Wednesday, April 9, 2014

New Comics Wednesday: A Bunch of Great Reviews

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'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.

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 post 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. 

For today, rather than focusing on one specific comic, I'm going to link to a series of recent reviews I've done over at ComicAttack. However, in my set-up below I'm going to give you a few short sentences on how each of this comics can provide some great inspirations for your role-playing games, and not just Supers RPGs, either.

Action Comics (DC)
Action Comics features Superman, and I know that many people out there don't like Superman. They think he's boring because he's so powerful and little to nothing can hurt him. The thing is, that kind of character can be challenge for a writer and it's one of the primary reasons I like this comic right now - a new creative team started about five issues ago, and it's been fantastic. Greg Pak (the writer) knows how to capture a Silver Age sensibility without being silly or campy, while at the same time dealing with modern issues. His characterization of Lana Lang is one of the best I've seen in the history of the comic.
Ideas for your Role-Playing Games: The previous arc dealt with Superman and Lana Lang visiting an underground empire and all of the creatures that live there as well as the ruling monarch and her warlord champion. They are a matriarchal society, so you can just imagine what they think when they see Lana and Superman. There are tons of great ideas here for fleshing out an underground campaign and foreign/alien societies in general.

I've reviewed two issues of this comic so far. Here's the introduction to my review of issue #29:
Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder have been getting a lot of praise and positive attention for their run on Action Comics, which began with issue #25. Action Comics #29, which closes out their first story arc, shows why that praise has been well deserved.
The cover is of course the first thing we see, and it draws us in immediately. Last month’s cover for Action #28 showed an iconic pose of Superman, busting out of the center of the page and flying through the Action Comics logo. In the case of Action #29, we see a very different Superman, and one that we don’t see very often, if at all. This Superman is bleeding. Very badly. His eyes are glowing red. He is angry. And yet while clutching his torso...
 The rest of the review is here, and you can also read a review of issue #30 here.

Green Arrow (DC)
Yes, this is the guy who (formerly) dresses like Robin Hood and shoots trick arrows at bad guys. He pre-dates Hawkeye from Marvel Comics by several decades. And his comic right now is one of the best in the business. (And, oddly, the Hawkeye comic is also really well done - who would have thought that the two archer books from competing companies would be getting such critical praise at the same time?) The title started to get really good with issue #17, which is when the creative team of Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino took over. I can't say enough about how awesome the art is in this book. You've really got to see it. From a gaming standpoint, you'll also love the story.
Ideas for your Role-Playing Games: In this run on Green Arrow, the creative team have developed the concept of the "Outsider Clans" - the Arrow Clan, Sword Clan, Spear Clan, Shield Clan, etc. These are ancient societies devoted to martial arts styles based on their totem weapon.  In each clan, there's an artifact weapon that imbues its possessor with the authority to lead the clan. The clans fight against each other, but in the current storyline, someone is trying to unite a few of the clans to take down some of the others. Green Arrow belongs to the Arrow Clan, of course, but there's a really rich backstory and history behind the clans, as well as on how Oliver Queen (Green Arrow) was stranded on an island and honed his archery skills while stuck there, and many other events that are ripe for being plucked for use an RPG, which could be fantasy, supers, or even a spy type game.

I've also reviewed this book twice. Here's the introduction to my review of issue #29:

When I began collecting DC’s New 52 titles about two years ago, I had no intention of, or interest in, reading about a Batman knock-off who shoots ridiculous boxing glove arrows. Things stayed that way for the first sixteen issues of the title as I continued to read reviews of how bad the book was. Then way back on issue #17, Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino took over the creative duties on this book, and turned a comic that I could’ve cared less about into one of my favorite titles in the New 52.
Yes, it’s really that good, and no one is more shocked than I am that I’m reading this book and that it’s kept on my pull-list while other DC books have fallen by the wayside. The combination of Lemire’s story and character development with Sorrentino’s art has struck the perfect chord and created one of the premiere story arcs...
 My review of the following issue, #30, is here.

