Tuesday, September 22, 2020
Monday, September 21, 2020
Friday, September 18, 2020
Thursday, September 17, 2020
Six (!) years ago I drew a hypothetical female Avengers team. It was okay.
Earlier this month, this appeared on Twitter:
So I drew this:
It's not an Avengers team as such, although I'm so out of touch with Marvel continuity these days that it's possible Black Cat and Motormouth have made it on to the team at some point.
Thursday, August 27, 2020
More video content! More video content that I did not create!
The people at Fantastic Dimensions have had another go at playing The Seed!
The first attempt can be seen here.
They have also played 2018's April Fool adventure Fish F**kers, and you can see that video here. I haven't embedded the video because the uncensored title is in the preview image and I'm making a half-hearted attempt to keep this blog PG.
Monday, August 17, 2020
I promised actual content. This is not that content. Or maybe it is, but it's not my content. Or maybe it is.
Here's a video of some people playing my new rpg adventure The Seed. There are some spoilers, but not many, because they don't get far.
Which is itself a spoiler. Damn.
Monday, August 10, 2020
This seems to happen an awful lot. The blog goes silent for a while, then I pop up to try and sell you things. Proper content soon, I promise.
The Seed is a new adventure from Games Omnivorous that is intended to be broadly compatible with most game systems. I did the pictures and the words, but the amazing neon pink design was all them. I'm very proud of this one. You can get it in print or pdf.
Barbarians of the Ruined Earth is the long-awaited -- by me, anyway! -- post-apocalyptic role-playing game from DIY RPG Productions. I did a few maps and pictures for this book and I had a lot of fun working on it. You can get it here or here; the books have different covers but the same contents.
If you buy some of these books, I can perhaps afford to get my table re-varnished.
Wednesday, June 03, 2020
Oops. Sorry for the wait, everyone.
(Yes, it's an homage to the Star Wars poster. There are five other deliberate Easter eggs in the picture to find!)
The files will now go off for printing and I'm not sure how long that will take given current world events, but I will post when the book is available.
Monday, May 18, 2020
Roll 1d100 to determine your character's favourite foodstuff. Maybe eating it improves their morale, or if eaten during a rest your character gets extra healing. Dunno. I leave that up to you.
|01||Vegetable lasagne||51||Sausage sandwich|
|02||Banoffee pie||52||Coffee ice cream|
|03||Bean burrito||53||Aubergine parmigiana|
|04||Bangers and mash||54||Three bean chilli|
|05||Egg fried rice||55||Heuvos rancheros|
|06||Aubergine katsu curry||56||Hot wings|
|08||A nice cup of tea||58||Banana bread|
|11||Pineapple and jalapeño pizza||61||Cola|
|12||Apple crumble||62||Weird elf bread|
|13||Sunday roast||63||Full English|
|14||Big bag of Monster Munch||64||Cottage pie|
|15||Cheese and pickle sandwich||65||Calamari rings|
|16||Tomato soup||66||Pot noodle|
|17||Chocolate sponge cake||67||Toasted cheese sandwich|
|18||Barbecue ribs||68||Four cheese pizza|
|19||Falafel||69||Steak and ale pie|
|20||Eggs Benedict||70||Fish and chips|
|21||Nachos||71||Yasai yaki soba|
|22||Sticky toffee pudding||72||Banana sandwich|
|23||Pasta and tomato sauce||73||Cheesy potato skins|
|25||Beans on toast||75||BLT|
|26||Fish finger sandwich||76||Meatloaf|
|28||Steak and chips||78||Clam chowder|
|29||Scones with jam and clotted cream||79||Vanilla milkshake|
|30||Bunny chow||80||Tuna sandwich|
|31||PB&J||81||A strong coffee|
|32||Cookie dough||82||Carrot and coriander soup|
|34||Barbecue chicken pizza||84||Lasagne|
|35||Roast pork and apple sandwich||85||Plain toast|
|36||Pad Thai||86||Prune juice|
|37||Onion rings||87||Chicken soup|
|39||Dark chocolate digestive biscuits||89||Doner kebab|
|40||Weak lemon drink||90||Corn bread|
|42||Beef stew||92||Potato salad|
|43||Rocket and tomato salad||93||Human|
|44||Mozzarella sticks||94||Avocado maki|
|45||Tea, Earl Grey, hot||95||Pumpkin risotto|
|47||Cheese on toast||97||Welsh cakes|
|49||Roasted peanuts||99||Curly fries|
|50||Carrot sticks||00||Cornish pasty|
Thursday, May 14, 2020
(I discovered that it's from a 2015 Age of Sigmar book and I can't tell you who the artist is because in 2015 Games Workshop wasn't big on giving credit to individual staff members.)
