exactly what the difference between the two desktop environments are except in regards to how they look and feel.

KDE: When you first enter a K Desktop Environment (KDE) you get a very Fisher Price feeling. Everything seems bright,vivid and colorful . First impressions are that this is going to be a simple, almost childish place, but you are wrong. The KDE environments I tested were, for the most part, very intuitive and only slightly different in set up than Windows. Very easy for someone who has just switched to navigate.

Gnome: In many ways Gnome feels & looks, to me, like Windows 95. It is almost bland and a newbies first impression is that it will be a bit complicated, but that is not correct. For the most part the two environments are the same in terms of what they offer and how they are set up. Granted there are a few minor differences, but if you take a minute to search around you will feel right at home.

****Note: Most distros are available in both KDE and Gnome. Most are also available in mini versions that can be booted from a USB thumb drive. All versions of Linux also have multiple virtual desktops that you can switch between. This allows you to multi task without cluttering up your screen****

You will see more of what I'm talking about as I quickly review the individual distros. These are not comprehensive and are only meant to give new users a quick idea of what the systems are like. That is why I have included screen shots when available.

**** Note: Almost every version of Linux that I found was available as a Live CD/DVD. All you have to do is download the iso, burn it and boot from the CD/DVD. (If you don't know how to do that you should Google it or have some one help you.) Then you can try the OS in live mode which will run from the CD/DVD and in your systems RAM without having to install anything. Kind of a try before you buy. Be warned that almost all live CDs and DVDs run a bit slower than the actual operating system would if you installed it depending on your system. That is why I am reviewing installed versions only. I am also only covering the ones I think would be most appealing to new uses. I may do other distros at a later date.*****

Ubuntu uses the Gnome desktop environment, is one of the most popular distros and was the first distro I tried. I really liked everything about Ubuntu except the brown... everything is brown. Though you can change the colors and backgrounds to suit your tastes.
I think that Ubuntu is a good choice for people wanting to switch from Windows or dual boot with both systems. It comes with Open Office, a very good MS Office clone(most Linux distors will come with Open Office though some come with K office... I like Open Office better. It is the most compatible with MS Office IMO), uses Firefox as the internet browser and is all in all a good system. Fairly easy to navigate and if there is a program(package) you want, that did not come with the OS, they are pretty easy to install with the package manager. If the brown bothers you, try the KDE version Kubuntu, which is pretty good as well.
Both versions worked very well on every machine I installed them on, but I did have some issues with wireless on my laptop. I got it worked out eventually, but had to download several packages to do so. For desktops I had no issues.
I would definitely recommend this to a new Linux user who has a little know how.

This is one of my favorite versions of Linux. It is KDE and feels very much like a version of Windows. Like most KDE Linux distros it uses Amarok media player, which I really like. Very intuitive, easy to navigate and cheerful.
Worked great on every desktop where I installed it. Putting it on my network was even easier than in Ubuntu. Wireless was no problem on the laptop, but I did have an issue with the sound. A volume box popped up in the middle of the screen and would not go away. I had to go to the Mandriva community and get the code to make it disappear.
For desktops I definitely recommend this to newbies. My 10 year old had no problem using it.

gOS: Space and Gadget versions
gOS, which standa for good OS, is based on Ubuntu and for the most part works very well. It is definitely something geared toward users that want basic apps readily available and accomplishes this with the iBar. Basically it is a 3D toolbar on the screen, much like the launcher I've seen on Macs. gOS Gadget's iBar has Google, Gmail, Firefox and Open Office icons, among others, for quick access. gOS Space on the other had is directed more towards the Myspace crowd. Instead of Google apps there are links to various Myspace apps as well as Firefox and Open Office.
While the networking and wireless worked great I had a few problems with both of these. The iBar is difficult to customize, every time I tried it crashed and the OS often glitched up causing the iBar or desktop icons to disappear. I tried it on my 10 year old's desktop and my laptop and the same thing happened on both. I really like the idea of this OS and if not for the problems it would likely be at the top of my list of favorites. I recommend trying it and if it works this would likely be the OS for someone new to Linux, I just didn't have good luck with it.

I really like PCLinuxOS. It came with pretty much everything I needed in the way of multimedia support "out of the box". Most distros require you to download DVD and MP3 codecs or download internet plug-ins but this OS is geared towards multimedia. It is KDE, very easy to navigate and easy to connect to your home network. I had no issues with this on desktops or laptops. I still have it installed on my 10 year old's desktop and there have been no problems. Definitely recommend this for ease of use and out of the box usability. Especially for a new user who just wants to play some music, watch some DVDs and do homework.

