Wednesday, November 27, 2013

New Comics Wednesday: Black Beetle and Captain Midnight

Today is Wednesday, and that means it's New Comic Book Day - the day all of this week's comics hit the store shelves (both physically and digitally). Typically on Wednesdays, I feature a comic here on Daddy Rolled a 1 that I'll personally be picking up later this evening when I go to my local shop with my daughter after I pick her up from preschool.

Today is a little different, as I'm going to draw your attention to two reviews of trade collections that I recently did over at ComicAttack.net. I think both of these collections will be of interest to all the Dames and Daddy-Os who read my blog.

Also, please note also that every Wednesday, I tweet out which issues I picked up that week, and then over the course of the week I send out individual tweets with 140-character reviews of each issue. You can follow me on Twitter here.

Lastly, if you want to read more of my reviews over at ComicAttack, just search my name-tag to see what I've reviewed lately.

BLACK BEETLE VOLUME I: NO WAY OUT
I've written about Black Beetle before for one of my "Pulp Noir Monday" posts, way back when in April when issue #3 of the four-issue limited series was published.

A few weeks ago, Dark Horse Comics provided me a review copy of the trade collection of this four issue limited series, "No Way Out" as well as the 0-issue prequel called "Night Shift."

You can learn more about "What's It About?" as well as "Who Is the Creative Team" and "Who Will Like It?" by reading my review at ComicAttack (link below).

Any Good Ideas For My Role-Playing Games?
Black Beetle is full of really great adventure, character, and adversary ideas for any kind of spy/thriller/pulp action type game, and many of the ideas could translate to other genres as well. The art is extremely evocative of the era is portrays, and it could be a huge help to a GM to just show his players some of the images rather than trying to describe a villain hideout or what a "helicopter backpack" looks like. The author, Francesco Francavilla, also clearly has a love for this time period of the 1940s, and remembers little details that will be of immense help to GMs trying to "set the stage", such as the role of jazz music, smoking, and cocktails.

Is It Good For Kids?
As I mentioned before, it's not rated by the Comics Code Authority. Dark Horse's website says it's for Ages 12+, but of course it's best to read it for yourself first before deciding if it's right for your kids.

Here's the first section of my review for ComicAttack:

Francesco Francavilla’s mini-series of the first Black Beetle adventures was one of my favorite comic stories this year, and it’s great to have this wonderful hard cover that collects the first story arc of this unique pulp hero.

I first discovered Francavilla through his blog where he posted regular updates of his various art designs, and then I went back and found some of his earlier work, including one of my favorite Batman stories ever, The Black Mirror. His art style evokes a different era – it’s sort of post-war Italian pop art mixed with earlier art deco and pulp influences...

You can read the rest of the review here.

CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT VOLUME I: CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT BATTLES THE NAZIS
This review of mine was just posted yesterday. Once again, the good folks over at Dark Horse kindly provided me with a review copy of this 253 page collection of stories about Captain Midnight, a military superhero that dates back to 1941. First published by Dell, Captain Midnight was later published by Fawcett Comics right as America entered World War II, and the stories in this collection all involve Captain Midnight battling the Axis powers.

Again, please read the full review at ComicAttack (link below) to get a better idea of "What's It About?" and "Who Is the Creative Team?"

Who Will Like It?
I deal with this a bit in my review, but wanted to point out that the strong point of this collection, to me, is not necessarily the stories themselves, but rather the historical perspective they provide. It's a true treat to be able to have a collection like this, of a "non-A List" Golden Age super hero from the dawn of comics - remember that the first story in this collection is from 1941, which is only three years after Superman was created and two years after Batman. While the early issues of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are still in constant publication in trade format, it's rare to find other heroes from other companies also given the same treatment.

If you like Golden Age comics, military comics, superheroes, or World War II-era comics, then you'll definitely enjoy this collection. It would make a great gift for someone who is into comics, or fancies themselves a "comic historian."

Any Good Ideas for My Role-Playing Games?
This is a perfect way to gain inspiration for running a World War II-era supers game, especially if you want to evoke the attitudes of the Americans toward the Axis Powers (but see my note below under "Is It Good for Kids?"). It also has tons of just outrageous, goofy, but very period-appropriate adventure seeds, locales, gadgets, and other stuff that will be very helpful to busy players and GMs who are looking to evoke that specific 1940s comic era in their games.

