This was originally supposed to appear in Comics Waiting Room, but seeing as I missed deadline due to sickness and shenanigans, TPK #4 ended up here. I have to admit, editing was a tad bit easier! - Steve
“Total Party Kill (TPK) is the colloquial term for when, in a single encounter during the course of a role-playing game adventure, the entire party of player characters is killed.” – The Codex Wikipedia
Greetings, citizens! Are you ready to serve your Friend Computer well?
Well done, perhaps?
Regardless of how you feel, it’s time to get your clearances in order for yet another adventure full of madness and hyperbole. Friend Computer prefers to designate it TOTAL PARTY KILL.
You do have the proper clearance, don’t you?
It would appear that this Computer’s blinking hand-light has grown a bit redder this past week*, as it is now a 33 year-old model. Of course, because of necessary pan-dimensional celebrations, TPK kind of had to be “thrown together” due to some time constraints.
(*Cease that filthy mind-think!)
Some may call this approach “lazy”. I prefer the term “indolent”, truth be told.
Oh, who am I kidding? I normally “throw” this together. It’s what makes it so much fun! I have all sorts of crap to throw at you, in fact. 3:16 Carnage Amongst the Stars, Houses of the Blooded, Conquer the Horizon, Talisman, a vast array of comics (including Red Sonja, Pistolfist: Revolutionary Warrior, Judge Dredd Megazine, Army of Darkness, Knights of the Dinner Table, Dragon Prince and more!), miniatures, and even some videogame action. So let’s throw ourselves right in!
(Make the jump to TPK-Speed!!)
Table of Contents:
Good news! This ToC is "anchored" so that you may just click where you need to go!)
I. Pulling Serious RPGees
Roleplaying games! RPG stuff!
II. Minis on the Mind, Terrain on the Brain
Miniatures and terrain, the true spices of life
III. Arbitrary Random Idea Generator
Stumped for ideas? Try these out.
IV. Videogame Killed the Radiogame Star
Videogames, if you haven't already guessed.
V. Short Uncontrolled Bursts Brief blurbs on some cool comic books
VI. Spotlight of the Fortnight: Houses of the Blooded
This edition's spotlight!
VII. Nibbles & Nabs
For everything that doesn't fit properly in the other sections.
Appendix. The Important Self-Important Stuff How to get a hold of me, and links to other things I do, and links to previous TPKs!
Here are some games, game-aids and other RPG related items I’ve checked out recently, and I think it is in your best interests to check them out, too.
3:16 - Carnage Amongst the Stars.
Man, this was almost the Spotlight of the Fortnight. It came this close. Can you see how close from there? If you could, you would see just how close. Gregor Hutton does it again. First he wowed gamers with Best Friends, probably one of the most original RPGs in years, and now he slaps us with 3:16, a role-playing game which could be quickly and without much thought be described as a po’ grunt’s Starship Troopers. This is a fast game, a dirty game. This is a game which will take you by surprise and then eviscerate you. ‘Mind, you’ll love every minute. What’s the story here? It’s the Future. Far Future, in fact. Mankind has become complacent and near immortal with crap like Science. What to do? For starters, jacktard, you could sign up for the 3:16th Expeditionary Force, become a Space Trooper, and hand out some Bug ass. Delight in the kill-happiness and wanton destruction that military enterprise against alien creatures can only bring! Ahhh… you feel that? No, not that, you naughty person-- THAT. Nothing like a warm gun. This game is fast, like I said, and really easy to create characters and play. The rules are swift, and usually involve quick, near-abstract resolution. The game system is described as “elegant” and that’s an apt description. I really wish I had more space to get more into it, but trust me when I say “it works”. If you are looking for an inexpensive game that can be as shoot/kill or roleplay as you like, can create characters and scenarios faster than a really fast thing, and can entertain with the best f them then look no further: 3:16 is for you, troop. Kill bugs, be a bad ass, gain rank, go out in an orgy of violence. What more could you ever want, I ask? Score: That’s it, game over, dude. GAME OVER! Total Party Kill. The squad is all over the place. Literally.
Conquer the Horizon.