What struck me about the picture was how different it is to the standard GW house style, which tends to be more painterly. Actual drawings have very much gone out of fashion in Nottingham, so I was surprised but happy to see eight pages of this at the beginning of the book.
Alas, it's presented as a flashback and the final page blends from this style into your bog-standard GW painting, so there's a sense that it's literally "only a dream", but it's still nice to see a different style of art appear in a modern GW product. Maybe there are more that I have missed.
Wednesday, May 13, 2020
(Be warned, I am now about to miss about 98% of the point of Patrick's post.)
That got me thinking about how food is used in role-playing games, or rather how it isn't. Meals and rations appear on equipment lists and you may have one of those GMs that pays attention to whether the player-characters are eating enough, but for the most part it's either a background element or a nuisance, a "starvation counter" that needs to be managed along with how many arrows or torches you have.
It seems a bit of a waste and it would be nice if more were made of food in games, as Patrick suggests.
(It's interesting that what fantasy games have taken from Lord of the Rings is the long walks but not the many, many pages of discussion of what the characters are eating and how it tastes. That's a bit weird.)
I've always been fond of how food is used in Fighting Fantasy, perhaps because I grew up reading-playing the books. There food is presented as a source of healing; if you are stabbed by a GOBLIN then you get better by eating sandwiches. It's an abstraction to the point of nonsense but the silliness is part of the charm. I love the idea of a battered group of adventurers having a picnic and emerging healed of their wounds.
A recent and more complex implementation of the idea is Final Fantasy XV, which makes food the most important part of the resting mechanic, and gestures in the vague direction of the social elements Patrick is talking about. Ignis, the party butler -- they never say it, but he's obviously the butler -- cooks a meal for the adventurers every time they rest. Most of his dishes give some sort of bonus to character statistics and if the recipe is a favourite of one of the other party members, there's an added effect for that character. Travelling the world and speaking to people exposes Ignis to new ingredients and tastes that he can add to his notebook, which is a nice way to integrate the characters into the setting and reward exploration.
Almost all of the bonuses are combat related, because that's the sort of game FFXV is, so it doesn't get into the sort of thing Patrick discusses, but the fact that different characters have different favourites is a nice touch -- and one easy to pull into your average D&D game; a d100 table of favourite meals is easy enough to do -- and we are at least treated to a little cut scene each time, with the lads sitting around a camp fire in those flimsy folding fishing chairs, enjoying the meal and each other's company. It's a start, anyway.
Where am I going with all this? I don't know. Perhaps nowhere. I think all I wanted to say is that because of how I started in gaming I have this feeling that food should be more prominent in our games, even if it's just replacing healing potions with meatball subs and packs of Monster Munch, but it would be nice to do something more.
Wednesday, May 06, 2020
Thursday, April 30, 2020
Stuart cited a rules concept from the Burning Wheel role-playing game in which each character has a handful of these standard operating procedures, and that got me thinking.
Some have argued that Read Magic should either be dropped from the game or assumed to be a "free" spell that requires no resources to be expended; in essence, the ability to read magic is built in to every wizard because it's integral to the functioning of the class. Based on that, it makes sense that if wizards are known to be such fragile things then Mage Armour would also be something every one of them is taught as a basic skill.