Is It Good For Kids?
I'm going to give this a very qualified "yes," which is a nice change for most of the comics I review here. These are stories of a different age - I hesitate to say more "innocent," but these stories lack the darkness and the gray morality of most modern comics. The Nazis are bad guys. Everybody knows that. It's pretty much impossible to defend them, so it's okay that Captain Midnight takes turns punching, kicking, and shooting them.

Yes, there's shooting in here, so if you don't want your kids exposed to both bad guys and good guys shooting guns, then this isn't for you.

However, a bigger issue, but one which I highly commend Dark Horse for, is that they have chosen to leave the original comics un-edited, meaning that many of the terms and portrayals of certain other races are way out-of-step with modern sensibilities. Both the Nazis and the Japanese are presented in an extremely stereotypical and very unflattering manner, and the names that they are called, particularly the Japanese, are these days considered very offensive. As an historical record of the time, I think it's important to leave the stories as they were written, but parents should be warned before letting their kids read them.

Here's the first section of my review for ComicAttack:

Every few years, a long forgotten character from the Golden Age of Comics makes a re-appearance. Some are going through a mini-renaissance right now, such as the old pulp-era heroes over at Dynamite Entertainment, like the Green Hornet and the Shadow. Others have actually never really gone away, including the Trinity of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman over at DC.

In between those two extremes, however, are literally scores, if not hundreds, of characters which have gone forgotten. Fortunately, one of those characters, Captain Midnight, has been resurrected by Dark Horse Comics with both a new monthly title as well as this first volume collecting the original stories dating back to 1941 – 1948.

Originally a radio serial character created in 1938 by, of all things, an advertising agency in Chicago...
You can read the rest of the review here.

Cheers, all, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: AleSmith X Extra Pale Ale
Listening: "North and South of the River" by U2

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Game Stores: The Compleat Strategist (New York, NY)

The front of the store. What treasures await inside? 
I'm going to be a bit crazy today by, firstly, bucking today's normal topic, which is "TV Shows from the 80s" and instead resurrecting an older topic from here at Daddy Rolled a 1 by talking about game stores I've visited in my role-playing "career."

Secondly, once again being wild and crazy, I'm going a bit out-of-order. I had intended to talk about my game store visits in roughly the order they occurred, starting with the first game store I visited back when I started role-playing in Sandy, Utah when my mom drove me to a place called the Cosmic Aeroplane in Salt Lake City, then talking about the various stores I visited after I moved to California, and along the way mentioning any shops that I could remember while on vacation in other states - I distinctly remember visiting one in Denver in the mid-1980s but I sadly don't remember the name.

However, I recently made a trip to Westchester County in New York for business reasons, and while I was all the way out there, I took an extra day to go to Manhattan to do a little site-seeing. I've been to Manhattan a few times before, so I've seem most of the "big stuff." For this trip, since I was by myself, I planned specifically to go visit one of the old-school grand-daddies of game shops, the semi-mythical Compleat Strategist.

This was back a few weeks ago, on October 16th. I'd had meetings that morning in a place called
Halloween Decorations
in the Window
Tarrytown, and then I took a cab from there into Manhattan to my hotel that I'd specifically picked based on how close it was to the Compleat Strategist (it was a walk just around the corner). It helped that this was a really central area of New York so there was a lot to do in this small area, such as the Empire State Building and the Macy's from the movie "Miracle on 34th Street" which happens to be one of my favorite movies (the original black-and-white version, that is).

I had planned to visit the Compleat Strategist on Thursday, but as the cab slowly made its crawl along the New York freeway, I realized that I'd be getting to my hotel around 4pm and the store didn't close until 6pm, so I could go that very evening after checking-in. I stared out the window into the gray, cloudy October sky and began daydreaming about my old issues of Dragon magazine I'd been given as a gift those long years ago back in Junior High School, and the little black-and-white ads in the back where game stores advertised all of the products they carried. They all seemed to be concentrated in the Midwest and East Coast, but as a little kid growing up in Sandy, Utah, they may as well have been in the Soviet Union (that place still existed back then).