This is probably the best 2 dollars you can spend on a game this year. I haven’t taken it out for a spin yet, but it looks nice and incredible non-complex. As the ad-copy says: “This is a game in which the players take on the roles of an expeditionary mission from the Old World, exploring the unknown wilds of the New World. The players collaboratively create the New World while simultaneously competing to fulfill their own agendas. Play as the Governor, General, Naturalist, or Merchant, applying your individual skills and history to your continual quest to discover new features of the New World and exploit them for your own purposes. Make alliances with your compatriots, harbor your own ulterior motives as you contribute to their discoveries, and double-cross them for your own agenda when the time is ripe.” More on this next TPK, but I like what I see! Score: The party just peed themselves. They must have a preternatural sense in relation to TPKs.
This is a social networking /data-dump site aimed at RPG gamers. So far, so good from what I see. One incentive for signing up is a few free game PDFs that could be of use to anyone out there; though you have to hunt for the PDFs themselves 9a smart way to get you to poke around). Reviews, information, previews and all sorts of other things can be found at this site. Think Comic Space for gamer dorks. The simple design is a plus, as well. More on this in the future, after I’ve had some time to play around with it. Score: Three out of the five party members are instantly killed. The two survivors are on the run, but will they get out? They look rather doomed, if you ask me.
The Great City Campaign Setting.
0one Games’ products have been cherished by people like me for years. And now here they are offering a whole campaign setting which “portrays a struggling mercantile colony ruled by the incompetent son of a brutal emperor”. It looks very sweet indeed (and though it can fit with anything, it has 3.5 ed. stat blocks), filled to the brim with maps (what 0one is known for, and rightly so!), creatures, intrigue and adventure. A whole new city at your disposal. I haven’t gotten this excited about a “drop into any campaign” city since Bard’s Gate from Necromancer games (which I picked up last birthday along with Troll Lord’s Yggsburgh-- also great). I’ll keep my eye on this delicious offering, and when the time is right, I’ll snatch it up. I get the feeling that time will have to be soon. I mean, come on, it’s worth it for the maps alone! I just have to make sure Map Envy doesn’t set in. Score: The adventuring party is safe and sound at The Felled Ogre. But they here tales of their imminent slaughter… it’s coming… yes, it’s coming.
Danger Magnet Magazine.
Pulp gaming fan? Can’t get enough? The come get your medicine and stop those shakes, sweet thing. An electronic magazine offering, this competently written periodical should cure whatever idea-droughts which ail you. This token of pulpy affection is free, free, FREE and focuses on "Ubiquity and Hollow Earth greatness". It's got Tomb Beetles!! Score: The party just got their butts kicked in (by Dire Tomb Beetles, of course), even though they were armed with Tommy guns and compasses. Three out of four members perished.
Star Frontiersman Magazine.
Oh. My. Goodness. A friend of mine directed me to this site as a way of saying “Happy Birthday” and I am like a space pig in cosmic poo all over again. New rules, new adventures, new ideas, new equipment… and best of all, an unrestrained love for one of the best RPGs of all time: Star Frontiers. Star Frontiersman is an electronic, PDF-based magazine which you can download for no cost. Extraordinary in every respect, if you are into Star Frontiers I’m sure you’ll agree that paying a cover price would be no trouble. Issues 1-6 are available in one tidy package from Lulu.com. Score: Total Sector Kill. Everyone. Gone. In a single bright and painful event.
This is a collectible miniature game I can get behind. And by the geniuses at Privateer Press, no less (Iron Kingdoms, Warmachine)! This new game will be unleashed on the innocent public come 10 October!! In the meantime you can get the rulebook from the site. Score: Total City Kill. So far, anyway. I’ll send my own party in to investigate once they are released.
Lost Squad Miniatures Announced!
I love the Lost Squad comics, and Chris Kirby is a cool dude. Be sure you go forth and read one of the best “Weird War Two” comic books series ever! My only question is: When are they gonna do a Lost Squad RPG? Score: The news alone TPKs the whole party.
Dark Sword Miniatures.
These are some succulent minis! And take a gander at those Elmore ones. By Crom, I so do wish I was made from money. Score: The orcs destroy the party, leaving only one maimed survivor. Not only were those adventurers killed, but a couple villages were razed, as well. And the orcs? They sure looked great doing it all.
Plastic Roman Legionaries! From Warlord Games.
I’m a sucker for Roman figs. A total sucker. These are finely crafted ones I can assemble myself? Sign me up. Score: Veni, vidi, TPKi.
