Saturday, September 27, 2008

While Surfing the Net.....

While surfing the net this month I found a few sites that are pretty interesting. They may not be specifically for gamers or comic fans but they do contain information that could be of use
or interest to most geeks.

Sacred Text
This is one of my favorite sites. Basically it’s an online compilation of various text ranging from
various religious text to the works of H.P. Lovecraft. There are spellbooks, books on UFOs, and Alchemy text all in an easy to read format. I have used this site several times for ideas to use in some of my campaigns. Many of the text seem to be quite ancient so if you need the title to an ancient tome this is a good place to start. This site is also a good reference site for writers who want to add a historical reference to their stories.

Time Wasters Guide
This is one of those site you can go on when you have nothing to do. (Just don’t let your boss
know.) There are reviews for RPGs, comics and movies as well as a variety of interesting articles about numerous topics. Unfortunately, there hasn't been a great deal of new stuff added lately.
Definitely one to put in your favorites.
This is one of those great sites that most people know noting about. There is information about nearly any topic, and it is very user friendly. Each topic generally has links with even more information concerning which ever topic about which you are interested.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Online vs FLGS

One of my favorite memories as a youth was going to the local comic book/gaming shops
and hanging out. For a kid it was similar to walking into Cheers, a place where everyone knew your name. Most of us didn’t go to school together nor did we see each other outside of the shop, but that didn’t change the fact we were all friends. Countless Saturdays were spent arguing over which comics were best, playing Dungeons and Dragons or just hanging out, this was before CCGs hit the scene.

The shop owners(s) never thought about chasing us out and often, if a game got particularly intense, we would stay long after the shop closed. The people that owned the shops I frequented were just as much fan boys and geeks as those of us that hung out there. The owners
treated us regulars a lot like extended family.

Now I’m all grown up, few of my friends play D&D anymore and I live in an area where
there is no friendly local game shop. I buy most of my gaming material at the book store in the closest mall (if you consider 40 miles away close), which has a very limited selection, and the comic shop I frequent(45 miles away) doesn’t much in the way of game material except minis and CCGs. I have on occasion found a few items on the internet and of course at conventions, but if I had my choice I would choose to shop at a FLGS over anything else.

Many gamers complain that the prices in local shops are too high compared to the deals
they can find online and I have to concede this is often true. Although if you figure in ship-
ping and handling a some of those cheaper items end up costing more than you would pay in a shop.

While on one hand I appreciate the deals online stores offer it saddens me to hear that shops are
closing all across the country on a daily basis. What upsets me even more are the gamers that pronounce they don’t care, that saving a few bucks, and never having to leave your home is the better way. If this continues future generations of gamers will never know what it’s like to hang out at their local shop. They will miss out on the friendship and social interaction with true peers that can be found at the "shop on the corner".

The local game shop is more than just a store, it is a gaming institution. The stores are generally run by people who love the hobby as much as the rest of us. They have to because they sure
don’t get rich running a hobby shop, and more than a few gamers were introduced to gaming
through these local shops. So why do we choose to eliminate something that is an integral part of a hobby we enjoy? I doubt it is completely intentional, and I know that things like the 90’s comic
boom and subsequent crash played a part in the demise of the local shops, but the opportunity to
save a few dollars on the newest gaming supplement by shopping online seems to be the biggest culprit in this day and age.

I live in a small town that stopped a Wal-mart from opening because of the effect it would
have had on local merchants. The owners of these local shops are our neighbors and friends. Their kids are in the same classes as our kids, and when you walk in they not only know your name, they are genuinely happy to see you. Granted the prices may not be the cheapest, and you may not have the convenience of one stop shopping, but you get good service and a sincere smile, something that can’t be replaced by cheaper toilet paper and dog food.