I didn't get to visit my first "real" game store until the early-to-mid 1990s, which was the Last Grenadier in Burbank, and by then, the store was a little past its prime. I've always had this romantic vision of those early game stores, stocked full with games by Games Designers Workshop and Fantasy Games Unlimited and all of the other companies that made games that I'd heard of but never seen because they weren't carried at Gemco or Hammond's Toys.

As the cab got closer to my hotel, I started to get pretty excited. This store, the Compleat Strategist, had been around since the early days of the hobby. What kind of treasures might I find there, tucked under a pile of books long-neglected in a forgotten corner of the store? My mind raced at the possibilities.

The cab finally arrived near my hotel but he overshot it and we were on a one-way street. I threw some money at him, ran back the way he had come to get to my hotel, checked-in quickly and then ran up to my room to change out of my "oppressive monkey suit" as my friend Cal would call it (I actually had to wear a button-down shirt and a sport-coat with my jeans!) into a t-shirt and hoodie, and then I walked over to the Compleat Strategist.

Well, with all of that build-up, you can probably guess how my visit was. I couldn't help but be disappointed, but that's really not the fault of the store. That's partially my fault for having built the Compleat Strategist up in my mind into this perfect end-all, be-all type of retail game location that no store could ever live up to. I'm also pretty spoiled in that I have a very large, and fairly well-stocked game store (with a huge "second-hand" used game section) that's about three blocks from my house.

Some of the store shelves.
The Compleat Strategist is deceptively small from the outside, but they make up for inside by stacking games from floor-to-ceiling, and I mean that literally. Take a look at the photos I snapped - there are games up so high on the wall at ceiling level that you can barely make out what their titles are, and it would take quite a feat of balance to climb up there to pull one down for a customer.

Like most old-school game stores, at first glance there appears to be a pattern of how the games are organized, but as you squeeze through the aisles, you quickly realize that's a mere ruse, and any type of game or accessory could really be found anywhere in the store.

I spied some old-school stickers and advertisements plastering the walls toward the back of the store, which made me smile. There was a pretty large section of old d20 stuff (which is sad when I'm thinking of that as "old" now), lots of Pathfinder and 4E stuff, and other typical games like Warhammer, Iron Kingdoms, a smattering of Savage Worlds and other RPGs. The store seems to focus mainly on strategic board games and some card games, however. I was actually expecting a larger ratio of role-playing games but I suspect these days that board games carry better margins and also probably sell better. With only one other exception besides me (a young woman who said she was from Montana, it might have been Wyoming), everybody else there was focused on board games. A mom came in with her young son to look at some trading cards for some game (I wasn't really listening). The girl from Montana said that every time she finds a game store while she's traveling, she tries to pick up something unique for her gamer friends back home. Last time she'd gotten some distinctive dice. This time she was looking for some miniature figures that were easy to travel with. She spent a lot of time browsing through the old 3.5 stuff.

I did see one section which puts my local store to shame, and that was of non-standard RPGs, with a
Games, Games, as far as
the eye can see.
lot of OSR titles that I've read about in the blogosphere here but never actually seen at retail, such as Lamentations of the Flame Princess and Carcosa. There were also tons of games that I'd never heard of but that looked really cool, some neat Savage Worlds settings including one that took inspiration from the old "Sword & Planet" genre, and whole shelves of Cthulhu-type games and supplements. My local shop doesn't carry any of this kind of stuff - he carries a ton of Pathfinder stuff (which it took him forever to carry) and WotC and some WH40K RPG stuff and that's about it. So, from that standpoint, the Compleat Strategist delivered on that front: stocking stuff that I'd never seen before.

Where the Compleat Strategist fell short of my over-expectations (and again, this isn't a fault of theirs) was in older material. I really expected I might find stack of some old Dragon magazines here that I could pick up to fill in the gaps of my collection, or even some older modules or 1st Edition books (I have most of them but am still missing a few of the later 1E books). I was also hoping to see some 2nd Edition settings or things like the green Historical Reference Guides, which were some of my favorites. It would have been cool to also find some older games by other companies, like the FGU and GDW I mentioned above. Obviously the store has been around long enough that all of those items would have been picked over and purchased a long time ago. I guess I was just hoping against hope that something might still be lingering around somewhere.