“I get inspired by taking in the things I enjoy, mashing them together, asking myself what Jim Henson, Mel Brooks, and Stephen King would do with them, then I try to make them proud. All while throwing out any sense of moral obligation, notions of right and wrong, or societal thoughts on decency. Oh yeah, and I get inspire by naked women… I get inspired by creative recklessness... By dangerous thinking… By the idea of taking something that may be unpopular or taboo and twisting it so people will enjoy it before they even realize what they're enjoying. I'm a long-winded bastard, ain't I?
The short answer is that I get inspired by a piece of an idea that makes me go, 'Oh damn... I would dig that!' And that's what I run with. If it's something I think I would enjoy reading, then it's something I know I'll enjoy writing.” – Stephen Lindsay, creator of the Jesus Hates Zombies (featuring Lincoln Hates Werewolves) and The Slightly Askew Adventures of Inspector Ham & Eggs comics, lots of other stuff, and an all-around madman.
This time I’m going to toss some things in your general direction with a little commentary attached. Maybe you’ll get inspired by looking into ‘em!
Lord Flataroy’s Guide to Fortifications.
For you fellow fantasy gamers reading, this book is very valuable indeed. Though designed for HackMaster, it can be plopped into any D&D game easily, and the non-rules related items (which is most of the book) will help you considerably regardless of rules-system. Just flipping through these well-written black/white pages can inspire all sorts of crazy things, especially if your players are wanting to build fortifications, castles, and other things which lead to inevitable munchkinism. In the past, I have found that “you have the money, you can build a stronghold in 7 months” type of thing to be rather boring. In this book you will find rules, charts and suggestions on how long it takes to construct each part of the building they want, how the workers will be, local lords and their dispositions, and even a run-down on how feudalism works. In fact, this tome will help you put the “FEUD” in “Feudalism”! And that’s where the ideas come in. My players in the past have wondered just how it is that I’m so magnificently evil (yet fair!) in regards to the castles they want to build. Well, good people, this is one of the items which has helped me in those endeavours. It may be hard to find, but it can usually be procured form Amazon.com or Ebay. I haven’t seen it in the used sections of store, and this could be because it didn’t sell well or that no one wants to give their copies up. I like to think it’s the latter!
Goods and Gear.
Yeah, yeah, you have a tonne of equipment and weapons guides, but this is one of the best to have, I tell you. Breakdowns on Stuff, currency, treasure, economy and other useful things for the brain-racked GM, as well as being a great source for all sorts of what I call “Material Product MacGuffins”. This is totally worth your ducats, whether you are a player or GM. Now, I can’t be the only one who leafs through books like this for inspiration, right?
The Star Wars Comic Books.
To be honest, I don’t think any other comic book was as influential on my space fantasy stuff as the old Marvel Star Wars comics. I would always pepper-up the Star Frontiers games I ran with ideas I lifted from that series. Whether people want to consider them canon or not, any GM in need of ideas is encouraged to buy (or borrow from the library) the trades Dark Horse released of the old series. You can see where they were getting desperate for ideas here and there, and it usually turned out well anyway! To me those old comics were some of the best space fantasy action-adventure you could read. I have all the trades, as well, and they still read great! As for the new line of Star Wars comics Dark Horse is producing, two words: Worth it. I don’t even think you have to be a fan of the movies to enjoy them. Terrifically written and a wellspring of cool ideas— and hey, if you’re running a Star Wars campaign, all the better! You can find most Star Wars comic book stuff for purchase at your friendly local comic/game shop or an online retailer like Amazon.com.
Not too much for this installment, as I started playing The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion finally, and most of what can be said on that people have already covered to death, and then some. But I will say Oblivion is everything good people said it was. I find the horse riding almost useless, but it sure does look pretty! I think I liked the “get lost in a huge world” aspect of Daggerfall and Morrowind more, as you can instantly travel to many places right off the bat in Oblivion, but that aside, I do dig the convenience. Combat is fun, and it’s always great fun to try making postions. I love fighting in the Arena, and stealing things is a lot harder (a good thing, as I didn’t know anyone who didn’t become a klepto in Morrowind!). All in all, CRPG fans can’t go wrong with Oblivion. I’m playing it on the PC, in case ye are wondering.