Linux Mint:
This is my favorite Linux distro and the one I dual boot on my desktop. It is based on Ubuntu, so it is Gnome(damn gnomes!), and is not that impressive at first glance. However like PCLinuxOS everything I needed in regard to Multimedia was there out of the box, as was Open Office. It is easy to navigate and with the Mint Installer downloading and installing packages is a snap. I had no problems regardless of the machine I installed it on and setting up the network was no problem. It is a little easier to navigate than Ubuntu, which is nice for new users.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

My Top 10 Halloween Movies

Every holiday my family and I get a stack of movies together that celebrate the spirit of the season and watch them in the weeks leading up to the holiday. Anyone who read the old Geek Gazette e-zine, knows that I like to make lists, especially around the holidays. So to keep the tradition alive here are my Top 10 Halloween Movies.
I have many other favorites but these are 10 of my must watch movies for Halloween. Most of which I have used as inspiration for my Halloween games. Feel free to share your favorites as well.

  1. Young Frankenstien
  2. Halloween (original)
  3. Dawn of the Dead
  4. Dagon
  5. Nightmare on Elm Street
  6. In the Mouth of Madness
  7. Night of the Living Dead (original)
  8. Army of Darkness
  9. Ginger Snaps
  10. Silver Bullet

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hey Palladium, I Have a Suggestion....

All of the talk recently about the Rifts RPG has got me to thinking. I like the game a lot, but have issues with the confusing manner in which the core book is set up. My players have also been reluctant to try it for this reason. While I've already mentioned that I would like to see an updated, better organized version of the rules I doubt that is going to happen.

So if anyone from Palladium is listening I have a serious suggestion that may give me and my group, along with a lot of other players from what I have heard, some of what we want without changing the system. Give us a pocket guide!

Nothing fancy, as a matter of fact the simpler the better. But what should be put in the pocket guide? Glad you asked, because here is how I think it would work best. Keep it small, about the size of paper back novel, so that it will fit in your back pocket. Include the obligatory Kevin Siembieda page just like most of the other Palladium books. I don't think the book needs it but I think Kevin likes writing them and as long as it is a new one I don't mind reading it.

Chapter 1
A maximum 5 page overview of the setting, for newer players. Nothing else just the basics, which honestly could be summed up in 1-2 pages. Leave out the "what is roleplaying stuff" and detailed descriptions of the world. The Pocket guide is supposed to be a quick reference for established player and to help new players, but it should be aimed towards people who own the core book. You should also include info about character stats here with a quick run down of character creation and alignment.

Chapter 2 - 6
Since the stats have already been covered these chapters should cover R.C.Cs(add a few to make a whole chapter), O.C.Cs, skills, psionics, and magic.

Chapters 7-12
Now use these chapters to cover gear, weapons, combat, healing/recovery, experience, M.D.C and S.D.C damage. Basically these chapters should cover what you need and how to play the game.

If there is room you can add a chapter for optional rules and it would be nice to have a few extra R.C.Cs or O.C.Cs as well. Keep the rules and descriptions clear and simple. This is not a book that is aimed at those wanting to learn the game, though it should be clear enough that it is possible to do so, but as I said before a quick reference guide. I also suggest that artwork be kept to a minimu to conserve space, but some charts/tables would be a nice addition as would a very good index. Leave out the GM information, though a second GM pocket guide would be a nice thing to have as well... but I'll save that idea for another time.

The main thing I am looking for in this book is that things be in the order you need them. If you are creating a character you should not have to skip from the front to the back of the book to find what you need, everything should be 1,2,3.. for ease of use.
Keep the page count to a minimum, the price low, and give me the ability to stick it in my back pocket for pickup games during trips, or for easy access during a regular game. Simple, easy to use, small and cheap. I'll pre-order 2 copies today....

Superhero Apocalyptic Horror

Since there are multiple themes running on the various RPG blogs this month, Horror, Superheroes, and the Apocalypse, I thought I would try to combine the three for this post. What follows are just some quick thoughts for a game with all three elements. Keep in mind this is not a detailed adventure, just some basic concepts and ideas I'm toying around with. If you decide to use it you will need to flesh it out a bit more to suit your game.