In terms of help at the store... well, to be fair, I didn't engage with anyone directly. I just overheard things.

A few favorites involved:

One of the shelves of Cthulhu. I snapped this for my friend,
Sean, who GMs our Friday night came when we often play
through Masks of Nyarlothotep.
Guy at the front desk, answering phone: "Compleat Strategist. 6pm. Yep. Nope. Yep. Bye."

I guess that's not bad, but it was that kind of typical attitude of "Don't call the store while I'm working. You're bothering me."

Another guy toward the front of the store continually screamed for help from someone at the back of the store, because people would ask him about various games, and with one exception, he had no knowledge of any of the games they were selling. Everything went like this:

"HEY! CAN YOU COME OUT HERE AND HELP THIS PERSON? SHE HAS A QUESTION ABOUT [insert name of game]!!!!!"

Now, the guy at the back of the store seemed pretty knowledgeable and helpful, so that was cool. If I had a question, I hope he'd be the one who would help me out.

In the end, I didn't buy anything. I had wanted to pick something up, and I almost bought something "just because" but I ended up talking myself out of it mainly because at this point I just don't need another RPG accessory that's never going to see use in an actual game. I used to buy things just to read, and considered it for the plane trip back, but I'd brought 13th Age with me to read and wasn't even halfway through, so I took a pass.

I also think I've learned my lesson that no game store is going to live up to whatever expectations I've built up in my mind over the years, going back to those heady days when I first started playing D&D and tried to find and devour as many games and modules as I could. It's impossible that any store could match my wishes...

Or, is it? Stay tuned for future entries in my game store series, particularly when I get to my first visit to Aero Hobbies in Santa Monica, CA...


Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: 2010 Holus Bolus Syrah
Listening: "Gone Fishin" by Louis Armstrong & Bing Crosby


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

New Comics Wednesday: Forever Evil (DC)

The Cover of Forever Evil #1
Today is Wednesday, and that means it's New Comic Book Day - the day all of this week's comics hit the store shelves (both physically and digitally). Every comic I feature here on Daddy Rolled a 1 is one that I'l personally be picking up later this evening when I go to my local shop with my daughter after I pick her up from pre-school.

Please note also that every Wednesday, I tweet out which issues I picked up that week, and then over the course of the week I send out individual tweets with 140-character reviews of each issue. You can follow me on Twitter here.

Lastly, if you're really interested in more comic reviews, I do "professional" reviews for the comic book site, ComicAttack where I posted my reviews under the name "Martin." You can search my tag to see what I've reviewed lately.

As with all of my comic book overviews, I will attempt to explain what makes this comic interesting without giving away any spoilers. However, this review does assume that you have read (or don't care about) the DC event called "The Trinity War" which immediately preceded, and led directly into, the comic book I'm going to review below.

This week it was really tough for me to pick just one issue to talk about - I'm getting a lot of cool things today including East of West, God Is Dead (which is not what you think it is based on the title), Green Arrow, Batman/Superman, Batman: Black & White... but I chose for today an issue of a six-issue limited series event for DC, called "Forever Evil," that they've been building toward ever since they started the "New 52" back in September of 2011. That said, you can of course read this series without any prior knowledge of what's happened and you'll be able to follow it just fine. These days if you want or need extra info, you can always use the Google or the Wikipedia to find out more.

___________________________________________________________________________

What's It About?
There's going to be a bit of background here, but hopefully it will help illustrate why I like this particular title in terms of the story.

When the New 52 debuted, there was a character seen lurking somewhere in the background of the first issue of each of the 52 comics that were released. Nobody knew who this character was, but over time it was revealed that her name was Pandora, and she formed one-third of what became referred to as the "Trinity of Sin" along with the Question and the Phantom Stranger. In DC's Free Comic Book Day issue for 2012, they revealed a bit about the origins of these three individuals, and we learned that Pandora was considered one of the original sinners for having taken, and opened, a box that unleashed evil on our world in the form of the Seven Sins. For this crime, she has been cursed to never die and to wander the earth trying to atone for her sin. Pandora has since taken up a mission of trying to figure out how to put the Seven Sins back into the box and seal it away forever, thus removing evil from the world. Her solo comic book title deals with this mission.