This goes further than Stuart's request for his wizard; it's not just a SOP for one character, but a feature for the entire class. Yes, it feels a bit strange for the softest class in the game to change and become, by default, tough as old boots, but it makes sense.
(I thought 13th Age did this, because it's the sort of thing 13th Age does, but to my surprise it's not in there. 13th Age wizards can choose an ability that gives them the equivalent of Mage Armour as an additional, automatic, effect when casting other spells, but it's not quite the same.)
It's the sort of thing that would upset D&D purists but I like it.
Monday, April 20, 2020
Sunday, April 19, 2020
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Overlooked at the time of publication in part because everyone was gushing over the contemporaneous We3, I suspect Vimanarama was also a bit too niche and weird for mainstream -- largely American -- comic audiences. A British-Pakistani protagonist? Ancient Sanskrit epics reskinned as Kirbyesque adventures? Flip-flopping between kitchen-sink comedy-drama and apocalyptic battles? It was probably all a bit too difficult for some to parse back in 2005.
I love it. It feels a bit like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, with an ordinary British family -- and nothing seems more ordinary and British than the Pakistani family running the corner shop -- thrust into a genre for which they are not prepared, their personal anxieties and preoccupations clashing with the serious business of magic supermen battling in the skies. Which is, of course, not serious at all, because it's all very silly in comparison to real life. Which is sort of the point. Anyway.
It's also funny, but in an understated, laid back way. There are a couple of jokes and smart quips in there, but the humour arises in most part from people acting like people in the face of great adversity. All of the characters feel real, except for the magic supermen, who are stupid and over the top, but again, that's part of the point.
Philip Bond is one of my favourite comic artists anyway, but he and colourist Brian Miller do a great job. Although Bond has a cartoony style, he nonetheless has a talent for capturing ordinariness that other artists cannot match; yes, his people are cartoons, but they are cartoons of real people, which doesn't make as much sense as I thought it did now I'm writing it down. His style can also accommodate the more fantastical subject matter, and his comic timing and storytelling is perfect.
My only criticism of the book is that the last few pages feel a bit rushed and vague, but then I suppose the story isn't really about those characters and what happens to them, so a brief summary and update is good enough. I'm sorry if that is itself vague, but I'm trying to avoid spoilers.
Anyway. Read Vimanarama. It's great.
View all my reviews
(I'm not sure I will continue to post reviews like this; it's a test of Goodreads integration.)
Thursday, April 16, 2020
Thursday, April 09, 2020
Thursday, April 02, 2020
I have been drawing some other things too. More soon.
Sunday, March 22, 2020
Friday, March 06, 2020
Tuesday, March 03, 2020
Monday, March 02, 2020
As expected, the match against the Norse team, my final game of the season, resulted in a loss. It did not go as badly as I expected, so that's something.
The Purple People Eaters were going into the match with a number of players missing, including vampire star player Gary, and no substitutes. The opposing team was of a much higher team value -- Blood Bowl's rough metric of team quality -- so I was able to recruit a star player -- Wilhelm Chaney, again -- and a wizard.
I used the wizard early, which was probably a mistake as he failed to achieve much and was probably better as a deterrent. Chaney was better; I relied on him less as a playmaker this time and instead used him as a general distraction and nuisance. My opponent deployed resources to keep the werewolf caged, which gave the rest of my team some wiggle room.
Overall the match was much less one-sided than I expected. I lost, of course, but I got a lot of possession, and did pull off a late and risky passing play that led to a touchdown -- and star player points for my vampires! -- so at least it wasn't a total rout.
Final Score: North Laine Nihilists 2 - Purple People Eaters 1
So that's the end of my first ever season of competitive Blood Bowl! I did not achieve my goal of at least one win but I did manage three draws, which isn't too bad. Despite the overall results, I feel that I'm okay at defensive play -- although there's obvious room for improvement -- but I need to get much better at attacking.