Anyholler, here are some links to what I found to be nice (and free!) online games:
Gladiatus: Hero of Rome.
An adventure game where you play a Gladiator in search of adventure and glory. One of those things where you have to wait while a timer counts down so you can see what happens. An adequte browser-based pastime. Score: 3 out of 5 party members slain.
A freeware game worth dinking around with. You’ll probably need help in certain parts of the game so that you can continue, and this is it’s biggest flaw. Still, it’s darkly fun. 3 out of the 5 party members are taken straight to Hell where they are flayed, then eaten.
Dungeon Sweet Dungeon.
I thank Aaron Williams for directing me to this one. Do you miss Dungeon Keepers 1 and 2? Well, this is a poor peasant’s DK right here. Browser based and an amusing time-killer at best. The best part is how it will make you want to re-install Dungeon Keeper. Score: 2 party members killed, one severely injured, 2 get away with lots of loot.
Yeah, not really too much in the way of videogames. But don’t worry, I should have more next time around.
I read an inordinate amount of comics. Like, LOTS of them. And here are only some of the ones I think will appeal to hardcore nerds not unlike myself. I did say somewhere in the recent past that I would make up for the light comic coverage in the last TPK, but even still, this is not even close to an exhaustive list. If you would care to read more of my comic book related ramblings, please swing by Diary of a Grognerd, where I ramble even more about things—mainly comics, it would seem. Anyhow, here you go! I’ve tried to keep each entry as brief as possible for your Data Intake Pleasure.
This web-based “Epic Fantasy Sitcom” is kicking off a new story arc, which is a perfect jumping on point for new readers. I have three of the hardcopy trades, and this is one of my favourites in terms of webcomics out there. Go on, get some! Please note that this comic is mature themed. Score: Total Gnome Village Kill. I do believe that’s a first.
Red Sonja #37.
Without any doubt in my mind, this is one of the best fantasy comics on the market today! Brian Reed just brings it with his story of the reincarnation of Red Sonja, as she learns the hard way how to go from prissy noble lady to death-dealing she-devil real quick-like. The character of Osin reminds me a lot of Claw the Conqueror, what with his hand and everything, but this is a good thing, I assure you! Artist Walter Geovani completes this epic journey of blood and revenge with some of the best illustration I’ve seen in a long, long time. Thank you, Red Sonja, for being so badass cool. Score: Total Party Kill. Like there was any other choice I had.
The Lone Ranger #13.
Proving yet again that this is probably one of the best Western comics out there, you Aces & Eights, Deadlands, and Boot Hill players can’t go wrong with this series. My only complaint is that it’s so “decompressed” I can read an issue in a few minutes. Still, the art is fantastic and Brett Matthews brings the Lone Ranger and Tonto to life in no way anyone has done before. Bullets fly and people burn while they hunt down a bloody killer. Meanwhile, a nemesis of the highest calibre gets ready to dish out some pain. Heartily recommended! Score: The 6-man posse goes out in a blaze of glory, with only one getting away. He might be hiding out in that there church…
Army of Darkness: Home Sweet Hell #12.
This is a fun wrap-up to the Home Sweet Hell story-arc. In this issue we get the backstory on the Seven Deadly Sins, Ash needs his memory back so that he and his pals can survive the Hell House, and naturally, all Nine Hells break loose! I think most gamers out there can appreciate this zany, violent, and just plain awesome comic. Great writing, great art—as long as you can remember the words, what could go wrong? Score: The party is wiped out, save for one pour soul who really just hops away as a Deadite torso. Head sold separately.
Savage Tales #9.
This bi-monthly anthology might be just what you may be looking for if you’re into the Sword & Sorcery and Pulp genres. I wouldn’t call anything you read in these pages “cutting-edge” (aside from all the sharp blades) or “ground-breaking” (unless titans or giants are involved, of course) but it sure is a blast to read! This issue wrapped up the Osin (from Red Sonja) and Quartermain stories, started a new one called Valaka (looks promising), and it continues Battle For Atlantis (probably the best of the bunch!). Next month a new Red Sonja tale will come in, swords swinging, no doubt. There aren’t many anthology comics out there, and even less good ones. My only really beef with the publisher is that I wish they’d release this monthly! Score: The hordes of Atlantean undead rip out the hearts of four of the five tough adventuring party with their dark, icy claws. The survivor holes up in a cave, and tries to keep herself sane by singing songs about beer.