With this background, DC then built toward an event called the "Trinity War" which no one was quite sure how to take. "The Trinity" in DC usually refers to Batman - Superman - Wonder Woman, and many thought that somehow these three heroes would come into conflict with each other. However, DC had also established the "Trinity of Sin" as described above, and it seemed that they could also be the focus of the story. There was also another possibility - there are three Justice Leagues, each with different agendas. I've reviewed Justice League Dark before. There's also the "regular" Justice League, populated by the main heroes like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman, and Green Lantern. But there's also a third team, which is a government sponsored group called Justice League of America, comprised of people like Hawkman, Martian Manhunter, Stargirl, Green Arrow, and others, led by government agent Steve Trevor (yeah - the guy who used to date Wonder Woman) and created specifically as a counter to the regular Justice League in case those heroes ever somehow get out of line.

However, one option that was never fully considered for the Trinity War was of that between various Earths. DC had established up until this point that there were two Earths - the "main" one and one called "Earth 2" which was a parallel Earth of other heroes with similar names (aka, "The Flash," "Green Lantern" etc.) as the main Earth, but with different costumes, different aliases, and slightly different powers. Of course it stood to reason that there could be more than just the two Earths...

The end of "Trinity War" showed that this was the case, when a group of super-powered individuals emerged from a gate created by Pandora's box and revealed themselves to be evil doppelgangers of the heroes of the main Earth, but from Earth 3 There are villains like Ultraman, Wonder Woman, Nite Owl, Johnny Quick, and others. They are known as the Crime Syndicate, and have been planning for years to somehow find a way to leave their Earth and come conquer ours.

Forever Evil is the story of what happens on our Earth once the Crime Syndicate gets here and destroys all three Justice Leagues, leaving the Earth without its main super-powered heroes to defend it, and how the remaining super-powered people (minor heroes and super-villains alike, along with non-powered heroes like Steve Trevor and Amanda Waller) have to pick sides and figure out what to do. Should they join with the Crime Syndicate and act as lackeys, taking orders from them and causing havoc and essentially destroying everything that makes our Earth the way it is, or should they band together under the leadership of, say, Lex Luthor, and try to fight back to reclaim our Earth from the yolk of the Crime Syndicate?


Who Are the Creative Team?
Geoff Johns is the writer of the main storyline, and he's doing a spectacular job with this. DC has had a few other events for the New 52, but they were relatively minor affairs usually contained to just a handful of titles ("Throne of Atlantis" for Aquaman and Justice League, or "Night of the Owls" and "Death of the Family" for the Batman titles, for example) but this is their first true event that affects the entire DC universe, and the multiple Earth angle really gives this an old "Silver Age" vibe that I'm really digging. Johns always does a great job writing engaging storylines that put everything on the line and really make you believe that things are really, really bad. He also is a master of characterization, especially when dealing with evil character. Forever Evil is right in his wheelhouse, with surprises around every corner, tips-of-the-hat to old-school comics from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and great intrigue and in-fighting between the characters. It's really interesting to see Lex Luthor's reaction to everything and how and why he makes the decisions that he does regarding the Crime Syndicate.

Pencils are provided by David Finch, an artist who has previously been know for his work at Marvel, on a variety of titles including the Avengers (and later the New Avengers), Ultimate X-Men and Moon Knight, before coming to DC in 2010 where he's done work on Batman: The Dark Knight and the new Justice League of America. Finch is a detail-oriented artist, and he's a great match for the darkness of this story by Johns. His pencil work on this is among the strongest he's done for DC.


Who Will Like It?
This is a fun, but dark, event that should appeal to people who like to read about the motivations behind villains. In particular, the main storyline looks to be building toward a confrontation between groups of villains and what motivates them - the villains of Earth 3, the Crime Syndicate, fighting out of greed and hungry for power, versus the super-villains of the main Earth, who are either going along with the Crime Syndicate or perhaps preparing to counter-attack to save their Earth from destruction. I like these types of "shades of grey" where you can see a character in a different light from their normal portrayal and see how they have to change their philosophical outlook based on the circumstances.