My main issue, I think, is my general cautiousness. Blood Bowl is probably about 50% field position and 50% risk management, and I find myself reluctant to push forward and tend more towards avoiding risk entirely. This is a problem and does not lead to successful play. I found that in this last game, when I had little to lose, I was more confident -- or reckless -- in getting my players up the pitch and my game went better as a result.
This is obvious to any coach with half a brain cell but it took me ten games to realise. Sitting behind the halfway line and turtling is a good way to defend -- until the opponent breaks your line -- but going forward and putting multiple players in your opponent's half is what forces them to make decisions, commit their own players, potentially change their plans, and perhaps make mistakes. It's also much more fun.
In terms of the risk management, I think vampires tend towards the unpredictable and unreliable as it is so I probably should lean into that rather than try to avoid it. They are going to cock up anyway so I may as well embrace that rather than letting it stifle me.
Going into Game 10 I wasn't sure if I was going to take the Purple People Eaters into the next season or if I would drop them for another team. I think I will stick with the vampires, because I would still like to get one win with them, and I think I'm getting closer to working out how to do that. Vampires are also great fun to play; I wanted an unpredictable team because I wanted to be surprised as I played, and the bloodsuckers have lived -- ho ho -- up to that expectation.
I have ended the season with a coffer full of gold coins and a changing room full of broken and injured players, so I have some staffing decisions to make, but bring on Season VI!
Monday, February 24, 2020
Friday, February 21, 2020
By my count, there are at least four versions of Death's Head running around the Marvel Universe. This matters to no one but me and about three other people, but it's keeping me awake at night, so let's go for a deep dive into some obscure continuity!
(Just to be clear, I'm not cataloguing every version of the character; rather I'm trying to work out how many versions of him are active in the 616 reality.)
- Original Death's Head
The character that was introduced back in 1987, then bounced through various licensed comics, his own series, crossovers, and many cameos. He is supposed to be destroyed, assimilated, and replaced by Death's Head II -- see below -- in 2020, but a combination of Marvel's sliding timeline and DH's own time-jumping antics means that the 2020 of 1992 is now the alternate Earth-8140 and Original DH is safe from replacement. Probably.
- Death's Head II
Originally the original in a new body. He's also a time-and-dimension hopper and is active in the current Marvel Universe, at one point in 2008 working for Pete Wisdom's MI13 against Dracula. Yup. Since DHII has the personality of the original -- sort of -- I'll count him.
- Big Death's Head
This version appeared in S.W.O.R.D. in 2009 and is somewhere near the beginning of his career. He is Transformer-sized but hasn't yet picked up the "freelance peace-keeping agent" tic, suggesting that this appearance is from before his travels into the Transformers universe in Transformers (UK) #113 in 1987.
Big Death's Head also appears in Iron Man (v5) in 2013. He is wearing his blue outfit, which confuses matters as he gets that after being shrunk, destroyed, and rebuilt, but it's written by Kieron Gillen, who also wrote S.W.O.R.D. so I'm going to assume it's supposed to be the same version.
There is an argument that this one should be called Original Death's Head because it's the youngest non-flashback version of the character, but that kind of thinking makes my head hurt.
- Avenging Death's Head
In Avenging Spider-Man #17 in 2013, the Time Variance Authority contracts Death's Head to deal with disruptions to the timeline. DH is human-sized and is wearing his blue outfit, which puts this appearance somewhere between his 1988 solo series and the present. His employment with the TVA suggests that from DH's perspective, this appearance is from around Fantastic Four (v1) #338 in 1990, but I admit that's speculation.
Given the TVA's involvement I don't think this is Original Death's Head, but rather a timeline-diverged version of the character. Or it is ODH, but at some point he goes back and rejoins his own timeline. For the purposes of how many Death's Heads there are in the current 616 continuity, I'm not sure it matters.