Knights of the Dinner Table #142.
This is the first issue sans Noah’s A Gamers Rant at the Movies. And it’s still okay, but I’ve realised just how much I looked forward to that feature. Sigh. The comics are terrific, as per usual, with something happening that we all saw coming—but is still a shocker nonetheless. I thought it would be a bigger panel, but it all worked out anyway. The comics kicked ass. I laughed, I cried, they became a +5 part of me. As for the articles, they were okay. The Gamers Rant was replaced by Gaming the Movies which covers Buckaroo Bonzai. It’s interesting and well-written, but only barely covering up the gaping wound of Spoony’s absence. Seeing Figuratively Speaking back is a treat, and this month Other World Miniatures are covered. Gamer’s Pulpit gives us a fun, but go-nowhere ramble (hey, not that I’m judging!) and a chart showing how the various D&D systems stack up concerning how many goblins the average first-level fighter can kill before going down (4th Edition will surprise you). Overall, a good issue, but outside of the excellent comics nothing really jumps out and slaps you in the face (but it’s still good stuff). KoDT is a comic/magazine no dice-slinging freak should be without—even if Noah can’t be along for the ride anymore. But that Chris Moreno cover? Full of Gymkata Fatality WIN, friends. Score: Eight out of the ten gobbos are cut down where they stand (or run, really). Blood fills the large, cavernous room where they once lived and dined on various yummy fungi. The young fighter responsible for the carnage smiles at his victory. “I wonder what goblin flesh tastes like?” he mumbles. Will our heroic butcher see the myconid ninjas sneaking up on him? Roll and let the dice fall where they may!
Judge Dredd Megazine #275.
I just thought I would drop mention of one of my all-time fave comics. This and 2000 AD are responsible for tonnes of entertainment growing up and even as recently as the other day. The Meg, as it’s called, is perfect for those who don’t feel like picking up the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic on a weekly basis (Judge Dredd Megazine is the monthly 2000 AD output, with different comics). I can’t tell you how many times a thrill (comic) has inspired games and even entire campaigns. This month (well, the month of #275) we are treated to the requisite Judge Dredd strip continuing the splendid Rat Fink storyline; the come-back of Tank Girl in a hilarious return complete with vehicles and carnage!; Anderson Psi-Division continues one of the better “virtual hell world” stories I’ve read; and the Meg’s version of Twilight Zone meets Night Gallery, called Black Museum, showing us that there’s always a bigger mousetrap. In addition to all that, you get interviews with creators, articles AND movie reviews. If you dig fantasy, sci-fi, action and sheer brilliance, you cannot go wrong with this monthly comic. To sweeten the deal, they included trading cards and a separate 60-page Judge Dredd collection Jock (he’s a talented artist) collection. So, if you haven’t read the Megazine before, now is a great time to jump onboard the radwagon, kids. I can’t see any self-respecting geek turning their nose up at it. Score: Total Block Kill between the Niven and Vance blocks. Very, very messy, indeed!
Fear Agent #23.
Do you think your sci-fi needs more balls? Yes? You better be reading Fear Agent, then. Pulp sci-fi fans be aware that this comic WILL kick your ass from here to Mars. This series keeps getting better and better, and we find our hero, Heath Huston, on a Western World (if y’all will) and in a town called Heaven. This is definitely of my fave titles, and I don’t think I’ve ever had a complaint about a single issue. The back-up story in #23 is a hoot, too. Score: Five out of six Agents killed, and not on jellybrain sheds a single protoplasmic tear over it.
Pistolfist: Revolutionary Warrior #2.
Okay, now THIS is the kinda comic I look forward to discovering and reading! Imagine this: It’s the American Revolutionary War, the British have a lightning gun, Ben Franklin wears odd hats, and a guy runs around in what looks like a luchadore mask and has a pistol for a hand. Does this sound like it could be good? No, of course not. IT SOUNDS LIKE IT COULD BE AWESOME. And it is! The story is the sort of historical fiction romp I love, the art is good, the pacing exciting—seriously friend, pick this up. There’s even a Fact & Fiction Q&A page in the back. Players of the lovely new Colonial Gothic RPG should especially take notice. I need #3 now! Note-- the link there is to sample pages of the first issue. take a look, dammit! Score: The party is blinded by the sheer brilliance of what looks to be a creative lightning cannon. While they are blinded, they come under fire from some angry revolutionaries employing some serious skill rankings in Fusillade. It looks grim for the party, extraordinarily grim. The next month could see the “RIP” on their tombstones replaced with “TPK”.