Also, the references to the multiple Earths is a real treat for people who like the old-school Silver Age stories about parallel Earths and seeing different versions of their favorite characters. 

Lastly, there are a bunch of really cool tie-in stories that you don't have to read to follow the main story, but which are fun and engaging and add to the overall experience. One focuses on an "Arkham War" as Bane takes over and prepares to use the inmates of Arkham to destroy Gotham City, and also fight against the inmates of Blackgate Prison, another super high-security prison in the DC Universe. Then there's "Rogues Rebellion" which involves my favorite DC Villains - Flash's "Rogues Gallery" (Captain Cold, Weather Wizard, Mirror Master, and more) as they return to their home of Central City and have to figure out what to do now that the Crime Syndicate is asking for them to fall in line and destroy their home. The last one is "A.R.G.U.S." which stands for "Advanced Research Group United Superhumans" which is a government-sponsored group led by Amanda Waller and main field agent Steve Trevor. These are basically non-powered good-guys (kind of like Marvel's "S.H.I.E.L.D.").

Other individual titles are also tying into the main story, including Teen Titans, Suicide Squad, Constantine, and Pandora.

Any Good Ideas For My Role-Playing Game?
This series provides great idea fodder for running an "evil" game, even just as a one-shot or a short mini-campaign. Oftentimes, villains in comic books (and role-playing games) can be a bit one-dimensional, but the Forever Evil storyline showcases a unique look of villain against villain, and also what happens to the so-called "good" people who are left behind once the main heroes of the world are gone.


Is It Good for Kids? 
Not at all. This is a scary storyline that deals with disappearance of the various Justice League heroes (they are presumed dead at the beginning of this story, but I wouldn't call that a spoiler because this is DC and we know they're not going to permanently kill off Superman, for example), and also shows what the super-villains who are left on Earth do given free-reign. There are lots of killings, robberies, and other dark, twisted stuff that you wouldn't want your young ones exposed to. The comic carries a rating of "T" for Teen.

FOREVER EVIL
  • Format: Monthly 32-page full-color limited series (6 issues)
  • Where To Buy: As always, try to buy it at your local comic shop. You can find one by visiting the Comic Shop Locator. If you don't have one, try a bookstore, or you can buy the digital version to read on your PC, tablet, or smartphone by going to Comixology. That link takes you to the page to buy issue #3, which came out today, but you should start with issue #1 if you want to read the series. You'll find links on the page. 
  • Price: $3.99 per issue. 
  • Rated: Teen
  • More Information: The official DC Comics page for Forever Evil.


Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Black coffee
Listening: "Freeway" by Chet Baker

Monday, November 4, 2013

Victorian Era Monday: Steam Wars

Shocktrooper
Image ©2013 Sillof
As you may recall, back in January of this year, I decided to devote Mondays to blogging about pulp-noir: games, comics, TV shows, movies, and books with a 1930s pulp theme that can be used as inspirations for your games. In that first post, I talked about why I love that era so much, and how I often gravitate toward media in any form that uses the era as inspiration.

In an effort to expand a bit on some other influences that I enjoy, I'm going to open up Mondays to bit to also focus on material from other eras, including the Victorian era which is the subject of today's post. I really like the Victorian era (or you could call it the Industrial era) based in part on some of the early books I read by H.G. Wells and also the horror stories of Poe, Dracula by Braham Stoker, Shelley's Frankenstein... that era is one that fascinates me because on the one hand you have the advancement of logic and scientific reason over superstition, and on the other hand you have the fear of that science and what it means for mankind creating all of these crazy twisted horror stories. That superstition that we try to hard to shed is still lurking pretty prominently in the background. And, although you've got things like gunpowder, steam trains, and maybe telegraphs, life wasn't all that unlike it was a hundred or two hundred years prior, making it not far removed from the typical fantasy era in which a lot of role-playing games take place.

Since I began playing D&D, I've always liked the idea of "advancing the timeline" so to speak - the
Sir Benedict Kellion
Image ©2013 Sillof
idea of playing a D&D game that does involve some of the technological trappings of latter society but which is not fully "modern." The Victorian Era fits the bill for that type of thing.