So is saving a few bucks really worth causing the demise of the brick and mortar shop? Can
those deals really replace the satisfaction of walking into a shop where they know your name? Some place where you are more than just a customer, you’re a friend.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Quick Reviews: Fringe

I have been an X-files fan for years. I followed Mulder and Scully through all their adventures into the world, full of aliens, vampires and conspiracies that they claimed existed right under our noses. When the show ended, poorly I might add, I was not happy. Luckily I still got to relive those great times through syndicated reruns, DVD boxed sets and in my own X-files themed d20 modern campaigns. Despite the movies I, like many fans, felt that there would just never be another show like it. The magic was gone and nothing could grab my imaginiation and run with it in the same way as the X-files (except for Heroes of course). That is until I saw Fringe.

The show began airing on Fox a few weeks ago. I didn't know a lot about it, just that it was supposed to be the next X-files, bold words. According to the things I had read, where X-files dabbled in the supernatural, Fringe was based more on real the world. The topics on Fringe are related to pseudoscience, or fringe science as they refer to it on the show. That was pretty much everything I knew about this new show, which I had intended to watch it, but didn't. Once I realized that I had missed the first few episodes I just forgot about it. Thank goodness for Hulu!

After signing in to Hulu to catch the 3rd season premier of Heroes, which I had missed, I noticed that Fringe was listed under the new shows available. I made a note and subscribed, intent on watching at least the first episode tonight. If it was any good, I figured, I might try to watch a few more, now I am sure I will.

If you haven't watched any episodes rest assured that I won't give anything away here. Suffice it to say that it is a really good show. I can definitely see the influence of the X-files, Heroes, and Lost, with a little CSI thrown in for good measure, all in the first episode. Almost from the start the characters begin to encounter conspiracies and clandestine operations, all revolving around "The Pattern". I've only watched the first episode and already I have new ideas for a d20 Modern campaign. The show is very engaging and the characters, FBI agent Olivia Dunham, scientist Walter Bishop (who has been in a mental hospital for the past 17 years), and his son Peter, are interesting and likeable.

Iappreciate the fact that they aren't throwing aliens and supernatural monsters at us in an attempt to copy the X-files, at least not yet. Instead the big bad is a corporation, Massive Dynamic, that has its hands in some shady fringe research(kind of like Lost and Heroes). One character brings up the fact that scientific discoveries have made exponential leaps forward and are to the point that maybe science can not be regulated and controlled. That is what this show is about, science. Ok maybe it is pseudoscience as I mentioned before, but the things that are brought up in the show are things that science has attempted to do in real life, at least to a degree. In the Fringe world there is something going on, some one is doing experiments and the people of earth are the lab rats. Is the evil corporation Massive Dynamic behind all the creepy and strange events? Is it the government? What is "The Pattern"? I don't know, but I'm going to keep watching and find out.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Heroes Viewership Drops

According to an article on the Hollywood Reporter the season 3 premier of Heroes brought in 25% less viewers than last seasons premier. The 2 hour episode ranked second behind Dancing with the Stars in the 9pm slot and behind CSI: Miami in the 10pm hour.

I have yet to watch the premier, the 9 month hiatus kind of lessened my interest in the show. I guess out of site, out of mind is pretty accurate. I will probably catch it online. I miss the old season schedule where you knew when your favorite shows were going to air and seasons started and ended in a predictable manner.

Quick Reviews: Tales of the Chi-Town 'Burbs

While I have my issues with the Palladium system I think Rifts is one of the best settings around. Even though I have only played a few times I am definitely a Rifts fan. Rifts is a world of literally endless possibilities and one of the few systems where I actually enjoy reading the various supplements. So when I heard about the short story collection "Tales of the Chi-Town 'Burbs" I had to have a copy.

A dozen or so writers, including Kevin Siembieda, contribute stories to the book, all centering around life in the 'Burbs just outside of the Coalition City of Chi-Town. In case you are not familiar with Rifts, Chi-Town is basically the largest, most powerful human city/state left after the "rifts" opened, devastated and completely changed the face of the Earth. The Coalition is one part Nazi and one part Bush administration where educaiton is basically forbidden and only the rich elite are educated. The Coalition uses fear, through televised propaganda, of the alien beings, monsters and magic users that now populate a large portion Earth to control its citizens and promote patriotism. People who are lucky enough to be accepted into Chi_Town can live a good life, but this book isn't about them.