Character Concept:
First of all the power level for this campaign will have to be fairly low to moderate. Think of a team more along the lines of Booster Gold, Wolverine, Iron Fist, Batman and Cyclops. Thor, Superman, and the Hulk would likely be a bit too powerful for this one. Though if you really like the high powered games you would have to increase the threat level proportionally, but I'm sticking with the low to moderate level. If a player manages to min/max a PC with at least one outstanding power, such as a speedster, make sure to note their inherent weakness. In the case of the speedster example, they are not indestructible, probably can't fly and are still susceptible to the same things as a normal human, which can be exploited.

Campaign Concept:
Towns all across the globe(or keep it in a specific country to start) are being transformed from healthy communities into run down ghost towns over night. The people are all disappearing and the towns themselves look to have been abandoned decades ago. The buildings that were only a few years old now appear to have aged to the point of being run down, and dilapidated shells. The area within a 10 mile radius also appears to be affected by the same thing as the town with vegetation over running the area. Some towns are so over run that they are near impossible to reach by way of vehicle due to the think plant growth that covers the now cracked and broken pavement.
The occurrences are happening more and more often and beginning to affect larger towns. At the current rate over half of the world(or country) will fall into ruins within a month unless these strange occurrences are stopped.

The PC are tasked with finding out about the strange occurrences, either by their own accord or by the government. They find out that Lexington, Kentucky and the surrounding area have just succumbed and is now in ruins, devoid of human life. The PCs arrive by air and begin to investigate.

The PCs and the Mystery:
While in Lexington the PCs confirm that no people, or few animals can be found in the area and that everything seems to have aged many years. If there is a psychic or magic user on the team you could have them get incredibly horrific feedback from the area, such as panic, and terror, apparently from those that are missing. If not just have the PCs experience an overwhelming feeling of dread.
During their investigation of the area they notice some strange smell (sulfur, salt water, corn syrup... you decide) which is very faint but still noticeable in some areas. Communication devices no longer work and the PCs are left without a way to call for back up if needed.
You could also use the psychic feedback idea to keep psychics or magic users from just calling for help. Flyers should not be hampered, since they likely won't be strong enough to cary the whole team out due to the power level. Speedsters will be inhibited by the overgrowth in the area.
During their investigation the team discovers a strange glowing spot in the center of town (the actual center of the occurence). It grows more brightly as the PCs approach.
When they reach a certain distance, you decide if they actually have to touch it, there is a brilliant light and they disappear.

The Big Bad World:
The PCs find themselves in a world that is a horrific, dark reflection of our earth (think of the movie Nightwatch, a Tim Burton film, or Silent HIll). While they still can not find the missing people the area is familiar as it is nothing but the dark reflection of the town they were in. Everything is basically in the same location as in our world.
Allow the group to explore a little bit and have them feel they are being watched, but see no one yet. As they explore have them hear chanting in the distance. They will naturally want to investigate and find it coming from a church or large gathering place in town... you decide. As they approach they see a gathering of robed figures around an altar. On the altar is a statue of some horrific being. You could make it Cthulhu, or any other horrific being you want.
This is when you start throwing monsters at the group.
Again depending on the type of monsters you prefer you could have all the hooded "people" be Cthulhu spawn, vampires, zombies or some combination. This should also give the PCs a little time to shine as they can flex some muscle and smarter PCs will try to do some investigating as well.

The Discovery:
Basically the PCs discover/realize that this is our world's dark twin and that the beings of this world somehow discovered the existence of our world. Every creature in this world is basically some type of monster and pretty much nowhere is safe. The inhabitants of this world, or more likely their horrible leader, is temporarily transporting areas from our world to theirs so that they can kidnap all the people and use them for food and/or slave labor. The side effect is that the area is influenced by the warped world and ages rapidly. The only reson nothing surives upon the towns return is the fact that everything ages so quickly nothing had time to reproduce.

You can really go many different ways with the concept. Here are a few possibilities off the top of my head.
1) Stick with the horror theme and have the PCs fight their way out, finding and rescuing as many people as they can. Only to return to our world, you decide how, to find that while they were gone the creatures succeeded with their plans and our world is being over run by the monsters.
2) Same as above except the PCs defeat the leader and/or smash the device that allows them to access our world, then escape and eveyrone leves happily ever after. For now...
3) They become trapped in this warped world and try to defeat the monsters in an attempt make it a better place and keep the surviving people alive until they can find a way home. This could be an ongoing campaign.
4) You get a TPK and they have to roll up new heroes that go looking for the first group. I like this one ;-)

Out this Month

It's October, the leaves are changing color and beginning to fall, that means my favorite holiday is just around the corner. Yes Halloween is only a few short weeks away. So to celebrate I will be posting about various movies, games, books and websites that are well suited for the occasion. For now here is book Palladium is releasing just in time to run a Halloween night game.