My last Pulp Noir Monday post was on a series of customized action figures created by artist Sillof based off of a Star Wars theme that he called "Noir Wars." I thought it only fitting to show you yet another example of Sillof's artistry with a figure collection he calls "Steam Wars."

As a quick aside, you may be wondering a few things, so I'll try to answer them briefly:
  • Why are you showing pictures of action figures as an inspiration for role-playing games? Well, as I've mentioned before, inspiration can come from a variety of places. I also think it's interesting to break down the basic elements of a story, especially a well-known one such as Star Wars, and think about how it could be implemented in a different setting. 
  • I only play fantasy-themed RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons. How is this useful to me? See above... just because you're playing a fantasy game with elves and magic doesn't mean that you can't grab some inspiration from another source. Both the pulp era and the Victorian era are full of great examples and inspirations that can easily be tweaked for a fantasy setting. For an extreme example, there's the Iron Kingdoms setting, which bills itself as "Full Metal Fantasy." It's an excellent example of how to integrate some clockwork type creations, like their Steam Jacks, into a "standard" fantasy setting without turning it into the Steampunk genre. 
  • I'm looking for rules on how I can continually tweak an OD&D Cleric so it's "just so" or a post about whether we should have thieves in D&D. Sorry, you've got the wrong blog. I read those posts by other bloggers, too, and I sometimes enjoy them, but I'm really more about ideas and settings than I am about rules. I figure you can handle the rules on your own. If I had to boil it down, I guess I'd say that one of the main focuses of my blog is showing where my gaming inspirations come from and ideally helping give you ideas on how you can look for inspirations from a variety of non-traditional sources and incorporate them into your role-playing games.
Ignatius. Sillof does
all the Bounty Hunters.
Image ©2013 Sillof
With that out of the way... let's get on with it.

What Is It?
In the same vein as the Noir Wars figure series linked-to above, this is another set of beautifully detailed customized action figures based on the Star Wars movies (specifically, the real Star Wars movies from the late 1970s and early 1980s), taking all of the characters we know really well but imagining them in a different setting. In this case, we're treated to a glimpse at Luke, Han, Leia, and the rest as Victorian-era characters with a steampunk edge to them.

The creator, Sillof, mentions that his inspiration for this line came from Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Terry Gilliam, and Guillermo Del Toro, as well as as few others. These inspirations clearly come through in the resulting figures, and it's not hard to start creating your own stories in your head as you see the figures and think about how they would interact with each other.

Any Good Ideas Here for my Role-Playing Games?
Of course there are. If you take nothing else away from seeing these figures, you'd at the very least be able to look at them and then start wondering, "How could I make an archetype like this Star Wars character in my favorite non-space opera RPG?"

Of course, that's just the very bare bones of an idea. The really cool thing that I'm always inspired by when looking at Sillof's transformation of Star Wars is thinking how to adapt the characters to the setting. That is, you've got the very basic archetypes of Stars Wars (the farm boy, the pirate, the princess, the wizard/old man) but in each type of setting, they behave differently based on the "rules" (that is, the environment and the physical rules of the world) of the setting. It's fun to think about dropping a force-sensitive Luke Skywalker or Ben Kenobi type into a magic-based setting, but what about a straight-up Victorian setting with no magic? How would those characters behave in relation to non-force characters like Han Solo? What about C3PO and R2D2?

Unlike the Noir Wars characters, Sillof doesn't provide any little hooks here behind the characters, so you're on your own to figure out their motivations and how to ground them properly into the setting, but we're all creative types here so that shouldn't be a problem.

Who Will Like It?
As I said in my last post on Sillof's figures, "If you can't appreciate the artistry of these figures or look at them and think of ways that you'd want to use these characters in your games, I don't know how to help you..."

This is a combination of spectacularly artistry in terms of the physical product of the figures themselves combined with the imagination that went into creating the setting and figuring out how to change the costumes of the characters appropriately while keeping them recognizable. Plus you've got the added bonus of then taking Sillof's ideas and figuring out how to reinterpret them to fit your game world.