The folks that live in the 'Burbs are generally poor, uneducated and waiting, by the millions, to be accepted as citizens into the walled city that looms above them. According to some of the stories in the book it may take several generations for a family to be accepted into Chi-Town, if at all. Most people build their homes in the 'Burbs surrounding the city hoping for a better life for their children or grandchildren, becuase it is unlikely they will be accepted themselves. The 'Burbs are a dangerous place filled with mercs, crooked officials, criminals and monsters that prey on the hopeful. They are basically the ghettos of Chi-Town, a place the law cares little about.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book is the fact it is about the ordinary people in this extraordinary place. From a game point of view these people are the NPCs your group would encounter if they traveled through the 'Burbs. The bar owner, and the former Coalition soldier that would give aid or shelter to your group are the characters in these short stories. The people we often overlook in our games, yet the very same people the PCs are trying to protect or serve brought to life and made real.

Make no mistake this books suffers from the same problems as most Palladium products, grammatical and spelling errors, but those are easy to overlook. While this book will never make the bestsellers list it has quickly become one of my favorite pieces of RPG fiction. The writing may not be on par with Weiss, Greenwood, Tolkein, or Jordan, but the writers do a great job of brining these characters to life. The best way I can think of to describe this book is truly great NPC backgrounds by really good DMs. That is what it reminds me of.

So even if you are not a fan of Palladium or the Rifts setting, I think this book is definitely worth checking out. If for no other reason than as a source of ideas for your own campaigns.

Superhero Larping? Except you could really get shot!

I'm a gamer and a comic book geek through and through. I love my superheroes and like many others have argued the merit of one character/power over another, rolled up and roleplayed more than a few in an attempt to get a taste of what being a superhero is like. I've even spent more than a few moments fantasizing about being a superhero, but I have never truly considered becoming one, for real. I mean who in their right mind would run around in spandex, which is very unflattering, and face down real criminals, with real guns... not me.

However, there are people in the world who are doing just that. This is the ultimate superhero LARP, playing superhero in the real world, fighting the never ending battle, which seems like it would be cool, but I just can't get past the bad guys using real guns part.

In a Rolling Stone article I found online, it appears there are more than a few people around the world that have decided to take on the role of caped crusader in their own neighborhoods. Some are even banding together and forming super teams. The avid comic book fan and major geek in me thinks this is the coolest shit I have ever heard and wants to get out there myself... well in spirit at least. The Mental Health Professional (once I get my degree and take my boards) in me finds this behavior disturbing and wonders why seemingly normal people would even consider doing something this ridiculous. Now I can tell just by reading the RS article that the characters featured in the article have had some traumas in their lives and escaped into a fantasy world, that they then merged with the real world. There is definitely some attention seeking behavior at play, but more impressive than all the psychobabble I can come up with is their unshakable belief in doing good. Their need to make the world a better place in some small way. I find that both fascinating and inspiring.

These people have taken something many of us daydream about and spend hours rolling dice to recreate, and they live it. They seem to have just a touch of Peter Pan in them, refusing to grow up, and yet still taking responsibility for their fellow man. They are trying to take the weight of the world on to their shoulders, even though no one asked them to. Are they mentally unbalanced... probably, but I can't help hoping that one of these guys will be around if I or a loved one ever needs them.

If you want to learn more about these real life Superheroes, or feel the overwhelming need to don spandex here are some links that you may find useful.

World Superhero Registry
Heroes Network
The Green Scorpion (based in Arizona)
Superhero Lives
Wolrdwide Heroes Organization
Justice Society of Justice (based in Indianapolis)
Superhero (based in Florida)
Master Legend (based in Florida)
Dark Guardian (based in New York)
Hero Gear

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Yet Another Internet Video Pick

This might just become a regular feature, well at least until I get bored of doing it or run out of videos.

This one is great and should be made into a movie.