"Dead Reign™", an RPG based in a world where zombies have taken over. It is an SDC setting which, naturally, uses the Palladium rules.
According to the Palladium site "Dead Reign™ is a game of survival, rescue and revenge. Player characters are both the hunted and the hunters as they battle the creeping doom that is the living dead and pray for salvation. "
You play as a survivor who tries to make their way in a world full of the dead where the living are hunted and used as cattle.
Cover by E.M. Gist.
Art by Nick Bradshaw and Amy L. Ashbaugh.
Written by Josh Hilden, Joshua Sanford and Kevin Siembieda.
224 pages (estimated)
Sounds like a lot of fun and I will definitely be posting a review when my copy arrives.

Here is a site that might be of interest to anyone who is a fan or horror.
Flames Rising is an e-zine/blog that focuses on fiction and gaming. There are sections for articles, horror news, fiction, previews, reviews and also interviews with authors such as Z. A. Recht, Elaine Cunningham and Jaleigh Johnson. While the whole site isn't strictly about horror, it does make up a large portion of the content. Very good and interesting site to check out.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Top 10 Apocalyptic Films

The Geek Emporium has posted a couple of fun little posts( here and here ) about gaming and the Apocalypse. So since I think this is fitting for my plans to have a running Halloween theme for the month of October (the Apocalypse can be scary) and I love movies about the Apocalypse I thought I would throw my 2 cents in.
Here is my Top 10 List of Movies about the Apocalypse. FYI, post apocalyptic movies count as well. FYI all of these are very good sources of ideas for running apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic RPG sessions in a number of systems. As always feel free to share your favorites.
  1. Mad Max
  2. Logan's Run
  3. The Omega Man
  4. Dawn of the Dead
  5. Water World
  6. 28 Days Later
  7. Night of the Living Dead
  8. Damnation Alley
  9. Escape from New York
  10. The Day After Tomorrow

Fan Films

Like most people around the world, I love movies. I watch everything from low budget B-flicks to mega million dollar Hollywood productions. While a lot of them have not been gems, I continue to watch, hoping to find my new favorite movie.

I started collecting movies when I was around 12 years old and have amassed nearly 5,000 of them in the past 20 something years. However my collection is growing at a much slower rate lately. Between having a family, school, gas prices and the fact that so many of the movies produced today are just sub par, I have become very choosy about which movies I buy or rent. While the big budget movies coming out of Hollywood these days may have incredible FX, a great many of them are poorly written and a lot of the acting is worse than you would see in a bad B-flick. Don’t even get me started on how bad the B-flicks have gotten. Just as I was becoming more and more jaded about the whole of cinema I was introduced to a new viewing experience, fan films.

Many of these short films have better writing and acting than a lot of the stuff the big studios churn out. Fan Films are a labor of love for most of the people that take the time to make them. Who in the world would make a Blue Beetle short other than a true fan? Well Blinky Productions has done several shorts with Blue Beetle, including the hilarious Blue and Gold PSA. Now before you get the wrong impression Blinky Production isn’t just limited to using Blue Beetle and Booster Gold. If you check out their website, Youtube or countless other fan film sites that feature their shorts, you will see films starring Powergirl, The Flash, Michael Meyers, Hourman, The Question, and many more. Perhaps because I am a Blue and Gold fan from way back I am a bit biased when I say the fan films put out by Blinky Productions are some of my favorites, but don’t just take my word for it, check them out.

While fan films cover a wide range of topics, I tend to search out the Star Wars and Superhero shorts. Some of them have production values that would stand up to anything done in Hollywood, especially some of the Star Wars fan films. There are numerous sites where you can find fan films, just put fan films in your search engine and you’ll see, but I have a few that I frequent and personally think are the most user friendly.

This is the site I use the most. The films are broken down into topic and the site is fairly easy to navigate.

This is another good site with links to some other great fan film sites.

Fanboy Theatre
Another good site with lots of information and links

This one came highly recommended by a few friends.

My list may not be a comprehensive one but it will help you get a good start in discovering some of the often brilliant fan produced films that are out there.