Friday, 17 July 2015

Otherworld Fantasy Skirmish and Other Strangeness

It's been a busy couple of weeks in old school fantasy gaming land.

Firstly: brand new re-typeset (but using the same cool 1970s textbook design) PDF of the 1st Edition of AD&D Players Handbook has been released! Of course, PDFs themselves are horrible things, and you'll be wanting to print them out, and but it's nice to see one of the most significant pieces of gaming literature (and one of my favorite all time books) available again, and Hasbro confidently leveraging the legacy of it's assets. 

AD&D Players Handbook

On the downside, a few typos have crept in, and it doesn't feature the original cover, which is a shame, but nothing that seriously detracts.

Secondly: there is this...

Otherworld Fantasy Skirmish

Otherworld Fantasy Skirmish is up for pre-order! The pre-release offers make it slightly cheaper than the full set.

The interior features many of Paul Gallagher's character designs for the Otherworld Adventurers ranges, along with a few other spot illustrations, alongside several full-page Kevin Dallimore's amazing photography of the Otherworld range. It also contains page borders (expertly reworked to fit the design by Karl Perrotton), cards, maps and token artwork by myself. Needless to say I'm very proud of the work and really hope others enjoy it too.

Otherworld Border

Victor Perez Corbella's cover is an essay on the iconic imagery of Old School Fantasy games in itself. You'll notice it weaves together elements of Trampiers PHB cover above, and Sutherlands Basic (below). Although I'm not quite sure what Victor may be trying to tell me by having Andrew Mays awesome Red Dragon miniature destroy my rendition of the Demon Idol!

OFS is a skirmish game, not an rpg or wargame, and it's old-school legacy shows.  There is no 1:1 tie-up of mechanics to models, but rather a flexible a system based on archetypes and gasp an actual points system, albeit disguised in the ubiquitous fantasy economic term of Gold Pieces. Troops and heroes are built and armed by paying for weapons and upgrades, making it possible to take any dungeon denizen type miniature and game it.

Karl Perrotton of Crooked Dice has designed the game itself around the action:engine and it is apparently compatible with other 7TV titles, combat is fast and tactical and there are numerous statuses and events that come into play beyond simply slugging it out by rolling bucket loads of old dice. It's a fun and entertaining game, full of flavour, not a mechanical simulation of a fantasy world.

Thirdly: I finally got to see the Mazes and Mutants episode of the 2012 Nickelodeon reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon.

Mazes & Mutants | Retroclone! Booyakasha!
Got to love that series, it's not consistently great writing, but there are more good episodes than dull ones. It's also really not child-friendly in parts, a certificate 12 perhaps. The homages paid to the entire Turtles legacy, from the original B&W comics through the 80s fad phase throughout the series are great, managing to combine humor, action, pop-culture references and the weird.

The artwork on the fictional Mazes & Mutants game the turtles find clearly makes reference to the Sutherland art on the Holmes box while the typography embraces both Mentzer Basic and the AD&D hardbacks. The name is a riff on infamous case of Mazes and Monsters - and the story itself plays on many of it's themes - confusing reality and fantasy, getting lost in steam tunnels, but unlike the original ultimately concludes that it's all just harmless. Clearly something made with a deep affection for the details and the subject matter, which equally holds for the other things in this post too.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Vote Goblinmaster!

Kevin Adams Goblin Pirate Lieutenant miniature for Via Liabunda Miniatures is up for an Ennies Award in the Best Miniature Product category.

Baguzk Boneslay - Pirate Goblin Lieutenant

For those not familiar with the Ennies, it's probably the most prestigious award for Role Playing Games, in the world held annually by Enworld annually at GenCon. More wargaming orientated readers might be surprised to see card-stock characters in the same category, but the spread of 'pawns' used in RPGing is a bit more varied.

This is an excellent opportunity to not only support an indie miniatures company with it's heart firmly in the old-school, but also an opportunity to show our appreciation to Kev, and help him achieve recognition for all the outstanding work he's done over the years. 

Well, all that aside it actually is the best product in the Best Miniature Product category.

Vote Here!

And don't forget to spread the word!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Doctor Who: The Daleks

Dive once again into the video vault to recover tthe lost war on Skaro. A moment in television history, the first ever appearance of Terry Nation and Raymond Cusicks infamous creation - The Daleks!

Doctor Who: The Daleks VHS

So we crack open the VHS box and load up the tape. What we get has shades of the Buster Crabbes Flash Gordon (which was broadcast at 6pm on BBC2 through the 80s) Perhaps it's the black and white, low budget sets, the peculiar costume and set design, the lantern-jawed leader of the Thaals, but it would come as no surprise that Skaro was in fact under the rule of Emperor Ming and any moment Flash and Dale are about to appear to unite the inhabitants against their Merciless tyrant.


The all too Aryan pacifist Thals, vs. the mechanical tank creatures - the Daleks. It's a strange fragmented mirror of Hitlerian fascism, on one side the paranoid, city dwelling, industrialised war machine encased mutant Daleks, and on the other the athletic, agrarian, aryan, pacifist, beautiful Thaals - only woken to violence by the threat of having  their (presumably völkische) culture destroyed by the Daleks. That the pure blooded aryans are 'good' and genetic mutants 'evil' is quite interesting in itself...

The Daleks are far more vulnerable and human than other versions of the creatures. Scarred and mutated beyond all recognition they trapped inside their defensive metal cages. unable to wander outside their metal city (they move by electromagnetism), driven to paranoia and an acute distrust of outsiders by the horrors of the wars they have witnessed. They do not kill or 'exterminate' everyone on sight, but temporarily disable their enemies. The Daleks seemed eminently sympathetic in their plight, if somewhat alien and inhuman in appearance.

The Doctor on the other hand comes across as a selfish fool, faking a broken Tardis as his curiosity gets the better of him wanting to explore the Dalek city (knowing nothing of its inhabitants or worrying about it's potential dangers)  It falls to his companion Tom to take the 'hero' role, both being the victim of the Daleks malice, risking his life inside a Mk. I Dalek Armour and eventually motivating the Thaals to action.

The Doctor and a Dalek.

From reading various fan reviews, I'd been expecting the production quality and acting to be much more amateur than it actually was, but then my tastes do lean towards low-budget black and white stuff, so it's not a 'shock' as it might be to others. The Sword and Planet atmosphere, the Doctors amorality, the unpicking of postwar responses to fascism, the attention to alien architecture in set design - everything is 'Dalek height' - humans constantly have to stoop - all works to build a really nice piece of period sci-fi.

Terry Nation had been working with the comedy genius Tony Hancock and it's hard not to hear Tony's and his ex-co-star Sid James voices coming through some of the dry banter when the Thals are discussing the pointlessness and futility of taking action, adding to the humanity and warmth of the piece. Hancock apparently claimed he invented the Daleks - I expect this was a jest. Yet if 'The Lad' were to have defended the drawing room of 23 Railway Cuttings, East Cheam, against post apocalyptic mutant robots from the future, the down at heel, domestic ridiculousness of a robot that looks like an upside-down dustbin with a sink-plunger wiggling out of it would have suited his style perfectly. So who knows, certainly in this parallel universe / pocket timeline, he did.

"That bloody Nation—he's stolen my robots!"

N.B. At the time of pressing publish, BBC radio 4 extra are broadcasting the first series of Big Finish's Fourth Doctor Adventures starring Tom Baker and Louise Jameson - well worth a listen, as of course, is the classic comedy series of the true Projenitor of the Daleks, Hancock's Half Hour also playing on the eternal repeats engine.