Superman/Wonder Woman (DC)
Those of you who don't follow comics regularly might think this team-up title a little odd, but currently in the "New 52" DC Universe, Superman is not with Lois Lane but instead has started dating Wonder Woman. Don't let that scare you - this isn't a "romance" comic. In this current version of the DC Universe, Wonder Woman is much more of a warrior than some of her previous depictions in comics, and Superman is still a little green to the whole superhero thing. So, in this comic we get an interesting dynamic of Wonder Woman training Superman to be a better fighter, while in other circumstances, he worries about protecting her from harm, because he's Superman and has to act like a chivalrous gentleman. It's really fun but also a great story with very strong art.
Ideas for Your Role-Playing Games: Given Wonder Woman's ties to the Greek pantheon of gods, it's no surprise that those deities show up in this book, and there are some really great scenes with her and Superman having to deal with gods like Apollo and ask for help. There's some great architectural designs in these scenes that can be snagged for an RPG, and there's also just the concept of how to interact with immortal gods, which can and often does happen in fantasy RPGs of high level. It's also just a great story about the interactions between two super powerful characters who also happen to like each other a whole lot and what that means to the rest of the world.

Here's the opening section to my review of issue #6:

Superman and Wonder Woman are two somewhat difficult characters to really understand. Sure, they each have an iconic look, and Tony S. Daniel along with the inking team of Matt Banning and Sandu Florea go above and beyond to make this a good looking book. But to really get behind the curtain to understand what it’s like to be an alien, or an Amazon Princess…that takes something special. Batman’s motivation for vengeance is clear and easy to identify with, and even Green Lantern takes the concept of wish fulfillment to its full extent by granting Hal Jordan (or any of the other Lanterns) with a ring that creates anything they want. Both of those are easy concepts to grasp.
For this reason, in my history of comics collecting...

The Wake (Vertigo)
This has been one of the surprise hits for me starting in 2013 and continuing on through its 10-issue limited run this year (as of this writing, there are three issues left).  One of my favorite things about it is that halfway through the story, the concept and the timeline just completely changed. The first half of the story was basically "Aliens" in a Cthulhu-inspired underwater setting. That's simplifying things quite a bit, but hopefully conveys a strong image to you of what the story is like. In that first part of the story, we discover that there's "something out there" and it's not happy, but the main characters are all scientific researchers who get trapped on their underwater research station, and the sense of claustrophobia and terror is so well done. The second half of the story jumps about 200 years in the future and deals with a society living with the repercussions of what happened after the first half of the story finished. It's a sort of nautical post-apocalyptic science-fiction horror mystery story. And it's fantastic.
Ideas for your Role-Playing Games: This things is chock full of Cthulhuesque undersea fish-men, crazy science research stations, futuristic post-apocalyptic alliances with new political entities that are built on the ruins of the past, future tech, shady government agents, and more. There's just so much cool world-building in this book that you can get plenty of stuff for more than one campaign out of here. If you can't find anything in here to use, then you're not trying.

This is a 10-issue limited series, and I've reviewed issues #6 and #7. The opening few lines from issue #6 are here:

The Wake #6 begins “Part 2” of the 10-issue mini-series by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy. Last year, in the first issue, we were treated to a small glimpse of a watery-filled future, before going back in time for the first five issues to illustrate how the future came to be.
In those first five issues, The Wake served as a horror story, deftly illustrating the claustrophobic nature of being trapped at the bottom of the ocean, and exploring mankind’s fears of the unknown through the use of some pseudo-Cthulhuoid creatures. That deep sea horror story hit the right notes on every level, scaring the reader but also teasing at what was to come. How long have those creatures been living down in the depths of the ocean, and what is going to happen once they decide to take their revenge...
 In addition to those four titles, here are a few other reviews I've recently written:

  • Superman Unchained #6 (DC): This was highly anticipated series by Batman scribe Scott Snyder and superstar artist (and DC co-publisher) Jim Lee. Unfortunately it wasn't as strong as everyone had hoped, and it's been plagued by delays between issues. It was recently announced that the series would be canceled with issue #7.
  • Loki: Ragnarok & Roll #1 (Boom! Studios): This was a very fun comic from a smaller independent publisher. This isn't the Marvel version of Loki, but instead a fun look at what Loki would do if sent to earth to live as a human as punishment by his father, Odin. He becomes the lead singer of a rock-and-roll band. Because of course he does. 
  • Tall Tales from the Badlands #3 (Black Jack Press): This is a digital comic available on DriveThruComics. The publisher typically does straight-up Western stories, but this issue was a bit different. It's an anthology featuring a bunch of short stories, all with a "weird west" theme, so we get zombie-like guys and a bunch of other horror and supernatural themes intermixed with the standard Western ones. Think of it as the old Deadlands RPG in comic book form. 
  • Batman / Superman #1 (Titan Comics): This one's for all my friends across the pond over there in England. This is licensed reprint of two different stories featuring Batman and Superman together. It features the first few issues of the current Batman/Superman comic book, with a story by Greg Pak (the same guy who writes Action Comics, mentioned above) and art by Jae Lee who is just incredible. The story story includes the first few issues of the Injustice: Gods Among Us tie-in comic to the video game. I can safely say that I've never read a video-game based comic before, and I also don't play the video game associated with this comic. And yet, this is one of the creepiest portrayals of Joker I've ever read or seen in any medium, and the creative team have created a really fascinating universe involving what terrible tragedy could happen that's so bad it could make a character like Superman turn into a powerful dictator with a chip on his shoulder who turns against his friends. Exploring "what if?" scenarios like this are always fun to me. 
I hope you enjoy these reviews, and also that you're able to get some ideas from them to incorporate into your RPGs. Please comment below and let me know. Thanks!

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking:  Stone Go-To Session IPA
Listening: "Love Removal Machine - Manor Sessions Version" by the Cult

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Tabletop Day Is Here

Just a quick note to remind everybody that today is Tabletop Day! Sadly, this year, I won't be able to attend the live event, although I was kindly invited by the folks over there to be a guest again this year. So, that means you won't get to see me beating the pants off my friends Wil and Cal and Wil's guests game designer Chris Pramas from Green Ronin and actor Rich Sommer from Mad Men. I kid, sort of (because, seriously, I CRUSHED it, although to be fair when you watch the video you will see my friend Cal and me chatting and it's because I was saying things like, "I think I should do this..." and he would respond with "Yeah you'd be crazy not to"). You can watch the video from last year's event here. Seven Wonders starts at 1:27:28 in.

What is Tabletop Day? Well, it's pretty simple, really. It's spun out of Wil Wheaton's popular YouTube show, Tabletop, wherein Wil gets together with celebrity friends of his (actors, writers, producers, game designers, etc.) and they all play a game on camera while talking about the various projects they're all working on and also explaining the mechanics of the game and what makes it fun. Tabletop Day is a worldwide event hosted by the folks at Tabletop to encourage friends to get together today and play games. You can read more about it here.

While Tabletop the show does focus on strategic board games, they have featured role-playing games before as well, notably the Dragon Age game by Green Ronin Press. As such, there a lot of deals to be had in conjunction with Tabletop Day, such as this free bundle of PDFs from DriveThruRPG, valued at over $70!

However, more important than getting free product is actually getting together with your buddies or heading down to a local game store and playing some games today. My wife kindly acquired tickets to take my dad, my my daughter, and me to the Dodger Game today (Go Blue!), which is why I couldn't attend the big Tabletop event here in Los Angeles, but as soon as I get home, I'll be playing some fun games with the family. I'm thinking it may be time to introduce my four year-old daughter to Kings of Tokyo.