Dragon Prince #1.
Oh, Ron Marz, how I love thee. This is the kind of comic my wife would enjoy, and I enjoyed it, too! It’s a story about a modern boy who is really into dragons discovers that he really is a dragon himself and then his life-changing adventure begins. It’s these kinds of childhood wish fulfilment fantasies which really get me right here. Know what I mean? Of course, if you know anything about comics, Ron Marz and Lee Moder together should be enough for you to go out and buy this book. I can’t wait to see where this title goes! Score: While trying to obtain the Dragon Heart of Eragonia, the party encounters a great and ancient wyrm who gobbles all but the Halfling whole. Upon reaching the safety of some anonymous village, Ulf the Rotund decides to give up on adventuring altogether and take up a life of appearing on Iron Stew Master regularly.
Tentacled heads up, Cthulhuites, here is yet another offering to your Dark Master that you must read. Seriously, all you Call of Cthulhu players? Buy this. Necronomicon goes into the story behind the mind-blasting tome of the same name, the blessings it bestows, and boy howdy is it excellent. It also helps that Andrew Ritchie is on art-savant duties, as his Dreamlands sequences from Fall of Cthulhu were both strikingly sensual and terribly mind-bending to behold. And you know what? This was released on my birthday. Just further proof that the stars are right and your eternal soul and SAN score depend on this comic. Okay, well, maybe not your SAN stat-- unless you are totally cool with cashing that baby out. Because you will. You will. Score: All investigators involved driven into gibbering madness as a result of just laying their pitifully human eyes on The Book. This, my fiends, is a TPM. That’s “Total Party Madness” in case ye didns't ken.
Salem: Queen of Thorns #2.
Solomon Kane fan? Into that incredible Witchhunter game currently slaying the market? Well, here you go, puritanical pardners! Yet another release from The Day of My Birthday, I’m sure you can tell I was happy as a space-borne clam-person with my Wednesday haul. Salem is a book which follows the adventures of a man named Hooke and the people who’s ass he kicks. Just imagine Solomon Kane played by Clint Eastwood or Charles Bronson and you’ll get a better wood engraved picture. This series is supposed to be “controversial” because some pagan person somewhere got miffed; but to be honest, it’s no more controversial than, say, Warhammer. Which reminds me, fans of Warhammer Fantasy will like this series, too. Plenty of action, killin’, dark crazy stuff, and witchcraft to go around for everyone. Oh, and did I mention the violent tree-people? Yes, they’re there too. Score: Six of the seven person party is captured and burned at the stake. They perish, of course, save for the mage who kept making it rain directly over him. Eventually a pissed-off druid came by and beat him to death with a gnarly gnarled staff. Ouch!
Hercules: The Thracian Wars #5.
This issue wraps up Steve Moore’s amazing run on Hercules, and is one of the best takes on the ancient Hellenic hero I have ever seen. Truly, this comic is steeped in violence, pathos, and lore. Anyone worth their salt as a lover of Sword & Sandals tales, Hercules, Conan, history or pulpy actiony goodness needs this series. The art, the story, all awesome and taken to the hilt for your maximum pleasure. A very satisfying conclusion, too. You can bet your sweet ass I will try to cover this series as a whole in a future TPK. In the meantime, get your chariots whipped into shape and pick these comics up! The first issue is only a buck. Which means you have no excuse. Score: Total Phalanx Kill. Brutality of the likes no many have ever lived to talk about.
Doctor Who: The Forgotten #1.
Right, so full disclosure here— I haven’t been keeping up on Who like I should. It’s not a bad show, and is terrific fun, but I’m a busy guy and so it fell to the wayside. Thank the gods for this title, then! I didn’t need too much background with Who to enjoy what is, in effect, a wondrous romp with plenty of nice flowing dialogue and great characters. Writer Tony deftly demonstrates why he is a literary force to be reckoned with (is that over-the-top enough for you, Mister Lee?), and artist Pia Guerra (you may know her from a little book called Y: The Last Man provides some stunning illustrative work. I mean, she’s one of the best, hands down. So, whether you are a Whovian or just some person charmed into buying this by the beguiling likes of Lee and Guerra (together they may cause your head to explode, so be careful!), I think you would be hard-pressed to dislike this comic, especially if you are into Sci-Fi, good stories, and are a gamer. What? This “review” tells you nothing? You had best read this comic book, then. Score: Total Party Extermination. Exterminate! EX-TERM-IN-ATE!!