Is It Good For Kids?
Admiral Augustus
Image ©2013 Sillof
Your kids will love seeing their favorite characters re-imagined as Victorian era steampunk heroes and villains.

One thing Sillof does in this particular series that I really enjoyed was that he went deep with the characters.Many of his Star Wars series just focus on the main characters - Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, the Droids, Darth Vader, the Stormtroopers, and of course fan-favorite Boba Fett. However, in this series, he also did designs for all of the bounty hunters from Empire Strikes Back, an Ewok, Yoda, Lando Calrissian, a Snow Trooper, TIE Fighter Pilot, the Emperor, the Emperor's Royal Guard, that little rat-monkey guy that hangs around Jabba the Hutt (Salacious Crumb), Jabba himself and his major-domo (Bib Fortuna), and probably my personal favorite, Admiral Ackbar ("It's a trap!").

Again, as with the Noir Wars, and most of Sillof's figures, these aren't for sale, so you won't be buying these to put under the tree at Christmas for your kids. But, you can still enjoy the pictures with your kids, and a fun activity might be to create a collaborative story with your kids where you re-tell the Star Wars story in a Victorian setting like London using these characters.

Click here to see the entire collection of figures on Sillof's site. 

Hanging: home office (laptop)
Drinking: Just tap water today
Listening: "Milestones" by Miles Davis

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Review: The First Kingdom Volume I: The Birth of Tundran

As most of you know, in addition to writing my own posts and reviews here at Daddy Rolled a 1, I also write comic reviews for ComicAttack.net. About a week ago they published my review of an old underground comic from the mid 1970s called The First Kingdom, which has recently been released in a really well-done hard-cover trade format by Titan Comics (who also very kindly provided me with a free review copy).

This comic will be of interest to any of my readers who like the post-apocalyptic genre, as that's the setting for the story. We get a small glimpse of pre-cataclysm Earth in the first few pages with fighter jets and bombs, and then are whisked away on a centuries-spanning history as civilization descends into prehistoric levels, and bringing us up to the time period in which the story takes place. It's a world of barbarians fighting for survival against gigantic mutant beasts, constant fear of starvation, and marauding neighboring tribes. There's also a really interesting element of godlike characters living in palaces up in the sky and who observe but rarely interact with the tribes of Earth, not unlike the legends of the Greek gods of old.

If you're interested in post-apocalyptic settings, the history of underground comics, or the philosophical ideas of the human imperative of migration, then you'll want to check out The First Kingdom. The first part of my review is below.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Jack Katz’s The First Kingdom is an intense work that deserves, or really demands, concentration and devotion from the reader. This isn’t a book to be read as a quick break from the stresses of daily life, nor one that can be skimmed, set down, and come back to over the course of several readings.

Those are meant to be positives for Katz’s work, but make no mistake: Katz’s story is dense, in more ways than one. The pages are absolutely jam-packed with art and story, and every single panel contains levels of artistic detail...

Read the entire review over at ComicAttack.net, here

Friday, November 1, 2013

Important Message on Men's Health

Me, my Freshly Shaven Mug as of 11/1,
and my new Star Wars T-Shirt.
Yes, once again I will be participating in this year's Movember event, just like last year.

In case you're not aware, Movember is an annual event where participants agree to grow a mustache (only, no beards or goatees or soul-patches or anything else allowed) every day for the entire month of November, and along the way gather donations from friends as encouragement. 100% of those donations go toward organizations that support men's health issues, with a particular focus on prostrate and testicular cancer. You can read more about Movember here.

So, once again, I'm asking my followers to firstly get educated on raising awareness of men's health issues.

Secondly, I'd really appreciate any donations you'd like to give my way. My donation page is located at mobro.co/martinrthomas.

Thirdly, why not join a team yourself, or start one of your own? It's not too late to start (unless you're one of my followers over there in the "Old World" but I guess you could try to sneak in a day late).

And, lastly, this might be a good time to make an appointment with your doctor for a check-up.:)

Check out my post about Movember from last year to see how hideously bad I am at growing a mustache - I got a lot of "pity donations" from friends who felt bad that I had to walk around a whole month with what amounted to a sickly caterpillar above my lip. But, any donation helps!
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