Happy gaming to all of you - I'd love it if you leave a comment to let me know what games you ended up playing today.

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Black coffee
Listening: "Acknowledgement" by the John Coltrane Quartet

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Exciting News: One Page Dungeon Contest

Many of you most likely already know this either from following RPG-related news in general or from having seen my tweets, Facebook updates, and Google + posts on the subject, but I have been asked to be a judge for this year's One Page Dungeon contest by all around Cool Cat, Mundi King (aka "Random Wizard", who is in charge of running the contest).

I honestly was very deeply honored by the request, as I started my blog a few years ago really just to practice my writing and share some thoughts of an old-school gamer who still actively games but doesn't hate some of the newer systems as much as other people my age, even though I do greatly enjoy the older editions of the game. I never dreamed of my blog turning into a repository for inspirational ideas that, in addition to RPGs, covered all aspects of so-called "geek culture" including TV, movies, books, and comics, the latter of which led to a second job as a journalist for the comic review site Comic Attack.

In any event, when Random Wizard (RW) asked me to be a judge, I was excited and a bit taken aback. After I accepted, he sent me a short note wherein he mentioned that the other judges included Ernie Gygax, Steve Winter, and "Brendan S." of the blog Necropraxis. He mentioned this in a sort of off-the-cuff way that you'd say something like "your cold cereal is ready for you to eat." Good old RW moves in some powerful circles, so chatting with these guys must just be par for the course for him. For me, after getting back up into my chair after having fallen out of it and hitting my head upon reading who the other judges were, I began to second-guess whether I should really be judging. Sure, I've been playing RPGs for a long time, and I am currently reviewing all sorts of things from comics and graphic novels to consumer products with a comic/"geek" theme. I've also spent a fair amount of time writing RPG reviews, including a nifty adventure designed by RW himself. But... well, Ernie was there at the very beginning, and I can clearly recall reading articles by Steve Winter published in Dragon magazine as well as tons of his other published RPG stuff. And Sean K. Reynolds, one of the principal designers of 3rd Edition D&D (which is the edition that got me back into regular playing after a drought during most of 2E), has also come on board as an additional judge. These guys are legends. I'm just a guy with a blog who likes this stuff as a fan.

Nevertheless, I will of course be one of the judges for this year's contest and to say I'm looking forward to it is an understatement. Yes, it's all "virtual" so sadly I can't sit around a table with these gents and have a pint or two, but it's still an honor to be included in their company. [And I will most likely be partaking of a pint or two to toast the folks in spirit during or after the judging.]

So, what do you need to know?

  • What is it? The name says it all - design a "dungeon" (the use of this term is a bit vague; past winners have included taverns and other structures) that fits on a single sheet of standard-size paper. The contest has been around since 2009.
  • The contest deadline is April 30th. You can read about the details on the One Page Dungeon site.
  • What can you win? Check out the list of cool prizes that have been donated by some of the best names in the industry.
  • Who are the other judges? Here's the list with shorts bios and links for Ernie Gygax, Steve Winter, Brendan S. of Necropraxis, Sean K. Reynolds, Daniel R. Collins of Delta's D&D Hotspot blog, and me.
  • Stuck for ideas or just need some tips? Random Wizard wrote a really helpful piece entitled "Judging Creativity" wherein he shows examples of past winners but also notes that he has not given the six judges any specific "criteria" by which to judge the adventures we receive. It's an interesting piece which you should definitely check out.

I tip my hat to Random Wizard, for I know from experience that organizing and managing something like this is a ton of work, but he's really gone above and beyond by getting some true legends of the RPG community as judges, as well as some sweet prizes for the winners.

So start working on those ideas, check out the links above, and good luck!

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking:  A Pisco Sour at lunch at a Peruvian restaurant, which was quite refreshing
Listening: "East of the Sun (And West of the Moon) - Live" by Diana Krall

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