Then it gets timey-wimey. We have seen in Death's Head (v1) #10 that beheading is at most an inconvenience to DH, which is confirmed by an easily-missed bonus panel on the "next issue" page of the Spider-Man comic, so it appears there are two versions of this version of DH active!
I reckon that makes four, maybe five, at a stretch six, versions of the same character active in the 616 Marvel Universe, a situation that looks like an excellent premise for a team-up story. One day Marvel will let me write Death's Head Team-Up and I will write that story, but it is not this day.
But we are not finished yet! For the sake of completeness, because if I were reading this post I would probably ask about them:
- Death's Head 3.0
I read the series in 2006 but I have no real idea how this character connects to the original. I'm not sure anyone does. He's some sort of off-shoot of DHII but there was a suggestion at the end of the story that he was a precursor to Original Death's Head but that was Earth-6216 but then a bunch of unconnected but identical drone versions appeared in an Earth-616 Hulk story and I think we'd all be better off forgetting DH 3.0.
- Death's Head 4.0
- Death's Head 5.0/V/"Vee"
(In the final pages of Death's Head (v2) Vee opens a door into what looks like a cupboard and behind the door is what looks like an inactive Original Death's Head, but then in the next panel we see ODH active and well elsewhere, so I don't know what that bit is about.)
- Darkhawk Death's Head
Should further versions of Death's Head pop up -- which is a strong possibility given the way the character bounces about -- I will update this post, but I think four -- or more! -- concurrent versions of the same character is more than enough to be getting on with, yes?
Wednesday, February 12, 2020
Thursday, February 06, 2020
Baldur's Gate II - I played this in 2001 or thereabouts and it remains one of my favourite gaming experiences. I adore this game. I never got around to the Throne of Bhaal expansion, although I do own it; once I've finished the first game in the series, I'll replay BGII and then finish the story.
Dragon Age: Origins - I wanted to play this from the moment it was announced but it took years for me to get a copy. When I did play it what struck me most was how it wasn't much of an improvement over Neverwinter Nights; if anything it seemed like a step backwards. I didn't bother with the expansions or sequels.
Final Fantasy VII - Japanese computer rpgs were not easy to get in the UK when I was growing up. We got even fewer of the Square and Enix games than the US did, although we did get Terranigma and they didn't for some reason. As such, Final Fantasy VII was the first of that venerable series that I played, and I played it to death. I got all of the playable characters up to Level 99, broke the in-game clock, and even then didn't see everything in the game, but I did finish it.
Final Fantasy XII - As a story, this entry in the franchise is rubbish, and even seems to give up on itself by the end, but as a game it's one of the best rpgs I've played. It feels a bit like an online multiplayer rpg but with better, less random, content and no griefing from eleven year olds in Alabama.
Final Fantasy XV - I wrote about my thoughts here. but that was before I finished the game. I wasn't quite as enthusiastic about it by the end. The combat remained rubbish and if anything got even worse with the acquisition of an item that killed anything -- even optional megabosses -- with literally one button press.
Liberation: Captive 2 - Technically, I didn't finish this as it had about four thousand missions, but they were all variations of the first level and I completed the first five or so missions multiple times as a result of save game corruption, so I'm counting it.
Neverwinter Nights - It's good fun, but it's no Baldur's Gate II. Perhaps the best thing about it was all the community content; I downloaded and played loads of homebrew campaigns, some better than the original game.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch - A beautiful game, but an odd one. It's sort of like a Square Enix rpg crossed with a thinly-veiled Pokemon ripoff, and it seems aimed at beginners, but it's packed full of hidden and optional stuff that you have to work to uncover, and I can't imagine many newcomers doing that.
Planescape: Torment - It is just as good as its reputation suggests.
Skyrim - It is nowhere near as good as its reputation suggests.
There is a third list -- rpgs that I have bought but not played -- but we're not going to get into that right now, because it's embarrassing.