Other titles of note: The Stand: Captain Trips #1 (I think I may like this story/world best in comic form), Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #32 (is it even possible for this title to suck, I ask you?), Star Trek: Romulans – The Hollow Crown #1 (probably John Byrne’s best writing work in years— worth picking up!), The Goon #28 (yet another comic I have no complaints about), Warhammer: Condemned by Fire #4 (I love this series. I really, really do!), Newuniversal: Conquerer (I’m not sure where it all fits in, as I haven’t been following, but Si Spurrier sure crafted a nice issue— nice art, too), Northlanders #9 (I promise I’ll give this butt-kicking series more attention in the future), The Dark Tower: Treachery #1 (nice issue; I look forward to #2!), and Buckaroo Banzai: The Prequel #1 (I’ll be sure to give #2 some more love here in instalments to come).
Seriously, folks, I wish I could go into them all. There’s so many!
Alright, I could eat up an entire column on how freaking amazing this game is. I really could. Sadly, it may be awhile before I’m able to play it. But one thing is for sure: Buying the game for $5 is probably the wisest investment you’ll ever make with that small a sum of money. John Wick, the designer at large, thought this would be a good idea, you know, having it be cheap and all. He is 100% spot on. I may have passed on Houses of the Blooded (HotB) if I had to spend fifty bucks on a large, weighty tome. It’s a lot to ask for with geeks like me. I spend gobs of money on games, and big fat books are always a gamble. I usually go with games I know, or have heard lots of. This usually means being on the market for a while, and over time I decide whether I need it or not. Even with slam-dunk games for myself like the Warhammer 40k RPG, I still waited. Not so with HotB. Five dollars and it was mine. And so I treated myself for my birthday.
Though I received many fine gifts, this one seems to have pleased me the most. Why? Is it because it has a rules-set that blows my mind? Is it outstanding art? The layout? I’ll tell you: It’s the best written RPG you can find. I don’t know if Mr. Wick was thinking of this consciously, but his conversational and relaxed way of presenting the game sucked me right in. I never just sit down and read a 300+ page gamebook from cover to cover, especially if it’s a PDF. Damn you, John Wick, I had some serious eye-strain! Luckily, the fonts are very readable and larger. I suppose this would have been a much smaller book had he decided to go with tiny print. But it’s the elegant (there’s that word again), no-nonsense yet casual presentation that wins me over.
And what of the game itself? In it you play one of the Blooded; the ven. The ven are a race slightly different than humans, with no afterlife and stronger, faster, longer-lived and tougher. They dominate the world in which they live. The world is the enemy. Opera matters. Wick presents his game as if the ven are a real historic people, asking open questions, and blaming inaccurate and disputed data for any inconsistencies. In a word: BRILLIANT. Ultimately the ven are what you make them, and you can drop them into whatever world you choose. This game has echoes of World of Darkness, especially in the sense that it encourages intrigue, deception and ruthlessness. In the introduction, Mr. Wick explains this is an “anti-Dungeons & Dragons” game. The antithesis to this time-honoured dice-slinging tradition. He’s quite right, but it’s “anti” in all of the right ways. You character doesn’t start out weak, but strong. He/she has already reached a station of power. Instead of searching for riches, the new character might live out a life of decadence. Or maybe they’ll manipulate a group of adventure-prone folks to their advantage. Clothes and colour matter. Another thing is that the Accumulation of Stuff is taken out. There’s no money! So much for the Dragon’s Horde, eh?