Update: I finished Baldur's Gate on the 8th of June, but it launched straight into Siege of Dragonspear so now I have to complete that.
Monday, February 03, 2020
Except... I seem to have trouble finishing the things. Although I have completed some, these ones sit in a fuzzy, indistinct limbo:
Baldur's Gate - I'm about two thirds of the way into this one. It's not as good as the sequel -- yes, I am playing them in the wrong order -- but it is good fun and of all the games here is the most likely to get finished. Update: Finished as of the 8th of June 2020, although it launched straight into Siege of Dragonspear so now I have to finish that.
Chrono Trigger - This is technically in the "now playing" category, but I have decided to take my usual approach with Japanese rpgs and spend hours upon hours building my characters to maximum level so that they can steamroller through the rest of the game. Update: I finished this on the 19th of July. It's got about fifteen different endings and I don't think I'm going to try to get them all. I will do the New Game+ at some point, because it feels wrong to not have my party at level 99 but I'll wait a bit before diving back in.
Dark Souls - I got bored. This may come as a surprise as it's one of the best games ever, except I don't think it is.
Fallout: New Vegas - I only started playing this a few months ago and I have hit the level cap through wandering about and completing sidequests. I just need to go and do the main storyline.
Final Fantasy VIII - I haven't played it since 1999 and I no longer own it, so I'm never going to go back and finish it. I hit a wall in the game where my party was too powerful to continue, which is a problem I haven't seen before or since.
Final Fantasy X - I am very fond of this game, but I reached a certain point and could not continue for personal reasons that would probably seem absurd if I explained them.
Golden Sun: The Lost Age - This one's quite good, but I forgot I had it until I started writing this post.
Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark and Shadows of Undrentide - I finished the base game but by the time I got the expansions I had uninstalled the original and now my current PC won't run them.
I started it again on the Wii, at least twice on the PS3, and I'm sure I started playing it via emulator at least once too. It's a great early(ish) console rpg but for some reason I can never finish it. Maybe in 2022, for its 35th anniversary.
Vagrant Story - I never quite got a hang of the combat system in this one and playing it is a bit of a faff as I have a US copy.
The Witcher 3 - I got bored again, although I can tell it's a much better game than Dark Souls. I think the combat system turned me off, as it's based more on the player's dexterity than it is on equipment and statistics, and dexterity is my dump stat.
Xenoblade Chronicles - I stopped playing this one because I liked it so much I didn't want it to end, which is one of the best reasons to pause, I reckon. Ridiculous too, as it's had two sequels and two remakes since. Oh well.
One significant issue is that I have a stack of unplayed rpgs waiting for me when I clear this backlog. It never ends.
Monday, January 20, 2020
That's what I said after my last game. Oh dear.
My next match was against an experienced dwarf team. The other coach was lovely and we got on well as we played.
In many ways, the game was a pleasure to play.
The first half was something of a disaster, with so many injuries that I had no one left to stop the dwarfs jogging in for a more-or-less unopposed touchdown. Even my opponent felt sorry for me at that point, which sort of helped.
The second half went better. I was able to push back and put some dwarfs down, managed to hold on to the ball for most of the half, and when I did lose possession, I regained it soon after. Alas, I was not able to convert any of that into an equaliser, and a winning score was well beyond me. Still, my opponent was an excellent player -- 9th overall in the league in comparison to me at 31st! -- so keeping him to one touchdown isn't too bad. Or so I tell myself, anyway.
Final Score: Purple People Eaters 0 - Fun Vacuums 1
One of my vampires will miss the next game because of injury, and I have four thralls out with serious injuries, forcing me to bring in journeymen to make up the numbers for my last game of the season.
Regarding that final game...
I was set to play a human team that was not doing so well so I thought I had a chance at a win, although I was well aware that I had thought something similar before. As it turned out, that coach has now withdrawn from the league so I've been drawn against a good Norse team with considerably better league statistics than my own.
I am not expecting things to go well.