There are also echoes of Elric in this game, as the ven remind me of the Melibonians. Passion rules; Love, Hate, Romance and Revenge are All-Important, All-Encompassing. Aw, I could go on and on and on. Several columns worth of nattering, in fact. But this particular installment is already becoming long in the tooth, so to speak. I suppose you’d like to know more about the rules of play. Well, they’re very nicely explained and are a great take on Evil Hat’s FATE system (think Spirit of the Century or Starblazer Adventures), but with even more tweaks and twiddles. Dice pools, Aspects, Style points-- they’re all here. The matter of dice takes on a more blatant form of gambling, as you decide how many to roll and how many to risk. It’s still dice vs. difficulty rating in many situations, but it’s all very loose. I like this. I like gaming which relies more on story than dice, and it’s never more true than with games like this.
Sadly, I cannot fully explain all of the rules in the limited space I have. I blew my wad on the usual ravings and hyperbole. But if you visit the Houses of the Blooded site, more will be explains. That I can guarantee you. I would like to extend my heart-felt congratulations to John Wick and Crew for producing a game of extraordinary measure and incredible worth. So far this has my vote for Game of the Year. And believe me, anything that beats out Dark Heresy has to be something so special and worthy that mere words can express how I feel on the matter. Don’t let me be the deciding factor here though, my friends, just GO HERE and drop the Five Dollars. You will not regret a single cent lost. I’ll cover some actual game-play in a TPK or 12 to come…
Score: Mega Total Party Kill. There is no way to measure the magnitude of this TPK, actually. It can be said, at best, that several generations will be effected.
Pro-D&D Obama Shirts.
Are you a political gamer geek? You think Obama is the +8 Bee’s Kneepads of Allure? Here you go, then. I’m waiting for the McCain as a Lich shirts!
Talisman 4th Edition.
Just played this for the first time in almost 20 years. The 4th edition is fantastic fun! Though the next is tough to read. But it looks great! Fantasy Flight Games has an even better version coming out, and being the great folks they are, they’re offering an “upgrade pack” to turn the Black Industries copies into even newer versiond. Seeing as I got the BI edition for my b-day, this makes me feel LOTS better. For those not in the know, Talisman is essentially like Monopoly for fantasy gamer types. Not in the sense that it’s just like Monopoly, but more in the sense that while the rules aren’t all that good, it’s still a heckuva fun time to play.
If you haven't seen this web-based "sitcom", you should! Revolving around some of the most sterotypical MMO players you'll ever come across, the laughs are copius and mighty!
Excerpt from the Mutant Chronicles Movie Novel.
Matt Forbeck writes it, and I’m willing to bet it’s even better than the movie. Er, not that I’ve seen the movie yet. Because that would be I would have downloaded a leasked version, and I never, ever do that. Ever. STOP LOOKING AT ME!
Yoggie Fundraiser: Tales from the Table 10th Anniversary DVD.
The unspeakable spectacular masters of insanity, Yog-Sothoth.com, are offering people to become producers! Basically, if you give them $25 to pre-order the DVD, you get a copy, cool stuff and best of all: it gets made! A worthwhile cause if you ask me. Click on that link for more unnameable details.
Eric over at Red Box Hack (an excellent game I'm sure to cover in the future) gives his thoughts on the d12 as it pertains to RBH. Then some d12 love commences in the comments. Personally, I love the d12. My favourite use of it was when a head flew 2d6 feet in a random direction during a Warhammer game (later adopted for most other systems, naturally) and in order to determine the direction we'd roll a d12, with 12 o'clock being where the nose was when the head was attached. Such good times we had! And still have!! It's funny how a simple blog post by someone you don't know can trigger such happy memories.
Not only is this an awesome gamer-nerd blog, but he’s been running a series on “second-rate barbaric Conan wannabes”. My gripe? I should have thought of it first! Anyway, I find myself agreeing with what’s said. Take a look… and here, start with Wulf. And then there’s Iron Jaw! Be sure to read more… happy hunting!
If I had a more fortunate time with my Victory Points, I would have won the Settlers of Catan game we played after my birthday dinner. I only accumulated 3 points. SIGH.
On the bright side, I got to say “I’ve got wood for sheep!” several times.
Appendix. The Important Self-Important Stuff
- The TPK “support blog”. Lots of comic and game reviews, too: DIARY OF A GROGNERD
- The oft updated gamer-centric webcomic I do with Josh Wagner: ORCUSVILLE
- A comic book set in the 14th century we’re working on: SALVUS
- Can’t get enough of me? Even my wife would say you are mad: MY LIVEJOURNAL
Thought of the Fortnight: “Never trust a well-armed gnome. Ever.”